Monday, March 31, 2014

Michaux MTB School

This is the 7th year that the Michaux MTB School of Hard Rocks put on by Zach Adams has been run.  I've been involved as an instructor for the last two years and its been a really great experience.

 The camp is divided between a men's group with instructors Harlan Price  , the legendary Jay De Jesus and racer and coach, Ryan Fawley.  The campers have the option to learn from all the  instructors as the weekend progresses.  Sometimes having things said in a different way really helps and then of course the personal style of the coaches clicks with different people.  The women's group was led by me and the ever enthusiastic and very fast, Cheryl Sornson.  I'm always amazed at the positive nature of women mountain bikers and the energy that is created by a group of women learning.  I also loved that later in the day  the women could switch to one of the men's group and visa versa if they preferred.

I really like the idea of a dedicated weekend to learning and practicing mountain bike skills with a group of people and some really great instructors.  Ideally, a mountain biker does something like this at least twice a year.  I recommend a more intensive weekend camp and then some clinics or private lessons.  If you are a racer, then it will make you faster for racing.  If you don't race, it will totally increase your fun factor while riding trails.
photo by Liz Spencer
I know that a lot of riders who  can do some features in situ on the trail, but can't in a field.  I know many riders who say, I'm not incentivized by a board in a field, it has to be on the trail for me to jump over it.  And I say that is a bad attitude.  Learning skills in a field with repetition will only enhance anything that you do on the trail, especially when you figure out the how and the why of the body mechanics of a move.

Of course the weather was less than ideal, meaning it rained hard most of the weekend and nothing was left clean or dry.  But my new favorite phrase is "There is no bad weather , just bad friends"  , so make sure that you have friends that will go out with you on the tough days and make the most our of it.
photo by Liz Spencer
There was also a little rippers group led by a very sweet and qualified Karen Krasley. I think its great to have kids and adults learning together.  It helps them both.  Whenever you find yourself complaining about the rain, make yourself a kid again and enjoy the mud.  The little rippers certainly did! And the junior racers camp led by Jeff and Gunnar.  Gunnar had attended the camp the first year as a little ripper and is now an instructor, so cool!
Photo by Ralpe Pisle

And any instructor will tell you, that they learn a lot by teaching others.  I always learn something about teaching, technique or people and of course my own riding.  It is a very gratifying part time job for me.  Next up for me is professional development and finding some fitness.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Tuscarora Off Road Weekend Marathon

The format of this race was to do as many laps as you could between 10 am and 2 pm.  The lap was 6 and a half miles and took around 45-50 minutes for me.  It was a cold morning in the 30's.  It is always tough to dress for a cold weather race because you know that you are going to hot on the climbs and cold on the long gravel descent.  But you could tell the folks that have been biking all winter, not just because they had better fitness, but because they had less clothes on.
Photo by Jack Copley

It was a great women's field with a dozen girls.  The gun went off and up the hill we went.  I went my pace and got some saddle time in.  Selene and Laura were pushing each other hard and had a great race with Selene winning on her new bike that as a size small fits two water bottles.

 Laura is on the fast track to racing success this year.

I finished five laps and ended up in third, which was good enough for the cool El Salvadorian machete prize.  In the words of Cory Rimmer "Tough day at the races. Skills kept me in the race and my legs took me out. Lots of training to be had."  My skills were remarkably good.  Maybe all the cross country skiing had a positive effect on my mtb skills?  I also really like the Scalpel and my Kenda Nevegals, they rock on the rocks!
 It was great to get racing and really, just riding!  I have a lot of work to do to get in shape which is full of possibility and promise.  I want to be able to do TSEpic again but its hard to know if two months is enough time to be ready for a 7 day stage race.

Zach puts on nice races and feeds us great afterwards.

Tuscarora Off Road Weekend Super D!

I really love a two bike race weekend.  I got to pack up both the Scalpel and the Jekyll and head up to Fast Forward Racing Productions Tuscarora Off Road Weekend in Tuscarora State Forest.
Oldest in the middle

This was a special weekend because it marked the first mountain bike ride of the year, as well as the first race.  I don't recommend that, mind you!  But you have to start somewhere.  And now that I've started, I'm where I'm Zen, it must be the Yoga.

After squeezing into my NoTubes jersey and Zoic baggies, The first race on the agenda was the Super D on Keane Trail.  Last year, it had snow on a most of the trail and was really tough.  This year had less snow on all of the trail, but all corny, slippery snow was just on the toughest, steepest section.  My first run, I actually walked most of it and contemplated skipping the race entirely.  I had no courage.

