Monday, October 11, 2010

Iron Cross 2010 - Race Report

Warning: Don’t read this race report if you never intend to race Iron Cross….chances are high the little devil in you wakes up that forces you to go thru this brutality.

Disclaimer: Don’t quote me on any numbers and events…. I was delirious half of the race.

Ok…like for every race report that isn’t written by the winner, here are my excuses:

1. Day before riding at Lake Placid at 37 degrees and a “hill” that a Virginian would comfortably call mountain crossing plus 8 hours drive including a heart-to-heart with the car which lost its exhaustion protector.

2. I felt sick….yeah yeah bla bla bla

3. My brakes were unadjustable (spell corrector went off …I truly believe this word exists)….I guess better excuse is that I have no clue how to get my brakes to actually brake so I went into the race with…let’s call it sub-decent stopping force.

4. It was my second Cross race…

5. I am riding everything like a sissy that is not paved and straight….thus; 90% of the course

Enough with the excuses, I just hope one of them is convincing enough.

About the course: Ironcross is a 60mi race involving some serious singletrack, ‘screaming’ gravel and paved downhill, never ending climbs, two ‘run-ups’ of which one I am surprised no harness was required. The course was divided by four checkpoints that had fluids, food etc at mile 12, 30, 42, and 51.

About 240 racers took on the challenge of which 26 or so were women. In regards to the water carrier choice I decided after arduous discussions to go with bottles rather than with a camelbak.

Race started about 9am with a true cross’ course. After that the fun began with some climbs…nothing serious though. I got to know some racers whom I would see throughout the entire course. The first 12 miles to CP1 were fast, I felt good enough. My strategy was to timetrial any paved sections because I would lose that time on any descents or singletrack. And that was certainly the case because whoever I passed on the hills, I would choke on the dust cloud when he flew by me on the gravel downhill.

As the first 12 miles was about finding the right pace and people, the second part was about staying there. The trouble began when suddenly the volunteers guided the racers 90 degrees away from the gravel road….I feared it and knew what was about to come: singletrack… after 200 feet fighting with rocks and roots, I decided running would be my faster option. Soon enough I realized how much time I lost when all the people I just passed on the uphill came by and yelled at me why the heck I am off the bike. Agreed…however…they don’t know my untalented performance on singletrack….there is a reason why I got out of mountainbiking.

Nevertheless…after some cursing and more cursing I found myself on a PAVED road and timetrialed the entire way and got back to the group I was in before. Silently celebrating my comeback, I wasn’t aware of the next challenge….climbing up the ridge. Not sure how the race director calls it run-up (he admitted that the term is defined loosely and he might be right with that because you only could lose). It was a game of balance and deep trust into the people above you who could lose the grip of their bike anytime….this became suddenly a team sport.

Happy being on the top of Mount Everest or whatever this mountain was my enjoyment froze when I saw in the distance a caravan of bike-carrying nomads. However, I also saw a blue tent screaming water (which I was out of) and food. Up the ridge I was told I was ninth in the women category. At the tent, I felt like I got a personal volunteer who gave me water, heed and whatever I wanted (Thank you so much for that!!!!) and then kicked me out of the feed zone. I saw my self-claimed group at the feed zone and we exchanged some encouraging words (like…seriously, another 30 miles?) and I was off for the second half of the race leaving them behind because I knew soon enough a descent must come and I will see them right there.

Tumbling on the ridge and finding the right cadence was high priority. I caught more riders who looked at me pitifully during the singletrack in the previous section. However, as much as I enjoyed passing them I anticipated the descent…on gravel of course. Everyone passed me again…swirled-up dust in my face completed my thought process why I am doing this…I was supposed to relax from all the riding the past days.

After refreshing my memory of all possible German curse words, I finally hit the pavement at the bottom and timetrialed the way to CP3. Again, the volunteers were great giving water, and heed. My group assembled at CP3 again….it was pretty awesome seeing familiar faces the entire race.

The next challenge was climbing, climbing and climbing. The course description explains this climb as “you think you’re at the top. You’re not.” It’s pretty accurate. However, I like climbing and that was my only chance to get a head start for the next singletrack. I don’t know how long we climbed but it was tough…there were times I thought my cadence is so low that I would fall sideways. Then I would try to shift down realizing that I tried that ten times already and I, in fact, was in the lowest gear.

Finally up that climb, I had to face another descent…same story as the last but this time I got cramps in my hands and had to stop at one of the downhill gravel switch-backs. One rider stopped next to me and asked if everything is ok….excuse #3 came in handy. At this point, I unanimously decided that this will be my last CX race or any race that involves some sort of technical riding (I define ‘technical’ very loosely). And this time, I trained my vocab for all possible English curse words…gotta mix it up.

Down at CP4, I chose to grab a banana…before only Heed and Perpetuum was my energy source of choice. I looked at the clock and I was about 4: 30 hours into the course. A lot of people discussed before the race that they wanted to crack the five hour mark. After some calculations, which were obviously way off reality, I thought I could finish under five hours as well. If I would have read the instructions better, I would have known that I could prove my weaknesses to myself again when another singletrack slowed me down.

Since I was pretty much by myself I took it easy….apparently too easy because two women flew by….53 miles into the race!!! I was mad at myself. All the sudden arising energy I used to walk up the last climb….the two women ahead of me. Up the ridge, I immediately jumped onto my bike passed both of them and just hoped for more favorable conditions…meaning PAVEMENT! I passed a tent with a guy sitting in it smiling at me in a suspicious way. Later I learned they handed out beer. I had other issues to deal with and finally luck was on my side and I hit pavement.

I knew from the instructions that that was it….pavement to the finish. So I cursed a little bit at my chain ring that didn’t want to shift to the biggest ring but once that was in place, I turned every little anger, exhaustion, and tiredness into speed. I didn’t want to get passed. The last 55 miles I had no serious goal….at some point a goal had to come and if it is only for the last 5 miles. I looked behind me and didn’t see anyone. But from experience I knew that didn’t mean anything so I pushed harder. Finish came closer and closer and finally the turn to the finish was ahead. I turned. One more look back…no one. Two more hurdles to jump…wait…to climb is the more accurate term…and then a guy held out a medal to me. DONE in 5:35h (or so)!!!! 122nd (or so) overall and 8th (or so) in the women’s category.

