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Monday, June 25, 2012

Familiar ground: the Indian Camp Creek 12-hour mountain bike race

What are the chances that both of my June bike races would feature glorious weather, double-digit durations, and culminate in me crashing in the dark, alone, with miles left to ride? Whatever the odds, that's how the Indian Camp Creek 12-hour went down.

I didn't have to do the 12-hour; there were 3- and 6-hour divisions as well, but I had a couple of reasons for my stupidity decision. First, there were far more racers registered for the shorter events, and I didn't relish the thought of spending my entire race dodging the faster racers (pretty much everybody) as they passed me. Also, after my DK200 nutritional fail, I really needed some extended time on the bike to practice eating during a long race, and without a financial commitment you aren't going to get my ass on a bike for 12 hours. But perhaps most of all, after 18 hours of Dirty Kanza, riding for 3 or 6 hours just didn't seem...epic enough.

What I forgot was all that "epic" implies: struggle, challenge, the need to endure, reaching deep inside yourself to those last reserves...suffering. Epic doesn't necessarily equal fun, except in retrospect. So, basically, ICC was a combination of hubris, torture chamber, and expensive training ride.

For nearly a week, I was the only person signed up in the female solo 12-hour division, but then two other women registered.  Knowing both by reputation, I was sure they'd beat me, but if no one else entered in our division I'd have a good chance at 3rd place.  :)  Robin and Chuck were doing the 12-hour team race, so I was able to drive over with Robin.  That saved both of us from having to drive home alone after racing all day. 

Lori in our HQ for the day; she was awesome support all day long.  Towards the top of the picture you can see the tape marking off the course as it passes behind race village and back out to the trails.
Chuck and Lori already had our HQ set up at race village, so we just had to lug over all of our stuff and park the van in an open lot. They ended up near Angie, who I'd just met at last weekend's mountain bike clinic, so it was nice to get to visit with her a little before the race.  GORC was right next to Angie's spot, Pfoodman's tent with Lisa and Steph was on the other side of us, and Team Seagal with the Davis clan's cheerpower later in the day was to another side.  Basically, we were surrounded by familiar faces.  With a half hour before the pre-race meeting, we had plenty of time for getting things together, bathroom stops, etc.

One of the best things about being a girl in a male-dominated sport: we have the shorter bathroom lines!
Photo credit: Darla Chilton 
We were towards the back at the meeting, and between being distracted by looking around to see who I knew and running back to get my raffle ticket, I didn't hear everything.   I remember hearing that, unlike in the shorter races, the 12-hour people didn't have to complete their final lap within 1/2 hour of the race finish (so, for example, since the 3-hour race ended at 10, racers would have to finish their last lap by 10:30 or it wouldn't count), but I must have missed part of the instructions (ominous foreshadowing).

Pre-race meeting
Photo credit: Darla Chilton
Meeting over, it was time to head down to the race start, a mile or so (?) away from race HQ.  Despite all the time we had earlier, I still had to scramble to get things together and was one of the last ones to the start line, but that wasn't a big deal since I intended to place myself as far back as possible.  I saw Elena and Lisa, who I met at the Team Rev clinic, exchanged good lucks with Mark, who I met last year at the Tall Oak Challenge, met his son, and then it was go time.

Very happy to be at the back of the pack.
Photo credit: Karena Romsted

The view ahead of me. 
Though I definitely had some pre-race anxiety and spent the drive in wondering what the heck I was thinking signing up for a race like this, it wasn't my typical level of freak-out.  Maybe I'm getting braver, or maybe it was because my goals were pretty modest:

1. Have fun
2. Gain trail experience
3. Avoid outside medical attention
4. Practice eating during a race

We rode the paved park road to a gravel hill to the parking lot by race HQ.  Because my bike's shifting had been a little jumpy at the mountain bike clinic, I took it out for a ride earlier in the week to see if I needed to get it into the bike shop for adjustments.  It had seemed fine during the shakedown cruise, but as soon as I started shifting on the hill my gears were slipping all over.   This is going to be a looooonnng 12 hours.  Then, I managed to take a wrong turn onto the course.  (This is why I'm not the navigator.) 5 minutes into the race and I was out of breath, near last place, and off course.  Awesome.

