Monday, July 15, 2013

Mid Summer Recap

Blogging is always hard when you wait too long to do it!  But I want to recount to you the amazing summer that I'm having.  It's been a blast!

Canaan MTB Festival

Five years ago, I had the idea to do a mountain bike festival in Davis, West Virginia.  I wanted to give back to the town that really created me as a mountain biker.  I wanted to share this great mountain town with others and encourage people to ride together, do trail work and donate to the Tucker County Trails Club (TCT).  I also was inspired by mountain bike festival in Stokesville, VA.

The fifth year was a huge success!  We had over 120 riders, 25 for the Ladies Day and raised $2,000 for TCT through donations and selling raffle tickets.  I want to thank everyone who donated, especially:  Tip Top, Blackwater Bikes, Hellbenders, Sirianni's, White Grass, Blackwater Outdoor Center, Wild Ginger and Spice, HaySue's Salsa, Cannondale Bikes, Stan's No Tubes, Toasted Head Wine, Fast Forward Racing Productions.

I want to thank the ride leaders as well:  Rob Stull, Rob Hull, Jeff Melnick, Meredith Erlewine, Chip Chase, Todd Romero, Dave, Van Morales, Ian Beckner, Jason Cyr, Kim Johnson.  I couldn't have done it without your help!

We will continue the tradition next year with Ladies Lunch ride, Group rides, Benefit Fundraiser party, Bike Hash, Trail work and Fun!  The dates for 2014 are on the solstice again...June 21, 22, 23. 

Elk River Touring Center Women's Weekend

So many ladies came out again for this fantastic weekend of riding, skills building, camaraderie and great food.  I always am so impressed with the great women come out for this event.  Everyone is so positive and really pushes themselves to improve.  The level of encouragement that the women give to each other is special.  

The trails in Slatyfork are always a challenge with the mud, roots and climbs.  I love the way that women rise to the challenge of negotiating the tricky roots and find inner strength to conquer moves that they could never get before.

But after all the dirty trails, a swimming hole, a hot tub and then a gourmet dinner are our treat!

The next clinic there is on September 13-15 and spots are still available!  Check out the website and look for it on Facebook.

Tour de Burg

I have mastered the fine art of slummin'!  I first did the Tour de Burg in 2001 when it was a 10 day stage race consisting of both mountain and road days.  I missed lots of them in between, but I've been the Women's Leader a big handful of times.  

In the 18th year, the theme was the "Anti-Enduro" .  Why?  I think because there is a lot of hype about how Enduro is the most pure form of mountain biking and the most fun.  And how a lot of enduros are chair lift fed which is nice, but nothing beats the satisfaction of climbing a tough hill and then rewarding yourself with a sweet, gnarly downhill.  

Tour de Burg had 25 full pull riders with lots of day poachers.  It cost $175 dollars for 5 hard days of racing and riding.  This includes lunches, beer and dinners!  And all the slummin you can handle!  Its group riding at  pleasure pace "PP" to the timed sections.  Then go!  and the timed sections are between 20 minutes and 2 hours.  There are some costumes, rock star haircuts, beer drinking and of course amazing feats of athleticism.

My heartfelt thanks go out to Mike, Kari and Lindsey Carpenter for putting on this classic lifestyle event that is always the highlight of my summer! 

Monday, June 10, 2013

HooHa 2013

The Massanutten HooHa celebrated its 25th anniversary this past weekend.  It's incredible to think that for every year since 1989 this race has happened.  I wonder how many people, if any, have been to all 25?  I've been to less than ten, I think.  I don't think its been the same course twice ever.  And the trails just keep getting better and better. 

 I  pulled a double win this weekend!   I won the inaugural enduro and then the 19 mile xc event at the HooHa.   Its funny because enduro is the latest trendy, fun event to do, but in a way it is something that Harrisonburg has been more or less doing for a while.  The six-pack downhill race series in the fall has elements of enduro, as does the annual(15 years running) Tour de Burg.  But Shenandoah Mountain Touring and Massanutten Resort did a great job this first year of making  challenging courses over four stages and having accurate, transparent timing.  I've been to a few enduros now and I was pleased that there were no timing snafus.  Maybe a bettter shuttle to the top...but can I really complain about a shuttle?  Don't worry, we did have to ride to the top of Kaylor's once that day and then twice the next day to the overlook.

Enduro is fun, but I also think its really tough in a lot of ways.  Some of that depends on your expectations.  Do you just want to ride all day in the woods with your friends and make new friends and pay for someone to time you doing that?  Or do you want to ride as fast as your potential? Do you want it to be all downhill?   Will you only be happy with courses that play to your strengths?

Practice makes you ride better normally.  Seeing and practicing lines is usually a benefit.  Also, knowing where the hills are( yes, enduro usually has uphills in it!) and what tires to run.  Even things like what color lens to run in your glasses or do you want googles?  Some people think that no practice, no shuttles and sight unseen runs are the purest form of enduro.  I'm not sure.  You have to do what your schedule, budget and mountain allow for. 

