Thursday, June 10, 2010

2010 Road! Mt Tabor Series #1 Race Report

Race Report: Tabor Series #1, June 9, 2010.

by Elaine Bothe

Rain, rain stayed away!

Six of us brave Sorellas make it to the top of the volcano for the first of the Mt Tabor circuit race series. It’s been pouring all day. Under threatening skies and over a slightly wet course teammates Michelle, Karin and Tonya represent in the Cat 4s, and Martina, Jan and myself hold down the back of the starting grid in Masters 40+.

Shivering in the cold, finally the 4's go, then us masters. Lisa from Bike Atty's shoots out first, I jump onto her wheel. Anne from Guinness, Jan and Martina follow closely. Up the hill, Lisa poops out a bit and I take off. Jan and Anne stick close. We trade off the lead for a couple laps then, we catch up with Margie who dropped from the senior pack.

Bell lap, PRIME! Wheee! (That means there’s an extra prize for the person who crosses the finish line first the next lap. It’s pronounced “preem,” I don’t know why, probably something Euro.)

I know Jan loves primes, and she's flying on the flat and up the hill. But I find a turboboost and Jan falls off, I want to see if she's going to reboot, but she yells Go Elaine!! and then seeing Anne's turquoise green kit in the corner of my eye I gun it. The coffee is MINE!!! they announce over the loudspeaker. Thanks for the awesome lead-out, Jan! it's fun racing with teammates!

Anne falls off, it's me wheezing big time now, and Margie and Jan working together, I'm thankful for a bit of a break. I lead up the hills, Margie, down, Jan takes pulls on the flat. Two laps like this, but then we lose Jan. I'm still on my cross bike with my mtb shoes still damp from the Jedi and my mud covered helmet.

Ward at River City set up my cross bike this week so I can continue to get used to the mtb pedals, and to fix some knee issues with the bike at Cherry Blossom. It's great now, we shifted some things for power and agility. It worked!! 

I accelerate up the last hill for the win.

Jan thinks she came in third, didn't know Margie isn't racing masters... so Jan actually got 2nd!!! Great job! Martina hung in there too... excellent job, what fun. 

Photo credit: Stewart Campbell

2010 MTB: Return on the Jedi Weekend Race Report

2010 MTB: Return on the Jedi Weekend, Merlin, Oregon, June 5-6, 2010.

by Elaine Bothe

In which Elaine learns the meaning of the word “EPIC.”

Saturday morning: Short Track! Yay, my favorite, the first of my season. I rode very hard, and very well. I got faster as the laps progressed. I win! (I'm the only Category 1 woman, oh well...)

1 mile course, at elevation (approx 3000 feet) talk about huffing and puffing. 8 laps, as I got lapped by the pro men, I got to follow for a little bit through the trickier sections, taking notes. What a great experience. 

Saturday afternoon: Super D!!!! Wheee! The scariest part was the ride to the top of Onion Mountain, on the back of a stake-side flatbed truck, holding my bike with 19 other people. Moooo. On a winding, bumpy road with steep dropoffs.

The ride: 9 miles down, well, mostly down, with some climbing on the gravel road and a rolling, super fun Jedi trail back into camp. I debate about whether to take my new 29er or my old Klein... since I'm trying to get as much time on my new bike, and after a quick spin around camp on my old bike... eeek... I go for my new one.

What a confidence builder, (with the Specialized Captain tires now mounted up), what fun. Oh yeah, I win ; )

Sunday, XC. I was nervous all weekend, I know this is a hard, hilly and long Pro/Cat 1 course. I looked at the map, 30 miles, lots and lots of elevation gain, I planned for 4-4.5 hours and who knows what they are referring to as "technical"... sometimes they mean it, sometimes they don't... well this time, they meant it. I rode up AND DOWN some of the most amazing long rocky stairsteps I have ever seen, let alone ridden! But I crashed later on some stupid stuff... oops... like trying to ride through a fast moving creek, a root I stared at a picosecond too long.... bike's fine!!

Oh yes, then there was the wrong turns... apparently somebody removed a bunch of the course markers. This isn't the first time this year that the courses have been sabotaged by people against mountain biking. I think they have no idea how badly somebody could get lost and if they got hurt out there... I didn't think of this part until the drive home.