At the top of the hill and about to turn onto the course
What can you say about a race that is multiple loops around the same course? Indian Camp Creek Park's trails are rated beginner to intermediate.  Other than that little stretch of park road/gravel that we only had at the start of the race, laps started/ended at race village, and the course was about an 8-mile loop.  Here's a little video preview of what we rode:

Miles 1-2: The course curved through race village and into a field.  A dirt path was worn in the grass from previous tires, and you had to watch out for ruts in a few places.  I learned my lesson about those last year, but I did get to see a pretty spectacular crash as cruel experience taught a guy ahead of me to beware the rut.

The field trail led into the woods and a twisty section with a lot of embedded rocks.  Because it's been so dry here, the trails were really dusty, and as the day went on dust collected on the sides of the trails like sand in some spots.  You had to be careful there or it would kind of funnel you where you didn't necessarily want to go.  This first wooded section kept me nervous every time I passed through it, worrying about going down onto the rocks. 

Next was a fairly flat, twisty section of the smoothest dirt trail that passed through the woods near the river.  This part got more and more fun over the first four loops as I got more comfortable with carrying some speed through.  The 2-mile mark came partway through this section.

Miles 2-4: More of the flats into a field, across the road, and more field trail along the park road.  Very fun volunteers at the road crossing. Part of this latter section is where I crashed last year, so I was very careful to hold my line or just avoid the ruts altogether here.

Miles 4-6: Field trail back into the woods and up the one real hill of the race.  Nothing really tricky there, just some rocks and roots, but it seemed to go on forever.  The trail passed out of the woods and into a long section of exposed field trail, which was progressively less fun as the heat rose.  This 2 miles was probably my least favorite section of the race.

Part of the trail through the field
Miles 6-8: Crossing a road from the field, the trail heads back into the woods.  There were a couple dips that made me nervous every time I rode through them, and a series of tight switchbacks through a field, but the highlight of this segment was a fun, swoopy section through the cedars. 

Towards the end, the trail crosses the gravel we rode up at the race start, climbs a small hill, and then makes a sharp right into another small incline.  The hill wasn't so bad, but I could never make the turn, so I had to walk at least part of this every single lap.  Even so, the hill was a welcome sight because it meant that race village was just a short distance away through the field at the top.  Riding through the finish chute was always a great feeling because my friend Suzanne was helping with scoring and yelled and cheered for me every time I came around.

Guesses for my giveaway contest were all over the board from 1 to 200, but I had two goals.  My "I'll be disappointed if I can't do this" goal was to ride more laps than the 6 hour ladies.  My "stretch" goal was 10 laps.  I haven't seen official results, but I'm pretty sure I met the first goal; not so for the second, but it was close.

Lap 1: Both times I've ridden at Indian Camp Creek were in the opposite direction of the race, so the trails felt pretty new to me and my first lap was a "getting to know you" ride.  Since I was going to be on the bike for 12 hours, I didn't worry about trying to go fast; instead, I tried to keep a pace I could maintain.  That said, I don't think my "race pace" would have been any quicker than my "endurance pace" because I'm even more limited by fear than lack of ability.

I saw four or five guys with flats on my first lap and asked if they needed anything.  No one did except a younger boy who needed a co2 cartridge; I read later that he'd messed up the two he had but this one got him going again, so I was happy it helped him.  Checking on the last person I passed with a flat, I guess I was distracted and not paying as close of attention as I needed to, because somehow I ended up falling. 
Total miles: 8

Lap 2: I didn't stop by the tent because I still had plenty of water and felt strong.  Once I got through race village and to a shady spot in the field, I did stop for a quick Honey Stinger waffle.  No problems on this lap, still feeling good and getting a little more comfortable with the trails.  I was drinking regularly from my camelback, and as the temperature rose (though I don't think it ever got higher than the low 90's), I drank Gatorade every time I came through a field.  The faster riders started lapping me midway through this lap.

As always during a mountain bike race, my biggest concern was staying out of the way of faster riders, which wasn't a problem in this race. The field was spread out enough that I wasn't constantly pulling over to the side. Almost everyone was really friendly, and most people who passed were very encouraging. The only thing that would have been better (other than being a faster rider myself) is if everyone would have let me know they were behind me.

Photo credit: Darla Chilton

A few riders didn't say anything when passing, or would say something as they were in the process of passing. That was almost bad when a guy came up on my right and as he was next to my bike said something about passing on my right.  I always expect to be passed on the left, so as he spoke up I edged right until I realized what he'd said.  Until I'm fast enough to legitimately hold a lead, I'm more than happy to yield to other riders, but it's a lot more comfortable when I know where they're coming from or what side they're passing on...before they're there. 

