Monday, July 28, 2014

ORAMM: The Beast is Conquered

 The 15th annual ORAMM is in the books and I'm an official finisher.  It was a tough day in and out of the saddle, but with the help and encouragement from my family team and friends,  I was able to pull through and finish!

The day started out with the high forecast to be around 95 in Old Fort.  I had managed a rest stop the previous day at the Jerdon Mtn Challenge, and was organizing rest stop 2 today.  I had recruited an awesome group of folks to cover for me and I was excited to line up with 499 other racers.

After dropping the trailer with the 150 gallon water bladder off at rest stop 2, I rode the 3.5 miles back to the start line and waited for the start.  After Todd finished with the "race talk" and rules, the gun went off, and we rolled out.

I was in the front and thanks to a couple of pushes from Jason Luque, I was able to hang in until the first climb.   My goal today was to finish,  if I could finish fast, that would be icing on the cake.  The group rolled the pavement and headed up the Point Lookout Trail.  I got into my rhythm,  chatting with old friends about our personal goals.

Surprisingly,  when I got to Kitsuma the trail was not clogged, and most people were riding.  Those who bobbled and dabbed were kind enough to jump out of the way of people still riding.  I was able to ride the entire way.

Thanks to the Luque Crew from FLA USA for the heckle section about halfway up.  They were making a ruckus in the woods that I have not heard since several years ago at the stage race.  If you don't race, you should heckle....period.

I ate some chews and made sure I was drinking enough.  I had started a little on the hungry side, but knew that once my nerves calmed, I would be able to eat a sandwich and get the system on track.

Snaking up and down on Kitsuma, some loud dude got behind me, yelling for people to get out of the way.  Thinking he was joking, I joined in for a few minutes.  When I realized he was serious, I told him he should chill out and enjoy the ride.  He squeezed by me and the guy in front of me, only to get stuck behind the line of 20 in front of us.  If you know Kitsuma, you know towards the end there is an alternate little trail that drops on the right and then shoots back up into the trail.  I hit that right and dropped in,  I let go of the brakes and shot back up the other side giving me the speed to pass the 2 people in front of me, including loud dude.  But, I didn't.  I checked up and resumed my place in line.  It was a fun move though. 

I had been watching my pace and while a hair higher than desired, I wasn't red lining, and there had been plenty of places to let my heartrate drop.  It was a little disconcerting to have the old nauseous feeling returning.  It wasn't that hot out yet, and I was sweating still.  Weird. 

I stopped at Rest Stop 1 to refill my bottles and headed out again.  Climbing Star Gap, I did a lot of walking.  I was feeling worse as time went by and I couldn't figure out what was wrong.  I figured I would keep pedaling, drinking and eating, hoping that my body would calm down.  Maybe it was nerves, or stress, or lack of sleep from stress.   Or maybe my body was worn out from a busy summer.
I rolled into rest stop 2 and ate a sammy and some chips,  and sipped some Coke.  Felt worse.  I went and sat in the creek,  no different.  If it were heat related,  the creek would have made some sort of difference.  I visited the porta jon and felt slightly better.  I laid in the truck bed.  I got up and walked around, frustrated and still nauseous.  Walking around made me feel slightly better.   I laid down again.  I finally went and sat in the mini van with the air conditioner on high.  It made me shiver, but still didn't feel great.

Finally, after about 20 minutes of air conditioning, I felt a twinge of hunger pain.  It felt good,  after about 5 more minutes, the nauseousness subsided.  Then it dawned on me.  I had switched to a different gel and energy chew brand for this race.  It was a brand I had used in the past, I thought it had worked then,  but I also got sick a lot in the past.  Dang it.  That's what it was.  Something in the nutrient was making me sick.  I got out of the van and got suited up.  Ate a little bit and felt decent.

After a 2 hr layover, I was rolling again.  Still not sure if I could finish this beast and 2 hrs behind on calories, I was determined to keep trying.   I thanked my team and bid them farewell.  Rolling up Curtis Creek, I was greeted by the USFS Ranger,   he asked what I was doing so far back.  I told him what was up, and he told me all he was hearing was excuses.  Haha,  funny. 
The climb up Curtis Creek was a slog.   It was around 85 degrees, with barely a whisper of a breeze every now and then.  Not enough to serve any cooling purpose.  I ground onward.  I walked,  barely speaking to people I passed.  I was in conserve energy mode.  The nauseousness/hunger came and went.  I drank,  forced myself to drink.  I was tired of drinking, but knew that I had to drink.  I passed some guys who were walking.  One commented that "we have to be close to the top".  I said nothing.  I knew that those words are something you never tell yourself,  until you are at the top. 