 The unfortunate part is, since I was the last of the Pro/Cat 1 riders going through, and some of those guys made the same mistakes... I followed the wrong road that had a lot of bike tire tracks! Three or four guys, plus doubling back make for 6-8 SETS of tire tracks, which could be considered the pack!!! Total additional miles, approx. 2. plus some climbing.

I did get overwhelmed emotionally, this was by far the toughest ride or athletic pursuit I have ever mustered. But I did not give up, at one point I considered it while I was actually on the correct trail, but not having seen any markers for miles, I stopped at a crest in the middle of this stunning forest, alongside a gorgeous creek, thinking to myself, if I'm lost, this looks like a typical creekside hiking/biking trail, they always end up someplace with cars... I contemplated a bit, got back on my bike, and not even 150 feet later, I pop out on a road at an aid station. What a morale booster that was.

Still, I had 9 miles to go, with half the climbing yet to do. 

I knew I had the endurance to last a long time, and since I wasn't actually racing anyone but myself, I wanted it to be good practice for a 50 mile endurance ride later this month... for food, pacing myself, truly riding my own ride on a challenging course (though it won't be as technically challenging). But getting lost beats you up mentally more than I knew, I don't recommend it.

My 1st place trophy is more of a proud certificate of completion than a prize, but I'm still proud of it. A race--well, ride-- I'll be talking about for years, thus, qualifying as the very definition of "EPIC." Plus I won $50 for having the lowest combined total time of the Cat 1 women (just me, a small but mostly friendly field) and earning the title "Jedi Master!" It was all great fun, a truly wonderful venue and weekend.

Maybe next year it won't rain...

Photo courtesy of Shane Young, Oregon Velo. Thanks!

Monday, May 31, 2010

2010 MTB: Sisters Stampede Race Report and Bike Review!

2010 Cross Country MTB: Sisters Stampede Race Report and...

Bike Review: Specialized Stumpjumper Marathon 29er Hardtail!

May 30, 2010

by Elaine Bothe

New new new! Shiny and new. (OK, not so shiny any more.) New race, never before. Who knows what the course will hold. Flat? Hilly? Probably not too muddy, being Central Oregon. My guess: dusty, swoopy with some tricky rock gardens. Rolling hills, nothing too sustained up or down. A fast 27-ish miles through the sage, scrub oaks, Ponderosa pine and rocks.

I was right on all counts.

And, a new bike! Finally my bike matches my kit. A Specialized Stumpjumper 29er hardtail loaded with the new Sram XX mmmm mmm mm mm mmmm! New shoes, new saddle. Specialized DFW, both. (Nice. Comfy!) New tires I’ve never run. New pedals. (Time Atacks, the non-carbon fiber ones. Cheaper, and the weigh almost the same. I like.) New cleat position on my new shoes. Ward at River City Bicycles helped dial in my SJ and shoes with a super pro fitting and the shop guys set the fork up for me AND showed me how to adjust it. Thanks! It worked great!

I’m still getting used to the bike. The position is very comfortable but a lot different than what I’m used to on a bike too small for me. This race being just my fourth ride on the SJ (two of which were super easy fit testing rides) I discovered, apparently, the beefy bottom bracket is about .75 inch lower than what I’m used to and I clonked my new pedals a LOT and my foot once (ow, that was my little toe!) on rocks and stumps I thought I had cleared. I knew the handlebars are a tad wider, but that still didn’t stop me from bar-banging a tree. No crashes though.

Aside from that, the bike is light (sub 21 lbs! depending on accessories), fast and responsive, a bike I’ll grow into as I get more time on it. The geometry rewards an active riding style, responding to weight shifts and countersteering in sweeping corners and dirt-bike style point-and-shoot riding for switchbacks. The big wheels rolled through those rock gardens all by themselves, I just chose a general line, looked down trail and the bike ended up there with style and grace! I cleared stuff I’d have walked on my old bike. The bike pops up little rises and blasted out of the corners without planning ahead, just a couple of hard pedal strokes and the power goes directly to the ground. Big grins, what fun!

The only downside to the bike are the stock Fast Trak tires. They are fast over hard pack and gravel in straight lines and impressively grippy over rocks but the front tire offered only vagueness and very little confidence around dusty or slippery corners. Even after dialing in the fork. I ran as low a pressure as I dared… with a tube, and myself a very light rider, 20 psi at the front still didn’t provide better grip. I felt like the front end was in a perpetual state of almost washing out, and, I even saved two or three front-end crashes during the race.

