Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Tuesday Morning Retrospective

The fog has lifted somewhat and it's time for some arm-chair quarter backing of my performance or lack thereof, from ORAMM. I am not to down on myself so don't get me wrong. Going into the race, I knew I was ill prepared and ORAMM is a place where you better take your "A" game because anything else is going to get rammed right back in your face. ORAMM is famous for it's nasty and long climbs but less talked about are the descents. The backside of Kitsuma and Heartbreak Ridge are both really long and really rough and demand that you pay attention at all times or it's going to be very bad for you. Since I choose to do my bidding on a rigid singlespeed, I am automatically at a disadvantage on some stuff like long, rough descents and long flat road sections but at and advantage on climbs and in nasty stuff like mud. If I shoot myself in the foot with bike choice why not ride a gearie? I can't answer that beyond I don't want to, there's no challenge in it for me. I don't know. It would take many hours of therapy to extract the true reasons why I punish myself the way I do.

At ORAMM, it was hot from the start so I began drinking immediately. I emptied both bottles between aid stations and it just wasn't enough. Maybe I should have taken a third or less desirable - used a camelback. I heard stories of some of the aids being out of water. I never experienced that, I guess I was far enough up in the field that it wasn't an issue for me but it will need to be addressed by the promoter before next year. I have done several of Todd's races and he always does a good job. I am guessing the increasing popularity of this race along with the heat from this specific day just overwhelmed the supply. By the time I got to Curtis Creek Rd and up to the steeper parts, I began to cramp and was forced to walk it off every time I did. My gearing choice was 32X19 which is a stiff gear but I still stand by that choice. I did have problems, mainly on CCR, but they were a combination of lack of riding in the month prior to the race and being dehydrated. Any other time, I could have handled the gear fine and my pre-race goal of climbing CCR in an hour could have been met.

After crossing the BRP, it was pretty much elementary. I was dehydrated and there was no way that I'd be able to recover before the finish. Eventhough most of the climbing is done after CCR, you still have a good bit of climbing left. The climb back to the BRP, Mill Creek Rd, and Kitsuma again, just those three climbs alone would make a hard day's ride.
On Kitsuma, I began to feel the symptoms of heat exhaustion: clammy, goose bumpy skin, dizzyness, nausea. I have been there before and I knew not to push it anymore. It took me about 2 hours to do the last 10 miles. Other than being better prepared, training a little more during the month prior to the race and taking more fluids, I don't know what I could have done any different.

My finishing time of 9:11 in and of itself is a disappointment to me (my goal was under 8:00) but under the circumstances, I am satisfied I did what I could this time.
I finished, I didn't crash and I didn't have any mechanicals and there were a lot there that couldn't say that at the end.

So Adieu Mt Mitchell, I'll be back next year and I'm whipping your ass!

Monday, July 28, 2008

Ouch! (ORAMM 2008)

Do not underestimate the extreme difficulty and danger of this event. The course is extremely demanding and travels over rugged terrain with extreme elevation changes.

Those words have not, in the three years I have done this race, proved to be anything other than genuine. Mile for mile, this is one of the toughest races you can do. My build-up for ORAMM 08 included: 12 Hours of Tsali, The Burn 24, Mohican 100, and the Cowbell Challenge. The wrench in the whole thing was the decision in late June to sell our house and move closer to my mom and dad to help them out. That found me off my bike with exception of 5 or 6 rides of less than 2 hours from the Cowbell to ORAMM. Still, I found myself sitting on the start line in Old Fort Sunday with 350+ like-minded people waiting for Minister of Pain, Todd Branham, to give us the word.

We were off and I was off the back immediately. It's hard to keep up with geared bikes on flat roads and I have learned to not even try. My time would come soon and it did as soon as the road angled up on Old 70 where I passed about 100 people. I rode with Vassago Teamate Chris Davis for awhile and by the time we hit the second climb of the day - Kitsuma, I felt remarkably well and was in the top third of the field, give or take 50 or so. Already though, it was getting hot and that would become a major factor later. After climbing and descending Kitsuma, I hit Aid #1 for bottle fills. My goal was to empty both bottles between checks and to spend less than a minute at them filling up. So far, so good. Out of Aid #1 and on to the third climb of the day, up the 1000 mile grassy road to hell and Star Gap. This year, the 1kGRTH wasn't that bad and I passed more people. I was riding within myself and thought, like the idiot that I am, that maybe that month off the bike didn't hurt me. Just then, I felt a cramp beginning to form in my left hamstring. Oops. What have I done.

