Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Excitement Aplenty

Yes. Your observation is correct. It hasn’t been very exciting around here lately. No racing, no road rides ending in disaster, and not even any skateboarding to speak of. Welcome to the life of a total bore. How can you be so down on yourself, you say? Well, I’m not really, but I like having interesting things to talk about. However, a quick look at all of the daytime TV shows indicates that people will watch anything. I’m kind of banking on the fact that this will carry over to the reading of my blog. So, even though I am not currently fighting for a race series finish, I guess I still have things to talk about. I’ll try a little experiment on you. Look at the picture above for at least thirty seconds. Did you yawn? I did, numerous times. I’m yawning right now. Don’tcha feel sleepy right now? Take a nap, I’ll wait.

How do you feel? Good. Let’s continue. I know I mentioned before that I had a few prepartions to make for the Tree Shaker 12 Hour Mountain Bike Race. Well, as far as the tent goes, I did a little shopping on the internets. Geez Louise, I didn’t realize how expensive those damn things are. Most places want a hundred clams or more, and they are probably of the shitty variety. Now I’m wondering if I should plunk down the money for a tent that I will hardly use. Maybe I can beg, borrow, or steal one for the event. I should start looking. Like my Grandma used to say, “Time’s a wastin’.” Actually she always said, “Shit or get off the pot.”

Tonight I plan on taking a nice long road ride after work. Notice I said “plan.” Little Miss Sunshine is on call in case of a widespread heart attack dilemma in the Metro Charlotte region, so she may not be home on time. That means that Lunchbox will have to fend for himself for dinner, or wait until I get home. I’m sure he will be fine, but I am more concerned about whether or not I make it home from my roadie adventure. If Little Miss Sunshine is out late tonight saving lives, then she can’t save my sorry ass from the mechanical misadventures I’ve been having as of late. I never have to worry about these things when I am on the mountain bike. Maybe I will convince Lunchbox to go on a night-time mountain biking excursion on one of our local trails. I’m sure he will be all for it.

Yeah, and monkeys might fly out of my butt.


Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Check the signs

"Do you think this bike would make me faster?"

There’s not a lot of bike stuff going on, since the Tree Shaker 12 Hour Mountain Bike Race isn’t until next Saturday. I’m preparing as best I can, and the team thing seems to be going well. No new developments as of yet. This weekend is the big IMBA Take A Kid Mountain Biking Day at Colonel Francis Beatty Park with Trips for Kids Charlotte, the Tarheel Trailblazers, and REI. Wow, that’s a lot of links. Go visit them and see what they are all about. We are really excited and hope to have a lot of kids in attendance. I’ll talk more about it on Friday, and I’ll be sure to include a bunch of links again, just in case you didn’t get enough linky linky action. I’m just trying to stay busy and stay in shape for the Tree Shaker. Perhaps some more cross training is in order. This guy knows what I'm talking about:

“I’ll kick your ass at any sport. Bring it!”

So yeah, I’m cheating today. While there are some events coming up soon, today won’t be any more bike-related. Wait, I can feel your excitement. Ahhh, there it is. Anyway, I thought I would post up a few pictures that I have collected from our wonderful metropolitan area. I know my loyal audience deserves better than this. Well, pretend this is better, because you deserve it!

“Mmmm, sounds yummy. I’ll have that.”

“Really? What a nice service. I’m sure it keeps them sparkling fresh.”

“So, wait. If someone is trying to mow the grass in the stream, I can’t disturb them? I’m confused.”

This was at a restaurant. I guess you should get the hell out of there as fast as you can so you don't puke on their floor.

On that note, I’m out. See you tomorrow, I hope.


Monday, September 28, 2009

Manic Monday

For some reason lately I’ve been listening to a lot of 80’s music, so I figured that it wouldn’t be long before I made some reference to it in one of my posts. Ah, the 80’s, a simpler time, no doubt. Weird hairdos, clothing, and music; what’s not to love? I guess I’ve been rockin’ the big 80’ hits to mellow me out, or something like that. Most of the time it works, or it least I think it does. I get a good laugh some days when I remember what was going on during that time, how corny a song is, or sometimes even how ridiculous the videos were. I’m hoping to alter my mood a bit, without the hassle of taking mood-altering prescription medications (not that I would do that if I had any kind of said medication.) For now, I’ll stick to beer and silly 80’s music.

I figured I should get my head right for the upcoming Tree Shaker 12 Hour Mountain Bike Race. I met up with the Dirty Party Cycle yesterday to partake in some beer guzzling and some football watching at my local watering hole. We had a chance to talk about the race, and discuss some strategy. I pretty much told him that it is too late to train for it at his point, at least physically. If we can’t ride that far, then two weeks isn’t enough time to get the body ready. I surmised that if we are going to be successful, then we will have to muster up some mental toughness. The only way to finish a race of this magnitude (hey, it’s big for us), is to use the ole’ mind over matter. With a little encouragement from each other, maybe we can even win the damn thing, although that’s highly unlikely. We’re just hoping to finish and make a good showing. My training plan at this point is to just ride as much as I am able to in order to maintain my cycling fitness. I guess the other two guys will be doing the same. We won’t get a chance to ride together before the event, but we should be okay. I never said we were professional.

