Tuesday, December 2, 2008

I Love It When a Plan Comes Together

I've been back to Blacksburg on many visits since graduation in 2002, but never have things come together to make the trip as sweet as this Thanksgiving weekend. The plan: Drive up to B-Burg with Kevin and Dan on Friday, Watch the VA Tech vs. UVA football game Saturday, and hit Brush mountain Sunday. I have a friend, Tony, that lives in C-Burg and the plan was for us to crash at his place. Well, he was out of town but gave the nod for us to take over his home for the weekend. Thanks T!

We arrived in downtown Blacksburg around 8pm - just in time for some dinner, drinks and pool at the old standby, The RiverMill (or LiverKill). It was a great night, and what made it better was running into my old friend Ben. I last saw Ben when I was in Salida Colorado in 2002 while riding the Great Divide MTB Route. He and another good friend, Angie, had met me in Salida to hang out for a day before I hit the trail again. Anyway, we lost touch after that and it was great catching up over some brown ales.

Saturday's plan was to ride our mountain bikes to the game from C-Burg (about 7 miles), then party until they kick us out and ride back. So, I get a call in the a.m. from my buddy D-Rob, who used to live in the Burg. He was up for the weekend and told me to stop on the way to the game by the Tech Airport. So, we rode from Tony's to the airport and...

D-Rob and I jumped in a Cessna and flew a loop around Blacksburg just before the game. I didn't have a good camera with me, but I had my cell. Here's a pic I took showing Lane Stadium and much of the VT Campus.

Or better yet, how about a closer pic of the stadium with the flight crew!

and lastly, here's the stadium view while we're swinging around to land...

The whole flight took us around 25 minutes. After we landed, D-Rob was going to take Kevin and Dan up for a loop, but some guy on the radio warned us of the temporary flight restriction beginning at 11am. It was 11:05am, so Kevin and Dan were bumped until next time. Sorry guys.

After the flight, we headed into town for some Gillie's Breakfast - a tradition I've continued since graduation. It was there, that we met with Kevin's girl and then separated. Dan and I rode to the game, D-Rob watched it at the LiverKill, and Kevin walked with his female companion to the game.

We were an hour late, about half way through the second quarter of the game. Game tied at 7. Then UVA drops another 7 on us and we shake it off over Halftime with swigs of Jager. In the 3rd, Tyrod Taylor has an awesome 70 yard scramble to the 10 yard line of UVA, which led to a tying touchdown. VT's defense shut out UVA in the second half and VT won by tapping in a short-yardage field goal in the fourth. final score VT 17 : UVA 14!

Somehow, after a tumultuous and painful to watch season, VA Tech is going to the ACC Championship (again). It will be a rematch against Boston College this Saturday. -Party at my house!!! (in case you haven't heard, though, I'm unemployed.So it'll be a BYO Everything event.) I'll have the HD ready.

After the game, we had a good meal at Bogens with Kevin's family (providers of the tix), and the rest of the night was spent nonsensing around Blacksburg on the bikes... At 1am, Dan reminded me that we had to ride the bikes back to Tony's. It was spitting freezing rain and the wind beat on us like Peter Griffin beats on Chickens.

After a short grumbling, we headed to Gumby's Pizza for a quick meal. I worked there for years while at Tech. My buddy, Joe (the GM) was still there, or had returned, so we caught up and he let me make a pie. It was great to hand toss and make my own pizza again but not great enough to do it for a job again. Dan and I sat and ate and then braved the inevitable trip back. Luckily, we planned well and brought lights, but... mine died and we we're half blind in the rain at 3am... Still, though, a great time. Since it was raining (and we were slacking) we bailed on the Sunday mountain ride and opted to sleep in and hit Gillies for brunch before heading home. Ah yes, one last meal from my favorite place in Blacksburg.

So - it was a great trip. I wish I could say that I'm going to the ACC Championship game, but...$$ no mas. I hope you all had a great Holiday Weekend!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Will Ride All Day Long for Food!

My enthusiasm for writing has diminished over the past few weeks, but I'm back. I'm still unemployed and always looking for leads. Sometimes, though, I need to get away from it all and explore what I love most... riding my bike in the mountains, camping, and chillin at a campfire. While everyone was sitting at their desks or working in the field this past Monday and Tuesday, I was camping on Tillman Road, riding all day, and sitting by the fire sippin from flasks at night.

Sunday (Nov 9, 2008) marked my last race of the season - and thank GOD! My friends, I have been slackin like nobody's business. Riding maybe once or twice per week and not pushing hard...at all... The Twistaed Tire MTB Race showed expected results: I have slowed down a lot, but I can still crank out the laps. I pulled out seven laps (roughly 52 miles) in the Enduro race, which was good for 14th place. Somehow, I held onto the 3rd place overall spot in the VORS series - good for a sweet Salsa jersey and riding cap. Francine held second place - good for a sweet JetBoil system. Our team, Richmond ASR, held second overall team - good work!

