Monday, August 31, 2009

Happy Birthday Lunchbox!

Happy Birthday, now bow to me!

Today is the day that we celebrate the anniversary of the birth of Isaiah, a.k.a Lunchbox. Way back in 1996, I became a dad, and it was the greatest day of my life. I now have a teenager, and it seems weird (and I feel old.) He’s great kid, so I’m not that worried about the typical teenager headaches and such. After I get home tonight, Little Miss Sunshine and I are taking him out to his favorite dinner location, Kabuto. It has become a birthday tradition since we moved to Charlotte. Mmmmmm, I can’t wait for dinner and a show.

Well done, okay?

In other news, Saturday was a long day. I mentioned before that we were headed to the Rivers Edge Mountain Bike Marathon at the U.S. National Whitewater Center. Little Miss Sunshine, Lunchbox, and I got up before dark and loaded up the truck with bicycles, coolers, clothing, first aid, and the kitchen sink. We arrived at the Whitewater Center just as the sun was coming up, made our way down to the start/finish area, and helped with some of the setup activities.

As you can most likely see in the background, I finally received my National Mountain Bike Patrol banner. I hung it up so everyone could see that we were there and ready to help. Little did I know that it would be a busy day for first aid. The Rivers Edge Mountain Bike Marathon is a 50 mile race through some of the most technical single track in the Charlotte area. I’ve even been told that there is about 800 feet of elevation gain during the course of one lap. I race there during our weekly race series, but I’ve never done 50 miles. Big races like these I usually ride the course and provide assistance (first aid or mechanical), so this would be routine, or so I thought. After the racers were given the start signal (go, I think), The Dirty Party Cycle and I headed out for some course marshalling duty. The plan was to sweep the trail behind the riders, and locate and potentially dangerous areas on the trail. We were about a half-mile into the trail, and I got a call that a rider had gone down at the bottom of Goat Hill, so me and DPC immediately high-tailed it to the other side of the park. It seemed like about 15 forevers before I got to the infamous Goat Hill, but I made it, and I was ready to assist the fallen mountain biker. Goat hill is a tough, make you cry for mommy climb, followed by a very rewarding super-fast descent. However, in race conditions, it’s an accident waiting to happen. I found the downed rider a few feet before the bottom of the trail, and he was conscious and breathing normally. I asked if he was okay, and he said he most likely broke his femur. He told me that he went over the bars, and landed on a rock, right on is hip area. I gave him an ice pack to minimize the swelling, and I (along with several others now on the scene) kept the area clear until the local EMS arrived. After he was taken to the hospital, we remained at the bottom of Goat Hill, just in case. A few minutes later, another rider went down. He crashed pretty hard, but he was able to get back on his bike and keep going. After that close call, we took off and rode the rest of the trail.

The Whitewater Center was in full swing, and it was more crowded that I have ever seen. It was nice to see everyone outside enjoying a nice beautiful day. I hung out by the finish line for the rest of the race, in case I needed to head out to the trail again. While I was out on the trail, Little Miss Sunshine was busy fixing broken people too, including one guy who will need stitches. The race was great, and despite a few injuries, it was a great success. The winner finished in a little over 4 hours, and last place was closer to 8 hours. Thanks to Charlotte Sports Cycling, the U.S. National Whitewater Center, Widmer Brothers, Cane Creek, and all of the other sponsors that made it a success.

Coincidentally, my next summer series race is at this very same venue. Stay tuned…

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Racing on the farm…

Last night was another stop on the Charlotte Mountain Bike Series whirlwind tour. Racing took place at the fabulous Fisher Farm trails, about 30 minutes north of Charlotte, in Davidson, NC (home of Davidson College.) This is one of my favorite places to ride, and it always ends up being a challenging race. The trail is really fast and it flows well, but it will also wear you out if you’re not careful. This was also a “double points” race, which meant I had a better chance of moving up in the overall standings. Big thanks to Mark from The Cycle Path bike shop for being out there supporting this event, and also for popping up all over the trail during the race to shout out words of encouragement to me and my fellow racers. Mark is the trail coordinator for Fisher Farm, and he’s done a great job with the trail.