Total miles: 16

Lap 3: I stopped briefly at the tent after lap 2 for food and ibuprofen.  My knee is still a little sore from the Dirty Kanza fall, so I was trying to be proactive and keep any pain at bay during the race.  Lori refilled my camelback (which she said wasn't nearly empty enough) for me while I ate another Honey Stinger and then loaded up with a little more food and took off. 

The flats were starting to feel really fun.  I was staying off the brakes on dips and curves (a huge accomplishment for me) and riding faster than usual.  Coming through the field section in the 2-4 mile segment, I saw our van and Jeff and J sitting in front of it.  I'd suggested they come, but I wasn't sure they would.  I was really happy to see them and stopped for kisses and to say hi.  They planned to go play in the creek and see me for one more lap before leaving; that gave me something to look forward to.

The end of this lap coincided with the arrival of the time limit for the 3-hour race; that meant that far fewer people were going to be on the trails and I'd have even less passing to worry about.

Total miles: 24


Lap 4: The first part of this lap was great, and seeing Jeff and J again was wonderful.  I talked to them a little more while eating another Honey Stinger (hey, if it ain't broke don't fix it, right?) and then rode off.  There was nothing remarkable about this lap until sometime in the second half when I got overconfident, clipped a tree, and went down hard on my elbow.  The dirt on the trail was as smooth as pavement, and it felt about that hard.  Wow, it hurt.  I took a minute to catch my breath and then got back on the bike.  By the time I got back to race village my elbow didn't hurt, but it had a pretty sweet goose egg.

Battle scar
I took a longer break here, sat down, and ate some salami and crackers.  Jim and Wendy were there spectating, so Jim brought me a beer to go with "lunch".  I was feeling pretty good about my eating, but I was wearing down.  I took a picture of my elbow and posted it on facebook, then took off for my next lap.  What I didn't realize was that people might see the elbow picture and think I was injured rather than just bruised, so sorry if you were worried.  If I'd dropped out you can be sure I'd have been facebooking up a storm.

Total miles: 32

Lap 5:  This was where I started not particularly wanting to go out again.  It was around 2:30 and I still had 7.5 hours to go.  Time for the head games to start.  In some ways, this race was similar to Dirty Kanza.  The longer distance, the mental stamina required to keep riding as your body (my lower back, in particular) gets more and more uncomfortable, and the amount of time I spent by myself.  While there were a lot of other riders on the course, I spent basically the entire race alone execept when I was being passed. 

Luckily, there were a lot of familiar faces zipping past me.  Big thanks to Karen, who was my biggest cheerleader on the trail, always having something encouraging to say on her way to riding 13 laps (over 100 miles!) on her singlespeed. Steph, Lisa, Chris, Dan, Jim, Chuck, and Robin always had something nice to say, too. And then there were the people who knew my name, but I didn't know who they were.  That happened a few times, so if I seemed clueless I apologize.  Most of the people who passed me were gone so fast that I couldn't get a look at them.

Photo credit: Karena Romstad
I'm pretty sure that this lap coincided with the walking of the hill in the 4-6 mile stretch.  This had the double benefit of me not being completely wasted when I reached the top and giving my back a break.  Every time I got back on the bike after walking the hill I felt better. 

By the time I finished this lap, the 6-hour race was almost over, and I'd ridden 40 miles.  I stopped for anther break at the tent.  I ate some toasted ravioli, which passed the race food test with flying colors.  It was a great change from the sweet waffles and candy-like energy foods.

Lap 6: I set off with much mental foot-dragging.  That swoopy section through the flats was only fun for the first half; then my back was aching again.  I started looking forward to the hill between miles 4-6 so that I could get off the bike and walk.  As my back got stiffer it was harder and harder to actually get off the bike, though, and I started to worry I'd fall over on the dismount...which I guess would make for a good story.

On a couple of these later laps, Karen rode by, always asking how I was doing and encouraging me to stay steady.  "Anything could happen..."  Knowing that the rules required any 12-hour racers completing a lap before 10:00 to do another one or be considered a DNF, I was starting to daydream about grabbing my phone and facebooking in the woods until the deadline was passed.  I didn't want to let Karen down, but I was feeling less and less steady as the day went on.

I took another long break after this lap.  Taking my bike shoes off felt sooo good.  I was completely filthy from all the trail dust.

