Saturday, December 27, 2008

Holy Global Warming Batman!

While some of my buds in the Mid-west and Rockies got dumped on with snow, ice and nasty cold, I got to ride today in shorts and a long sleeve jersey (it's all I had with me). The temps were around 70 and you really couldn't ask for a better day.

I headed out with some of my buds: Alan, David H, Anet and Wes for a couple of hours of base building with a nice 2 mile climb at the end. We rode the familiar TNR course - host to a weekly road ride during the summer.

Short sleeves, shorts, sun and warm. You'd have thought it was May instead of December.

I ditched the tights before we started and could have really done without the long sleeve jersey but it's all I had.

We rode really easy (for a change. you see guys - and girls, really can ride together without killing each other) until we got to the climb up Buffalo mountain. Even there, we didn't kill it but we did ride a pretty fast tempo to the top. It felt great!

"Duckman" Hasselhoff summits Buffalo. (I had to un-zip, I was freaking roasting!!), Nevermind the pasty whiteness.

It was a good day to be alive.........

With two more weeks until the first race of 2009 - the opening round of the Knoxiecross series, I am devoting most of my training to base building and easy stuff. I do toss in some tempo and steady-state intervals but not much. I have never started racing in January before, I don't want to toast myself before the real racing starts in April.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Vassago Optimus Ti Long Term Review

Part of my job riding on the Vassago Cycling Team is to bash the living crap out of some really sweet bikes just to see how they will hold up. Of course I am kidding about bashing the crap out of them but having put several thousand miles on them, I consider myself knowledgeable about the bikes, how they ride and how they hold up to a fair amount of abuse.

I got my Optimus Ti frame in April of this year and built it up just in time for the first race of the year, the Cohutta 100. This is the first generation frame that was built overseas to Vassago specs (newer ones are built in the good old US of A, not that there's a problem with overseas stuff) and features the now famous "Wet Cat" geometry and some really nice sliding dropouts courtesy of Paragon Machine Works. Although I ride singlespeeds exclusively, the Optimus is "gearable" with an accessory kit that includes a new right side dropout and bottom bracket cable guides. Building mine up with a fairly middle of the road component spec, I was able to get a bike that weighed in at 19.5 lbs (with pedals!) and before you could say "She's a beaut Clark", I was putting the first miles on it. Compared with the stalwart Jabberwocky, the handling is identical, as it probably should be since the numbers are the same. The only differences between the Optimus and my Jabbers is the frame material obviously and the White Bros Rock Solid fork on the Optimus vs. the ODIS steel fork on the Jabberwocky.

From the first pedal stroke, I could tell this was a way different bike than what I was used to. The ride quality of the Optimus is amazing (and that's saying quite a bit since the Jabberwocky already set a pretty high standard for ride). Combined with the WB fork and the inherent quality of 29er wheels, small high frequency bumps virtually disappeared. It feels alot like a short travel XC bike in that regard. You know the bumps are there, you just don't feel them. Handling and stability is inspiring. The mythical 29er's can't handle tight turns, twisties and are slow handling gets busted right from the start. That's probably due mostly to the proprietary Wet Cat geometry that in a nutshell puts your center of gravity more between the wheels than above them like some other manufacturers that just took basic 26 inch geometry and stuffed bigger wheels in there but the frame material definitely contributes to the magical ride quality the Optimus possesses. 40+mph fireroad descents (I have seen a few) on this bike are a blast. It just sticks to corners and when or if it does break loose, it does so in a fairly controlled manner.

Climbing is another strong point for this bike. Light, stiff where it needs to be, it climbs like a dream. I have heard some complaints or concerns that Vassagos loose traction to easily on loose climbs due to their long chainstays. I have never experienced that. Being a singlespeed, you need to lay down some serious power to climb steep stuff and if the soil is loose, it will slip but it is no more prone to doing that than any other bike I have ridden.

To date, I have put about 3,300 miles on my Optimus Ti in terrain ranging from pavement to dirt and gravel roads, doubletrack and singletrack ranging from mild to damn scary. It has been ridden hard and put up wet more than I'd like to say but I have given it a good bit of TLC as well. One thing I haven't done is a whole lot of maintenance other than lubing the chain when needed. This has been one of the most dependable bikes I have ridden. In the 3k miles I didn't have so much as a flat tire. (To be fair, I did have 3 broken spoke nipples and one bashed rear rim that was my fault). The Paragon dropouts are set and forget. No slipping, no creaks, they just do their job clean and efficient like.

After the endurance stuff was over, I slapped on some cyclocross tires and went cross racing just for fun. The bike took it all in stride. I have purposely not said much about components because I plan to do a separate review of those coming up. This is about the total package and how it performs over the long haul.

Ok, what about the bad stuff?

Uh, ok. If I nitpick, I can come up one thing that did bug me but only slightly (and has been changed on later versions of the bike) and that's the straight chainstays. The right one rubs my ankle in certain technical riding type situations. My ankle is a bit messed up from racing motocross in another lifetime and it kinda sticks out in the way so this is probably as much me as it is the frame. Not a big deal at all but you knew something had to be wrong. I mean no bike is perfect right? Yeah, that's right but one bike is pretty close.

And I own it.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Rocky Fork

I met Bob, Anet and Wes Lamberson yesterday for my first ride in Rocky Fork, a 10,000 acre tract of pristine forest that has been the object of local scrutiny for the past several years and has just been acquired by the USFS jointly with a advocacy group. What happens next with the area is a question but one thing is certain, it has been saved from the hands of developers and big timber companies. 
Although there are no trails there (yet) except the AT that runs through a portion of the property (and is waaay off-limit to bikes), there are plenty of FS roads and abandoned logging roads to explore. I was excited to get to ride there after hearing so much about it from my buddy Bob. 
The first thing he asked me upon arrival at the trailhead, "Didja bring your climbing legs?" Yes to ride in Rocky Fork means you will climb, a lot and for a long time. Much of it steep too. 

Sounds great.

We headed out and the climbing began almost immediately. For the first several miles, it wasn't too bad. The road ran along a really nice creek that had several water falls and I am sure more than a few Trout swimming around. We got the opportunity to cross the creek a few times. At the first crossing, I looked long and hard at it remembering the last time I crossed a creek in the Winter and ended up losing my shoes . While everyone else took off their shoes and socks and walked across, I threw caution to the wind and rode it. The water was surprisingly warm(ish) and the air temp wasn't too bad either so I could deal with wet feet. 

The more we rode, the higher the stakes got however. The air temps were dropping and the creek was getting deeper.

The last one was a lot deeper than the others (over my bottom bracket) and colder too. Still, I rode the others, might as well try this one too. I made it. By now, the road was really starting to kick up. We climbed and climbed with no end really, in sight. 

It is as steep as it looks.

After riding (climbing) for over an hour, I had a snack. My legs felt great at that point and we were having a good ride. 

Snack time (why yes that is more climbing coming up).

The final mile or so pitch before the "top" (there is no top - ever. No matter how much or long you climb, there is still more to climb so forget about reaching the top. It's a myth), was a real beast. It was probably in the neighborhood of 10-15% in gradient and really was tough. The reward for two hours of solid climbing was some incredible views. 

For all y'all living in the flatlands and concrete jungles, this is what you are missing.

