Hundred Down In The Underdown 2017

Team Pic


Photo credit to Kelly O’Day of Silent Sports Mag

Hundred Down In The Underdown is one of several races in the Wisconsin Endurance Mountain Bike Series. This one has a new format in which riders can choose 1, 2, or 3 of the 33 mile laps. The location is between Merrill and Irma on some of the most beautiful and rugged terrain in the region. Mixed forest with some old growth, uninhabited lakes, lush ferns, moss, Raven calls and sweet views of the scenic Prairie Dells go on for miles. And miles. This notorious trail system is a lot of things, but flat ain’t one of them πŸ˜‰

This year I’ve been focusing my athletic efforts on running and bodyweight strength. In the 3 weeks between Wausau 24 and this event, I had about an hour on 2 wheels. I relied on my innate endurance to carry me through. My bicycle choices were the svelte Superlfly singlespeed or the fun, fat-tired Norco with 10 gear options instead of one. With 64 hills on the course profile, I went with gears and 15 extra pounds to lug around.

The night before the event I found out I was to be on a team with 3 of my favorite dudes in the world. I had no intentions of trying to keep up with them, but only then top 3 lap times mattered anyway. Great! No pressure. 1pm rolled around and off we went. I started dead last and was glad I did the first time I shifted into my easiest gear and came to an abrupt stop with the chain tangled in the rear wheel. Got that sorted out and motored on, absorbed in the moment and the beauty of this area. Another hill, another shift to the easy gear, another tangled chain/wheel. Alright then, I’ve figured out I have actually 3 speeds that work on this bike. All the rest either chatter to no end or end up with the chain in the wheel. So I have a 36 pound bike with 3 speeds. Ok. Well, good thing it’s a gorgeous day and I have all the time I need to get this done. I did really focus on being in the moment, which is not always easy for me. Do you ever just feel your breath? Or how your legs work to push a bike up a hill? Like really *feel* it?

So I’m pedaling along, feeling great and see this at an aid station. These guys were the greatest cheerleaders. I stopped to eat a date and have a laugh. They were at 2 more road crossings and so kind. At the last one I was feeling pretty rough and took them up on an offer of bug spray. Saved me from donating pints of blood to the hungry mosquitoes!! I’ll forever be grateful for these guys and their enthusiasm.








I left the next photo larger so you could see just how beautiful this is. I would say, it’s places like this that are the main reason I ride mountain bikes. The sights and smells of the forest and the feeling of moving your body through space feed my soul. Being in nature keeps me grounded. And on a bike you can usually keep ahead of the mosquitoes πŸ˜‰Why I Bike

I was super low-tech for this event. No heart rate monitor, no Garmin. My phone was in airplane mode, tucked into my Camelbak just in case I needed it or needed to take a picture. Once in awhile I’d ask someone who was passing me how many miles we were in. It was around mile 22 that I felt the old familiar stabbing on my outer knee. The reason I was wearing support – to stave off problems. The reason I work on mobility. The reason I couldn’t do more than 11 laps at Wausau 24 years ago. I have tried seat adjustments, training more, training less (this time). I did find through DNA testing that I have a connective tissue disorder. So, I wasn’t entirely surprised. I heard Steve’s voice telling me that if I was having pain I should stop and call him. Mmm hmmm. Yeah… a smart person would probably do that. I’ve only had him pick me up once, when I had a pretty bad ankle sprain trail running. And anyways, it only hurt going up hills.


And then…. what a sight for sore eyes! My friends Todd and Phil. I can always keep up with Phil. Todd was on a mission and took off. Phil kindly offered to ride with me. Unfortunately, my knee was getting worse with every hill. Searing pain with every push on the pedals. I remember it took months to recover the last time this happened. I appreciated his encouragement but I told Phil to keep going. The bugs were pretty horrible and I was walking most of the hills at that point. After a couple more crashes – turns out the rigid front fork on the fat bike and the rugged terrain render the upper body kind of useless – I decided to just take a minute and send a text to Steve. I let him know I was hurting but determined to finish my 33 mile lap. I have grit if nothing else. Even if I thought I was going to cry a couple of times. Haha! Talk about an emotional roller coaster. I had to remind myself I’d come up with our team name of HTFU. Plus it was getting dark out and I had no lights.




Even though it’s hard to see sometimes through the pain, if you take a pause in the forest you might notice the bird songs, berries ripe for snacking, and a large piece of chaga mushroom growing on a tree. Amazing.

Friends were waiting at the finish, and the after-party was fantastic. The people make this a unique sport. Everyone is full of encouragement and kind words.

This was probably my worst physical performance on 2 wheels. Still, I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I am grateful I can do it at all, and that I live in such a beautiful area of the world.







Photo credit to Kelly O’Day of Silent Sports Mag



Spartan Sprint Welch MN


My start wave

On June 24, 2017 I participated in my first Spartan race. I became interested in obstacle course racing last summer and signed up for this particular race in August of 2016. I like the focus it gives me to have an event on my calendar, and I absolutely love the free Spartan workouts available on their site.


I’ll be honest; the idea of getting myself over walls up to 10′ tall and climbing a rope intimidate me. I was the chubby girl in gym class in school. The one who would do just about anything to get out of gym class unless it was archery or something. I like the idea of getting out of my comfort zone, though. I find personal growth and learn more about my capabilities when I participate in sports events.

Feeling pretty strong walking up the start hill πŸ™‚

In 2016 I tried my first obstacle course race – Northwoods Bad Dash in Manitowish Waters, Wisconsin. Not too far from home. I was hooked! In May 2017 I did Warrior Dash Wisconsin which was super fun. Muddy, but fun. They’ve all been around 5k in length with obstacles from 12-21 in varying degrees of difficulty.

The difference with Spartan is that if you fail/bail on an obstacle, there’s a 30-burpee penalty. And the obstacles are tough!

Before the race even started, I tried a rope climb in a practice area and failed miserably. Then I tried to go over a wall a little under 6′. I ended up bruising my right wrist pretty bad and threw some gloves on to compress it a bit. I did not get over the wall.

The race was held on a ski hill, which we went up and down a lot. There was some muddy, greasy trail through the woods with trees down for bonus obstacles. There were 21 obstacles for this Spartan Sprint.

Barbed Wire Crawl

Finally found an obstacle I was alright at! After climbing inverted walls and nearly falling off a couple of obstacles, I was happy to be close to the ground for the barbed wire crawl. It was long. Really long. A combo of rolling and crawling did the trick.








That’s me in the Burpee Zone. Again!! I ended up doing 210 of those suckers.








Hercules Hoist

I thought for sure I’d have any of the brute strength obstacles burpee-free. This is just before the Hercules Hoist got the better of me and I went to the Burpee Zone. It was a matter of hoisting a heavy bag up a long ways and then gently lowering it to the ground. I tried like heck.









Sandbag carry was down a sketchy hill and then back up to the top. Not too bad, but definitely a heavier bag than I train with at home. I like this obstacle. No burpees!


Other obstacles were monkey bar-type things, cargo nets, mud slogs, submersion under a wall in cold water, carrying a bucket full of rocks (with no handle) up the hill and back down, and several walls to go over.

Here I sit the day after, sore from head to toe. Never been so sore from working out! I managed to bruise arms, legs and ribs. And yes, I’d do it again. I definitely need to work on some upper body strength, straighten out my IT band issues (no fun on a ski hill!) and order shoes that have some grip. Lessons learned. I survived!

All in all, I’m happy to have finished. It was just about a year ago now that I was hit with Lyme Disease and couldn’t stand up without help. I struggled to walk a mile last summer! This is good progress. I’ll take it.

I’d say if you’re looking for a “fun” obstacle course race, something more like Tough Mudder or Warrior Dash is in order. If you’re looking for a test of your grit and fortitude, sign up for a Spartan.

Fire Jump

the end πŸ™‚

First Ride of 2016

Bike in SnowSpring is here early for me in 2016, thanks to Schwalbe’s Winter studded 700×40 tires. Today the temps were in the upper 20’s, so I decided to try them out for the first time.

This year I am training using the Primal Endurance/Maffetone method, which means keeping my heart rate at or below MAF (maximum aerobic function). For me, that tops out at 139 beats per minute. I have my Garmin set to beep when I go above that heart rate and let me tell you, it translates to s l o w. Β I rode 14 miles with a 15mph headwind for the majority of it. My average speed was a ridiculously slow 9.8mph. Let’s just say that I have a lot of room for improvement this year πŸ™‚

T18feb16_1emperature-wise I was plenty warm, except for my toes. I was wearing thick wool socks in a mountain bike shoe with a neoprene cover. I will be looking for a better setup, because the toes were uncomfortably cold. Other than that, 3 layers on top – base, mid and windbreaker were great. On the bottom, bike shorts, running pants and ski pants over were perfect. I wore a balaclava on my head and Swix ski gloves.

18feb16_4To review the tires, they were excellent! On hard-packed, icy roads I felt confident. No problems on clear pavement, even up over 20mph. Felt steady on descents with random patches of ice. Got a little squirrely in the loose stuff. All in all I’m very happy with them and just to get out on the bike 2 months earlier than usual is well worth the money.

Other stats for my personal record keeping:
Bike at 30#
Studded tires at 40psi
Rider at 134.5#, well-rested, HRV 61 this morning, fueled by eggs and greens
Hit the 150’s on the hills