Tuesday, October 15, 2019

We All Need Goals


I wasn't completely honest when I said I started bikepacking because I wanted adventure.

Well that part is true, but what really happened was this...

I was tired of the same ol' routine; driving to a trail, riding some singletrack, and driving back home.  I really did want to have some adventures, and the road bike sorta did it for me for a while because I could ride all over the place and check out the scenery, all while getting some miles.  I tried to do some of that on my mountain bikes on the way to the local trails too, and then I remembered an event I'd heard about the last few years.

So instead of just stumbling into bikepacking, I intentionally decided to become a bikepacker/amateur homeless person just so I could do this:

Yes folks, without any prior bikepacking experience I decided to go all out and set a goal of riding across my former home state in an event called the Cross Florida Individual Time Trial, or C.F.I.T.T. for short.

Here's some information from the Singletrack Samurai website:

The Cross Florida Individual Time Trial is Florida’s Premier Off road Ultra Endurance Event. It is a one of a kind coast to coast bikepacking/Ultra Running challenge, the only one of its kind in the United States.

The route is 250 miles of mixed terrain: Singletrack, forest road, paved roads, bike trails, double track and grassy abandoned easements.  Typically the event includes the use of the Fort Gates Ferry in Welaka, Florida.  In the event the Ferry is not running, riders can expect a detour north Thru Palatka.  The ride takes place on the  Coast to Coast Northern Cross Florida route and can be ridden at anytime.  The Second Saturday in December, Riders from all around gather for a grand depart and go at the route at the same time. 

Now for the important stuff, the rules...

1. You must complete the route under your own power. Once you set foot in a motored power vehicle you are voluntarily withdrawing from the challenge. THERE are exceptions made to this rule in cases of medical emergencies.. If you are injured and need help, get healthy and you can rejoin the course at your convenience.

2. There is a no drafting rule in effect.

3. You must be able to safely carry yourself the length of the route. You can only obtain supplies from commercial establishments along or near the route. You cannot pre arrange any kind of support or supplies and there are no SAG vehicles allowed. NO TRAIL MAGIC ALLOWED. THIS MEANS ANYONE OFFERS YOU ANYTHING YOU SAY NO.

4. There will be 3 checkpoints that you are required to provide photographic evidence for. Some checkpoints may require video documentation. In an effort to prove that you passed these areas you can either email your pics and videos or you can post them on your facebook wall for me to see and verify.

5. You can take as long as you need to complete the challenge, there is no time limit and no cut offs. Every rider/RUNNER will start participate in a mass start in they start with the group the day of the event.

Most of this stuff is common to ultra endurance type events.  This will be my race/ride, and I am not to receive help from anyone.  That's fine.  The key rule up there for me is number five...

Take as long as you need.

I know a few folks that have done this in just one day.  My goal is three days.  That's still a lofty one considering that I've never ridden this far on any kind of bike.  And that's why I've been spending so much of my time riding with a fully loaded bike.  I'm trying to get ready for this dumb idea that just randomly popped into my head.

On the surface, this looks like it could be a real hoot.  Riding a not so direct path across the state where I spent most of my life won't be easy, but I'll get to spend some time back in the Florida that I actually miss...

The parts without too many people.

Can I do it?  I have no idea.  With a little less than two months to go, I'm still preparing myself for the sufferfest.  Now that you know why I've been posting about bikepacking, prepare to see my progress in future posts as I ramp up to do something that may very well kill me.

Okay, not really, but I guess there is a chance of that.

Tune in for my not so precise training plan, including longer rides and gear testing.  In the meantime, check out this little video that does a pretty good job explaining what my dumb ass is attempting to do.

It's old, but you get the point.  See y'all back here soon.

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

I'm Only Happy When I'm Suffering

Just so you can keep up, this is part two from the last time I posted...

More climbing.  That's what you get around here, especially near Crowders Mountain.  My legs hurt, mostly because this was the longest ride I'd attempted in a very long time.  About two miles into my return trip, I started having regrets about not camping overnight.  But then I did something I've done a million times...

I embraced the suck.

My legs hurt.  It was hot.  My bike was loaded with everything but the goddamn kitchen sink.  Who gives a shit.  I had to get home under my own power.  So I kept going.

I made a brief stop to check out the view though.

After a little while, my legs felt sort of okay.  I remembered back when I rode all the time and this type of mileage wouldn't have been shit to me, so I used that memory to keep pushing forward.  The plan was to build up to something bigger, and you can't grow without some pain.  I started looking for little victories.  That shitty road section, the steep ass climb, the energy sucking grassy easements.  Anything that I could tell myself was progress.

Even signs...

Though it's sorta right next door, Gastonia seemed forever away.  But it was closer to home.  I was taking a different way home and made a wrong turn that put me on the main drag, but at least I had the safety of side walks.  I stopped to check the map to correct my course (to get TF out of civilization as much as possible), and when I turned around I saw a shit storm brewing.

Almost literally.

Okay, maybe I didn't think actual shit would fall from the sky.