I guess that’s all I have for today. The brain is working slowly for some reason. I’m most likely in the usual Monday Morning Fog. Suck it up. Why is this Monday thing so difficult? It’s just another day, right? Again, suck it up. Is it really that big of a deal? Confusion is in the air. No wait, maybe that’s just fall. Whatever.

"I hope not, or else I'm done for."


Friday, September 25, 2009

Outta Time

"Great Scott, Marty! I'm going to drown because I'm not wearing a life preserver!"

Wow. I just realized that the Tree Shaker 12 Hour Mountain Bike Race is rapidly approaching. I’m pretty nervous about this endurance racing thing, so I guess I haven’t really been paying attention to the date. October 10th is rapidly approaching; two weeks from tomorrow to be exact. My former Summer Series nemesis Doug sent me a message yesterday asking if I was still in. We had been looking for a third teammate, since Patrick had other plans that weekend. Well, Yesterday morning I got word from the Dirty Party Cycle that he would join the team of suffering. I’m not sure how ready any of us are, but I figured we are all have about the same level of fitness and riding ability. I have one concern (other than the fact that none of us has ever done a race like this before), and that is our team name. Since I’m riding for Middle Ring Cycles, it almost seems like a given that I put that down as the team name. However, Doug and the DPC don’t share my team affiliation so I was thinking of putting the B-43 name out there and see how that goes. I am also partial to Team Suffering, which has no established team implications, but it sure will do a good job of describing us. I guess I can discuss it with my team.

The other thing to discuss amongst the “team” is strategy. Who goes first? How many laps each? How do we man the support tent? Should I buy a tent to use for the aforementioned support tent? Do we need chairs or a cot to flop down on between laps? A cooler full of beer? And then there’s night riding, which is another challenge. I think I’m the only one properly equipped to ride at night, although the DPC probably still has some sort of lights or light system. I know that Doug neither has any type of lights, nor has he ridden at night before. I have a tad bit (read: miniscule) more night riding time than the DPC, but that would hardly qualify me as an expert night rider. I have ridden that exact same course at night though (last year as a volunteer), which is a plus. Besides, by the time we get to the night riding, we will be so fatigued that it won’t matter. We will need all the help we can get.

Are these guys available for riding at night?

With only two weeks left, I need a plan. Looking at last year’s results, I saw that the winner of the three person male category finished with 15 laps, and a time of 11 hours, 44 minutes. The third place team finished with 14 laps and a time of 12 hours, 16 minutes. Let me break that down to see what we need to do to at least get on the podium. To really strive for greatness, we should each do 5 laps, for a total of fifteen. The reported course distance is 9 miles, so that puts us at 45 miles each. Ouch. So, 15 laps in roughly 12 hours would have us doing an average of 11.25 miles per hour, completing the 9 mile lap in 48 minutes. That’s doable, but I’m not sure if we can keep that pace for 5 laps each. I was thinking maybe two laps at a time at first, which would give us a nice break in between. So, two laps, rest four laps, two more laps, rest two more laps. Then, one each at the end will give us fifteen, total. Geez, who knew that a mountain bike race would involve so much math? Yuck. Of course, all of this depends on a few variables, like mechanical problems, crashes, etc. Did I mention that we have to pay for this suffering? That is the life of a mountain bike racer I suppose. I chose this path, and it is my density, err, my destiny. Maybe these couch potato-types are on to something. Screw it, I’m in. Bring on the suffering.

More like the Dirt Trail Through Hell, but whatever. Sign me up.


Thursday, September 24, 2009

The Gods Must Be Crazy

"What the hell is this? I ordered a Pepsi!"

No, I didn’t get hit on the head with a Coke bottle, but it sure felt like it. Although I had a week long break from any form of exercise, I shifted back into high gear starting Monday. I went back to my “regular” training schedule, including swimming and running. On M-W-F, I’m swimming at the Mecklenburg County Aquatic Center during my lunch break. On Tuesday and Thursday, I run from the same location. After work, the plan is to ride the road machine for some quality training miles. The swimming has gone, well, swimmingly. I’m easing back into it, and it hasn’t been difficult to pick up where I left off. The running was a bit of a challenge. My legs are still sore from Tuesday’s run, and I’m scheduled to hit the streets for another few miles today. I can work through that kind of soreness though, since it’s just a little lactic acid buildup.

The road bike seemed to be going well too. I took a 10 mile ride to ease back into things on Monday, and it went well. If it wasn’t for lack of time, I could have done twice that distance pretty easily. Yesterday was a whole different animal. I had planned on upping the distance, and hammering away during the ride. I started out at a nice pace of about 18 miles per hour, then stepped it up to 23-24 miles per hour when I got about two miles into it. I felt great, the roads were smooth, and I didn’t have too many problems with traffic. However, at about 9 miles into the ride, I heard the now familiar “ping” sound from my rear wheel. I knew exactly what it was this time, since I’ve heard it before. This time I was confused, because I hadn’t hit any potholes or anything. I was just riding along and it happened.

