Monday, May 29, 2017

Dirty Kanza 200 Bike Set Up

This is it: the final ride today before heading out to Kansas to ride 200 miles of gravel. Although the bike looks heavy, it's a very sweet ride. I'm hoping comfy will override the weight in terms of getting me to the finish.

Bike: Specialized Fate, hardtail. I know I'm going to be tired and on this mountain bike, I have a better chance of staying upright than on a skinny bike. We'll be riding on flint which, if you happen to crash, will slice you up in a second. I saw it happen in a video and I don't want to be that rider taken away in an ambulance.

Tires: Specialized Riddler, 700 x 45c. Tubeless. They seem to be just the right size. Skinny enough to go faster than my original 2.0 mountain bike tires and hardy enough to keep me from flatting.

Aerobars:  Profile Design. I grew up watching the Wizard of Oz every year. I want to go home. Plus, I'll most likely be out there by myself so I won't have anyone to draft off of. The other benefits are that the aerobars distribute my weight better than a straight bar. With a long ride, the butt and girly parts are the first to go. My hands will be happier too.

Bar ends: Evo. These give me another hand position. I need as many as I can get.

Gas tank: Revelate. Camera, charger, and food will go into this. Easy access.

Tool Bag: Rogue Panda Designs. Tube, pump, patch kit, multi tool, etc.

Water/Food: Unlike road double centuries, where there's a rest stop every 20-25 miles along with sag wagons, this race is all about self support. I had to hire a crew person to take my needs bags to each of the 3 stops along the course. These are approximately 50 miles apart. So I have to be able to carry enough water and food to get me to each one. I'll start off with less water but at the first stop, I'll probably load up all three cages since I'll be heading into the heat of the day. I'll also be wearing a fanny pack water bladder, 1.5 liters, instead of a Camelback. On some of my longer rides, I got a little achy with the load on my back.

So much preparation goes into a race like this. It certainly is a lot more than just riding my bike as much as possible. On my last century, I ate like I would die if I didn't eat and felt fine throughout the ride, unlike the previous two long rides that left me nauseated. But I didn't use enough Butt Butter. Ouch! I'll be packing four pair of riding shorts and changing at each stop, loading them up with lots of cream.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Permission To DNF

For me, the easiest part of an endurance race is signing up. That usually happens in January after two months of sitting on the couch waiting for the weather to warm so I can get outside and do some miles. The hardest part of an endurance race? Getting to the starting line. 
The first part of training is fun, with short miles and plenty of time and energy to do the other things in life. But then the real training has to kick in. Long miles that leave me exhausted and, lately, nauseated due to not getting my nutrition right. On my last ride, I felt so poorly that I was ready to chuck it all. Dirty Kanza 200 just sent us riders its third reminder that our last chance to bail out of the race is May 6 and it was all I could think about those last few miles to get home. 
But after some rest and decent food, I decided to go back to Plan B: to show up at the start of the race but allow myself not to finish.  At this stage, I really don't think I have what I need to ride 200 miles on gravel under 21 hours. I did two double centuries in my late twenties, two Ironman triathlons in my forties, so I have a good idea what it takes to finish a race like this. Now at 59 I'm ready to accept that maybe I bit off too much. And I'm ok with that. In fact, I feel a bit of freedom in the idea that I'm ok with this possible "failure". Because I choose not to see it as failure. 
Our minds make up so much when we are confronted with fear. Being afraid of "failing" is what keeps most of us from even trying something challenging. If I didn't give myself permission to DNF, I'm certain I would be one of many who decided to drop out before the race even started. Instead, along with 2000 other excited but nervous racers, I'll get up early for the 6am start, not knowing how the long day will play out. That's part of the big lure of doing something like this. Not knowing.  And I think that's what adventure is really about.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017



In these political and divisive times, I'm very appreciative of the organizers of Dirty Kanza for setting aside 200 spots for women. In 2016 this race in Kansas had a 10% women participation rate and this is the organizers' attempt at encouraging more women to take the challenge of riding 200 miles on gravel in one day.  It's what caught my attention and I don't think I would have tried to sign up otherwise. Why? Because this is a brutal race with a completion rate around 50% for both women and men.  And that's on a good day. Also of note is that the race sold out in minutes.

Thus, with today being International Women's Day, I want to thank every community for every action that supports and promotes equality for all. We need this now more than ever, I think.  And I truly believe this is how positive change happens.  We Can Do This.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Fit for Dirt

During this winter, I've been reading too many books on adventure which has left me very antsy to get out and do some extended road tripping. But to do so properly, I need a good vehicle setup. I'm too frugal to buy my dream adventure mobile: a Tacoma truck and a Bambi Airsteam so I've been exploring ideas on how to set up my Honda Fit. It has been great on previous road trips: very good gas mileage, roomy enough to sleep in if I fold down the seat, and best of all, it's paid for. But how do I make it better?

First, I listed what I wanted.

1. Travel with mountain bike inside. Outside rack is not secure so if I need to go inside a store to get food or go to an indoor bathroom, I'm taking a risk of having my bike stolen.

2. Bed area with storage underneath. I travel with my small dog, a mini schnauzer named joonie, so the bed needs to be big enough for me and still have a spot for her. Also, do I sleep with bike inside or outside? Inside might be squishy and outside is risky.

