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Friday, January 1, 2016

2015 in review

2015 was a good year full of lots of racing. Though the adventure racing outlook was initially bleak thanks to the departure/hiatus of BonkHard, plenty of other organizers stepped up to fill my calendar. While the bike has always been my first love, my running shoes took a definite back seat this year with only two foot races.  Some themes from previous years continued, most notably my failure to train enough to support my racing and my habit of racing so much that I start to get a little burned out, but those are issues I'm working to address.  I had one first place finish and one DNF, and these were neither my highest nor lowest points of the year; I'm still way more about the experience than the result.

By the numbers

Miles: running- 443, biking - 2,544
Most miles in a month: bike - 590 (May), running - 70 (November)
Least miles in a month: running - 23.5 (May, no coincidence there), bike - 83.1 (February)

Coldest race weather: A 55 mile gravel race in 14*
Hottest race weather: A 16 hour adventure race in 95*

Races:
Running: 2 (both trail)
Bike: 9 (6 gravel, 3 mountain bike)
Adventure: 7 (3 24 hours or more)
Orienteering meets: 5

States I raced in: 7 (Illinois, Missouri, Kentucky, Wisconsin, Iowa, Indiana, Kansas)

New to me races: Rocheport Roubaix, Physically Strong 8-HR, Creve Couer Heartbreaker (MTB), 24 Hours of Cumming, Hellbender 16hr AR, Tomahawk Challenge 24hr AR, BT Epic (MTB)

Repeat races: SHITR, Tour of Hermann, Cedar Cross, Hairy Hundred, Dirty Kanza, Stubborn Mule 30 HR AR, Indian Camp Creek 9 hour (MTB), the Fig 12hr AR, Castlewood 8hr AR, Pere Marquette trail race, adventure camp, Thunder Rolls

Best race experience: Dirty Kanza hike-a-bike
Worst race experience: BT Epic trainwreck

Recap: 

January:

After going back and forth about it for around 6 months (turns out I'm almost as slow to commit as my husband was), I joined Momentum Racing at the beginning of the year, but only after making sure things like "I'll always adventure race as a Virtus girl" and "I'm not really focused on winning bike races" were cool. Being a prime subscriber of Virtus's "Fun is better than fast" motto, I wasn't sure how I'd fit in on a team that thinks fast is fun, but it turns out there was plenty of room for me.

I ran my first trail race of the year (also my last running race until December) at the "Turd Annual" ShITR (Shivering Icy Trail Run), a nighttime trail half marathon organized by my friends at ROCK Racing. Starting out the year on trend, I was totally untrained for the distance but had a great time catching up with my friend Aaron as we covered the trails at a pretty chill pace.  Later in the month was my very favorite January tradition, the Team Virtus MLK weekend at Berryman, where I had my first sub-freezing camping experience and learned that I have some things to learn about cold weather camping.
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Mandatory photo op by the ice before things started to thaw.
 Unfortunately the cold temperatures didn't hold out for the whole day, so we had to bail on the increasingly soft trails about halfway through and ride gravel back to the party. Still an awesome ride with friends, followed up by more Virtus time at the Joe Dirt gravel ride the following day.

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With Bob and Luke on the Joe Dirt loop
Also of note was that I registered for my fourth Dirty Kanza. Despite celebrating "I never have to do this again!" after finally finishing in 2013, it turns out I wasn't quite ready to be done with that race.

February:

The month started with an awesome gravel ride with Bob in the Massas Creek area near Warrenton. While neither of us thought to download the course to our Garmins (we're definitely not the team grownups), Bob got it figured out and we enjoyed a straight up fun ride in a beautiful area. The temperature was a balmy 31*, but there were plenty of hills to keep us warm.

Massas creek

In contrast, Rocheport Roubaix's starting temperature of 14* made for a long, cold 55 mile gravel race. I'd been pretty confident about riding in that weather after adventure racing in similar temps, but I totally underestimated how much colder I'd feel on the more exposed gravel roads.