But, being an experienced rider and being a mountain bike instructor, I decided that I needed to really use my knowledge of technique to conquer the fear voices in my head.  I mean we all have fear, but we need to manage it or it will run wild and have us in a gripped flight or fight mode unable to relax and perform.

 I was thinking about the huge lump that I still have on my hip from crashing hard in the snow and landing on a rock on the Keane Trail last year.  I was thinking that I hadn't actually rode this particular Jekyll in exactly one year.  I was thinking that I hadn't ridden a mountain bike since December 20.  All these things that our brain does to keep us safe and alive and comfortable.

I tried some  different lines.  I talked to some of the other riders. I watched the men's first and second place riders in practice and saw them playing on their bikes and having a hoot. I tried some different techniques like more weight on the  front wheel and less front brake.  I kept a lot of weight on my feet and stayed low.  I tried to set up for things and be proactive.  I tried , then I did.  My friend and mentor Gene Hamilton always uses that phrasing when he teaches ( and he borrowed it from Yoda)  "don't try, do".  And of course my winning run wasn't perfect, but it felt good and fun and fairly smooth.

Smooth is fast.  I want to be smooth.  And I keep finding an outlet for those ambitions in racing.  I really don't have to win to feel satisfied, of course it feels so frickin good to win, but priority is smoothness.  I want to be , skillful, fast, fit and  have a bunch of fun doing it.  And since I don't have to win to feel good about myself, it frees up a lot of good energy.  I really enjoy being out there.

But, I did win the super D, by a good margin, too!  I beat a really phenomenal downhill rider, Anne Galyean.  She is  an amazing woman on and off the bike and a rider who I probably won't beat much in the future, if at all .   But it wouldn't of mattered where I placed, because I figured some things out technique wise and I overcame debilitating fear.

Super D shouldn't die because of Enduro.  Its still a really cool format and a great opener for a cross country race or great practice for both XC and Enduro.  Thanks to Zach and his sponsors  for the cool prizes, too!

Sorry, no pics of me yet from the Super D!  Next blog about the next day's race

Friday, March 21, 2014

Always start at the beginning, Spring Training Camp in Georgia

Blackwater Falls at Spring levels

One of my favorite shots of Springer Orchard and Canaan Valley

Some of the best lamb  that I ever had
When you go to the South, you have to eat fried chicken
Oliver would juice us up in the morning
Yoga has been a big life saver for Carp's back

It was great to wear shorts and see pear blooms

Of course mountain bikers always find dirt
So many awesome dirt roads in Georgia
Grits, HaySue's and fresh maple syrup
Fried Chicken rest stop

Gravel rousing
Hello, its me

Monday, July 15, 2013

Mid Summer Recap

Blogging is always hard when you wait too long to do it!  But I want to recount to you the amazing summer that I'm having.  It's been a blast!

Canaan MTB Festival

Five years ago, I had the idea to do a mountain bike festival in Davis, West Virginia.  I wanted to give back to the town that really created me as a mountain biker.  I wanted to share this great mountain town with others and encourage people to ride together, do trail work and donate to the Tucker County Trails Club (TCT).  I also was inspired by mountain bike festival in Stokesville, VA.

The fifth year was a huge success!  We had over 120 riders, 25 for the Ladies Day and raised $2,000 for TCT through donations and selling raffle tickets.  I want to thank everyone who donated, especially:  Tip Top, Blackwater Bikes, Hellbenders, Sirianni's, White Grass, Blackwater Outdoor Center, Wild Ginger and Spice, HaySue's Salsa, Cannondale Bikes, Stan's No Tubes, Toasted Head Wine, Fast Forward Racing Productions.

I want to thank the ride leaders as well:  Rob Stull, Rob Hull, Jeff Melnick, Meredith Erlewine, Chip Chase, Todd Romero, Dave, Van Morales, Ian Beckner, Jason Cyr, Kim Johnson.  I couldn't have done it without your help!

We will continue the tradition next year with Ladies Lunch ride, Group rides, Benefit Fundraiser party, Bike Hash, Trail work and Fun!  The dates for 2014 are on the solstice again...June 21, 22, 23. 

Elk River Touring Center Women's Weekend

So many ladies came out again for this fantastic weekend of riding, skills building, camaraderie and great food.  I always am so impressed with the great women come out for this event.  Everyone is so positive and really pushes themselves to improve.  The level of encouragement that the women give to each other is special.  

The trails in Slatyfork are always a challenge with the mud, roots and climbs.  I love the way that women rise to the challenge of negotiating the tricky roots and find inner strength to conquer moves that they could never get before.