I think I’ll mount up my personal favorite Specialized The Captains at least on the front for a more positive and familiar feel and take the weight hit.

Oh yes, the race. I got a lousy start, still getting used to my new cleat position further back on the ball of my foot. But my mistake kept me out of some shenanigans, as three or four riders almost took each other out! A fun and busy course, hardly had time to take a mental break or even grab for food. A two-hour short track race is what it felt like, more mental than a lot of cross country courses. Narrow, not many places to pass or be passed. I lost a lot of time waiting for some of the faster men to get around me, not so much fun.

I rode very well for me, though, taking into consideration all the new toys. I stayed with the pack for almost half the race, instead of being booted off the back ten or fifteen minutes in. And, it was non-technical and mostly flat for the first part! I was thrilled! The riders stayed the same size instead of shrinking into the distance. I was even working my way through them. But after fading big time, getting passed back then finding a good rhythm and dealing with traffic, I still finished only 9th out of 10.

Well, at least not last! But I’m thinking ahead to short track, my specialty, (and hopefully a Cat 1 Masters category next year!) where half this xc race would be more than a whole short track race. My new SJ will be a very potent weapon indeed.

Friday, May 28, 2010

2010 MTB: Spring Thaw Race Reports

2010 Spring Thaw XC and Downhill Race Reports

May 15-16, 2010, Womens Category 1

by Elaine Bothe

Cross Country on Saturday.

They did not remove the gravel road climb but I had a good xc race on Saturday. I shaved 30 minutes!!! off my last years time! I still finished last of the Cat 1’s, which was a regional group of people, not the usual suspects. Northern CA, Nevada, Seattle were all represented. But I was only 20 seconds behind the next finisher --- a much closer gap than Mudslinger race.

The Spring Thaw is not a course that favors me... 21.5 miles uphill on gravel road, then only 2.5 miles of highly technical downhill. Not enough hard stuff to make up ground on super talented and fit riders, but I was still was proud of myself. Michelle finished 5th, even after crashing once and and employing other heroics to get down the hill. My whole race was clean, no crashes, no injuries, boring war stories (sorry!!) and I rode up and down stuff I walked last year.

Hardtail Pride!

The downhill race on Sunday was even more fun, which is really the whole excuse for the weekend! I shaved a whole minute (total this year was 6 min 45 seconds, over a 1.7 mile course) off my last years time for 4th place, Cat 1. I really should have run the masters Cat 2 in this one, I'm still a minute off the cat 1 pack pace!

Oh well. I had the only hardtail of the bunch (to shouts from the crowd “Hardtail Pride!”) and it slowed me down through the washboards and jumps. My bike, not the crowd’s calls. Still a hoot and I had a blast.

Photo credit: Melissa Boyd.

2010 MTB: Mudslinger Race Reports

2010 Mudslinger Weekend Race Report: Super D and XC

May 1-2, 2010, Womens Category 1

by Elaine Bothe

Two races in one weekend. Countless learning opportunities.

The Super D, a mountain bike downhill race but with some uphill action to keep the hardcore downhillers from stealing the show, took place on Saturday. We get two runs on a 6 or 7 mile course, half of which is uphill on gravel roads. No previews whatsoever. The final time is cumulative of the two runs.

I collect my number plates and I rope my nemesis/friend Michelle Hannaford from Team Dirt into it. Her team’s hosting and helping the organizers with the weekend. She’s running registration and didn’t think she had the time to do the race.

Lesson #1. Make friends but don’t invite them to compete against you...

First Run. I’m flying but held back by the fact that this is a preview run (and I didn’t get much warmup) even though it counts. I sail over logs, around the corners and the steep rooty downhill sections no prob. Feeling good, and confident in the double track I’m cutting track to track to decrease the arcs, saving as much time as I can. This is my kind of time trial! Even though it’s downhill, my heart rate is as high, if not higher, than my Cherry Blossom TT.

Lesson #2. Be careful when you’re flying.

I start across the double track and notice, too late, hidden by the tall grass, there’s a 4 inch height difference than the tire track part... my front wheel catches and down I go, a repeat performance of my CB fireworks! same side and all.

