Monday, February 25, 2008

I congeló mi balones fuera.............

Last week was a tough one on me. Personal and work commitments kept me off my bike all week long. We had Scouts on Tuesday, Nathan got his Bobcat badge and I wasn't going to miss that for hell or high water.

Wenesday, I had to go to Montgomery Alabama to the Hyundai Manufacturing Plant (HMMA) for a class and I got to take a tour of where they make the Santa Fe and Sonata. It was immensely fascinating - but really tough on me. I left at 4:30 on Wednesday drove (7 hours), did the class and left Montgomery at 5:00 on Thursday to drive back and be at work at 8:00 on Friday. I was beat.

I missed out on going to Bent Creek in Asheville on Saturday morning because I was tired and feeling a little sick (the rest of the house except the dog, has been sick all week). By Saturday afternoon I needed a ride.

I headed out kinda late and rode "around the block" near my house. The cool thing about where I live is the shorter the route I pick to ride, the harder it is. There are some tough-ass short, steep climbs within a couple of miles of my house. I got a good warm-up and hit the climbs hard. It felt pretty good to push myself after being a slug all week.

The "big" climb of the day was the one that takes you to the top of Buffalo Ridge - the highest point in the 37615 zip code. It is short (> 1 mile) but initially very steep and it has three tiers before you get to the top. Perfect for intervals.

Downtown Gray Tennessee off in the distance. View from atop Buffalo Ridge.

I was somewhat happy getting to ride a little but it was getting dark so I had to cruise on home.

Happy Duckman

The big ride came on Sunday. I met up with Scooby, Obi Twan and Chris D on the campus of East Tennessee State University at high noon for a nice long ride in the mountains. On the plate for the day was the climbs of Buffalo mtn (short side 1 mile), Spivey Gap (6ish miles), Indian Graves Gap (another 6ish very steep miles) and the long side of Buffalo (2 miles) back to Johnson City. In between mountains was about 60 miles of good ole East TN, WNC rollers.

There are no flat roads in East Tennessee or Western North Carolina.

Everything was going well until we got about 2 miles out of Erwin, Tn and it started to rain. I rained and rained, not hard just wet and cold, all the way to the summit of Spivey Gap in North Carolina.
Oh, it was about 45 degress so we froze our nuts off.

Pisgah is not just for mountain bikes. It's a fun place on the road too.

We made the gametime decision to turn back on top of Spivey Gap. It didn't really save any miles but the alternatives to get back to Tennessee were - a:turn around and go back the way we came; b: continue on with the plan and climb Indian Graves Gap (steep and long) or c: ride a little more and climb Iron Mtn (easier but longer). Freezing and not sure what the weather was gonna do, we turned back.

My legs felt like tree stumps as we rode back. The final climb of Buffalo Mtn normally is nothing but today it hurt. Cold, wet and somewhat happy we rolled into the parking lot at ETSU as close to dark as you want to be on a rainy Sunday afternoon in February.

If we had ridden around the block once we would have had an even 5:00, 70 miles and 5,000 feet of climbing.

Not a bad way to end the week.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

M is for Mountains

And mountains were on the schedule for Saturday. I met up with the Tri-Cities Road Club for a 50-60 mile ride into the mountains that lie on the TN/NC border for some quality saddle time.
It is no secret that my roots are in pavement and although my heart is all singletrack, I still love to ride the roads in NE Tennessee and Western North Carolina.

It's virtually impossible to leave East Tennessee heading south without crossing the Appalachian Trail. Duck-bike on the summit of Iron Mtn.

I was surprised at the huge group of TCRC racers and others that came out to ride. There must have been at least 30-40 people there as we headed out of Johnson City and into the hills. On the way out of town, I chatted up with a few that I haven't seen in awhile and basically chilled out. I knew the time would come where we'd have to part ways as our agendas for the day weren't the same.
That point came when we got into some hills in the Laurels and the pace picked up pretty hard. I was stuck in no man's land between groups and I just did my own thing and let them go. Since I was on my own, I took a detour off the route and went up Browns Branch Rd.

Browns Branch Rd is a bastard among roads. It is only a few miles long and hooks back up with the route the others were taking but what makes it so special is it has a 2 mile climb that gains about 1800 feet of elevation. It is tough and I was putting my order in for the first serving of pain for the day. As soon as you make the turn, your nose is filled with the smell of coal and wood burning stoves, Marlboros and the dogs, Oh hell the dogs are thick (I had to kick one on the descent because he was trying to bite me). Still, it is a great climb and worth the effort. After the first 3/4 mile, first timers up the road are thinking this isn't so bad, hell is unleashed and the road tilts up in a sickening and unrelenting angle for the next mile and a quarter.
You know you are at the top when you see Oak Hill Church.

My plan was to just hang in for the time, I was going to go up Iron Mtn and I figured I'd make the call on top to go into North Carolina or not and then from there back to JC where I had a few options - one of which was to go over Buffalo Mtn.

On the way up Iron, I was passed by all the TCRC guys coming down, I was alone otherwise and I just worked on climbing and staying within myself. On top, I decided to drop into Buladean NC to a store for some supplies but changed my mind after descending only a couple of miles.
I had ok legs but the one thing that was really starting to bug me was my ass. It had been a about 3 months since I had been on a bike seat for more than 3 hours and my ass was letting me know it. ( I guess I could have prepared better but I am notorious for not, especially on early season rides).

Back over the summit of Iron and down the other side, I made my way back to Johnson City and was able to catch a few TCRC guys for post ride pizza and beer at Buck's Pizza adjacent to the campus of East Tennessee State University. Buck's makes some good pies and if you are ever in Johnson City, you should check them out.