This was truly a great race…I know I decided not to race it anymore but I have another year to revise that decision. Maybe until then I forget how much I suck in downhill, singletrack, gravel, roots, and rocks.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Turkey Day - Race report Cat 4 men

As no one has pre-registered for the Cat 3 women race, I spontaneously decided to finish the road season with a Cat 4 men crit. I knew at least one racer in that field, which made me feel a little more comfortable.

I had no clue if I could keep up with the pace so I decided to set my goal to complete 2 laps without getting pulled. It had been raining the entire day and when our race started at 3:35pm it was still slightly raining on us. 28 racers or so signed up. We were four NCVC guys. The course was flat and basically a circle, no real corners.

At the starting line, I positioned myself at the front, 3rd row. The whistle was blown and the race started – slow though, which was unexpected. I was very concentrated on staying on a wheel, not getting thrown around and watching out for the potholes so I didn’t really see what happened in the front.

Apparently nothing much because all attempted breakaways were caught. While people in the front were arguing about who is setting the pace and who is chasing down whom, I had to get used to the closeness to other riders, especially since there was a lot of lateral movement going on.

For some reason, I got boxed in a lot and lost the battle most times so I had to slow down to get out of the sandwich. I tried to stay on the outside but that was not always possible.

Nothing much was going on during the race. Maybe there was but I was definitely not part of it so the bell for the last lap rang and I tried to position myself in the front. The pace in the first half was extremely slow (if I remember correctly) and we sped up at the second part. I worked myself more towards the front. 200m were left and I sprinted seated and finished 8th.

It was an interesting experience. Men’s racing demands a lot more concentration than women’s racing and everyone’s personal space is drastically limited. Sweat, odor, and handlebars are treated as public commodity.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Green Mountain Stage Race

Day 1 - 6mi Time Trial
Yesterday on our way to the lodge, we drove the final 3 miles of the road race course, that 20% climb I was talking about. You can see the road winding up the mountain and wonder how the road 200m above you is connected to the road you are on. My teammate told me that he cried the last km up to the finish last year.

I was really nervous today for the race. My rear tire, of course, flattened, which did not really contribute to calm me down. I saw the course yesterday already so I knew the first 2 miles were a good climb and then it flattens out for 2 miles. The last 2 miles were slightly downhill. The last km was a fast downhill with an immediate wall after that.

I warmed up 1.5 hours before the race. My start time was 11:58am. Still nervous I started my TT and after the first curve, I could see the girl ahead of me, 30sec ahead of me. We hit the first hill and I got her on the first km. Ok, first chase successful. The second chase was up the hill and it took me another 4minutes to get her. I felt really good.

I took the past two days off so I had a lot of energy. I even saw the next two girls in the distance. I finished in 17:35min. Knowing from Millersburg that how one feels in a TT doesnt necessarily reflect the actual results I was just happy that I felt good during the TT. I talked to a girl after the race who saw our results and she said that I would be in the upper 1/3 of the results, maybe 15th. (My field has 42) I wasn't really happy about that.

Just a few minutes ago, the results got online. I got 9th....very close to the next girls.
I am happy. The competition is tough here. People from all over the US came here to race. Tomorrow is the circuit big climb with a KOM at 8:55am.

Day 2 - 34 mi Circuit Race

This was the hardest race I have ever raced in my life. It was a 34mi circuit race with one bigger climb. One lap was about 20mi. Our field did 1 3/4 laps.Our race started at 8:55am. The first few km was neutral so the first climb was a test because in the next lap this would be a KOM climb. I was not used to so many people in my race (42 racers) that I had to get used to fight for my position. After getting thrown around for the first miles, I held my position somewhere in the front, most times fourth wheel. Some racers did not hold their line really well so one girl had to yell at them.

Otherwise the first lap was more like a bigger group ride. The pace was not really challenging and we all stuck together. I only knew the first 5 miles of the course so I did not really know where the finish line was (finish and start line was not the same). I knew where the finish line was when suddenly the girls started sprinting for the Sprint points. I sprinted too so I wouldnt get too far behind the leader. We formed a group again but now the pace picked up. We dropped few girls. After a boring ride through the town we came around to the start again, this time a KOM was on top of the hill.

I wanted to go for the KOM so I placed myself on third wheel. The last 500m to go no one really came around so I went for it. However, another girl just crushed everything and won the KOM. I got second. The GC leader got third. We realized that we had a good distance from the others so the leader asked us to work together to break away. Another girl bridged to us so we sped down the hill as fast as we could. The leader as well another girl were really strong so I just hoped I could hold on to it. I also doubted that we could get away because everything was downhill and fast and the peloton could easily catch us.

But it didnt. We had 13 mi to go and we were four people. My first time in a breakaway with a speed that I never was able to sustain. We worked well together. The leader was definitely stronger than I. I realized that when she asked me to pull through when I couldnt even hold her wheel. She was really fast. We had about 5miles left or more, the ref came up to us and said that we had a lead of 20 sec. I was thinking, awesome 20 seconds, we could chill out a bit. Yeah, nope! That one girl yelled at us that we have to push harder. I was redlining and redlining (what tops redlining? that would be me today) The leader got sick of our speed and just pulled away. So we were three left to get to the finish line before the peloton would eat us.

One km to go and the other two girls looked behind the entire time which freaked me a little out. The last 500m came up and we increased our speed. I knew once they sprint my light would be out. So I was basically waiting. Soon enough they started sprinting and I let them go. So I came in fourth. Happy and totally exhausted.

I got the same time as the two girls and we had a 47 second lead on the chase. And for some reason I got fourth overall. I cant believe it!

Tomorrow will be the toughest stage of all of them. 70 miles, two huge climbs (one with 20% grade)I am pumped!!!!!