I pulled over to the side of the road to inspect the damage. Another broken spoke. Damn it. I tucked it into its neighboring spokes, released the rear brake, and continued on my way. Just like last time, the wheel was warped pretty badly, so I rode cautiously. I took the climbs really slowly, and I was kind of scared going fast down the hills. I was afraid of complete wheel failure, which would cause me to crash. I didn’t need that. As I approached a really long and steep climb, I decided to get off and walk. I thought it would be too stressful on my wounded wheel if I pressed on through the climb. When I arrived at the top, my phone started ringing. It was Little Miss Sunshine, so I answered it.

Me: Hello?

LMS: "Hey, I just wanted to let you know I’m almost home."

Me: "Oh yeah? Me too."

LMS: ?

Me: "I broke another damn spoke."

LMS: "Do you want me to come get you?"

Me: "No, I’ll make it. It will just take me a while." (Damn, stubborn ass.)

LMS: "I’m coming to get you. Where are you?"

And just like that, help was on the way. I figured I had about four miles to get home, so I told her where I thought I could meet her. I took off a little faster than before, and I made it another two miles. I stopped in our predetermined extraction point and waited. She showed up with Lunchbox in tow. I said, “Ha. Looks like you’re riding in the SAG wagon again!” We arrived at the house, and I cooked up a huge pot of linguine to make me feel better.

In reference to the title of this post, I am starting to think that the cycling gods are against my newfound interest in road riding. I’ve had more mechanical incidents is the few months I’ve been road riding than I’ve had in years of mountain biking. The problem is, Little Miss Sunshine won‘t always be there to rescue me. I didn’t call her when I first had my mechanical problem, because I knew she was working late. Well, that and I’m stubborn. Maybe I’m just cursed.

Now I have to figure out why I keep breaking spokes. I had the last broken spoke replaced and they also straightened the wheel. I figured that I wouldn’t have any more issues, since I took it to a bike shop. I’m certain they inspected the rest of the spokes for durability, so I would be aware of any future risks. I plan to drop off the wheel at the same shop this afternoon for another fix. Maybe they can tell me why I keep breaking spokes. I won’t mention the name of the shop here, because it’s not my usual shop. I’m only patronizing them for repairs because they are pretty close to my house, so it’s convenient. They are a good bicycle shop, but I don’t really have a relationship with them. I actually hate taking anything to a shop, but I have no choice. I do most of my bicycle mechanic work myself, but I don’t do wheels. I guess I need to learn, especially if this is going to be a recurring issue. On a positive note, the yet-to-be-named road bike may actually acquire a new moniker from this madness. Hmmmm.


Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Feel the Squeeze

Back when I lived in Florida, there were tons of orange trees around. I remember having to give them away because they would rot before I went through them all. When I was a kid, my grandparents would make juice from the oranges we picked from our own backyard. I did it a few times as an adult, but not very often. Recently, we acquired a rather large quantity of oranges left over from the Tour de Tots ride and the Charlotte Mountain Bike Series Finale. While looking through the fridge the other day, I immediately had a flashback to my time in Florida. “Look at all these damn oranges. They’re gonna go bad before we eat them.” Then I thought, “I’ll make juice!” Little Miss Sunshine had to remind me of my intentions a few times, since things get pretty busy around our house. Finally I got to squeezin’ last night. While the juice was super-duper delicious, I realized why I prefer to buy orange juice from the store. It takes a shitload of oranges to make a decent amount of juice, and it also takes a lot of time. According to the note that Little Miss Sunshine left for me this morning, it was worth the effort.

Shifting gears (or applying the brakes in this case), I just received word from the recently returned from vacationing Dirty Party Cycle that the Great Brake Fiasco has been resolved. Well, sort of. He told me that the latest replacement brake also had the bleed plug removed, and a little fluid had leaked out again. Not so much this time, so he proceeded to install the brakes. The stopping power was slightly questionable, so he will be visiting a local bike shop to have the brakes inspected. He doesn’t want to deal with those customer service idiots again, I’m sure. Let’s pretend he does, shall we?

Customer Service: Hello, how can we ruin your day?

DPC: You obviously know who this is.

Customer Service: No sir. We treat all of our customers to the same level of shitty service.

DPC: That’s good to hear. You sent me yet another faulty brake.

Customer Service: I apologize to you sir. Please visit our web site to order another one.

DPC: No, I don’t think so. I’m through dealing with you. I told Marsellus about it, and he’s pissed beyond the highest level of pisstivity.

Customer Service: Gulp.

DPC: Yeah, that’s right. He sent the Wolf over my way to take care of the brake problem, but he’s got something special for you.

Customer Service: click

"If that customer service rep goes to Indochina, I want somebody waiting in a bowl of rice ready to pop a cap in his ass."

