Sunday, March 30, 2008
I got there and got ready, filling bottles with Heed and Perpetuem, pumping tires and having no idea what I was about to endure. I learned that my wingman for the day, Bob Lamberson, was on the DL (I knew it must have been bad. Bob is as hardcore as they come) so I would be flying the singlespeed flag solo. I wasn't sure how things would go as I am still new to riding a singlespeed on the road. I have been riding them off-road for years but there is a few differences from that and on the road. Group riding on the road is very hard. My gearing is 42X16 and that's good for about 23 mph on flat ground and me spinning about 120-130 rpms. Most decent pacelines on flat ground are going around 25-27mph. On climbs, unless they are very steep, I can make up alot of ground to geared bike roadies but back on the flats, I can't hang very good.
Then comes the fabled climb of Cesar's Head. I had heard alot of things about this climb and how bad it was. That and the fact that it it came 40 miles in had me a little worried.
Self doubt runs deep in my family.
I did pretty good for the first dozen miles until we came to this 1/2 mile climb called Mt Smacknthenuts. (I don't think that was the real name but it should be). I wasn't even warmed up yet and this thing was in the neighborhood of 10-12 percent. It hurt. After that, I rode alone for the next 30 miles which included several climbs and
The rain came a few miles before the turn for the 60K ride. I wasn't to concerned with the rain, it was the lightning that bothered me. Still I took my chances and turned for the 100K (I later found out a lot of people chose the opposite) and began a fairly long climb. About a mile into the climb, the rain turned Biblical. There was hard, hard rain, wind, some hail. When the lightning flashed I'd count 1......2......3...... and wait for the thunder. My threshold was 3, if it got that close I was crawling under something.
It never did.
The rain continued through the 30mph descent on the other side of that climb and it was cold. I saw people under porches, in barns. Tempting as it was, I wasn't going to stop. I have learned from riding in this crap that if you stop, you might as well quit. You get cold and your body just says hell no. As it was, after the long descent in the rain, I found myself on some really bumpy roads in South Carolina and my legs felt like tree trunks. Every climb I came to hurt and I wondered if there was anyone left on the road ahead of me.
There was and I started catching them. This was good for my morale and I started having fun again. At the base of the climb up Cesars Head, I caught up with Michael Ritter and Paul Windsor and it was nice to see some familiar faces. I rode the climb really conservatively. I had heard so much about it that I was a little intimidated so I didn't want to blow up before the top. Plus over the top there was still 15 miles of unknown to go. I took it easy. It turned out that the climb, although hard and steep in a few places, wasn't that bad. I have ridden worse. It took me about 40 minutes to get to the top and then I was rewarded with 15 miles of
Yep the remaining miles to the end were mostly down. It was nice. I rolled across the finish in about 4:11 and immediately got dry and some warm food.
I was happy to have stuck it out and finished. Mentally and physically it was a nice boost. Getting the singlespeed was probably the best addition to my training for the year as I can now train on the road and be very close to the kind of riding I do off-road in regard to physical and mental stress. Plus in riding crap like the AOTC, I don't have to worry about messy clean-ups. Just wash, lube and go.
Thus ends my "spring training" so to speak. Next for me is steady rides during the next couple of weeks but also paying attention to rest for the Cohutta 100.
Friday, March 28, 2008
After enduring several long weeks of waiting, thousands of miles across the Pacific Ocean, the Chinese New Year and untold other calamity, my 08 Optimus arrived in the land of the riding hillbilly yesterday.
I was late getting home but determined to at least get it 3/4 assembled before I went to bed.
My first impression is WOW. This is a nice frame. I will have more pics and a full review as soon as I can get to it.
Wednesday, March 26, 2008
I am almost 42 years old and my mom and dad have always been there you know, pillars of existence for me. It's just tough dealing with this shit but in alot of ways there are parallels between bike racing and life. In a race, in almost every race, there is a point where you just want to quit, to end the pain. Do you take the blue pill (quit) and end the pain now or do you take the red pill of enlightenment and press on? I was taught from a very early age to always take the red pill - to finish what I started, never quit and never, ever give up.