Day 3 - 70 mi Road Race - The Queen Stage

When yesterday was the toughest race in my life, today was close to the top as the most miserable....miserable in regards to the imbalance of what I wanted and how my body responded.

Today was a brutal 70mi with two Green Mountain crossings, one crossing, Middlebury Gap was at 30mi, the other 20% climb was at the finish. Actually the last 10mi were all climbing with the last 3 miles of 15-20%. I have never seen any of those climbs in the MABRA races. The other part of the course wasnt flat so it made it even more challenging. We also had a mile dirt section.

The start of the race included a long downhill and everyone was freezing because it was about 55 degrees. The first 30 miles of our race was very boring because we all knew the course will kick our ass anyway. People had some interesting conversation so I learned that the leader is going to the National Championships of some sport and the number 3 of the GC is going to Worlds for Triathlon. Now everything makes sense.

Finally mile 30 we had the first Green Mountain crossing and the first KOM on top of the mountain. I was somewhere in the front but I felt my legs and did not climb as fast as I wanted. I felt them from yesterday. The GC leader, the KOM leader and the Triathlete were way ahead and left quite a gap. Two other girls and I followed. Once on the top of the mountain I tried to catch someone on the downhill.

However, I am, let's call it, a sub-decent descender so I lost time and had to wait until the flats to catch them which I did. Once I caught the two girls, I couldnt see the three front girls anymore. Still trying to get closer to them, I was caught by about 10 girls who worked together. I joined them and we tried our best to catch the three girls. The motor kit came up to us at some point and said they got a lead of 3 minutes. Ok,not quite what we hoped for.

Yesterday before our circuit race, I went to SRAM to get my cassette and chain checked out because my chain jumped all over the place. He said that my chain was too long for the setup and my derailleur is kinda messed up. Today I saw the consequences. I was about to shift into the little ring and my chain dropped. I couldnt shift while riding so I had to stop. My chain actually stuck in my derailleur so I had to get my chain free.

When I was about to jump back on my bike I realized that I was in the big ring which made the climb right ahead of me impossible. Plus once I was sitting on my bike, I couldnt really shift down because the tension on the chain was so tense that I was worried that the chain would drop again. In my head I saw myself timetrialing the rest of the race - about 20miles. But fortunately this was not the case because I was able to catch the group within 3 minutes. I have no clue what they did the time when I was fighting with my chain.

Once I caught on to the group we worked together up to mile 60 - the start of the climb to the Appalachian Gap. This meant thanking everyone for working together and trying to findtheir own pedal rhythm. I stuck to the two girls who were also ahead of me in the climb to Middlebury gap. Two girls were behind me; one of them was not looking like she would keep the pace. I didnt feel like keeping that pace either. The last 20 miles were bad for me. I only ate one sleeve of shot blok the entire race. Oh and by the way, I had three bottles of water with me and I realized in mile 3 that I forgot to fill one of them.

So I was not in the best shape after 60 mi. I had to reconsider my gearing when we started climbing. My two smallest gears made problems the entire race so I decided to face 20% climb with the third smallest gear of a 27 cassette. It was possible but I had a super slow cadence.I kept the pace of one of the girls until it became so steep that I had to stand up because my gear was too big for anything else. We spaced out tremendously.

The other girl of us three sped up and was way ahead of us. In my head I was fine with the entire world passing me. This was not about placing well anymore. For me it was about getting up that mountain and to the finish line. Another girl passed me at some point and I was totally fine with that.We were approaching the last 500m and spectators were yelling at us. Slowly but sure I saw the finish line coming close and eventually after 3:58h crossed the line. I got 7th.

For some reason I am still 4th overall with a 8 sec lead of the 5th place. One of my teammates said that the crit tomorrow is the hardest he has ever done. Good, because I am not exhausted enough yet?????

Day 4 - Crit

When I woke up yesterday I felt pretty good for the crit which would decide whether I get 4th overall. I knew I wont get on the podium anymore but I wanted to hold my 4th place. The 5th placed girl was only 8 seconds back. 6th place was 2 minutes back so I didnt really have to worry about her. My strategy for the crit (besides not crashing) was doing whatever the 5th placed girl was doing.

The crit was pretty technical with 6 corners and a very uneven pavement. There were three GC time bonus sprints on lap 20, lap 10, and the final sprint.The start of the crit was very fast but I had no problem to stay in the front group. The 20th lap approached and Amy, the 5th place girl, was sprinting for 5th place. Since the GC time bonus only went 4 deep, it didnt matter which place I got because she did not get any time bonuses either.The pace of the race was still very high and we lost a lot of girls.

I was always third to seventh wheel and had a strategy how to move up if I had to.The bell for the second GC bonus time lap rang and I had to position myself in the front. Amy sprinted to the finish line, so did I. She got second, I got fourth. I lost three second on her. Ok, I was still five second ahead of her. The finish came up and I sprinted with everything I had and passed one girl and came in fifth. Amy somewhere ahead of me.

I was happy to finish the GMSR, not having crashed and placed well. At that point I didnt care how I placed.However, when I saw the results I saw I was 2 seconds ahead of Amy and got 4th place. I couldnt believe it. My strategy worked out for me. However, when I checked the GC results on the GMSR website the next morning I saw I got 5th overall.

After calculating time I realized that the officials forgot to include the finish GC bonus time of the crit. That meant I was one second behind 4th place. No comment.