Layers and layers of dust and sweat

As much as I'd like to think that my poor nutrition played into my Kanza DNF, I think Indian Camp Creek established that eating wasn't the main issue: it's fitness.  I did a far better job with my eating for the 12-hour, but I still struggled as time went by.  It comes down to training or, more specifically, not training.  Until that changes, my performance isn't going to, so I'm going to need to buck up and put in the work or stop being disappointed with what I'm able to do.

Thank you, Pensive Pumpkin!
Total miles: 48

Lap 7: Ugh.  My hands were so weak from all the time on the bike that it was hard to shift and almost impossible to open food packages.  I had to practically chew them open.  In the future for long races, I need to remember to pre-open some of those wrappers.  My back hurt a lot, so I stopped every 2ish miles to stretch it, which made this leg more manageable.  Walking up that last hill before race village, I saw Steph ride by looking strong.

Finished the lap. Another longish break.  My friend Sarah stopped by to say hi, and despite spending most of a day with her a few months ago, I didn't even realize who I was talking to at first.  I was just wiped out.  Luckily, I didn't have to do much.  Every time I stopped, Lori took such good care of me, asking what I needed, filling bottles, and most of all encouraging me.  Seems like Robin and I were almost always at the tent at the same time, and she commiserated with me about how tired we were and cleaned up my poor chain a little.

I wasn't the only one who was thinking that 12 hours on a bike was several hours too many.  I heard that some people were lobbying the race directors to make the 12-hour an 8-hour, and Robin was doing the math to decide if she was going to have to go out again.  She checked with one of the race volunteers to confirm whether racers had to go back for another lap if they arrived before 10:00 and was told no.  I was positive that I'd heard different, but no less delighted to find out that I could quit whenever I wanted without risk of DNF.

Total miles: 56

Lap 8:   Race rules stated that anyone who was on the trails after 8 had to have a light with them.  Because it was sometime after 7 when I set off, I took my headlamp.  I had brought my bike light, but for this lap, I was hoping to be back before I really needed it.  The fading sunlight made for dim lighting in the woods, but it was still plenty bright in the fields and dusk brought welcome relief from the day's heat.


I continued with regular stretch breaks, and that combined with the cooler temperatures to make for a less unpleasant lap.  In fact, I felt so much better that I was toying with the possiblity of going out for one more lap.  I was torn.  I was really sore, and I wasn't at all looking forward to hitting the singletrack (perhaps literally) in the dark.  On the other hand, the thought of over 70 miles was pretty cool, and I didn't want to let down my readers by stopping....and then my mood swung back in the other direction and I decided that anyone who didn't think I'd done enough was welcome to register next year for themselves.

I was still undecided when I reached the start/finish at 8:52.  Total miles: 64

Robin and Lori were busy taking the tent down when I arrived back at race village, which was now a ghost town with the 3- and 6-hour people gone.  And then they dropped the bomb that I had to go out again.  As soons as I heard I had to, I knew I was finished.  I did not want to ride anymore.  Since this was opposite what Robin had been told earlier, I went to the scoring desk to confirm what the rule was, and the USA cycling official told me that yes, unless I wanted a DNF, I had to go out on another lap if I came in after 9.  Nine o'clock...if I'd been a mere 8 minutes later coming in, the decision would have been mine to make.

"If you didn't want to go out again you could have just waited before the finish line until the time ran out," he commented. 

"Don't tell me any more," I warned him, "or I'll start crying."

Lap 9: I still had a decision to make, of course, but it was no longer ride more or don't; the choice was ride or DNF.  There was really no question.  Moreover, I heard that one of the top two girls had already quit, which meant if I finished I could be 2nd out of 3 instead of last place.  I got out my bike light, fumbled with it until Robin put it on for me, and rode away like a prisoner approaching the gallows.  It was a little after 9 when I left, and I fully expected this lap to take at least an hour and a half.

A little more light than last time, but I'd have been happier with a floodlight. :)
A smarter person would learn how to use her equipment, because I know that light was a lot brighter or better directed or something at LBL.  Feeling very unsure in the dim glow of my headlamp and bike light, I crept down the trail.  The rockier section made me nervous, and I was greatly looking forward to reaching the smooth surface of the flats.  Ironically, however, that's where I fell again, landing on my already swollen right elbow and twisting the same knee I'd hurt in Kansas.

Well.  This was familiar territory indeed.  Alone, in the dark, hurt, and 6 miles to go before the finish line.  I was close to tears, but I this time I pushed them back and climbed onto my bike, whimpering with each pedal stroke.  The thought of cutting the course short and riding or walking back to the finish line crossed my mind, but I just couldn't stomach another DNF.  No way was I quitting again.