One thing I have noticed is that every enduro is going to be a little different.  I like to think of it as an artist's interpretation of a mountain or area.  Chris Scott's interpretation of the western slope of Massanuttten has a healthy mix of gnar, gnar with Stage 2 rocks of Kaylor's Knob, the pedaling across the ridge of stage 3 and then the beautiful descending of SVBC built with love trail, 2000 hours in stage 4.  And even though the men's podium was half hardtails and lycra and people will complain about that...the fact is you need both fitness and skills to do well in enduro.  And you need to give all you got because every second counts.  But if there are any videographers (Scott Wooten) or photographers (Ian McAlexander) around and they catch you doing a section fast or with style then that is what counts!  Thanks to Ian for taking these pics of me on the course and podium.

I rode my new Cannondale Jekyll for the enduro, which is a trail bike with adjustable suspension that goes between 4 and 6 inches front and rear, on the fly.  I had a Rock Shox Reverb dropper post and Kenda tubeless Nevegal tires and baggy shorts.  Then for the cross country I rode my Scalpel 29er with Kenda Kommandos and lyrca!

The xc course was run in reverse this year than year's past.  It was a fun course that had fast climbing up the Ravine trail and a rocky prologue loop and the highlight was coming down 2000 hours!  My legs were a little stiff to start from the enduro the day before, but about 4 miles in, I started to loosen up and get a gap on the other girls. On days like this I think its really important to use electrolytes.  I use Elete in my bottles and Gu gels. It is so hot and humid always at the HooHa. And those poor XXC riders have it the toughest! 

 I found the climbing easier than the descending!  Which is weird after doing well in the enduro the day before.  I guess that is the way it goes, you never know how it is going to go! I was psyched to win some good cash for the weekend and not have any wrecks. It was a great, but small group of girls at both races.  I was very impressed with our youngest enduro girl, Scout!  She has got some skills and drive.  Hopefully, more women will find enduro and the HooHa as fun as I do and come out and race.

Its fun to be a part of the history of mountain biking in this area.  Big kudos go out to Kenny Hess, George Willets, Mark Nissely, Tom Proctor, Eric Bickert, SVBC, Thomas Jenkins, Chris Scott, employees of Massanutten Resort and so many more people who have given their time and energy over the years to this great event.  I think for next year, they need to bring back the pond jump!

Consider donating to Scott Wooten's kickstarter about this gem of a race in Virginia.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Tuscarora Off Road Weekend


I liked the format of this past weekend's racing. Saturday was a Super D and Sunday was a four hour endurance race. That makes too diverse of racing for some, but I like it! put on the event in the remote area of the Tuscaroara State Forest. This is a hard to get area in central Pennsylvania that is filled with beautiful trout streams, mixed hardwood forests, lots of dirt roads and rugged mountain bike trails.

Most of the fun of Super D and Enduro racing is the practice, especially, if it involves shuttling. Its important to get in the practice of knowing fast lines, hitting the jumps at speed and being in the right gears for the uphills. But there in lies the rub, too. Practice often involves crashing! My M.O seems to be, I have to hit the deck hard in practice at least once. I've been very lucky not to hurt myself too bad in practice to ruin my race, but I'm not going to lie...Wrecks hurt! And they can make you question confidence at times and whether you should of practiced more or less.

Last post, I talked about how skiing has helped my biking, which was ironic because the Super D was covered in snow! And skiing may have helped my biking, but in cycling we talk constantly about specificity for training and there is a lot of logic to that. Downhill biking in the snow, would have helped me race downhill in the snow. So, I did my best to ride the one of the steepest trails I've seen on a Super D when it was covered in snow. I kept my weight on my front wheel a little bit more that usual to keep it from washing and put lots of weight on my heels, too. I was determined to figure it out.

On the race run, it was a shit show. There was carnage in front me and I added more. Once that front wheel caught the now dirty, churned snow, I slidout. It was super hard to remount on something so steep and running was comical, too. I remounted where I could and just tried to not be so gripped and tense. It was a great adrenaline rush and happy to have survived...I'm such a true black and blue mountain biker!

The next day's track was 6.6 miles and the task was to do as many as you could in 4 hours. There was no snow on the xc course, but there was mud! The first lap was frozen goodness and the rocks were dry. As the laps went the mud got thick and the rocks got painted with greasy mud. I wish we on the East Coast had as many words for mud as the Eskimos have for snow. The flavor of the race was old school, homey and gritty.

Since NUE champ Cheryl Sornson was still tired from True Grit, she didn't do the race. That would of made the race for me a lot different, more difficult. I won both the races for the weekend. There were some really cool prizes like Cash, hatchets, homemade Judy's Ice Cream, Peanuts, Toasted Head wine and nice race bags. I'm glad I got a weekend of bike riding, especially now as I look out the window, its dumping snow in Virginia again!