So, after the race and festivities, we headed home and I packed for my Monday trip. I met up with a riding buddy, Russ, on Tillman Road (part of the SM100) at lunchtime on monday. We set our tents and headed up Heartattack Hill to Wolf Ridge for a sweet 15 miler before getting the campfire and beers out. My legs were pissed, but the rest of me was all about it. The Wolf Ridge descent revealed some awesome things happening out there - TRAIL WORK! Apparently, SVBC and JMU are working together to reroute the lower (super steep) section of the trail. It looked like the re-route would add lots more super fast singletrack!! Keep your eyes out for this section.

Tuesday, we decided to ride the road up to Reddish Knob and take Hearthstone Ridge back to camp. The ride up was great! My legs cried and moaned... but it was only a 2,700 foot climb over nine miles! I had no idea. At one point, we saw a "6" painted on the asphalt. We decided that we had climbed 6 miles at that point. We were wrong. We still had 6 miles to reach the top. ouch! It's cool though, I love a good long climb.

One of my favorite climbs that I remember was on the Continental Divide Route (toured it in 2002) in Southern Colorado. I was riding with my friends Pascal and Rebecca, and I broke two spokes about "nine miles in". I ended up sending them up the mountain saying, "I'll catch up". The day's ride was to encompass a 4,000 foot climb over 20 miles and then rollin around in the uplands for another 20. So, I turned around and headed back to the town that we had just left to get a new wheel. After four hours, I had returned to the spot where I'd left my group. Then I killed it. I climbed for a loooong time, and reached the top only an hour or so behind the group. When I reached the camp, they were only there for about a half hour. Good times. Did I mention that I love a good long climb?

Back to Reddish Knob:
We Arrived at the summit around 1pm. Ahh yes, my legs were hurtin soooo good...
The best thing about the climb? The view from the top was great, but the dessert was even better: An 8 mile, 30 mph screamin blur! We were flying down the mountain so fast that the blurred trail looked like a bobsled course! What a great trip! Thanks for hanging out Russ. Can't wait till next time.

PSP for Sunday - anyone interested?

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Time Served.

I was sentenced to six years of hard labor. A couple of weeks ago I was informed that I would be freed. My last day was last Friday...and now I'm a bum. It's surprising that even with all of the current work they have, I still had no job security. I was layed off because some of the other employees don't have work. They will be trained to fill my position, even though they have no desire to do that type of work. At least they will still have their jobs... I guess...

The good part of this is that it pushes me into CHANGE. I admit, I've been lazy. I've talked about going back to school, getting another job, and getting more certifications...but I've done nothing. It's easy to get into the grind of daily life and just maintain the current position you fill. So, in the spirit of making benficial changes in my life, this is a VERY GOOD thing.

I've had a couple of interviews so far. There are some good opportunities out there and I hope to join the workforce again soon. Until then... Got some change?

Monday, September 1, 2008

Another 100 miles...SM100 Race Report

Stick a fork in my... I'm done. I knew going into this that I would pay for all of the fun I've been having over the past five months: 17 Races and over 800 miles raced so far this season... Yeah, I'm tired, but not too tired to enjoy the Shenandoah Mountain 100!

The plan was simple: Ride as much as possible, have as much fun as possible, and win. Two out of three? How bout three out of five? How about 12 and 1/2? Sold. Yes, another 12.5 hours of tormentous pain/elatedness and I began to drink from my man trophy once again (Hey sicko - I'm talking about the SM100 pint glass that I got after finishing the race!!). I'd like to say that I reached my goal of 11.5 hours, but considering the rate of madness setting in, the wet conditions, and the 145 miles I "hurt" out of me two weeks ago, I'm pretty damn happy with any finish. Even better, I spent most of my riding with good friends!

The morning of the race, I woke up early - thanks to the inbreds from W.V.U. These guys need to learn a lesson... They decided to wake up the whole group with air horns and fireworks. No worries, I'll send the monkey to get them. I could use this pic over and over... :)

