Race Report: Boggs 8-Hour Mountain Bike Race

There is just something about Bike Monkey's annual 8-hour romp through the Boggs Demonstration Forest up north of Calistoga, CA that I love. The singletrack there is so much fun and the trails are very well maintained. The Bike Monkey crew does a fantastic job of organizing the event, and for some reason, I keep signing up for this 8 hours of suffering on a mountain bike. This was my 3rd Boggs, and oh boy, it was completely different than my two previous experiences! Before I get into the details, I have a few obligatory shout-outs. First off I have to thank Bike Station Aptos. JT and Courtney have been incredibly supportive, and mechanic Trey worked some serious magic to get my bike back up and running after last weekend's rather destructive wet sand race. The new brake pads (there was no more "pad" left on my brakes after last week...just metal on metal!) and new drive train worked great. Thanks guys! I also have to thank Honey Stinger for fueling me through the race. I had a regimen of gels (gold, strawberry, and banana flavors), cherry blossom organic energy chews, and a peanut butter-honey energy bar that got me through the day. Finally, and most importantly, huge thanks to Terry. He's getting pretty good at supporting me during these endurance races. He set up a little feed area for me with bottles laid out and food at the ready. Most laps he was there to make me eat or give me what I needed, some laps he was off playing with Massey, but he prepped the everything before he left. I always had what I needed when I needed it. And he took all the photos you see here. He's awesome!

Now, as for the race. I was excited to arrive at the venue to some sunshine and relatively mild temperatures for 7 am. After a week of warm temps, I assumed the trails had dried out pretty well. It was going to be a great day! But during the pre-race announcements, we got the bad news. We've had a pretty soggy few weeks here in California, and when more than 2" of rain has fallen within 2 weeks, all events at Boggs are supposed to be cancelled. Luckily the race organizers and forest guys got together and we still got to race--but instead of an awesome 8 or 9 mi singletrack loop o' fun, the course was a 5-mi loop entirely on fire roads. And since the conditions were a little icky and the course was so short, the race was shortened to 7 hours. I figured the fire roads would be relatively dry, so no big deal, right? I would quickly learn otherwise!

I lined up for the mass start alongside about 600 riders. I had no idea who I was racing against...solo racers were mixed in with the 2-person and 4-person relay teams, and race numbers didn't correlate to category. I wasn't too concerned about a result as I wasn't expecting to podium in the women's expert division. I was using the race more as training for Leadville anyway (and the fire road change was actually more realistic training for that event).

So off we went, a good steady climb for the start, then a crazy fast descent. I have a mild fear of fire road descending after crashing really hard when I was 10-years-old out in Crested Butte, CO on some lose gravel at the bottom of a hill. I don't like cornering on gravel while going 30 mph. Fortunately I had 7 hours to get over that fear. Everything was great until we got to the first left turn and then I saw it...MUD. Sloppy, slippery mud that went on for about 1/4 mile. Then another section with a big puddle. Then more puddles. Then little mini-streams. There was no way around the muck, only through it. I vividly remembered thinking "Two weeks of this in a row? Are you kidding me??" as I hit one puddle and thick muddy water splattered all the way up my shin. I mud-sprayed and everything from the waist down was pretty well soaked 1/2 way through the first lap. Ugh. But what can you do? So, I pedaled on, knowing it would be a long day. At least it was nice out and hell, I was riding my mountain really wasn't so bad.

It took me about 2 laps to get settled as my legs felt a little heavy at the start, then the next 4 or 5 laps went by fairly easily. The conditions weren't great, but they weren't horrible, and the short laps were mentally very easy to tackle. My goal at the beginning of the day was to get 60 mi in, so I had to do 12 laps. Around the 9th lap I was starting to feel it a bit. Sections of the course were starting to dry up, which meant all those soft spots that easily rutted in the morning were now hard, dry ruts. I felt like I was taking a beating. My bike was getting heavier from the mud. My feet were soaked. This photo was around lap 10 I can't tell where my knee warmers end and my skin starts!

Fortunately I finally started to see some familiar faces around the course at this point. My BSA teammate Malia was there racing on a 2-person women's team (and they won!!), our good friends Heather and Justin were there camping (they smartly decided to go play on the singletrack rather than deal with the fire road muck), and I could hear a few voices cheering for me as I rolled through the staging area each time. I pushed out my 12th lap and found Terry...who of course, as he does every single year at Boggs, told me to do one more lap. I was actually feeling *relatively* good, so I headed out for one more...lucky 13...and was done. I was really happy with my effort and how I felt throughout the day. And I was so happy to be done. I technically still had time for 1 more lap, but at that point my hands were sore, my legs were tired, and my girly parts weren't really excited about sitting on the saddle anymore. So I called it a day.

Back at the car we took stock of the mess. I have no idea how I was seeing the trail through those glasses, and I'm so glad I didn't wear my new SIDIs. I had mud was in my hair, in my ears, in my teeth, everywhere.

