Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Getting Spanked at Syllamo


I hadn't planned on doing this race this year. I wasn't sure how it would fit into my DK200 training schedule. My wonderful husband, Jim, signed me up for Syllamo's Revenge as a surprise. He accidentally signed me up to race with the SS men, not that it mattered. He said, "It will be good for you". I think that was a code for"this is going to be....."

Mr. Holtman. Sorry I couldn't resist temptation

Earlier this week, my bike was invited to a sleepover at Mitch the Masher's house. Connor was due for some necessary spa treatments - and he came back tight and right, ready to tackle the Arkansas trail! It's amazing how a bike rides so much better with a tight headset and a newly manicured fork and brakes. Thanks Mitch!

Yes, I trust this man with my bike

After a 4.5 hour drive, we were greeted by The Three Musketeers - Mr. Pryor, Busken, and Weinkein. Within an hour we were on our bikes climbing the first mile up to the trail. I was happy to see how much easier that climb was this year. I had done it 10 times last year at the 24hrs of Syllamo, so you could say I was quite familiar with it. The four of us pedaled out about 3 miles and turned around. Holy cow! where are the lines through those rocks? Maybe I'm not a very good technical rider after all. There would be several dismounts in this stretch. Little did I know how many dismounts there would really be in those first 15 miles to CP1.

Jim and I headed to Team Seagal HQ at Sarah's Cabins. What a beautiful cabin to spend 2 days with 10 teammates in. Yes, Team Seagal had a superior showing of 7 in the 50 miler and 2 in the 125K. It was shaping up to be an excellent weekend. The weather was on our side too. Also, I was informed that the trail was in better shape than last year. Really?

Someone ate this Fri. eve, was not me

The night before I get my gear and fuel organized. I am so used to doing lap races and making pit stops, I felt anxious and rushed. I made a huge mistake in setting a 7.5 hour goal and a second mistake comparing this race to the BT Epic. Not the actual trail, rather the distance of the race - in order to make my fuel bottles.

This is when a case of the nerves sets in. Not being familiar with the trail and having only a handful of rides on my mountain bike didn't make me feel very confident. This race would either make me or break me. Make me, please.

At 7AM the 125K began. Nico and Orin represented Team Seagal and were the only 2 from MO in the singlespeed class. They would be riding the same course with the addition of riding the red loop twice, which was awesome, and some of the yellow loop.

125K start

The 50 miler started at 8AM. The start is a 11%, 9/10th of a mile climb to sweet single track - sort of. Somewhere about three miles in I fell, HARD. Landed on my left side and found a sharp rock with my knee - Blood. Great. Only 47 miles to go. The mud helped clot it so I kept moving.

These first 15 miles took a huge mental toll on me. I fell several times and each time I reminded myself that the DK200 is just 3 weeks away. I don't want to be on the start line broken. I walked so much my feet hurt. Cycling shoes are made for riding, not for walking over slippery rocks. I had no idea that the 1st CP would take me so long. I looked at my Garmin and felt like a slug. My mind was screwing with me . Thoughts like "WTF are you doing out here", "You are not really a mountain biker", "Hang it up, the road riding has made you a wuss", "You should quit" were running through my mind. I never have those thoughts. EVER. At one point I yelled "STOP" really loud to force the negative thoughts out. It worked. Seeing Jim at CP1 helped until he said "Where have you been?" I know he didn't mean it the way I took it. He took my bike from me and cleaned my chain while I used the facilities. The next five miles went much better. I rode a lot more, which built my confidence. My knee still hurt and my legs felt like lead, but mentally I knew I was going to be okay now. Only 30 miles left.
Karen crushing it!! SS style

I ended up riding with the same 6 guys for awhile. They were pretty cool but I could tell they weren't at all thrilled to be riding with me. At several points, they would not let me pass. Even when I asked. Frustration. There was quite a bit of climbing in this section so they had no choice but to let me "billy goat" past them. I was also thankful for the gravel climbs. I was able to pass 4 fellas, walking their bikes, and did not see them until the finish. ** Ladies , any tips on how to pass the fellas?**


I performed a "superman" move around mile 35 that I heard was "impressive" I got up a little shakey from that.I did not hit my head. However, the visor on my helmet saved my face. Apparently, I am quite entertaining to ride behind. I said "How do I look?" after I got up. He said "More importantly, how do you feel?" I said "I need to keep moving. Ask me again later."