You see, Marsellus doesn't like to get screwed by anyone, except Mrs. Wallace. The DPC will be back on the trail again soon.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Welcome, New Friends

Every day I check my stats on this blog. I have a lot of “regulars”, as well as a few one and done visitors (I guess asinine behavior isn’t their thing.) Most of my regular viewers are in North Carolina and Florida, which is not surprising since I live in NC and I previously lived in the Sunshine State. When I get a visitor from outside of either of those areas, I get pretty excited. That’s not to say that I don’t appreciate my loyal visitors, but it’s also nice to see this blog branching outside of its normal realm. That being said, I had a visitor from Chennai, India yesterday. At the risk of revealing my ignorance, I’ll tell you that I had no idea that anyone rode mountain bikes in India. Yeah, I know, they have the Himalayas there, but that’s not necessarily a requirement for mountain biking. Heck, I rode a mountain bike in Florida, which is flat as a board. Well, I did some homework, and I realized that India is becoming a pretty popular scene for mountain biking. And, for the record, Chennai is in southern India, away from the Himalayas. I would imagine that the MTB scene is pretty cool up there though.

According to some of the websites I visited, India is home to some of the best trails in the world. However, from what I read, Indian bicycle makers aren’t really trying too hard to bring “properly equipped” mountain bikes to the market. One website even stated that riding a bicycle shows how poor a person is, since having a motorized vehicle is a way to flaunt your wealth. I am not really in a position to debate the accuracy of these statements, but I definitely understand. I lived in South Korea back in the early 1990’s, and I remember witnessing the same mentality. I even caught some flack from some local citizens there when I rode my skateboard around. I was too old to be playing with toys. I was eighteen years old then; I wonder what they would think now.

I did find one thing on a website that made me chuckle:”Biking is like climbing on a mountain but with the help of a bike.”


The picture above is Nilesh Dhumal, who is currently India’s only professional downhill biker. He was apparently thrown off the school Cricket team because he decided that cycling was to be his sport of choice. He worked in a bike shop to support his passion, and learned his skills from watching events on TV and bicycling videos. He seems to feel that cycling is gaining ground in India, with more and more people turning out for events. Maybe there will be more to follow Nilesh, and we can have a truly international cycling community. I never realized how much was happening in India regarding bicycles, but from now on I will pay attention. So again, welcome, my new friends. I hope you stay a while, and maybe learn a thing or two about not-so-mainstream American cycling from this blog. And to all my “regulars”, here are a few links to educate you too. Maybe I will start planning a mountain bike adventure to India. Who knows.

Adventure Tourism in India

Eco India


Monday, September 21, 2009

A Stroll Through the City

“From down here, we must look like ants.”

Saturday morning was another early start (are you seeing a pattern here?), and this time I didn’t have to bring my bicycle. We headed out to Uptown Charlotte for the Start! Charlotte Heart Walk, but not without taking a detour. Our first stop was at the Original Pancake House for some breakfast, which is always a welcome treat. Every time I go there, however, I’m always left wondering if I am indeed frequenting the “Original” Pancake House. I looked on their website, and it appears that I am not. They were founded in Oregon, and their website states: “We now have over one hundred franchises from coast to coast, which have won local and national acclaim.” That’s all fine and dandy, but maybe they should change the name to Duplicate Pancake House or something. Geez, do I have to think of everything?

We met up at the center of the city, and we found some people from our group. We received some really nice volunteer t-shirts, put them on, and we were on our way. We took a leisurely stroll through some of the city streets and also visited some of the local neighborhoods. This was all done to fight heart disease and stroke, but I never felt like I was fighting. In fact, I felt pretty relaxed, especially since I didn’t have to pass anyone. Every once in a while I did feel the urge to squeeze by someone to get a better position. Little Miss Sunshine could tell I was a little anxious, so she kept me reeled in. There was a huge turnout, and it was nice to see so many people out on a beautiful fall morning for a good cause.

A sea of people, as far as you can see.

The best way to describe the walk was sort of like being at the mall just before Christmas. There were a lot of people, mostly dressed alike, and clogging up the walkway just to keep you from getting where you need to be. The only thing missing was the corny elevator music. The funny thing about this walk was the fact that there were so many rest stops along the way. I’ve never seen that many in once event, even in a triathlon. I guess it was to take care of the people that had never walked that distance before. I was impressed that everyone came out for this, even the ones that probably shouldn’t have walked that far. I did see some people taking shortcuts too, which puzzled me. Hey, let’s cheat for charity! And let’s not forget the most puzzling thing of all. After completing the walk, we started to head back to the parking garage. We saw this lady desperately searching for a lighter, so she could light up a cigarette.

Funny, didn’t you just complete a heart walk?

I guess that proves my point last Friday that Little Miss Sunshine probably won’t have to worry about running out of work anytime soon. She’s the one that pointed this out to me so I could have photographic evidence. Her keen observational skills are probably why she makes a living saving lives. Just in case you needed a second look, here goes:

Keep it up, so we can pay the bills and buy bikes and stuff.