I can't remember how long it took,  but I made it to the top.  I text Rhonda to let her know that I was going to keep going.  I filled my bottles, and headed out.  I had managed to scrounge enough hammer and gu gels at rest stop 2 to help me get to rest stop 4.  I had been using these during training and they had work fine. 

The Parkway was sunny and stuffy.  To the west, there was high misty cloud cover, to the east, blue sky and sun.  It was pretty warm.  Up the major climb, a quick pit stop in the woods.  My body was still flushing the culprit.  Back on the bike, barely looking around, wondering if I should turn around.  Drinking, eating a gel.  Onward. 

Before bombing down the hill at close to 40 mph,  I doused myself with water to cool down.  Halfway down, I was shivering.  It felt great, then I started the last paved climb and warmed up quickly.  3 ish miles and I was glad to see Heartbreak Ridge.  Slow climb up the hike a bike section.  The enduro people were there along with group from the Mc Dowell County EMS.  As a side note, they were all over the race course,  doing their job,  it was great to see them out, supporting this race. 

I was not worried about the Enduro, so I hiked down the first techy bit before riding.  I got on the bike and cruised.  It felt faster than I normally ride it, so I just relaxed and rolled.  I started feeling better.  I did not take the time to enjoy the views.  I just focused on forward movement, efficient pedal stroke and relaxing. 

Oddly enough,  as I made my way down the windy trail, I started feeling better.  I continued drinking Nuun and sports drink.  I let go of the brakes a little and enjoyed the decent.  I could hear a train down in the valley below, I hoped that I wouldn't get caught. 

Sure enough, as I neared the end of the Enduro section, the train roared past.  2 minute delay and a quick chat with the Hoyts, and I was off again. 

A brief stop at rest stop 4, refilled the bottles, grabbed a handful of chips, bummed a hammer gel and I was off again. 

The climb up Mill Creek Rd was a bit easier than I expected,  I put my body on auto pilot and allowed my thoughts to drift towards how it would feel to finish this beast.  I could hardly believe that I was still moving forward,  that I felt decent considering the circumstances.  Up the gravel road and onto the pavement, one last gel before the climb up Kitsuma.   Anything that threatened to raise my heart rate and core temp, I walked.  I was not worried about finishing fast, just focused on finishing. 

I was able to let off the brakes a little on the downhills and have some fun enjoying the trail.  It would probably be a while before I got back out this way, so I wanted to enjoy it,  and I did.  The last little bit of singletrack opened up into the Old Fort Picnic Area.  I pedaled past the Mobile Command Post,  waved and said "Thanks". 

3 miles of pavement to go, I started picking people off.  1 by 1,  I was able to reel in and pass about 4 or  5 people.  That felt good.  

Then the finish and the hands in the air,  victory was mine: I conquered the beast.  

Friday, July 25, 2014

Here Goes....

Well,  its Friday and I toe the line in 2 days.  It is going to be a huge weekend and I'm looking forward to the challenge.   Trips For Kids WNC is sponsoring a Rest Stop #2 in both the JMC and ORAMM.  In addition, I am racing ORAMM. 

I must say,  I am blessed to have a crew of volunteers running the stops each day.  Especially on Sunday,  having friends that will be working for the cause and rooting me on at the same time.  That's special and I don't take that for granted!  I have cool friends and I'm thankful that they call me a friend.

I'm getting to the end of the 2014 summer ride program.  It has been a great summer and I am worn out.  I haven't had time to train consistently, and it is getting hotter by the day.   Lot's of challenges in trying to prep for a 63 mile mountain bike race.

But,  nothing compared to the challenges that the kids in the program face everyday and will continue to face in their futures,  if you are paying attention, you understand.  If you don't know what I am talking about,  go volunteer for a local youth agency that serves the underprivileged. 

And so, I dedicate this ride to the kids.  That's right,  this one is for the kids.  I hope I can inspire!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

ORAMM is Coming

Days left until I toe the line at my nemesis race: Off Road Assault on Mt Mitchell.   I'm nervous to say the least.  And excited.  The last time I attempted this race was in 2010 and I DNF'ed.  I also DNF'ed in '09 with an ambulance ride and visit to the ER.  The last time I completed the entire route was 3 weeks after the race in 2010.  I went solo,   had to get that monkey off my back. 

Fast forward 4 yrs, and here I am.  4 yrs of rides, pain, suffering, success.  WN Precision fit, Siren's John Henry set up Single Speed, nutrition and training advice from a lot of people, including Namrita and Eddie O'dea! 

