My account of life both on and off of two wheels...... "At least I'm enjoying the ride"

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Daring to be great- Hampshire 100 Recap

G and I had driven up the day prior to the big race and spent the night in the cute little town of Peterborough, NH.  It was only minutes from the Hampshire 100 start/finish and we had a bed to sleep in instead of camping.   It did not seem to matter much since I did not get a good night sleep anyway.  I was probably overly anxious about the long day ahead and the fact that my alarm was going to go off at 5 am.  I do not wake up that early on purpose- ever! 

I had no idea what to expect that morning.

It was less than 50 degrees at the start and the sun was shining.  It was an amazingly beautiful morning for a bike ride and was a huge relief from the insanely hot and humid weather we have had this summer on New York.   

6:45 am came quickly and we were off!  There were 400+ racers in total but not everyone was racing the 100 mile option.  The past 5 years of this event has “only” been a 100 K and this was the first year they were added to the NUE race series with the extra mileage option.  Of course I signed up for the 100 mile category. 

The race started off pretty quickly and I tried to just settle into my own race.  It was hard to do. I look back now and I am sure that the ‘bike buzz’ got the best of me for the first 20 or so miles.   I started out with a couple other women.  One of them was a single speeder- Hannah. And the other was a woman that I knew from New York, Chrissy.  It was nice to have a familiar face to start off with and she has done a 100 miler before.  I figured if I just stick with her for a bit, I could maybe find a good steady pace.  It was working for a while.  

G had decided to wait for me at the first aide station and we quickly headed off together. 

We pedaled with our friend Shoogs for a while.  We pedaled the course with no idea what was ahead of us.   I had read the course description but when you are out there in the mix, nothing really is what you thought it would be. 

We had a pretty good pace and my spirits were high. The course started to pick up some steam.  Railroad tie bridges; ‘the beach’; jeep trails with techy descents and loose steep climbs; the power line climb- which apparently had a great view if you turned around.   I didn’t look behind me all day.  Freshly cut single track that sapped my legs on ever pedal.  Mud, roots, rocks.  It was never ending.  

Rolling up on a man playing the fiddle in a field was probably one the highlights for me.  We were having a great time but suffering all the same. 

We pedaled through people’s back yards as we looped through 7 different towns.  They cheered us on and waived from their porches.  We waived back and thanked them as we heading into the woods.  The smell of pine trees kept me sane.  I said out loud to G, “2 years ago, almost to the date- our lives were so different” I was feeling so lucky to be out there suffering on my own terms and soaking in the day. 

At "the beach"

Somewhere around mile 40-45, my stomach started to bubble up.  The pressure started to build and the cramping got worse.  I kept pedaling and hoping it would just subside a bit.  I had a Dixie cup of coke at one of the aide stations hoping it would settle my stomach.  I had stopped eating.  I was heading for trouble.
I was still with G and he was calling out to me to make sure I ate something.  I just couldn’t do it.  I felt too sick.  It was either the Heed or the Perpetuem chews.  I have used both before without any problems but I could not figure out what else it could be.
We pressed on.  More mud, more climbs and a water bog that was thigh high deep.  There was no way through it without lifting your bike and slogging your way through hoping not to twist you ankle on the invisible rocks below.  Needless to say, this was not a highlight of the race for me. Although my bike is light, my ability to lift anything over my shoulders since my mastectomy and reconstruction surgeries has been a challenge.  The cold water felt nice on my legs except it really triggered my neuropathy in my right foot. It was already bother me the same as usual but it was now hurting badly, especially when I would have to walk a section.    

Me- Attempting to get back on the bike.  G had his GoPro on photo instead of video. 

I tried to remember some of the many suggestions this awesome lady gave me.    No matter how good or bad you feel it will not last, just keep moving forward no matter what the pace”.   It did get a bit better but at that point, my nutrition was malfunctioning and my pace dropped off so much that I was not even sure we would make the 4:00 pm cut off to head out for the second part of the course.  For the safety of all racers, they had time cut offs that would make sure you were off the course by 7:30 PM- for obvious reasons. 

The modified second lap for the 100 milers began at the start/finish.  This is brutal on the psyche.  I should also mention we only rolled in with 3 minutes under the cut off time and it looked like a fun party happening on the start/finish site with all those that had already finished the 100 K and a few top racers that had finished the 100 miles.  We decided to head back out on the course, but this was not an easy decision. 

I started to do the math as I looked at the cut off times that I had taped to my handle bars.  Could I keep up over a 10 mile an hour pace for the next 35 miles?  I was not keeping that pace as it was, so it was not likely I could then.  A couple miles into that second lap, G and I agreed that we were done.
I will not lie, I shed a few tears as we pedaled back to the score tent to let them know that we were quitting.  My disappointment ran high.  In all reality, we would never have made the cut off time at the next feed station and I would rather pedal myself back than have to take the support car back to camp.
Had I signed up for the 100 K, I would have had a finish.  But as G said to me as we headed back to the start/finish area to tell the officials we were out-  “You have to dare to be great.  We will come back another day and finish our 100 mile race”.
We ended up with 70 miles, over 7000 feet of climbing and over 9.5 hours of riding.  Not bad for a day on the bike and I am proud of that.  Had I not had a GI issue, my race could have been much different.  My arm cording  never hurt and my hand did not swell in my glove. Probably because I did not use a camel back and the humidity was low.  Amazing my back never hurt either.  I was even climbing well.  I had a fun day and I learned a lot about endurance racing.  I need more practice and need to dial in my nutrition better.  At the very least, find something to eat that does not make my stomach sick while riding.  I also think I will try a different 100 miler next year.  The New Hampshire 100 was supposedly one of the hardest in all of the NUE series- and it just so happens to be the one I chose for my first attempt. 