The wet roots and rocks were very difficult to navigate. Hundreds of muddy tires had crossed them by this point. If I lost momentum I had no choice but to stop and hop off. I wondered if running 32x21, instead of the 32x20 I chose, would have made any difference.

Stormy's finish

Coach thinking Spaghetti!!!

I met a guy named Noah - we fed off each other for awhile. He put things in perspective when he said "My kids would be so proud of me right now" We shared CliffsNotes versions of our lives and came to the conclusion that we were both awesome people and there was no way we would let them pull us if we didn't make the cut off. I wasn't looking at my Garmin any more until the finish. It hurt too much to see what kind of snail pace I was keeping. I wanted to enjoy the rest of the ride and try to salvage some self-esteem.

My teammates kept themselves busy while waiting for me

Noah and I made the cut-off, with 45 minutes to spare. My transition took about 1 minute. Noah was going to stay and catch his breath. I had to leave him. There was a great climb to the next 9 miles of single track, with more elevation and switchbacks.I had heard this was like 6 miles of climbing. There was also a stairway you had to climb while carrying your bike. Insulting and slick. After this section was 12 miles of sweet stuff with little elevation. It's too bad to reach that point and most riders legs are fried. I was amazed at how many people I passed on that loop. Finally I was starting to feel some dirt mojo. I would have done that section again. The last 3 miles they say "is all downhill" - they lie. I knew it wasn't. I had been riding solo for about 1.5 hours before I popped out at the gravel road. The same hill we had climbed at the start. Bittersweet moment. The race was almost over. I screamed the entire way down. I bet the three volunteers at the bottom couldn't wait to put a face with that screaming.

I did it!! I crossed the finish line at 7:52 and change. { the clock was set an hour ahead for the 125K}

Finishers Hug.. Who is it?

I forced myself to be positive and accept such a disappointing time. It was hard to look around and see everyone already cleaned up and spaghetti fed . I had just finished and was covered in bruises, mud and blood. Pieces of my soul were left scattered on the trail. Pieces I would never get back.Everyone I talked to had killed their times from last year. They were so proud and satisfied with their efforts. Me? Not so much. I slipped off to get cleaned up and work on my superior state of mind.

No words

This is what I came up with.
My bike was perfect. No mechanicals. I passed many with flats. Three attempting to convert to single speed. Two with broken chains. And others were just broken period.
I have no excuses for my performance. Actually, I have several, but I refuse to make them. I guess I was due a rough day in the saddle.And now that I've had it I have realized I learned some valuable skills at Syllamo. Also, what happens when you're at the back of the pack. You get home to look through 1500 pictures to see that the photog got only one picture of you, on the climb in and I was behind someone.

Mary ALL smiles afterwards

My teammates all finished extremely well and all beat their times from 2010.

Orin - 8:09, SS 6/11
Nico - 8: 52 7/11

50 mile
Gino 5:37 SS
Coach 6:49 SS
Ponchor 6:16
Storm 6:51 SS
Taggort 7:10
T'Tocs 6:51SS

I am proud that I finished but will be seeking Revenge since I am not satisfied
My Perspective
313 people signed up
201 finished
156th place


  1. damn. That post re-energized me to want to go do it again next year - I had been thinking otherwise since the race.

    Also, Sasha when you talk about your races and events, you make it come across as though it is a long, arduous journey for which there is no certain outcome; and the entire time you are having a spiritual transformation. Totally awesome, compared to all the other dudes who write about these things with such nonchalance and "just another race" attitude. Nice fucking work.

  2. I like that you write about the struggles and doubts too. It's nice to see that even superheros have their human moments. You'll just come back even stronger next year.

    And yeah, I hear you on the pictures.

  3. Congrats on the finish and the desire to improve for next year. That is always a good sign!