We arrived at the race about an hour before the start, so we had time to register and do some warm-up riding. Today was the return of Lunchbox to the local race scene after a lengthy summer vacation in Florida. He raced prior to going to Florida, but after a big layoff he was itchin' to get back into it. He had the standard pre-race jitters, which he said was because he doesn’t know the trail that well. Bwahhh, I say. I told him he would be fine, and that everyone gets nervous before a race (me included.) Well, his group was the last to leave the start line, and he took off at full speed. The race starts at the bottom of a grassy hill, with the intention of spreading out the pack before they actually enter the trail. He took it to the usual race leaders and ended up hitting the trail in second place, which is not a bad spot at all.

Upon entering the single track, there is a really tight and twisty downhill section that is super fast. He held onto his position and stayed with the leader for a while. The section is followed by a couple of tough climbs, and then it’s back to some more fun downhill action. After the first two mile section he entered into the second part of the trail. I happened to pass him while I was coming out of the second section (I left about 12 minutes before him.) He looked like he was doing fine. I yelled some words of encouragement to him as I passed. The second section is a lot more technical, with rocks, roots, and wooden ladder bridges. I guess that wore him out a little, because he slipped back to third. He came around to the start/finish line and headed out for lap number two.

I guess sitting around in Florida all summer didn’t pay off at all. Back on the trail, it was just about survival now. He gave up another place, but held on from there. He took the final climb out to the finish line and gave it all he had. The result: a respectable 5th place finish. I was so proud of him. He was happy to have another race behind him.

My race was a little less exciting. Doug, one of my usual racing buddies was mysteriously absent, so it was just Patrick and I.

Patrick: “I’m just gonna try to stay with you.”

Me: “I was gonna try to stay with you!”

Patrick: “Well, you’ve been kicking my ass out here lately.”

Me: “Uhhh, I don’t know this time.”

We shall see, I guess. We took off up the hill fighting for position, and I didn’t get up where I wanted to be.

I tried to get ahead of the slow group, but I ended up behind this guy that wanted to ride his brakes all through the downhill section. I had evil thoughts of running him into the bushes, but instead I just rode his wheel until we came to the climb. I passed him and that was the last of that guy. I think he may have bonked and ended up finishing near the back. I can relate to that, as I have been there in the past. Anyway, I rode as hard as I could, but it seemed like the entire pack was stuck to my rear wheel. After every climb, I gained a few precious seconds on them, eventually leaving them all. As I approached the start/finish line, Little Miss Sunshine was waiting with a water bottle, since I somehow didn’t think to bring it with me. I took a much needed drink, put it in the bottle cage on Goose, and headed back into the trail for the final lap. I caught up to and passed a guy who had passed me earlier, and he desperately tried to hang onto my wheel. That didn’t last long, but I looked back and noticed that Patrick had clawed his way through the pack to get to me. He couldn’t have picked a better time to attack. My right leg had started to cramp, and the only relief was to stand up and coast. That doesn’t help at all during a race, so I tried to tough it out. I finally motioned for him to go by me, and I stuck to his wheel. I decided that I would let him pull me the rest of the way, and I would attack on the final climb. I kept up on the downhill, which benefitted me because I have a weight advantage over him. Gravity is so cool. When we got to the final climb, my leg had gotten worse, and there was no way I could pass him. He got a little further ahead of me, and beat me by a few seconds. I rolled through the finish line and immediately got on the ground to stretch out my leg.

Another one in the books, and I gave it all I had. I crossed the line in 8th place, which will surely move me up in the overall standings. We helped break down all of the race stuff, grabbed some dinner at good ‘ole Fuel Pizza, and headed home. Next up: volunteer duty at the Rivers Edge Mountain Bike Marathon.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

What’s up with Goose?

If you’re reading this blog, you are the smartest person in the world. Okay, not likely, but I’m hoping that you’re at least of average intelligence. You may have noticed that I talked about washing Goose a few days ago. I’m guessing that you’re smart enough to figure out that my bike is named Goose. Why, you might ask? Well, every bike should have a name; that’s just the rules, man. Lunchbox calls his bike, “Clark,” in reference to his favorite comic book character(plus the fact that it’s blue and loaded with stickers that symbolize that certain character.) My old bike’s name was Slug, simply because its rider pedaled it slowly during races. I didn’t think that moniker should be passed on to the new Diamondback Sortie 3 I got a while back, since I had become a little faster with a season of racing under my belt. In my quest to name my new machine, I recalled an ad I saw in one of the monthly bike mags:

Introducing the all new Sortie four-inch travel trail bike – developed specifically for fast attacks on your favorite trails and to be your wingman in the woods. The Sortie series includes three different models, all built on the same platform employing the mission-proven low center of gravity Knuckle Box suspension design and Rapid Response geometry, allowing for unsurpassed agility and performance. From the custom butted / formed tubes and sealed-bearing pivots that make up the Sortie frame to the components that finish out each Sortie model, we put an immense amount of attention into each detail so the only thing you’d have to pay attention to is the trail and enjoying the ride.

