Monday, September 1, 2014

SM100 (Aka: the Shenandoah 100 Mountain Bike race)

Shenandoah - my first DNF of the season.

Was it the heat and humidity?
Was it my nutrition/hydration leading up to the race?
Was it the not so great sleep I had from Car-camping the night before the race?
Was it the fact I turned myself inside out the week before at Fairhill after going off course?
Did I start the SM100  too hard?

...I don't know...

It is frustrating when you know what your body is capable of doing yet it doesn't want to "play nice" with you.

Cramps started tingling around mile 20.  I got a great start and held a solid pace into the first climbs.  I cruised through aid station 2 (quick bottle exchange) and kept to my 1 bottle mixed with Infinit Go Far nutrition every hour.

Into aid station 3, I made a three bottle swap and kept going.... The climbs between aid 3 and 4 really started to get to me.  I was off and on the bike (1) due to cramps and (2) due to the steep terrain.
Cramptastic is when:
  • the arches of your feet cramp every time you shift your pedal stroke, 
  • when your inner quads explode "charly-horsing" from the knee all the way up the leg to the hip flexors.  
  • add on shin cramps (that I didn't think were possible.  They are)
Yeah, that describes my cramptastic fest.

 On one of the technical rooty sections I oversteered a tad to the right and my bike went down a hole and I went over the bars.  3 guys stopped to make sure i was ok.   They asked if I needed help up...and that is when I mumbled craaaaaaampsssss.  They too were cramping up.  At this point, I met a ton of people that has muscle explosions going on.  Two guys retrieved my bike and proceeded to lift me up on a count of 1-2-3.  Sigh.  I was up and back on the bike...that is until I started to cramp again.  Repeat this scenario on every climb...begins to sum up my day.

Into aid 4 (mile 57),  Kathleen - fellow teammate, caught me.  She was looking spunky happy and fresh. I mentioned I was already thinking of bailing.  She said "Noooo. It's all road climbing'll be easier than the singletrack climbs.  Follow me." ---- Ok, I grabbed a handful of swedish fish, a P&J square, a few fig netwons and a coke.  Fresh bottles re-loaded and I was off following K.
(should I have been eating solid food earlier?  add another question to my list...I don't know)

It didn't take long before she dropped me.   It was probably the highlight of my day.  She was looking solid, no cramps, all smiles, and a steady strong pace that would propel her to the finish line.  Well done K, well done.

Miles 57 to 76 (aid 5) marked the darkest of hours for me.  All climbing.  Tons of cramps.  left foot, right foot.  Left quad, right. repeat.  Throw in a shin spasm.  I didn't want to ride.  I wanted to sit in the creek that lined the climb for the first half of the climb.  I stopped.  I'd put my head on my handlebars.  I'd fight my brain to make my body continue to move.

The first 10 miles of the climb were not as steep as the second half.  The second ten miles just killed me.  Am I to the aid yet?  Am I to the summit?  No, false alarm, more climbing.   Ok, I'll walk cause it hurts to ride.  No I'll ride cause it sucks to walk.  God, at this rate, it'll take me all night to finish.
I want to quit.  My stomach hurts.  I don't want to drink.  Drink.  i feel like arse.  I want to stop.  Cramps.  Walk. sigh.  Pain.  Approaching aid 5 I had goose bumps.   (just some of my internal monologue)

Finally, I arrived aid station 5!  The volunteers were great.  I fell to the ground, instant cramps.  A Wicked Wash team friend, Chris D, was also laying on the ground looking pale.  He had arrived 30 or more minutes ahead of me.  Apparently he crushed the first 40 miles at personal record speeds only to unravel completely into Aid 5.  His stomach upset was much worse than mine.  He couldn't hold anything down.  My legs were trembling and I had chills.  Luckily, Chris's awesome parents were volunteering at aid 5 and offered to give us a ride back to base camp. 

Would I quit?  I don't want to quit anything.
Would I let myself call it a day, a celebrate a  75 mile victory over my failing body?

Answer was yes.  I was finally ok with letting it go.  We all have limits.  We all aim to break them.   Another 25 on that mountain Sunday may have crushed me all the way to the Medic tent. 

Was the experience of racing SM100 worth it?  Yeah.  I learned a lot and it gave me an opportunity to truly share in everyone else's accomplishments for the day.   Chris Lane and Greg Rittler (teammates) both hit personal records over their previous year times.  Carla took 5th and made the podium.   Kathleen took 45 minutes off her prior year time.  Matt crushed the course on his singlespeed, his first time @ SM.  And Joe, who had not trained an ounce, crossed the finish line with a pale face then a big smile. 