Obligatory "Rocky" pose ( a little soon for celebrating though, you'll see why)

Although it looks like we were at the top of the world, we still had more climbing to come. We rode on to see a massive wild blueberry patch and some grassy bald just at the AT. The climbing there was kinda messy as the "road" ( I use that term loosely now) was loamy with some evil rock gardens thrown in for good measure. 

It was finally time to turn around and descend for awhile. We went back through the rock gardens and the mucky muck and lost elevation pretty quickly until we came to......... wait for it. 

More climbing. 

Yep, smack in the middle of our nice descent back to the cars was a mile long beast that had all of us whining. Not long after that, Wes flatted and Bob stayed back to help him while Anet and I went on.  We eventually did get more downhill stuff and overall a great day of riding. 

Hopefully, Rocky Fork will develop into a paradise for multi-use trails and anyone that enjoys being outside. It is a gemstone in the crown of what makes the mountains of East Tennessee a great place to be. 

As far as a place to train, it is perfect. I enjoyed the climbing even though it did hurt quite a bit in places, I know it is what I need to make me stronger. I suck at climbing. My 32X18 gearing was bitch-slapping me all over but I defied the misery for the biggest part and only walked a few spots that were either too slick for traction or just too steep (hey, everyone cracks under pressure sooner or later).

I plan to get back over there soon.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Ok, so now what?

The bikes still sit in the garage with mud on them, the jersey hangs from the handlebars of one with the number still pinned on from the last race of 2008. I am 5 days into my "off season" which is going to last anywhere from 2 to 4 weeks depending on what I decide to do with myself.
Number one on the agenda for the winter is losing some weight. I already have a head start from a fall/early winter bunch of cyclocross and painfully changing some bad eating habits.
Second is to take a look at 2008 and figure out what I did that worked and what didn't. I am doing that now and plan to write about that in another post soon.

Last, I am starting to get confirmation on dates for 2009 races and putting them together in a schedule so I can know what I am doing and when. 2009 is going to be divided in three distinct parts - Early season, Primetime, and Cyclocross. Early season can begin as soon as Jan 1 with the Snake Creek Time Trial series in North Georgia should I decide to participate. Also in January is more cyclocross with the Knoxiecross Series in Knoxville, Tn and the Icycle race at Fontana Village in North Carolina. February is more cross and the 12 Hours of Santos in Florida. March is still undecided but there's the last round of the Snake Creek TT series and a couple of road races that I could do if I choose.
April brings the first couple of bigger races on my schedule - the Cohutta 100 and the 6 Hours of Warrior Creek. All those races are part of my early season build up to the prime racing months of May, June and July which contain 3/4 of the races I really want to do well in next year. A few more important races come up in August/September and then I switch from endurance mode back into cyclocross next October.
I have to be careful and not do too much. I could literally race every weekend if I wanted to. I am trying to keep the big, hard stuff separated by enough time to recover (no more back to back to back 12 hour, 24 hour and 100 milers like I did last May - that hurt!)

All in all, I am excited about the upcoming season. I don't race because I am particularly good at it and I certainly don't do it for the money or the fame (hahahaha). I do it because I love racing. I guess I am ok at it, it's hard to judge from results since I keep pushing myself harder and against stiffer competition each year. It's more about the war than it is the battle I guess. The truth is though, I am slowly improving each year and clawing my way a little further each season. Having seen some impressive performances from older competitors, I am encouraged about what I may be able to achieve if I keep on keeping on.

We'll see how it goes.

Monday, December 15, 2008

The Fat Lady Has Sung

At 3:03pm on Saturday, the 2008 racing season for me officially ended as I crossed the line in round 6 of the Mud, Sweat and Gears Cyclocross Series. What began in February with a lackluster performance in the Icycle, ended with another mediocre showing at MSG. The stuff in between had some highs and some lows but one thing is certain, it was a total blast. All of it.

I woke up Saturday with an intense desire to race but also a keen sense that I should go find something else to do. My sprained thumb still was an issue. In fact, it was so painful still that I had a hard time buttoning my pants and tying my shoes. I could grip the bars ok but it really hurt to use the front brake on my cross bike, the singlespeed was a little better with the flat bar and Ergon grips. Conventional wisdom would say grab a cowbell and go hang out with my pals and watch the race. Duckman wisdom is sometimes in direct conflict with conventional wisdom however, and when that happens, it usually ends bad. I went to the venue and signed up for three classes - CX4, Masters 35+ and Singlespeed.

I warmed up for about 30 minutes on my trainer and then went out for a couple of hot laps. The course was really bumpy and I had trouble with hanging onto the bars in the rougher parts. On my second lap, I scouted out some better lines and dropped my tire pressure another 5 lbs in the front to #38. I went to the line for CX4 hoping for the best. I actually got a decent start and adrenalin fueled my first lap. On lap two, I began to have trouble hanging on and braking in some of the really tight corners. I began to fade. Lap three brought more fading and my hand got knocked off my bars twice. By then, I was in the front of a group of my friends that included Mark Prince (Mark has improved an impressive amount this year), Alan Sparks and David Smith. Mark got by me and I had the intentions of keeping him close and attacking on the barriers on the last lap because I noticed he had a little trouble with them. David and Alan were far enough back, I didn't think they would be a threat.

That is until I crashed on the eff'in barriers!

Yep going over the first ones, my bike clipped the top of the barrier and the pain from my thumb caused me to let go of it. I then tripped over it and fell. The pain in my hand caused me to curse in tongues. It was bad - the kind that makes you want to curl up with a blanket and suck your thumb like a baby. I got up and got back on my bike and headed towards the finish thinking Mark was gone and maybe David and Alan didn't catch me. In the last corner just before the Redline Run-up, David tries to strong arm me and we go into the tape (but not off the course too bad) while Alan tries to slip by on the inside on both of us. It was like racing motocross again. I think that 30yds of the race was the most fun I had all series long. At the top of the run-up, I was done. I didn't even try to race anymore. I just wanted to go home.

I didn't start the Masters race and just sat under Alan's EZ-up with a bag of ice on my hand. I was bummed out mostly because I love to race and all I could do was sit there and watch. I kept the ice on my hand for a while and then took it off and grabbed my singlespeed to go ride around a bit. The singlespeed is a lot more comfortable than my cross bike and the Ergon grips especially gave my hand enough support to ease the pain quite a bit. I went back and got on my trainer to get warm (it was cold but I knew I was going to race again) and I lined up for the singlespeed race.

I got another good start and although I faded towards the end and ended up outside the top ten, I felt much better than I did in the earlier race. My Vassago hasn't let me down all year. It's a great bike. I decided to do my best and to have fun. There was a group gathered by the Redline Run-up giving stuff away to people that tried to ride it and cash for anyone that actually did. I tried every lap and got the closest on my first attempt but never made it. It was just too steep and my gearing was way to high for that Tom-foolery. I did get some nice MSG socks though.

photo credit: Jennifer Dayton Church

And thus ended my 2008 racing season. Many thanks to Eric Wondergem and Dwayne Letterman for the Mud, Sweat and Gears Series, all the volunteers and sponsors that made it happen (and continue to make it happen), you guys ROCK!

Many, many thanks to my awesome sponsors that made 2008 really a great year for me: Vassago Cycles, WTB, Ergon, White Brothers Cycling, Crank Brothers, Carbo-Rocket and Under-Armour.