At Aid #2 I filled again, chatted with Stephen for a moment and was out in under a minute. My computer told me I was doing good but the heat was starting to bother me. It was the beginning of the end and I was starting the ascent of Curtis Creek Rd. If we were in France, Curtis Creek Rd would have some elegant sounding name like Col de' Sonofabitch or Le Alpe'De Mother F****r. It is a beast that takes you 9.5 miles up to the Blue Ridge Parkway and close to the race namesake - Mount Mitchell. I stuck with the plan to ride within myself but unfortunately on CCR, that's damn near impossible. By now the heat was killing me and I eventually had to walk some to alleviate the cramps. It was funny though, not many people were passing me and I looked back once to see why, everybody was walking. Good thing I wasn't the only one dying. I didn't have my Ipod (it has become priceless for endurance races) since the battery didn't charge up for some reason so I had to make do with whatever mental bones I could find for my mind to chew on. I was singing to myself, talking to butterflies, and eventually got around to thinking about what in the hell made me think I could do this race and this is what I came up with:

12% Lack of good decision making skills
10% Arrogance
14% Lack of intelligence
2% Balls
4% Guts
15% Stubbornness
43% High tolerance of pain

I reached the top of CCR 1:50 after I started and I filled both bottles, shotgunned a soda and slammed a couple of Advil and was gone. My elapsed time so far was 4:50 and I only had 25 miles or so to go and it was conceivable that I could still do pretty well since most of the climbing was behind me now.

Um.... It didn't quite work that way. Across the Parkway was a gradual climb after a fairly long descent and my legs felt like two tree stumps. I made it back to the Parkway and cramped really bad on the mile of BRP to Heartbreak Ridge. Down Heartbreak, I cramped more from the static position of descending for 30 minutes and my forearms hadn't hurt that much since the TV debut of Charlies Angels when I was a teenager.... Um... Nevermind. I was getting in a bad place and when I hit the penultimate climb on Mill Creek road, I was almost done. There was very little shade (I was weaving from one side of the road to the other to ride in what little shade there was. From the tire tracks, I saw that I wasn't the only one doing that) and I was feeling bad and riding slow.

Topping out I had about a mile of pavement and then Kitsuma #2 and I was done. Unfortunately, I was done physically before then. At the base of Kitsuma, I had nothing in my legs at all. I had to walk all of it. I was a sad sack for sure. There was a Church group hiking up Kitsuma and although they were encouraging and all that, I needed to be alone and they were walking faster than I could go. I got on my bike and managed to find one more burst to get away from them and I thought I was gonna die. I began to see chrome gnats and get dizzy so I'd stop and lay down in the trail until I heard voices and I'd get up and go. I was finding it hard to be happy about anything so I began to think about things that I am happy about like a great wife and adorable kid, a good family and good friends. I knew that I was not only in a bad place, I was in a dangerous place and I did what I had to do to make sure I would make it off the mountain and be able to ride again another day.

Bonking, dizzy and shaky, I was real careful on the descent but am happy to say I rode all of it (for those that know Kitsuma know that that's doing pretty good when you feel like crap) and I was so happy to see the road that led back to town that I almost cried with joy. The final descent on the road made my tires sing as I hit 40mph in full TT tuck. I crossed the line in 9 hours and 11 minutes and immediately headed to the creek and layed down in it for about 15 minutes. It felt goooood!

If I counted the scoreboard right, I got 24th in singlespeed. I'll take it.

I feel like I dodged a bullet yesterday. It wasn't the worst day I have had on a bike and not the best day either but it was tough. No crashes (except for falling over in a switchback once) and no mechanicals, I had plenty to celebrate.

Next year, I will train.

EDIT: Damn! Rich killed it. Nice job buddy.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Traffic Hazards

So Thursday is the night I ride with the roadies and being that I now work in a different city from the ride, it takes me 45 minutes to get there and that leaves me 15 minutes to get ready to ride. I just changed bars on my bike and a new stem (old one was too narrow and too short) so I wanted to make sure my adjustment was right before the ride started. In short, I was in a hurry.