I got started with my usual: french toast with something missing (this time it was cinnamon). The race started with a pileup. When the group stretched out, we made our way through town to the first fire road climb. It was during this climb that I realized how tired my legs were. I tried to keep pace with Todd Green and the Stahl bros and maintained through the first ten miles or so. Then we hit the hike a bike/climb to Wolf Ridge. Here is where I made my first mistake. I rode as much of the climb as possible before my legs decided to stop pushing. Then I proceeded to hike the rest. I should've walked it from the start. Todd was just ahead of me and pulled away from me WHILE WALKING HIS BIKE!!! When I reached the top, I would not see Todd again for the remainder of the race. Many of my other friends I missed riding with were also ahead...and then I hear, "Paul, is that you?". Good ol Russ the Guinness man rolled up from behind me on the ridge. So we descended with a fury and jumped onto the fire road toward Aid Station #2. Arriving at A.S.#2, I filled my Heed bottle and my Camelbak and took off for the BIG climb up Hankey Mountain. Russ and I kept the same pace, which was a huge bonus. The climb up Hankey showed me again that my legs were pissed at me for all of the recent abuse. Russ was pulling away from me and I was realizing that I was in worse shape than I had previously thought. Then to top things off, Mike Lang rolled up and gave me the, "what the hell are you doing back here?". Mike hadn't been riding much prior to the race and he knew that I'd been racing hard all season. It wasn't the fastest ascent, but I finally completed the climb, riding the entire thing. I started the awesome downhill of Dowell's Draft thinking, "isn't there another little hike-a-bike ahead?", and as usual, I was right :). I had to walk that one, but afterwards- a super fast decent to A.S.#3! The Dowell's Draft downhill has several off-camber sections with roots that want to shoot you off the trail and down the side of the mountain. Well, the rain made those sections more sketchy. Luckily, I squeezed through most of them with minor braking. Once, though, I did go flying through the air after sliding across a large root. Somehow I landed on my feet! Arriving at A.S.#3, I immediately saw Russ getting some grub ahead. I filled up the fluids, got a quick chain lube, and took off toward the next fun climb. Russ and I had reconnected and we made a plan to pace off each other for the five mile road section. My spirits grew once again and I felt my strength returning. We maintained a good pace for the US250 road section, passing a few other riders and even dropping a couple of riders who tried to pace onto our line. Then I saw my bud, Mike Lang, ahead as Russ and I closed the gap. A swift smack on the ass, and a "hang with us!" would be the last I'd see of Mike until the dinner after the race. The next climb starts with a hike across a dry riverbed and then a hike up some stairs to the "rideable" singletrack. This climb isn't as difficult as Hanky, but it is much more technical as it is a singletrack climb versus a doubletrack climb. There are several rock gardens here and plenty of fun sections to test the skills. During this climb, I somehow lost Russ and found myself riding with a group of other riders. I fell a couple of times on the rock gardens, showing my fatigue, but had a decent pace through most of it. When I arrived at the top, there were a bunch of riders taking a break. I pushed through the group and began the SUPER FAST decent to Braley's Pond and A.S.#4. I was told that the leaders last year hit this decent in excess of 40 MPH!!! I was riding at a more safe speed of around 30 MPH during the fastest sections... At the bottom of the decent, the course takes a left turn onto a fire road by Braley's Pond. About a minute onto the fire road, a racer with a Casey Auto Group jersey passed me and accidentally clipped my handlebar. I fell into him stepping into his rear wheel and then I slid across the gravel. He didn't fall, but he had a broken spoke as a result of the collision.

I pulled into A.S.#4 and quickly got my bike to the tech guys from Conte's. I had them clean and grease the chain and fill my tires to 45PSI for the LONG gravel road climb ahead. Then I headed over to get my liquids filled. They had coke, gatorade, snacks, and PBJs. I partook of them all. Russ caught up and got his bike/food taken care of and we headed out together for the grueling climb ahead. After a couple of miles, we grouped with a couple of other riders - one of them was the guy I collided with just before A.S.#4 (David). Our group B.S.ed through much of the climb and then we hit the right turn onto a much steeper fire road. This section I remembered was about 4 miles to A.S.#5. I felt pretty good during the climb, riding in the middle ring for the entire climb and talking to David about life in Newport News (where I grew up and where he used to work) and the usual stuff. When we pulled into A.S.#5, I realized the Russ and the rest of the group had dropped back. I was spent at this point, just like last year... At this point in the race, I decided to check the time. I did some quick math and realized I was on a 12 hour pace. :( I was not feeling strong anymore and the pains that I'd been ignoring were not letting up. I proceeded to take some advil to try and aleviate some of the knee and foot pain that had been haunting me. Then I ate some pizza and drank some coke. I now think that pizza is a bad idea even though it tastes SO FRIGGIN GOOD!!! I had my liquids topped and took off again with David to hit Bald Knob.

The pace I'd been holding was much slower than I'd wanted, and I knew that I hadn't recovered yet from the 18 hour race two weeks prior. But I could still finish in sub-12 hours. Right? Well, about half-way up to Bald Knob from A.S.#5, my ass showed itself. My energy level dropped and I told David to keep chuggin as I crept along. The advil did nothing, and I was wondering if the pizza had the negative side effect of draining all of my energy... or was it just an overworked body... Nevertheless, I didn't feel like I could ride anymore. I ended up pushing my bike for a bit, then I climbed on and rode the granny on seemingly flat terrain. Sad huh? Somebody give me a stuffed animal to cry into!!! waaahh! :)