Except this time, I was going faster. And, I had on pads! so I wasn’t hurt except for a bruise and rash on my hip and a hole in my almost new leg warmers and sleeve.

 I still finish first out of the 4 women. yay!

Second Run. We’re seeded according to finish, I’m 6th or 7th out of 20 or so, including all the guys! Off I go even faster than the first run because now I know where the corners are. Clear and clean over the first log. the second, too. 

Lesson #3. Bring tools and tubes to ALL races no matter what. Even if you run tubeless!

My front wheel lands not exactly the way I expected then POP!sssssflapflapflapflap. No crash, just extreme disappointment. I do NOT want a DNF (“Did Not Finish”) for a race I entered for fun and practice. Especially one I had a good chance to win! I weigh the options, and start running down the hill. Stop. Michelle and several others race by, one guy, Josh from Peak Sports bike shop in Corvallis stops, he has a tube but the wrong pump.

Oh well, thanks anyway. 

Cars are closer at the top of the hill, it’ll be shorter to head back up. So I go up. At the top, maybe ten yards from the start (only about a half mile) somebody has a spare tube! and a pump, we undo my wheel, yank out the tubeless valve and shove in the new tube. I didn’t see any rips or punctures, I still didn’t know what I hit... I think I just landed hard on another stump or branch and popped the bead.

Lesson #4. Ask for a restart. Sometimes this is possible. I did not know this.

The tube seems to hold air, I put everything back together, thanking everyone profusely for the impromptu emergency tubeless clinic (it’s not hard despite all the rumors) and I head back down the hill, though more conservatively. A finish would still mean second place in the Cat 1’s.

Lesson #5. If you even think you might need new tires for whatever reason, you probably do. Change them.

I try different lines, just previewing the course for tomorrow’s race. I still don’t have full confidence in my tires though, they’re old, they’re not gripping like they did last year and I still didn’t know what killed the front.

Lesson #6. Don’t stop racing. Ever. Well except to render aid....

There’s a kid on the gravel road, standing over his bike, head on his hands on the handlebars. He’s just really tired, we're only about a quarter mile out but it’s all up hill. I slow way down, checking on him and shouting encouragement. He remounts and starts riding. “Pretend there’s a rope attached to my bike and I’m towing you up the hill!” I yell, that seems to help him a lot and he makes his way up the hill.

Finish line. Michelle is there. “I just got here!” she says. whaaaaa? !?? “I took a wrong turn and rode an extra four or five miles!” No way, we are both laughing. What a race.

 She edges me out by a little and wins the Cat 1. I came in second.

But, the best part is that the winner of the men and the winner of the women each get $75. There were two other women, both Cat 3, Jackie from team Dirt who broke her collarbone at the Cherry Pie road race earlier this year and is just now getting back on her bike, and Melissa, queen of the masters! Jackie gets the money, Melissa came in 2nd overall, Michelle, 3rd, and me, 4th!! What fun!

I win a tire in the raffle, to the cheers of everyone who all know the story. And Michelle invites myself and Teammate Sarah, who drove up after the Eugene Roubaix, to stay at her house. We were planning on camping up there but were thrilled abut the offer. And a shower.

Lesson #7. Double check tire sizes.

Since I won a new tire, a Specialized The Captain, my favorite mud tire, I figure I’ll drive back into town to see if the wizards at Peak Sports a) have another matching tire and b) can mount them both up for me. Yep and yep. Double-yay!

I drive to Michelle’s house and take my bike for a quick spin in her driveway to help spread around the sealing goo. Wow, said Morgan, Michelle’s boyfriend, those are big tires! I look again, and, sure enough, they are the 2.2’s not the 2.0’s I originally had. Same tread, different sizes. Well, I said, they should be good in the mud. Spoiler alert: they are.

XC on Sunday. Sarah and I warm up on the gravel road, coating ourselves with mud splatters before the race even started. Eventually, we start. Michelle chases the pros up the hill, I’m in back. My legs feel like lead, even though I had a good warmup. I stalk Brooke from Bicycle Atty’s up the hill for a while but can’t hold on. Solo ride through the beautiful coast range mists and mud. I’m last. 

Dead leg last. 