I grabbed for my clothes so I could change on the way. Jersey, Check. Shorts, shorts, SHORTS! No shorts! $^^$^#$^^$#!
I really wanted to ride. I weighed my options and whipped into The Bike Shop along the way and got the only pair of size L bibs they had and my buddy Jumbo had me back out quicker than you can get a Happy Meal.

Driving on to the ride, I got to the crucial point in changing where I am completely naked from the waist down and almost hit the car in front of me when he stopped short at a red light. Not a good time for a crash.

Possible excuses for the officer investigating the crash:
A bee got in my pants.
I dropped my roach.
I thought I was on fire (inspired by Ricky Bobby)
Thank God you are here, I got almost got car jacked by a weirdo that only took my pants and I was chasing him.

Thankfully there was no crash, an awkward moment was avoided and I made it to the ride on time (I did have to adjust my bars after the ride started but I didn't have a problem getting back to the group).

I guess I can't say anything about people driving and doing other things at the same time.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Buffalo Cursed?

Maybe it's just me but it seems like every other time I ride at Buffalo Mtn, some weird and/or potentially life threatening event happens. A broken hand, multiple contusions and one meat puppet that bled forever, a busted rim, car broken into and stuff stolen are all things that have happened to me there within the last three years. Last week I got gang-banged by a angry throng of yellow jackets and last night, I was JRA and destroyed a tire (ok it was more than just riding along, I was just riding along into a jagged rock garden on semi-slicks that had no business in jagged rocks). I knew that I messed up when I felt that ball-peen hammer against metal like solid feeling and my tire went immediately flat with Stan's shit all over the outside. On top of that, my unwritten policy of riding without anything to bail my sorry ass out of a pinch, stuff like a tube, a pump, a magic 8 ball.... It was only a matter of time before it bit me.
Bob and Wes didn't know I had a problem for a few minutes so I walked along (oh yeah, I was about as far away from where I parked as possible and I only had about an hour of daylight left and five miles to reach my truck) contemplating my near future. Bob and Wes came back and we began to pump my tire while air leaked all over the place. I pumped awhile, Bob pumped awhile and after alot of pumping and swishing the remaining sealant around in my tire, it sealed! Yay!
I rode off the mountain being careful to not hit anything hard since I had no time to waste with darkness approaching somewhat quickly.

Maybe the next time I ride at Buffalo I will kill a couple of goats and pour their blood all over the trailhead. Maybe that will work.

Only 56 more hours until ORAMM 2008.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Is It Too Late To Train For ORAMM?

See all those bumps? They hurt!!

That's the question that is on my mind and of course it's a rhetorical one because the answer is HELL YES it is to late to train for ORAMM. The race is this Sunday and for the last month, I have been moving, cleaning, moving, and selling our house. It is amazing how much crap you find in corners of closets and on top shelves when you move. Consequently, I have ridden much less than I had hoped to and my fitness is what it is right now and I'm going to just go with it and hope for the best.
Maybe I'll pack a tea set and have a tea party on Curtis Creek Rd while everyone rides by suffering a slow and painful death with each pedal stroke.

Nah, I think I'll take the day and just ride my bike paying no attention to the number plate on the front of it and just enjoy the freedom I have to be able to hop on my bicycle and ride all day long. I may even take my camera and take some pics.

Some numbers: ORAMM is 64 miles (give or take a mile) long and has around 11,000 feet of climbing. It is a mix of county roads, FS roads, double track and singletrack. It's not the most terrible thing you can do nor is it the easiest (it may be somewhat easier if I used gears but where's the fun in that? Easy is overrated). I expect to be on my bike for about 8 hours. My weapon of choice is a 2008 Vassago Optimus Ti 29 inch mountain bike with gearing of 32X19.

It will be good to ride again since I haven't done anything really that hard since me and Chris did the Cowbell a month ago. I didn't quit riding but moving and selling our house took a huge toll on my training. ORAMM is the only race I had planned in July (except for the Funfest races that I missed) so I guess the timing was good.