You have to do that in racing and in life. I know that's what mom would do.
Changing the subject, I went ahead to the pack races last night just to try and clear my head and scratch out a little more fitness. I was really satisfied with how I rode. I went out with the first "A" group and although the group was really disorganized and not working together at all, I did what I could and we managed to stay away for the first lap. We were caught up by the remaining groups on the second lap. I kinda saw it coming and stopped working to save myself for the blitzkrieg I knew would come once we all got together. We came together just going into the hills on the backside of the course and I got boxed in behind a slower rider and it's funny how a 40 foot gap becomes a 40 yard gap just like that. I chased back on in time for the biggest climb on the course. It's about 200 yds long and gets steeper the further you go. At the steepest part, I got gapped again and chased but didn't have much chase left at that point.
It was a good workout though and served its purpose.
Next up for me (assuming.............) is the Assault on the Carolinas this Saturday where I'll be riding my singlespeed in the 100K which includes the climb of Cesars Head (never seen it, heard it's a bitch - we'll see).
Monday, March 24, 2008
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My Optimus is coming!!!! Anybody wanna guess what I am going to be doing Wednesday night?
Sunday, March 23, 2008
1. Races are decided on the mountains.
2. I suck at climbing.
3. There is nothing else.
Um, that may be a little exaggerated but the truth is races are defined by the climbs and I am not a climber. At 5'11" and 189lbs (it's coming down - thank God) I am more suited towards time trials or sprints.
In fact, if I had grown up near a track, things may have been very different for me. I love to sprint. As it is though, I grew up in the Southern Appalachians where there is a mountain or a hill in any direction you look. It is for that reason and the others I already pointed out that I climb a lot. You go riding with me, we are gonna climb something. I work on that one weakness almost exclusively and let every other aspect of my training work itself out.
Saturday was a particularly short training day but for what it lacked in quantity, it more than made up for in quality. On the agenda was 40 miles that included the 8 mile climb to Carvers Gap (Carvers Gap was a Cat 1 climb in stage 8 of the 1996 Tour Dupont) and the ascent of Hughes Gap (shorter but steeper than Carvers Gap). I would not be taking my regular road bike but instead using my newly aquired singlespeed road bike. I was a little nervous because I had never climbed Hughes Gap before but I had been over it in a car an I knew it was fugly. Carvers Gap worried me a little too but I have been up it lots of times and knew that if I can get the first few miles out of the way, the rest of it is not that bad.
So at 8:00, me, Bob Lamberson and David Hayter took off from the visitors center at Roan Mtn State Park and the climbing began very soon after. Bob has a singlespeed too and we made David stick his bike in a gear and leave it there. Anytime he tried to shift, we bashed his knuckles with a stick. The first 2 miles of the climb were really hard. In part due to the short warm-up and partly because it is steeper. We had a good pace though and after 5 or 6 miles, some nice views came into focus.
Spring hasn't quite made it to 5000 feet yet.
David is smiling after I told him I was gonna bash his knuckles if he shifted gears. A few minutes later he found out I wasn't kidding.
At the summit of Carvers Gap, David had to turn back and me and Bob headed on into North Carolina in search of Hughes Gap.
The descent was really cold and I was honestly happy to get to climb again. It is about 19 miles from the summit at Carvers Gap until you turn onto Hughes Gap rd and begin to climb gradually. After a few miles of that, the nice gradual climb turns wicked and evil without notice. The final couple of miles to the top are naaaasty. I struggled mightily in my 42x16 gearing and though how ironic it was that all the years I had thought about this climb and how ugly it would be to climb and how the first time I finally get to climb it and I am on a singlespeed.
I suffered like a dog but I made it to the gravel.
