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.


Sunday Sufferfest

My mom and I both spent our Sunday afternoon suffering on two wheels. In snowy, frigid Iowa they have a winter series of roller races held in places like shopping malls. Since today's roller race was sponsored by my parent's/sister's team, Mom decided to toss her hat in the ring and give it a try. She practiced all week on the rollers (which I think means she figured out how to ride them faster than me) for today's race, a 2-mile time trial. She was worried about getting last, but she didn't by quite a bit. Pretty darn cool! Here's Mom's suffer face in the middle of the mall for all the post-holiday shoppers to see... RollinMom

As for me, today was the second Peak Season series race, but more importantly, it was the finale of the NCNCA Cup. Way back last spring I made a goal of getting myself on the B's podium for the NCNCA Cup. Then I got all obsessed with track racing and sort of brushed aside 'cross racing. I missed the first two races of the local series while we were in Idaho, but when I came back and did my first race of the season the following weekend, my lust for the crazy sport of cyclocross came rushing back. And the rest of the season was a blur of giggling schoolgirl fun with a few wins tossed in along the way, all culminating in today's race. Coming into the race, I held a narrow lead in the NCNCA Cup standings, but if Melanie beat me we would tie on points and I had no idea what the tiebreaker might be. I was actually a little nervous for this one.

The race was at the Watsonville Fairgrounds, infamous in past years as a huge mudfest (like what I experienced last year!). Fortunately today was crisp and sunny, though there was still some mud to go around. The hard part about racing at the fairground is the terrain we don't really see anywhere else...first there's the mud--thick sticky peanut buttery mud in some places with slippery-snotty mud in others by the time our race started.  There's also a tricky off-camber section across the hillside--something we don't see in many races out here. And you can't forget those huuuge barriers--I swear they are nearly as tall as my waist!


Anyways, to the race itself...Mel didn't show up, so I knew at the start that I had the NCNCA Cup wrapped up. Phew. But my inner uber-competitive self still wanted to win. So off we went, B women and 35+ Master's women together, and through most of the first lap I had two other girls hot on my heels. I heard them behind me asking each other what category they were racing--one was a B and the other was a 35+ Masters racer, but I didn't know who was who, just that I had to keep one of them behind me. I slowed down on a corner and they both went by. Crap! I caught back up on the run-up and passed one of them who was struggling with the sticky peanut buttery mud in her shoes. But the other girl took off! Crap! I pushed and suffered and rode hard, but she just kept pulling away. By the time we had two laps left, I couldn't even see her anymore. Crap! All I could do was keep riding hard and see what happened. I actually started riding better and better each lap after I figured out how to negotiate some of the slippery mud at speed. By the last lap I was exhausted, waiting to slide out in one of the snotty-mud corners. But I kept it upright and finished, where I saw Jill, the girl who was ahead of me. She asked me, "did you win?" I was thinking, uh, you crushed me, but I managed a "Are you in the master's category?" between panting breaths. She nodded, "yes". Woohoo! I won! But she did crush me by two minutes. Ouch.


So that was my last race as a B. And probably the last 'cross win I'll win for a very, very, very long time as I enter the big, bad, scary fast world of A racing. But at least I've had a blast racing this year. I'm sad that its almost over.

There are lots of people to thanks for the great 'cross season I've had this year. You know who you are and I'm truely appreciative of all the help! Thanks!

A Tale of Two CX Races

Sunday saw my sister and I both doing a little cyclocross racing, though in very different conditions. Kristen raced with the C Women at JingleCross Rock, which also happened to be a UCI C2 race in Iowa City. Meanwhile I got my first taste of racing at Golden Gate Park in the Pilarcitos/Bay Area Super Prestige, which was also race #5 of the NCNCA Cup. Here's a little photo documentary to provide a visual comparison of the two events. Photos of Kristen courtesy of Mom and the ones of me are from Terry.

First, here is the starting line shot:

Note the short sleeves on me and the snowflakes you can see falling in front of Kristen.

Next, a little CX action, with Kristen headed up a run-up while I'm going over some barriers.

Again, nice warm light shining down on GGP while 3" of snow blanketed the Johnson County Fair Grounds.

And finally, a little bit of riding thru some twists and turns.

If you look closely at the background in my photo you'll see some white course tape on the ground. That would be where I broke through it a few laps prior when I didn't see a turn. I clearly had no excuse with the dry tacky dirt under my tires as compared to Kristen's snowfest.

I'm not sure how Kristen actually finished, but considering she had to do most of the race with only two gears in the back because the rest of the cog and deraileur iced over and without being able to click back into her pedals once they got snow/sand/muck-packed, finishing was accomplishment enough.

As for me, I loved the course at Golden Gate Park. Looooved it! It was a blast to race there. Niki B. and I rode together for a few laps - she's so smooth on dirt it was fun to follow her lines. And we got to giggle at the pot smoker on the run-up. The bummer of the day was that Melanie, who has been my main and very tough competition during the NCNCA Cup races this year, got her feet tangled up going through the last set of barriers on the first lap and went down. Terry said she got back up and on the bike but we never saw her again. Hopefully she's okay. I was happy to see that a few of the fans put dollars out for the women's races this time, and I even tried to grab a few on the last lap, but I missed all of them. I need to add "reaching for the beer dollar" to my weekly 'cross skills practice session I guess. I won the race, with Niki coming in second not far back. It was an insanely fun race and a good one for the end of the Turkey weekend.

Iowa State CX Championships

That's right, this is a race report, but no, I was not in Iowa this weekend. Instead, my sister went out to give 'cross racing a try for the first time...and picked the state championship as her first race. Well, maybe she was "strongly encouraged" by her big sister to go find out how much fun 'cross racing is. She tried to tell me that she is going to school full-time in addition to working 12 hour shifts as a nurse's assistant and therefore hasn't been on her bike in a month. I told her that its only a 45 minute race and she doesn't have anything to lose so why not give it a go.

I'd actually forgotten that we'd discussed her doing this race until Saturday afternoon when Dad called me and said they were at the race venue getting ready for Kristen's my head I'm thinking, oh crap! I didn't prep her at all...I mean, Kristen does know how to get herself ready for a race, she road races all the time...but a 'cross race is a little much strategy, so many little details, so much suffering (maybe I'd skip that part) dad's on the phone telling me what the course is like and I ask if her tires are pretty soft. He says, no, we pumped them up nice and hard...NOOOO!!! Crap, go let air out now! But it was too late, Kristen was already on the starting line. They started and off she went.

She did pretty well and never killed herself on any turns on her too-hard tires. She felt bad a little bit because she got lapped, but so did I in my first few 'cross races, so no big deal. The bummer is that the field was so small - only 12 women total, all categories!

The post-race phone call was rather entertaining. For this race the officials raced them for 45 minutes, then two laps after that. Kristen, used to road races, sort of thought that meant everyone sort of sits in for 45 minutes and then attacks on the last 2 laps...she was not prepared for the instantaneous crazy pace right off the start. Oops, should have told her about that. And looking at the photo i guess I should have told her to take the water bottle cages off, too...but at least she was sporting a Bella bottle!

This week she'll be getting my old 'cross bike in the mail, so she'll be all ready to race JingleCross over Thanksgiving on a proper 'cross bike.

Overall, she had a blast and is excited to try it again!