Month: August 2012

Long and Hard: Tahoe Sierra 60, ahem 64

I’ve been training up since June to do another 100 mile mountain bike race this summer. I caught the distance bug after having an awesome time at the Boggs 8hour race and decided I was excited to go long again. Ethan and I were hoping to take time off work to do a 100 miler in Montana, but my full time work schedule at the bike shop and the demands of Ethan’s new job filled up the calendar quick. After some deliberation and web searching, we decided the High Cascades 100 in Bend, OR looked like the perfect event. In preparation, we headed out on some epic road and mountain bike rides and squeezed in as many miles as possible.

On a whim, we decided to race the Tahoe Sierra 60 mile race the weekend before the race as a “training race” to get in some last minute miles. We had no idea what we were getting ourselves into! I signed up the week before and we rushed to figure out the logistics of how we would get from where we were staying to the race start and to prep our bodies and bikes. We anxiously waited on Friday to hear if the fire in Auburn would impact the race  (fortunately it did not) and then caravaned up to Tahoe with Brad Foster to spend the night in Truckee. We woke up way to early on Sat morning (4am?!) and headed to the parking lot near Soda Springs to kit up and await the start. Jim (the race director) informed us that all riders would be starting together instead of the 100 milers first due to the fire. Before I knew it we were headed up a slight road climb in a pack of about 120 riders in the early light of dawn. The first fire-road descent was dusty and treacherous. It was very rocky and rough and I was swallowing the dust of riders around me and struggling to see. I passed a female rider on the side of the trail with a flat, and not more than a half mile later, I felt my front tire lose all of its air. I changed the tire pretty quickly, but took pity on a male rider with a flat right next me who did not have a tube, and gave him my remaining spare. There was then a long steady fireroad climb to the first aid station, where I refilled my bottles and pack and snacked on some fig newtons. The female rider who had flatted left the aid station ahead of me and about 20 mins later, I passed her on a rocky descent as she changed another flat, bummer!
Soonafter the route changed into some fun and technical singletrack trails and I tried to keep pace with a group of male riders. We flew by some amazing vistas and views and I was feeling strong on the climbs. Around mile 35 I felt my rear tire go flat and panicked for a moment when I realized I’d already used/given away my spares. Fortunately a friendly rider took pity on me and tossed me a tube. A few minutes later and I was back on the trail with 30 miles to go and nothing left to change flats with. I rode hard, but tentatively on the next few gnarly and rocky descents. As we rode closer towards Foresthill, the Western States trail became more steep and the temperatures rose. My bike was mis-shifiting on the climbs and I couldn’t get it to stay in the easiest gears. The first hike-a-bike section was long and brutal. Sweat was dripping down my face. I unzipped my jersey all the way. My feet ached. The hill seemed impossibly long. I put in my headphones and kept slowly hiking. I passed riders who were sleeping, cramping, puking, laughing hysterically, and who had pretty much given up. After 50 minutes of grueling hiking, the trail began to level out and it felt amazing to pedal again. Before I knew it we were shooting down another steep canyon to the bottom of the creek bed, followed by ANOTHER 30 minute hike-a-bike. I was hating life, but trudging forwards.