Riding down the trail I saw what looked like two bike lights pointing in my direction.  I couldn't figure out who would be going the wrong was on the course, but as I came closer I saw two familiar jerseys.  I registered the Cyclery logo before I realized it was Chuck and Robin.  They were finished but had come to ride part of the way back with me.  What great friends!  Having company for really the first time of the day gave me a lift and some distraction, not to mention additional light.  They left me after mile 4 at the entrance back into the woods, where I promptly walked the hill.

I walked a LOT of this section.  Between riding in the dark and falling on my elbow a second time, my confidence was pretty well shot, and fatigue had rendered my handling iffy at best.  I walked hills, I walked roots, I walked dips...it was a pretty weak performance, for sure, but finally I crossed the gravel road to the last stretch of the course.  It was well past 10:30; my lap had stretched longer than even my own negative expectations.  Jim was walking down the hill and saw my lights: "Is that you, Kate? They're looking for you!"  Finally I made my way back to the remanents of race village and across where the finish line had been.

Total miles: 72

As my friends came over and hugged me, I struggled to hold back tears. I was completely spent.  A lot of people rode further and faster than I did, but my race pretty much took everything I had.  Someone put my bike away, someone handed me a beer, and Lori brought me my clothes so I could finally clean off the sweat and trail dirt. 

The awards ceremony started while I was changing, and as I rinsed my legs under the spigot I heard the race directors ask something about if anyone wanted to protest results.  No one spoke up, and they moved on to awards.  In the women's 12-hour solo, they started with third place and announced my name.  Confused, I slowly walked up to the front. 


To review, here are the rules as explained to me by the USA cycling official before my last lap: if you arrive back before 9:00 (or 11 hours into the race), you must ride another lap or you're considered a DNF.  The only reason I rode that last lap is because I was told I'd be a DNF if I didn't.  So this is the understanding I'm working with as I walk up to the front.  Of course, the time to discuss this was when they asked about protests.   In retrospect, I feel bad about bringing it up the way I did rather than earlier, but I'd been cleaning up in the bathroom and had never seen results.

"Ummm, shouldn't it be second? Because didn't Mia DNF?"

They explained very nicely to me that for the 12 hour race there was no rule about having to go out again, and thus since her 10 laps was more than my 9 laps, she was the second place finisher.  And guys, I don't care at all about second vs. third.  I mean, both those girls rode circles around me and are far better cyclists than I am.  I am the third place one of us.  What brought me to tears as I stood up there was trying to process the fact that they made me ride a lap that I didn't want or have to ride. They apologized for the misunderstanding and assured that they'd make it up to me, and I carried my plaque back to my seat.  Surrounded by fantastic cyclists, people who I look up to and am thrilled to be in the same event with, I fought exhausted, bewildered tears and tried not to look like a sore loser. 

The rest of the awards continued, with Karen taking first overall for women, Steph and Lisa winning first in the women's 12-hour team, Chuck and Robin winning third in 12-hour co-ed, and Jim B and his partner winning second for men's 12-hour team.  After awards, it was time to the swag raffle, and the directors called me up first to pick out anything I wanted before the raffle started.  There was so much stuff there, and I think I must have just stood there with a blank look; I had no idea what to take.

 "Does you bike shift well?" one of them asked.  Since that's a definite no, he gave me some bike cables that are supposedly really good (because you know I have no clue) and then threw in a box of Honey Stingers as well (it's almost like he knew I spent the whole day fighting crappy shifting and eating waffles).  They left my name in for the raffle as well, so I ended up with two $25 gift certificates to Ballwin Cycles, which is fantastic.  And then Chuck gave me the Road I.D. certificate he'd gotten since I don't have one.  It was a little like Christmas.

It was a great race, and I really appreciate all the work the promoters, sponsors, parks department, GORC, and the volunteers put into the trails and event.  I accomplished my goals for the race, in particular getting way more comfortable and confident with the trails, and I even learned a couple extra lessons: pay attention at the pre-race meeting, and if you have questions, check with the race director.  If you'd asked me the day of the race or the day after if I'd do another 12-hour event, I'd have given you a definite no.  Today, I'm not so sure.  I could maybe see doing it again.  But 72 miles of singletrack, even the relatively gentle trails of Indian Camp Creek Park, is no joke.  I'm more sore now than I was after 160 miles of Kansas gravel.  It's pretty cool, though, to do something that most people think is crazy.  Well, once you're finished, anyway.