Oh well, I enjoy the scenery, get a good training ride in, I’m still tired from Cherry Blossom and used up whatever I had in the Super D race. oops. Plus, these bigger tires are bigger, heavier, collected way more mud than I could imagine (but still had great traction—don’t ask me how!) I stopped a couple of times to clear out my front deraillieur and around the brakes (non-disks). Mud tires, they are, faithful though it is, mud bike, it’s not.

I keep my heart rate as high as I can (which isn't very high today, it turned into a nice endurance ride) and attack the obstacles and technical sections with glee. I’m still riding as hard as I can--oh, wait, I really have to pee. So I neutralize myself for a pee break.

Otherwise, I’m still racing as best I can. I’m remembering Lesson #6, Don’t Stop Racing. I still come in last, (6th I think) but CONTROVERSY! Michelle doesn't think some of the women listed ahead of her ever passed her. There was a tricky cutoff where the cat 2’s go one way and the Cat1/Pro/Singlespeeders go another... Melissa from Team Dirt did that, fessed up and took her DNF. (She had pedal problems at the start, too!) I don’t know one way or the other, so I can’t advise, but maybe it’ll all get sorted out. who knows.

That cutoff, by the way, led to some glorious and spectacularly twisty, muddy, rooty descents, Sandy Ridge x 8 or so! I went down them all, though not with grace. This makes Cat 1 so fun, the “secret” trails even if I’m not on the podium. It’s still a fabulous challenge.

Lesson #8. Rescind Lesson #1. It’s great fun racing against friends and being supportive, teammates or not. Especially when they don’t ride well when they usually do, and same with you, so you get a great story out of it!

Sarah did great, for her first mtb race in a while, 3rd one ever... 4th in the masters Cat 2!! Yay! It was fun playing and I’m thrilled that she had a good time too.

Fun time, memorable weekend. And, if you need a bike shop in Corvallis, I highly recommend Peak Sports!

Photo credits: Oregon Velo.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Road!?! Cherry Blossom Stage Race

Road Report: Cherry Blossom Stage Race

April 23-25, 2010. Women’s Category 4.

by Elaine Bothe

Cherry Blossom. A festival in The Dalles, Oregon, where one of my teammates live. There’s a road bike race associated with the festival, an epic three-day, four race extravaganza. Our Sorella Forte team hosts the event along with the promoter. It’s a fundraiser for us, as well as outreach and a general good time. Even though I don’t race much on the road, I figured I’d have a go at it to support my teammates and to test my fitness and race smarts.

I sign up for the “beginners” road racing category, Women’s Category 4, since there isn’t a masters group and I’m new-ish to road racing. Beginners at racing, maybe, but that doesn’t mean they’re new on bicycles or in fitness. These women are strong. And most of them have some pretty nice equipment to ride… the latest and the lightest, gorgeous bicycles, one for the road and another for the time trial. Or at least, aero handlebars and wheels.

I dust off my cyclocross bike and put some bigger chainrings up front and slick tires on and call it a race bike. It’s the lightest bike in my fleet, and it’s pretty comfortable so what the heck. It’s heavy compared to the competition however, and not nearly as aerodynamic. But it’s mine… run what ya brung as the saying goes.

Stage 1. Road course, two laps, approx. 40 miles. Even after getting all fired up with talk of tactics and working together as much as we can, none of us Sorella Cat 4’s really know how to employ any of the tactics, or if our fitness would even allow us to think about it. Our default tactic was to provide a show of force early across the front without any dramatic moves which might tire us out for the long haul. I think all of us did a great job of working hard, working smart and challenging ourselves. My goal emerges on the fly, to stay with Alanna, probably the strongest cat 4 of our team, and the lead pack for as long as I possibly could.

At the start I position myself four rows back, within the first third of the pack. The first couple of miles are pretty easy but I brace myself for anything. There’s some shuffling around at the front as the speed picks up and I match every surge. I watch teammates peel off one by one as we climb the big hill to the feed zone on Lap 1. The view forward from my place in the peloton stays the same… butts and freewheels… I look back once and there wasn’t anyone there! We’re now a pack of 15 or so, splintering from the group of almost 40. Alanna and myself are the last Sorellas in the lead group. After the hill Alanna is a little ahead of me, so I worked my way up to see if I could be of some assistance. I say hi, and she seems happy to see me hanging on valiantly.