This quote has always been a favorite of my guys and his “dare to be great” comment is inspired by this quote:

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; because there is not effort without error and shortcomings; but who does actually strive to do the deed; who knows the great enthusiasm, the great devotion, who spends himself in a worthy cause, who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement and who at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly. So that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.  Theodore Roosevelt

Many others did not finish the 100 mile race on that Sunday, but we were all out there- Daring to be great!  

Friday, August 10, 2012

Darkhorse 40 Race Recap.

Sunday morning came quickly and it was set to be another hot and humid race day. 

After picking up my number plate and setting up my gear, I spun my legs out up the fire road for not even a mile or so before they called to stage all racers. I had planned on a long warm up that morning, but I ran out of time before the start. 

Ready or not, it was time to go pee and lineup.   

I had signed up for the sport class and there was 17 women registered.   That is a pretty large womens field so I was a bit anxious.  We were going to be the last group to head out on the course.  After my experience of being passed by almost the entire men sport field at the 6 hour race last month, I was totally okay with heading into the woods behind the masses.  There were 400 racers registered and I would just pass the ones I could but was happy to not have to be passed by 200+ racers.   

It was already hot and the air was pretty thick as I stood on the line waiting our turn to start the race.  I ran through my mental  check list of what I had in my pockets for nutrition; I ate a GU while I tried to remind myself to make sure to eat on a regular schedule so I would not bonk out there. 

The race started with a 3.5 mile fire road.  I was not warmed up well so I just rode it pretty steady.  That was my plan- just to stay steady.   By the time I got to the first bit of single track- I felt great.  I was picking off some of the men racers and having a good time of it.  I caught a couple women and just kept on pushing forward.
I felt so good the first 10 miles that I decided that I better reign myself  back in a bit- I had 30 more miles to go and it was hot and humid.  I just settled into a little more than comfortable pace. The second half of the 20 mile course had the most climbs on it.  I was surprised at how well I did on the climbs.  G keeps reminding me on our training rides to use my gears and save my legs.  It really helped and I never felt my legs hurt once on those climbs.

As I came through the neutral feed zone after the first lap, I stopped at the cooler to fill up my camelback with water and grab another bottle of Heed.  The promoters had great support stations set up with snacks and water but I never stopped at any of them.  I made a promise to myself- no stopping outside of the feed zone unless it was necessary.   3 women passed me during what was only about a minute pit stop.  I headed back on the course to chase them down.  I had eaten and drank all the right amounts up until this point so I was hopeful to catch back up. 

It was quite a few miles until I caught two of them.  It had appeared they had slowed their pace.  I was thinking that I had slowed down a bit too, but I tried  to remain steady. By mile 35, I still had not caught one of the  woman that had passed me in the feed zone and I still felt pretty good so I thought- just go!  I pushed hard those  last 5 miles and I still felt strong when I crossed the finish line.  I could not believe it.  I was having the best race I have had in over 2 years.  I was smiling from the inside out. 

I did not catch that last woman that had  passed me.  I did not meet my time goal - but I still beat last year’s time by 30 minutes.  I did not podium but I sure as hell had a great time out there racing my bike in the woods.  The best part of the whole day was how I felt strong and healthy.  That was the big take away.    

What was the reason I felt so good that day?  The humidity was not in my favor and my ankles hurt for two days leading up to the race.  It could have gone either way.   I keep going over the week prior to race day and my race prep.  I do not know if I could repeat a day like that if I tried. 

My recovery is going well this week, so  here is hoping I will have what it takes to finish the Hampshire 100 in less than two weeks. 


Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Just Busy Living!

J enjoying himself some ice cream!

I have been extremely selective with my time lately.

During 7 weeks of the summer, my sister comes down from Maine to work a job she has had for many years. It is a great job  for her, so while it is hard on her and her family, it pays off in the end. There is not much work up in their parts of the world, so this is necessary. An added bonus for me is my nephew J comes with her. At 21 months, he has been quite the trooper . He has adapted very well and I love having them both around.

Unfortunately, the time goes by way too quickly. Each year I tell myself that I need to make sure I spend as much time with them as possible- no matter what is going on in my life.

Back in the summer of 2010 when I was in chemo treatments, my sister was here for work and she was pregnant with J. The time we spent together was not filled with a ton of exciting activities since we both only really wanted to lay on the couch and watch movies- we still had some great sister time together.

At the local fair. 

This year I have made an even stronger effort and I have the energy to spread myself a little thinner. These times with L & J are very special. I have grown pretty attached to this little guy. So between my visits with them; work; training hours in the Pilates studio and oh yeah…riding my bike, writing has taken a back seat.

It never seems like enough time...

J and L 

If anyone was worried- I am fine… just busy living! 

I hope you are all having a great summer. 

My sis, brother in law and of course G and I.

Stay tuned: G and I will be racing on Sunday August 5 in the DarkHorse 40 and if I keep my nerve, I will be attempting to finish the Hampshire 100.

Darkhorse 40 pre-ride with some good buddies!