As far as my giveaway, Chuck was the only one to hit the lap number (9) exactly before the race started, so I owe him a book.  Wendy actually guessed 9 too, but it was midway through the race.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Hiking the Little Grand Canyon

Towards the end of May, Jeff's hours were cut to four days a week.  This has happened a couple times before, and things always pick up, but it's a little nerve-wracking when construction-dependent jobs are being cut in the summer, traditionally a busy time.  Rather than bemoan the 20% pay cut, however, we're trying to make lemonade from the lemons and take advantage of his extra day off.  Last week we went to Six Flags; this week we traveled a little further to the Shawnee National Forest.  I thought of Kovas on the way down, every time we saw a sign for the Shawnee Wine Trail.  That would be a great way to spend anafternoon without kids, but we were planning to take the kids to the Little Grand Canyon.

I have great memories of hiking here with my famiy as a kid, though my mom's recollection is less rosy.  My parents weren't the most athletic people in the world (though my mom had been as a girl), but it was important to them to keep their kids active, so they brought me and my three brothers here to hike.  At the time, I was around 10, my youngest brother was 5, and my dad was either recovering from or on his way to a quintiple bypass.  While I was no more brave as a kid than I am now, my brothers more than made up for it.  I'm frankly a little shocked that none of them suffered a serious injury during any of our outdoors excursions, but on this day my 5 year old brother hurt his ankle early on.  My dad ended up carrying him most of the way, suffering chest pains all the way, while my mom was terrified that he'd have a heart attack.  Good times, right?  None of us kids had a clue, though.

Thankfully, our trip was a little less eventful than my childhood visit.  We haven't been there since my older boys were J's age, but they too have great memories.  Unfortunately, Nathan was at his dad's and couldn't go, but Daniel and his girlfriend joined us.  Both my boys have great taste in girls; I've loved all of their recent girlfriends, and they're always so good to J.  Plus, the girls' presence makes the boys nicer to their little brother, too.  I mentioned to Jeff that it's well worth the cost of another lunch to have the extra peace during the trip!

The Little Grand Canyon trail is a 3.6 mile loop. 

Starting down the trail
The path starts with a rolling course through the forest before climbing down the sandstone canyon walls.  J was in animal heaven as we saw turtles, frogs, and lizards.

100_0518  100_0517

I had grabbed an Illinois hiking guidebook on the way out the door and was not delighted to read that the Little Grand Canyon was once known as the "Rattlesnake Den" due to the prolific snake den that attracted collectors from all over. I could hardly wimp out, though, since our destination had been partly my idea; thankfully, the only snake we saw was a dead one.  Still one too many in my opinion.

The forest trail was a little longer than I'd remembered, and J was pretty happy when we finally started seeing the rock.  He's more of a climber than a hiker, for sure.

Checking out the hole
Daniel has always been part monkey and completely unable to resist most dares, so when Jeff suggested he climb over to this hole he was up for the challenge.  It was sketchier than it looks here, because while there's a narrow ledge about a foot beneath his feet, the "floor" is that dark section at the bottom of the picture.  Sometimes I just have to look away.

Finally climbing down into the canyon.  You can see how the water has carved some natural steps into the rock.



Even though it's only a 3.6 mile trail, we always seem to make it longer.  Once we got partway down, we had to go explore a side section of rock.  We sent Daniel ahead to make sure it was climbable for J.
Daniel on his scouting mission.
While the older boys can definitely get impatient with their little brother, they are also amazing big brothers.  Watching Nathan help him last week at Elephant Rocks and Daniel look after him today, I was really proud of them.  They're so good about keeping him safe and helping him explore.
J is almost to the ledge Daniel is standing on in the picture above this one.

Part of our side expedition

This is the view down from where Daniel was standing a couple pictures above. 
Once you climb down into the canyon, the trail passes through a flat area.  There are a lot of trees, but you can still see a lot of dead trees that were killed in the Flood of 1993.  Daniel was all about finding a tree to shimmy up, and he taught J the ways of the monkey.

Proud of himself

Shimmy x 2
After the flat section, it was back up another section of the sandstone walls.
Going up...

Most of the climbing features naturally carved steps, though there are some areas where less scramble-oriented hikers get some help from steps carved by the CCC. 

You can see a step or two carved into the stone to the right of J's head.

You do have to watch your footing because the wet rock can be treacherous, but even little kids can do this hike with a vigilant parent (or older brother).

I can't tell you how many times I warned J to be careful.