3. Getting in and out of bed shouldn't injure, or worse, kill me.

4. Be able to remove the platform bed with relative ease and store it flat.

This is what I came up with.

1. I put the bike on the passenger side because it's a 29er and I have to move the seat up to make it fit (even with the front wheel off) without the wheel rubbing on anything. I also want to be able to do daily trips with my bike inside.

 2. The bed is a platform style that allows storage underneath. Dimensions are 66" in length and 27" wide.  I'm 5' 5" so I'm cutting it close.  I have to move the driver side seat up while sleeping.

3. To make it easy to get out of bed, I can either go out the passenger door or, if I leave the trunk hatch open, I can go out that way.  It will depend on whether I leave the bike inside or out.

4. IKEA would be proud of me. All pieces can be broken down into two dimensions. I used dowels to hold the frame together and the top plywood platforms on which I sleep.

5. Best of all, I built this using plywood and solid wood I already had. Nothing was purchased in this build.

Pictures below. Note that I have removed seats.


This has three pieces with each one covering a separate storage area.  The head piece is removable while driving.


The lid is easy to remove, which I can slide up toward middle part.  No hinges required.

With bike. 

Front wheel and bike gear will be located in bike area.

I raised the wheel to allow clearance for the chainring.  I also scooted the seat up just a bit.
The next part of this setup will be to take an old stand up tent and configure it so that it can provide privacy and more leg room to move around in.  My plan is to attach the tent to the raised trunk hatch. 

I'm sure after my first road to trip, to Kansas, I'll have more tweaking to do. Or my system could fail miserably and I'll be motivated to purchase that truck.  In the meantime, I'll continue to dream big and far. 

Have any tips or suggestions on improvements?

Friday, February 24, 2017

Older, Fatter, Faster

I recently ran the California International Marathon in 4:08:29. Twelve years earlier when I last ran a serious marathon, also CIM, I was 33 seconds slower. In between those races, I wasn't really running much. I did the Deadwood Mickelson Trail Marathon on long training runs consisting of 13 miles. I was too bored to go longer. My race time showed it: over 5 hours of running/walking. But I thoroughly enjoyed it and it's my favorite race to date.

So what happened to help me run faster? It certainly wasn't menopause. I attribute that to my weight gain of about 6 pounds and on my small frame, that's quite a bit more to be carrying around.

A year ago I moved from flat Sacramento to the Sierra Foothills. Soon after I started running and biking on the trails around my new home. Holy shit! Hills were everywhere making me feel like the old, fat lady I'd become. At first, I thought I had emphysema because along with the hills, I was living at 3000ft at the top of a hill. I dreaded going out for a bike ride knowing getting back meant climbing or rather clawing my way home. Every ride was laced with the foulest language, the only thing that gave me energy to finish my ride.

But towards the end of summer, my foul language wasn't needed so much anymore. The rides were still tough but I was getting stronger. And I did my first 100 mile gravel grinder, Rebecca's Private Idaho, on my hardtail MTB. I wasn't fast and it was hard but the hills were not that bad.

So now I'm embracing the new fatter, older me.  I have a few races coming up, with The Dirty Kanza 200 being the first and the most worrisome. And after last year's fumbling around in these new gravel adventures, I think I have a better sense about what I need to do to prepare. Oh, and I have these beautiful hills to train on, whether I like them or not.

Tour de Placer Roubaix

I didn't think I'd be ready for this ride. Having taken a couple of months off from riding to focus on my final weeks of Marathon training, getting a post marathon cold, then having Northern California be pummeled by rain and more rain, I felt 48 miles might be too much too soon. But a week before the event, I downloaded the ride and saw that it only had about 2400ft of climbing. I can do that! Around here, it's usually just over 100ft of climbing for every mile so I thought, this will be an easy ride. Not!

As I was descending Yankee Jim's Rd into the North Fork of the American River canyon, I knew too well what this meant. The ride back up was going to be long and hard. And a lot more climbing than the 2400ft I was expecting. But my weapon of choice was my Fate hard tail and as some skinny cross bike people were running out of low gears, I was able to spin (and cuss) my way to the top and eventually to the finish, 48 miles and 5354ft of climbing later.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

My Road to Kona

And why it's not going to happen. At least, for now. My plan for this blog was to follow my training for the two years I would allow myself to qualify for the Ironman Triathlon Championship in Kona. First thing I needed to do was run a marathon to see if my body would hold up to training and racing. Did I mention that the last time I seriously ran a marathon or did an ironman distance triathlon was twelve years ago?
Doing the marathon went well but it reminded me that I don't like racing on the road anymore. During those dormant years, I ran the  The Deadwood Michelson Trail Marathon and loved it. And I recently moved to mountain bike/trail running country. It's here that I quickly discovered endurance races on trails and realized that this is what gets me excited. Very excited. I'm not young anymore but I still have a lot of adventure to experience. So to focus my time and energy on a dream of the past doesn't make sense right now. Moving forward into new challenges does.  It's where I want to go. Where I need to go.
This year's agenda: Dirty Kanza 200.   Carson City Off-Road 50 milerTahoe Trail 100k

Note: I was trying to sell my 2005 Felt S32 triathlon bike and someone mentioned it was overpriced and obsolete. Funny. Maybe I really don't want to sell it. It would be fun to know if an obsolete gal and her obsolete bike could compete with the best out there. Maybe next year.