Friday, June 29, 2012

Sitting Here Thinking

And I'm trying to come up with a plan for the weekend.  I’m on call this weekend, so fitting in a bike ride might be a bit of a challenge.  I can make plans, attempt to participate in said plans, and the whole thing could get messed up by the fact that I might end up at work.  I severely dislike this part of my job, but I have to deal with it.  I still should be able to squeeze in some two wheeled dirt action somewhere, even if I stay local…really local.

Work has resumed on Captain Jim Bob’s Space Adventure.  With Lunchbox all the way down in Florida, I recruited another helper so I wouldn’t have to go out there and dig in the dirt alone.  My friend Tom lives just up the road a piece (that’s Southern talk for those of you that don’t know), and he offered me his trail building services.

So, I took him up on it.

We headed out to the trail with tools in hand, and mapped out the next section of our ever-growing trail.  We actually had a goal this time, and with two us out there working hard it seemed to be in reach. 

I roughed out some stuff first.

When I was walking through on the trail that had already been built, I noticed that we’ve already had some “other” users out there.

Now, where did I put my rifle?

We got a little more cut and finished, and we just couldn’t take it anymore.  A “flow test” was in order.  We rode it a couple of times, and I hopped off my bike quick enough to catch Tom in action.

Satisfied with our work so far, we continued on.  The next section went over a natural berm next to a rotting tree trunk.  As we were digging around, we found a small snake trying like hell to get away.  I couldn’t identify it (since I’ve never seen that particular kind of snake before), and the little bastard was too fast for me to get a photo.  The whole time I’ve been working out there on this trail, I have to admit that was the first time I’ve ever seen any kind of critter out there (other than one squirrel that taunts me once in a while.) 

Our critter find didn’t end there though. As I was working at the far end, Tom suddenly came running by me like he was Carl Lewis. At first I wondered what the hell was going on, but I didn’t have to wait too long to find out. Apparently he had stirred up a mess of hornets, and the little fuckers were pissed.

They ganged up on us and went on the attack.

After getting stung a few times, we finally killed the main group that was after us.  Not that you can see it in this photo, but there were hundreds of them waiting for us to return.

We weren’t getting anywhere near that shit though.  Tom had to drop one of his tools, and the hornets had taken a liking to it.  I plan to return with some high-powered hornet death spray to deal with them, and then I’ll retrieve the tools we had to leave behind.  We high-tailed it outta there.  Luckily, we would live to build another day.

That kinda sucked, because we were making some good progress.  Even though I can’t make any definite plans for the weekend, my main goal is to get back out there and get some more work done.  Hopefully though, that’s not the only place I get to ride.  While we have been working our asses off to build trail, there’s just not enough right now to make any kind of a decent ride. 

Maybe I can sneak off somewhere and get dirty, and possibly come back here with some stories to tell.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Return To Normalcy

What a weird word:  normalcy.  If you say it over and over, it sounds kinda funny. Anyway, in my best attempt to get things back to normal around here after suffering through eight hours on my single speed, I’m trying to get back into some kind of routine.  It’s really difficult for me this time of year, but I find it hard to focus without my kid being around.  While he doesn’t always ride with me, he is always there when I get home.  It’s hard not having him around.

Since the little lady had other plans Tuesday night (torturing herself on her own single speed), I really didn’t have to be home.  I decided to make the trek over to Lake Norman State Park to ride with the Dirt Divas.  I normally don’t go to Lake Norman more than once a year (and I’ve been there already this year), but riding with the Divas is always worth it. 

I got there plenty early and got a chance to socialize.  The ladies welcome everyone to come out on their rides, and I’m glad they let me hang around.  I’m just not sure if they like me taking pictures and posting them all over the Internets.

We divided up into two groups, beginner and intermediate.  The beginner group was a “true beginner” one, so I opted for the intermediate.  Since this was the first time back on my bike since the Tree Shaker, I wanted a nice easy pace.  I wasn’t sure if my legs could handle a fast ride.  And yes, the intermediate group is fast.

We stopped every so often to regroup, and I realized that my legs didn’t hurt at all.  I felt no ill effects from riding nearly sixty miles on a single speed a few days before, and I never really got tired.  I don’t think I even broke a sweat (it wasn’t hot outside at all.)  It was a fun, fast ride, and of course I had a blast.  One Diva wrecked out there, so I used my awesome first aid ability to help her out when we got back to the parking lot.  She will live to ride another day.