Back through the forest.

Trail marker, most of which were NOT placed at trail junctions.
After our Little Grand Canyon hike, we make a quick stop at Pomona Natural Bridge.

The kids on the bridge

J heading under the bridge

More climbing


Jeff and I
All in all, it was a great trip.  Everyone got along, no one got hurt, and we had a blast.  Hopefully if Jeff is still stuck on short weeks again next week we can make some more summer memories.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

The next big thing (and a contest/giveaway)

I know it's been all bikes, all the time for the past month or so here, so thanks to my running friends who still stop by and read and comment.  I would miss you if you were gone!  Even though my next big thing is still bike-related, the giveaway is all about running...something for everyone (except, I guess, my husband who likes neither.  Can't make everyone happy)...

The next big thing:

After Dirty Kanza I was feeling kind of down since I had nothing really on my schedule until September's Berryman Adventure Race...and three months without something big just won't do.  Luckily, the Indian Camp Creek mountain bike race was coming up.  There's a 3-hour, a 6-hour, or a 12-hour race available.  Racers ride laps on an 8ish mile course until their alotted time is up.  Scoring is by laps, then time.  I signed up for the 12-hour race, so I'll be riding laps for 12 hours, minus whatever time I'm stopped to refuel, etc.

Granted, the two laps I rode at last year's Broemmelsiek race were enough, and the three laps I rode at the Tall Oak Challenge pretty much kicked my butt, but after riding for 18 hours at Dirty Kanza, I was pretty sure I could ride for 12 at Indian Camp Creek.  I mean, it won't be easy at all, but if I just did the 3- or 6-hour races I'd be sharing the trails with all the other (much, much faster) racers the whole time.  At least this way after the first 6 hours the pack will thin out considerably.  And I should get to know the trail pretty well.  And I'm much more of an endurance rider than a fast one.  Plus, since I'm the only one signed up in the female solo 12-hour division, if no one else registers I have a good chance of winning my division. ;-D

My only real goals for this race are to have fun, get in some good practice, ride as much as I can, and get some more experience eating and drinking for an endurance bike event.  While my lack of training for Dirty Kanza was my biggest weakness, my terrible eating was definitely detrimental.  No time like the present to start getting that figured out.  After all, there's less than a year until next year's DK200.

The contest/giveaway:

While my husband doesn't like running or riding, he does like buying me things, and a while ago he picked up a copy of this book for me:


It's right up my alley; he knows I always like getting books about running or biking.  If you could get better at either by reading, I'd be a multisport expert.  Long May You Run is right up my alley -- a cool book filled with all kinds of fun facts about running -- but I already won a copy in a blog giveaway...

I'm keeping this one
...and since I don't need two I figured I'd give one away to a lucky reader.

How to win:

Leave me a comment guessing how many laps I'll ride next Saturday.  Don't worry if someone else guesses the number you're thinking...I'll randomly choose a winner from the people who guess correctly. 

Warning:  BE CONSERVATIVE.  The laps are around 8 miles.  Some of the fast guys may ride them in 40 minutes.  I am not a fast guy.  I honestly have no idea how many laps I'll ride, but keep in mind the distance, my slowness, and the fact that some of the 12 hours (well, I can ride for 12.5 as long as my last lap is finished by then) I'll probably be stopped.  Or dying of heat stroke.  Or curled up in a fetal position on the side of the trail.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Thursday epic ride fail

Though as a teacher I'm lucky enough to have my summers free, I haven't managed to take advantage of it much to date.  There was my niece's graduation, then my son's graduation, then getting ready for Dirty Kanza, then recovering from Dirty Kanza...

Thanks to my tweaked knee, the past week or so has been quiet on the exercise front.  I did get in one fun day hiking/climbing (gingerly) at Elephant Rocks State Park with my family (minus Daniel)...

Nathan gives me heart attacks with every rock.

With J and my mom

We take some version of this picture every time we go.

Well, and a day at Six Flags...

Clearly, my chicken spirit extends to all areas of my life.
And relaxing in the hammock...

Quality time. :)

OK, so I guess I've fit a lot into my summer so far, but what I haven't done is much general training with friends.  Since I've been toying with a mountin bike race in a week or so (more on that in my next post), I wanted to re-ride the course (scene of the crash that taught me the perils of ruts) to help with my decision.  I met up with Chuck and Lori Sunday morning and hit the trails.