The rest stop at Michigan Bluff was an oasis. Maureen was there and she cheerfully hugged me and fed me a bottle. The aid station volunteers lubed my chain, filled my Camelbak, and fed me real food. Mo told me I was the second female rider to pass through. I was surprised, and inspired to finish the last 8 miles. I hopped on the wheel of a strong rider doing the 100 mile course up a dirt road climb. Soon-after I felt my left quad start to cramp from the exertion, and mellowed out my pace again. My shifting was popping and I was anxious to finish. My bike computer read 58 miles and I began to rejoice. Almost finished. A came up on a rider on a gradual climb and cheerfully exclaimed “almost there!” He laughed and replied, “yeah, six more miles” and explained that the course was actually 64 miles. Ouch. The last few miles were a delirious blur. As I finally rolled across the finish in Foresthill at 8hrs, 35 minutes, I was hot, dusty, and ready to be done.
I toweled myself off in Lowell’s truck and we all drove to Auburn for the finish of the 100 mile race. Ethan, Brad and I traded stories about our epic races. Ethan raced very strong on his singlespeed and was leading his category for most the race, and top 3 overall. He cracked hard on the hike-a-bike section and stopped for a few minutes to recover. He lost a few places and was tragically passed by the Singlespeed category winner less than a mile from the finish. He was still 5th overall and 2nd in his category with an impressive time of 7:12. I ended up 2nd overall for women, finishing about 40 mins behind badass Anna Fortner and 70 minutes ahead of the 3rd place female rider who I battled with at the race start. And 28th overall out of 75 riders. Surprisingly well for how much I felt like I was suffering.
Check out Brad’s strava profile of the ride-

USA cycling mountain bike nationals 2012

loaded down with bikes (all photos courtesy
of Joshua Robot)

We loaded up the car early Thursday morning for the epic journey out to Sun Valley, ID and the mountain bike national championships. With 4 people, gear, and 7 bikes the suspension in my car was almost on the bump stops as we departed on our 12 hour journey. For driving out with with three guys I barely knew, things ended up working out pretty well.

Nine hours in, and after having crossed almost all of the vast wasteland of Nevada, the engine temp needle started heading toward red in Jackpot. One breakdown in, our long car ride was now officially a road trip. After some hood up time, inspection with Haynes manual out, Caltrans style shovel standing, and a half gallon of distilled water, the car decided to “magically” start behaving again. Loaded up and hi-tailed it to Sun Valley.

Friday involved getting settled and checking out the XC course. Last year’s horrible short lap course had been the disappointing reward for racers traveling tens of hours from all over the country. Seems like the race directors learned their lesson with this year’s being a complete 180. The route was now a long single lap with lots of wide open fireroad in the beginning to space things out, and great swoopy singletrack to warrant the long journey. Since riding the whole lap seemed a little ambitious the day before the big race, we just rode a portion of the climb as I had seen the second half of the descent last year.

“cooling off” in Jackpot, NV

The big day. More than a few were complaining about the early 8am start, but I was excited to have a race in cool weather. That being said, the race could have started better. My lack of timeliness to the line left me in at the back of the pack on the starting line. In typical nationals fashion, the parade lap was narrow and quick. Five minutes in as the race turned onto the paved bike path, I was sitting dead last. All the road training in pancake flat Davis started to pay off as I time-trialed my way back up to the main pack. By the time we hit the climb, I had made up a good amount of time and was within 15 seconds of the big group. The course proceeded to climb for the next hour or so, first on fireroad, then later on single track. I set it at medium-hard and raced my own race. Those that had gone out too hard, or weren’t riding steadily were slowly picked off. By the top, I had made it to mid pack.

Begin the 40 minute descent. Unlike the experience from the previous year, the descent from this year was amazing. Some of the best swoopyperfectly bermed singletrack I’ve ever ridden. It had also rained the night before leaving the trails perfectly tacky, with seemingly infinite grip. On the descent I was able to pass a few more riders, and was only passed by the fast guys from the category behind. I finished in 13th of 30 which wasn’t bad considering the particularly bad start.

the XC course in Sun Valley

The following morning was the superD race. They removed some of the extra sketchy high-speed fireroad sections from last year in favor of following the same singletrack as the XC course. The course started with a 6 minute 300’ fireroad climb which the legs were very much not feeling considering yesterday’s race and the start at 7500’.  Hit the apex, drop the post, and began a very loose, narrow singletrack descent. I was lucky to have open trail with the dusty conditions this year because of a gap in the starting order and having caught my 30s man. Following the upper loose section and some connector fireroad, the trail connected up with the XC course for the rest of the descent. I was able to keep it rubber side down and ended up at 9thout of 21.