I was well pleased with how I felt and with and with some goodies I was testing from Hammer Nutrition. I have been using Hammer Gel for a few years but was reluctant to go with their other products until now. If you read through their information, there is a wealth of knowledge about nutrition and fueling (a big weakness of mine). I am testing Heed, Perpetuem, Endurolytes and Recoverite and so far I am really pleased. I finished Saturday's ride which was a tad over 4 hours and contained a butt-load of climbing and although I was tired, I wasn't killed and I didn't cramp. I rode again today and felt about 90% recovered from yesterday.

We'll see how it goes.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Can you see it?

It is there. Just laying there, dormant, patiently waiting until the time comes when it is called to action.
It makes me ride my bike.

It makes me rest when I rode to much.

It makes me eat things that I don't really want and not eat things I'd kinda like to have.

It drives me to madness. To torture myself and put myself into uncomfortable places.

It haunts me and causes me to have nightmares.

It taunts me, teases me and torments me.

It causes me to fix my resolve on the single-minded pursuit to train in all kinds of conditions so I can whip its ass.

Can you see it?

It's a starting line and it's waiting for me.

On April 19 we shall do battle.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Can't See The Forest For The Trees

Sometimes it pays to have a look out in your back yard because you may be surprised at what you find.

Take this past Saturday for example. I am building up for the first real race of the year - the Cohutta 100 in April and I am needing some long rides preferably with lot's of climbing. The choices are: singletrack loops with short, steep climbs, short forest service road climbs (by short I mean less than 30 minutes or 5 miles long) followed by singletrack descents, or hop on the road bike for some good climbing in the mountains.
Since most of the races I am doing have alot of FS Road sections, some with long (6-10 mile) climbs, I want to train that way. To do that means driving to Pisgah in North Carolina or up into Virginia. Each takes an hour or two out of my already taxed training day.

What's a Duck to do?

Saturday, I met up with good buddy and training partner Bob Lamberson and we hit a loop that he recently discovered on Holston Mtn in the Cherokee Nat'l Forest. Holston Mtn is one of those places I like to ride my road bike alot and have always wondered where those gated roads I see there go to but I have never bothered to check it out.

What we rode Saturday blew my mind. Although it was only a 20 mile loop, it had about 3300 feet of climbing with one really long (7-8 mile) climb that probably averaged around 8-10 percent. Just what I needed. There's plenty of options to make it longer (I stopped by Barnes and Noble and got a map). I can see 100 miles with 15,000-16,000 feet of climbing!!!!!!!!!!

No more driving 2 hours to ride my ass into the ground when I can do it right here in the comfort (so-to-speak) of my own back yard.

Methinks I'll be spending alot of time there this spring.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Godsmack - Batalla De Los Tambores

More music vids. This one is simply amazing.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

If You're Gonna Play in Texas, You Gotta Have A Fiddle

in the band.

And if you're gonna race a singlespeed in North Carolina, you better bring your summer legs and not your pasty white, marshmallow soft, winter legs.

The 2008 Icycle was held at Fontana Village in Western North Carolina this past weekend and was stop number one on Duckman's World Tour 2008.

I had no expectations going into the weekend. I have been building a base since Dec 1 and haven't had my heart rate over 150 all winter. I lined up with the 38 others in the singlespeed class and was prepared to suffer like a dog for the next hour or so.

Veni, Vidi, Vagini ( I came, I saw, I sucked)

The start was a wide open LeMans sprint (I hate running) across a field to your bike and then back across said field to the first of many small but painful climbs of the day. It was fast and hard. I tried my best to settle in to a pace that was just at my AT and I guess I did ok with that. I had pretty heavy traffic to deal with in the first lap with some of the slower experts fading and some of the faster sports catching me (DAMMIT!) and a few of my own to race with, we had a jam at times.

After the first lap though, it thinned out a bit and lap 2 was easier to take as I was warmed up and becoming one with my first really hard effort of the year.

Dateline: Fontana Village Stalker Strikes Again

I cruised through the second lap and ended up 30th, right in the middle of the Women's Expert podium I think (I got chicked once). It's all good though. I didn't expect to much and that's about what I got.

It was fun and always a well run event.

My Vassago Jabberwocky performed flawlessly in what may be it's last race as "alpha bike". My Optimus should be here in time for the Cohutta 100 and the JW will be relegated to training, trail riding and maybe the occasional Cross race. I can't say enough about these bikes. I have flogged this one through half of last year, all through winter in some real slop and it just keeps on keeping on.

photos courtesy of Brado and Nancy

Monday, February 4, 2008

Fat Dogs Can't Run

Upon returning from the 2008 Icycle (report coming soon) yesterday, I hopped on my road bike for a couple of hours of training. Without letting the cat out of the bag on my Icycle performance, I learned that I have a decent base from all my low intensity riding I have done this winter but virturally no top-end except what I had left over from December.

In short, I need to kick it up a notch -


On my route, at the top of a nice long hill - natch, there are two big Labs, a black one and a yellow one. They were on me before I knew it and the black one nipped at my shoe before I could get my bottle out and drown him with it. The ensuing confusion bought me enough time to get away.

An hour or so later, I had to return that same way and the hill fom that side tops out with about 200m of flat before you come to the dogs. They saw me coming and started running for me through a field. I started my wind-up. I still had the tricky part of that would come when they intersected me in about 100m. I had to be careful. A full grown Lab can take you out easy. I gripped the drops and ripped through gears while putting all my power down. By the time I met them, I was just hitting my 53x12 and they missed getting in front of me. My all for broke gamble was paying off. I put my head down and kept pulling hard. I looked back under my right arm and saw both of them about 50m back and fading.

As I went over the hill, I sat down and looked back one more time just to be sure. The dogs were standing in the road looking at me ride away.

People shouldn't let their dogs get so fat. Or on the other hand, maybe it's a good thing they do.