But after all the dirty trails, a swimming hole, a hot tub and then a gourmet dinner are our treat!

The next clinic there is on September 13-15 and spots are still available!  Check out the website and look for it on Facebook.

Tour de Burg

I have mastered the fine art of slummin'!  I first did the Tour de Burg in 2001 when it was a 10 day stage race consisting of both mountain and road days.  I missed lots of them in between, but I've been the Women's Leader a big handful of times.  

In the 18th year, the theme was the "Anti-Enduro" .  Why?  I think because there is a lot of hype about how Enduro is the most pure form of mountain biking and the most fun.  And how a lot of enduros are chair lift fed which is nice, but nothing beats the satisfaction of climbing a tough hill and then rewarding yourself with a sweet, gnarly downhill.  

Tour de Burg had 25 full pull riders with lots of day poachers.  It cost $175 dollars for 5 hard days of racing and riding.  This includes lunches, beer and dinners!  And all the slummin you can handle!  Its group riding at  pleasure pace "PP" to the timed sections.  Then go!  and the timed sections are between 20 minutes and 2 hours.  There are some costumes, rock star haircuts, beer drinking and of course amazing feats of athleticism.

My heartfelt thanks go out to Mike, Kari and Lindsey Carpenter for putting on this classic lifestyle event that is always the highlight of my summer! 

Monday, June 10, 2013

HooHa 2013

The Massanutten HooHa celebrated its 25th anniversary this past weekend.  It's incredible to think that for every year since 1989 this race has happened.  I wonder how many people, if any, have been to all 25?  I've been to less than ten, I think.  I don't think its been the same course twice ever.  And the trails just keep getting better and better. 

 I  pulled a double win this weekend!   I won the inaugural enduro and then the 19 mile xc event at the HooHa.   Its funny because enduro is the latest trendy, fun event to do, but in a way it is something that Harrisonburg has been more or less doing for a while.  The six-pack downhill race series in the fall has elements of enduro, as does the annual(15 years running) Tour de Burg.  But Shenandoah Mountain Touring and Massanutten Resort did a great job this first year of making  challenging courses over four stages and having accurate, transparent timing.  I've been to a few enduros now and I was pleased that there were no timing snafus.  Maybe a bettter shuttle to the top...but can I really complain about a shuttle?  Don't worry, we did have to ride to the top of Kaylor's once that day and then twice the next day to the overlook.

Enduro is fun, but I also think its really tough in a lot of ways.  Some of that depends on your expectations.  Do you just want to ride all day in the woods with your friends and make new friends and pay for someone to time you doing that?  Or do you want to ride as fast as your potential? Do you want it to be all downhill?   Will you only be happy with courses that play to your strengths?

Practice makes you ride better normally.  Seeing and practicing lines is usually a benefit.  Also, knowing where the hills are( yes, enduro usually has uphills in it!) and what tires to run.  Even things like what color lens to run in your glasses or do you want googles?  Some people think that no practice, no shuttles and sight unseen runs are the purest form of enduro.  I'm not sure.  You have to do what your schedule, budget and mountain allow for. 

One thing I have noticed is that every enduro is going to be a little different.  I like to think of it as an artist's interpretation of a mountain or area.  Chris Scott's interpretation of the western slope of Massanuttten has a healthy mix of gnar, gnar with Stage 2 rocks of Kaylor's Knob, the pedaling across the ridge of stage 3 and then the beautiful descending of SVBC built with love trail, 2000 hours in stage 4.  And even though the men's podium was half hardtails and lycra and people will complain about that...the fact is you need both fitness and skills to do well in enduro.  And you need to give all you got because every second counts.  But if there are any videographers (Scott Wooten) or photographers (Ian McAlexander) around and they catch you doing a section fast or with style then that is what counts!  Thanks to Ian for taking these pics of me on the course and podium.

I rode my new Cannondale Jekyll for the enduro, which is a trail bike with adjustable suspension that goes between 4 and 6 inches front and rear, on the fly.  I had a Rock Shox Reverb dropper post and Kenda tubeless Nevegal tires and baggy shorts.  Then for the cross country I rode my Scalpel 29er with Kenda Kommandos and lyrca!

The xc course was run in reverse this year than year's past.  It was a fun course that had fast climbing up the Ravine trail and a rocky prologue loop and the highlight was coming down 2000 hours!  My legs were a little stiff to start from the enduro the day before, but about 4 miles in, I started to loosen up and get a gap on the other girls. On days like this I think its really important to use electrolytes.  I use Elete in my bottles and Gu gels. It is so hot and humid always at the HooHa. And those poor XXC riders have it the toughest! 