Well, shit happens and then you get back on and keep chuggin. When I arrived at Bald Knob, I needed to rest and release some air from my tires for the steep decent. I sat and stretched for a few minutes, ate a Clif bar, and let some of the 45PSI out of my tires. It was here, where I saw a couple of familiar faces rolling up- female faces. Christy Tankersley and Reeney Greene both rolled up at the moment I was about to decend the most fierce decent of the race. Christy knew as soon as she saw me... "Wow, you must really be hurting for me to be catching up to you!", she said. I would have replied, but my pacifier was stuck. Doesn't matter anyway, at this point you should know my reply... The ladies graciously let me start the decent ahead of them and I accepted. After seeing the two of them, I had a bit of an adrenaline rush and felt a strong desire to "not get beat" by them. Reeney has a bad habit of passing me about 60 miles in and leaving me behind for the rest of the race. This kind of motivation is always refreshing, and I knew it would help me carry my ass like lightning down that hardcore decent. About 100 yards in, I noticed my front quick-release was loose. I had to stop (to save my skin) and tighten it, then I continued on. After another 100 yards or so, I AGAIN noticed my quick-release was loose. I fixed it and while I was fixing it, I noticed my rear tire was flat. DAMMIT MAN!!! Way to take the wind from my sails... Reeney passed me as I was inflating the tire and then came Russ! RUSS!! Good to see you bro! I jumped back on and caught Russ about half-way down the mountain. I could see Reeney ahead, but she was friggin flying! Russ and I rode together to A.S.#6, got a quick snack, and carried on to finish the race. The next twelve miles were golden. I knew I'd already failed to finish in my desired time, so at this point, it was time to just enjoy the rest of the ride. The climbs in this section seemed longer last year. I felt energized as I descended the last two miles into the campground and across the finish. It wasn't the finish time I wanted, but I definitely had a GREAT time riding with Russ, Todd, David, Mike, and the rest of the people I chatted with during the climbs and road sections. After finishing, I banged the gong, filled my SM100 glass with some dark beer, and took a cold shower. Francine showed up about an hour later finishing over an hour faster than last year! (By the way, I ended up finishing about a half-hour after David.)

Congratulations to all of everyone who finished the SM100 and thanks for another great year in Stokesville!!! Well done Francine, Scottie D., Kev-man, Todd (the machine) Green, Jared, Russ, Metro, Browntown, Big-Mac, Ken, Christy, Dave and Shawn T, Danelle (hell of a job!), Roger, J. Fish, Jason H., Woody, Paul Sullivan, Bill Swann, and the rest of you crazy fools!!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

18 Hours of Pain

I finally got a taste of how it feels to ride for 18 hours on Saturday and Sunday. The race/ride, 18 Hours on the Farm, started at 4pm on Saturday and continued through the night to end at 10am Sunday morning. The race was at the Brady Saunders Scout Camp in Goochland, VA. The track consists of 9.5 miles of rolling singletrack with some very fast sections and a few log rollers. Otherwise, this is one of the least technical trails I've ever ridden, which is a good thing since it was my home for 18 hours...

Francine and I both raced in the solo category. We arrived at the scout camp around 1pm and my dad brought us his hard-shell pop-up camper for our base camp. We set up in the field alongside the trail near the end of the loop. Brandon Wright and Dave Fish set up next door and the MAC and Rowlett's crews were just past us.
We had massive amounts of food and liquids to cover our needs: PBJs, Cookies, Crackers, Coke, V8, Starbuck's Doubleshots, Red Bull, 2 Gallons of Heed in a dispenser, 5 Gallons of water, as well as plenty of Hammer gels and Clif Bars.

Before the race I walked around the camp to check up on my friends, who were scattered all over the place. Scott D and Kevin Cox set up a big tent for some reason... I guess they were planning to get some sleep or something?

The MAC bros, Lee Wilson, and Mr. T showed up with a my favorite on-the-go food: "Hot and Ready" 5 dollar pies from Little Ceasars (as well as everything else that doctors tell us to stay away from). They had a support crew hanging out, too.

The Bike Factory Team had a huge showing: 2 four-person teams, 3 two-person teams, and a couple of solo riders including Shawn Tevendale. Their pit area was huge and I knew they would be taking much of the wins given their commitment to winning in the VORS series...


The race began with a guy on a mountain unicycle leading the pelaton into the woods. I stayed in the rear of the group because I knew I'd be taking it lax for the first lap (and for all laps really). After rolling a couple of miles, I was grouped with some of my favorite people to ride and race with: Todd Green, Kevin Cox, Scott Davis, Lee Wilson, Travis Williams, Brandon Wright, and a couple of others. The mood was super positive and we rode at a VERY lax pace for the rest of the lap. I actually got passed by my friend Danelle near the end of the lap, which was not easy to allow :) - but I got over it pretty quick.