The final 1/2 mile before the top is gravel and as flat as you are going to get in this neighborhood.
Another summit. Not bad for a day's work.
After we got done, we stopped by the Snack Shack where Larry Roberts hooked us up with some most excellent post ride grub. If you are ever in Roan Mtn Tennessee, check it out.
All in all, training is going well. I have spent alot of time on the pavement in the last few weeks getting some hard fitness. In the next few, I will be getting dirty.
Friday, March 21, 2008
Am I worried? Am I scared?
Nah! I'm just playing.
Tomorrow's gonna hurt but the pain is only temporary. The strength - both physical and mental that comes is worth the suffering.
“The truth that many people never understand, until it is too late, is that the more you try to avoid suffering the more you suffer because smaller and more insignificant things begin to torture you in proportion to your fear of being hurt”
Thursday, March 20, 2008
Today's experiment: singlespeed road bike in a group environment. I took my SSRB to the Thursday road ride that I usually go on to see how well I would hang in a group. The route includes a few rolling hills and the 2 mile climb of Buffalo Mtn towards the end. I started off well and was doing fine until we got into some flats and I got unceremoniously dropped. I was spinning to beat the band but my anemic 42X16 gearing just wasn't good enough to hang. Ah, I expected it. I thought I'd hang in longer than I did though. I just can't (yet) spin that damn fast. I am good to about 120 rpm and for relatively short bursts. I can't do that for miles and miles. In mountain bike racing you never have to spin that much, that long.
After a stop to adjust my rear wheel that had slipped and was rubbing, I took a short cut and caught back up with some of the group just before the climb up Buffalo. The climb actually was easy compared to the flat stuff.
I don't know that I 'll do that again in a group. Um on second thought, yeah I'll do it again, I'll just know better what to expect. Before I was a mountain bike racer, I was a decent road racer and I'll never not be a road racer by heart. You throw me on the streets (or trails) with two or more others and it ends up being a race. To be any different would be like trying to teach a cat to not chase mice. I just have to remember that and not expect to be in the same place on my singlespeed as I would be on my regular road bike.
It's all good though. One thing is certain, riding a singlespeed on the road is great training for racing one off road and that's all that I really care about. With the Cohutta 100 coming up in about 4 weeks, I have only about 3 to gain more fitness. It's crunch time.
Even though the Cohutta is a "C" priority race for me, I still want to finish well.
Gotta be fit.
Wednesday, March 19, 2008
It is hard to stay race fit like this but what else are you gonna do?
One of my favorite training rides started up last night. Put on by the Tri-Cities Road Club, the pack races are one of the oldest organized rides in our area. It has happened almost every Tuesday during the Spring and Summer for over 15 years. I can't think of any better way to gain race fitness other than racing and the format of the pack races is perfect for that. There's a 10 mile course that has a mix of long flats and rolling hills. Groups are separated into divisions based on speed and everyone is sent out with 2-3 minute time gaps between groups for 2 laps. The mini-peletons work together to stay ahead of the group(s) behind them. It is a lot of suffering but also loads of fun too.
This past weekend was an off weekend for me. I took my singlespeed Giant out for the first time on the hilly roads around where I live for its first ride. Other than the stem being a bit short for me, I was really happy with how it felt. The 42x16 gearing seemed to work good for little hills, (we'll see about the mountains soon) but let's face it, on a singlespeed you are gonna run out of gear somewhere. The idea is to get something that will work for most conditions and that means you suffer on the climbs (but climb pretty fast) and spin your ass off on the flat stuff.
All in all, I liked what I rode and think it will help my mountain bike fitness a lot.
Coming up for me is the Assault on The Carolinas on March 29, a 62 mile road ride with a nice 6 mile climb in it somewhere. The first weekend in April has several options: The Knobscorcher at Tsali, the Dragon's Back in Virginina and a collegiate race right in my back yard at ETSU. I dunno at this point what I am going to do then.