And finally, to everyone that I rode and raced with this year, that encouraged me, forced me to be better and those of you that keep coming back here to see what I wrote, Thank you.

2008 was fun, 2009 (only 4 weeks until the FIRST RACE whoo hoo!!!) will be even better.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Same **** Different Year....

Here I am on the eve of the final race in the 2008 MSG Cyclocross series and I am injured to the point I probably shouldn't race. Last year it was bruised ribs that kept me out, this year it's a sprained thumb. The funny thing is that in the last two years, I haven't got hurt a bit while racing. I get hurt when I am just riding. Hmmm.. Either I am just riding too hard or not racing hard enough, I don't know which.

Nah, shit happens.....

This weekend was supposed to be the first of three week-long "boot camps" I have planned for the winter for myself. I was going to race three classes tomorrow and follow up with a long but easy ride Sunday and there's something each day next week designed to help me as I start to build fitness for next year.

Right now, I have the grip strength of a burly toddler in my left hand. With copious amounts of tape and a (hopefully) fast course that doesn't require much braking, I should be fine - as long as I don't do something stupid like crash......

I still plan to race three classes tomorrow just because I know better but choose not to do what I know would be the wise thing.

Hey, I am a man. It's expected of me to make bad decisions.........................

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Snow Ride

Having to work during the 5th round of the Mud, Sweat and Gears cyclocross series had me bummed enough on Saturday and it didn't help matters when it began to snow. I love riding and racing in sloppy conditions. By the time I got off work, the race was over but the snow was coming down pretty good. Since I am usually prepared to ride at any time, I took advantage of the moment and headed over to Steele Creek Park for a really short ride.

Part car, part closet, part storage building, there's just nothing to not love about an Element.

By the time I got to the trails and got ready to ride, the snow was coming down pretty good. The trails were starting to get covered with a heavy, wet covering of the white stuff. Steele Creek is a city park in Bristol, Tennessee and the trails there are actually pretty bad. It's a shame too because the place is really beautiful with a lake and a lot of potential for some really nice trails. Instead there is a few miles of poorly designed and built trails that suffer from advanced erosion and if it wasn't so close to where I work (less than 5 minutes), I probably wouldn't even bother.

Any port in a storm they say.

There is a lot of steep fall line trails at Steele Creek like this one. It is much steeper than the picture shows.

Somebody actually thought this switchback was a good idea. It is nearly impossible to ride.

Don't eat the yellow snow.

The lake and the dam.

I call this one Jabberwocky in Snow.

Gratuitous Duckman shot.

The day wasn't a total success though. On a steep and rocky section in a fall line descent, I crashed hard and sprained my thumb. It hurt like a ****** ****er and made me mad but really I shouldn't have been riding it in the first place in those conditions. It was so slick that I fell again just walking down the rest of it. Nothing like a swift kick in the balls to top a bad day.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Wanton Randomness

I have had a rough week. I haven't done a damn thing since Sunday. I have been healing from the crash I had at the NCGP and let's just say I handle training and racing a lot better than doing nothing. So since I don't have much to post about anything, I thought I'd post some random stuff.

I have made it through nearly an entire racing season without a single mechanical failure (in competition). In just riding however, I haven't been so lucky. I went on a much needed ride recently and it really felt good to just go ride, not train, just ride for riding's sake. I got about as far away from the car as I could get and was just coming out of a short, steep uphill switchback and "POP".

I was surprised to find my bottom bracket broken. I have been riding for 20 years and I have seen a lot of freaky crap but this was the first time I have seen a bottom bracket break (unless it was abused). I'd like to attribute it to my massiveness but I believe it was a defect. So I ended up running with my bike for a couple of miles to get out of the woods before dark. Fun times.

Another funny thing I found recently is just how tough supposedly weak lightweight 29'er rims are. I use Stan's rims exclusively (and he doesn't even sponsor me) because I like the way they hold tires tight on the bead and how easy it is to seal up a tubeless tire on them. Upon cleaning my Optimus a couple of weeks ago, I discovered one of my Stan's 355 rims got in a fight with a rock.

I'd have to say it was a draw. I know the rock is fine and after a few minutes with some vice grips, the rim is fine too. The funny thing is it still sealed the tire and I rode it like this for about 2 months which included a couple of races.

Since it is cold and dark outside now during the time when I used to train, I have to do other things to get my fitness fix. Things like ride in the dark (that's fun) and ride inside on my trainer (that sucks). But what's a junior hammerhead gonna do? Since we are in a new home for now, I had to set up a new training area. The new place is a bit smaller than the old place in that regard but I got it going on pretty well.

Bike and trainer go in the middle. I also have rollers for variety and a fan for ventilation when it's needed.

I have a few workouts downloaded on my laptop that range from mild to hand me a puke bucket.

Behind me is the main quiver of bikes. The other bikes are in the storage building outside.

It ain't like riding outside but it beats the hell out of getting out of shape in the winter.

Say 'ello to my little friend. This is Crackers the farting dog. He was graciously ripped from death's doorstep and rescued from the pound.

I am pretty sure he ended up at the pound because of the toxic fumes he regularly emits from his butt. Don't let his small size fool you, he can clear a room without even straining.

Happy Thanksgiving!!!!!!!!!!!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

North Carolina Grand Prix

I headed out early Sunday and picked up some new friends -Ginger and her boyfriend Nick and we headed for Hendersonville North Carolina and the UCI Cat 2 NCGP Cyclocross race. I was excited to do some extra curricular suffering between rounds of the MSG Cross series that's going on at home. It's interesting to me to look back and see how cross has worked its way into my riding.

2004 - MSG was new and I did one race just to say I did and to support a local series.
2005 - Two races.
2006 - Two races. Cross was still a novelty and not something I really felt a need to do much of.
2007 - Five races. Uh, would have been six but I got sick. I went to the sixth race and stood in the rain to watch.
2008 - I have done 8 races so far (two classes at most MSG series events) and the season isn't over yet. Already thinking about "next year".

Yeah, I guess I am hooked.

This was the first road trip to do a cross race for me and I was excited to see a different venue and some different faces to race with. It was cold but sunny and the venue was fantastic. We got there and after getting registered, I headed out on a few hot laps to check out the course and get warm. It was a long course with some really nice features like fast, swoopy turns, lotsa flat "roadie" stuff and even a little pseudo singletrack. Oh and a really neat feature called "the wall" - a short, steep climb that was all power. Don't have enough and to you it would be another run-up.
When I went to the start, I was in the third row and had someone in each armpit and a couple of front wheels rubbing my legs. Hmmmm, wonder how this is gonna work. I looked around for Ginger (we raced a the same time) and couldn't see her anywhere. There must have been about 50 CX4's and with the juniors and women, there was probably 75 or 80 people jammed in there.

Good thing we started in waves.

I rarely get nervous at the start of a race but today I was a little jumpy. I felt better when I heard "GO" and I managed to slip inside a few racers and get some clear pavement to sprint towards the front before the first turn. By the first turn, I was in a real crappy position on the extreme inside and was going to have to brake hard and then sprint hard again to maintain my position. Just as I started to brake, I heard "I'm passing on your left". Uh, dude there's a fence there and then there's me and I ain't moving. He hit me and as I went through the corner, I looked over and saw him on his back with his bike up in the air.