That was some ugly sky action creeping up on me.  Before I had a chance to make a plan, it started pouring rain.  I had a rain jacket with me, but pouring rain turned into a storm that a light jacket would not repel.  High winds, lightning, and stinging rain sent me for cover.  Since I was in "civilization", cover was easy to find.  I darted towards a bank drive through to wait it out.

My legs didn't need a break, but I also didn't need to get struck by lightning.  However, since my legs felt okay I was worried about taking an extended break.  So I used my time wisely to stretch.

After what seemed like forever (which was only about 45 minutes), the rain slowed and the lightning stopped.  I kept going because I had to.  With the sky still looking really ugly, I took my chances and got off the main drag.  It was barely sprinkling at this point, and the cool rain felt good to me.  After some more cut-through shit I found myself crossing one of the two rivers in my path on the way back home.

That was another small victory for me, but I was actually running out of energy.  I was so close to home but daylight was fading.  I pressed on through the hurt, eventually crossing the Catawba River and making the climb back towards home.  A power line cut and a shitty road section later and I was home.  The whole thing took me over ten hours, including the time I waited out the storm.  The time is important, because my goal is to improve upon this in the future.  Little victories, remember?

I'd completed a hair over 50 miles, which was the longest bike ride I'd done in quite some time.  Despite some bad weather and a little discomfort I was home safe and sound.  The important lesson I learned that day was that I could actually do all that in one day, as opposed to the stupid plan I had of doing an overnight and riding it in two days.  I also learned that I am actually happier when I'm suffering.  Or at least when the suffering is over.

I still had an overnight trip on my mind though, but I would have to ride a longer distance to make it worthwhile.  So, I started planning some longer day trips to build up to an acceptable distance for an overnight.

I'll get into that next time I guess, and maybe tell y'all what the big goal is.

Friday, October 4, 2019

So Why Bikepacking?

Other than just needing some adventure?  Well...

Who would want to ride for so long that their ass goes numb, every part of their body hurts, and they can barely see straight?  Well, I would.  I mentioned in the last post that I am an idiot.  There's more to it than that though.  The simple fact is, I ride a desk all day inside a climate-controlled environment.  I get up and walk all over my building, up and down stairs on occasion, but mostly, I sit.  Our bodies are not designed for that shit.  Everyone wants to take it easy, relax, etc., but is it really relaxing when you don't do a damn thing in the first place?  I'm not saying that having a job like this isn't difficult, but it's not hard on the body.

I know most people (here where I work and I would venture to guess most other places as well) do the following:  Wake up, climb in a little box on wheels, drive to another box, sit all day in that box, and when work is over climb back into that box on wheels, and ride back to the home box for the night.  Sure, there's eating, laundry, etc. but lets face it...  They are in a box all damn day.  Those same people complain about the weather (right now it's too hot, but soon it will be too cold.)  But why?  The weather makes you uncomfortable for what?  Maybe fifteen minutes out of the day while you get in/out of the aforementioned boxes?  And you need to relax? 

GTFO with that nonsense.

Some days, I spend all day inside those boxes too.  You know, because life.  I guess that's fine sometimes.  But most people I see spend the majority of their lives this way.  I guess it's because they don't want to be uncomfortable.  Or they just like bitching about anything and everything.  I'm no expert though.  Who gives a shit. 

Anyway, back to bikepacking.  When I decided to suddenly become a bikepacker (or amateur homeless person, thanks Dicky) I went all in.  The rides got longer, the bike bags multiplied, and I suddenly figured out what kind of shit I needed to put in those bags.  I started with short day trips, but I knew I would eventually get to using this:

I've slept in that hammock in The Pisgah before, but not because I packed it on my bike and rode there to do it.  So naturally I wanted to do an overnight trip, and my pal James told me I should (because of the big plan thing I haven't talked about yet.)  I didn't want to ride way too far, camp, then ride home (for fear of not having the legs to actually make it) so I planned something small(ish.)

I found a good route of mostly back roads and off-road to Crowders Mountain State Park, west of here.  I figured at twenty five miles out and twenty five back I'd be okay, and with all those trees I could throw up a hammock pretty much anywhere.  I know, fifty total miles in two days doesn't seem like much, but for someone that had been riding very little it was a huge step.  My fitness was like my love for riding...all but gone.

With a solid route and all my gear loaded, I was ready.  Then some home stuff took away my second day, my my stubborn ass wouldn't change the plan (much.)  I'll just ride out there, set up the hammock as if I were camping, pack it up, then ride home the same day.  I wasn't sure if I had that distance in me, but you know my motto... Who Gives A Shit.

I took off, meandering through some back roads across the river towards the monadnock that is Crowders Mountain.

I took some quiet roads...

Grassy easements...

And even a greenway conveniently heading in my direction...

About fifteen miles in, I stopped for food/drinks at the last sign of civilization.  Then I looked up and saw my motivation for the day...

After that it was back roads and even a really backwoods dirt road I stumbled upon.  I took a chance with it, even though there were shotgun shells scattered everywhere and dogs running around.

I made it out, hit a little section of paved road, then a steep ass climb finally put me at my destination...