Ummm, what the hell is a Knuckle Box?

Your wingman in the woods, huh? Well, all I could think of was the movie Top Gun, but there was no way I was using “Maverick.” That would imply that I take my racing way too seriously. Immediately the beloved “Goose” character popped in my head. Yep, that describes my Sortie and my racing style perfectly. Now I just gotta get that song out of my head.

Hopefully I don’t hit my noggin and die when I eject from the cockpit.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Da Bears

Friday night we were invited to the Mega Huge Ginormous Grand Opening Celebration of Da Bears Den. My friend and across-the-street neighbor, A.J. and his father just bought this place and converted it to a Chicago-themed sports bar. The fam and I headed out there at around 9:00 p.m., since it’s always nice to show up fashionably late. It’s a pretty nice place. There’s some memorabilia on the walls, complete with freshly painted Chicago Bears team colors. They have pool tables, darts, some kind of golf video game, and TVs aplenty. As soon as we walked in the door, A.J. was there to greet us. I asked him if they had any beer on tap that didn’t suck. He said, “Uh, we have Blue Moon.” Good enough for me, although I did notice that they sold some kind of beer in a can. It was most likely Miller Light, or something hideous like that. To each his own, I suppose. We hung out for a while and found the usual crowd milling about. You see, A.J. is known for having these really great parties in his garage, which was really convenient for me. I could drink as much as I wanted, and then all I had to do was walk home. I guess now I won’t be drinking so much at his parties. Anywho, we talked to some of the garage-party regulars, and had a nice time. Little Miss Sunshine even made us some new friends. Stay tuned.

We didn’t stay out at the party/bar all night, since the Lunchbox and I had to get up at the crack of dark for some volunteer duty. It was time for the Cackalacky Cup, a very interesting time trial-type mountain bike race at the beautiful Lake Norman State Park, in Troutman, NC. This event was put on by Neal Boyd from Charlotte Sports Cycling, and First Flight Bicycles, in Statesville, NC.

The first time trial was “technical,” meaning that there were several obstacles spread out along the course. My volunteer duty station had me at the first, which proved to be interesting. The funniest thing was the difficulty the 29er crowd had trying to weave in and out of the cones. I guess clown wheels aren’t the perfect solution for everything, especially tight turning.

The second time trial was just fast, held on the Monbo loop. You can haul ass through that trail, and the racers did just that. Lunchbox and I found a dangerous spot to camp out, so we could take some pictures and also help with potential crashes. I’m happy to say that there were no crashes, but there sure were a lot of close calls. Even the little kids did a great job. After the last participant passed by us, Lunchbox and I swept the course as we rode the entire Monbo loop. Ahh, another incident-free day as a Bike Patroller.

After the race times were totalled, we had the awards ceremony at the pavilion on the lake. Lunchbox handed out trophies, and I handed out prizes. We saw some familiar faces from the Wednesday night race series, and some new faces too. After the eating, prizes, and other general forms of celebration, we broke down all of the tents and tables, and packed it all in the trailer. Just as soon as Neal closed the trailer door, here comes the rain again. Just in time.

Sunday was our bi-weekly Tarheel Trailblazers Kid’s Ride. This week the ride was held at Francis Beatty Park in Matthews, NC. We had another great turnout, and Lunchbox was happy to be back doing “club stuff” as he calls it. We stopped at the trail features to assist the kids that need extra help. It’s so amazing to watch their confidence grow right in front of your eyes. Yeah, I enjoy racing a lot, but nothing tops this. Helping these kids learn to ride trails is the best feeling. All I can hope is that they grow to love this sport as much as I do. Aside from just going along for the ride, I was there as a Bike Patroller, just in case the little ones get hurt. The funny thing is, they fall and get right back up. The kid’s rides usually have more adults that go down and need medical attention. This guy fell while trying to land a jump, and crashed right on his face. Luckily, I was standing right next to him when he went down. I offered assistance, but he declined, saying he only hurt his pride. I bet he’s hurting today. Check out the video here.

Group Shot

Lunchbox does not like the paparazzi. He's trying to attack the camera.