I was in about 15th place and the pace was really hard, really hard. I got passed and passed some back and forth through the first lap and coming through the finish, I saw 3 laps to go. Cool. I love long courses.

I didn't love what happened next though. Going through the barriers, I tripped over my bike on the remount like a dork and twisted my knee really bad. I had a sharp pain through it and considered quitting but rode easy instead to see what was going to happen. I got passed by pretty much everyone, I thought. I was surprised to later see I finished 31st.
Yeah, whatever dude. I had fun but was disappointed. I wanted to do better.

After my race, we all hung out and watched the Elite men and women. The men's race was won by Jeremiah Bishop in an impressive display of tactics and sheer strength. Equally impressive was Steve Tilford who at 48, was the protagonist of the break that would decide the race and plum whupped all but two of the elite field.

Monday, November 17, 2008

A Picture's Worth A Thousand Words

I just got this pic from my buddy Bart and it captures exactly what I was feeling on Saturday during MSG #4. I was in a bad place for sure.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Humility Training

It is rare, if ever that someone says "I think I'll practice being humble today". We train our weaknesses except for the biggest weakness of all - humility.

I had a bad week last week, at least in regard to riding or training so by the time round #4 of the Mud, Sweat and Gears Cross series rolled around on Saturday, I was ready to ride. I put together a temporary geared CX bike (my Vassago Fisticuff isn't quite ready) for use in the Master's race and even though I rode it some before the race, I really hadn't ridden it yet. The weather forecast was nasty - rain and falling temps throughout the day. Considering that most of the MSG races for the past 3 years have been under ideal conditions, I think many people were ready for some good, old fashioned Northern Belgium type cyclocross weather.
I got dressed and began to warm up for the Masters race. The ground was soft and muddy in places but not bad, the temps held in the 50s and it wasn't bad once you started pedaling.

That would change as the day progressed.

Almost immediately after the start of the Masters race, I didn't feel so great. The course was really tight in places and required a lot of sprinting out of corners. Going into the first set of barriers, someone tripped and I almost stepped on him. I remounted near the back of the field and put my head down and tried to have a go. It wasn't happening. After what seemed like forever, I came around and saw 6 laps to go. Shit! I thought and I felt like quitting. By then, I was in what I assumed was last place and couldn't hold anybody's wheel. I felt bad. Somewere along the backside of the course, I decided that there was no way in hell I was going to stop, I was going to ride as fast as I could and let the chips fall where they may. After all, this is just training for me anyway. I am not competitive in Masters - yet....

Six laps took an eternity to complete but I did complete them and I was surprised later when I found out I got 14th which was one up from DFL. Still not what I wanted though, I headed off to think about what just happened and get ready for the Singlespeed race that was coming up. It was getting colder and raining off and on. It started raining as I began to warm-up for the Singlespeed race and I really wasn't happy. I considered not taking the starting line but like in the Masters race earlier, I made myself go. I actually got a great start and came around the first set of corners in about 5th or 6th place, right behind Andy Applegate who just got second in the Pro 1/2 race. I knew I wouldn't be around that neighborhood for long though so I tried to hang in as long as I could.

To add insult to injury, on the 4th lap of the race, a rain drop hit me square in the eye and knocked out one of my contacts. Confirmation that this was some kind of cosmic Punk Duckman day. I had a hard time with only one contact. It drove me nuts.
I did fade but not as bad as I did in the Masters race and ended up somewhere around 15th or 16th by the end of the race. Cold and frustrated, I returned to my pits to pack up and go home.

I don't really know what happened although I can point to about 5 things that contributed to a bad day at the races but I think I got the take home lesson. Bicycle racing is tough and you may have one good day out of plenty. You have to deal with failure for more than success (unless you are extremely gifted - I am not) and that's just the way it is.

In the end, I am thankful that I am able to do the things I do and even though the day didn't go the way I would have wanted, it was still a good day.

Next week: The UCI CX race in Hendersonville, NC.

I am a glutton for punishment.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

The Devil Is In The Details

Being a self-coached athlete is sometimes like pissing in the wind in a typhoon. Sure, I'd probably do better by getting an actual coach and laying down a solid training plan with consults, feedback and all the bells and whistles but that costs more money than I can really put into it and with my schedule being what it is, I just don't feel like I need to do that right now. Besides, I have accumulated nearly 20 years of empirical data on how not to do things and I'd hate to waste all that research.
I have been putting together some stuff over the last few weeks and plan to start with the new program on Dec 1. My main goals for the winter are to lose some weight (yeah I know that's gonna be hard to do but I gotta try) and to maintain most of the fitness I built this season to give me a solid base for more fitness next year. In the past, some of my main limiters have been inconsistent training and poor eating habits. I made a big mistake this year with doing mostly endurance rides with little high intensity stuff. I found out when cyclocross started that I made a big mistake in not including some high-end suffering with my regular suffering.
To remedy that, I have included with the training I will be doing, several shorter, high-intensity type races into my schedule. The best training for racing is racing and I made dramatic changes to my schedule over what it has been for the past few years to include a variety of pain-inflicting events. I still suck at climbing so you can bet I will be doing a lot of it over the next few months. I am also making a huge effort to be more consistent with training and trying my best to not have huge gaps in my training days.

As for the diet part...

Some days I really eat like a saint and those days will stay what they are. Other days however, I eat like a Saint Bernard and that's what I will be working on. I have already made a few painful adjustments to my diet and can see the positive effects from them which makes breaking bad habits easier. The bottom line for me is this:

I gotta lose some weight to improve my climbing. That's all there is to say.

It's not going to be easy but the things I like to do never are............

Saturday, November 1, 2008

I Was A Singlespeeder Before It Was Cool

Round three of the Mud, Sweat and Gears Cyclocross series was today and at a different venue this time. Steele Creek Park in Bristol, Tennessee and another Dwayne Letterman designed course greeted all that showed up for a beautiful day for a race (actually it was hot by the time I raced, too hot!). I missed the Masters race because I had to work so I only did the singlespeed race. It was all for the best since I didn't feel so good in the first place.
Did I mention it was Scary Cross too? Yeah just race in a costume and you get 25 points plus everyone around gets cheap entertainment for the day. I brought out a toned down version of the costume I wore at the Hill Of Truth the week before:

I don't see what the big deal is. Some pay thousands of dollars for boobs like this, I only paid $17.99.

Uh, yeah. Well I rode around to warm up and scope out the course. It was going to be a tough one with lotsa climbing and very little place to recover. After the Pro 1/2 race, it was time to lime up. Dang, the singlespeed class was the biggest one of the day (with exception maybe, of the CX4s). There was about 25 lined up, a good third of them came out of the Pro 1/2 and CX3 race. This was going to hurt.

I was in the third row and when the word go came, nothing happened for a moment. I got around the ones in front of me and sprinted like a madman. I made it into decent position by the second turn and tried to keep my pace high. I managed to do ok for the first lap but then began to drift backwards. I don't know what happened. I just faded. I wasn't feeling good. It was frustrating but I have learned to deal with it and use days like today to make me better.

I ended up 18th. Even though my race sucked, I still had fun and it was good to just get out and put the hammer down for awhile.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Big Boobs And Dirty Granny

The 10th annual 12 Hours of the Hill of Truth was Saturday in Oak Ridge Tennessee. I have done this race 7 out of the 10 times, it has rained 4 of the 7 times and I have been on the podium there 5 out of 7 times. It has been cold 7 out of 7 times, the cannon has been loud as **** 10 out of 10 times and it has been a lot of fun all the time.