To say I'm ready would be overconfident.  I didn't follow a training plan this year.  My DNF at the P111K definitely encouraged me to "train" but I decided not to follow rigid structure this year.  My 250 mile ride from VA to Asheville brought my legs back to life and taught me a little more about nutrition.   I'm having fun on the bike and not stressing about how many hours I'm getting.  I'm still following my HR and know approximately how hard I can go for how long.  My friends tell me I am riding strong and looking ready. 

I have my doubts,  its natural, but overall, I am ready. 

I just hope I can get some sleep between now and race day!

Friday, July 11, 2014


 Its been a while since I have posted.  It is summer time and summer time is slammed time.  I have trips going out almost everyday and on a rare day with no trips..... I take advantage and get office type stuff done.   Fun times!

The ride last night started well enough.  Hot and humid and not too fast.  The skies were clear after a huge storm had passed earlier.  I was glad to get out.  I'm averaging 2 training rides per week this time of year, and with ORAMM coming up,  I don't take this time for granted.   I'm bound to be losing fitness though, so my nemesis race will be more like a big ride.  That's fine with me.  I want to finish and sit in that creek without feeling like I'm going to die!
 So, we were cruising along Butler Bridge Rd last night, a group of 4 off the front when a vehicle turned left in front of them.  Bob and Jamie hit some brakes and went down hard.  Officer McMurray was helpful and informed the guys that they were better off not filing a report because their insurance premiums would go up.  That's what I gathered second hand anyway.  Jamie asked the guy for a card, he said he didn't have business cards,  that the state does not pay for them.  I though police were required to have some sort of ID that they could leave with a person.   Maybe I'll order some from Vistaprint and send them to him.
Bob's wife came and picked the two up and hauled them to the hospital.  The rest of us continued the ride, a bit deflated and discouraged for our friends.

Its good to live in a cycling community that sticks together in crisis.  Its good to live amongst people who care on many different levels.

Prayers for Bob and Jamie for a speedy recovery.
Have a great day!

Wednesday, July 02, 2014


This morning, I'm thankful.  For a lot.  So much to appreciate, so much that I sometimes take for granted.

The wife, working all night to help people.  The kid,  being a kid and challenging me to be a better dad, without even knowing it.  My house,  it is solid, warm and dry.  And now thanks to a lot of blood, sweat, tears (and a couple of f-bombs),  it looks good and is more functional. 

My friends,  for the smiles, encouraging words, keeping me on my toes, helping me laugh.

Yes, I know this is vague, but my bike rides and anyone who has helped me achieve in that area.  From sponsors to race volunteers to race promoters to competitors.

And then I become overwhelmed with so much to write and so little time.

Thankful for my job,  I get take kids on bike rides....  awesome.

Make a point today to be thankful!

Friday, June 27, 2014

Thursday Night Liberty Ride

Traffic Jams everywhere

Now we know the truth (Kevin Hessler)

Another day in paradise!

Hot but hydrated

Fun times (Chris Brown)
Fun ride,  started mellow,  then ran into a ton of traffic.  Traffic was backed up on Hendersonville Rd, I-26 and Hwy 191.  Is Obama in town? 

The pace picked up mid ride with the typical antics.  Fun times, good training. 

A few of us rode up and over Reynolds Mountain to finish out the ride.  A nice change to fighting traffic on Hendersonville rd.

My fitness is good,  I hope it stays around for ORAMM!

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Pulaski VA to Asheville VA: Day 3

 After about 3 hours of sleep, I was awake and rolled out of bed around 6am.  I walked across the street to the gas station and got a 16oz cup of coffee.  I was so tired I didn't even think to complain about the quality.  I was beat.  I had around 90 miles to get home, and an extra day.  I really wanted to extend my trip, but realizing that this week is the beginning of a very busy summer season,  I wanted to be properly rested going into it.  I had a couple of ideas, places that I wanted to detour to, but decided against it. 
So, I headed south and stopped at Christa's or some food.  Her homemade yeast rolls weren't ready yet, and there was a pile of smoked butts on the counter waiting to be prepped for sandwiches.  I opted for one bacon, egg and cheese for now, and one bacon and cheese for later.  And more coffee.

I took my time.  I had been doing that on this trip.  Slowing down and stopping at some overlooks.  It is a good thing to do.  Enjoy the view, stop and smell the roses.  I need to do more of that everyday.