Considering that this is my first racing season and the Green Mountain Stage Race was my first race as a Cat 3, I am happy about the end result. I also decided that it's time to remove my reflectors from the helmet, switch from MTB to road shoes and maybe get shifters and gears that work.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Getting ready for the Green Mountain Stage Race in Vermont

This weekend, I will head to Vermont for the Green Mountain Stage Race. This will be my first race as a Cat 3 and I will race in the Women 3/4. So far, 34 racers have signed up. The Stage race is a four day event with the following stages (Women, Cat 3/4):

Day 1, Friday Sept 3
5.7 mi - Time Trial

Day 2, Saturday Sept 4
34 mi - Circuit Race

Day 3, Sunday Sept 5
70 mi - Road Race

Day 4, Monday, Sept 6
15.5 mi - Criterium

The elevation change of the road race looks like this:

y-axis range: 400 - 1500 feet, x-axis range: 0 - 70 mi

For more info on the race:

Monday, August 16, 2010

Race Report Tour of Millersburg Aug 14th-15th, 2010

Being entirely addicted to road racing now, I was looking forward to another Tour, after having just raced Tour of Page County a week prior. 24 women signed up for my category 4, which is unusually high. The Tour started with a time trial on Saturday morning followed by the criterium in the afternoon and a Road Race on Sunday.

The time trial was 10mi and flat. I raced the time trial with a moderate effort and hoped to place somewhere in the Top 5. That didn’t quite happen when I realized that I almost got passed by the girl behind me and saw the results: 11th place. Not a good start into a Stage race.

I hoped that the crit would work better and it definitely did. After a few laps, the front group including me dropped everyone but six riders. We had a good pace and it all came down to a downhill sprint after a corner. Corner is good but downhill not so much. Approaching the finish line, I stuck to the second wheel and we started sprinting on the downhill. I tried to stand up to sprint but couldn’t get my cadence right so I sat down and got closer to the front person but unfortunately not enough to pass her. In addition, another girl came around and passed both of us so I ended up third.

The road race the next day started in the rain. The streets were wet, which caused a lot of crashes in the races before our race. Our race course was rolling, not a course for me because there were no major hills involved. Our pace was very easy. I felt more like in a group ride than in a race and I zoned out several times. Although I wished we would go faster, I knew it wouldn’t be me who can change the pace. After placing second and third in all prior road races (but never first) I decided to do something different this time. There was a corner before the 200m sprint and I attacked before so I was first going through the corner. (Usually I would wait for other racers to attack). I started sprinting the 200m and I did not see anyone coming around. I kept the pace as high as I could and I saw the another girl approaching but we were too close to the finish line so she was not able to pass me and I finished first.

Despite my awful result in the time trial, I got third overall. I received all needed upgrade points and have submitted my upgrade request for Cat 3.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Tour of Page County Race report 2010

Road Race

I had high hopes going into the Tour of Page County. I knew the courses would suit me well as they had some challenging climbs. On Saturday, the Women Cat 4 race started at 8:05am and it involved 2.5 laps, about 30miles. 20 women started in a moderate pace, nothing crazy. The first half of the course was pretty much flat. The second half would be the challenge as it was all hills and pretty steep ones too. Patty from my team set a good pace at the beginning of the hills, and I thought I would get dropped already.

The first lap ended with me sprinting by myself up to the finish line to get the king of mountain points. No one else went for it, which I was surprised about. Despite a good pace on the hills on the second hill, we did not drop that many riders and our group still involved about 10 riders. I also got the second king of mountain and I was not really challenged by anyone. Since we still had a lot of riders in the group, I knew that once again it all would come down to a sprint uphill finish and it did.

The two Bike Pro shop girls whom I haven’t seen the entire race suddenly moved up and started the sprint to the finish. I followed and had to take the longer way to the finish because there was no other way around them. This was a mistake because I could not close the gap anymore to the girls. I finished third, an inch away from second place and maybe a foot from the first place. Because the Bike Pro shop is not part of MABRA, I won the MABRA Championship despite the third place.


The criterium for the Women Cat 4 started at 8:45am and we only were nine girls starting. The first 100m were an uphill sprint and I think we lost five girls at that time already. It was now a race between the four of us: the two Bike Pro Shop girls, a Coppi, and I. I knew that I was four points ahead of the first placed Bro Shop girl and I wanted to get at least one preme to ensure I stay first overall.

The first preme was announced and Alex, the winner of the RR, sprinted for it. I reacted too late and gave up half way up the hill. I was more prepared for the second preme when the other Bike shop girl started sprinting. I followed and I got her by maybe an inch. Having won nine extra points (twice King of Mountain and one preme) on top of the results, I did not have to sprint for the third preme anymore so the Alex sprinted again for the last preme with no one following.
The last four laps of the crit were very boring because no one of us wanted to pull so we drastically slowed down and we were waiting for the uphill sprint. A déjà-vu from the road race, the bike shop girls and I sprinted up the hill. Alex won again but this time I took second, ahead by an inch from Michele. I was very happy with my result; and even happier because this also meant the overall win.

With a third place in the road race, second place in the crit, overall win and win of the MABRA Championship, I cant complain about my results.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

1Day Roanoke Adventure Race

If one of the races I have done describes all facets of Adventure Racing, this is it! Our team experienced the lowest low and the highest high in 24 hours. Nothing of this race could be described as easy and nothing was predictable, which made the race an interesting challenge.

The 1 day Odyssey Adventure Race started on Saturday, July 23rd at 12pm and went until Sunday 12pm. It was about 96 degrees at the start time, no question that the heat was a determining factor how well teams will do. 41 teams signed up for the race taking the challenge to survive heat, 100mi racing, and an elevation change of 25,000 feet.

After we got the maps at 8:30am on Saturday, we planned our race. The race looked like the following: 2 miles running prologue, 40 miles mountain biking, 27 mi trekking, 15 mi paddling, 19 mi biking, orienteering. The numbers are estimated because as I will describe later, we never made it to the paddling section! The race director gave us a cut-off time for the first mountain bike part. We had to be done with the first section at 2am; that meant 14 hours to bike 40 miles. We thought that was plenty of time to bike 40 miles. But we learnt soon enough that a lot of team struggled with that cut off.

Our team started with the prologue running the 2 miles and we finished as one of the first teams. We put our biking gear on and started our 40 mile bike leg around 12:30pm on Saturday. We estimated to be done in around six hours. As it turned out, it took us ten solid hours to complete 40 miles of biking.