SM100 is crazy hard.  Kudos to all the finishers.
And a big shout out to those of us that fought long and hard to stay in but didn't win the fight this year.

Tillmanator says:  I'll be back.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Fairhill 40 miler Endurance race - my Last Race before the Shenandoah 100 MTB race

Fairhill Summary:
  • Great, aggressive start with solid positioning
  • Avoided early race wrecks
  • Followed Chris Lane, teammate, for solid start of race (so cool)
  • I was in 2nd place and caught by Katrina D. approaching aid station.  She had about a 40-60 sec gap on me...a gap I was going to try my best to close...
At 2nd aid station, I stopped for a HEED drink.  I swear volunteers pointed me to the trail on the right...needless to say, I went off course for 3 miles (1.5 out, 1.5 back) and lost time. GRRRRrrr.
  • Tillmanator was in full effect at this point.  I knew I lost more than a few places.  I could see women (new women) ahead now and revved by little Jen-engine leaving nothing behind.  I knew this race strategy (Or insanity) could leave me crippled later as I still had 20 more miles to race but I decided I had to try to catch.
  • In first 20 minutes, I caught and gapped three women.  But how many were ahead?
  • A little later I came across Missy.  She is awesome and had just completed the multi-day MTB stage race in Breckenridge, CO.  Her legs, according to her, were tired...but I'd say she was riding very well.  I passed her on a climb but 5-10 minutes later, she was back.   I let her lead awhile and really enjoyed riding right on her rear wheel. She is a smooth rider, very skilled.   That was probably the most fun I had in the race.  Woot.
  • My quads, calves, feet were throbbing.  Cramps were imminent but I was going to let them slow me down.  I knew I'd have to make a solid push to escape Missy and work my way to finish but I also knew I could explode at any point especially if I revved my engine too high.
  • I continued to follow Missy.
  • Knowing there were only 2 miles or less to the finish, I made my move and attacked on a climb.  It felt like an attack but probably looked like a bike jog (ha).  Regardless, I gave it everything I had.  My quads did cramp but I just kept pedaling.
  • I reached deeper than I ever have to pedal during those cramps.  It was excruciating.  I didn't look back but kept my pure focus on seeing the finish line.
  • And well, I made it.
I went off-course mid race and lost 3rd.  Moved to 7th.  And by the end, I made my way back to 3rd.  I would say that was a huge win for me that day.

Cheers and thanks for reading.

New GoPro Footage below

The Start:

Fairhill Singletrack:

Quick shout out to Sam Hoffenberger, teammate, who put on his first Time Trial (TT) race in our own Baltimore County Sunday (day after Fairhill).  The entire team came out to help and the race was a huge success.   It was the perfect after-race day for me hanging out with my awesome teammates and giving back to the race community.   I made sure no one missed my turn!  And had a ton of fun cheering on the field.  Way to go Sam.  Go Joe's Bike Shop Racing Team.

Monday, July 28, 2014

ORAMM (off-road assault on mt. Mitchell) MTB race

ORAMM stands for the Off Road Assault on Mt. Mitchell.   Mt. Michell is part of the Pisgah National Forest and is Northeast from Asheville, NC.   Four of the Joe's Bike Shop Racing team along with four of the Virginia Wicked Wash team drove 8+ hours down to the beautiful Blue Ridge mountains to race this epic endurance mtb race.

Chris Lane had successfully worked his mountain bike endurance racing peer pressure on to all of us.   This was my first time racing this race but everyone there owed racing ORAMM to Chris.

I have only a few things to say about  ORAMM and I'll leave you with pictures...
  • Most beautiful mountain trails ever
  • Hardest bike race I have done "yet"
  • Amazingly hard climbs and wicked fast descents that hug the side of the mountain 
  • Many Cat1 climbs and an HC climb, yes seriously.  It took me 1h45m to climb the HC.
  • I met a few "dark places" @ ORAMM but overcame, often thinking of Tracy and my cats :-) to pull me back to the "light side"
  • The last ten miles hurt so bad....
  • I raced the open women category and took 4th.  woo
  • I sat a blind goal to beat 7 hours and I did it, 6h50m
  • I'll be back... (the Tillmanator)  
  • 2014 ORAMM 5 minute video:
  • Strava file: 

The course is 60-63 miles depending on whether you trust you Garmin or the mountain survey data.  And those 60+ miles have you climb ~ 11K feet.  