Oh yeah, I rode the SS.  I can’t seem to stay away from it for some reason.  My geared bike only seems to be for cross country racing now, and I even think that might come to an end one day.  I took off the 20 tooth cog I had on there for Saturday’s race and replaced it with my trusty 18.  I think that qualifies as back to normal.

Normal means I should have to work hard on every ride, and not have a chance to take it easy by shifting into a lower gear.  I’m getting a lot stronger by riding with only one gear, and I love it. 

See, the Dark Side ain't so bad.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Up In The Clouds

After riding my bike all day Saturday, I really didn’t feel like going out for a recovery ride.  In fact, I really didn’t feel like riding at all.  Luckily, I had already made other plans.  Since Lunchbox was leaving for his summer pilgrimage to Florida, we thought that it would be a good idea to get up in them thar hills.

Since Florida is sooooo flat, I thought going up to the mountains would be a nice contrast for him so he would remember why he loves living up here.  As with most of our adventures, getting there was half the fun.

We got to drive through a few tunnels on the Blue Ridge Parkway:

Our destination?  The tallest peak east of the Mississippi River, Mount Mitchell.

Tallest?  Yeah.  At 6,684 feet, it’s way up there (at least it felt like that to a couple of Florida boys.) 

There was even a sign to prove it.

Since we were higher than the surrounding mountains, the view was awesome. 

This is the part where I cheat a little and just post up a shitload of photos instead of writing some kind of elaborate story.

We hung out up there for a while, just taking it all in.  We eventually got hungry, so we headed down to the on site restaurant to grab a bite to eat. 

We saw this sign on the door:

Apparently, some folks like to ride bikes all the way up there.  I’m not one of them, but a plan is in the works. 

Here’s the view from our table inside the restaurant:

After spending a good bit of time up there on the mountain, we headed back down and rode over to the town of Old Fort.  I wanted to show Lunchbox something.

Andrews Geyser, which is man made by the way.

We headed over to the Old Fort picnic area to use the facilities, and my wannabe shutterbug ass took another photo of a little creek.

Just as we were about to hit the road back to Charlotte, we saw a familiar face hanging out in the parking lot.  It was D-Wayne, who had just finished a pre ride of the ORAMM course (actually, I think it finished him.)  We chatted for a bit, but we had to haul ass to get to the airport on time.

It was a great day up in the mountains for sure.  Lunchbox is gone for six weeks, so I’ll have to keep busy until he gets back.  I hate that he has to go for so long, but at least I know he would rather be up here playing in the mountains. 

I know I would.  That’s why I don’t live in Florida anymore.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Let The Suffering Begin

Two laps down, and a whole bunch to go.

I forgot to mention that when I started the Tree Shaker, I had forgotten my music playing device.  I yelled at Lunchbox to grab it for me out of my truck when I passed him on the first lap, and when I stopped to swap out bottle for my second lap…there it was.  I turned it on and listened to music during that fast, yet painful second lap, until it made a funny noise and shut off. 

That’s about the time my back started hurting.

Anyway, I headed out for lap three, ready to settle in at a steady pace.  I felt pretty good still, and my legs weren’t even tired.  I kept hearing people bitching about how hot it was out there, but I was enjoying it.  Remember, I grew up in the Sunshine State, and I can ride in that shit all day long.

Nothing eventful happened on lap three, and I seemed to be making all the right moves out there in regards to climbing, picking the right lines, and recovering.  I even passed a few people out there that said I was crazy for riding a single speed.  Funny, I used to say the same thing to people before I started riding SS.

I came in from that lap, and my back had loosened up quite a bit.  I grabbed a little food to eat, refilled my bottles, and chatted with Little Miss Sunshine for a few minutes.  She had just finished her four hour race.  I eventually made my way back out for lap number four.  My break this time wasn’t as long, because I figured that I needed to keep going to prevent myself from falling over.