I slowly got out of all my gross clothing and tried to clean up as best I could. Then it was off to get beer and a burrito! I was fairly certain that I hadn't placed, but was curious to see the results before we headed home. They said they would post them shortly, so we waited. And waited. And waited. At least we had the dog to play with while we waited. She even got her first taste of beer.

Finally the results were posted...but only the top 3 in each category. Since we'd waited that long, I at least wanted to see which teams the top ladies were racing for to see if I could remember them blowing by me out on the course. And then to my surprise, there was my name! In second place! Holy crap! So we had to wait a little longer for the podium. And classy me, I only have one jersey for my new team, so there I was, on the podium, in my muddy, stinky jersey. Oh well. Glad we stuck around.

Of course, after all that fun, there's always the clean up. Here's the aftermath of 6:45 minutes and 65 miles in the mud. It all got the hose.

No racing next weekend. Next up will be the Sea Otter XC race followed by the Santa Cruz crit the same weekend. Its gonna be fun!






After what seems like weeks of riding in rain and wind every day, I was looking forward to the local CCCX mountain bike race scheduled for Sunday, as Sunday's forecast was sunny and lovely and oh-so-nice. But as luck would have it, the race got rescheduled for Saturday. Saturday's forecast = more rain, more wind, more misery. It turns out those meteorologists know what they are talking about once in awhile. Ft Ord is usually the best place around for getting some mountain biking during the rainy winter months because the sandy soil drains so well. In fact, Ft Ord is at it's best in the winter as everything is generally remains rideable, as opposed to the summer months when huge sandpits make the trails better suited for cyclocross than riding. Unfortunately we've had so much rain over the last week or two that even the Ft Ord trails were a muddy, mucky mess, and the rain was still falling.  This was going to be epic.

There's that old adage that goes something like "showing up is half the battle." Well yesterday that was the whole battle.  I was the only entrant in the women's pro/expert field. Luckily my old training buddy Sue finally decided to cat up and raced in the expert 35+ category, so we got to race together. She was also the only entrant in her category, so we both won! Don't think that made it easy though! Sue and I love to push each other silly, so we drilled it on the course. She's a ridiculously strong climber, so every time I would get a little gap on the downhill or flat parts, she'd be right back on my rear wheel on every climb. We battled together for the better part of 3 laps and then somehow I got a gap on her.

This photo of rain drops and mud splatters from Tim Westmore pretty much sums up the day.

By the 4th lap the rain was pouring and my rear derailleur was no longer cooperating. The drivetrain wasn't liking all the wet sand. I was left with only the front chainrings, and even then I still had some chain suck issues. I was relieved when I came through the start/finish line at the end of the 4th lap and they told me I was done. We were supposed to do 5, but in those conditions, 4 laps was good enough for me. I haven't done my 'cross races in conditions like that, much less a mountain bike race. Two hours of good hard racing in less-than-ideal conditions...mission accomplished.

The best part of tearing up a drive train in mucky muck conditions is that I have a brand new drive train that will be ready and waiting for me up at Bike Station Aptos this week! Yippie!

Here are a few photos of that Terry took after the race (and after he decided to unlock my car holding all my dry clothes 20 minutes after I'd finished!). You can see that it was a little mucky.

Muddy bike and Wellie's Wellies.

Sometimes I disgust myself.

Lovin' Sue's boots!

Lonely podium (but I'll take it!).

And hats off to teammate Ron Riley for another win! He's 76 years old! So impressive.

Up next...Boggs 8-Hour next Saturday.


Weekend in the Mud

Finally. I'm writing a race report. Granted, I did do some road races this summer, but they were not blog worthy. That's because road racing is lame. This weekend I headed just down the road to Ruston, LA for the Piney Hills Classic. The race is actually part of the Texas Mountain Bike Racing Association's Fall Cup points series (weird, huh?), so the turn out is pretty good with lots of fast folks from Texas coming over to race. I raced on these trails for the duathlon I did back in June when I first got here, and have ridden them a few other times. It's an incredible 10-mi loop of mostly singletrack up and down ravines and through the woods. Plenty of technical with tree roots and stuff. The event follows a stage race format, with Cat 2's (that's me) doing a 3-mi time trial and the regular cross country race towards the stage results. There was also an optional short track cross-country race on Saturday morning, and the cyclocross fiend in me couldn't pass that up! Weather geek interjection: I should mention that its monsoon season down here. I don't think we normally have monsoons here, but its an El Nino year (that's Spanish for "the Nino") so the rain just keeps coming. Rumor today was that in the last 41 days a rain gauge near the course has collected 26 inches of rain. I think they got somewhere between 3" and 4" in that area last week. Fortunately the weekend brought crisp, sunny autumn days, but there was plenty of mud out on the trails.