Pic from before the Saturday Preride w ORAMM veteran rider and teammate, Chris Lane.  We climbed Kitsuma and descended a ridge trail back to road.  8-9 mi, 70 min of climbing, 2300 feet.  20 min descent.  Hands hurt!  Need to relax but the drop offs were getting to my nerves.
Pre Race Dinner @ the Wicked Weed Brewery in Asheville with te Joe's Bike Shop And Wicked Wash ORAMM racers:

Back to the  hotel to get good night rest before the big race tomorrow.  Alarm 5:30a, race meeting 7:45a.
   7x Infinit bottles packed
   Extra chamois cream
   Race day power J&T custom oatmeal ready fir breakfast
   Camel w lots of electrolytes
   Superfly race machine clean, lubed and numbered
   Rider, ready to rest!
Race Day Shots:
'Before' Team Shots --- Jeff, Kathleen, Me & Chris (Joe's) & John, Tom, Marco, Jeff (Wicked Wash)
John, me, Kathleen, and Tom - Race Day, over 500 Riders (Photo:  Wicked Wash cool guy Tom Howe)
Marco and me  (Photo:  Wicked Wash cool guy Tom Howe)

'After" shot!!
Hard Awesomeness

Monday, July 21, 2014

Cross country nationals - July 19

So I'll start by saying that Bear Creek Mountain Bike Nationals was one of my best days racing my Mountain Bike...why?, here are a few of the many reasons:
  • I made the podium and took home a Nationals medalYeah baby.
  • I raced against some fast women who were also crazy enough to take on the technical and demanding Bear Creek course.   That course is tough!
  • My heart rate soared into Zone 5+ for nearly an hour.  See the graph.  OUCH!  Sufferfest.
  • I felt great, I raced my race and the rocks were awesome! 
  • I was surrounded by amazing friends, fellow racers, and tons of nut case cyclists all day long
  • Best heckle spectator pit area in the middle of a rocky, technical section.   Anne Rock, you are one of a kind.  Best nun ever...
  • FatMarc, I think I heard you in the last rocky section before the start/finish, if that was you,  thanks so much for the huge cheers! It helped.
  • And thanks to everyone else for cheering me during the Race!
 I have been training hard this year and it all came together at Nationals.  

 Mentions:   Kudos to Jessica Hill from Harford County who took 4th in our Cat1 division, Stacy Barbossa who rocked and took 3rd place in the Cat1 45-49s, Cati Scheifele who took 10th in the Cat1 30-34, and Cindy Copley who took 11th.  

Vicki B kicked some butt winning the single speed division and Cheryl S seriously put out wicked efforts in the Pro race, finishing in 7th.  Woot!

I am honored to have raced with so many women from across the country and it is even better knowing that our own Midatlantic women rocked the house.  Well done ladies!


Meet the Amateur course:

Here are a few photos from the day:

the first lap Prologue start (photo credit to awesome Bill White)

one of the switchback climbs (photo credit to awesome Bill White)
one of the switchback climbs (photo credit to awesome Bill White)
Heckle Pit Panoramic 1
Heckle Pit Panoramic2
As HARD as YOU CAN!!!!!!!!!!!!! 
Yeah,  that was as HARD as YOU COULD GO....

Meet your Top 5 Cat1 35-39 Podium Finishers --- woo hoo
Best Champagne Spray of the Day
Guzzle guzzle

Sure I'll have a sip

Champagne is better when shared!  Salute!

Rocking the Medal.  Zen Jen Tillmanator.

 Pro Women Leaders Georgia and Leah:

Pro Men Race - Ethan Frey of Joe's Bike Shop ripping the rocks:

Monday, July 7, 2014

the Epic Challenge, the Patapsco 66

The Patapsco 100 mile race is going to be known as the hardest 100 mile race in the country.   Next year (2015), this race officially becomes part of the NUE series (national ultra endurance MTB race series). 

The 100 mile consists of 3x33 mile laps.  Brutal climbing @ 5500 feet per lap.  Nearly 95% singletrack, classic punchy technical midatlantic terrain.  