I was using water bottles instead of the camelbak for the first 4 laps (daylight hours). I figured that 1 bottle would be sufficient for each lap, but that amount was a little short... I pulled into my pit area near the end of the lap and grabbed some Heed and a small snack. Laps 2 and 3 were similar, but I was alone for the entire laps. My stomach grew more and more knotted and I had a bad headache that grew with the miles - something had to give or I was. I stopped after lap 4 and loaded up with Aleve, Coke, and a half PBJ. I also rested for 20 minutes or so to allow my body to overcome and respond to the meds. After my break, I felt recharged and much better! The headache went away never to come back and I began stopping every lap for a half PBJ and some coke! Later on I switched to V8 and RED Bull for good measure. I rarely ate gels as my stomach wasn't in the mood. The sandwiches and Coke did the trick!

The night laps (lap 5 through 12) went smooth and not so smooth. One could call me a rookie for not being prepared when my headlamp battery died on me half way through a lap. Then one could call me a dumb ass when it happened the second time. Both times, I was aided by other riders. I would ride their wheels through the rest of the lap. The first time, I was near the end of the lap, so I went light-free for only a mile. The second time, however, I was only about a mile or two into the lap. I guess my head was all turned inside out since I had been riding all night without sleep. It was my last night-time lap and I thought I had another lap in my light.... I was wrong. A few minutes after the battery died, Kevin Cox rolled up and helped me out. He was in the running for first place and wanted to keep a secure lead on second, so I told him to head on and I'd catch the next rider. He wouldn't have it, so I stuck to his wheel for the ENTIRE lap... About 8 miles in, Shawn Tevendale rolled up and lighted up the rear (thanks). We all rolled out the lap together as the first light of day appeared.

Believe me, it's not easy to ride with any kind of speed without your own light. I fell over a couple of times, but nothing major. I will not let that happen again.

I was able to catch up with Francine from time to time. SHe was riding well during the first 8 hours, then she had problems with her light. It appears that one of her batteries did not charge, so she was left in the middle of a lap with no light and no charged batteries back at the pit. When she returned to the pit, she put her battery on the charger and took a nap… for 4 hours…what a slacker :). I guess it didn’t matter, though, since the second place and third place solo women weren’t going to challenge her first place spot.

After lap 12 I was pretty wiped. I decided it was time to put on a fresh change of clothes and take a breather. At this point, my ass was in VERY poor shape. (For those of you with weak stomachs, move on to the next paragraph) I didn’t expect the friction to be so bad that my skin would rub off, but it was. I had spent many of the previous laps feeling twinges of sharp pain and I knew I was in trouble, I just didn’t know it was THIS bad (sorry and you're welcome - no pictures due to graphic content). I emptied a tube of Neosporin onto my blistered, raw, and ruined hind quarters, dosed a few Aleves, and pushed on…

By this time, I was contemplating my finish. I was in certain pain and began questioning my ability to persevere for 3 more laps, which I needed to meet my goal of 15 laps. Throughout the lap, I changed my mind from “14 laps is good enough” to “I’ve come this far, I know I can at least get in 15 laps”. At times, I felt myself going intentionally slower and complaining about how much it hurt to myself. What a joke! Well, I got over the slump and reinstated my determined mindset for the remainder of lap 13 and lap 14.

I started Lap 14 at 16 hours into the race (which translates to 8am Sunday morning). I knew that I could easily (and that I had to) blow out two more laps to finish the race with 15 laps total. I started thinking about the post-race brunch with omelets, pancakes, bacon, sausage, orange juice, etc. I was getting pretty damn hungry. So, I ate a gel and middle ringed it through the lap in an hour and five minutes (my fastest lap since…um…lap 5). My final lap was just like lap 14, pushing hard to get it done so I could get some brunch!!! About a mile into the lap, I was blessed with a riding partner – Roger Sattler. He rolled up from behind and rode my wheel for five or six miles. We talked about the highs and lows of the race and I almost forgot that we were riding at all. We stopped talking at one point and noticed that we only had a couple of miles left!!! AT this point, I was getting pretty wiped and told him that he’d better head on because I could feel myself dropping off. So he took the lead and I tried to stick to his wheel for the rest of the lap – and we finished the race together.

The race was a really good experience – lots of fun and very challenging. I was lucky enough to start and end the race riding with some good friends. I ended up taking 4th Place in the solo male category and Francine took 1st Place in solo female. I was 6th place overall. the Results are HERE.

Good Times and Good Peops!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Ramping Down and Giving Birth

This week is all about getting things done and getting my priotities straight. I've got a couple days before spending 18 hours on my bike, so I'm ramping down my daily workouts. Not that I was working THAT hard in the first place, but it's nice to relax a bit more and take care of some other things in my life.

Dropping the Mother Load

My bud, Josh Krider and his wife Beth pooped out a baby boy, Asher, last Thursday. I finally got to meet him on Sunday - and he was friggin tiny! Josh said that he was under six pounds! I weighed 10 pounds and 12 ounces when I was born (don't laugh at the fat babies, they remember!!!).

So, everything seems like it went well, except for having to deal with 19+ hours of labor! ouch!! Well Josh, you get the gold medal for that one! Just a bit of advice: try Italian food and more castor oil next time...