The mountain bike section started with a half an hour steep climb up a mountain followed by a two hours not-so-steep uphill part. If I recall correctly, basically we climbed the entire time, I do not really remember downhill…maybe because they lasted only 30 seconds while the climbing part took us forever.

We made a very good time in the first three hours and were third or fourth place that time. Unfortunately, the heat cooked us and one of my teammates started cramping (quadriceps)…so badly that he couldn’t even do a pedal stroke anymore. That meant walking for him. Despite massage efforts and rest times, his leg did not cooperate. However, he kept a cool attitude and we kept on moving…though slow.

Realizing that we were losing a lot of time, we doubted we could finish the race. We felt the heat and our slow progress challenged our high spirits. The terrain was rough…jeep trails with very rocky parts that made it impossible to tow someone. Our goal was to finish the mountain bike part before dark. That didn’t happen. We made it to a check point that was located at a lookout. We reached the lookout right at sunset so we had a great view when the sun went down. However, that also meant that we had to keep going in the dark. After two hours riding in the dark we finally made it to the transition area…at 10pm after 10 hours ride and hike-a-bike.

Ahead of us were 20 miles of trekking. At the transition area, we changed into our trekking gear and got water from a creek. We all ate good portions of our food. I realized that I had too little food with me so I had to plan carefully how much I ate the next hours. We still had 14 hours left to race. We left in high spirits and were able to set a fast pace the first five miles. I was celebrating that we got one fourth of the trekking section done when our navigator recounted the miles on the map realizing that it was actually 27 miles instead of 20. This would take longer than we thought. Moreover, our pace slowed down because the paths were overgrown and we had to bushwhack.

The next checkpoint was six miles away. With an average speed of 2-3 mi/hr we would take at least 2-3 hours. I think it actually took us 4 or 5 hours because the navigation was tricky to get there. We did not see any team until we actually got close to the next check point. We were wondering what other teams were doing because it became obvious that the race course was way too long for 24 hours. We knew that we were in the front somewhere so we were wondering if other teams even made the 2am cutoff for the first bike section.

Having finally arrived at the checkpoint, our goal was to get to the next manned checkpoint as quick as possible so we can get out of the woods at 12pm. We knew we will never finish the trek section or any part after that. It was about 5am when we were heading about 2 miles to the next checkpoint which took us again longer than expected. The following checkpoint was not easy as well and the sun came up.

At about 7am we arrived at the last checkpoint before we saw volunteers who could transport us out of the woods. It took us another hour or so to find finally the volunteers in a driveway. I was anticipating a van transporting us to the finish line and real food waiting for us. However, the volunteers told us that the van will drive us to our bikes which we have to take for 19miles to the finish line. Ok, not really what I expected. We barely slept during the night. I fell asleep for two or three minutes when navigational choices were discussed but that was it.

One of the volunteers drove us to our bikes where we saw another team leaving the transition area. Being exhausted we did not try to speed up to catch them. We took our time to mentally prepare for another 19 miles. We left around 9:15am and had 2:45h to make 19 miles. No problem, one would think. Not if the first miles was basically bushwhacking through brushes….with bikes. This killed my mood.

However, after that arduous mile we could ride on a paved road. But it was 10:30am and we still had 14miles to go. We sped up and made good time. At the last mile, we suddenly saw the team which left the transition area when we arrived two hours ago. Both of us sped up the pace and raced to the finish line. After 23.5 hours racing basically a time trial pace was quite a challenge. We arrived about five seconds before the other team and thought we won.

What we completely forgot was that we could get points in the orienteering section because we still had 20 minutes left until the race would be done. So, we quickly plotted the points and left to do the orienteering. The other team seemed to do the same. After we found the first checkpoint we called it a race and headed back and we found the other team hanging out at the finish line never having left to orienteer. That meant we got more points than them.

Since no other team has arrived at the finish (out of 41 teams) we waited until 12pm with the hope no other team would arrive because that would mean we would win. At 12pm, sure of our victory we went to get food when another team pulled in. They were originally ahead of us during the trek part and apparently received time credit for being ahead of us, which we didn’t know. So they were declared as winners. After 40 minutes the team, which was ahead of everyone arrived. Despite their time credit they came in late and were disqualified.

We ended up being second place which is incredible considering what we went through. 12 hours before, we were considering pulling out of the race and now we got second. We were told that more than half of the field gave up in the first 12 hours and even more pulled out as time went on. I don’t know what happened to those who are still walking in the woods trying to find a manned checkpoint.

It was a tough race, mentally as well as physically but that is what adventure racing is about, you never know where you are until you finish.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Giro di Coppi Race Report 2010

Saturday, July 17, 2010
Category 4, about 20 racers including four NCVC women: Patty, Sheila, Rebecca and I
Time: 1:10pm, 37 miles
Temperature: boiling

The Cat 4 Women race started at 1:10pm when it was 90+ degrees outside. 3 hilly laps without any flat parts IMHO were waiting for us. Each lap was about 12 miles long. The finish was on top of a two step climb.

Right after the start, I managed to stick with the front, usually 4th or 5th wheel. The race started with an easy to moderate pace, which was totally fine by me because I knew that the last lap will kick my butt either way. The entire time, our pace was quite comfortable; there were no attacks or major pace changes. Nevertheless, Patty and Rebecca did a great job to keep the pace high but noone wanted to test her limits against the heat and the hills. So we rode along for an hour or so without any newsworthy incidents.

I did not know that we dropped half of the field when I suddendly realized in the second lap that the motor kit drove behind me and I was the last rider. I quickly made my way to the front again because it did not feel quite right to be last. I was very happy to see all my teammates in the group.

The third lap was not that much different from the first and second lap except that we all now worked together by rotating in a pace line. I anticipated the uphill sprint to the finish would decide the winner of this race and I anticipated right. After another lap in the boiling heat, the end was near, just on a different horizontal level. To get ready for the sprint, I positioned myself as second wheel and waited until someone would start sprinting. The racer next to me started to push the pace around the 200m mark and I came around the first rider and was head to head with the girl who started to push the pace. We were both sitting and our wheels were parallel with each other.