This race is for the hardcore and therefore, AFC (Adventures for the Cure - race team sponsor) puts on four races to ensure everyone has the right race challenge for the day:   

  • the 100
  • the 66 (or 100K)
  • the 33
  • and the 22

Race Summary in a few bullets:
Morning Inspirational Card
  • Turtle def wins the race.   This was a great opportunity to apply a new strategy.  I had to focus on pace, on holding back and not going into the anaerobic pain cave that I am accustomed to .... for me, focusing on this strategy guaranteed I could go the distance and feel pretty damn good while doing so.  
  • So basically, I stayed in my Endurance/Tempo zones.  kept threshold to a minimum and avoided the land of Anaerobia.  It meant I walked a few steep sections or climbed delicately and slowly.   
  • It also meant I felt great the entire race.  I never cramped. I never ran out of energy.  In fact, I was able to kick up it HARD the last 10 miles and empty the tank.
  • I never hit a "dark place"
  • I smiled into the finish
  • I ended up going faster overall than I had projected.  I was aiming for 9hrs or more.  I finished in 8h10m total time, 7h55m moving time.  Faster than my pre-race training rides.  Yeah, there are a few lessons this race has taught me.
  • Smiling into the Finish, Yah!
  • I think I may just love endurance a bit.   I love to go as fast as I can (XC, 'cross) but this type of sport really offers a solid balance for me.   It is teaching me to be the Turtle.  I dig that.

  • Volunteers at the aid stations were amazing.  My brain never functions quite right during races and they never seemed to mind.  I'd take in a huge mouth of peanut M&Ms and try to communicate, yeah sorry!  The Volunteers were awesome and attentive, thank-you!
    Podium w

    Trail Building Legend, Ed Dixon
  • Teammates.  My teammates are amazing.  They train with me.  They push me.  They get my quirks and they love me anyway.  Kudos to my Joe's teammates. So many of you were on the podium. 
  • Tracy.  She just totally gets me and gives me room to live the cycling life.   Thanks Tracy, you're my rock.
  • Tillmanator prime supporter Allyson Jordan was there at the finish to hold me up and show support.  Thanks Ally.
  • Ethan, thanks for the personal help at the race and being a wise bike mechanic.  Your saturday support guaranteed my bike was ready for race day.  I seriously appreciate all that you do for me.   Beer gift time!  What's your desired flavor of the week?
  • Wrona and Jenn from AFC, thanks for helping me at the pit between lap 1 and 2.  
  • Joe, thank-you for everything you do for me.  You and your shop take the best care of the team. 
  • Kathleen and Chris Lane - I always think of you two first for encouraging me to get into Endurance in '14. ;-)
  • Rittler.  You're awesome and very inspiring to me as well.  I love our race strategy exchanges.  And I love how you seem to balance so many demands - work, family, fun, etc.  You're an example to all of us.  And you are always smiling.
  • Newell.  Your plan is working.  Thanks for keeping me focused and being a friend on top of it.
  • Hellmers with two Ls, Brian Wilkerson, Jeff Brown, Carla the Crusher, and Greg Gavin --- thanks for being willing to push my limits on the WNDWs pain cave or elsewhere.  It helps and I love to suffer with all of you.
  • Brian W - way to go.  Glad I get to train with you regularly.  You're a ss killer.  
  • Hellmers.  You have soooooo much fun pushing yourself....and i always think you have more in the gas tank.  Animal.  Rigid SS hardcore.  Way to keep your handlebars in tact for this race ;-)  And I really appreciate all the smiles and encouragement out on the course. 

for those interested in the data, here are the stats:

I ordered up a bunch of tempo with a nice side of endurance.  Finished off with just the right dollop of threshy at key points ... no cherry on top (z5+), not for this race.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Stoopid 50

Saturday - openers felt good. Probably should have drank more water in hindsight.
Had dad, stepmom, sis and her boyfriend over for early dinner and fun.  Had one beer and lots of really goods food: steak, potatoes. Squash, Ts homemade nondairy icecream.
10:30PM - to bed

04:00AM - wake. Eat oatmeal rice farina breakfast blend, 500cal
05:00AM - met kathleen near Reisterstown beltway exits 
08:00AM - arrived ate yogurt. 120cal

09:00AM - race start.  Started third row and held lead pack up hill.  hR went high into 170s up the road climb.  Climb was long enough to spread the group out.  About 20 riders in front began to push the pace and I couldn't hold.  Quad had a TNTT kind of feeling from pushing hard.  I knew it was going to be a long day. Settled in.  Pace was still hard, hr continued to remain in 170s until we hit single track.

Into the first single, trails got clogged, nowhere to pass.  I remained patient, still long day ahead.  Some of those boys were fast on road but sucked ass on technical trails.  There were a few jams throughout rocky sections.  I passed a few guys.  tussey trail was awesome, gorgeous.  Trails were just pristine and the views overlooking the mtn ridge were incredible- made my day!