 I found the climbing easier than the descending!  Which is weird after doing well in the enduro the day before.  I guess that is the way it goes, you never know how it is going to go! I was psyched to win some good cash for the weekend and not have any wrecks. It was a great, but small group of girls at both races.  I was very impressed with our youngest enduro girl, Scout!  She has got some skills and drive.  Hopefully, more women will find enduro and the HooHa as fun as I do and come out and race.

Its fun to be a part of the history of mountain biking in this area.  Big kudos go out to Kenny Hess, George Willets, Mark Nissely, Tom Proctor, Eric Bickert, SVBC, Thomas Jenkins, Chris Scott, employees of Massanutten Resort and so many more people who have given their time and energy over the years to this great event.  I think for next year, they need to bring back the pond jump!

Consider donating to Scott Wooten's kickstarter about this gem of a race in Virginia.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Tuscarora Off Road Weekend


I liked the format of this past weekend's racing. Saturday was a Super D and Sunday was a four hour endurance race. That makes too diverse of racing for some, but I like it! put on the event in the remote area of the Tuscaroara State Forest. This is a hard to get area in central Pennsylvania that is filled with beautiful trout streams, mixed hardwood forests, lots of dirt roads and rugged mountain bike trails.

Most of the fun of Super D and Enduro racing is the practice, especially, if it involves shuttling. Its important to get in the practice of knowing fast lines, hitting the jumps at speed and being in the right gears for the uphills. But there in lies the rub, too. Practice often involves crashing! My M.O seems to be, I have to hit the deck hard in practice at least once. I've been very lucky not to hurt myself too bad in practice to ruin my race, but I'm not going to lie...Wrecks hurt! And they can make you question confidence at times and whether you should of practiced more or less.

Last post, I talked about how skiing has helped my biking, which was ironic because the Super D was covered in snow! And skiing may have helped my biking, but in cycling we talk constantly about specificity for training and there is a lot of logic to that. Downhill biking in the snow, would have helped me race downhill in the snow. So, I did my best to ride the one of the steepest trails I've seen on a Super D when it was covered in snow. I kept my weight on my front wheel a little bit more that usual to keep it from washing and put lots of weight on my heels, too. I was determined to figure it out.

On the race run, it was a shit show. There was carnage in front me and I added more. Once that front wheel caught the now dirty, churned snow, I slidout. It was super hard to remount on something so steep and running was comical, too. I remounted where I could and just tried to not be so gripped and tense. It was a great adrenaline rush and happy to have survived...I'm such a true black and blue mountain biker!

The next day's track was 6.6 miles and the task was to do as many as you could in 4 hours. There was no snow on the xc course, but there was mud! The first lap was frozen goodness and the rocks were dry. As the laps went the mud got thick and the rocks got painted with greasy mud. I wish we on the East Coast had as many words for mud as the Eskimos have for snow. The flavor of the race was old school, homey and gritty.

Since NUE champ Cheryl Sornson was still tired from True Grit, she didn't do the race. That would of made the race for me a lot different, more difficult. I won both the races for the weekend. There were some really cool prizes like Cash, hatchets, homemade Judy's Ice Cream, Peanuts, Toasted Head wine and nice race bags. I'm glad I got a weekend of bike riding, especially now as I look out the window, its dumping snow in Virginia again!

In the Super D, I rode my last year's Jekyll, as I'm still getting the right parts for my 2013 Jekyll 1 and the Scalpel in the XC. This was a better test for the Scalpel than the last race as there were lots more rocks! It did really well. The 29er wheels are so fast on roads and so stable on cornering, albeit I have to set up a little sooner than with 26 inch wheels. I'm still getting used to the big wheels on steep short climbs and the 2x10 race gearing. I'll play around with the Lefty air pressures too. After 4 hours on the rocks I felt the suspension needed to be a little softer and plusher. Jeremiah Bishop suggested tuning the Lefty with a different shock oil, as opposed to the grease that might come in there from the factory. And of course, on such a cold day, temperature could have affected the feel of it, too. Its exciting dialing in the bikes!

Next up is the Michaux MTB School! This is a weekend of instruction and riding in Michaux State Forest. There is an all star cast of instructions, including me and Cheryl for the women and Adam Craig, Harlan Price and Matty Miller for the men.

Photos courtesy of Fast Forward Racing Productions, Derrick Green and Sue Haywood