Back to Cycling...

I had a big weekend of riding planned and bailed on most of it. Saturday I drove up to the scout camp and plugged in a few hours of light trail work with Jason Hopkins. I had an objective: to clean out the first sharp right turn by the lake. It's a bad spot that's been worn and eroded, and I always come close to eating it everytime I pass by. We fixed up and cleared the area - and I am excited to ride out there tonight! The plan was to ride after the trail work, but I bailed to hit the couch for some R&R. Sunday, I met Jason out at Pocahontas State Park for a 25 to 30 mile ride in the A.M. Starting out, I led us at a fast pace down the green and then the red trails. Somehow (maybe I'm just ADD?) I clipped a tree with my hand/right handlebar and dropped like a rag doll. I got up pretty quick, but never got the mojo back. Jason happily took lead and continued to drop me throughout the rest of the day with ease (and at an endurance pace). AFterwards, I felt pretty beat down and tired. My recovery: I met Francine and some friends at the crowded festival err. Watermelon Festival in Carytown. This seems to be a festival created just because they needed more festivals... It was fine, just too many peeps all over the place snailing around and blocking pedestrian traffic....kids and dogs running all over without their leashes...drunken old mulleteers breathing in your face... the usual. I stopped at Weezey's Kitchen for a drink with my bro, Dan, and met up with Francine and her compadre there as well. Good Times. Then I got a little clausterphobic and had to exit. Couch time and Olympics... that's the R&R I was talking about!

I never really felt good on Sunday (as far as my ride went), so I met up with my bud Brandon on Monday to see how the legs felt. We took it pretty easy, rode the horseshoe (Buttermilk and North Shore and then turn around at the Nickel Bridge) a couple of times and called it a night. My legs felt surprisingly better. My plan for the rest of the week is: ride a couple hours today on the mountainbike, then short road rides for Thursday and Friday. Saturday will be my first solo 18hour event.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Recovery Time

As soon as I finished the Wilderness 101, I knew that I would need a good, long time to recover. I just didn't expect it to take so long. Last week, I put my mountain bike away and only got on my road bike for transportation to/from work. I figured I'd be fully recovered after a week of rest... but I wasn't.

I couldn't miss the Scout Camp ride, as it was the last time to ride there before the 18 hour race on August 16th. So, I headed up there with Francine to crank out a few laps. When we arrived, Francine took off and I waited for a couple friends. I ended up riding 3 laps with the fellas, and I was wiped. I'm not sure what happened next, but I think I fell asleep. :) I actually felt okay on Saturday, so I planned a long ride for Sunday as well. Forget about it.

Sunday came around and I decided to rest...errr start building the retaining wall I wanted in the back yard. So, my "rest" day turned into a "hard work" day. I guess I have all week to rest, right?

Monday - after my laborious workday at the "office" (really, I'm just a glorified day laborer), I worked for hours on the retaining wall.

Today - I wasn't kidding about my job. Today (Tuesday), I had to determine the contents of a leaking underground tank. So, I dug a hole in concrete-like dirt (3' diameter and 2' deep) to expose its top. Then I cut into the tank and gauged the contents. Hard work. After riding my bike home (only a six mile trek), I sat my ass on the couch and "potatoed".

My legs, arms, and back are all tired and I'm starting to feel a bit like an old man. I wonder how my body will feel after the 18 hour race. I'll have 2 weeks to recover and then... SM100! I just hope it doesn't come between me kickin Schalk's butt!

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Wilderness 101

Francine and I took off Friday afternoon for Coburn, PA for the Wilderness 101 ultra-endurance MTB race. After an eight hour trip, we FINALLY arrived at Coburn Park at 10pm. I picked up my registration packet and prepared my gear and bike for the long race. I still needed to swap my tires for the new Crossmark USTs I picked up Friday morning. I also needed to clean the drivetrain and briefly inspect the bike. While I played with the bike, Francine set up the tent and bed (thanks Francine!). I finally finished the bike maintenance and prepared my drop bags. I decided to drop a bottle full of Heed at aid station 3. At aid station 4, I dropped a fresh pair of gloves, an extra tube, and a bottle of Heed/Sustained Energy mixed (I would soon find out this was a big mistake). I made my drops and crashed at midnight. At 5am, the gong sounded the alarm for everyone to get the hell up. I jumped up, got dressed and cooked some french toast. I was ready to ride at 6, and had plenty of time to relax and think about my plan of attack, which consisted of staying on the bike and continuing to pedal until the end of the race :) .