Shifting gears, the heart walk wasn’t the only thing on the agenda for Saturday. Lunchbox and I took off for Albemarle, NC for the SORBA Ride Center Event at City Lake Park. This was a chance to ride the new trails there, meet some people who love riding bikes, and to watch a really great mountain biking movie called Seasons. Also, it was a chance for me to talk to some people in the local club there about the National Mountain Bike Patrol, and how it can benefit our area. Good times were had by all (despite some rain), and we’re looking forward to big things for the Uwharrie National Forest and my local chapter of the Bike Patrol. I actually rode the bike a little too, surprisingly. Another big thanks goes to my local shop, Middle Ring Cycles for being such a big part of this event. That’s why I am so proud to represent Middle Ring Cycles, because they support mountain biking so passionately. If you haven’t stopped in there lately, you’re missing out. If you’re reading this from a far away land (I have a few readers from Germany), then shop online. They will take care of you.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Back in the Saddle… Soon

I took a nice long break this week even though I’ll probably pay for it later (or sooner, who knows.) Instead of my usual road rides after work, I’ve basically been a slug. No mid-day swimming or running either, just to add to the laziness. I haven’t been happy about it, although I did need the rest. However, every time I venture into the garage, I hear a muffled call from Goose, or the yet to be named road bike. Even the unicycles seem to be beckoning me. I’ve tried to stay out of the garage as much as possible these last few days because of that. I did spend a bit of time the other night installing a new crankset on Lunchbox’s bike, Clark. I swear that Goose tried to jump out and grab me when I took Clark out of the rack. Maybe I’ve just been drinking too much beer this week.

We’ve had a little bit of rain around here the past two days, so no trail riding anyway. The road bike is ready to ride, but I won’t get on it tonight. We’re back to our family “movie nights”, now that the big screen TV has been repaired. I actually forgot to mention it last week, because I was knee-deep in racing and whatnot. So yes, we’ll camp out in the living room this evening, pig out on pizza, and watch some movie that wasn’t worth seeing in the theater (most aren’t these days.) I’m looking forward to it, and it’s a great way to cap off a week of laziness.

Tomorrow morning we’re rising at the crack of dark again, but this time it is not bicycling-related. Little Miss Sunshine is participating in the Start! Charlotte Heart Walk in Uptown Charlotte. After all she has done for me in the summer races, Lunchbox and I will join her in a fight against heart attacks and stroke (ooohhh, that sounds tough.) The walk is only three miles, and I will have to fight my urge to run it. I find it very ironic that Little Miss Sunshine is participating in the fight against heart disease, since she makes her living working on heart attack victims and such. If she fights too hard, she could work herself out of a job. That’s probably not likely though, because there will always be parents who raise their kids like this. Mmmmmm, I'm lovin' it.

Speaking of medical issues, I’m a little concerned. I noticed a bald spot on my head about a week or so ago, and not where normal hair loss occurs. While I was getting a haircut last night, I was hoping that my freshly shorn scalp would conceal the hair anomaly, allowing everything to grow in evenly. I thought maybe the new furless patch was from a mishap during my previous haircut. I showed the spot to Little Miss Sunshine, and she didn’t seem too worried.

Me: “Honey, take a look at this.”

LMS: “Huh.”

Me: “It was there before my haircut.”

LMS: “Well, it’s probably from your helmet or something. You’ve been riding a lot lately.”

Me: “What if it’s a tumor?”

LMS: Laughs and walks away…

So, there you have it. Another consequence of too much riding rears its ugly head. I still think it’s a tumor though. Little Miss Sunshine will probably laugh again when she reads this. I, however, will launch a full-scale investigation into my new ailment. I will report my findings on an upcoming installment of this blog. Meanwhile, see for yourself.

“It has to be a bicycle-related tumor. I’m convinced of it.”


Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Rest and Relaxation

After the past few months of racing in the Charlotte Mountain Bike Series, I am taking a well-deserved break. Piling on all of the races at the end of the series really did a number on me. Since I had to fight to finish in the top ten overall, coupled with the fact that I was dealing with a cold, I am really worn down. I am purposely staying off the bike for a few days, maybe even an entire week. My road bike situation has been corrected, thanks to a new spoke for the rear wheel. I put it back together and hung it up in the garage. As much as I want to ride, my body just needs a break.

I have a mountain bike event scheduled for this Saturday, in Albemarle, NC. The SORBA Uwharrie Ride Center Event
will be at City Lake Park in Albemarle, NC, and will consist of kids rides, bike checks, pump track laps, and a screening of the movie “Seasons” by The Collective. Groundbreaking on the new Uwharrie Ride Center will take place in late October or November, and they will be looking for people to join the trail crew. The event will be held from 5:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. For a video of the pump track, click here.

Sunday is still up in the air. There is a Tarheel Trailblazers Kids Ride scheduled at 1:00 p.m. at Sherman Branch, but we also have a football game on TV at the same time. Although Lunchbox and I are huge fans (not like these guys though), we really like doing the kids rides. Little Miss Sunshine even plans to attend the kids ride. I guess we will have to make a decision pretty soon. This will be the last regularly schedule kids ride until our big one, the IMBA Take a Kid Mountain Biking Day ride at Beatty. Oh, what to do, what to do.

As for the layoff, I’ll pick it up after the weekend I guess. I will start training for the Tree Shaker 12 Hour Mountain Bike Race in Fort Mill, SC. My former nemesis Doug has agreed to team up with me to share the pain. This should be interesting. I’ll be putting in a lot of road miles during the week and hitting the trails on the weekends. I’ll give you a sneak peek at my roadie training plan. I will follow this guy’s advice. Well, maybe not. It’s a little too extreme for me. Peace out.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Is It Safe To Come Out Now?