It was a matter who could last longer and finally I was able to push harder. At that point I was ahead of everyone. Unfortunately, another rider came around me standing. She was much faster that I had no chance to get her. I was worried that when I stand up I would blow up so I stayed seated and hoped that noone else would pass me standing. Fortunately, no one passed me in the last meters and I took second. All NCVC women in this race placed top 10!

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900 mi drive, 20 mi hike, 77 mi road bike ride in 42 hours

As preparation for Untamed New England, a 3 day adventure race and qualifier for the Adventure Race World Championships, my teammates and I planned to drive up to the White Mountains in New Hampshire to train in the terrain, where the race will take place. The training involved 20mi hiking across the White Mountains with about 15,000ft of climbing. We planned on climbing eight peaks of the so-called Presidential Traverse. After this estimated 12 hours hike, we would jump on our road bikes and cover another 77mi hilly road. To make this possible, I sped up a car purchase on Thursday so I was able to drive up to Connecticut. I planned on leaving on Friday 6am to arrive at 1pm in Connecticut where my three teammates live.

The execution of the plan looked a little different since the NYC traffic delayed my arrival time by three hours. Having finally arrived in CT at 4pm, Ernie, Ben, Fritz and I drove with two cars up to the White Mountains, which took another four hours. At around 8pm we left one car at one side of the mountain range, where we would arrive after our hike. After another 50min drive to our starting point, we started our hike at 10pm. The first part of the hike involved climbing up 5,367 ft to Mt. Madison, followed by Mt. Adams (5,774 feet), Mt. Jefferson (5,712 ft), Mt. Washington (6,288 ft). We arrived at Mt. Washington at about 5am or 6am and enjoyed our breakfast (soaked wraps with unidentifiable stuff in it) on a small bench.

We definitely couldn’t complain about heat (Washington, DC had 100 degrees) because it was around 40 degrees up there. We were already behind schedule and I take full credit for this. I hardly would define the paths on this mountain range as trails but more like as clustered rock formation, which asks for sprained ankles. After ten falls I stopped counting and I again proved to myself that balance is not high on my skill set list. After Mt. Washington, we headed towards Mt. Monroe (5,372 ft) realizing that this hike endeavor would take longer than anticipated. On Mt. Eisenhower (4,780 ft) we unanimously agreed to head directly back to the lodge since the prospect of breakfast at the camp lodge was threatened. Breakfast closed at 10am and we had about 1.5 hours to make the cutoff. So we took the fastest way down the mountain.

Finally, at about 9:30am we arrived at the parking lot and made our way to breakfast. After having taken advantage of all-you-can-eat breakfast, we got ready for the 77mi road bike ride, which was known not to be flat. I was actually looking forward to the road ride because I would consider biking my strength in adventure racing. However, after 10 minutes into the ride, having not slept for 30 hours and being physically exhausted, I revised my feeling of enjoyment and decided that misery would describe the bike ride better. The road ride course was basically a square. The first 20mi was easy, primarily downhill, which we smoked in 20 minutes. The second section was the worst because it was mainly everything uphill, which we went downhill before.

Since I was mentally in a different world, I have no clue how long it took. The third section was rolling hills, which could be described as pleasant again…not sure though. I stuck to the wheel of my teammate and we made a good time. We made some stops on the way. I felt increasingly better because my legs actually started working again so the last 17mi were fun. We spent the last two hours of our ride in the rain but we finally made it back to the car at 4:30pm. After a dinner at a local restaurant, we drove back to CT….very sleepy. I volunteered to drive for an hour until I saw everything double. After 42 hours non-stop action, we finally arrived in CT. The training weekend served its purpose: We were able to train as a team at the race venue. I am excited for August 12th! Check out the race at
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Saturday, May 15, 2010

Poolesville Race report

NCVC represented by: Sam Rynas, Rebecca Lowe, Catherine Miller, Monika Sattler
Time: 12:40 start, 32 miles, 3 laps
Field size: 16 (7 women in Cat 3 and 9 women in Cat 4)

As this was my second road race ever, I had no expectations whatsoever except not to get dropped in the first half of the first lap. The race hadn't even started yet and my heart rate was threatening close to my lactate threshold and I anticipated hyperventilation in the first 10minutes of the race.I started out somewhere in the middle to the front and was able to keep the pace with the girls. No major events happened until the dirt section when one girl wiped out.

The first lap I decided to take the left lane of this section because everyone recommended that. The field spread out a little but at the end of the dirt section everyone was together again and we collectively fought the upcoming hills.The group stuck together and I stayed glued to the rear wheel of one girl in front of me. Apparently she didn't like that because she vocalized her anger...I will spare you the details. During the second lap, I found myself suddenly in the front pulling, and the people behind me wouldn't pull through.

I didn't want to waste too much energy so I slowed down to 14mi/h until someone got sick of it and passed me. Approaching the gravel section the second time, I chose toride the right side of it. I actually liked that side better and just bunny hopped the worst parts.After the second lap, I was pretty exhausted and I expected being dropped every second. However, the pace in the third lap didn't get faster and we always slowed down at the right time; good for me, so I stayed with the group. Getting a little too excited I got first into the dirt section and my plan to pull away was pretty much set in stone.

What I didn't take into account was that I blow up after 1/3 into the gravel section and within 30 seconds I was passed by 10 people. Apparently, I slowed down so much that even the competitors behind me had to cheer me on to pick up the pace again. Despite my failed attempt to attack the group, the girls slowed down the right time and I was able to catch on. The last part was fast and it seemed like everything would come down to a sprint. Around the last corner, Catherine and Sam pulled the trigger by drastically increasing the speed. Some girls came around and I followed them ending up 5th overall and 2nd in my category and a new PR for my max heart rate.