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Frozen water bottles, frozen camelbak hose, frozen water coolers...
Really #$*&^ cold. I've never been so cold for so long. It was definitely a character-building day of the type 2 variety of fun.

March:

My first adventure race of the year was the Physically Strong 8 hour, which was particularly exciting because it was my sister-in-law's first AR. We got Chuck to join us and then coaxed Patrick out of retirement to complete our team.  It was a blast getting to share my favorite sport with another family member and some of my favorite people.

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I'd say she took to it pretty well!
I got to volunteer again at adventure camp, which is basically a family reunion where you get to spread the AR gospel to people who actually want to hear it.  If MLK weekend is my favorite part of January, camp is my most anticipated event in March (except this year, when it's April 1-3).

I ended March with the Death by Gravel in Steelville, MO. There's no day it would have been an easy ride for me, but following up my February bike mileage low of 83 miles with 94 miles of gravel and around 9,000 feet of climbing made for a humbling (though scenic) day in the saddle.

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It's a beautiful area.
My Momentum teammates, all vastly stronger on the bike than me, were awesome company and never made me feel bad about being the weak link.  The day was hard on my ego but a much-needed kick in the butt to get serious about training.

April:

March may have ended on a rough note, but it was almost immediately followed by spring break and much happier bike miles. With Momentum I logged a fun metric century on the Katy complete with a mid-ride stop for pancakes and followed it up two days later on the Berryman trail with Luke, Amanda, and Dave.

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Photo credit: Dan Singer
Another April highlight was the Tour of Hermann, a 2-day trip over (if you finish all 5 stages) 200 miles of hilly gravel goodness. I rode all 100 miles the first day and did the first 50-mile stage on the second with Virtus before deciding I wasn't really interested in riding another 50 alone. Finishing feeling confident that I had another 50 in me was very encouraging, though.



May:

With a bike race almost every single weekend, May saw a lot of time in the saddle.  Mickey had convinced me to "race" Cedar Cross (instead of treating it like a social ride like usual), leading to a much unhappier race experience but a considerably faster finish time.  Because I have a short memory, two weeks later I did the same thing at Hairy Hundred, except that since Mickey was in pre-Dirty Kanza taper mode he stuck with me and "coached" (aka didn't let me stop) me to my first-ever first place finish (also aided by the real first-place girl's missed turn).

Mickey's pics
Coolest prize ever.
The weekend before Dirty Kanza, my neglected mountain bike convinced me to take it to the Creve Coeur Heartbreaker, where I rode a very conservative race and, most notably, inadvertently posed for  a series of photos that are simultaneously the most and least flattering pictures of me on a bike ever.

Looking both pretty and ridiculous. The fact that the picture is so flattering makes the idiotic helmet a little heartbreaking.
Photo credit: Mike Dawson
And then there was Dirty Kanza. Any PR hopes I may have entertained were washed away by the steady rains that hit Kansas in the lead-up to the race and talk of a three-mile hike-a-bike through peanut butter mud.  By the time I lined up at the start line I seriously doubted I'd make it to the first cut-off. The dire mud warnings were no exaggeration, but it turns out that while I'm not that fast riding a bike I'm pretty darn good at carrying one.

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Not me, but you get the idea. Photo credit: Jason Kulma
It was hard enough that I was pretty comfortable in the knowledge that I'd miss the cut-off and "have" to quit, but instead I made it in plenty of time and had to go on.  After riding the majority of the first half alone I met back up with my friend Matt who'd saved my race the previous year after I lost a water bottle and ran dry and whose company this year made the second half of the race much more enjoyable.  That second DK finish was hard-earned as, according to Jim, it should be.