Wow. This weekend was chock full of adventure. When we last left off, the Charlotte Mountain Bike Series was coming to a close, and I was so close to a top ten finish. I don’t want to start there though. Let’s have a small weekend recap, shall we?

Saturday morning, Lunchbox and I woke up again at the crack of dark (a recurring theme on the weekends lately.) We loaded up my road bike and headed for Kannapolis, NC for a charity bike ride. It was time for the Tour de Tots. We got there at around 7:30 a.m. so I could register, and also so Lunchbox could find Neal Boyd, cycling event promoter extraordinaire. Not only does he run our summer races, but he also organizes all kinds of events in our area, which ultimately gets people riding bicycles. That’s why we are always glad to help out, even when we participate in his events. Lunchbox was set to ride in the SAG (support and gear) vehicle to assist riders who couldn’t continue, got lost, etc. This was going to be my first group road ride, so I was hoping that I didn’t need SAG support. It was nice to be a part of a great event like this.

"I’m not a roadie. I’m making a mean face just to prove it."

We started the ride pretty slowly, with a police escort through downtown Kannapolis. I envisioned a fast paced ride, with a huge group like you would see in the Tour de France, even though this wasn’t a race. Some of these roadie guys looked really serious, and I figured this would be a good way to see how much I can do on the road. Since I had a race the next day, the plan was to take it easy. I was happy and enthusiastic at the start.

"One more picture, that's it!"

After the escort though town, we turned on a country road, and we were on our own. I immediately felt like the group was going too slow, so I started moving up towards the front. I would draft a little, then attack on the climbs. So much for saving my legs for the big finale on Sunday I guess. I was having fun, and I didn’t care. The few guys in the lead group broke away, and I wasn’t about to push that hard. I stayed with the second group, and we averaged about 18 miles per hour. The first rest stop came up, and the whole group pulled in for a pit stop. Suddenly, I was left alone. I wasn't about to stop. Why should I? I wasn’t tired, and I knew it would be worse if I stopped and started again. I pedaled on, looking to catch someone in front of me. I actually enjoyed my alone time, and the scenery was beautiful.

Mmmmmm. Corn.

"The SAG wagon is comin' to getcha!"

I eventually saw someone up ahead of me, but I never really caught him. I kept up a good pace, at least as best I could. About three miles from the finish, I hit a pothole and I heard a loud metal pinging sound, but I looked and didn’t see anything unusual. I found out later that I had broken a spoke on my rear wheel, and that caused it to warp a little. I wondered why the last few miles felt so difficult. I finished the ride anyway, and I ended up with around 35 miles. After the ride, we had lunch and helped with tearing down the equipment. Good times.

"I take the pictures around here!"

After taking it easy the rest of Saturday, we again woke up early for some cycling-related activities. This time, Little Miss Sunshine joined Lunchbox and I for the grand finale of the Charlotte Mountain Bike Series at Fisher Farm Park in Davidson, NC. We arrived after a 40-minute drive, and unpacked our worldly possessions for the day. Little Miss Sunshine headed over to help with registration while Lunchbox and I got some warm-up action on the trail. All of the regulars were there, so I needed another strong showing to remain in the top ten. Coming into this race, I was tied for 8th place. I knew I could easily lose that if I wasn’t careful, so I had to leave it all on the trail. We lined up at the start and powered up the dreaded hill.

I managed to get ahead of Doug and Patrick, but I couldn’t get past Nicholas, who was sharing 8th place overall with me. We really kept a fast pace through the trail, and I felt pretty good. My legs were sore at first, but they quickly loosened up after a little climbing. I could see the pack right behind me every time I turned, so I picked up my speed whenever I could. I passed a few riders in my group, as well as some others who weren’t. As I came around the start/finish line, I could see that Patrick was real close.

I wasn’t really worried about Patrick, because his 7th place overall was untouchable to me, unless he quit and I finished in first place. I still kept up the pace to catch up to the few people in front of us. I didn’t see Doug, and I was worried. He had the ability to knock me off my top ten high horse, and all it would take is to place ahead of me in this race. I caught up to another guy in my class, and passed him on the fire road. He was on a single speed, and my gears definitely helped in that instance. Patrick was still on my wheel, so I told him to lead. I didn’t need to beat him, so I let him pull me around the last half-mile or so. We made a deal: I wouldn’t try to take him in the final few feet, and he would help me keep anyone else from passing us. It worked out great, except that no one was really close enough in the end to get by us. I crossed the finish line in 7th place, with my front wheel about three inches behind his. Nicholas came in ahead of both of us, so now I had to see where my final place would be in the overall hunt.

Meanwhile, Lunchbox was racing too. He was pretty confident this time, even though he got a little sick during the pre race meeting. Everyone was asking him how he felt, since they all saw him throw up in the trashcan. I guess he was a little embarrassed, but he didn’t show it. At the start of his race, he once again took it to the others on the hill.

He had a nice race, finishing in 4th place. I think he ended up 9th place overall, which was great. Maybe next year he won’t spend the whole summer in Florida, and he can spend a little more time racing. I think he is confident now, and he will do better next year. I am very proud of him.