The competition was significantly faster this year than at last year’s races. It’s great to see more people emphasizing the national championships race, which was lacking a little from last year. The car drive back gave us some more trouble as my car overheated twice this time. Turns out it was a blown headgasket. I guess it was pretty unhappy having to carry 7 bikes.       


2012 Downieville Classic!

Blog written by:
Bekah Rottenberg
It was a great weekend for two days of racing in Downieville! The weather was much cooler than it’s been in the past, but the sun was still shining and the Lost Coast Brewery Team was out in force.  My race started with the typical mayhem of too many people at the start line vying for positions that will ultimately be decided much later in the race.  In the past, I’ve experienced atrocious cramps at the top of the climb which has compromised the rest of my ride and this year I was determined to avoid the cramps. My anti-cramping strategy consisted of munching on tums on the way up.  Whether it was my strategy, the cooler temperatures, or my muscle being a little more used to climbing, I managed to avoid cramping and was able to start attacking towards the top of the hill. Once the singletrack started, and the descending began is when I feel the race really starts for me. It’s a fun but sometimes frustrating challenge trying to pass the many guys who had passed me on the climb. I sprinted up the small hill that the sunrise trail starts out with, then slowly started picking off men, wondering how far I had to go till I’d pass my first female rider. Turned out it wouldn’t be until the beginning of Poly Creek, nick-named “baby heads” for the vast number of baby-head-sized rocks. I had pre-ridden the course a few weeks prior and I knew that as long as you looked down the trail, and kept your body relaxed and your weight back you could fly down the trail with very little braking. I saw a girl about a hundred feet up and as I approached I yelled, “pass on your left,” she replied, very loudly, “OK, just wait, WAIT a moment.” I wasn’t about to wait for anything as there was plenty of room so I darted into the larger rocks to avoid the girl and was quickly past.  The rest of the race was fast, fun and little frustrating at times due to the large number of people who seemed to be clogging up the trail. As I was nearing the finish line I realized I had no idea what place I was in, I knew I had passed a few other girls, but I wasn’t sure how many were still in front of my. I was pleasantly surprised when they posted the results and saw that I had finished in third place, following two good friends of mine (Larissa Fitchett and Allie Donovan) who are both excellent riders.

Sunday morning brought the downhill component of the “All-mountian” race. This is my favorite part of the all-mountain challenge, and while I was incredibly nervous I was also excited as I felt like I had been riding pretty fast, and my legs were significantly less sore than they had been the previous year.   The top three contenders in my race were two good friends: Larissa Fitchett and Allie Donovan, which helped me take the focus off of winning, and onto just having the best run I could.  The start of the downhill course is a short pedal that I painfully forged up, but soon I was swooping and descending and feeling good.   About 10 minutes in was plunging down a jagged, rocky outcropping and I heard the dreaded “hisss” of a tire going instantly flat. I immediately pulled over, yelled up to a volunteer I had seen on the trail, and tore my wheel off my bike to start fixing the flat. Thoughts raced through my head, “It’s over, there’s no more point, I should just walk out.” Needless to say, I fixed the flat which took longer than expected due to the difficulty of removing the TCS (tubeless compatible system) off of my Stans rim. I ended up placing 3rd in the XC and 4th in the overall All-Mountain.

A few other fun tidbits from the race: We had an epic showing of Lost Coast Team riders including: Danny Stuart, Trevor Pratt, Matt Wittler, Brian Astell, and Nicole Garcia. Danny, was so amped during his DH run that he broke his chain. Normally a super suave bike mechanic, he set about repairing his chain. However, due to the tremendous loads of adrenaline pumping through his veins Danny’s normal cool calm and collected mechanical engineering abilities were cast to the wayside as he incorrectly repaired his chain, not once, but three times; first pushing the chain pin all the way out, then twisting the chain, then not running the chain through the derailleur pulleys. All in all it was a great weekend.

  – bekah