The Main Event

At 6:45am, riders were gathering at the starting line. I saw a few locals in the mix, Travis Williams (AKA Metro), David Kelnberger, Shane Cusack, Jay Cullen, Jon Rittling, and a couple of other Endorphin guys. As the race started, we all rode together along the roads of Coburn. Then (as expected) everyone slowly moved ahead and I didn't see most of them again. I felt strong, and after 3 hours I had completed 40 miles. I passed by aid station 1, and at Aid Station 2, I had my Heed bottle refilled and pressed on. The first 60 miles was FAST and mostly fire roads and double track. The downhills were either super fast and long or short and much slower on singletrack. At one point, I was flying down a trail when I had to slam on the brakes to keep from hitting a rider climbing over a tree hanging about 2 feet over the trail. I later was told that Travis hopped that tree and face dove into the rocky path below. I didn't have any real dramatic falls, but I did take a few over-the-handlebars falls that could've been ugly. Nothing like a little carnage to brighten a race...Right?

Just when I thought it was going to be a 10 hour race, I snapped a spoke. this only cost me 5 minutes, but it's the thought that counts. My next mishap would only slow down the incredible pace I should've had on a swift and smooth doubletrack downhill. Somehow, during my descent, my chain got all wrapped in the gears and fell off. I spent only a couple of minutes straightening it, but it cost me my momentum. It really isn't a race unless I have some kind of chain issue (Breaking a chain is my typical M.O.).

When I arrived at Aid Station 3 (about 60 miles in and just under 6 hours), I needed a water and Heed refill. I also jumped on some cold Coke (I am now a believer in Coke during endurance races) and Gatorade while I waited for the AWESOME support crew to hook me up. I'll be honest, the next twenty miles are a blur, I can't really remember anything significant. I am probably blocking out the rocky trails I pushed through while my shocks were locked out... yeah, big mistake... oh, and a couple of times I was tossed like a wannabe machine bull rider at a shotty pub in western Kentucky. I do remember a short, super steep downhill section on some singletrack that had my heart rate up. I passed a few "riders" on this section. This is where I got my "minute of glory", passing other riders while they cautiously walk their bikes down the steep slope. Somehow, my bike took me in the direction of the path, I swear I had little to do with it.

When I arrived at Aid Station 4, I was dry and out of gel. I had a drop bag with a bottle of Heed/Sustained Energy mix and a fresh pair of gloves. I got topped off and pushed on. I saw Reene Greene at the Aid Station and I wanted to catch up with her. I felt surprisingly good on the climb that followed and saw her ahead. Then I took a BIG swig of my Heed/Sustained Endurance mix. got queasy. I have a good strong stomach, so I figured it wouldn't last. I took another swig, thinking I needed more electrolytes and protein. Then I started dry heaving. I guess the mix went bad after sitting in the sun all day. I was sick and weak for the next twenty miles...

It seemed to take forever to get to Aid Station 5, but when I did finally arrive, I swapped out the bad crap with some fresh Heed, downed some ice cold Coke, rejoined a few riders I'd let get ahead of me, and made the final push. I felt almost instantly better after getting fresh electrolytes in me. My nausea went away and I regained power in my legs. I guess it helped to have only one last hill ahead of me. I pushed out the last twelve miles in just over an hour, finishing at 11 hours and 37 minutes (according to my watch). My goal was 11 hours (to tie my Cohutta 100 time).

Not too bad a result, but I need to figure out my nutrition. I could just go with Heed and gels, but people keep telling me I need protein to keep strong during the long races. Any suggestions?

Post-Race, I grabbed a quick shower and a hamburger and hotdogs. Hung out for a few with friends, and then Francine drove us home. Next Race = 18 Hours on the Farm.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Buzz In My Ear and In My Face

Two Saturday's ago, I planned to race in Culpeper and then head to Sherando Lake for long rides and camping. The Race was the Battle at Burke Farm, a short, XC-style mountain bike race. I knew it was unlikely that I would do well, since I am more of a long distance rider than a speed demon. But it's friggin fun! The race started off booming - I scrambled to second place and sat on first's wheel. then he died off and I took the lead about a mile in. I kept a good pace for a while, but not fast enough for the monsters of the sport class (i.e. Ken Tankersley, Jason Hopkins, and a couple more). I was passed and dropped quick by four or five riders (the two above, plus Steve Tolley and ..I can't remember the others). I held onto Jason for a few minutes through the twisting, steep, and rocky hills. But, he got away from me. I really love racing..especially when friends pass by cruising at abnormal speeds with all the intensity of a pro. Good stuff. So, I hung in and took a respectable (by my standards) third place in my age group, only 2 minutes behind Jason and 6 minutes behind the speeding Tank(ersley).

Now I will tell you the difference between my style of riding and most of the racers that joined me at Burke Farm: after the race, I went to Sherando area to ride more that evening. The plan was to set up camp and ride another 20+ miles in the mountains with my com padre Todd Green. The next day was to be a 60 to 80 mile day. When I told the other racers my plan and invited them, they all looked at me like I was crazy.

I got to Sherando area at 5pm and we set out to ride around 6. Time was a factor, so we decided to ride up the Mills Creek Trail (AKA Turkey Pen) and then head down Kennedy Ridge and back to camp. This would have been around twenty miles.