Monday, May 3, 2010

The rather unusual training day

On Friday, two NAVY guys and I decided to drive out to the Chesapeake Bay to swim to the Sandy Point light house and back…2 km round trip. Austin, one of the NAVY guys, supplied me with a wetsuit and some fins. Having arrived there and putting all our gear on, I realized that the fins were way too big. This was very discouraging because there is no way that I would swim to the light house without fins so the two guys made their way to the light house without me. I did not want to give up yet so I asked some beach fellows whether they have tape or anything to attach the fins to my feet. The first person had nothing, second guy unfortunately nothing… but the third guys, an English, had duct tape, which he got out of his truck. He then strapped the duct tape on my feet while I was sitting wondering how in the world I would ever get rid of all that stuff later. I was about to get up after this attachment procedure and fell back again because the angle of the fins to my feet did not allow me to stand up anymore.

No problem for an English and so he offered me to pickiback me into the ocean. I felt like a stranded wale or maybe Ariel in the Little Mermaid. Once in the water, I took on the task to find the two NAVY guys in the water somewhere in the direction to the light house. After a while, maybe 30 minutes, I found them, they just returned from the light house, so we made our way back to the beach. After unductaping my feet we enjoyed the sun and I gave more attention to the structure of my wetsuit, wondering why the zipper had an interesting shape. After 10 minutes scholarly discussion about the design of the wetsuit, I figured out I was wearing that thing the entire time inside out!

Friday, March 19, 2010

50 hours Adventure Race - E Fix 2010 Race Report

For the 2-day adventure race challenge Endorphin Fix in Hinton, West Virginia, I joined up with Team Berlin Bike. As a relative newbie to adventure racing, I was delighted to be part of a team that was National Champion in 2007.On Thursday, March 25th 2010, I was picked up by my three future teammates, Ben, Ernie, and Rafael, as well as Rafael’s father. The five hours drive to WV helped a lot to get to know each other, and after the drive I was pretty sure it would be a good race.

Team Berlin Bike before the race start: Monika, Rafael, Ben, ErnieOn Friday at 9:30am we got the maps and Ernie and Ben mapped out our course. (I don’t know how long each of these sections ended up taking, but you can safely assume each was long) First, we started with a bike prologue followed by a trekking section (12mi), canoe section (3mi), trekking (10mi?), biking (long), trekking (ok long), biking (nightmare), canoe (relaxing), biking (nightmare again), and canoe (sprint to the finish!).The bike prologue started out really well for me because I was able to impress my new teammates by falling into the creek, soaking my gloves and pants right from the start. Because 50 hours otherwise would be just way too easy, right?

The following trek section almost killed me because Ernie set a speed that I would not even do in a 12 hours race. Also, the weight of my backpack felt like carrying my own weight. The ultimate icing of the cake was the snow, which reminded me of Snowmageddon just two months ago in DC. (Here is a video of us trekking in the snow Lucky me, that I got towed by Rafael for the first trekking part.Nevertheless, after the four hour trek, I knew what to take (a mix of ibuprofen, caffeine pills, electrolytes, more ibuprofen, more caffeine pills and a 5-energy-shot would do the trick). The next leg was paddling. Usually, I am not the biggest fan of any paddling in a race, but this time I was looking forward to an upper body workout and a rest for my legs.

We had to take our bikes apart and strap them tightly to the canoe so we wouldn’t have to fish for the parts if the boat capsized. After about two hours of paddling, we realized that our speed must have been 1-2mi/hours, so we exited our boat and resumed our way on foot. The orienteering part began. Up to that time (it was maybe 10pm and 8 hours into the race), our team was very focused on getting from point to point, but I warned them I can be very chatty. On the walk to the orienteering section I looked for a victim who could entertain me…and I found one.Now it was time to find a checkpoint on a hill side, so we bushwhacked into the woods.

After half an hour of not finding the checkpoint, we circled back and tried to find it from a different side. The thicket of briars made the walk not so walkable but eventually we found that checkpoint realizing we kind of aimed in the wrong direction.The navigation of the next couple of checkpoints by foot hit the spot. We skipped some optional checkpoints because the ‘energy output: point’ ratio did not convince us to get them. We made our way back to the canoe to cross the river to find the next checkpoints. Mud up to our knees made our progress out of the water slower. The advantage of the mud was that it insulated our shoes (always trying to look for the bright side). Ben nailed the navigation for the next few points, so we made excellent progress on foot. The next checkpoint was supposed to be on a hillside but having arrived at the site, we determined the “hillside” was more like a cliff.

We concluded that Ronny, the race director, would never put the checkpoint on a cliff like that and we left without success. Talking later to other teams, we found out that the checkpoint was actually on the cliff. Conclusion: Never underestimate the evilness of the race director. The next checkpoint was on the intersection of two boundaries on a hill side. Not knowing how the boundary was marked, we were looking for something that was out of place in the woods. After an eternity of searching, Ernie finally found a little plate on the other side of a tree (not visible for walkers on the trail) so we could follow the imaginary line of this plate to the checkpoint.

The following checkpoint tested my patience because our team decided (not unanimously because I did not participate in the decision making) to find one checkpoint by climbing three times down the same ravine (at least it felt like that) just to climb up that immense ridge again. I was borderline bitchy and then happy when we finally continued without another try. At that point it was daybreak (17 hours into the race) and we had to refill our water. We used the nearby spring to do that. That was the first time I disinfected water during a race and I was surprised it actually tasted better than the chloride stuff from the faucet in my house.We made our way back to the bikes and found ourselves hammering the mud away from the bikes, which froze over the past hours.

On the bikes, my favorite part of the race started: biking up the hills. This fun ended when one of my teammates, Rafael, a 230lb muscleman, broke his chain – four times. The break was caused by Rafael’s immense torque and so I volunteered to tow him up some hills to decrease the strain on his chain. Since there was a weight difference of 100 lbs, we had to watch out that we did not come to a dead stop otherwise he would have taken me right back to the bottom of the hill.After an arduous bike section, we arrived in the park for the start of the orienteering section.