Taking a short break was actually a good idea, since I still felt pretty good as long as my legs were moving.  I noticed that I was on autopilot most of the time, which I guess was a good thing because it kept me from making stupid mistakes.  It felt like I was using The Force to guide me…

I popped out of the woods after that lap and started up the fire road climb back to the start/finish area.  I noticed that Lunchbox was riding his bike out there to catch a photo…

I rode through the pit area and made it to my tent, and Lunchbox had beat me there (he took a short cut.)  Since I was good and tired from four laps, he decided to go out there and ride one with me.  I was tired, so I took another break and refueled.  We eventually headed out, and I told him that I probably wouldn’t be riding too fast.  He didn’t mind that at all.

It was really nice of him to ride with me, and it really kept me going.  I felt like I had more energy, and we even had some good conversations along the way.  He washed out in a corner at one point and wrecked, so I had to stop to make sure he was alright.  It’s a race and all, but he’s still my kid and making sure he was okay was my priority.

He was unharmed (aside from a few scratches), so we got going again.  He pushed my pretty good up the climbs, and I pulled him along the downhill stuff.  We had a blast, until we got about two miles from the end of the course.  He told me his front tire was losing air.

Rather than leave him stranded, I grabbed a Co2 and blasted some air in there.  I didn’t see any obvious leaks, so I figured that he would be good enough to get out.  We hauled ass just in case, and arrived back at Tent City with a quickness.  I thanked him for riding with me, and I don’t think he realized how much that meant.  For him to push me along in an endurance race was really cool, and I’m not sure if I could’ve done it without him.  I took another small break and got ready to head out one more time…alone.

Lap six, and with the time remaining in the race I knew it would be my last.  I started out all alone but quickly passed a few people and ended up behind Sherry, the better half of the MadSS.  She was running the same gearing I was (but on her 9th lap), so she happily let me ride with her for a while (I also rode with her on the first lap for a while.)  She keeps a great pace, never slowing or speeding up.  I kept with her for quite a while, until a small hint of cramps got me on a climb.  I had to let her go, and I figured that I would suffer by myself until the end.

It didn’t take long though until I had some company.  The MadSS zoomed by (on his 10th lap) and I picked up the pace to keep up with him.  He looked as fresh as he did on the first lap, and I didn’t hang on long.  I was by myself again, with only a few miles to go.  I knew I would finish, but the cramps were getting worse.

On the very last section of singletrack, local single speeder Eric Hagerty came flying by.  With such a short distance left, I decided that I should give it all I had to get the hell back to the finish.  I stayed with him (and another guy) for the rest of the single track.  We kept a blistering pace, and for some reason my legs kept working.  I rocketed up the last steep climb (to get out of the woods), and the cramps hit me again.  I made it to the fire road, and spun my way back to the finish.

Almost sixty miles on a single speed in eight hours, and I was happy.  My goal was to push it and see what I could do, and I succeeded.  When the awards came out, of course I wasn’t included.  However, I got a surprise in the form of “not last place.”

Good enough for me.  Have I mentioned that I really love this single speed shit?  It’s definitely making me stronger, and I think the fact that it was more difficult than racing with gears made the suffering even more fun.  I have lots of room for improvement, but at least now I know I can do it.

Maybe I can start training and getting a little more serious now.

Pffffffft.  I'm getting right to work on my "recovery." 

Monday, June 25, 2012

A Little Late To The Party

But, at least I know how to get ready for a party.

I’ve done a few endurance races over the years, so I guess I’m not a newbie.  However, when it comes to riding a single speed in an endurance race, I still have a lot to learn.  Rather than take the time to learn how to do it properly, my dumb ass just jumped right in.

I do that quite a bit though.

Saturday’s Tree Shaker was a chance for me to ride one gear for eight hours, and do as many laps as I could possibly stand.  Having no idea if I could even make it the whole eight hours kept it interesting.  By the time I checked in I found out that there were twelve people in my class, which meant that I was actually “racing” against other people.  And most likely, those people have done endurance races on single speed bicycles before.

I wasn’t nervous at all…seriously.

I still didn’t give a shit about how well I would do.  I was only concerned with trying to push myself out there for eight hours, and see how much pain and suffering I could stand.  From that moment on, I only cared about myself, because no one else was gonna pull my ass around the trail.  I think the only thing that helped me stay calm was the fact that I didn’t really care about anything else.