Rockin’ the garden

Friday, August 21, 2009

Mud-fest ‘09

I’ve been to every race in the Charlotte Mountain Bike Series this season, except of course the ones that have been cancelled due to rain. (What, you go to cancelled races?) So yeah, a few have been called off, because it only seems to want to rain on Wednesdays around here. This past Humpday looked really promising. I had the day off from work, so I delivered the Lunchbox to “Skate Camp” at Soul Ride Skatepark in Concord at the usual 7:45 a.m. drop-off time. He basically hangs out at the park all day, socializing with other little skate grommets and learning new tricks from the staff members. (I’ll take a moment here to shout out to Wes and Christian. Thanks guys!)

Okay, back to the day. I arrived back home to meet with the TV repair guy so he could tell me I had to wait another week while they order a part. So, still no big screen TV in our house. Little Miss Sunshine is pissed, but I really don’t care. Yeah, it’s a nice TV and all, but I just don’t watch it that much. We do “movie night” usually once a week, and I do miss that. I could give a shit about regular TV unless it’s sports, but there’s not a whole lot going on right now. Baseball sucks, and the NFL hasn’t really started yet. Preseason is just glorified practice and ESPN fodder to help break up the stupid baseball highlights. Oh, you like baseball? Good for you, but I’d rather not watch a sport where you can see the athletes get fatter during the game. These chubby slobs stand around for about 95% of the time. NASCAR drivers are more athletic, even if they only turn left. Jeez, off on a tangent. Oh well. I hope I didn’t offend you. Well, unless you’re a baseball fan, then I meant to.

"I'm not fat! I'm big-boned!"

After TV guy left, I spent the early part of the morning tear-assing through the fridge eating everything I could find. I also drank water like a fish since I woke up pretty dehydrated. I went out to the garage and busted out Goose to give it a nice bath. After the spin cycle, I dried it off and greased up all of the parts that needed a good greasin’. My new grips from Lizard Skins arrived the day before, so I put them on. They have an option where you can customize the lock rings, so I went with “Bike Patrol.” I figured I would do everything I could to make the new Tarheel Trailblazers Bike Patrol a success. Advertising on my grips might seem like overkill, but it’s not like I set my hair on fire to sell a Pepsi or anything. Check it…

I played around on the Internets for a while, posting quasi-humorous pictures on the Tarheel Trailblazers website. I packed up my bike and other associated crap and headed out to pick up Lunchbox. We wanted to get out to Renaissance early enough to help Neal and Doug set up. We were there about a half hour or so, got the tent set up, and then a furious rain was unleashed from the heavens. The drops were huge and really cold. Oh shit, I thought, another one cancelled. But, just like that, it was gone. It tried to sprinkle a few more times after that, but it was okay. The show must go on. We were racing this one. We finished setting up everything, and slowly but surely race participants arrived. I went on a little pre-race warm up ride, and it was a little scary. The trail was slick in the corners, and the roots made it that much worse. I knew this was going to be an interesting race. People were going down. I knew for sure I would be one of them.

At 6:15 we headed down to the start line and the groups started leaving in two minute intervals. When my group started, I stood up and mashed up the hill, determined not to get stuck behind the slow group. I got on the trail in about 14th place or so, so I had some work to do. At the minimum, I had to catch Doug and Patrick to let them know I was there. We have a friendly rivalry, and we all usually finish pretty close to each other, taking turns bragging about who came in first out of the three of us. It didn’t take long to find Doug, because the group hadn’t really split up yet. Doug slid out in a corner, I passed him, and I never saw him again until the finish line. I thought for sure he would catch me after he got back on the bike, since I usually burn out around the second mile or so. I guess the road bike is helping, because that didn’t happen this time.

I kept talking to myself during the race. I would say things like, “Okay, doing good. Try to keep this pace. Back off a little, you’re gonna bonk. Now, PUSH IT!” That shit worked I guess. I found Patrick on a left turn that splits around a tree, and I took the straight shot and beat him around it. He stayed with me for a few minutes, but I was hammering away and not letting up. I planned on standing up and mashing until he dropped off or I passed out, whichever came first. All that action was pretty early in the race, so unfortunately my race excitement ended there. Sure, I passed a few other riders, but I don’t know them, so it didn’t really matter. Those two guys push me, and I think we’re all better racers because of our little "rivalry."

