yeahh! today i got my invitation to join team amino vital for the 2006 season. the sponsorship will begin in april (when my current one ends) and run for one year. since i didn’t get on the ball last year, many sponsorship opportunities for ’06 are likely long gone, so i’ll rejoice in this one. (but hey, if you’re looking to sponsor an extremely dedicated, highly involved, up and coming adventure racing female, please drop me a line!)
in north georgia every january is a short race of epic proportions that intrigued me: the hopgen hill climb, a 17k road run with 2500′ of elevation gain. originally this weekend was supposed to be the odyssey one-day xtreme ar, but this race got postponed 1 month due to permitting. of course i couldn’t just sit around, so i thought a good butt-kicking would be perfect.
hogpen gap is well-known within the cycling community as one of the infamous climbs on the 6 gap ride through north ga. all i’ve heard is how tough it is to ride and how when running this race, you may as well just walk the hills. factor in the unpredictable winter weather (sometimes ice at the top prevents the normal course from being run), and i knew the day would be memorable no matter the outcome.
the week leading up to the race wasn’t a great one, so i wasn’t expecting much on race day.my legs were whooped in spin class wednesday and i skipped my thurs morning run due to a severe lack of sleep (caused by getting some race marketing stuff ready for the trailblazer party friday night – oh yes, and that would be the friday night before the race, and yes i did have 2 pints of beer…) on the other hand, my training in the month leading up to the race was great: i had lots of time on my feet, bi-weekly trail runs with some good hill practice, and a ton of elevation training on the weekends.
race morning: january 21st
first i check my email to see if daniel & hunter had finalized a meeting place (teammates that were to be joining me for the run, then we had planned some biking in the area). i see a lovely email from 2:30am, saying they were sadly not going to be able to join me due to some extended partying that night (and the fact hunter had bowed to the porcelain god a good bit too). so i headed on up alone (my roommate sandy caught a ride with some of her running group). the weather leaving atlanta wasn’t too bad, but reports of rain loomed. temperatures held steady in the 50s as i headed 2 hrs north to helen. the racers gathered in the festhalle to avoid the drizzle and chill outside. i began to wish i had worn tights instead of shorts.
the race started at noon and we wound our way through downtown helen for a few miles of rolling terrain. we took a right turn onto richard b russell highway and this is where the fun began. miles 3-6 definitely had an increase in elevation, but we found relief in some nice downhills. my strategy so far was to keep a steady comfortable pace and conserve my energy. (what pace i was on, i have no idea – not very good with figuring that out yet). it was during mile 7 that the first significant hill came and people around me began walking. i still felt fine and tried my best to keep a decent running gait, vowing to walk if i slowed to the pace of the walkers (that’s just goofy when you see a walker & runner at the same pace – but it is a mental game at that point).
around mile 8.5 i felt a funny flutter in my heart then felt faint and my vision narrowed. i had no choice but to walk, trying to shake off the feeling. (i’ve had it before, but some tests then showed nothing abnormal… still a bit unsettling though). after about 5 minutes i crested a hill and started a light jog on a long flat area just below the ridgeline. here the wind was picking up, the drizzle pretty constant, and the fog rolling in. feeling ok, i continued running up the next hill – surely we must be getting close to the end. a few more turns, a few more climbs, and soon some parked cars came into view. some onlookers cheered us on – 100yards to go! then the next group said 200yards to go. argh! the fog was so thick now i couldn’t see up the hill and had no idea how much further. a youngish looking girl passed me here – dang! i wanted to kick it up a notch, but still nervous from the earlier spell, kept myself in check. soon some police lights came into view and the finishing clock. 1:46:12…wahoo!
i ended up talking with the girl that passed me and found out she was in the next age group lower… we were both hoping for solid end results. meanwhile, i looked around for craig, someone sandy had met at the party friday night that had offered me a ride down (the race was point-to-point, so people generally hitch ride with each other to get back to the start). no signs of craig yet, so i hopped around trying to stay warm. i saw someone take the last orange that i was craving, so i bartered my peeling services in order to enjoy some (his fingers were too cold to do so). right when my shivers began setting in, craig arrived and we escaped to his wife’s warm car.
back at the festhalle, i immediately changed into warm clothes and helped some other make a fresh pot of coffee as we waited for the results to arrive. finally they arrived…. and i ended up placing 2nd in my age group!
the afternoon was completed at a nearby mexican restaurant where i met some adv racing friends that had been biking in the area.
shown are a few photos taken by bruce tolbert.
this quote is on a bookmark from the predicate gallery (at em2 design) and it’s been in my head as i read before turning in every night. this really captures the essence of why i like to race/train/hang out in the mtns… those ah-ha moments that make you just stop on a ridgeline and enjoy the view…
Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take
but by the moments that take our breath away.
this past weekend was dedicated to training and exploring the mtns around blairsville for the upcoming Odyssey & NGAR races. I carpooled up with bill & ken, meeting kevin, stephen & michael who were driving in from TN, NC & SC. we hopped on our bikes between 10:30/11am, with a starting temperature of 27F but lots of sunshine. i don’t have the quad we used to refer to, but we explored a variety of paved, unimproved & forest service roads with a bit of doubletrack here and there. then there was the time when all semblance of road disappeared and we found ourselves fighting rhodo up the side of a mountain. we figured this would be something tony (of raceday/ngar) would make us do, so we persevered and did eventually get to the road we knew was hiding on top somewhere. it was tiring, but our local comedians stephen & michael kept us laughing the entire time (who can quote nearly any movie i could think of – these are my ngar teammates and will make 30hrs fly by!)