Lap 2, I stay in the group sucking wheel for all I’m worth, working my way to the leeward side of the peloton, far right, then far left, full on survival mode, as the wind direction changes, just keeping myself protected. At that same big hill on Lap 2 the pack finally grenades into small pieces, two, then three, then I’m not quite sure but now I’m alone. I think all I did to help Alanna was moral support, as she seems to be doing just fine motoring on past up the hill with the leaders. I latch onto another wheel for a bit but can’t hang. Maureen (ex-Sorella, now Hammer Velo) catches me and we work very well together, the two of us, nice short pulls for the last half lap. We pull off into the wind providing a wee bit more protection for each other on the descent. As the course flattens out, her pulls last longer than mine… I’m fading. I’m giving it everything I have but I don’t have a sprint to save my own life. I tell her I won’t challenge a sprint because I don’t have one to spare and because she’s doing most of the work.

I survive, in 16th place, just under 3 minutes down from the leaders. Wow. Oh yeah, my chain fell off three times during this race but I managed to feather it back on without upsetting the group or even losing my place. Not bad, for a mountain biker!

Stage 2, five laps, just under 30 miles. My goal for this race is to stay with the lead pack again, for as long as possible. The peloton is three columns wide. Teammates Christine, Tonya, Leigh and myself make a nice sturdy block in the first third of the pack, and I think Alanna is just to the left of us, well protected from the wind. Apparently she was having troubles with her cleat and fell off the pace right away. Booo!!! Eventually, Tonya, Christine and Leigh peel off the group, Tonya, too, had to quit with a mechanical. Rats!!

But I don’t know any of this yet and I just work really hard at staying up with the lead group. I work my way to a bolder position toward the front, doing a little more work windward side and second row, but I still didn’t venture any proper attacks. I match surges along with everyone else. I notice Alanna is nowhere to be seen, and the lead group is now only seven of us. By Lap 3, the two on the front are surging frequently (what, they want to lose the rest of us?) and the rest of us struggle to answer. Three or four of these, and they make a slow break, oozing away. Five of us, I’ve never met any one of them before, all on different teams, try to organize a pace line in the heavy crosswind section through the top of the orchards. It’s not working very well, and between a big gust of wind, and trying to avoid other rider’s wheels overlapping mine and I end up off road, in the gravel.

OK, I’m a mt biker, this is a cross bike, I should be able to handle this. I almost make it safely back to the pavement twice, but then my wheel catches a deeper section of gravel or something, I’m still not really sure what happened, and I go down. I’m not going very fast, and no one else goes down with me, thankfully! But I hurt my finger and skin the heck out of my knee, along with some other miscellaneous bruises and scrapes. Owwww, it hurts to shift but I don’t think it’s broken.

It doesn’t occur to me to stop racing. But by the time I’m back aboard, blood streaming down my shin, the other four pull their act together and I see a nice neat pace line fading down the hill. I hit the nitro boost and ride as hard as I can but I can’t catch up to them. All alone in the wind, it just isn’t going to happen. I’d say I TT’d it for a full lap by myself, but since I’m definitely not a TT’er, I’ll say I just rode hard. A group of three catch up to me, and we form a pace line. I rest for a bit as we go through the rotation, then I take a pull and we drop two of them! So then Anna from Bend and I work together nicely for a lap. Three more catch us, Maureen, one of the Canadians and somebody else. We all work together for the last half lap and attempt a sprint up the finish hill, and, again, I can’t find one. But I pull a 13th place finish out of I don’t know where.

Stage 3, TT time. Ten miles total, out and back, hilly out. No aero anything, it’s freezing cold, I figure just because it’s a Time Trial (my least favorite bike discipline) I don’t have to be completely miserable. I have on leg warmers, a long sleeve base layer and I wish my shoe covers would stay zipped because they’d also keep my toes warm. I rip those off fearing they’d catch in my chain or something. But the road is fun, I impress myself with my effort. I stalk and catch Susan who started 30 seconds in front of me. I wave to the oncoming teammates, start noticing the scenery then Susan shows me a wheel. I decide, oops, I have a job to do so I gun it and drop her like a hot potato. I catch one more rider, and the only two to pass me are the two women (including Maureen) who started 30 seconds and 1 minute behind me. 20th place. On a cross bike, I’ll take it!