Friday, March 14, 2008
Shelf full of bike parts. I barely made a scratch with all the crap I pulled out.
The kids. Workbench on the left has tools all over it and assorted bike parts.
The one on the right is all bike parts. Hmmm, there may be a tool or ten in there somewhere.
Memories of a time that has passed. Bunch of rubber ducks too.
My buddy and his buddy.
These numbers represent a lot of suffering and personal satisfaction. (There's more stapled to the rafters).
Duckman circa 1991. Another time and another sport.
Trophies from MX and some bike races.
Another shelf of bike parts. There's three complete component groups in there (including stuff for my 08 race bike that's yet to be built.) and loads of various other things. Some good, some junk.
None more black.
Wheels, assorted tires, beer fridge, rollers, trainer, videos, tv, more bike parts.
Look closely and you can see a glimpse of the jersey from my first road team, O'Charley's/TCRC.
That's just half of the garage. The other half is bad.
I was kinda discouraged after the Icycle back in February and my total lack of fitness after spending the winter riding rollers. Since then, I have been doing some really long rides in the mountains, both on and off road and last night was the first time I have been able to gauge my progress.
I met up with a group of roadies from TCRC on the campus of East Tenn State University for a 30 mile ride that included the 2 mile climb of Buffalo Mtn. I could tell this may turn into a bit more than a casual ride by some of the stronger guys that were there like Zach Nave (check out Zack's dad - Bart and his website. Bart takes some great pics) and recenty crowned British Supercross Champion Mike Brown (Mike is a bull on anything with two wheels). In addition to those, there were at least 8 or 10 really strong guys. I knew things would get crazy soon.
Fast forward to the base of Buffalo Mtn (comes at the end of the ride) and our average speed was still almost 20mph and I was still in the group of hammers. I faded pretty quick and lost sight of all of them but 3 by the time we got to the top which I kinda expected. I am not a climber. I was just happy to be there and I didn't sit in the whole way there either. Hell no, Duckman doesn't roll that way. I take my pulls at the head of the group. I worked my ass of to be there.
I have a long way to go though. A 30 mile road ride and a 100 mile mountain bike race are two very different animals. I am happy with where I am at this point though.
Wednesday, March 12, 2008
It's not a secret to those of you that know me that I have a growing passion for playing guitar. I only wish I had started when I was 4 and not 40. Things may have been dramatically different now if I had done that. Any time you see your favorite group or artist on stage, no matter what your taste in music is, there is a lot going on, a lot more than you can see. I have learned that even the most simple sounding musical phrases can be pretty damn hard to play. It is alot of fun to learn though and I can see it becoming an obsession if I am not careful.
Like last night. I sat down with my Strat, flicked on my amp and proceeded to run through some scales and then on to some chords that I am learning. From there I went back and forth between scales and chords and that gets boring pretty quick so I rolled up the gain on my amp and dialed in a bit of chorus and a pinch of delay to get pretty close to a Pink Floyd sounding tone. I spent the next 4 hours learning Shine on You Crazy Diamond.
Yeah, it was like 2:30 when I realized how late it was. I am killed today and my fingers hurt but I learned a lot and I can play the first part and at least make it recognizable.
I'll make it some day. I may not have a tour bus full of old guitars but I'll bet I'll have alot of fun sitting around playing Black Sabbath and Metallica for my grandkids.
Tuesday, March 11, 2008
Monday, March 10, 2008
Fortunately, I conned, er, I mean I had some like minded riding companions, Chris Dillow, Rob Morley (that's right guys Rob was on the bike in the mountains, in March with snow on the ground nontheless - I have pics to prove it), Scooby, Brad Reed, David Hayter, and Paul Windsor. We had enough to make a nice paceline on the flats (if you can call it "flat") that led up to Iron Mtn.
Notice the snow?
Now check out the snow on Iron Mtn (highest point in the pic). That's where we are going.