Since the race isn't until Sunday, I think I'll wait one more day to start training. I don't want to overtrain you know.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Miracles Happen

On March 25th of this year, my mom entered the hospital with all the signs of having had a mild stroke. On March 29th, she fell while in the hospital and developed a subdural hematoma that began to grow over the following week. On April 1st, after being in emergency surgery for 10 hours to ease pressure on her brain, we were told that they could not get her to stop bleeding and that she probably would not live. Twice more during the next three months, we were faced with seemingly insurmountable odds about her survival.

She came home Saturday.

It turns out she got a bacterial infection while she was in the hospital that was resistant to antibiotics and that caused a lot of the trouble. We may never know what sent her there in the first place. With all that happened, the water got really muddy. They tell us that they don't think she had a stroke after all. Who knows.

At any rate, she's back for how ever long and even though she's not 100% yet, she's doing pretty good for now.

I missed all the races I planned for the weekend due to her coming home and we have a solid offer on our house. We had to meet with the Realtor regarding that a couple of times. All that and moving, living in two places, trying to sell a house, finding my damn socks (I have 14 single socks with no matches, how the hell does that happen?), strange places, weird noises, job stress and no bike riding in several days has left me closer to going Postal than not but I'll make it.

I am writing July off pretty much. ORAMM is in two weeks and I will be using it for training for Fool's Gold and the SM100, both in August.

It's all good.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Funfest Races

This weekend in conjunction with Kingsport's Funfest there is three cycling events: The Tour De Possum Creek, The Kingsport Crit and the Funfest Mountain Bike Rally. The TDPC is a 40ish mile road race (in the past it was billed as a fun ride that turned into a full on race. Now they finally made it official and are paying out cash). It rolls through some really scenic and really hilly parts of Tennessee and Southwest Virginia. To bad I gotta work. I'm going to miss this one.

The Kingsport Crit is on Sunday in downtown Kingsport and I plan to be there ready to dole out some punishment. I don't want to say to much so as not to give away anything to my competition that may read this between now and then, let's just say I have something special planned. 'Nuff said.

Monday is for the Mountain Bike Rally at Bays Mountain in Kingsport. This is an all gravel road course that has some nasty climbing and usually ends up being a free-for-all for the top spots. Definitely a disadvantageous course for singlespeeds but I am not letting that bother me. I will take my happy 32X17 running ass down there and give it a go. Last year I got 4th in age group and I think 9th or 10 overall. This year I want to win and I'm crazy enough to think and believe I can!

We'll see how it goes.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Ouch @%#^#*&!!!

Those words along with a streak of colorful expletives came gushing from my mouth tonight shortly after being nailed 7 times by Yellow Jackets while riding off-road at Buffalo Mtn with The Great White Goat, Scooby and Mike B. We were descending from the top of the mountain and I cam around the corner and the first one nailed me in the top of the head. I went a few yards and stopped to take my helmet off and the little bastards shang-haied me.
Lucky I am not terribly allergic to them or it might have been bad. Where we were is pretty in accessible except by bike, hike, horse or ATV. I warned my buddies and we kept riding. I got bad chills and felt really crummy but other than that, I am fine.

I hate Yellow Jackets.
UPDATE: I woke up this morning and one eye was swollen shut. How bout that.
Did I mention I hate Yellow Jackets?

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

8 Years of Home Maintenance in 8 Days

We have been working on our house to get it in selling shape and for the last 8 days, we have done pretty much nothing except move stuff, clean, sort, haul stuff to the dump (11 trips - no shit), haul stuff to Goodwill, fix a leaky water pressure regulator, pressure wash house, deck and driveway, fix nail holes in walls and paint, paint outside of house and garage doors, mow, trim, cut up and haul off brush from where lightning struck a tree in our yard, box, pack and move stuff we are taking with us. We scrubbed that mother from top to bottom and inside out.

All in all it has been a pretty damn stressful and exhausting time. In typical Duckman fashion, I jumped and then looked where I was going. If we had spread the work out over several weeks, it wouldn't have been so overwhelming but it is what it is.

Now I just hope somebody buys it soon so I can get back to my regularly scheduled life.

New paint.

Um... some stuff went to the dump so there wasn't any reason not to throw it off the deck.

Cleaned, painted and landscaped.

The garage is the staging area for all our stuff. It all is going to one of three places: with us, to the dump or to Goodwill.

Nathan's artistic rendering of me painting the door.

Deck washed and ready for stain.

Back door sanded, masked and ready for paint.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Ride till ya puke

I have a training philosophy that is based on nothing in particular but it seems to work for me. The less time I have available to train, the harder I go. It's simple and the area in which I live makes it very easy to do. Gray Tennessee is full of rolling hills that go from mild to "aw shit". Today I did a workout that hurts like the dickens but is very effective and I definitely toed the Duckman party line of training.

I picked a route that is only about 12 miles long and has in addition to the main climbs, a lot of little rolling hills and one loop that is perfect for hill repeats. I suck at climbing and it is something I work on continually. In fact, I don't really train for anything else, just climbing and let everything else take care of itself. I suck that bad at it. Some people that I ride with will vehemently disagree that I suck as a climber and maybe in certain circles, I climb very good but the circle that really matters is the guys I race against and compared to the upper echelon of them, I SUCK! I know part of the problem is my size. At 5'11" and 190# ( I am working on it) , I outweigh a lot of my competition by a good 30 or 40 pounds. So I train in the hills a lot.

We have lots of rolling hills like this that make riding here really good (except for the traffic). The loop I used tonight basically consisted of a lot of this kind of stuff with a few evil surprises along the way.

The first one is in the "loop" I talked about and it goes up to Miller Perry school. It is about 3/4 of a mile long and starts off easy but kicks up at the top.

The sorta easy part.

A little tougher.

The puke zone.

After that, you have about 1/4 mile of slightly downhill easy spinning and you turn onto Eastern Star Rd and have another 1/2 mile gradual climb that's great for power intervals.

I like to go from telephone pole to telephone pole and go as hard as I can between them and rest between the next ones alternating between the two. That's great for simulating attacks and recovery that is one of my weaknesses in racing.

Next comes more spinning for about 3/4 mile and back to the base of Miller Perry hill. I usually do anywhere from1 to 5 of these depending on how smarmy I feel. Tonight I did two. After the loops, I go on generally back towards home but first I have to scale a real SOB on Ford Creek Rd.
The pictures don't do these justice. What you are looking at is about 200 yds of 7% or so grade and then it kicks up for 75 yds to over 15%. It really hurts.

After that, it's on to Buffalo Ridge rd in roughly 3 miles. Buffalo Ridge takes you to the highest point in the 37615 zip code and the climb starts off with about 200 yds @ 10-12% then backs off to about 7% for another 300yds and then kicks up just a bit right at the top.

The start of Buffalo Ridge.

The top..

In a couple of years, this former farm will be filled with 200K and up houses. Such is the trend where I live. Farms are disappearing in favor of yuppie neighborhoods with SUV driving soccer moms that hate guys on bikes. It used to be a great place to ride now it's not so much.
Oh well.

Anyway, the whole workout takes about an 1 to 1.5 hours to complete depending on how many loops I do and I am never more than 5 miles from home making it super convenient.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008


It was no riding for me this past weekend. In fact the closest I got to a bicycle was moving them in and out of the garage as we had a massive weekend of getting our house ready to sell. Me and Nancy put in two 12 hour days over the weekend painting, cleaning, trimming, mowing, moving, sorting and throwing out 10 years of accumulated crap.

Since I have nothing bike related to talk about, I'll share some pics from last week's beach trip.


We stayed at this really nice place.

With a great view of the beach and the ocean.

And the pool and this thing called the Lazy River - a man-made "river" that you floated in on inner tubes. We spent alot of time there.

A lot of time...........

I bought this cool towel.................

And this cool hat..........

Checked out the hotties........

Posed for this picture with aforementioned hottie and our son...... I had to start wearing clothes on the second day because I apparently suck at sunscreen application and consequently had a nasty sunburn on my stomach in the shape of Eastern Europe after the first day.

We played in the ocean...............

A lot..................

And the hot tub................

One of us went under water for the first time without holding his nose.........

We built sand castles.......................

And ate fresh fish.........................

Really fresh fish.............

We saw some cool boats like this 120' Cat.......

We rode this boat................

It was cool...........

Lotsa water..........

More water..............

Some dude got sick. It was funny but we were good............

Our motel from the ocean............

More ocean fun.............

It doesn't say anything about pants. It was tempting............................ but I was good.....

It was a welcome break before coming home and spending all that time getting the house ready to sell. Maybe someday I can get back on my bike and ride some.