Stage 4. Criterium! 25 minutes of guts and glory. Way more fun than a TT but I’m really nervous. There was a big crash last year and some pretty gnarly injuries... like punctured spleens and broken pelvises. (Pelvi?) I want to go hard but be safe. I preview the course spotting all the bumps and holes, even riding over them to see what would happen. Not too bad. Nice open corners. I start my warmup slow and on the inside, picking up speed and figuring out the faster lines. If I was all by myself there would be only 2 wide sweeping corners (not 4) that I could pedal all the way through, no brakes, and accelerate hard out of.

I want to be near the front, jockeying for position on the front line for the start. I get the hole shot… then decide I did NOT want to be on the front because it would fry me. Two Ironclad riders seem to be jonesing for the front anyway, so I back off and let them have it. I lose more space than I anticipate but I bridge the gap and hang onto 3rd place for a few laps, matching surges, anticipating sprints for primes and sprinting myself just enough to not get dropped. I’d rather survive the race near the front rather than drop off after a big prime effort. It’s plenty hard just staying near the front, five or six riders in front now. I hang on, and end up 11th and with the lead pack, my best finish for any of these stages.

13th overall in the General Classification, about 8 minutes back… not bad! All in all, I had a blast. What a weekend, what a challenge, riding with friends, making new ones and generally having fun.

In addition to all our team, a huge thanks to Team Captain and Coach Anne, for being a fabulous inspiration by winning the Category 3 criterium!! A triumph for our whole team.

And Hubby Mark made his debut as a volunteer driver, driving the lead car for the men’s masters race as well as my Cat 4 races in Stages 1 and 2. It made me smile every time I caught a glimpse of our car because I knew he was inside it. Read his report here.

Am I getting a road bike now? Are you kidding… I still think I’ll stick to dirt!

Photo credits for this post: Bob Rueter

Saturday, April 17, 2010

2010 MTB: Hornings Hustle Race Report

Race report

Hornings Hustle, April 11, 2010

Women’s Category 1, 6th place

by Elaine Bothe

Helmet, shoes, gloves, bike, I can ride. Race food, water. Check. Checklist: check. 45 minute drive, check. I’m so amped up for the race I have to set the cruise control to keep the car from flying. I already saw a couple of cops out on Hwy 26 just waiting…. A traffic stop is NOT on the checklist.

Car parked. Check. Potties nearby, yay.

One of my race goals today is to stay organized and focus on my pre-race routine. See, I made a checklist. But I didn’t add “find people you know and chat with them” to my pre-race schedule…

Michelle and her husband Morgan pull up and park right next to me. We chat.

OK, registration. I see more people in line I know. Chat! Martin! Hi! A big part of racing is to hang out with people you like all doing something really fun.

Teammate Sage and Steve show up, so does Teammate Eileen and her hubby John. Beth Burns came out to play. Fun! Sue Butler. Lots more people I know!

Anyway… checklist blown.

I previewed the course the day before. Stunning conditions, warm, sunny, a lot like last year’s race. I questioned my tire choice… I had switched back to my trusty Specialized The Captains thinking it would be wet and muddy. Crap. They did come in handy on a couple of steep pop-ups that most people walked up. So, I’ll stick with them rather than pulling heroic favors from the bike shops at 5:00 Saturday afternoon.

I worked one super tricky steep section of single track until I figured out the line and gearing. I set my tire pressure to work on that 10-yard section out of the whole 5 mile course… disturbingly low even for tubeless! 17 or 18 psi front, 20 rear!! Good thing I’m light and the course isn’t rocky, because I skittered right up that hill. Risk vs. reward.

The rest of the course looked great, dry, solid and fun. The tires felt surprisingly fast considering the tire pressure. Check. I packed it up, went home, ate a nice dinner with Hubby Mark and relaxed.

Oh yeah, back to race day. It rained overnight!! Wow. Can you believe the luck! I eyeball my trainer, an old wheel mounted with a slick tire thinking I’d check off my warm up. I look across the parking lot where the course cuts up a little hill.

I look at my watch. I look at the trail. I hear an announcement “RIDERS MEETING AT 10:30.” I look at my checklist. A riders meeting wasn’t on it. Crap. I think about what I had left to do. Swap out wheels (twice), changing clothes, pack my food and decide to screw the checklist and I warm up in my racing kit, I couldn’t waste a perfectly good trail.