After encouraging Lori to do the race, too, we got onto the trails and I immediately started questioning my ability to do it.  I don't mind the riding, but the passing part (being passed, I think I've passed one person in my short history of mountain bike racing...and I think she was sick.  And barely in her teens.  But whatever) stresses me out.  Regardless, it was a good ride, except for the fact that my knee didn't really enjoy it so much.  Instead of riding a few laps with Chuck, I cut it short after one lap and went for ice cream with Lori. :)

I spent the next few days resting my knee, which feels fine when I'm walking and such, so by Wednesday I decided to see how running felt.  My knee didn't mind it, but my lungs pretty much hated me.  It's been close to a month since my last run (May 22 to be exact), and I could feel it.  That was the worst 3 miles I've run since I started the Couch to 5K plan back in 2010.  In fact, if I didn't know I can run, I'd have given up in the first block.  It felt that bad.  By mile 3 I no longer wanted to die, so I have hopes that the next run won't be quite as terrible. 

Since my knee was ok running, I decided it was time to try biking again.  I messaged Patrick and Mike to see if they wanted to meet at our local trails.   Mike had to do his hair or something, but Patrick (whose commentary is highlighted in yellow) was up for a ride.  We agreed to meet at 4:45. 
4:45 is a tough time for me to make. It requires me to rush home and take care of the dogs, grab all my stuff, and get out the door in mad whirlwind of activity, but since I had to pack for an overnight trip later I wanted to ride as early as possible. I knew Kate had the day off so when she messaged back that 4:45 was a good time I just hoped she wasn’t going to be waiting for me to get there.

Now I feel like even more of an asshole.

I showed up a couple minutes late (as usual) and got my bike out of the car (where it's been since I left Chuck and Lori on Sunday) only to see that my rear tire was completely flat. 

I was talking with Jim C. so I didn’t immediately notice the flat. What I did notice was that it was taking Kate a really long time to get ready to go. When I noticed the flat I saw that she had an extra tube and it wouldn’t take that long to change. Soon it would be time to hit the trail!

That's ok, though, because I can change a (bike) tire.  Unfortunately, my bike bag only had a road bike tube.  Fortunately, I had patches and easily found the hole in the tube.  I not-so-speedily changed the tire, got the wheel back on, and was putting on my helmet when the tube began hissing audibly.


Crap indeed!  That road tube sure came in handy.

Got the wheel back off, just about rip off my thumbnail bending it against something or other, check the patch, smooth it down again, look at the tire and realize the sidewall has a pretty good gash, find a wrapper in the car to boot it, put everything back together again, and have just finished airing up the tire when it starts hissing again.


Crap wasn’t what I was thinking at this point, however watching Kate struggle with fixing her bike was well worth the drive to the trailhead. I could tell she was really stressing out over because she apologized literally a million times.

Anyone who's spent much time hanging out with me will tell you that apologizing is what I do.

Meanwhile, Patrick, who has plenty of other things he could be doing, is waiting for me to get my stuff together so we can ride already.  For a third time, I take off the wheel, check the tube for any other holes, and then remove the patch and try a new one.  Make sure the boot is in place.  Cautiously air up the tire again and replace it.  It seems like it's going to hold.
I have never seen a hole in a tube that big.

When Kate finished airing up her tire and turned to put the pump back in the trunk I made an air hissing sound. She whipped around with a mixture of defeat and anger on her face it was priceless. I couldn’t stop laughing.

I thought I might cry.  It was pretty funny, though.

I didn’t think the patch would hold.

At this point, neither did I.

Finally, about 40 minutes after we were supposed to ride, we start down the trail.  Not 1/4 mile in, my tire goes flat.  Clearly, I'm not supposed to ride tonight.  Patrick and I had a lovely walk back to the parking lot.  Thanks to him for hanging out with me and basically letting me waste his afternoon.

My afternoon was wasted at work, this was more like early evening.

On the plus side, at least I know before the race that a) I need a new tire (after buying 3 new tires for Dirty Kanza...yea...) and b) I have the wrong kind of tube in my bike bag.  I have no idea if my knee is going to be ok for the race or not, so I did what any intelligent person would do and registered anyway.

And that is the story of how Kate taught me how to not fix a flat. I thought her lesson plan was a little repetitive, but it is a lesson that will stick with me for a long, long time. If you ever ride with her I’m sure she would be happy to show you too!

Honestly, I'd prefer not to, but I'll be glad to watch you change your tire and torment you with hissing noises. 

Speaking of the poorly advised race, it's going to be connected with a giveaway.  More on that in the next post! :)