On the lower slopes of Iron Mtn, I stopped for nature and then probably rode to hard to catch back up with everyone which included David "I'm to fat to climb - wah" Hayter. I can give David a hard time, he expects it from me. In his honor, he hasn't ridden much all winter and came out for hellride. What he lacks in brains, he makes up for in guts.
Anyway, on top of Iron, Brad and Scooby called it a day to take care of business at home and that left me, Rob, David, Paul and Chris to head over into North Carolina and to the second climb of the day - Indian Graves Gap. But first, we had 12 or so miles of relatively easy riding through Buladean and along the Toe River on Hwy 197. I always know when the evil is about to come on Hwy 197. You are riding along the Clinchfield RR and it is amazingly flat and very easy. Then after a couple of miles, you can see the turn towards Tennessee. It is bad.
The climb proper is actually a stairstep one with 4 main "steps" and totals about 9 miles. The first 3 steps are very steep and relatively short compared to the 4th one which is roughly as long as the other 3 combined. Grades are in the 10-15% range with a couple of 15%+ spots ( I am guessing). After the first 3 steps, you actually have a nice descent and some flat to ride for about 3/4 of a mile. Just enough to make the uninitiated think there is light at the end of the tunnel. Soon you realize though, the light at the end of the tunnel is actually a freight train heading your way. Step 4 is a bitch! It is steep and unrelenting.
The pic DOES NOT do the slope here justice. Look at the powerlines and you get an idea of the grade. There are some cool views though.
I am not a good climber especially on steep, long climbs. That is why I spend most of my training time in the mountains. I got in trouble early on step 4 and about midway up and then it happened:
I blew up. I kinda figured I might since I have been experimenting with the full line of Hammer Products and I ran out of Heed and Hammer Gel this week. I went back to Brand X that I used last year and some Perpetuem. I used that the whole ride and just didn't feel as snappy as usual. Some of that may have been from the ride itself but I never bonked in the previous few weeks and the rides were just as long. If that's not a product endorsement, I don't know what is.
I suffered and wobbled my way to the Tennessee State Line and the top of the climb where almost everyone else was waiting. It was downhill to Erwin TN and some FOOD!
I am not ashamed to admit we collectively chose to eliminate the climb of Buffalo Mtn and headed back to Johnson City via the busy but gloriously flat Erwin Hwy.
Rolling through the campus of ETSU, we congratulated each other for bagging one of the toughest rides in our area, in March (early March) in the cold and with snow on the ground.
We did about 72 miles in 5:00 and climbed roughly 7000 feet. It was good.
Saturday, March 8, 2008
Here's the latest bike in Duckman's stable of one geared wonders. This one came by way of Ebay and is a 2007 Giant Bowery. I kicked the idea of a fixie/singlespeed around for several months and finally hopped off the fence and got one. I can't wait to ride it.
No shifty-bits here.
No shifty bits here either. All it needs is a rubber duck and some ride time.
I may even show up at select road events this summer on it just to **** with people and to add to my freak resume. We'll see.
I will post some pics of the new 'baby" whenever.
Thursday, March 6, 2008
Sunday, March 2, 2008
Adversity is like a strong wind. It tears away from us all but the things that cannot be torn, so that we see ourselves as we really are.
Was uns nicht tötet macht uns stärker (What does not kill us makes us stronger)
I am so F****D.
For the second time in as many weeks, I didn't get to get on my bike at all during the week last week. For a moment, I thought I had solved the drought that we have been having in the South. Just arrange it so I can ride my bike every day. It will rain I promise.
After spending 3 hours in it last Sunday, I couldn't move myself to ride in the dark and rain once more - for awhile anyway.
Saturday came and with it a chance to head to DuPont State Forest with Bob, Anet and Wes Lamberson and Michael Ritter for a nice long training ride on some of the sweetest singletrack in the South. The weather was perfect and everything looked great for a day of riding.
By the end of the day I would be reminded that every silver lining in every cloud could just be hiding a thunderstorm.
