Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas and Thank You

I wanted to take a moment to wish all of my friends, family, and wonderful sponsors and supporters a most heartfelt Merry Christmas and best wishes for 2010.

I have taken some time this holiday season to reflect on 2009 and in particular what I can do in 2010 to make the world a better place for me, my son, my family, my friends and everyone else that I may encounter. 2009 was fairly hard for me but in retrospect it was nothing compared to what could have been. There are no bad days really... Just good ones and great ones. People have come into my life this year and others have left. Some stayed only for a few minutes others remain still. I am thankful for everyone. For my friends and family, you guys are awesome! You have been there for me when I needed you and that is the greatest gift of all. I am thankful even for my enemies for you have challenged me, pushed me to be better, stronger and more resilient. Thank You.

My association with Vassago will continue for 2010 and I am thankful to have such a cool bunch of people supporting me in something I love to do so much - race my bike. 2009 is what it was and I am only looking forward to 2010 and I'm currently looking at the events I plan to do. There will be a mix of 6 and 12 hour endurance races along with some shorter XC events, some road events and of course Cyclocross.

Up next for me is the Tennessee State Cyclocross Championships at the end of January and the very next week my mountain bike racing begins with the Snake Creek Gap TT Series in Dalton GA. I am working on building fitness and hopefully will have the form I want to have by the time the "A" races roll around in April and March.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Livin' La Vida Fuerte

I don't know where I am going but I am making damn good time!

While I continue down that path that most athletes travel every winter (unless you are fortunate enough to follow summer around the globe or live in a place where it doesn't get cold and dark at 4:30), I am defiantly trying to hang on to the fitness I gained this year. After my first cyclocross race last week, I got a good look at just how much I suck after just a few weeks of reduced activity.

I have been here before and I know like the Swallows of Capistrano, my legs will return. Still, knowing that doesn't make it any easier to take. I am not the naturally fit kind of person. I have to dig and fight like hell for any kind of form and if I stop training for a week, it's all gone. Depressing, yes but it's the life of any single-parent, 40something, 40 hour a week working, weekend warrior athlete.

I am already looking at 2010 races and waiting for dates to be posted to start figuring out what I am going to do. The rough draft is 12-20 races with a mix of endurance, XC, Cyclocross and Road races. So far I am confirmed for the Snake Creek Gap TT series in North Georgia in Jan, Feb and March and the 6 Hours of Warrior Creek in April. On my short list are:

Knobscorcher, 12 Hours of Tsali and Dirt, Sweat and Gears, Discburner.

There will be more but for now that's where I am planning on going. I don't want to do the long trips that I have done in the past couple of years because driving sucks and I am trying to stay relatively close to home so I can have more time with my son and we have a few trips planned for funstuff too. We'll see how it goes.

In the meantime, I have about 6 cyclocross races to keep me mentally and physically on the right track (and Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners to blow it all to hell).

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Guilty by reason of insanity or mental defect.

Today was round 3 of the Mud, Sweat and Gears Cyclocross series in Johnson City, Tn. I missed the first two rounds and with it my chance at doing well in the series overall. That combined with my life story of late kinda resembling a screenplay for a new disaster movie and consequently

me spending a lot of time off my bike in the last 5 weeks set me up for what was sure to be a real hum-dinger of a sufferfest. There was also a chance of rain which meant that it was going to pour at some point... it just does. Still, I loaded up bikes and gear for the deal and headed out for Winged Deer Park and a day of self-inflicted punishment. Being that it's Halloween and Spooky Cross, I decided to do something a little special

The first race was at 10:30 and the field was huge. I got a good start, 4th or 5th going up the hill and into the first turn but I knew I wouldn't be able to stay there for the whole race. I started feeling my inactivity real quick and began to fade to eventually finish 16th - still in the upper half of the field though so I was happy.

The course was really tricky with a sandpit with three turns in it (didja ever try riding in deep sand and changing direction?) plus several really extreme off-camber parts that were slick even when dry much less if it got wet.......

The rain came and was cold and steady making the course evil. Several people went down, some of them really hard (one guy probably broke a collarbone). My next race was on my singlespeed and it still had fat mountain bike tires which would serve me well. I usually ride good in slop which was another positive. I hate being cold and wet at the same time though and that was nearly a deal breaker. While I waited for my race, I looked through the car for my balls plus all the warm clothes I could find. An hour, One arm warmer and two knee warmers later, I headed out to get wet and try to get my mind right for the next 30 minutes of my life that were gonna be a bit uncomfortable. I had to ask myself why do I keep putting my body through this kind of torture. I mean days like today are exactly why couches were invented. Hmmm..... Think I'd rather suffer like a dog for a half-hour in a muddy and cold field than get fat on the couch.

I took the start for the singlespeed class and we got about ten feet off the pavement before I got a money-shot of slop right to my face rendering me blind for the next hundred or so yards. I think I got passed there and when I regained most of my sight, I was in 4th right behind my friend Mike Mefford. I felt like that was a good place to be and tried my best to stay there but kept getting crap in my face and messing up my contacts. The course was really slick and the off camber sections were pretty much a free for all. I even crashed once and slid to the bottom on my stomach, fun times.....

I ended up 6th and happy that I stuck it out. I knew this race was going to be particularly hard on me and I wasn't disappointed. Still, it was fun and after a hot shower and some food, I forgot about all the pain. Maybe for the next one, I can take some fitness.....


Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Sometimes you gotta swing for the fence.....

I have been debating whether or not to write this blog entry but I thought why the hell not, I am among friends right?
On Sept 11 (oddly enough) my wife and I decided to end our relationship and go our separate ways. This was not a decision that was made in a few minutes or even an hour or two. The decision to part came after 5 years of counseling, trying to work it out and eventually facing the reality that "It just ain't happening". The details thereof are really not important and I am exceedingly happy that we can remain good friends and make the best of a bad situation.
It was a hard decision in the begining but as things went along, I realized it was the only decision I had to make and in the end, I truly believe that the lives of me, her and our son will benefit in a positive way.
For me, my job now is to focus on single-dadhood and give my son the best of me. I am excited about it and plan to face it like I do any challenge I have ever faced - Wide Fucking Open. I only know one way and that is to throw all I have into it.

I intend to continue racing and riding bikes although at this point I am not sure what next year's schedule will look like..... I am not really worried about it. Bike racing is and always has been something I do for me. I have fun with it and am fortunate to be associated with some really cool people that make some really cool bike stuff. I will continue with them as long as they want me around. Bikes and racing will always be there. No worries.

For those of you that have sent me notes and messages of support.. I thank you.

Rock on good people....

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Upside down and backwards.........

I went to the 12 Hours of Dauset last weekend with my buddy and longtime teammate/racing partner Bob Lamberson and his wife Anet. The weather was perfect, the course was well groomed and pretty damn sweet. I had great legs and felt like it was going to be a good race. Approximately 2 hours into the race however, things went to hell quick and left me wondering if I was even going to say anything about it or just pretend it never happened.

Here's how it unfolded.

I arrived at Dauset trails in Jackson GA Friday night under the cover of darkness, kinda like a trail ninja, yeah that's how I roll. After putting the Honda into RV mode I got some sleep. Saturday morning greeted us with a perfect day for racing. After breakfast, me and Bob took off for some riding and looking at the course. The trails at Dauset are typical middle Georgia: sandy over hardpack with plenty of roots and rocks here and there. While you don't have the 30-45 minute climbs that you find further up the Appalachians, there are a lot of little climbs and rollers but this course, by way of comparison to some of the others I have ridden recently, was really tame. I heard a 1000 feet of climbing per lap and I am sure that was true, it just didn't feel like that much.
My back had been bothering me for the 2 days prior to the race, so much so that on Friday I wasn't sure I'd be able to race. Oddly enough, it felt fine while I was riding. Walking or sitting around caused problems, riding, no problem. Soon enough it was time to start. We agreed that Bob would go first and then me. I was fine with that since my back was bothering me and I hate running anyway (all Goneriding races begin with a LeMans start, another reason to hate the French!). After the start, I had about 40 minutes before I needed to be in staging waiting on Bob. I figured he'd do about a 45-50 minute lap and when he rolled in at about 47 minutes, I took off. Judging from the riders I had seen come through before him, I calculated that we were around 15th overall and most likely either leading the Duo or at worst in 2nd. Not really a big deal with 11 hours of racing to go but nice to know at any rate.
I felt great! I immediately passed two people that had left a bit before me and that felt good. I tried to lay down a fairly solid lap time but not kill myself in the process. In a lot of ways doing a Duo race is harder than just going solo. You tend to ride faster than a solo pace and you have only enough time between laps to get cold and stiff. You recover a bit maybe but it ain't easy by any means. I rode fast enough and came in without any problems in about 48 minutes.
I refilled my water bottle, ate some grapes and that's about all I had time for before it was time to go back to staging. Bob's 2nd lap was about the same as his first and I went out for what I assumed would be another great lap. What I didn't see coming was the freight train that would end my day approximately 2 miles into the lap. What happened exactly, isn't important. I had a major mechanical failure. The type that could happen to anyone at any time. The reason I am being tight-lipped about it is how in this day and age people bash everyone's stuff and that just pisses me off. I love my sponsors and they make good stuff and they have been good to me. Shit happens and what happened in Georgia was just a thang.
Having said that, I have gone for about 5 years without even so much as a flat tire so I was kinda pissed off that my day was now over. I had 5 miles to go to the end of the lap and I could ride my bike (albeit slowly and very carefully) way faster than I could run so I did. I got back and made the hand-off to Bob and he knew my day was done. I returned to the pits and considered my options. I could sit there and stew for the rest of the day; I could take my cross bike off the car (I had my cross bike instead of a spare mountain bike because I was planning to do a cyclocross race the next day back in Tennessee) and give it a try; or I could go home.
I actually did try the cross bike but that wasn't going to work so I headed home. I set out for a great weekend of racing but ended up back home before the damn race was even over.
Bob went on to finish the race and due to his efforts "we" ended up 7th in the Duo class. Anet won the Female solo in Viking fashion, she killed everyone! Great job Anet!

After a five hour drive home with some of my favorite music and a three hour mountain bike ride on Sunday, I was back in a decent mood by the end of the weekend.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Wild Chimps and Other Scary Things

The Black Bear Rampage was the first mountain bike race for me since the 12 Hours of Tsali way back in May.It has been a strange summer indeed. Last year, I was racing on average about every two to three weeks and this year it's been three months between them and that's just weird. Heading to the Ocoee Whitewater Center on Saturday, I got excited. I was ready to ride! After finding a safe place to park (the WW Ctr was too damned spooky!, I went to the Thunder Rock Campground and poached a parking place, hey the campground was full. I woulda gladly paid if I actually stayed in it), I got the Honda in RV mode and put Talledega Nights in my laptop (always cracks me up) and settled in.

Sunday morning was a bit cool and it's no secret that I am a baby when it comes to cold. I'll suck it up and ride in it but I will bitch and complain every step until I get comfortable. After getting dressed and enough nutrients packed in my water bottles for 4 hours in the woods, I set off to try to warm-up. I had been here before at the 2008 Cohutta 100. I knew the start was going to be a roughly 2 mile road climb that was gonna hurt. I wanted to be ready because my goals for the day were: Stay with the leaders up the road climb and into the singletrack, try to find a comfortable spot to hang out for three hours or so and then try to surge towards the end and pick up as many spots as I could. I wanted to podium but being realistic, this was my first mtb race in 3 months and even though I have done lots of road riding in the mountains and several short track races, there is no substitute for off-road endurance racing except doing it. I was just going to have fun.

At the start,I asserted myself near the back of the lead group of 10 or so and the climb with cold legs really hurt! Kinda like being punched repeatedly in the testicles by a wild chimpanzee.... uh or something like that. Over the top and into the singletrack, I tried to keep contact with the leaders but it was clear after the first 4 or 5 miles that they weren't going to be worrying about me that day. I faded some and found a pace that I could live with for most of the race. I still planned to try to speed up some towards the end of it but for now I was on cruise control.
There were sections of the course that were fairly rooty and rocky. My summer of mostly road riding cost me a little of my rigid singlespeed riding fitness and that manifest itself mostly in my arms got the shit beat out of them. My triceps ached by the midpoint of the race and that hasn't happened in a long time. It took me a crazy long time to warm-up after the start. My inner child was throwing a fit because I was doing something that I hadn't done in awhile but I've never been much to bow down to my personal frailties and I just ignored it and rode on. Finally on a long climb, oddly enough, near the 20 mile mark, I felt good! I passed about 7 people on my way to the top, many of which just passed me a little earlier. Unfortunately only one was a singlespeed so from that I knew I was probably outside the top ten. I didn't let it bother me and I just kept going and kept trying to keeo my pace as high as I could without doing serious damage to myself. I felt moderately good and had plenty of energy. Through the whole race, I only walked one climb and it was one that pretty much everyone I saw was walking so I was cool with that.

With about 10 miles to go, we went back through the Whitewater Center and I was "smelling the barn" so to speak, or maybe smelling like a barn, both I guess. Rolling through the final 10 miles of singletrack, I accelerated a little and had a little fun. I was a little disappointed that I wasn't closer to the front but it is what it is.
I ended up 14th in the singlespeed class and was on my bike for 3:50. Not a bad time and not a bad result really but I think I'll go back next year with a better plan. It was a very fun race and the course was a sweet mix of mostly singletrack with some fireroad and just a little pavement.

Next on my agenda is the 12 Hours Of Dauset where I will be riding on a 2 man team with my long-time pal and teamate Bob Lamberson. I am really looking forward to riding with Bob again. Our paths have been kinda funky this year and we've hardly ridden together at all.


Saturday, September 12, 2009

I am the Eye of the Hurricane

With so much going on in my life lately, both good and bad, I kinda feel like I have been in a Cat 5 storm just hanging on for dear life. I call it Hurricane Juan Pablo, don't ask me why. It's my story and I can name the damn storm anything I want. Oddly enough, I am calm and have clarity in my thoughts that I have not seen in years. I feel like I am the eye in the Hurricane.

I am leaving today for my first mountain bike race in 3 months, the Black Bear Rampage held at the Ocoee Whitewater Center and Tanasi trail system near Ducktown, Tn. I have ridden these trails some when I did the Cohutta 100 last year and they are really fun. I am looking forward to getting back to the business of bike racing. Tomorrow's event is a 40something mile romp and should be a hoot! I am hoping the form that I have discovered in the last month's worth of weekend deathrides and weeknight short track races will see me through to stand somewhere on the podium by days end.

At any rate, it should be fun and I am looking forward to it and to next week's 12 Hours of Dauset where I will be teaming up with my buddy Bob Lamberson for a 2 man team.

Until then, Ciao my peeps!

Sunday, September 6, 2009


"You rise, you fall, you're down then you rise again. What don't kill ya, make ya more strong."

--James Hetfield.

I know some of you have probably written Duckman off and who could blame ya? I have gone "off the grid" for awhile due to several factors including but not limited to: personal calamity, shitty economy, stress, lack of audience participation, and I lost my supply of give a f**k. Can I get a witness?

One thing I didn't do in my sabatacal is forsake training and riding. Nope fish gotta swim and Duckman's gotta ride. I have missed racing this year, really missed it but in it's absence I have substituted a sometimes weekly ritual simply know as................. Deathride.

My buddy and creator of some hella-sweet MSG Cylocross courses, Dwayne Letterman has a knack for putting together tiny goat-path mountain roads in such a combination that they are a lot of fun and pain to ride. As always, what don't kill ya, make ya more strong. These rides not only build fitness and character, they also make memories.

Some of the places you have never heard of: Flag Pond, Oak Hill, Shady Valley, Bald Mtn, Windy Gap, Baileyton, Indian Graves Gap, Oak Hill. Some you may know such as Beech Mountain, made famous by one dude from Texas with the initials LA, thinks he's pretty good on a bike or something ;).
Each one has it's own brand of suffering. Baileyton is mostly flat to rolling but average speed can be in the 20+ mph for 2 hours or more making what hills are there really painful. The mountains are what they are and that's where the real fun and blue collar suffering comes into play.

Beech Mountain, North Carolina - Good enough for Lance, good enough for me.

We have some steep stuff around here and those rides are always my favorites. There's nothing like the feeling of being 40 miles from home on the wrong side of a mountain in some little place that's not on any map and forget cell phone coverage. You are tired, hot and hungry, the tank is near empty and you still have to climb up and over the fuggin thing to get back. Yeah, dog! Fun times!

Sadly, all things must come to an end, if only for a short time and yesterday's ride over Spivey Gap, Bald Mtn, Windy Gap and Sam's Gap was the last one for the season as things now will get a little busy with Cyclocross and a few late season mountain bike races to take up the weekends. Even though I have missed the racing scene this summer and missed seeing friends that I have made through racing, missed tasting all the different kinds of dirt from different places across the south, I have really enjoyed the fun, comraderie and mindless suffering that has come from Deathride.

Viva la Deathride.

I will be getting back to racing beginning next week with the Black Bear Rampage in Chattanooga and then it's off to Georgia and the 12 Hours Of Dauset the following weekend. After a week or two off, then Cyclocross kicks in and that will put my butt on a bike with a number plasterd to my back all through the fall and winter. God I love racing!

Peace y'all.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

3:10 to Yuma

I decided after much waffling, to enter the Tour of Possum Creek Omnium this weekend in Yuma and Gate City Virginia. It has been about 3 years since I last competed in one and that was as a Cat 5. You see, when I quit road racing in 1998 I was a Cat 4 and heading for Cat 3 the next year. I got tired of it though and changed over to off-road. In the years since, all the races I have done have been with a USAC one-day license which allowed me to still compete in the Cat 5 (or beginner) class. This year, I renewed my USAC road license and when I did, I was put back in Cat 4 since you can never go backwards with USAC. Cat 4 races are typically longer, faster and harder than Cat 5 and as you go on up through Cat's 3,2 and 1, it just keeps getting harder and the competition much stiffer.
Given that knowledge plus the fact that this was my first road race in a few years (Crits don't really count because you don't get the full effect of the suffering potential that's available in an Omnium. An Omnium is a mini stage rage typically with a road race and time trial on one day followed by a criterium the next day.)

In short, I had high hopes for the weekend but deep down I expected to suffer like a dog. I wasn't disappointed.

Saturday morning was a 56 mile road race in Yuma. The course was two laps of a 28 mile loop that was fairly flat with a few small rollers just to make it interesting. We started and for the first dozen or so miles, the pace was like a club ride. There were a few hard accelerations on the backside of the loop but other than that, the first lap was a cake walk. Lap two would be different there were a few small attacks from the beginning of the lap and the pace picked up significantly over the first lap. I felt really good and my plan of staying near the front of the group but out of the wind was working well. The further we got into the 2nd lap, the attacks got harder and went from feeling good to hurting pretty quickly. One attack split the group and I managed to stay with the leaders although I was now officially suffering. In the last ten miles of the race, I found myself at the very back of the pack (we were all back together since the chase group caught back up). I knew that there would be an attack at one of the two small hills at the end of the lap and I had about 5 miles to make my way to the front to be in a good position to react. I didn't feel so great, the heat was bad and the effects of the hammering going on was really taking it's toll. I found myself in perfect position right on the front at the base of the hill where I felt an attack would come so I gave it a Hail Mary, swing for the fence attack from the front. I got a gap and then I had a massive cramp in my left hamstring that shut me down. I made it over the top alone but it didn't take long for the group to catch me and spit me out the back. I was really mad because I felt like I had a good chance to finish on the podium and I cramped. I drank a lot but maybe the heat and the pace (24.5 mph average for the 56 miles) caused me to underestimate my fluid needs. I wasn't the only one. I cruised across the line with my buddy and only "teamate" for the race, David Hayter, and he was cramping badly too.
I ended up 19th in the RR. Not what I wanted but it is what it is.

The TT was hard to get motivated for. Time trials hurt. It's just you and the clock and you have to go WFO for as long as it is. This one in particular had several small but fugly hills that really hurt and the pavement on half the 12 mile course was so rough it made it hard to stay in a aero position for very long. On top of that, my lack of preparation for this event included setting up my bike with TT bars but not spending enough time on it riding in them. The end result was I was unconmfortable. As I warmed up on my trainer, I contemplated the tree trunks I had for legs and the pain I was about to experience). As expected, the TT didn't go well for me. I got caught by my 30 second man, my minute man, my 1:30 man and even the dude that started two freaking minutes behind me, caught me! I suck at time trials (for now. heheheheh). I finished 12th.

Sunday brought a new day, tired but sorta rested legs and a better attitude. I spent the morning with David helping Super G move some of her stuff into a new storage unit and then headed out to Gate City High School for the Criterium. The course was one of the shortest and most dangerous I have ever seen in 20 years of abusing myself on a bike. It was barely .5 miles long and had three 180 degree turns (one of 'em was kind of off camber) and a nearly 360 degree round a bout (that one was actually not bad). I warmed up amid the heat, it must have been about three thousand degrees out there and watched the end of the Cat 3 race where one of my friends crashed twice. Kudos to him for not giving up although I am sure that second crash really hurt! I had shit for legs and I really didn't want to crash so I played it safe and just hovered near the back of the field. There were a few crashes (one right in front of me but I was able to avoid it) and a few DNF's so when the dust settled, I ended up 9th and that combined with my results from the previous day gave me 10th OA.

I am ok with that.I wanted to podium but this was my first road race/omnium in three years and my first Cat 4 race in 11 years. Despite doing a lot of riding and racing this year (the mountain bike races I do don't really give you the fitness for this stuff and cyclocross gives you the intensity but it's just not the same either) I just haven't trained for this kind of racing. So given that, I am not unhappy with how I did and besides, I had a lot of fun and that's what it's really about anyway.


Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Long Dry Spell...

It's been about 7 weeks since I last raced, the longest period of time (not including winter) that I haven't been on my bike in a race somewhere in about 3 years. Oh I've been riding, a lot actually, just no races. I usually hook up with the TCRC on weekend rides, the kind where you show up with some cash in your pocket and head out into the hills or mountains, stopping at a store hear and there to refuel. Those are fun rides and with the abundance of mountains we have here, great training. I also kick in one or two high intensity rides a week, either with a group or alone. These are shorter than the weekend stuff and waaay harder.
Even though I have a couple of long off-road races on my schedule still (both are in September), I am mainly focusing on fiitness for the cyclocross season coming up in October and running through March. I really like 'cross racing and I'm looking forward to it this year.

This weekend will be something totally different from any of the races I normally do. I entered the Tour of Possum Creek Omnium held just across the border in Virginia. It's got a 56 mile RR on Saturday morning, a 22 mile TT Saturday afternoon and a criterium on Sunday. I haven't done a omnium in a lot of years and I'm looking forward to it. I rode the RR course last night and it is fast with only a few hills. It plays into my strength as a rider and that's my ability to put power down for long periods of time. We'll see how it goes though, I haven't done a road race in a few years, the dynamic is a little different than mountain bike racing. Plus I have no team around me so I will have to rely on my ability to hang with whatever group goes up the road and look for opportunities to get away by myself near the end.

At any rate, it will be fun. I've missed racing and I'm ready to go!

Sunday, June 28, 2009

For Haven.......

Some of you know of this, many of you do not.

Two very good friends of mine Kris Fowler and Misty Bateman, owners of Vassago Cycles, have a very sick young daughter - Haven. For two years now she has been battling a rare and terminal form of cancer. She has been treated at Johns-Hopkins Hospital where she is right now with her family. She is undergoing a very agressive chemo threatment that will require her to be in a "clean room" (read completely sterile) for 5 months as her immune system is completely destroyed and allowed to renew itself, hopefully disease free.

Please taken a moment to say a prayer for this family, add them to your prayer list at church, spread the word.


Saturday, June 27, 2009

Riding, rednecks and things that go bump in the night.

Today's group ride with the Tri-Cities Road Club was a little different flavor than last week's climbfest. We rode a route that I had not ridden in about 10 years that was full of rolling, small hills that you could absolutely hammer on if you had a good group of people. You could easily (well, sorta easy) do the whole 48 miles in 2 hours if you played your cards right. Mmmmm. Can you say big ring?

We left from Kingsport's Meadoview Convention Center a 9:00ish and headed out towards Baileyton. My legs felt a little like a pair of dead carp for some stupid reason. I have ridden nearly every day this week but not hard and not for long so that shouldn't be an issue. I am stressed to the gills right now with various things, maybe that plus the riding had something to do with it. Anyhoo, it took me the better part of an hour before I felt really warmed up and like riding.

On some road, somewhere, (I don't know the names of these places, I just know where I am when I am there) a nice paceline developed and we were tooling along at around 25mph. I got to the front and pulled for a really long time and finally my legs showed up for the ride. Pulling off, I saw that our group had lost a few off the back, oops, so I tucked in behind the last rider and thought I'd ease up on the next pull. Everyone else pulled really hard too and by the time I got back to the front I figured, when in Rome.............. So I let it rip. It felt good and made me feel better about not racing this summer (I have been really bummed about not having a race to aim for. September seems so far away right now.) because this was fun!

At the mid-point of the ride we stopped at a store to regroup and grab some drinks. I remember the days when I first started riding (many moons ago) and I'd leave the house on a Saturday morning with friends, a bike and a few bucks in my pocket and we'd ride all over hellandback stopping at these little stores along the way for such treats as Moon Pies, anything made by Hostess and who could resist having a Coke and a smile (whoever coined that phrase had to be a cyclist because a Coke under the right conditions will definitely put a smile on your face.)
The return trip was a bit more hilly than the one out and it didn't take much of a 25+mph paceline to make my legs start bitching. Still, we hammered pretty good on the way back until I think everyone was pretty well trashed.
It was a great ride...

One thing though, file this under "S" for Stupid, On the way to Baileyton, some tool riding in the back of a pickup tried to dump a whole gallon of gasoline on us! Luckily we just got a little of the mist from it but shit! I can never get over how damn stupid some people can be. Just a few weeks ago somebody threw a natty light bottle at me (rednecks usually have bad aim, this one didn't do anything to change that opinion) and then just a couple of miles down the road TURNED INTO HIS DRIVEWAY! I already had his tag number and now I had his address, if I was the type, I'd go back there and give him his bottle (someplace rather uncomfortable for him perhaps) but I let it go...... after I called the cops and told them the whole thing FWIW.

Never, never, never underestimate the power of stupid!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

M is for Mountains.........

Hello, my name is Brian Archer, some know me as Duckman, and it has been 4 weeks since my last race. I am dealing with it the best that I can but it hasn't been easy. I just take life one pedal stroke at a time.......
It was hard talking to my friends on their way to the Cowbell Challenge Marathon/XC that was held this weekend at Fisher Farms in Charlotte. I always love going to Charlotte to race for the competition and the races are always fun and challenging. Due to working too much and having too little money, the Cowbell just wasn't in the plan for me this year.
Instead of racing, I hooked up with the TCRC Saturday for a fun day in the mountains of Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia. I rarely go on group rides anymore since I am always training for a race, racing or recovering from a race. None of those are very conducive to group ride etiquette. I was looking forward to this one for the fun of riding with a group also for the route - US 421 over Holston Mountain, is one of my favorite roads to ride around here.
We met in Bristol and headed out promptly at 9somethingish. The first dozen miles were rolling hills through farmland and we all hung out and chatted about whatever. The climb up Holston Mtn came next and there we kinda got strung out a little as everyone climbed at their own pace.
At the top, I turned and rode back down a couple of miles until I caught the last riders up and I rode back up with them. I love climbing Holston. Since I work in Bristol, it's nothing to go over there and ride it after work. The climb proper is about 5 miles long and not very steep, something like 5-7% overall but it will get your attention.
After grouping up, we headed off the mountain and into Shady Valley and then on to Damascus Virginia. The run into Damascus is a total blast. Slightly downhill the whole way, we rode in a paceline and pretty much maintained 30mph the whole way with speeds sometimes edging near 40. Of course it's not hard to go that fast downhill, it's still a lot of fun. Not often do you get to break the speed limit on a bike. In Damascus, we got some food, water and made a couple of bike repairs before heading back over Holston again and home.
The ride back (uphill all the way) was waaay less intense than the ride in. It was hot now and really muggy. We just chilled, so to speak, and cruised back over the mountain. It was time for some real food!
4.5 hours and 70something miles of riding with friends..........Good times.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Missing in Action

That's me. Like many, I have been hit where it hurts by a shitty economy and the trickle down effect of cutting back to survive. I am one of the lucky ones (relatively speaking) as my job is relatively secure (that could change at any moment) although I have had to work much harder and longer to take up the slack left from people that weren't so lucky and were "cut".

Therefore, my racing has suffered as the number of available weekends that I am not working plus the disposable income that just isn't what it used to be have caused unavoidable changes to my racing schedule. Gone are the Disc Burner (held last week, heard it was a great one..), the Cowbell Challenge, and ORAMM plus a couple of local road races that I had planned on. This has put a huge hole in my summer at least as far as racing goes. I am still training hard and hope to add a 100k mtb race that looks like will happen just a few miles from where I live. There's a Omnium road race in July that I'd like to go to as well. Beyond that, I am basically training for the Cyclocross series that begins in October and I plan to do well in that this year. I am looking at the 12 Hours of Dauset in September and maybe the SM100 Labor day weekend. We'll see.

For now, I am training hard, saving cash where I can and just riding the storm out. Hope all of you are doing well.


Monday, May 25, 2009

12 Hours of Tsali

This was my 5th trip to the 12 Hours Of Tsali at Tsali recreation area in Western NC. I like this race because it's put on by good people and usually has a fair amount of competition, plus it's just fun. After getting 3rd last year, I was looking to step up a couple of steps this year. This is my 9th year at the endurance game and although I have stood atop the podium before on teams, I have yet to win a solo race. I wanted this. I had a decent build up to Tsali although a main race that I planned to use for a tune up on my fitness was the DSG debacle two weeks ago where I ended up pushing my bike half as much as I rode it. I tried not to let that bother me and look at it objectively.

I arrived at Tsali Friday with my family in tow for this one. This is the first time this year I'd have family plus a lot of friends at a race. Doing these things self-supported isn't a huge deal but it sure helps to have some help and encouragement. After getting camp set up, we turned in for some rest.

Saturday morning brought near perfect weather (unusual but very nice) for the 11:00 start. After going over my plan with Nancy and instructing her on when I'd need what, I checked my bike over got my stuff together and took my bike to the start. This race always starts with a rather unpleasant 1/4 mile run up a hill - yay. I got a decent start ( I don't run. That's why I started riding bikes!) and I spent the first 30 minutes trying to keep myself reeled in and not fall into the trap of racing with people on the first lap of the race (something that's amazingly hard to not do). I felt great and despite my efforts to hold it down, I turned in a 54:00 and change first lap. Too fast for all day so I worked on slowing down. I set my computer to show avg speed and tried to keep it at 10-11 mph. Without any incidents (except for a black snake, more on him later), I rode right into my 2nd lap. I was now pretty much alone except for the occasional team guy passing me or me passing some slower riders (I didn't waste any effort to get around them but I didn't waste any time riding behind them either). I felt good still and was climbing well.

It was getting hotter by now and I am not used to heat yet (we haven't had any.. just cold and wet) so I was trying to be sure I got enough to drink and plenty of electrolytes. It's a tricky game, racing in the heat and getting enough nutrition and fluids in you but not too much. Deep into my third lap, I came around a corner was was greeted by a huge black snake (I assumed it was the same one I saw on lap one). He was fairly aggressive and struck at me (even though I am certain they are harmless, you have a 3' black snake strike at you unexpectedly and see how loud you scream) I figured he was probably pretty pissed by now having seen a hundred or so bikes come by his little spot in the sun. I had slowed enough that I still felt comfortable despite the heat but I started walking a couple of steep places to save my legs for later.

Lap 4 is when it all went to hell.

I started the lap like I did the 3rd, with a fresh bottle of water and pacing myself in the heat. I had went through my first 3 hour bottle of Perpetuem and had a fresh one for the next three hours. I was feeling fine for the effort I was putting out and really just trying to cruise for the rest of the race and let attrition do it's thing (on everyone else, I never considered it would be me tanking). In the middle of a crappy little climb in a ditch, I got hit with stomach cramps so bad and so quick, I thought I'd look down and see an alien popping out of my stomach. It hurt and I was about 5 miles from the finish line. Decisions had to be made and quick.
What happened next is...uh.......... better left out of the public domain. Let's just say I found myself on the course and cramp free a few moments later and I finished that lap feeling pretty bad. I stopped for the first time in the race and sat in my pits for about 20 minutes hoping I'd feel better.
I never did really and I went out on my 5th lap unable to eat anything without feeling sick. I knew that unless I got to the point where I could get some nourishment back into my body, I would be digging myself into a deep, dark hole and things would end badly for me. The first thing to go was my climbing. I started really suffering on even the easy climbs and found myself pushing way more than I did a couple of laps earlier. I tried in vain to eat something. I ditched my "plan" that had worked for me in all the other races I have done this year and started trying anything. I grabbed some Twizzlers before my 6th lap and that worked ok but it was too little, too late. I was deep into my pain cave and digging deeper.

Going into my 7th lap, my pre-race goal of 12 laps was gone, my mid-race revised goal of 10 laps was in the process of being bitch-slapped and now I was just looking at finishing that lap. Not even a third of the way in, I started to bonk and by the time I got to the mid-point of that lap, I was in a really bad place. My blood sugar was probably about 7, I dunno but I was shaky, disoriented and feeling like crap. At the end of the lap, I looked at the standings and saw that I was in 5th, 10 minutes behind 4th and almost a full lap behind 1st. There was no point in going on and doing more damage to myself (it was now getting dark and the potential for serious damage would go up exponentially).

I stopped after 7 laps, 8 hours and about 80 miles of racing. I would end up 7th in s/s and 14th OA for Solo 12 Hour. Not what I wanted going in but it is what it is.

Did I mention the snakes? I saw no less than 5 black snakes (or the same snake 5 times) during the race. I know that at lest three of them were different because one was really big and the other two were about 6 miles apart from each other. The most freaky sighting was the big boy (4 feet long) had climbed up a tree and his head was about handlebar high right along the trail.

As for what made me sick. I don't know. I had been using the same fueling plan all year and it's worked for me over and over. I didn't try anything new. I was hotter than what I am used to and maybe that had something to do with it but otherwise, I don't have a clue as to what happened.

Next time................

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Dirt, Sweat and Gears 2009

I tried to think of a catchy title for this post that of caught the feeling about this year's DSG race in Fayetteville, TN. Some on the short list were: Armageddon's Death Race 2009, DSG 2009 presented by JIF, Somebody Shoot Me, Screw bikes, I'm making pottery! Yes it was a tough one, most if not all in attendance agreed that it was by far the worst conditions they have ever ridden, er, I mean dragged a mountain bike through the woods in, including solo Pro winner Jeremiah Bishop who managed to do 4 laps in the muck. In the end the 400+ racers shared a kind of kinship having survived the ordeal and I am sure stories will be told for years to come about Dirt, Sweat and Gears 2009.

Here's mine.

I had never done this race (now in its 3rd year) although it's not far from where I live. It just never worked out for me. I made it a point this year and headed out early Friday towards Fayetteville to get a pit spot and to ride the course. The weather had been horrible for about all of Tennessee for the last month with rain and lots of it. I had already heard the stories from the last DSG race and about how bad the mud was but hey, this was a new year and the forecast was decent. Still I couldn't help but notice as I drove up the cumberland plateau that water was shooting out of rocks in ways that just didn't seem natural, plus there was water standing all over in fields. They had a lot of rain recently. I got to the venue, set up my stuff and grabbed my Jabberwocky for a ride. The first portion of the course was in a field and it was wet in places but not bad. On to the singletrack and there was more wet, actually it was quite slick in spots especially on some of the numerous techy climbs that made getting up them difficult. I got a hint of the sticky side of the mud and had to stop once to clean out my chainstays.