And just like that we were off…

Photo credit:  Lunchbox

I kinda stayed mid pack, trying my best not to go out too hard at first.  Since I was riding on a 32X20, I couldn’t go that fast on the flat stuff anyway.  Just like every other endurance race I’ve ever done though, I got caught in traffic once I got on the singletrack.  Normally it doesn’t bother me too bad, but this time it did because of my lack of gears.  Being on a single speed, you kinda need momentum to get up the climbs, and being behind a bunch of brake riding dirt roadies I wasn’t getting a chance to haul ass downhill.  Not even a mile in and I was already frustrated.

At one point we came up to a long uphill section, and I decided that I’d had enough of riding behind technically challenged dirt roadies.  I tried to pass a few people on a short climb, but a small stump jumped out and thwarted my effort.  I busted my ass pretty good, and luckily I didn’t do any real damage.  All it did was frustrate me even more.

I passed a few people here and there after getting back on my bike, and ended up back behind the same “I’m too scared to go fast on the downhills” people.  Eventually I got around them, and that allowed me to set my own pace for the rest of the lap.    

With all the traffic, I still turned a decent lap time.  I passed the start/finish line and made my way back to my tent…

Normally I try to pace myself in these kinds of races.  I had a different plan this time though, which involved me riding my ass off until I got tired.  I stopped and swapped out my water bottles (it was well into the 90’s that day), and got my ass back out there for more fun in the sun.  I pushed myself and pedaled while the pedaling was good, and I actually felt pretty good.  No mishaps and my legs felt fine, but I did have one problem…

My back started getting tight.  Shit.

I stood up on the downhill stuff to stretch it out, and realized that I couldn’t keep up my “usual” cross country pace on a single speed for eight hours.  I decided that when I got back to the pit area that I would sit a spell and take it easy.  I eventually crossed the start/finish line and made my way back to the tent.

As I was getting my bottles ready for the next lap, a familiar face rode up to shoot the shit.  It was my fellow Bike29 teammate, Rich.  Since I was taking an extended break between laps, we talked for a good while about all sorts of things.  I don’t really remember though, because the riding I did for the rest of the day caused me to forget what we may or may not have talked about.

Was he even there?  Maybe I hallucinated or something.  Where was I?  Oh yeah, two laps in well under two hours.  Way too fast for an endurance race if I wanted to last.

I want this story to last too, so I’ll break it off here and continue tomorrow.

Come on, you know I can’t tell you everything on the first post. 

Friday, June 22, 2012

I Find Your Interest Interesting

I post up about torturing myself on the single speed a couple of days ago and people come out of the woodwork to comment and send me e-mails.  It appears as if most of you are interested in seeing me suffer on one gear for eight hours tomorrow, which may or may not mean I’ll get a good story out of it.  Whether or not I do well, I guess it could be uh, interesting.

So, I guess that means I have to make my decision.

Well, it looks like I’m gonna be in town (for now), so I might as well go out in the hot sun tomorrow and pedal around during the Tree Shaker.  I wouldn’t call it racing, but I will have a number on my bike.  Knowing that I’ll have a difficult time out there even if I had gears, doing the single speed thing required a bit of a change…

So I took the 18 tooth cog off to replace it with a big fucking pie plate.

A 20T doesn’t seem like it would make a huge difference, but I’m hoping a couple of extra teeth with help me survive out there.  Compared to the 18, it does look pretty big, but I guess it doesn’t look too bad on the bike.

Since I’m running a geared frame as a single speed, it took a bit to get the chain tension right.  It’s not the best way to setup a single speed, but it does work.  I don’t plan on riding the 20T permanently though.  As a matter of fact it will go the hell away right after the “race.”  I won’t touch it again until Single Speed USA (where I’ll really need it.)  This is just practice for that anyway.

Speaking of practice, I haven’t even really tested out my new setup other than the standard up and down the road test.  Even though I have a trail in my neighborhood, I didn’t feel like riding over there.  I mean come on, I had beer to drink.  I’m throwing caution to the wind and hoping for the best.  Hopefully I won’t have any problems with it, and if I do it will just add to the fun tomorrow.

Will I finish an eight hour “race” on a single speed?

I dunno.

Will I drink beer between laps?


It’s not like I take this shit seriously, you know.