It was around 11:30am and 21.5 hours into the race. We had four hours to get the checkpoints to beat the cut off time – we did it in three hours. The sun was shining and it was a great day to do some walking through the woods.Back on the bikes, we had to return to the canoes. Our goal was to sit in the canoes before dawn. After a long downhill section (yes, there is downhill too), we had to cross a river. As any of my past teammates can confirm, Monika and river crossings are not a good combination. And of course, I was able to live up to reputation for clumsiness. Before we crossed the river, we took our shoes off so they would not get wet…or at least that was the plan.

In my case one of them got wet because I lost my grip and dropped it in. After a panicked “F&@%, I lost my shoe”, Rafael performed a life threatening move in the water to save my shoe. (Ok, maybe it wasn’t that dramatic, but nevertheless, it took some energy to get that damn shoe back.)Up next was a true hill climb. The elevation gain of the entire race was about 32,000 feet or 10km. It took us at least solid two hours to hike up the mountain/hill; it was steep and long. Finally at the peak, we were looking for a remote cemetery (strangely, a lot of checkpoints were on the cemetery) and were coasting the ridge with a beautiful view over West Virginia. At long last and still in sunlight, we made it to the canoes. The first 30 hours had passed. Up to this point in the race, I knew what to expect from myself since I have done several 30 hours races previously. The next 20 hours would become the interesting test.Back in the canoe with our disassembled bikes, we made our way seven miles down the river to a dam. Arriving at the transition area, we had to fight serious mud (see picture) and struggled to get our boats out of the water.

After a gear check and two minutes at the bonfire, we hopped back on the bikes and headed to a checkpoint in another park. It was around 10:30pm and we only had 4.5 hours to get the next checkpoint to beat the cut-off time. In high spirits, we started riding with the goal to get there before 4am; however, the demanding hill climbs slowed us down so much that we had to accept we would not make the cut off.With 36 hours into the race, I became increasingly tired and the seemingly endless hills did not help. Still progressing towards the next checkpoint, we saw a lot of teams in their space blanket sleeping on the side of the road. One team apparently managed to sleep in a house.

However, my teammates did not seem to be tired at all and so I tried to fight my sleepiness. Eventually, we arrived at the campground, an hour too late for the cut-off. I was so exhausted that I asked my team to sleep for 5 min. Request was granted and I fell to the ground. While I was dreaming of more sleep, my teammates refilled our water bladders and got us ready to go. Because we missed the cutoff, we had to take the same way back. We were still in the race but were not allowed to try for maximum points. Later on, we were told that there was only one team that managed to beat all of the cutoff times.

Despite the sleep and better mood, I was not looking forward to climbing the same mountains again. The first hill was so long (maybe an hour) that any benefit from my five minutes of sleep quickly wore off. The sleep monsters crept in and I managed to fall asleep while riding. Cracks in the streets became tree logs and I immensely slowed down, worried that I would hit anything on the street. Of course, my brain was playing games with me. Because I could not keep my eyes open any more, I made a deal with one of my teammates that when we arrived at the top of the hill, I was allowed to sleep for five minutes. The deal was accepted and I sprinted up that mountain hoping that I might gain six minutes out of it.

When I woke up, two of my other teammates had apparently been tempted by the comfy grass on the side of the road and were taking a nap as well. I felt better with five minutes rest, but once again the benefit was short lived. After half an hour, I was a wreck again and I repeatedly fell asleep for four seconds at a time not even realizing that I fell asleep. This happened about 20 times. Since some of the sections we were riding were downhill and the side of the road was very steep, my teammates were increasingly worried that I would find an even faster way down the mountain– the steep hillside off the side of the road. Trying to keep me awake, they asked me all kinds of questions. I was just in my own little world, trying to figure out how I can get some sleep. In my head I was plotting to come up with a way to get my teammates to stop so I could sleep. But I never got to put the plan in to action because the sun started to come up and the light helped to keep me awake.

What I did not know was the return route had more elevation loss than the way to the campground. So after four hours, we were already back at the canoes. It was around 9am and we only had to make our way back to the finish line. That meant all we had left was two miles of paddling and then to portage the canoe up the hill. Paddling in the canoe would not normally be a big deal….for someone who is awake. However, I fell asleep again. There was a risk I might capsize the boat so Ernie engaged me in a conversation and we safely hit the ground after two hours.

The portage up the hill seemed like a piece of cake and we arrived at 11:30am at the finish. It was a great race and it made it even better when we heard that we placed 3rd in the 4-person-coed category and 7th place overall.Racing with Berlin Bike was a great experience. They are a lot of fun. Adventure Racing is all about personality and these guys have great personalities. I also gained experience with sleep deprivation and know now better how to prepare for it. I cant wait for the next race!

Friday, February 19, 2010

Race Report - 30 hours adventure race Swamp Stomp Feb 2010

Washington DC had never seen so much snow as in early February of 2010. Being forced to train inside, I only could wish for sunny and mild weather. I never imagined that my wish would come true until I received a phone call that the team Calleva needed a female racer because their female racer was stuck in snow. Without hesitation I got ready and 30 minutes later I was heading towards Tampa, Florida for the 30 hours adventure race: Swamp Stomp. The race consisted of a paddle prologue, three bike sections, two foot sections and a final paddle section.And yes, the name of the race tells the story. The second bike section which was about 12 hours into the race and in the dark gave the race’s name all its proud.

During the night, we entered a remote park. Not only the signs with “Do not enter, you will get shot” but electrical fences and swamps left and right with unfamiliar animal noises made this section an adrenalin-heightening experience. The most epic part of the race was an hour or more (I lost the sense of time) of wading through knee-deep swamps….with bike. My inherited ineptitude for balance as well as my unsteadiness caused by seven Red Bulls (the race was sponsored by Red Bull which meant free drinks at the Transition Areas) made my graceless fall into the swamp inevitable. However, the thought of being stuck in the snowy DC made me appreciate the wet, cold and dirty conditions of Florida.Although we finished unranked due to the loss of our intern, it was an invaluable experience. Before this race, all my teammates have been American. It is a new and fun experience to race with Russians. I recommend the adventure!