June:

June featured my typical post-DK training slump, interrupted only by the Stubborn Mule 30 hour AR. Out of four bike rides logged that month (four!! I did that many races in May!), two were during the race. The 10-hour drive to Cable, WI, was a drag, but it was totally worth it to ride some of the fun-nest singletrack I've ever ridden. I also got to experience being totally lost in the woods with no idea how to get back to the road, but thankfully Chuck was able to sort things out pretty quickly.  We had a strong race and finished first in our division.

Finished with the paddle after more than 24 hours of racing and only one trekking leg between us and the finish.
Photo credit: Lori Vohsen
July:

My racing life blended nicely with my family life this month, as both Mickey and Chuck and Lori's son Jacob joined our team for the annual mud volleyball tournament in Hannibal, MO. They played awesome and our team had a good year, which definitely helped justify their places in my life in Jeff's eyes.

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As if I hadn't just spend enough time with Chuck and Jacob, then we all went mountain biking riding at Council Bluff with Bob.  Despite not being on a mountain bike in something like 3 years, Jacob proceeded to ride circles around me. Or would have, if I'd been anywhere near him. Kids!

Council Bluff was just a warmup for the Hellbender 16 hour AR, which the four of us were racing together.  And by "warmup" I mean that if the heat was bad at Council Bluff (it was! I think we spent as much time in the lake as on the bikes that day. Except for Bob, who did both at the same time), it was significantly worse racing all day in 95*. On the other hand, the temperature definitely sweetened my first experience tipping a canoe in a race.

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Before we tipped it, though, we got to carry it. For half a mile. Good times.
Photo credit: Rolla Multi-Sport Club
The lowlight of July had to be the day I learned what GORC means when they tell you "officially, there is only one section of Ozark Trail called Trace Creek. GORC divides this into North and South sections, mainly for maintenance purposes." If you, as I did, read that and don't think anything of it, let me translate: Because North and South Trace is an unofficial division, there are no signs indicating which is which, and if you [as I did] leave your trail maps at home ["Oh, well, it's an out and back trail...how lost can we get?"] you may unknowingly end up on South Trace instead of the vastly better North Trace. And while that in itself isn't a huge big deal, you're going to feel really bad if your riding partner breaks his collarbone crashing on the wrong trail and spends the next couple months having to sit out races and miss training.


In case you thought all that ^^ was hypothetical.
August:

I'd been eyeing the 24 Hours of Cumming gravel race since its inception last year, and when I realized Cumming, IA, is about 20 minutes from my brother's new house I knew it was a sign. I registered for the race, hoping that its 400K over 24 hours would be a big enough challenge to scare me out of my annual post-DK slump. Sadly, this was not the case, and I drove to Iowa having ridden less than 200K over the entire previous month.  Not Shockingly, I failed miserably. In retrospect, I think I started the race dehydrated and compounded this by miscalculating on how much water I took for the first 100K loop, but I started with a pretty non-tough outlook ("We'll see how it goes...") and generally unprepared (I brought two extra tubes, total). I limped through 97 miles before dropping after my second flat of the day.

I was pretty disgusted with myself afterwards; however, I fought flats in that same tire for the next 3 months before finally finding a piece of a staple embedded in the tread, so had I stayed in I was probably looking at many more flat tires.  And it gave Jim, who served as my crew, the opportunity to get a glimpse of the race on his way to pick me up on the side of the road; when he got there, he told me, "I didn't realize just how alone you are out there." Also, while I totally let myself down, I did get to visit my brother and his family as well as finally meet Steve Fuller and Sarah Cooper, who I've blog-stalked for a long time, as well as the very cool and inspiring Steve Cannon. And Iowa is beautiful. I'll be back.
#24HOC abridged edition. 4 dogs (3 friendly, 1 scary), 4 deer, 2 big birds, 1 tiny snake, 1 bobcat, countless screaming downhills and climbs, 1 minor panic attack when a car passed me and then pulled over on the road and waited for me to go by, lots a rea