I always do this race on a team because it is a great way to end a season and with all the solo stuff I do, it's a nice change of pace to be able to go out and ride laps as fast as I can without having to save something for later. This year's team had longtime teamates Bob Lamberson and Michael Ritter and new this year was Steve Stidham. Leading up to the event, we had been talking a lot of trash with some friends of ours on Grannys Rotten Teeth since they beat us last year (one of the two times I have finished off the podium at 12HOT). It got hot and heavy on's forum but it was all in fun. In light of what we had planned for them, we named our team Granny's Gettin Flossed. To make it more fun, me and Michael dressed in drag.

Rain the day before made the course a little tricky in places and although it's not what I'd call a technically demanding course, it does have things that you'd better pay attention to or you might get hurt - or go swimming!

Saturday morning, Bob and I did a lap of the course to warm-up and check things out. I confirmed in my mind that the gear I brought (32X17) was the right choice. Although there's a good bit of climbing on the course, there's more really fast stuff that a smaller gear would spin out too quickly. I might suffer on the climbs late in the race but it was a fair trade. After our lap, it was time to race. Our plan was simple: ride hard, fast and smooth and make no mistakes. After Bob left, I went to get my um,............kit on. It's true what they say, blondes do have more fun.I had all sorts of attention from people that I had never met. I rode around to warm-up and I must say I looked dead sexy.

Bob came in and I went out, his lap was in the low 40 minute range and I was expecting the same since we are pretty close in riding style. I had a little traffic to deal with but not too bad and I was having a pretty good ride. I came to a place called Rachel's Landing where a crowd had formed to view the carnage and to fish unlucky ones out of the lake (Rachel's Landing is a 20yd long, 10 inch wide section of trail that has a drop-off into the lake. It's easy to ride but if you are a little sloppy there, you will get wet - some people did) and as I came through, the woods erupted with laughter and cheers as the hot blonde with the huge ta-ta's made Rachel's Landing her bitch.

I did a low 40 minute lap and handed off to Michael who was doing his best impression of Allesandra Ambrosio and went to get some food. I discovered that I had an unfortunate wardrode malfunction and would have to retire my costume for the rest of the race. Darn! Michael did a good lap and so did Steve. We were in second and about 20 minutes away from first after the first rotation (4 laps). That doesn't sound bad but if the guys in first were each putting 5 minutes a lap into us, there's a problem. It was early though and we didn't think much about it. We just kept to our plan.The big battle with GRT didn't quite materialize. After all the trash talk, they got scared and entered another class rather than suffer a huge defeat to us in the singlespeed class. Fear is a powerful motivator.
We all continued to have mid 40 minute laps and none of the mechanical issues that plagued us last year. By the time it was getting dark and the mid-point of the race, we had 10 team laps, still second (now 2 laps down dammit!) and we had 2 laps on third so we were relatively comfortable. One thing we have learned though is to never, ever give up. We were two laps down on first but a bad lap for them could put us right back into contention so we kept on with our original plan. The dark brought coldness and after three hard laps with plenty of time in between to get cold and stiff, my legs were starting to feel like two pillars of poo. My gearing was working fine on the majority of the course but it was starting to make me suffer on the climbs. My lap times (all of our lap times for that matter) were still consistent though so I wasn't doing too much damage to myself. I only had to do one more lap anyway.

That lap was my slowest and it seemed like it took forever to get warmed up. When I did get warmed up, I rode like shit. Places where I was smooth earlier had me jammed up like a monkey um,............. nevermind. Let's just say my last lap wasn't my best effort. When I got back, Michael set out on our last lap and in doing so, we got one of our laps back from the 1st place guys (they still beat us though) and we had 4 laps on 3rd (I think) so we were going back to the podium. It was nice but it would have been nicer if we won. It was still fun though and even though GRT didn't race in our class, we still flossed them from across the way so there.

photo credit - Mike T

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

In This Corner...........

From the land of the riding hillbilly with a combined weight of a little too much, the 4 man towers of power, the sultans of smack, the Ayatolla's of Rock and Rolla, the Saints of Singlespeedia, the Knights that say "On your knees, beyotch!" we are coming to Oak Ridge Tennessee this Saturday to unleash hell and fury at the 12 Hours Of The Hill Of Truth.
Last year, we fought the good fight yet we were slain, victims of our own misfortune. It seems that a group of old ladies (I use that term loosely) took such a liking to their podium spot that they plan to homestead on it again this year. The only problem for them is that we let our guard down once, not again. So before it even begins, I bid thee adieu Granny, though you may have tasted the sweet taste of victory last year,

this year Granny's gettin' flossed.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

I Am Not Dying, It Just Feels Like It.

I kept repeating that to myself and reminding myself that medicine, by it's nature, to do you any good has to taste really nasty or hurt like a $&%$@, several times over the opening two rounds of the 2008 Mud, Sweat and Gears Cyclocross Series this past weekend. New this year was me racing Singlespeed and also Masters 35+. The Singlespeed race is 30 minutes and the Masters is 45 minutes, both a lot shorter than the races I am used to doing but the races I normally do aren't done WFO the whole time either. Cross races just plain HURT!

I was on the line for my first Master's race and I looked around at all the pro1/2 and cx3 riders I saw plus the field in general was big. In fact all the fields were pretty big, a nice testament to the popularity that this series has earned in the few years it has been around. Low entry fees, great prizes and awards and stiff competition make this series one of the premier Cyclocross series in the Southeast. A win here means you did something. Once we were off, the butterflies were gone and I was at my redline from the beginning. As I expected, I faded within the first few laps and camped out somewhere at the back if the field. It was really painful but I did what I could.

I ended up 22nd.

By the time the Singlespeed race was ready to begin, I was questioning my motivation and wondering if I made the right decision to do two races. To make it more fun, they called a holeshot prime. The Singlespeed race is another class that the pros and other fast guys have found to be a good place to get podium spots and more track time. I guess that's fine with me, If I win a race, I want to know it's because I beat the fastest guys around not because none of the fast guys showed up. The start was brutal but I felt better on my mountain bike ( at the last minute, I borrowed a cross bike from a friend to use until my Vassago Fisticuff comes in. I could not have even dreamed of being competitive in Masters on a singlespeed). My mountain bike fit me and I have been through a lot with it this year. It's like an old friend.
The Dwayne Letterman designed course contained one sand pit (I love it!!) and the WTB Weirwolf on my Optimus just ate that up. The bucking and kicking I experienced earlier on the cross bike was replaced by buttery smooth ripping it. I felt good in the sand but suffered everywhere else. I ended up 10th.

Sunday's round 2 found me with poo filled sacks for legs. I could not get warmed up for the masters race and after the start, I wasted no time doing a solo break off the back. My only goals were to not get lapped and not finish last. I got lapped on the last lap - dammit but managed 21st which was not last. I just kept reminding myself that this was training and it had to hurt for me to get faster. About 40 minutes into the race, I was really tired and that led to a spectacular endo in the sand pit (on Sunday there were 3 sand pits. Evil but cool at the same time). It didn't hurt but it did piss me off. I was happy when the race was over.