Short Track

Well, the starting field for this one was a bit sparse. There was me and one other girl. Wow, two of us. Since the short track didn't count towards the stage results for us, most girls chose to skip it. But I wanted do the the short track more than any of the other events to get me ready for cross...yes that's right, I haven't done a cross race yet this year. The race official asked if we wanted to shorten the race and I kindly said, no thank you, full length please. So off we went, I guess I got the hole shot, and cruised from there. It was obscenely muddy, but riding in soupy mud is strikingly similar to riding in Ft Ord sand. I sort of didn't know what to do once I had a good gap...keep hammering for the fitness, or conserve for the coming races? I kept hammering along with taking some lines I wouldn't normally take through some spots for the practice. Overall, it was fun, I got covered in mud, but stayed safe and upright the whole time. Felt great, with that nice lung burn at the end.

Time Trial

After I got the bike and myself cleaned up, lubed up (the bike, not me), and made a quick trip to the Subway in nearby Wal-Mart for lunch (Wal-Mart in southern town...that 15 minute experience is worthy of whole other blog), it was time for the time trial. I generally loathe roadie time trials, with the crazy wheels and crazy bars and crazy helmets. But a mountain bike time trial...heck yeah! Plus, given that I got dropped in all those CCCX pro/expert mountain bike races at Ft Ord, I'm fairly familiar with the solo mtb effort. The course was sa-weeeet...started at the top of this crazy steep hill--coming over the top of it was like cresting the top of the big hill on a roller coaster...super steep, straight down, and only a bit bumpy, so you could let go of the brakes, hang your butt off the back of the saddle and go...just make sure you don't launch yourself over the berm at the bottom! I felt amazing, but didn't know how long 3.5 miles would be, so I was conservatively hammering. The course had just a few gooey sections, but otherwise it was generally tacky and fast. We went off at 30-second intervals, and I caught the two girls ahead of me, so I was happy. The only bummer was that it was over so fast. I think I could have gone harder had I realized the course was so short. But, in the end, I posted the fastest time in my age group, so I held the lead after Stage 1.


Despite how hard I'd ridden yesterday, I was still feeling pretty good during my warm-up this morning. I held close to a 1-minute lead in the GC (saying GC about a mtb race makes me giggle), but I didn't want anyone in my class to get a gap once we started. The xc was supposed to be 2 laps around the 10-mile loop, but due to all the rain, they had to chop off about 2 miles for parts of the trail that were unrideable. My great warm-up was really all for not...the officials had us all stage 10 minutes before the start. And by all, I mean every single age group of Cat 2 men, then they finally staged the women...but the first group of men still hadn't started. So I think we stood around in the upper-40 degree early morning shade for about 20 minutes before we finally got the gun. The race started off fast and furious, with a couple of girls from the 20-29 age group getting a good gap on the rest of us. There was one girl right on my wheel thru the first section of woods, and it turned out it was one of the local Shreveport riders, so I was happy to let Kim go by...she was flying and looking great through the technical stuff. The ride was going well, rather uneventful, just muddy, until I clipped a handlebar on a little tree...I crashed. But, no harm done, just a little muddy, so up I got and on I went. Then, sometime in next few mud puddles or stream crossings, my rear cog/freewheel/derailleur/chain decided it didn't want to cooperate anymore. Every time I was grinding up a grunter of a climb, my chain would either slip the freewheel or I'd get chain suck that would lock up the cranks. I guess my cyclocross trail running training paid off, because I had to start running up a bunch of the hills. Then I crashed again in the weird place when my front wheel just slid right off the trail. Lesson learned: 30 psi is too much in the Schwalbe's in the mud. Slowly my competition started catching back up, and as we neared the end of the first lap, I was exhausted, covered in mud, and Tammie, my main competition, was right on my wheel. Eeek! And with a whole lap remaining, I still had another hour to race. My technical skills would allow me to get a gap on her, but she would reel me back in on the climbs. The soupy mud from the previous day was now gooey, sticky, clay-like mud that sucked your wheels down and bogged you down...and with a finicky rear freewheel, it was quickly getting miserable. But I knew I needed the fitness so I just kept hammering. I slowly caught the other younger girls who had gotten away at the start when they had major mechanicals, so I was at the front of the women's Cat 2 race. It really was a race of attrition in those conditions. Finally, towards the end of the lap, I finally got enough of a gap to relax a bit and cruise in for the win. I think this was my first ever cross-country win.

Bummer of the day...Kim, the local girl who was crushing it ended up crashing pretty hard during the race. She broke her arm near her elbow and has to get it surgically repaired. Heal up fast Kim! I want to go ride with you!

The aftermath...this is what the bike looked like when I got home today. She was clean at the start. I think I'll have to replace the chain, and possibly the rear cog. I also have mud stains on my legs that I can't get off. Stupid red mud. I have also official resigned from road racing. Its lame...this was so much more fun!



Next up: Surf City baby! I'll get to see all my NorCal friends next weekend! Yippie!