Once we spread out, I set a tempo hard pace and rolled.  In general I found the single track so fun and the fire road climbs so HARD.  Tons of climbing at the Stoopid, wow.  First aid station was mile 12.

By then, i had downed one full bottle of Infinit 300cal. And I took in a gel, 100cal.  At the aid station, lady refilled my bottle with hammer.  ( I was carrying camel w 1.5g of water + 2 bottles with Infinit). I ate Four fig newtons, 200cal.

Rode w Helmers for awhile after aid.  He was on single and had to standing climb eventually passing me as I was grannying.  Helmers, btw was riding 32x19 full rigid.  Freaking nutcase hardcore man!!.  I watched him stand and climb away and once again settled in.

Mile 20 - THE WARNING!!  Quad cramped mildly. Early twinge.  I was like: oh jack!!!  Last time that happened, I was at Curse of DH, @hour 4 or so and whole lower body eventually cramped in unison.  It was horrific. I was off the side of the trail laying in the grass moaning.  Well this time  I answered the "early clue body phone" (aka body warning) by:
--dialing back effort to lower tempo feel
--kept hr closer to range of 140-165 
--focused on the left leg pull/ push (right side cramped)
--breathed a lot
--stopped briefly to swallow 4x endurolyte pills (was drinking camel w GU electrolyte 0cal salts, figured I needed extra)
--kept drinking and drinking
Lesson:  my first hour, I went really hard.  Dial it back for ORAMM & SM100.  I think holding 170-low180s that first hour stretched my body.

Other than some mild twitches, I was ok less the final few miles when the twinges came back.

Mid race single track was my favorite, so beautiful.  More up and down rolling compared to big climb/descends.

2nd aid station was mile 32ish.  There, I took a small can of coke and new Infinit bottle and apple sauce from my feed bag.  It was spectacular.  Sugar rush amaze balls! The volunteer Dude hooked my camel up w fresh water.  Nearly 2gal.  Heavy as hell but it Was now sunny and open on tHe fire roads. = hot and salty sweaty.

The Last 20 was so hard.  A lot of fire road climbing, a lot.  Not as fun. Painful.  Hard.  I just kept pushing on.  Paced a few guys for short times until they pushed on slowly ahead of me.  At least I had company.  The entire race from Tussey ridge I had sat in 3rd.  I knew if I kept riding clean and smart and didn't fallout I should make the finish in 3rd.

I did!  That last descent into the camp area was mega rocky.  Doing that at mile 48-49 really took confidence.  I walked a short bit at the top and lost confidence.  A guy, also walking his bike, came up on me and asked if I was the third place woman.  He said woman 4 was about a 1/2 mi behind.  That was all it took, I road that descent.  I just needed a push. :-)

Sweet day on the bike.  So hard. So beautiful. And so fun.  

All the racers that showed up were hardcore. All of them.  And I was proud to be among them.

Big shout out to Kathleen, who was an awesome travel companion AND met one of her goals to arrive before the keg kicked.  ;-). I owe her and Lane a special thankyou for nudging me to sign up for this race (among other endurance races).  I am so looking forward to spending more time with them and other teammates and friends riding sweet epic trails this summer.  Thanks guys!

PS: I was more ZenJen than Tillmanator, except at the start.
PS2: Sublime Athletic's Chris Newell is def dialing the coaching in for me, thx Chris
pS3: Vicki and Missy were rolling! Our podium had some awesome super cool women on it.
Ps4: beer tastes so good after a race
Ps5: Chris Scott's race was awesome, thankyou!

Monday, June 2, 2014

Bear Creek Rocks

Bear Creek XC Race

Bear Creek is a ski resort located East of Reading PA and will be hosting the 2014 Cross Country (XC) Mountain Bike National Championships July 19th.
Earlier this year,  I put the July Nationals race on my calendar.   #1, it is at Bear Creek which is only 2+ hours from Baltimore and #2, it is a National race and why not join my fellow 35-39 Category 1 age groupers in a July hot and humid summer race.  It'd be an experience.

I made the trip up one day early to stay with my Cousin Gail and her husband, Jay.   They live about 10 minutes from Bear Creek and were generous enough to host me for another race  (Last year, they hosted me for Nittany CX).  Jay, Gail, and I were able to hang out and spend Saturday evening eating fun naughty foods like beer-battered french fries and then chasing them down with a few local ales that were on tap....  Thanks Guys!

The Race:
The Cat-1 racers had to complete 3 seven mile laps consisting of two climbs, a few brief flat sections, and two descents.  Rocks lined the course, pretty much everywhere.

My Map and Statistics by Lap: