A few weeks ago one of our editors went missing. Private detectives were hired. Dogs were called out... not so much as a punctured tube or a scrap of torn jersey could be found. His trail went cold at JFK airport... Then it happened, he suddenly resurfaced. None the worse for wear, he reemerged with a smile on his face to content our worried hearts. He told a tale of his journey, we were amazed to find out where he had been... Look for his story coming soon!
One year ago, almost to the day, I had found my life mostly out of control. I had a failing relationship that was falling apart all around, I had not raced, let alone riding a bike much in the previous five years and was in desperate need of an outlet for my frustrations. Overweight, overstressed, over extended and drinking way to heavily, I decided I would ride my bike again and get into at least some sort of shape. A few weeks into this adventure, and starting to feel a little better about my situation, I thought it might be somewhat "cool" to get into some basic race shape. Being proud and maybe just an little overconfident (losing ten pounds did not hurt either) I announced to one of my greatest friends "Two Pies" that I was going to race competitively on the national mountain bike series.
One of the greatest fuels for any fire, is doubt. The look on my friends and family members faces when I told them what I was going to do, was the cord of wood I was looking for. Having a life that was spiraling by this point, the training and bike riding was like a possession that I had complete control of. I could throw my leg over the top tube, slide my ass into the saddle and escape to a completely different planet.
I stopped drinking and turned around and started facing a mountain of debt and emotional issues. It took months to just be able to sleep a whole night through, but I had the bike to look forward to everyday. An aluminum, steel and rubber savior, the hand of god could not be such a blessing as a bike in the garage. Religion was not a driving force on this journey, wanting to look myself in the mirror and be able to complete something in my life was.
When the season finally hit in March I was a coiled spring, ready to exploded and looking for any excuse to quit. It became a daily battle, fighting the demons that wanted me to fail. Still struggling with money and an overwhelming desire to give up, I headed to Arizona for the first National race of the season. Three flat tires and finishing on foot with wobbly legs, emotion ready to burst forth in the form of tears. I had the first glimpse into a part of my soul that would rather die than not finish this season.
I was plagued at every race with flat tires and mechanical problems. The more adverse the struggles, the more motivation I had to finish every race and the series. I was on fire, I felt that I had deep reserves of speed that had yet to be tapped, I was getting faster as the season dragged on. It felt great to be sitting in the top ten on the National Mountain Bike Series, I was going to finish the season far ahead of what anyone had for expectations.
Heading to Colorado for the finals, I was fifth in points. I just had to finish the race and I would get to stand on the podium, at the finals for the National Mountain Bike Series. Weeks before I had sprained my back, my doctor was great. He understood the importance of this race, instead of telling me not to race, he told me to stay off the bike until race day and give it all I had.
I finished dead last, rode through the finish line, headed into a residential area, sat down on somebodyís lawn and just let the tears flow. I completed a whole season, finished fifth in the series and was able to upgrade to semi-pro. When I set out nine months before I was sure I would do maybe one or two races and then give up.
So thatís it here, I am training, getting ready to race semi-pro next year. Life is still a struggle, I still have a big pile of debt and try to take each day one ride at a time.
I'll check in with you folks again soon...
09/08: 24 Hours of Willamette PassSarah Kaufmann: Photo by Rocky Arroyo
I went up to this race over the weekend with Eli as my support. I purposely avoided Downieville the week before becuase I didn't want to hurt myself. It turns out I was totally capable of doing that anyway - I think I cracked a rib riding Soquel Demo a few days before the race. It really hurts to laugh and take a deep breath. I didn't think I would be laughing too much during the race but I was planning on breathing so I was little worried.
Anyway, we went up on Friday. The race was 10 am to 10 am Saturday to Sunday. I hadn't preridden the course but I heard it was mostly dry hardpack. The description online said 11 miles and 1100' of climbing. It turns out that was the description from the previous year - this year the course was 14 miles and 1800' of climbing. The first six miles were a climb to the top of a ski resort and the last eight were all the way back down. The first half of the climb was pretty gradual fireroad but the second half kicked up pretty steep on singletrack and as the race went on, the sandy trail got sandier and sandier and more and more there were footprints through the sand instead of tiretracks - mine included. The course was beautiful, there were awesome views as we traversed ski slopes and looked down on green lakes from the top of the mountain. The descent was fast and twisty with some sections of stutter bumps that hurt my rib a lot but a lot of it was just smooth and fast, a couple creek crossings and rocky sections but nothing too technical.
There were three solo women. I spoke with one of them before the race. I had raced a 12 hour against her and been beaten. I recognized her name as pretty competitive on the endurance circut. When I asked her how many 24 hour races she had done, she rattled off about 10 before she even had to stop and think. I was intimidated. I didn't speak with the other woman at all. We took off. The first couple laps were okay but on the third lap I started to feel terrible. We were only about four or five hours in but my body felt like we were 10 or 12 hours in. Not good times, bad times. I was really worried. I kept at it though and I think it must have been the heat becuase the next couple laps I felt more and more normal as it started to cool off. It wasn't even that hot - I guess I just can't handle heat at all. I didn't pee for the first seven hours of the race and I was drinking a lot of water and was really well hydrated going in. Who knows. Anyway, things went along pretty smoothly for a while after that. There was a 12 hour race going on in the earlier hours and the girl that I wet my pants to beat at the last 12 hour race was racing that solo. And at one point I passed her on the climb. Like she was standing still. I thought maybe something was wrong but when I asked how her race was going, she told me it was going well and she felt good. I was wicked excited.
Sarah Kaufmann: Photo by Rocky Arroyo
The solo girl I hadn't met had dropped out after about eight hours and I was in second - or last. But I started to make time on the girl ahead of me. Then at about one or two in the morning I had one of the most horrible laps I have ever had. I bonked so hard. Not sure why - I was still eating and drinking plenty. But I had nothing. My brain was completely disconnected from my body. Three or four times I woke up laying on the side of the trail. I don't remember how I got there but I guess I was on autopilot and simply decided it was time for a break. That lap was about 45 minutes longer than I had been averaging. After that lap I took about a half an hour off the bike (my breaks had been really quick until then - just enough time to grab Ensure, water, pee and for Eli to put some lube on the chain). I slept for 15 minutes, ate some real food and changed clothes. I didn't think it was possible to recover from a bonk like that but I did and my next lap was much better. I came in a little before six, pitted really fast and headed out again. The cutoff for laps to count was 10 am so I was hoping to do two sub two hour laps and get two more in, for a total of 11. Didn't happen though - I hadn't realized how slow I was at that point and my next lap was about 2:15. When I was about a mile out from the finish my nose started bleeding. I don't know what that was about but I was so close to being done, I was not stopping to deal with it so I came across the line with myself and my bike covered in blood. This time it was blood, last time it was pee... ah hem. I finished my tenth lap around 8:10 - not enough time for another lap. The other solo woman who finished also got 10 laps but was about 25 minutes ahead of me. I was pretty excited, though - she is really experienced and 25 minutes is not much in a 24 hour race. And it turns out the two of us actually BEAT ALL 10 OF THE SOLO MEN. I was wicked excited when I found that out. There was one guy who got 10 laps but he was half an hour down on me. We rule. My rib ended up not being too bad - it actually got easier to breath as the race went on. I suffered on the stutter bumps but I really don't think it was a limiting factor. Ten laps may not seem like much on a 14 mile course but that climb really took it out of us. Whistler was more brutal because of the rain and the conditions but phycially, this was more challenging. Neither of the other 24 hour races I have done had this much climbing - I really feel like I pushed myself harder and was able to not just finish a 24 hour race but to actually race it and push a harder pace, which was my goal. And I won $75 - so pro. It would have been cool to win but I'll settle for beating all the boys. Thanks so much to Eli for the support. He came into this not knowing much about how it was all going to work - or knowing me, for that matter - and he did an awesome job.
Thanks to my boyfriend Robert for overhauling my entire bike and making it perfect - no mechanicals at all. It's just a little bloodstained right now. This mechanic has her own mechanic. Thanks so much to Kyle from Team Wrong Way who let me use his prototype light, which was absolutely the freakin' best light I have ever used. It was even better than I thought after using it in training. Doing laps in the daylight and immediately after, in the dark - I realized how I totally did not have to lose any time on the descents in the dark. I actually passed people on the descent at night. And that was absolutely only because I had a better light than they did.
Next stop 24 Hours of Moab.
Saturday was interesting. My assignment was to ride in the Pedro Fest /Lymphoma Charity ride. After bonking on the road ride the day before, I was a bit sore and hesitant, to get in the saddle again so soon, but I figured I would take it easy and enjoy myself. Getting on the Titus loaner bike was a strong incentive for me as well. I met up with the other riders in the morning. Three quarters of the riders were on Mountain bikes. The mountain bike group left before the road bikers, taking a different route. I recognized several of the faces in the road bike group from my mountain climbing debacle the previous day. There were some good riders on this trip which meant I would probably be bringing up the rear again.
Phil & Ken at the top of Petersburg Pass
After the mountain bikers were gone, there was a brief discussion about the route the road bikers would take. It was decided that we would go over Petersburg Pass. It is a 4.2 mile climb with a 7% grade. What the hell was I thinking? The road ride was sponsored by Mavic, so we had a support car bringing up the rear. About 2 miles into the ride, I blew another tire. This time I was ready to change it after my experience the previous day, but just as I got off the bike to make the repair, the Mavic car pulls up, the support guy jumps out, takes off my back wheel and swaps on a new Mavic wheel. The whole process took no more than 45 seconds. I was thrilled and Ken the volunteer from Pedro Fest that was riding with me jokingly asked if our savior from Mavic was free for doing maintenance on weekend rides.
The Titus Bike
After about 6 miles on Rt 7 we reached the foot of Petersburg Pass. The good riders blazed ahead. Ken and the Mavic car stuck with me as we ascended. I really really wanted to make it to the top. It was a slow crawl. Ken released the Mavic car to follow the leaders and he and I continued up the Taconic Trail (Rt. 2) to the Pass. Unlike the previous day's failed attempt, this time I made it. We rested for a while at the top, then the fun part started. The descent on the Titus bike was like flying. The steep hill, the slow winding curves and the dry smooth pavement were ideal for a high speed glide. Just before we reached the bottom, Ken pulled ahead and suggested I follow him on an alternate return route.
Back at Pedros
It was a back-road off the beaten path that was well known to locals. It was flat and trees lined each side forming a tunnel of arching green branches. We passed over an old bridge with a swimming hole directly below it. It was like being dropped into a Norman Rockwell painting. About half way down our alternate route the pavement turned into a well groomed dirt road. Ken mentioned that it could never be paved because the road was registered as a historic landmark. The recent rain had packed it nicely, so it was no problem for the thin wheels of our road bikes. We passed farms and cottages over the next few miles and did not see a single car. It was as if we had gone back in time and were pedaling down a country road in France.
As we made our way back to Pedro Fest, Ken and I had a great chat about his local riding vs my experiences on Long Island. I'm sincerely envious of his access to wide country roads with little traffic, great hills and what appears to be a well established biking community. Overall I have to say that I had a great time on the Lymphoma charity ride. Many thanks to Ken for his insight and support. If you are ever in the vicinity of where Rt 2 meets Rt 7 in MA, look for Torrey Woods Rd and have a great ride.
stunned at what some of these folks do with a bike. I watched several riders from Sinister Bikes make jumps that easily cleared 40 feet (Check out the gallery for photos). I got some clean shots of folks on the dirt track and at the "Sinister Jump Jam". Then hit the vendor booths.
While wandering around the vendor area Gary mentioned that there was a road bike ride scheduled for 2pm. At the time I was standing in the Titus booth looking at a $6065 custom made road bike with a Titus titanium frame and Shimano Dura Ace running gear.
The Titus Bike
Matt Eglin the rep from Titus overheard the conversation and asked if I wanted to take the Custom Titus out for a spin on the 2pm road bike ride.
A little background here. I'm 45 and ride on a regular basis. My usual distance per a ride is about 20 - 30 miles on flat Long Island roads. Let me emphasize the part about flat roads again. Last time I did hills was about a year ago. I'm not a great rider. I make an honest effort when I ride. I enjoy riding and the technology behind a good bike. So getting the opportunity to ride the Titus bike was not something I wanted to pass up and the 2pm ride was a perfect opportunity.
After a bit of scrambling for cleats that would fit the pedals on the Titus bike, I hooked up with ride leaders from Pedro Fest that were taking us out. There were 4 riders and 3 ride leaders. Just as we got assembled and ready to roll, it started to rain, not much, but still rain. The ride went through beautiful rolling hills. I was feeling pretty good. I was on this amazing bike and the pace seemed comfortable for the first few miles. I quickly came to realize that everyone on the
ride was a better rider than me. Even with this amazing bike I was quickly falling behind on the hills.
About 12 miles into the ride we stopped at a local market to get water and take a short break. We then took off up a 7 mile mountain pass with a 6% grade. As we started up, Mark Zotto, one of the ride leaders became my biking buddy for the remainder of the ride. It was pretty clear that I was in trouble. Within that first mile of the hill the other five
riders were well ahead of us. It was all I could do to just stay on the bike. Mark was great. He pretty much talked me through the hill. About half way up, I'd had it. What little amount of climbing ability I had in me was gone. I told Mark that was it for me. We made a quick turn and headed down the grade in the rain. The Titus bike was rock solid at high
speed even on the wet pavement which was comforting considering my physical state.
About halfway back I bonked bigtime. Mark and I stopped and about 10 minutes into the break the other 5 members of our group came down the road. We hooked up with them and started to make our way back to the Festival grounds. Once again I slipped back in the pack and blew a tire.
I had no patch kit or spare tube, since this was a loaner. Mark loaned me one of his tubes. My experience with flats on Long island roads is that they are notorious for the amount of crap they have on them. Not a week goes by that I don't seem to blow a tire. I get lots a practice fixing flats so we were quickly back on road. By this time it's getting dark, raining hard and the temp is dropping. I'm dragging. Mark is pretty much keeping me going by talking me through the ride. He's a local rider in his 50's and does 2 hours on his bike every day. I could see he was a bit worried about the pace I was setting. In the end, we made it back, thanks to Mark.
Back at the festival with (L-R) David Comiskey, Phil Davies and Mark Zotto
What I learned was good bikes are for good riders. As awesome as the Titus bike was, it's not going to get you up that hill unless you are ready to do it. Mark also reinforced my ongoing belief that cyclists are good people. If you ever need a hand, look for a guy on a bike.