we wound our way and soon i found myself climbing my first Gap (no, not just any gap, but one of the famed Gaps of the 3 & 6 Gap rides that the roadies do): Wolfpen. (one day I’ll get a road bike and tackle the combo…) anyways, instead of simply stopping at the top, we took a FS road off to the right and climbed another 500′ or so. (ha! take that roadies!) after this we had a long rolling descent into the vogel state park / coopers creek area. it was here that night started to fall… and our next mechanical (michael had a flat earlier): bill’s rear brake rotor FELL OFF. yeah. weird. the screws just weren’t there. bizarre. sadly though, even without rear brakes, bill flew by me on the descents. (sure, he had no rear brakes which would make him go faster, but i think i’d freak out and drag my feet the whole way. but of course that is my fear of descending taking over… i really need to work on that. i can tell i’m improving in every other area of my fitness/skills, but not that. kevin had an interesting theory though.. i commented that i have trouble focusing on the ground ahead when going downhill… can’t make out the obstacles and pick a good line, making me even more nervous. he asked if i ever got motion sickness. as a matter of fact, yes i do: can’t swing on swings, go on roller coasters, and curvy mtn roads do get to me if i’m ever in the back seat. he suggested maybe it’s my equilibrium being off that is causing my sight problems. intersting theory. where i go with this now, i have no idea though…)
back to the training. only 1 more mechanical troubled us, about 20 minutes from our finish: i got a 2″ nail stuck in my rear tire. finally, after 9+ hours of riding, we finished. i’d be interested to see our mileage & elevation change… we tacked some good stuff! next up was dinner.. the guys were drooling over a place called (i think) the RIb Joint. (or shack. or something. but it was ribs and had a big fat pig on the sign). no tofu ribs here unfortunately ;P we had originally planned on going for a night hike, but the excessive amounts of food and thoughts of a hot shower at the hotel won us over. we all piled into one room (cheap that way!) and crashed out (after i lucked into a massage for my aching back from michael – these teammates are keepers!!)
sunday started with another gourmet meal, this one courtesy of the waffle house. ken went to meet his teammates for their secret training, while the rest of us hit the arkaquah trail. we started at traprock gap (elev around 2200′) and hiked 5.5 miles (climbing nearly 1400′ in the first mile!) over 5 peaks (and around 1), then ended at brasstown bald, the highest point in ga (el: 4788′). this trail is just incredible in every way. the views were stunning! once you topped out the first mtn, the ridge trails were quite nice, with the rhodo forming a bit of a tunnel for us to go through. while the weather got quite warm today (60F at our car), huge icicles hung from some of the rock faces (and there was even a light dusting of snow in one shadowed area of course once we got to brasstown, we had to hike it all the way back. our legs certainly got a huge workout! (in fact they’re still sore now and i’m really wondering how the heck i’m going to keep up on the run in the morning!)
in all, another incredible weekend in the new year. i had a disposable camera with me that i’ll get developed soon and post. i’m sooo missing my digital! now that my car is paid off (yeah!!), i should have some extra fundage next month (if i don’t spend it all on race entry fees) and should be back in business soon.
i wanted to kick off the new year on a positive note, so what would make me more happy than a day in the mountains! i woke up early and met kevin tumlin, bill & alisa and their niece & her husband up in the blue ridge mtns. we got on our bikes at 10:15am near skeenah gap campground (flashbacks from ngar!) and rode down doublehead gap road. there we split up: alisa & noelle took a shorter route (down doublehead gap then up noontootla creek road), while the rest of us headed up old rock creek road to FS69. we took a break to see the trout at the fish hatchery, then met up with FS42, taking us up to winding stairs gap. we met the gals there and rode down noontootla/FS58 to three forks.
we stashed our bikes in the woods there, put on our hiking shoes, and set off on the benton mackaye trail. this is a great trail -challenging, but scenic. the weather was nice & mild (temps got into the low 50s i think) and as long as we kept moving, the chill stayed away (oh, except for the downhills while biking. that was chilly!) night fell shortly before we crossed the swinging bridge over the toccoa and on went our headlamps. (i almost didn’t bring mine – didn’t think we’d be out this late!) following the ridgeline up tooni mtn, the wind picked up a good bit and we had a few snow flurries (at least i’m calling it such – unfortunately i haven’t seen any yet this season! ‘course i’d better not say that with 2 big winter races coming up…)
we got back to our cars shortly before 8pm, giving us almost a 10hr training day. it was a bit slower than i think we normally would have gone, but noelle and will are from the flatlands of south georgia, so the mountainous terrain was quite different for them (although they did a great job with it). (besides, it a laid back base-building training day – no need to hammer!) the bike was about 19 miles and the hike 11.4 (and included 3300′ of elevation gain alone! not sure what our gain on the bike was.) after driving to get our bikes (a bigger deal than originally thought, with a fallen tree and road washout preventing access via doublehead gap rd), we ate a gourmet late night dinner at the ellijay waffle house.