The s/s race was the last one of the weekend and I had no motivation to ride. The temperature was now near 80 and it was miserable. My motivation returned when I heard "GO" and I got a great start. I stayed near the front for the first lap but then began a slow trip back through the field and settled in at 11th by the finish. I was tired but so was everyone else. I felt good about what I did.

All in all it was a great weekend of learning for me. I know how fast I need to ride and I have a pretty good idea on what I need to do to get there. I definitely feel like it did me some good. It will be interesting to me to see how I progress over the course of the series.

Thanks to David for the use of his crossbike, I'll clean it up before I bring it back.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Time To Hurt..

The opening round(s) of the 2008 Mud, Sweat and Gears cyclocross series are this weekend and I just licked the stamp (not really, with the internet, does anyone lick stamps anymore??) on my registration for Masters 35+ and Singlespeed. Two races, two highly competitive classes (regularly attended by pro riders) and who in the hell do I think I am to believe that I can do it? Um......well I have big kajones and little sense, all that is needed. I have won already.
Joking aside, I know that I have just scooped out a double serving of pain and it is going to hurt but I am fine with that. To get faster or better at anything, the best medicine is doing whatever it is with someone that is better than you.
Like a farmer that plants the seeds in the fall and waits patiently while nature does it's thang, I am working on next summer's legs. So though I may suffer (let's face it, bike racing is a painful sport. It ALWAYS hurts, you just get faster), though I may suffer today, I will ride fast tomorrow.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

2009 - Year of the Bike Racer

2008 isn't even done yet and I am already thinking about 2009 and what events I want to do. I tend to recycle my schedule from year to year with minor changes but I kinda strayed away from that this year with several new events. Following the same theme for 2009, I have a rather ambitious list of road and off-road events in almost every cycling discipline except track (dammit I wish we had a track nearby). Only a handful of these are "A" races and the rest are for training and for fun, well they are all for fun.

Anyway, here's a rough draft of Duckman's 2009 racing calendar:

Knoxiecross - Jan/Feb (Cross)
Icycle - Feb (XC)
12 Hours of Santos - Feb 14 (12 Hour)
Assault/Carolinas - Mar 28 (RR)
Knobscorcher - Apr 5 (XC)
South Knoxville RR/TT - Apr (RR/TT)
Cohutta 65 - Apr (Enduro XC)
DSG - May 9 (12 Hour)
12 Tsali - May (12 Hour)
Burn 24 - May (24 Hour)
Tomato Head Omnium - May (RR/TT/Crit)
Settlers Life Omnium - June (RR/TT/Crit)
Cowbell - Jun 20 - (12 Hour)
Possum Creek- July (RR)
MTB Rally - July (XC)
Kingsport Crit - July (Crit)
ORAMM - July (Enduro XC)
Fools Gold - Aug (Enduro XC)
SM 100 - Aug (Enduro XC)
Iron Mountian Bike Race - Sept (XC)
Benge's Revenge - Sept (RR)
24 Hour Nats - Sept 19-20 (24 Hour)
Treeshaker - Oct (12 Hour)
12 Hot - Oct (12 Hour)
MSG - Oct/Dec (Cross)

That's a year full of racing that begins in January and goes through December. I have hopes that 2009 will be a big year for me as I have some big events that I want to do very well in such as the 12 Hours of Tsali and the 24 Hour Nationals in Arizona (my first time racing in the desert).

One big notable difference is the 7 road races I have on there. I kinda got the road bug again towards the end of this year (don't worry Misty, I have no plans whatsoever of turning roadie again) and since I renewed my USA Cycling License, I'd like to see if I can do well enough to upgrade to Cat 3 by the end of the year next year. Just for fun.

Guess I better get busy.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

It's The End Of The World As We Know It.....

And I feel damn skippy.

With all the people fighting over gas and the money markets going apeshit, you'd think the end was near (what do I know, maybe it is). Either way, there's not much I can do about it.

Fall has hit the dirty south and the temperatures have dropped quicker than a skirt on prom night which has put me into my pre-winter whine mode. I don't mind cold so much once I get used to it. The only problem is I don't get used to it until March. Riding in the cold sucks. Riding in the cold while wet sucks harder. Coming into spring with an ass as wide as a truck and legs that look like the Michelin Man sucks even harder still. Therefore I endure riding in the damn cold and dark.

All is not lost though, Mud, Sweat and Gears is starting next week and my plan is to race two classes this year - Masters and Singlespeed. Masters goes for 45 minutes, Singlespeed for 30 so that will give me an hour fifteen of WFO, on the edge of blowing chunks riding for six races. You just can't get that kind of training by yourself in the Winter plus Cross races are a whole lot of fun. I am looking forward to it.

I have been looking at 2009 and working on the races I will be doing, both the "official" ones that my sponsors can count on me to really throw down for and all the others that I will use for training and some just for fun. It looks like I'll have a healthy mix of XC, Endurance, 12 Hour, 24 Hour, Road Race, Crit and Cyclocross racing on the schedule and racing begins in February and goes through December 2009. I could race in January too if I wanted but I need a break sometime or the other. The highpoints on my schedule for next year (so far) will be the 12 Hours of Tsali, The Cowbell Challenge, ORAMM, the Burn 24, and the 24 Hour National Championships. There will be more obviously but off the top of my head, I want to do well at those for sure.

I am anxious to see what my sponsors have out new for 2009 and also the rumor is we are going to be picking up a few new ones that I am really excited about. More on that later. I am working on a post where I am going to talk about the cool stuff from Vassago, WTB, White Bros, Crank Bros, Carbo-Rocket and more that I got to thrash, trash and (try to) destroy this year. It's all good and I learned a lot about what these products can take. For now I'll just say that Timex hasn't cornered the market on taking a licking and keeping on ticking.

Friday, September 26, 2008

The Rainy Season

I cherish my time that I get to train. I have a lot of demands on my time so the spots that are set aside for me to train are very important and I try to "honor" my committment to them. That means I sometimes get great days to ride my bike and other times, I get crap.

Today was a crap day.

I watched the Weather Channel to see if the rain was ever going to stop and as I drove home from work, I really dreaded riding and thought about maybe skipping it. Before I could talk myself out of it, I was on my bike and headed out of the neighborhood. I live in a new place now and the new neighbors still have a lot to learn about my strange obsessions. The old neighbors wouldn't think much about me riding down the street in the rain but a couple of looks I got from the new neighbors made me wonder if I was wearing shorts.

Ah, they'll learn in due time.

Riding in the rain isn't so bad. It's kind of liberating in a way. the hard part is that first blast of cold water up your formerly warm and dry asscrack. After that, It's really not that bad. Plus you get the satisfaction of knowing you are getting fitter while everyone else is sitting on the couch.
I am by no means perfect though. I'll probably have many moments of weakness as the weather gets more and more shitty and I am sure I'll bail or at least go to my indoor trainer to get my fitness fix but until then, I'll make the best of it.

I rode today until dark and although the rain wasn't too bad, it was steady the whole time. As I rode back into my neighborhood, one of my neighbors that I have known since I was a kid asked jokingly what the hell is wrong with me, are you on something? I pilfered an old Nike slogan I saw once and told him "I'm on my bike busting my ass!"

He just smiled and waved.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Benge's Revenge

I traded in my fat knobby tires for skinny, slick ones and my singlespeed for multiple gears for Benges Revenge. This is one race where I wouldn't attempt it on a singlespeed (in a race, training, maybe, but racing NO!)