In the Super D, I rode my last year's Jekyll, as I'm still getting the right parts for my 2013 Jekyll 1 and the Scalpel in the XC. This was a better test for the Scalpel than the last race as there were lots more rocks! It did really well. The 29er wheels are so fast on roads and so stable on cornering, albeit I have to set up a little sooner than with 26 inch wheels. I'm still getting used to the big wheels on steep short climbs and the 2x10 race gearing. I'll play around with the Lefty air pressures too. After 4 hours on the rocks I felt the suspension needed to be a little softer and plusher. Jeremiah Bishop suggested tuning the Lefty with a different shock oil, as opposed to the grease that might come in there from the factory. And of course, on such a cold day, temperature could have affected the feel of it, too. Its exciting dialing in the bikes!

Next up is the Michaux MTB School! This is a weekend of instruction and riding in Michaux State Forest. There is an all star cast of instructions, including me and Cheryl for the women and Adam Craig, Harlan Price and Matty Miller for the men.

Photos courtesy of Fast Forward Racing Productions, Derrick Green and Sue Haywood

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Winter to Spring

It was such an awesome winter! And it’s not quite over yet because as I write this, its snowing in Harrisonburg and there is 24 inches of snow on the ground in West Virginia. I got back to my roots this winter doing lots of nordic skiing and working the weekends at White Grass. White Grass is one of my favorite places on the planet because its all about fun. And when there is good snow, there is so much fun to be had!

Skiing is so joyful. I love feeling glide. Its freedom. And the more skillful of a skier I can become, the more glide potential I can get. There is great aerobic fitness to be gained with lots of skiing, but biking is still a lot harder. In skiing it seems like there is unlimited granny gear and you don’t have the weight of your bike to contend with. I also love how different temperatures, snow types, ski and wax make such a big difference in the ski experience.

I’ve been taking classes this past year at our local community college with thoughts of completing my prereqs for applying for nursing school. My mom is a nurse and it seems like a really great profession on lots of levels and of course its so easy to get a job. On other levels the doubts creep up because I don’t really want to work with sick people in hospitals. I’m interested in health, wellness and ecology. I never seemed to make the transition into a normal lifestyle(ie real job) after professional bike racing. I love the skills coaching, but its not a full time gig. And since I feel this good at 41, I need to have some kind of marketable skill set so I can work into my 70′s. Its been great getting back to school and using my brain and memory in different ways.

The really awesome thing about dedicating a winter to skiing again, was the total jones for getting back to mountain biking. I was really craving it in a way, that I hadn’t in a while. I think that is what happens to so many bikers is that they don’t diversify enough. They bike too much in the winter and don’t work on their weakness or just don’t have enough fun. By summer, the burnout is palatable.

I started the biking season with two fun sundays. The first sunday, I went to the Virginia State Mountain Bike Championships on my brand new Cannondale Scalpel. I really like 29ers for racing. They roll! But this year I’m so happy to be on a light, flickable , full suspension 29er. For local xc racing, the Transylvania Epic and Shenandoah 100 this bike is going to be so perfect. I was happy that my very first ride on this bike made me a state champ.

The second sunday funday was the Twin Towers ride. Heading out on one of those days when they are predicting rain and not worrying about it, Five of us got rewarded with perfect spring temps with tacky dirt and the slightest of slip to the grippy rocks. This is only about a 30 mile ride, but its epic. We started at Edinburgh Gap and climbed Wanazee Peak. I’ll give a free jar of salsa to anyone who clears this trail. Its real hard, but I know someone can! Then when you get to the top its miles of rolling downhill trail that transitions to gentle ups and downs along a traverse. You come out to the first tower, Woodstock Tower.

Some dirty downhilling and then we crossed the valley and resupplied at my new favorite stop, the Fort Valley store because they had about 10 different hot sauces made by a local guy that I’ll have to go back for. The bag of potato chips and mountain dew got me up the steep gravel climb to Milford Gap. We were up on the ridge now, heading south, heading to Kennedy Peak.

Probably one of my favorite rides…either direction is incredible! Steep ups, Steep downs. Sometimes you aren’t working a bit and then other times you are tasting blood. The March views with no leaves on the trees, treats you to views of the bends of the mighty Shenandoah River and Shenandoah National Park. To the west, the big mountains of West Virginia.

I was in slumtown quite a bit. I hadn’t done that long of a ride in a long, long time. But I’m not going to complain like a Foofer about it. I was also in utter amazement at all the things that I had cleared up or down! For sure the highlight was when Carp and Jimmy watched me style a really hard downhill chute and gave me props. It was like it was good for any rider, not just “good for a girl”! Back to the skiing…I think skiing all winter helped my mountain bike skills.

It was a tough hump up to Tower Two, Kennedy Peak. But, it meant a huge rocky downhill as a reward!

Spring isn’t officially here, but nothing stops the rolling on of time!

Posted March 17, 2013 by susan