As for me, I stood by nervously as the results were tallied. As Neal announced the places and told everyone to pick their prizes, I started to get nervous. In my category, I ended up with a 10th place overall, out of over 100 racers. Talk about meeting my goal, huh? I wish I could have done better, but I am happy with the results. It is way better than last year anyway, and there is plenty of room for improvement. We packed up the race stuff, and headed back home.

Now it was party time. We decided to have a birthday party for Lunchbox, in addition to our family meal. He wanted a skate party, so I reserved Soul Ride Skatepark for the evening. We had a ton of kids show up, and I even got out there to skate. Lunchbox had fun skateboarding and hanging out with his friends.

Another special treat was the birthday cake. Little Miss Sunshine made a kitty litter cake for the kids. They loved it! Some of them were afraid to try it at first, but they all enjoyed it. It may look disgusting, but it is some of the best kitty litter, er cake you will ever have. Yummy!

"Here's a little present from the cats."

Friday, September 11, 2009

Yes Sir!

Colonel Francis Beatty Park was my battlefield last night. Since I’m in a fight to reclaim my spot in the top ten overall standings, I went into last night’s race ready for battle. It seemed as if the odds were stacked against me though. I’m still a little sick, and I had another busy day at work, which further wore me out. I headed down to the race venue, registered, and got in a warm up lap. Then, something happened. All of a sudden I felt energized and focused, and I couldn’t explain why. I didn’t engage in all of the pre race chatter as much as I normally do, even though Doug and Patrick were on the scene. All I could think about was getting ahead of Doug so I could accumulate enough points to leapfrog him in the standings. I put my head down and focused on the task at hand.

We lined up at the start line, and I noticed there were quite a few racers in my category. I figured that would benefit me, since the points are awarded based on placing and number of participants. When the race started, I was smack dab in the middle of the pack, and I pushed hard down the road to get a good position on the trail. I threw caution to the wind this time, figuring that I’m big enough to muscle these guys out of my way if I need to. Yeah, that goes against my usual cautious strategy, but I’m fighting for a good finish, remember? It paid off, as I went into the trail in 10th place, ahead of Doug and Patrick. I kept pushing and stayed with the pack for the first two miles, with everyone else still in hot pursuit.

The fast pace continued into the first black diamond section, and that’s when the leaders started separating from the pack. There were a few riders in other categories that were holding up the rest of us. When I passed them, I went wide open again. That section is rooty with quite a bit of climbs and tricky switchbacks, along with trees so close together my handlebars barely fit through them. I hammered through it all, and as I went around each corner, I could see the rest of the pack falling off. That motivated me to push harder. I caught up with two guys from the lead group and passed them without looking back. Now folks, we have a race.

I would pedal with all my might until I started to get a little winded, then I would back off a little at a time. This worked well, as I didn’t have any issues catching my breath like I usually do. I approached the home stretch with about two miles to go, and I got even faster. I passed another guy in my group, but he stuck to my wheel for the rest of the race. Other than him, I didn’t see anyone else from my group right behind me. This guy on my wheel though, he could be trouble. I didn’t block him from passing, but I sped up at every opportunity so he would have to work hard to pass me. With about a quarter mile to go, I knew I had him. I crossed the finish line in 7th place, a hard-fought victory for sure.

The official overall standings aren’t out as I write this (I’m sure they will be shortly), but I’m pretty sure that last night’s race vaulted me back into top ten status. I trailed 10th place by only a few points, and I beat the 7-10th place guys by a pretty good margin yesterday. The season finale will surely be interesting.

“Yes it will be interesting, but don’t call me Shirley.”

Tomorrow morning Lunchbox and I are headed out to the fine city of Kannapolis, NC so I can participate in the Tour de Tots. The Tour de Tots is a charity ride for the Jeff Gordon Children’s Hospital and consists of a Metric Century (62mile) and Half-Metric Century (31 mile) course through some beautiful country scenery. Since I’m new to the roadie stuff, I’m doing the 31 mile route. This should be fun. My only concern is how I might feel at the Charlotte Mountain Bike Series Finale at Fisher Farm on Sunday after riding that far the day before. It’s time to see what I’m made of. What would Lance do?

“This is way more fun than riding on the road. Suck it, Frenchie!”

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Take It Easy

“You can’t sit here. You’ve got work to do. Meow.”

No way, I can’t do that now. Last night was proof. It looks as though I may have peaked a little too early in the season, or I’m still recovering from my cold or whatever. Take your pick. We’re on the home stretch of the Charlotte Mountain Bike Series, and my goal of finishing in the top ten overall is on the line. We have two races left, so my fate is in my own hands.

Yesterday I arrived at the U.S. National Whitewater Center for another action-packed evening of racing. Most of the usual suspects were there, but the overall turnout was a little low. Nonetheless, I had to give it the ole’ college try. We lined up at the start, waited for the signal, and took off through the grassy field towards the single track. Patrick and Doug both beat me to the trail entrance, and I was okay with that. There is usually a bottleneck at the start, so I take my chances and try to catch up later, rather than risk a crash at the start.