Just like last weekend's race, I had no expectations in yesterday's race beyond the basic pain and suffering that I would normally expect from a race like this.

75 miles with a mountain top finish that not just steep but #$&%%@^ steep! I will be the first to tell you that this is not my ideal type of race. For those of you that know me or have read my stuff for awhile know that I have a love/hate thing with climbing. Yet I still challenge myself with lotsa climbing heavy events just 'coz.

I hate myself is one possible reason I torture myself like I do (The new NTMBA jerseys look cool huh?)

After registration, (did I mention it was cold?) I tooled around and chatted with friends and took pictures with adorable young fans.

My biggest fan. Too bad his hoodie was too small for me, I would have taken it!

The first 10 miles or so were mostly down to flat and slightly rolling. In short, I froze my ass off until we got to a climb big enough to get the blood flowing. My plan and the day's goals were to stay with the leaders to the base of Powell Valley Mtn (60-something miles into the race and the start of the real fireworks) and to stay near the front to be in a good position to react to any critical breaks. I wanted to finish in the top 20 and in less than 4 hours. It was working fine until about 1:20 into the race and a short steep climb made the first selection of the day. I got dropped but was able to bridge back up to what was now the chase group as a few riders slipped off the front. I didn't worry though. I was in good company with last years winner and a few heavy hitters in the pack. I felt like I was in the right place to be. We were flying, our pace was over 20mph and the small rollers were getting bigger and causing me trouble. I got dropped four more times in the next 15 miles and chased back on 3 times. In the process, buring fuel like a Saturn V rocket.

Where I got dropped for good was a 5ish mile long stairstep climb that is really tough because a group can maintain a lot of speed but if you are alone, you hate life. I caught one person but he was no help then I caught up with David Smith, a good friend and sometimes riding buddy. We were able to help each other to the penultimate climb at Powell Valley mtn. Even though we both were hurting pretty bad, we still managed to keep our average speed above 20mph all the way to the climb.

I lost touch with David when I had to stop to pee and rode the climb alone until the very top when the guy I passed earlier caught back up to me. That didn't figure into my plan at the moment but I didn't feel like a game of cat and mouse at the moment either. Two miles of flat led us to the final climb to Flag Rock (that verticle line at the end of the course profile above). My companion started the climb ahead of me but he didn't look too strong (come to think of it, neither did I) I passed him after about 3/4 mile and saw David ahead. I wanted to catch him but I didn't have anything left in my legs. After thinking about it, I wouldn't have passed him if I could because he did more work than I did down in the valley and I appreciated it.

I was really hurting and really happy when I saw the Flag Rock sign. There was finally some relief in the way of just a bit of flat before the finish line. I happened to look back and there was the guy that I dropped twice already and he was making a run to nip me at the line. After 75 miles and all that climbing, I had to sprint! Damn it hurt but I put in a few hard digs and finished him off.

I finished in 17th OA, 11th in age group and in 4:13, thirteen minutes shy of my pre-race goal. I was happy with that although I would have liked to have done better.

Gives me something to work on for next year.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Fat Dogs Can't Climb

I have two dogs at home, Lucky and Porter. Lucky is slim, young, part Golden Retriever and part something else. Porter is old, big, a little on the chunky side but not really fat. We're not really sure what he is, he's just big. When they play, Lucky runs circles around him and there's little that he can do other than watch her run away a hope to catch her when she's not paying attention. He never gives up though.
I know how he feels. That's how I race bikes. I am not really fat, I'm just big. I have a body better suited to Prize Fighting (can't do that, I hate getting punched) than cycling but that hasn't stopped me from trying for 20 years now. I do have a few pounds I could lose - what 42 year old male doesn't? As a bike racer, I can make a lot of power and if I lived somwhere flat, I'd put a big-ass gear on my bike and do pretty well. Living in the mountains and racing in the mountains presents a whole list of difficulty for me though - well for everyone, I know. To quote R.E.M - Everybody Hurts.
I love climbing but climbing hates me. It is my biggest weakness and in every race I can remember, the climbs are where I could have done better and if only.......... sigh. It's frustrating.

In the race Saturday, I did ok on the climbs but ultimately if I had climbed just a small percent better, It would have made a difference in where I placed. Short, power climbs aren't a problem, long gradual climbs aren't too bad either. It's the long (1/2 mile+) steep ones that get me. It's the thorn in my side.
With that in mind, I will be doing Benge's Revenge Saturday ( a direct conflict with Bridge to Bridge - another evil climbfest that I'd love to do again) and I will be doing this one on the only remaining bike I have that has multiple gears. No, doing Benge's on a singlespeed and trying to be competitive would be tantamount to taking a slingshot to a gun fight. It just won't fly. There's everything from long flat to rolling sections where cruising speeds will reach 30mph+ to the final climb up to the finish at Flag Rock where the average grade is 11% and it gets STEEEEPER!

Sure, I'm not gonna scare anyone off with my entry into the race but I'll give it my best and it can only help me be better.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

There's Rocks In Them Thar Hills

I had no expectations for the Iron Mountain Bike Race held today in Damascus Va, I basically went for fun and to train for the upcoming Cyclocross series. I had heard stories of how fun this race is and how well racers are treated vis a vis food and tasty adult beverage after the race I was happy to be able to go. Plus it got my mind off all the batshit wild lunacy that was going on in the world today. I met up with Bob, Anet,Ian and Wes Lamberson and soon it was time to go.

We (all 35ish of us)were shuttled out of town to the start a few miles up in the Mount Rogers National Forest at Beartree Campground. The stats of the course included 3 miles of FLAT pavement to start, 1ish mile singletrack climb to the Iron Mountain trail that rolls over and through some nasty rock gardens for 5 or so miles and then another 5 miles that includes a 1200 foot descent of Mock Holler.
We went off hard thanks in part to Bob's son Wes and 3 miles of basically flat on a singlespeed really is tough. I tucked in behind Bob and we did our best attempt at a paceline until the dirt came. I was sooo happy when we hit the Lum Trail and some climbing. I didn't know who might be right behind us, I knew there was about 6 in front of us so I just tried to set a really hard pace to hopefully make it a race with just us and nobody else. The short answer is it worked, only one person caught me - Casey, (one of the locals and a co-promoter of the race) more on that later. Right now, I was really hurting but happy that we had a nice gap and I could try to recover some. The trail was really rocky and several people got nailed with flats. I passed at least two with flats and was feeling pretty good. I dinged my rear rim and was losing air but it never went totally flat. Did I mention it was rocky? It is every bit as tough as anything I have ridden in Pisgah and a long race up there would hurt.
But this wasn't a long race. About 2/3 of the way through, I thought I was all alone and suddenly Casey blew by me on a rocky descent like I was going backwards. It was a long time before I saw him again (only because he flatted) and shortly after I passed him, I began to have my own problems with my rear tire going down. I began to weigh the options - Stop and add air and maybe lose a place or two, ride it out and risk getting a full-on flat and lose lots of places. I rode on but eventually stopped to add air just before Mock Holler (Mock Holler is notoriously rocky).
As soon as I stopped, I got passed. GRRRRR!