I crossed the finish line in 10th place, with plenty of energy left. Shit. That means I could have ridden a little faster. I guess I have a lot to learn. I should be happy, since that’s the highest I’ve finished in any of these summer races. I finished 1st at the Catawba Riverfront Classic back in June, but it's a longer course, and it's not a part of this series. With the points I accumulated, I’m sitting in 9th place for the season; 4 points out of 8th. My goal was to finish in the top ten when it’s all over, so I may end up on target. I forgot to tell Lunchbox where the camera was, so we didn’t get any pictures. I did take one yesterday before I washed my bike again. Yes, it was a mud-fest, and I never went down.

Monday, August 17, 2009

All is well...

So, we have established the fact that I don't really have a set time to blog, nor do I keep a specific schedule. Whenever I get to it, I suppose. I have enough regimented shit in my life, so I don't need anymore schedules, etc. I'll call this a weekend recap, I guess.

Okay, Friday was a hell day at work. I stayed busy all day, and I barely had time to wipe my own ass (I did though, so no funny smells here.) When I got home, all I wanted was a good meal and a good beer. Little Miss Sunshine and I went to Texas Roadhouse, and I ordered the biggest steak I could find. Topped it off with a couple of big glasses of Blue Moon, so I was a happy camper (or restaurant patron I guess.) Went home, and went to bed.

Saturday morning started pretty early, since the cats and dogs don't like to go hungry. After the critters were sacrificed, er, I mean fed, I grabbed the road machine and headed out the door. I initially intended to ride Uptown and back from my house, but my plans were soon thwarted. I headed out on Mallard Creek Church Road, and turned right on Tryon, heading towards Uptown Charlotte. I made it as far as City Boulevard before I decided that I would not make it to my destination. No, I had plenty of energy. It was because I feared for my life. I quickly learned that Tryon is not a very bicycle-friendly road. Next time I'll do a little more research before trying to ride into the city. Anyway, I turned on City, and passed the new IKEA store headed towards parts unknown. I made a series of random turns and such, and I actually ended up on a nice route. Some of my ride took me to Sugar Creek Road, which was nice since it gets a little country when you go north of I-85. On the way back from the Huntersville area, I finally found out what it's like to draft on a road bike. I caught up to a couple of roadies cranking for dear life, so I settled in behind them. I was amazed at how easily I recovered, and how little effort it took to keep up. I figured I would play human-bicycle slingshot, so I shifted gears, and took off. They attempted to keep up, but I guess I had too much mo. He he. This roadie shit is pretty fun, as long as you don't take it too seriously. So, I meandered my way back towards the house, where Little Miss Sunshine was waiting, along with a few tasks to complete before we left for the airport.

The silly roadie action was entertaining, but the real reason I felt so great today was because Isaiah was boarding a plane from Orlando, just as I was heading to the Charlotte Airport to pick him up. Aside from a short trip to FL last month where I only spent one day with him, it's been seven long weeks (for both of us.) Since he's an unaccompanied minor on USAirways, he had to be the last one off the plane. That shit took forever. Finally though, the Lunchbox arrives back in NC. We made our way to the house, and he enjoyed some pets, his room, and his new computer, among other things. He was just glad to have everything back to normal, and so were we.

Sunday morning, Isaiah was ready for the standard breakfast at the Original Pancake House. We arrived at 7:00 a.m. sharp to beat the crowd, and commenced to consuming large amounts of pancakes. Mmmmmmmm. Back to the house, The Lunchbox was ready for some singletrack action. I suggested we head out to the U.S. National Whitewater Center for some new green trail action. He enjoyed it, and so did I. All is well...

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Where are you?

That is the number one question. Well, it would be if anyone was here to ask questions. Here’s my answer in one word. Lazy. “Oh yeah, I’ll post a blog entry today,” I always say. Most days my excuse is that I have nothing interesting to say. That’s a load of crap, because it sure doesn’t stop the millions of bloggers that exist on the internets. Just use The Google and see for yourself.

Since my first post, I’ve done a crapload of races, and even got on the podium a couple times. Oh yeah, I also bought a road bike. I’m hoping that it will help me improve my mountain biking awesomeness. I recently became a National Mountain Bike Patrol member. I’m starting a patrol here in Charlotte, affiliated with the Tarheel Trailblazers.

As for today, I’m hoping that the rain holds off so that I can race the Charlotte Mountain Bike Series at Col. Francis Beatty Park.

Keep your fingers crossed.