Sunday, August 24, 2014

Savage CX, 2014

I finally did it.  I rode and finished my first endruance CX race.  And I enjoyed it.

I lined up with over 100 other racers in Nebo NC on Saturday morning for Savage CX.  A 50 mile mostly gravel route from Nebo, circumnavigating the Linville Gorge.  If  I didn't know the area, I would not have know that we were circling both some world class climbing routes and world class kayaking.   Why not add a world class cycling route to the mix?

The temp at the start was just under 80.  It was already warm and I knew this would play a factor in my race, but I did not know how much of a factor. 

Cam, the director said go and we were off.  I watched my heartrate and found my pace.  I never really fell in with a group because I didn't know what to expect and didn't want to overdo it, burn my matches too early. 

On the first climb I got passed by quite a few people.  It was blazing hot and I didn't want to overheat.  So, I took my time.  As we got higher, the temps started to cool.  After about an hour,  I checked the thermometer and it said 73 degrees.  I picked up the pace and started reeling people in. 
photo: Blue Ridge Mtn Revival

I hit rest stop 1 in good spirits, reloaded and headed out.   Onto some pavement then up Gingercake acres.  Some jerk had moved an arrow sign in here and I caught up to a group of fast people who had taken the wrong turn and detoured. 

Unfortunately,  I had too much air in my tires and could not keep up on Table Rock Rd.   Everyone had told me about the horrible climb in the first 1/3 of the course.  No one had mentioned the fun downhill gravel road in the second 1/3.  So much fun, swooping down, in and out of the contours of the mountain!   

photo: Blue Ridge Mountain Revival
I stopped at aid station 2 briefly to refill, take some Coke shots and move on.  The route took us down some steep sandy, gravely soft forsaken FS roads for about another hour before spitting us out onto pavement. 

Being back down in the heat of the piedmont, I could not push the pace.   My legs felt great but my head and body were roasting.  I spun along the last 10 miles of the course, on pavement, holding a survival pace.  I could see lake James and wanted to swim.  When I crossed the Linville River with 5 miles to go, I could not resist.  I stopped and got in.  I watched as people rode by.  I did not care about losing spots,  only about living to finish. 

Eventually,  Jason Morgan came along and we rode together to the finish.  I was thankful that he came along, as chatting with him lifted my spirit and helped me to enjoy the ride to the end. 

Great course and great race.  I placed 24th in my cat and finished in 4hrs and 30mins!! 

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The Last First Day....

.... of elementary school. 

I started this blog as a way to sift through my thoughts and let people know that they were not alone with their thoughts.  Others have and are experiencing similar situations and getting through things are easier if we know others have succeeded. 

I'm proud to say that I have a solid, mature, confident 5th grader.   Today is his last time for a first day of elementary school.  And, he is excited about it.  He is looking forward to getting started, meeting the challenge.  I'm pretty sure its not just to get out of the house and away from me either. 

When I was in 5th grade, I had a different experience.  And as an adult, I tend to expect my kid to have similar experience to what I had.  But, I also give him room to have his own experience.  Fortunately, he appears to be having a great experience, and has expressed the excitement and goals for this year. 


I'm proud of my kid! 

Monday, August 18, 2014

Epic Ride and Beach Time

 Strava Link: HERE

We saved our money for a while and finally had enough to make the trek down to the beach.  We loaded up and headed to Charleston and then north to Buck Hall Rec Area.  I had actually planned ahead and made reservations at the campground there.  We pulled up to our campsite and started to unload when things went downhill.  The kid started running to the van screaming that something was biting him.  I looked down and saw no less than 10 mosquitoes had landed on my skin.  The wife was slapping the ones that were attacking her.  We retreated to the bathhouse then reconvened back at the van.  We decided to donate the cost of our reserved campsite and hunt   down an affordable hotel. 

Through the course of eating dinner, we found Comfort Suites in Mt Pleasant.  While the rate was not what I would call affordable,  we decided to go for it and stay at least one night.  Our budget would be blown but we were at the beach and we were determined to enjoy it. 