I got back on and headed down Mock and tried to baby it (which is stupid, kinda like trying to spoon feed a shark). I did my best and felt my rim bottom out a few times but I popped out of the woods and finished with no more issues.
After changing and cleaning up, we had, prepared for us, a great BBQ lunch and some really good beer.
I ended up 8th OA and 2nd in age group, had loads of fun, and got my entry fee back in BBQ and beer consumed.
Bob ended up 5th OA and 1st in age group, Wes was 2nd OA and 1st in age group, Anet got 1st in her age group too. Monotanous huh?

I can't wait until next year. This one will be on my schedule for sure.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Bloody Fingers and Wahoo Serious

The weekend did not begin like I had hoped, in fact, it was chaos. I had to work Saturday morning and in the afternoon do a bunch of stuff around the house (we are STILL not fully unpacked yet!) and by the time came to ride a little, I just could not get my head into it. Y'all ever have days like that? So in passing, I picked up my guitar, flicked on my amp and just started doodling. I played chords, ran through some scales three or four dozen times and started just doing something, I dunno what, just playing riffs and making noise - some of which sounded pretty good. I played and played and eventually picked out some music - For Those About To Rock by AC/DC, and gave that a stab. I have found that no matter how simple something looks on paper or sounds, it doesn't necessarily mean it will be easy to play.
I sat there and played until my fingers were numb and one of 'em was bleeding. How cool is that? Trust me, I will be on the cover of Rolling Stone, just give me 10 or 20 more years to practice.

Sunday my head was clear enough that I got on the bike for some old fashioned speedwork. I have found that I don't do real well with highly structured workouts so I have come up with a variation on that and my workouts are more intuitive. I begin the day with and idea of how much I need to suffer and then I fill that time with stuff like sprints to road signs or timed intervals with a twist (for the twisted). Like yesterday there's one road called Buttermilk Rd. Buttermilk Rd is a stairstep climb from beginning to end and it's almost 2 miles long. The interval was the entire road, the twist was I could not let my speed drop below 12 mph. If it did, I had to loop back around and do it again no matter what speed plus I had to go home via Wahoo Valley Rd (Wahoo Valley has a really steep climb out of it and it hurts). If I was successful, I got to go home via the much nicer Dunlap Rd. Sounds simple but you come out and ride it and you'll see that it's not as easy as it sounds.
I made it though it got pretty close on one of the steeper steps and after a few more hilltop sprints and short intervals, I cruised the last 45 minutes on home. Cross is coming and it really hurts in a much different way than the endurance stuff. I hope I will be ready.

Saturday, September 6, 2008


For the second year, September has become a transition month for me. The long races that I love are over and Cyclocross is still a few weeks away. In a way, it's good because it gives me time to transition my training from long rides to shorter and much more intense rides. I also toss in some trail running (I hate running but it's better to do some of it in training if you are gonna do Cross). I am torn because there are a few long races that I'd like to do still but I can't do them all.
The days are getting shorter and the temps (at night) are cooling off which also means winter is coming and that's always tough. I have a couple of training pals that I can count on to ride all winter and generally after the time changes, all my weekday rides are in the dark until it changes back. We usually ride all the way down into the teens (Ok all you Canadians can go ahead and laugh) and sometimes it's reeeeally tough to honor the commitment to ride. But we do. I hate cold too but I'll suck it up and just do it.
In the past few days, I have started to pick apart my season and see where I did stuff wrong, where I did stuff right and what can I do to make next year better. I tend to push myself a little harder each year than I did the year before and that will continue for next year as well. I am putting together my 2009 schedule and the races I will be doing aren't going to change a whole lot from this year with maybe one or two exceptions but I am going to expect more from myself in the way of results. I will work that out and make a plan. I generally start training for the next year on Dec 1.

Not much on the plate this weekend. I am doing some trailwork tomorrow and somewhere I have to fit in a 15 minute trail run and two 45 minute rides each with 3 five minute super-threshold (means I'm about to puke) intervals with 1 minute of rest in between.

Peace y'all

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Iron Mountain Bike Race

The Iron Mountain Bike Race is a grassroots race held in and around Damascus Virginia on Sept 13. Damascus is known for the Virginia Creeper Trail and famous for southern hospitality but what isn't as well known is the awesome singletrack that exists beyond the Creeper Trail in the Mount Rogers National Forest.
The race begins at 1:00 with a shuttle ride from downtown Damascus to the start. From there, I'll let what the promoters say about it take over:
The path the 3rd annual Iron Mountain Bike Course will take is just one way: FAST. Starting with a 3 mile uphill road ride to a 1 mile single track grunt true athletes will shine. The next five miles is the quintessential cross country semi-technical ride on the Iron Mountain Trail. The final five miles drops over 1200 vertical feet, giving the downhill enthusiast a chance to catch up. This course has over 2,000 feet of elevation gain and over 3,000 feet of elevation loss. The three distinct sections of this course will combine to make it one of the most exciting races around! Starting line shuttle will be provided as part of the entrance fee.
There's food and fun at the end.

Wake Me Up When September Ends

Yeah, I was listening to Green Day this morning........

I put the first 100 miles on Frankenbike this weekend, the majority of which came on Monday and a 3.5 hour ride in the mountains between TN and NC. There were two really nice climbs over Spivey Gap - 6 miles on the Tennessee side and 7 on the North Carolina side and a remarkable amount (considering we live in the mountains) of flat stuff in between. So far I have been happy with the way the bike has worked. There has been some learning with the ENO hub and the carbon frame. The bolts that hold the wheel on also maintain the tension in the chain once you get that set. Since they have to be really tight and the frame is carbon, I err'd on the side of caution and had to fiddle with them some until I found the right combo. The 48X18 gearing works good and is a decent balance between flatland utility and climbing prowess. Spivey Gap is probably one of the easiest climbs for the length in our area and I was able to maintain 10-15mph right at my threshold (of blowing up). Any steeper and I would have had to slow down and really push but since this bike is for training and the object of training is getting stronger, it's perfect.
Perhaps the hardest part of the day was beginning the climb with a full 10 minutes to warm-up. It was kinda painful and that was made worse by me and buddy Rob playing cat and mouse once we neared the top. Coming down the mountain was fun and kinda hairy in a couple of spots as we were still screwing with each other and (Rob weighs roughly as much as my left leg so he can climb like a monkey on crack but just hasn't got enough ballast on the descents) I was looking for a place to pass him. I picked the inside on a decreasing radius corner (only problem was I didn't know it was a decreasing radius corner) and I got pinched off (my fault) and almost shit myself. I don't even think Rob knew how close I was.

Disaster was avoided though and all was good. It was a great day.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Daisy Hill Puppy Farm Cycling Team

After yesterday's post about the silly season of cycling, I was inspired to daydream (not that it takes much to get me to do that). I thought about how cool it would be to hit the Powerball numbers and get 3oo million dollars.

I'd buy a Pro Tour team and call it the Daisy Hill Puppy Farm Cycling Team.

The cycling world thinks Michael Ball is eccentric, HA! they haven't seen Duckman with money yet.

We'd have a fancy tour bus just like theirs.

Except ours would have a different "feel" to them....

With similarly matching team cars and our riders would have only one objective, win or lose they must and I mean must get in EVERY single break that goes up the road. I want that team car in every shot, every video and every living room in Europe and abroad.

We'd be sassy,

And have undeniable and highly marketable sex appeal.....................

Then after everything was in place, I'd sit back with a tub of popcorn and watch all the fun.