The first mile or so was pretty uneventful, with the pack pretty much still together. I made a pass, and found myself on Doug’s rear wheel again. As much as I want to finish ahead of him, I was hoping he wouldn’t crash again. I passed him just as we finished a rooty climb, and took off as fast as I could. When I called, “On your left!” I heard him say, “Oh, come on!” I figured he was surprised to see me make my move so quickly in the race. I had to. I could still see Patrick up ahead, and I wanted to catch him.

There were a few riders between us, so I kept hammering away through the rooty climbs, switchbacks, and descents. We entered the Carpet Trail loop, and I started to slow a bit. I had a little trouble catching my breath, but it was nothing like last time. I backed off a bit on the climb up, knowing that there was a fair amount of downhill ahead that would benefit me. I blasted through all of it, and mashed as hard as I could up the hills after that. I passed one rider on that final climb, and never saw him again. I also fought off another guy trying to pass me, and eventually he fell by the wayside too. By the time I took the final descent out of the Carpet Trail, Patrick was nowhere in sight. I was concerned. Had I lost him for good?

I took the next few climbs in a relatively low gear, so I could spin a little to recover. I stayed loose and picked up my speed on the downhill stuff, with very minimal use of my brakes. Next loop: Toilet Bowl. I pressed on, clinging to the hope that I would still catch up. The Toilet Bowl loop will usually either make or break my races at the Whitewater Center. It’s fast and flowy, but there are a few tough climbs with roots sprinkled in. I made it through without incident, although I did tire out again on the last climb. At this point, I had been racing alone for about 2 miles. I even wondered if I had made a wrong turn. I did pass some trail runners at one point, and they were reluctant to get out of my way. Other than that, I was still alone, until I started on the final stretch of trail.

One guy passed me (he came out of nowhere, I swear), but I stayed on his wheel. I noticed that he was not in my class, so I didn’t worry too much about him. I still pedaled with every ounce of pedal power I had just to keep up. He somehow got away, and I exited the trail onto the gravel road, with the finish line near. I shifted into the big ring and flew around the man-made river. I crossed the finish line, and I felt pretty good. Patrick had finished a while ago, and Doug came in a few minutes after me. We checked the results, and Patrick finished 7th, further cementing his place in the overall standings. I finished in 11th place, and I was okay with that. I’m still 11th overall, but now I trail Doug by just five points. Tomorrow night’s race is double points, so I have to really dig in. Things could get very interesting around here.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Burning the Midnight Lamp...

When it rains, it pours. It seems like there is so much going on lately. Even though I was at work for a half day yesterday, I decided not to post a blog. I figured I would have to save up a weekend’s worth of crap to have something interesting the next time I posted. You, my not so loyal readers, weren’t left empty-blogged, however.

I sent out an invitation to another member of the B-43 conglomerate a few days ago, in hopes that he would contribute a little more crap and nonsense to the site. Upon reading his post, I realized that I had neglected to inform the masses about the omnipresent coincidence number. I probably did everyone a favor, as it will haunt for generations. Don’t bother trying to avoid it. It’s everywhere. Embrace it. Why, just yesterday, I received some change from a purchase and I noticed something peculiar.

See? Don’t say you weren’t warned.

Getting back to all things considered normal around here, I wanted to share some of the weekend’s activities. I woke up Saturday morning and headed out to our local trail gem, Sherman Branch. I had planned on a lesiurly ride on some sweet singletrack, and then spend a little time hanging out with Middle Ring Cycles. They had a demo day at the trail, and I was pleased as punch. There was an assortment of bicycles from manufacturers like Ellsworth, Intense, and Niner, with different models to choose from. All you had to do was sign a form, and off on the trail you went. Big thanks to Brian and Rod for bringing a demo to the Charlotte area. Head over to Middle Ring Cycles to pick out your new bike. (Yeah, shameless plug, I know.)

Speaking of Middle Ring Cycles, I was really happy to find a package waiting for me when I got home Friday. I ordered my team kit from them a while back, and it takes about 8-10 weeks to get them made. At last, I can rock some team gear for the remainder of the race series. I’m really happy ride for these guys. Again, go there and give them you hard-earned cash. Click here.

Sunday was a lazy day, as most Sundays should be. Little Miss Sunshine took the Lunchbox to his Grandma’s house, so I had to whip out the lawnmower. After finishing the yard, I passed the time until her return by cleaning out the garage a bit. A while after she arrived, we packed up Goose and her yet-to-be-named KHS, and headed out to her favorite trail, North Meck. She is recovering nicely from her stress fracture, and did a great job out on the trail. She went down once, but otherwise had a great time. She was all smiles.

"I’m smiling because I have a boo-boo."

Yesterday after my half-work day, I headed up to Smallville to pick up Lunchbox for a little skate action. Our destination was Soul Ride Skatepark, our usual skate spot. It was nice to have a break from the bike for at least one day, and it was a great way to spend Labor Day.

My break from the bike will be short-lived. Tonight is another makeup race in the Charlotte Mountain Bike Series. The U.S. National Whitewater Center is next on the agenda, and I am hoping that I can turn it up a notch. I am four points away from 10th place, so I still need a strong finish to make the top ten. I could have avoided this if I didn’t miss that double-points race, but I can deal with it.

Nothing like digging yourself out of a hole, huh?