So we headed up Mills Creek Trail with a firm pace to ensure we could make the trip before dark. Todd joked about something bad happening about "4 miles in". It was creepy, especially after we hit...wait for it... I was leading and saw a willow-like bush hanging over the trail ahead. I figured that I could just push through it no problem. As soon as I hit the branch, I was, yes, "4 miles in". I apparently let go of my handlebars screamed and grabbed at my face! Todd was trying to figure out why I would let go of my bars, when he started getting the pinch, or stings rather. I ran off about 150 yards down the trail and Todd ran up to a ridge. I had hit and split open a bald-headed hornets' nest (the large paper mache football thing)! They were all up in my ear stinging me all over the left side of my head, neck and shoulder. I guess I was lucky (I'm still trying to understand how one can call me lucky after this situation) that I'm not allergic.

So, I got some good ol' skin removal on the knee and a dozen or more stings. Also, I had a bunch of brown goo on my Camelbak, no sure what it was, but it came from the nest. I knew I had to go back to get my bike, but I did have to weigh the value of the bike/consequence of returning... :) Upon my return to "4 miles in", I saw the nest and the broken area on the nest as well as a swarm of hornets that looked very unhappy.

"ALL I want is my bike!" No comprenden englais? Well, I guess I'd have to get stung. again...

I crept slowly over to the bike and a hornet came out and zapped my hand before I could get there. AT that point, I figured I better just get it and run. So I did. What an amazing value!!! 1 Turner Flux 08 for 1 hornet sting!!

Well, Todd got lit up, too. He sustained 4 stings. After all the drama (and wasted time), we kept riding up Mills Creek Trail until about 7:30pm. Unfortunately, it was getting dark and we had to turn around. We took a HUGE detour around the hornets (upon my request) and got back to camp by dark. A fire and hot dinner made all the pain melt away. :)

Since we didn't get to finish the ride on Saturday, we rode it again on Sunday morning (didn't hit the hornets the second time around). We ran into a couple of dudes from C-Ville riding at a near-same pace, so we joined forces. They had almost hit the nest on Saturday as well, but coming from the other direction. We rode up Mills Creek Trail to the Jeep Trail (Big Levels Trail). We rode down the Jeep trail to Coal road and then up Kennedy ridge for a second solid climb of the day. Sadly, a thunderstorm was threatening, so we cranked back down the Jeep Trail to Coal road and rode back to the Highway, where our cars were parked. We missed out on Torrey Ridge, Slacks Trail, and White Rock Gap Trail.... (next time amigo).

FYI - I e-mailed the Forest Ranger's Office in charge of that area (Pedlar Ranger District) to inform them of the hazardous conditions. They have not replied. The next day, I found out that "Super" Dave Z. had an encounter with those same hornets on Sunday!!!! Seems like a continuing problem.


Thursday, July 17, 2008

The High Cost of Gas VS. The Big Payoff of High Gas Prices

What is wrong with the transportation system in American cities, towns, and counties? No bike lanes, little mass transport, and unsuitable walkways for pedestrians... and ... too many automobiles!!!! Amazingly, even the tough minded critics of "the system" play into it and continue to fall into the daily grind of driving everywhere and bitching about gas prices, as well as complaining of poor physical health. Yeah, I can be included in the mix. I've driven about 20,000 miles per year in my car! I drive to work (six miles each way), to dinner, to the store, to the city, etc. I drive everywhere!!! And I know that most people are in the same boat.

Herein lies the GREAT thing about gas prices jumping to 4+ dollars per gallon. I've started riding my bike to work!! Almost every workday for the past month, I've jumped on the bike and cranked through traffic on the narrow, rural streets of Mechanicsville to get to work. At first it was hard for me because I'm not a morning person, but I am getting used to it and felling better, more awake and alert, and healthy everyday that I ride to work. I've not lost any weight or anything (not that I really need to), but I feel more energized and positive in general. I wonder how biking to work affects other people? My friend in Switzerland told me last year that his dad was diagnosed with high blood pressure and that his doctor said he needed medication to reduce it. His dad refused the meds and just started riding his bike to work and eating a little better. In less than a month, he lost several pounds and his blood pressure reduced to a normal level. Awesome huh?

Back to gas prices -
Now that I've been riding to work, I've reduced my gas usage by almost half. I've also started hypermiling (www.hypermiling.com), or trying to hypermile... I haven't recorded my MPG changes yet, but I'm sure it helps as I used to be an aggressive driver...

I know that other people are thinking along the same lines about how to save gas and money. People are buying scooters, high MPG vehicles, and hybrids like mad! I've been waiting for this type of shift in American mentality for a long time. The days of the super big, gas guzzling, monster mom mobiles are done. Good riddens! maybe we'll see a thinner, more healthy America in the upcoming years... and an America that is more environmentally friendly and healthy as well!