Of course, the very best part of August is always heading back north to Camp Benson and the Thunder Rolls 24 hr AR, Chuck, Luke, Brian of Whiskey Tango Foxtrot AR, and I were all racing together, and there was basically no way that race could be anything less than awesome. Granted, Mother Nature did her best to blow us off the Mississippi River on a very scary paddling leg, but even with her interference the race was a blast.
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Helping Luke change his flat tire.
September:

Over Labor Day weekend I raced in the Indian Camp Creek 9 hr mountain bike race. This event and I have a complicated history, including an initial outing where a miscommunication ended up in me having to ride an extra, very very unhappy, nighttime lap, and a second go when major saddle issues forced me out way early. This time around, I rode 56 miles and stopped feeling like I could definitely ride more; I had around an hour and a half left and ended up regretting stopping early, but I was being conservative with the next weekend's Tomahawk Challenge looming. And I still won second place because there were only two of us in the division.

2nd place in the Indian Camp Creek 9-hour. There were only two of us, but you can only race who shows up. Temps in the 90's made for challenging conditions, but a 20lb bag of ice helped. My longest ride of any kind in the past month and all on singletrack

Tomahawk Challenge was Chuck's and my final 24hr race of the year, and it was a fantastic first-year event. Well, other than the fact that we tipped our canoe crossing an old dam in the Wabash River and spent the next 13 hours wet and shivering. That experience made me even more appreciative of the safety people on hand who kept an eye on us and retrieved my food as it floated away from our swamped canoe as well as the volunteers who had hot chocolate and a fire at the boat take-out.

October:

October was not a peak month. I finally got to take a mountain bike clinic I've been eyeing all year, only to slice my leg open in a dumb pedal accident almost as soon as we started the level 2 instruction.
See Kate. See Kate ride flat pedals. See Kate's foot slip. See Kate get stitches. See Kate go back to clipless pedals. #mtbfail #mtb #scars
It looked every bit as bad as it looks here; thankfully it didn't hurt nearly as bad as it looks.

The gash itself was far less trouble than the resulting 3 weeks battling infection, but if you're going to get hurt this is my suggestion. It was a hassle to deal with, but other than being really nervous about re-injuring myself I didn't have to miss out on much.

BT Epic was in keeping with the non-peak theme for October. I've never had more confidence and less physical ability than in this race, where I totally blew my nutrition and spent 40 miles falling apart on anything remotely uphill. Chuck is a saint, because while my implosion screwed his goals for the race, he stuck by me and was as patient and encouraging as could be.

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Taken at the end of the 10 miles of fun preceding the 40 miles of misery.
Photo credit: Josh Brown

November:

Chuck and I headed back to Kentucky for the Fig 12hr AR, one of our favorite races from 2014. It was in new hands this year, but 361 Adventures provided the same kind of fantastic race experience as Flying Squirrel Adventures had. The Red River Gorge area is amazing, and what it lacks in singletrack and navigable waterways it makes up for with challenging terrain and incredible beauty.

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Chuck during our initial trek.

December:

My last AR of the year was another race that had changed hands, as Alpine Shop took over the Castlewood 8hr, This was my first time actually racing with Mickey, and what we lacked in canoeing ability we made up for with teamwork. I'd totally race with him again, but not before we both gain some paddling expertise.

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*Not actually going in opposite directions.*
And my racing year ended the same way it began, with a trail race. I came into this year's Pere Marquette Endurance Trail Run with possibly my lowest expectations ever and had a far better race than expected. I was about 6 minutes off my PR, but on a day I'd expected to hike if not DNF, that was a win. Even better, the day may have rekindled my love for running.

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Running and smiling...it's been a while since both happened at the same time.
Photo credit: Robin Rongey

All in all, it was a very good year. My thanks to everyone who was a part of it, most especially my teammates, my awesome crew(s) Emma (DK) and Jim (24HOC), and all of the race directors and volunteers who've poured their time into these wonderful sports we love.

1 comment:

  1. As someone who has not raced in a LONG time, I'm amazed how much you fit into one year, very cool.

    ReplyDelete