Here's how it unfolded.
Me, Michael, Bob, Anet and Wes came to the Guion Farm parking lot at about 10:00 on Saturday. We got ready and geared up for about 5 hours of saddle time on some of Dupont's 90+ miles of trails. Michael was the keeper of the map and minister of pain for the day but before we followed him mindlessly into the woods, we played around on the stuff in the newly (new since I was there last) built skills area. It was good fun. I wish we had a suitable place near home for something like that. Hmmmmm..... That gives me an idea.
I digress. We headed off in a clockwise general direction around the perimeter of DSF and had a mix of fire road and singletrack with about 2/3 of it up and 1/3 down. Some of the stuff we rode up would have been fun to ride down but climbing is what makes you stronger. Besides, the stuff we did get to go down was a blast. Both Michael and Bob are two of few that I will follow their wheel on a descent without worry. We all know how each other rides and we have no problem following each others lines.
That makes for some really epic rides whenever we can get the "freight train rollin".
After a couple of hours, things started to get a little weird. Junk cars in the middle of the woods that nobody remembers being there and other weirdness such as:
I dunno what the story is behind what Bob found hanging in a tree but I bet it would be a good one.
It was a great day and the ride was going good. I had good legs. Three hours in, I felt great and was climbing well. The last few weeks in the mountains have helped put some form back into me (there is just no substitute for actual riding. You can maintain some fitness on rollers but you ain't gonna get much until you get outside) and all was right with the world.
Roughly 3:15 minutes into the ride, that changed a little.
We came to a stream crossing at Corn Mill Shoals. Those of you that know it know how @#%^ @#%%^ slick the damned rocks are and how fast the water goes. The way we always cross it is to take off your shoes and walk across, put shoes back on and your feet dry in just a few minutes. I have done it lots of times and never had a problem.
On this day, the water was about 40 something degrees and it hurt. I went in first and was making my way across. I got to a point where it was just above my knees and I started to get pushed by the current. I was sliding on the *#%@# rocks and almost lost my balance.
I got it together and a couple of steps later it happened again and I started to fall. I put my bike down to use it like an outrigger.
That sealed my fate.
The bike acted like a big ole anchor and pulled me downstream. I still didn't fall yet though.
Unfortunately, I dropped one shoe and in trying to get it, I dropped the other.
Bob was behind me and he tried to catch my shoes and dropped his too!!!!!
People, I can't make this stuff up.
I never did fall. I got my bike across and headed downstream in a frantic chase for my shoes. Me and Bob must have looked like two starving idiots chasing the only salmon in the river. Oh damn the water was COLD but I had to have my shoes, no shoes meant I was F****D beyond comprehension since we were as far as we just about could have been from our cars. I went about a 100 yds downstream and never saw them. My feet were torn up from the rocks in the creek and the brush along the side but I couldn't feel them since they were numb from the cold.
I gave up when Bob came back with his shoes and told me he saw one of mine but couldn't catch up to it.
So long shoes...................................
My options were limited and not very appealing.
In the end, Bob and Michael head back through the Forest to get our cars and me, Anet and Wes headed towards the parking lot at Corn Mill Shoals. It was less than 2 miles from where we were. I rode it barefoot. At least I rode some of it. Anet gave me her wool socks and toe covers which helped a little but SPD pedal really hurt without shoes. I couldn't climb anything over a 0.00043% grade and downhills were just as bad because I couldn't stand up. I just tried to keep as much momentum as I could and pretended I was taking part in some type of Zen martial arts mountain bike training We eventually made it to the parking lot.
My feet were torn up pretty bad and I was really pissed for losing a $200 pair of shoes (not to mention being stupid. Why didn't I toss them across the creek first) but in the end all I could really do was laugh about it.
Now if anyone comes up to me and asks if I have ever ridden a mountain bike with clipless pedals barefoot, I can say with a straight face,
why yes I have.