After moving into the room we headed out to the beach to watch the sunset. After we got back to the hotel.  We were so pleased with how we were being treated, and how clean and comfortable our room was, that we ended up committing to stay 3 nights. 
 The next morning, I met Low Country Joe for a tour of The Francis Marion National Forest.  This is his description of the 3 hr ride that turned into a 6 hr epic: "Asheville Jane"s was in town and had a little free time to go on a ride into the Francis Marion with me....what was supposed to be a 3 hour ride turned into a 6+ hour adventure....complete with me locking up, near bonk, and exhausting my water supply 1 hour from the end.... crazy day....did I mention I was rolling the Krampus? yeah...it was a tough day but it was fun!"

As the temps climbed towards the mid 90's Joel was having a rough time.  But what he did not mention in his post was that he had been out past midnite the night before, riding 50 + miles and working on his set up for the upcoming Trans North Ga Race!   
 I on the other hand had a great ride and was able to manage the  heat well.  The stop at the gas station for some Coke and ham and cheese sammy, with ice cream sandwiches was a nice touch.  If you head to Charleston, I recommend getting in touch with Joel for a guided trip!
 The rest of the days went well.  Typical beach stuff.  Waves, sand, sunburn, fun family time.
 We headed to the beach after dinner every night.  Dinner one of those nights was hot dogs and baked bean on the Coleman stove in the hotel parking lot.  You do what you gotta do! 
 On the way home, we took the scenic route so we could see a couple bits of the Palmetto Trail.  We rode the dike around Lake Marion.  The temps were around 95 so we lasted about 4 miles,  did not see any alligators.  We hit the ice cream stand in Eutawville and the closed bridge in Santee. 
Can't wait to get back down there!

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Gravel Ride

A couple of weeks ago, I drove up to meet  Mike K in Little Switzerland.  He had a gravel road loop mapped out and I was looking forward to giving it a shot.  I got there in time for breakfast.  Rhonda, his wife cooked up some pancakes and eggs.  I couldn't eat everything on my plate and felt bad for not doing so.
We dropped down 226 into the valley and after that I lost track of where I was.  Basically, we rode up the valley, then up to the Blue Ridge, down the other side, , through that valley, then back up to the Parkway and home.
Close to 3 hrs on the road at a leisurely pace.  Perfect day and great conversation. 
Railroad tracks in the middle of seemingly nowhere!

We saw this interesting barn quilt.  I have never seen one like this,  usually they are symetrical designs.  This one was really cool though!  

Once again, Mike pulls off a great loop and we avoid anything epic! 

Monday, August 11, 2014

A Friend Needs Your Help

 Click here to donate:
http://www.gofundme.com/JaimeeJohnson


2 yrs ago, Jaimee Johnsen moved to Asheville, NC looking for a change of scenery and a new start. Most of you reading this have been in that situation.

Jaimee jumped in feet first, volunteering for Trips For Kids WNC, and helping out at local races such as ORAMM and PMBAR. She got hooked on bikes and became so passionate about sharing her new love, that she recently landed a job working at Sycamore Cycles in Hendersonville.

She started training and racing and was becoming quite a fierce competitor.

On Wednesday, August 6th, Jaimee was wrapping up a training ride on the Blue Ridge Parkway, when a vehicle made a left turn in front of her. With nowhere to go, she hit the car with the collision causing her to flip over the bars and land in the hospital. Concussion, fractured skull, fractured femur, damage to ACL and PCL are some of the injuries.

We have all been in a position where we coule use a little help from our friends. Some of us have been in a position where we could use a lot of help from our friends. Jaimee is in the latter position.

5 days in the hospital, combined with recovery and rehab treatments in the future will leave her with a lot of medical bills. In addition, it will be a while before she can return to work and earn some income. Rent, food, and other bills will add up quickly.

The good news is that Western North Carolina has a tight cycling community. A community that supports each other in victory and defeat. And this is our time to come together and help one of our own. Knowing that it could be any one of us at anytime who needs a helping hand, this is our time to help Jaimee.