After a few miles, the mountains kicked up and the real climbing started.  VA has climbs but NC's are longer and steeper.  The miles tick by slower. 
 My muscles warmed up after a while and I was enjoying the ride.  My thoughts turned to my night's lodging.  Why do I bother bringing camping gear, if I'm not going to use it?  I considered my reasoning,  and realized that comfort is a big deal.  Feeling some sort of comfort,protection and security from the weather is an important mental element.  Endurance athletes talk a lot about muscle recovery, but not quite as much about mental recovery.

I remembered how I used to love pitching a tent, regardless of the weather and feeling warm, dry and secure.  Sometimes in wind,  other times in a downpour.  It was then that I realized that maybe the tarp set up is not for me.  It does protect from rain and can be set up in several different configurations to protect from wind.  But,  when it storms and the wind and rain pound and swirl,  I definitely get splashed.

There is also the issue of wind chill.  Anyway.  I'm going to do some research on my shelter options.

 I worked my way up and over the numerous climbs.  Each one different,  each one taking effort and energy.  Stopping periodically at overlooks to refill my water bottle and soak in the fresh air. 
 I definitely lingered,  not wanting the trip to be over yet.  This is such a beautiful place we live in and I don't get to take these trips very often.   I don't take the time for granted, and no matter how tired I felt,  I knew I had to make the most of it.  As far as I knew, it would be a while before I would have the chance to get out again.  (but as you know, if that window opportunity opens, I take it!)
Spinning along

Big Views

One mile to go.
 And then I was home.  I rolled up to my front door and stood there for a moment,  looking at myself in the reflection.  I was glad to be home.  This had been a good trip.  I was tired and content....
... I'm looking forward to next time!

Pulaski Va to Asheville NC: Day 2

 Morning finally rolled around. I had planned on sleeping in, but woke up at 6:30am.  I was a bit sore but got up and got on the road.  A quick stop at Hardees for a couple of biscuits and then heading over to the parkway.  There was not a lot of climbing to get up to the two lane ribbon of pavement, so I made good time.  The skies were clear and it was already warm.  Summertime.  As I pedaled my thoughts turned again to why I was doing this.  I was tired, and hot, and my saddle was not adjusted just right because I had failed to take a measurement correctly.  I wasn't having fun at the moment but knew that things would eventually change.  Maybe I should have had another cup of joe!
 My plan today was to make it the roughly 90 miles to Moses H Cone Memorial Park and camp.  I was concerned that there would be no spots left, so I had several other campgrounds in mind if that one were full.  That would entail another 10 - 20 miles of pedaling though. 
 Most of the day was uneventful,  just pedaling,  enjoying the scenery and planning my next ride.... 
 I stopped for lunch at the Northwest Trading post.  A ham and cheese sub, coke, and I saved the chips and pecan tart for later. I enjoyed not moving for a few minutes but didn't want to linger too long.  Time was ticking and campsites were filling up. 
 About 15 miles I crossed the VA/NC state line, the topography starts to change with longer and slightly steeper grades.  I'm pretty familiar with some of these and they seem to never end, especially the ones on either side of Deep Gap.  My other nemesis is the stretch between Hwy 181 and Hwy 80.  
 I arrived at the campground earlier than expected, around 3:30pm.  I was please to find that there were plenty of spaces left.  But it was early, so I took a look around trying to decide what to do.  I was pretty disappointed in the condition of the campground.  It was pretty run down, and that diminished my desire to stay.  The campground host called ahead to Linville and told me that they only had 9 spots left and they were filling up fast.  I filled up my water and decided to keep riding.

 It was getting hot, and I had gotten a little behind on staying hydrated.  It was my own fault so I tried to drink a little extra and keep going.  As I pedaled around Grandfather Mountain,  I watched the storms passing by in front of and behind me, knowing that at any moment, I could be ducking for shelter, hiding from lightning.  As I neared Hwy 221 where I could drop down into Linville, and then head to Pineola,  I decided to head to Down By The River Campground and camp for the night.

As I cruised the 2 miles down the mountain,  the skies grew dark and I got worried about what was coming and what the night would hold.  I saw The Pixie Inn in Linville and like a Siren I was lured into false security.

Dinner was crap food from the gas station: Sprite, Pimento Cheese Sammy etc; because after 107 miles and dehydration, I didn't have the motivation to cook my mac n cheese. 

 For $50 I got a room, hot shower and a mouse that woke me up in the middle of the night trying to steal my nacho cheese flavored Bugles.  I had to stick a spoon in the window latch because the lock was gone.  I only got about 3 hrs of intermittent sleep and laying there, I wondered if I had it in me to pack up and pedal on.  But it was 3am and I decided to wait a little longer.