See y’all Monday, hopefully with some kind of “race” report.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

All Work And No Play

Is making me really freaking nutty.

I’ve been doing very little bike riding and a whole lotta trail work lately.  For some reason, I’ve been (re)inspired to get out and make something happen at Captain Jim Bob’s Space Adventure.  Since it’s literally in my neighborhood, it’s hard to leave all that empty land without trail on it.  I’ve been sneaking out there after work every night, and I’m getting quite a bit done.

I guess it helps to have the right tools.

What, you don’t drink beer while doing trail work?

Since I got there a few times last week, I’ve kinda been hoping to get this going to the point where I can ride the new section.  Unlike the first section we built, this one covers quite a bit of ground.  I guess I’m trying to get in as much mileage as possible before I “open” it up for riding, even though I could probably take a small test ride now.  I’m striving for perfection, even though this trail will only be ridden by a few select folks (you know who you are.)

Roughing out the trail is the easy part, but I can’t stop there.

After getting the first section cut through the woods, I had to go back and do a little benching in order to make it flow properly (and make it last for a while.)

I had a few parts of the trail that needed bench work, and surprisingly I knocked it out with ease.  The next project was the rock garden.

I know it doesn’t look like much in that shitty photo, but it’s gonna be a shitload of fun.  I still need to add a few more rocks to it, but flying downhill over those things is gonna keep things interesting.   I even made a go around for climbing (it’s a two way trail.)  I plan on adding many more features (both natural and man made), but for now I’m concentrating on getting the main loop completed.

I can’t wait until it’s finished.  Maybe that’s why I’m out there busting my ass to get ‘er done.  After this Sunday though, I’m losing my main helper.  Lunchbox is heading to Florida for six weeks, so I may be out there all by my lonesome.  Maybe I can recruit some other help.

I haven’t really ridden much other than to and from trail work, but at least I’ve been keeping myself busy.  I probably needed a few days off the bike anyway, since I’m wearing myself out.  Plus, my knee is still sore from my crash last week.  I did get out to watch some racing at Fisher Farm last night, but that doesn't count as riding.  

As for my race decision, I haven’t made up my mind yet.  I appreciate the comments and e-mails telling me what I pretty much thought I should do anyway.  Yeah, I’m leaning towards going all in on the SS for the eight hour race, but I may not get a chance to make that decision.  I have an unexpected family issue that came up, so it looks like I’ll be taking a trip to the D.C. area in the very near future. 

If I’m not here tomorrow, then you’ll know why. 

I’ll keep you posted.     

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

I Can’t Decide

I have two choices for racing this weekend.  Of course, the Southern Classic Series is still in full swing, and there is a race this Sunday.  It’s down in Clemson, SC, and I’m not sure how I feel about it.  I raced there last year, and didn’t really enjoy it.  I guess the fact that it was like three hours away didn’t help that fact, but even if it was closer I’m not sure if I would do it.

So, I have another option…

Yeah, the Tree Shaker is this Saturday.  I’ve done it before, but things are a little different this year.  First of all, it’s been changed form a six and twelve hour race to a four and eight hour.  Also, it’s not in October like usual, so it will be much, much hotter out there.  I wasn’t really considering it, but since I’m not racing Sunday…

I’m thinking about going out there and “racing” for eight hours solo, which shouldn’t be too bad (since I’ve done twelve solo before.)  However, I’m thinking of upping the difficulty level a bit by bringing the single speed bike and actually racing in the single speed class.  It would be my first crack at endurance racing on the SS.

I talked to the MadSS to find out what he thought about it, and he was all for it.  As of now, he’s the only one registered in that class and probably just wants some company.  He tried to help me decide by telling me that we could drink beer afterwards, but I can do that without even having to race.  The next thing he said might have gotten me off the fence though:

“A fun day in the sun suffering like a dog on a SS, nothing could be better.”

Is he right?  I don’t know.  I think he’s crazy, but he’s actually the one that put this whole single speed idea in my head in the first place.  Maybe misery loves company, or else he just wants someone in his class that he can lap several times on the nine mile course.

Maybe suffering for eight hours on a single speed is just what I need to help me get ready for Single Speed USA.

Should I do it?