Thanks in advance,
Stephen Janes

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Thursday Night Liberty Ride

I want to take a moment to try to define the undefinable. 

 People ask me periodically about this ride: is it fast? Do we regroup? Are there sprints?  etc.   I try to talk about pace,  what the avg is etc,  but there are so many answers that should start with, "It depends".

It depends on who shows up, the weather, how many show up, if there was  a Ring Of Fire the night before, if there is a race coming up.  So many possibilities.

The ride has been compared to Tuesday Night Worlds,  both on the river and in Etowah.  While those are great rides, and have purpose,  this ride is different.  This is a fast paced spirited ride, and one will have a difficult time trying to control it.

Here are some general guidelines on what to expect, join us only if you intend to have fun while being challenged.

The Group:
Lots of really strong folks, guys and girls show up for this ride.  I have made a lot of good friends, people who really care about others, and who want to see cycling progress as a sport.  It is a mix of pro level racers, to amateur racers, to some who don't race road at all.    The one commonality that I have seen from the group, is that we are not there to intentionally drop anyone and there is a thread of caring, where we watch out for others on the ride.  To the point of occasionally easing the pace, if someone is lagging.  Especially if that person is someone who regularly contributes to the group.  We want to go fast, to get stronger, to learn how to handle the bike better.

General Guidelines:
No Drop Ride:
This ride has been billed as a "No Drop Ride".  Sometimes people do get dropped.  Sometimes people sign on to the fast group, when they don't have the fitness to be in that group.  Its a bit of a common sense thing.  I feel like anyone has the right to ride, but if you don't have the fitness, then don't expect the entire group to wait on you.  The A group will wait,  just not for long,  which is fine with me.  If I get dropped and they don't wait, well I'll try again next week.  The B group will wait longer.  So if you get there and the A group is gone,  wait for the B group!

Sprints:
Believe it or not,  there are no "Sprint Zones".  Yes, there are several places where the pace typically, but not always, picks up.  There are also  places where people give it a go and try to go off the front, or sprint.  Most of the time, but not all of the time,  the rest of the group follows.  But,  every once in a while,  no one sprints, the pace stays steady and everyone chats away,  quietly wondering if someone is going to go, but hoping they won't.   And then there are the random place where someone will go for the surprise attack,   just some random place on the route.  Just to keep it interesting. This is a much more organic, grassroots feel than a lot of rides.  ( not better, just different).

Don't Be A Jerk:
This one is self explanatory.  Respect the other rides, take a turn or two at the front.  Don't suck wheels and then try to take the sprint.  These methods won't garner any respect.  Point out potholes or obstacles.  Obey traffic laws, ( we can all improve here).  Take a turn or two at the front,  unless you don't have what it takes, but then don't try to take the sprint..... 

What To Expect (ie. look forward to) or not expect:

Expect to get worked.  Expect to fell like you are going to explode, to hang on for dear life.  Expect to take a pull at the front now and then.  Expect the unexpected.  Expect friendly people, quiet people, people who care.  Expect to go fast and be ok with getting dropped.  Don't expect to be coddled.  Don't expect for the group to wait if you don't have the overall fitness to keep up. (in that case,  expect the B group to scoop you up).

And this just scratches the surface of what really happens on the ride.   The thing is,  last year,   I struggled with the group.  I wanted to see an organized, rotating paceline type of group that catered to the fast and the less fast.  I wanted to see everyone working together, as  a well oiled machine,  everyone taking equal pulls.  Going fast enough that the slowest could keep up, but slow enough that the fastest still got a workout.  And I got burned out.

This year, I stopped trying to control, trying to put what I wanted on the group.  What I realized is that what we have is a well oiled machine,  out there being what it is, and doing what it does.  Week after week, we go out,  get faster,  challenge each other.  Once I let go of my ideals,  I started having a lot of fun...... undefinable fun.

See you on Thursday!

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.