With the rain, the course looks nothing like what I saw yesterday. It’s muddy. It’s slick and sloppy. Tires: Check!! It didn’t rain that much at my house, must have rained a lot more here. The fun descents are now slip-and-slides and the pop-ups turned into squish-fests. My confidence swells with having the right tires and my adrenaline is shooting off the charts.

It’s easy to get my heart rate going warming up on the course. I work it as long as I can until the riders meeting. We meet. I pee. Again. I find the staging line for the Pro/Cat 1 women and stay there, staking out my place on the front row. No repeats of the last race where I end up in the back of the starting grid. Today’s start is staged by category so it’s a lot easier.

But it’s still 20 minutes away from start time, so everybody moves away, some riding in circles, others on course, some working a good hill on the gravel road. OK. I ride down the road, do a partial loop on course for about ten minutes and sprint up the hill. I’m now at the line, sweating and huffing and puffing. Perfect. Michelle gives me a funny look, part of my heart rate is due to sheer adrenaline.

I’m determined to get a good start. Plus I want to see how Sue Butler starts. 30 seconds. We roll forward to the official start line. Go! Sue blasts off and I follow. Giggling I stick to her wheel for 200 yards and up the hill. There’s a good gap behind me, photographic evidence is below. That picture is not photoshopped!

But my heart rate spikes sky high, I flame out and the field passes me up the big hill. Oh well. I’m still making the pedals turn. Michelle shows me a wheel, I look at her, nod and eke out a couple more rotations per minute which keeps me in front of her .

The trail levels out across a bumpy field and we head downhill. Feeling better, I hammer down the hill, around a sweeping left hander then things get squishy. Yee-ha! Loose on the handlebars, the back tire slides side to side. Rock across some water ditches. I will the bike onto a reasonable line, catching up to a couple of women. I get around them through some switchbacks and try to open a gap.

Well Kristin is stronger than me on the flats, so she comes back around me with a vengeance after Mark yells that I’m in 4th place. OK, 5th now.

I hear somebody else breathing down my neck. I rush an uphill section and run wide into the bushes and another woman passes me. 6th. I push my bike uphill trying to find an opening in the steady train of traffic coming past. Finally I hop back on and hammer, now chasing everyone but Michelle.

I settle into a nice rhythm, working hard but clean the rest of the race. I pass Teammate Karleta in her first-ever cross country race! Yay! Go Karleta! Good Job! Through the trees again, across the creek and I really think there are more uphills on this course than down. That little single track popup I worked on the preview always had traffic on it so I never got to ride up it, darn. Once I even yelled “I’m riding it!” but the slow guy still attacked it in front of me… on foot. Denied.

I saw Michelle a couple of times through the trees, she calls out in greeting, but she’s still behind me by a ways. I pass another woman, (yay!) and Mark says there’s two more about 30 seconds in front of me who are fading. I’m not setting land speed records, but I’m not fading, I have another lap and there’s a fun technical section just past the start/finish line where I can make a move. This gives me some hope and I keep my eyes peeled.

Creek crossing. Fun, clean, up the sloppy bank I ride right through it like I have all race. Uh oh, the spectactators are packing it up and walking up the hill. Hey, the race isn’t over! Get back down there and watch! I crest the hill, somebody’s yelling at me “Don’t let that guy catch you!” so I didn’t.

There’s a lot of people milling about, hmmm… I keep it pegged until officials block my path, wide stance, hand out cop-style telling me to slow down. Nooooo! I’m not done, after only 3 laps! They take my tag anyway, I’m done.

Mark miscounted somehow, he including the Pro women I think. I end up 6th in the Cat 1s (we all only got 3 laps) with two behind me. Progress! My fitness is good, I’m faster, I easily rode things this year that I couldn’t last year even though they were a lot slipperier. Even though I’m the oldest in the category by far, I’m getting comfortable and feeling confident. I’m still improving and it’s fun getting to know everyone.

A hugely fun but hard race, I won a beer and some coffee in the raffle and I had a blast. Thanks for Mark for his support and expert spotting, Wenzel Coaches Anne Linton and Martin Baker for upping my fitness and skills (there were logs on the course? didn't notice!), my Sorella Forte teammates and training buddies, and all our sponsors. Also, the promoters and Oregon Bike Shop for putting on a spectacular event. I’m really looking forward to the next round.

Photo credits: Oregon Velo and Mark Bothe. Thanks! Great work.