Yes, I’m asking you because I can't make up my mind.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Tour de Triad

Yup, I played roadie for a day.  Saturday, Little Miss Sunshine headed up the road to Winston Salem so we could have our own grand tour with D-Wayne and Megan.  I wouldn’t normally get all excited about road riding, but some reason I knew this one was gonna be different.

We got to their house late in the morning and got all suited up.  We left outta the neighborhood and wound up on a local greenway.

The first stop was for breakfast at a local joint called the Screaming Rooster.  Cool little place with good food and great service.  Even though I do like to eat, I held back because I knew we had a shitload of riding to do after that.  I didn’t want to have to stop and “take a break” during the ride.  Anyway, after breakfast we rode a little further and hit stop number two:  a bike shop.

Mock Orange Bikes, which was a pretty cool shop.  They had a few vintage bikes in there to look at, and we chatted a bit before we got on our way again.  This time though, it would be a while before we stopped.  We took our asses all the way out to Lewisville to pay a visit to another bike shop, Cycletherapy. 

At one point during the ride, we found a tunnel that went under the road and we decided to check it out.

Photo cred:  Megan

It was all creepy inside, but it was a pretty cool way to avoid the traffic trying to cross the road.

Eventually, we headed for a coffee shop in Lewisville, The Coffee Mill.  Since I was pretty hot from riding, I opted for a coffee smoothie.  That was a first for me, and it was pretty damn good.  We sat around a bit shooting the shit and waiting for the caffeine to kick in before we got back out on the road.

The next leg of the trip was rough.  It was a long road with plenty of hills, but it was still fun as shit.  We stopped into another place, Ken’s Bike Shop, and hung out for a while.  I’d been there a few years ago, and it was fun just hanging out.

We also rode through the campus of Wake Forest:

And, rolled through downtown Winston Salem:

We eventually ended up in Old Salem, which was really cool.

I hadn’t been there in a few years, and this was the first time I went through there on a bike.  The view is much better on two wheels for sure.

We eventually made it back to their house, and headed out for some recovery beer and something to eat.  After over six hours in the saddle, I think we went over forty miles.  My phone died while we were riding, and at the time said we had gone thirty one miles.  It didn’t matter what the distance was or how much time we spent out there, because it was a helluva day.  I can’t believe I had so much fun riding a road bike.

I bet you never thought I would say such a thing.

Big thanks to Dwayne and Megan for being our tour guides, and we will definitely do that again.  In the meantime, I think it’s time to plan a similar event down here in Charlotte.  Hopefully they will have as much fun as we did.

Stay tuned for that adventure…coming to a city or town near you.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Dad’s Day

I had a pretty busy weekend, but I’ll start with yesterday since it’s still fresh in my mind. 

Yes, I’m a dad.  In fact, it’s the one thing I’m proud of more than anything.  I spend a lot of time with my son, and since he was a little guy we’ve pretty much done everything together.   When I asked him if it would be okay to do trail work for Father’s Day, he was all for it.

So, we headed up to Fisher Farm in Davidson to meet with the rest of the trail crew.

The weather was perfect, and we had a great turnout.  There was a ton of work to do, and we were actually building new trail.

Benching, digging, and other various forms of trail work later, we had a pretty decent amount of trail finished.

For some reason I stopped taking photos after that, but the fun continued.  After eating a ton of watermelon in the shade and talking about how much we accomplished, a few of us went for a ride.  The new section isn’t open yet, but the rest of the trail is still really fun.   

One lap at a decent pace after hours of trail work made me pretty damn hungry.  Lunchbox and I went out for lunch, and enjoyed the rest of our time together.  Big thanks to my boy for making all of my days as a Dad pretty cool.

The fun didn’t stop there though.  While I was on the trail digging in the dirt, I got a call from Dicky.  I thought he was finally gonna invite me to go for a ride with him, but it turns out that he called me for a more important reason.

There was a huge local sale on craft beer.

Apparently it started a few days before, but I had no idea.  Being a beer snob, I should probably have some kind of beer sale radar.  It’s a good thing that Dicky was my backup.

On the way back from lunch, I stopped by the store.  I picked up my usual, and saved a little bit of cash.

It was a good day to celebrate being a father.

Tomorrow, I’ll try to put together a recap from my Saturday adventure…