I was pretty tired, mostly because that was one of the longest rides I'd done in quite some time.  I set up my hammock, ate my lunch, and relaxed while I wondered if I had the legs to get home.  I sorta felt okay, but I really wish I could have just slept in that hammock for a while.

After digesting my food and getting re-hydrated, I packed up my hammock, etc. and started my journey towards home.  My legs felt like shit.

Tune in next week to see what happens next, even though it's pretty obvious that I'm not still out there.

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Trying To Stay Regular...

I attempted to get back to blogging a while back and stopped again.  No excuse.  I'm just plain lazy and forgetful.  I'm really trying, Ringo.

Well, I'm trying again.

So let's just jump right in.  I've been pretty regular on the social medias during my hiatus at least, posting pictures of rides I've been doing.  And yes, I've been riding...  a lot.  Those that follow along know that I've changed things up a bit but only a few know exactly why.  I have some big shit planned (coming up in a few months), but there is a reason why I started planning this big shit.  And not just so I could write the work "shit" repeatedly.  Shit.  Uh, I mean, who gives a shit.

I always used to say, "I ride all kinds of bikes, but I'm primarily a mountain biker."  I said that shit like it meant something special.  And it did (to me), at the time.  I loved riding in the woods on trails more than any other kind of bicycle riding.

Noticed I said "loved."  I somehow got into a funk and just got burned out on the whole scene.  Local trails were boring to me.  Mostly because everything is pretty much the same nowadays (with few exceptions.)  People want that fast, smooth, and "flowy" shit, so everything you see is just that.  But it's boring.  I like that stuff sometimes, but when that's all everyone wants to ride (and build) it gets old really quick.  And I really don't get it either.  Most folks I see are riding full suspension machines built for them thar hills because they are "comfortable", but my full rigid singlespeed is just as comfortable to me.  I enjoy suffering though.  I'm also an idiot. 

And that's the other thing.  Everyone keeps jumping onto the next "new thing", trying to play keep up in a game that's designed (by bike industry people) not to be won.  And honestly, it's not just prevalent in the bike world.  People do that all the time in everyday life.  Some may call it clever marketing, but I think people are just sheep and want what everyone else tells them they should want.  I'm no innovator or trendsetter by any means, which I guess explains why I don't feel the need to stay with the times.  But if this shit keeps up, everyone will be riding electric bikes on paved paths and pump tracks, comparing Strava times likes it's an old fashioned dick measuring contest.  No, thank you.

Anyway, this is not a rant and this is just like, my opinion , man.  I made the conscious decision to do my own thing, because trying to do what everyone else does is just so exhausting.  Racing was fun for me when I did it, and sure, I miss riding with most of my bike friends.  But while they are worried about their PRs and how much travel that new bike they saw has, I just want to go on adventures.  That's really what this is all about...

Adventure.  I yearned for it.

When I was a kid I rode my bike everywhere and is was always an adventure.  When I started riding again as an adult, I was able to capture that feeling of adventure again.  Eventually, I started being like everyone else and didn't even notice that feeling was gone.  But when I was stuck in a job that kept me traveling all the time, I managed to find some adventures every time I went to a new city.  Unfortunately, that turned out to be the only time I was able to ride.  Once I was free from traveling for work, I decided I would try to do more adventure riding.

It started with the road bike, mostly because loading a bike on my truck, driving to a trail, and riding in circles didn't seem like much of an adventure to me.  But the road wasn't really doing it for me.  I wanted more, and I definitely missed being off road. A buddy of mine told me about a shortcut to the trails near my house, so I started exploring that area.  Those boring (I've ridden them a bunch over the years) trails became fun again, because of how I got to them.  Not having a predefined path to ride was exciting...

I started doing that for a while, and the destination didn't even matter anymore.  I was having adventures in the woods, instead of trying to see how fast I could finish a particular trail.  Then it dawned on me...

Is this what those bikepacking people do?  I wasn't sure since I had never really paid much attention to it before.  I thought it was just another form of gravel grinding, i.e. dirt roadie shit.  Maybe it was, but it was starting to look fun to me.  It was riding a bike, and bikes are supposed to be fun.  I needed to find my fun again...

Could this be it?

Just like everything else I do, I jumped right in.  I did a little research, made some ridiculous plans (more on that later), and even asked one friend who I knew had some great knowledge about bikepacking (shoutout as promised to James.)  I took a bike that hasn't seen much use since I stopped racing, and starting putting some bags on it.

What was I supposed to put in those bags?  I had no idea.  I just knew I needed bags.  Then I started planning rides.  Hours of staring at Google Maps, local knowledge, and a little luck allowed me to find some cool(ish) routes.  I hit paved roads, gravel, powerline cuts, and singletrack.  And even some bushwhacking for good measure.  Riding bikes was fun again.

This was a dramatic change for me.  I had been in a funk and bikes just weren't as fun as they once were.  I remember being on a trail, even riding with friends, wishing we would hurry TF up and get to the end.  I was never in the moment, instead just going through the motions.  Once I started these new little adventures though, hours would pass before I would realize that I was tired and probably should start heading home.  It was a huge difference for sure.

And it was only the beginning.