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