The course was really rocky. It's been a while since a race course has really challenged my skills like this one did. They all challenge my fitness but let's face it, most of the races I have done recently have just not been that technical. This one was different and reminded me a bit of the 2000-2004 Snowshoe West Virginia course which stands in my mind as the most evil course ever. It had a lot of rocks and the mud covering them that demanded your attention.

After my lap, I went back to my pits and had dinner and just chilled out for the evening. I formulated a plan of action for the race and called it a day. There was a lot of technical climbing and the only thing that bothered me about that was my gearing choice of 32x19 might be a little stiff. Talking to Dicky, I learned that he, DJ and Fuzzy all were using 20's or 21's confirmed that I was gonna suffer on Saturday. Little did I know then, by race time my gearing wouldn't mean anything. One thing I did decide was to keep my WTB Weirwolf/Nanoraptor combo instead of changing to meatier Prowler/Exiwolfs. My rationale was that the smaller knobs may not pack up as bad with mud.

Saturday morning, I was up early and trying to get a weather forecast on my Blackberry but the stupid thing wouldn't connect so I started listening to people around me talking about a big storm coming through at about 9:00. After the usual pre-race prep, we lined up for the start and sure enough, 8:55 am local time, the storm hit and it rained for the next hour. We started the race with a LeMans start (I am actually getting better at those, although the run at DSG was a short one) and I worked my way into a decent position before the singletrack. There was water everywhere and people sliding all over. About a mile into the woods I went down hard on a small but steep descent. I jumped back up and got going having lost a dozen or so places. Virtually all the climbs were unrideable because of traction issues so I was just trying to finish the first lap and not stress too bad about who was riding what. The rain was coming down good and the mud, although slick, wasn't too sticky at that point. Near the end of our first lap something happened that sealed our fate. The rain stopped and the sun came out.

That was probably the worst thing possible.

I rode through my pits and changed one bottle for a fresh one ( I had another that was untouched) and went straight out for lap 2. My first lap was about 1:40 and I figured the second would be about the same so I should be fine with the two bottles I had. Boy was I wrong. Going through the field I already could tell something wasn't right. My tires were loading up bad with mud and I had no traction at all. I was having trouble riding a straight line (I had already dropped the pressure in both tires to about 20lbs each). Into the singletrack, I had major problems. I couldn't ride a lot of the stuff I had ridden just a couple of hours before. No traction and my tires were packing up badly. I wasn't long before the mud started packing up on my bike causing major handling problems and eventually getting so thick that the wheels stopped rolling.

I had ridden peanut butter mud before but this stuff was incredible. On another steep descent, I crashed hard again. This time I saw stars and impaled myself on a small stick. It hurt! I got up and assessed the damage and walked the rest of the hill. Unable to start back up because of the mud, I continued to walk...................For the next three hours! By now the mud was unbelievably thick and collecting on bikes and bodies at an amazing pace. Pushing my bike, it gained roughly one pound every 5 to 10 feet. I'd push until the wheels stopped rolling, clean off the mud with a stick, carry the bike on my back until I couldn't anymore, set it down and push again. I'd repeat this over and over. At one point, my bike easily weighed 80 lbs and I was scooping off mud in 5lb handfuls at a time. I came across a number of riders calling it a day and quitting. I determined to finish the lap and then decide. The further I went, the more clear the decision was, I was done. I kept telling myself to keep going, not to quit. At one point, the course comes right into the start/finish area and it would be easy to stop. There was food and relief at hand but I forced myself to go back into the woods. The odd thing was that even though my last lap took nearly 4 hours, I only got passed by a couple of people. It was the most impossible and surreal situation I had ever been in on my bike.

In the last mile of the lap, I was finally able to get back on my bike and ride something. It felt good to pedal again after walking so long. Bonked and sore, I rode through the finish and called it a day.

After sorta cleaning up and getting some food, I checked the results just for fun and was surprised to see that most of the field had only one lap, there was quite a few two's and very few three's and four's. Jeremiah Bishop won the Pro Solo with four laps. My two laps placed me in 6th place in my class and in the top 25% overall. It didn't matter much at point, I was just happy it was over.

I felt bad for the promoter because the venue was great and the course was good. It would have been a good race if it was dry. Most of the feedback I heard from others was positive though. I'll be back next year. The weather is what it is and as they say, that's racin'

I snapped this as soon as I got off my bike. I guess the look on my face says it all......

My Optimus went from about 20lbs at the start of the race to 80lbs at the end (and that's afer being cleaned off I don't know how many times). Through it all, I had no mechanical failures whatsoever. Completely encased in mud, my drivetrain still worked. God I love singlespeeds!

Saturday, April 25, 2009


With no significant racing activity going on for me right now and lots of boring, domestic, daily drudge type stuff taking over, I have been at a loss for things to write about lately. Just because there's six weeks between races ( I should have been at the Cohutta 100 today but I had to work) for me, doesn't mean I've been sitting on my can doing nothing. I have been training as much as my screwed up schedule will allow and trying to get plenty of stress-free, quality rest (which is sometimes a joke around here) since some of my training has been very, very hard.
Just a few miles from where I work is Holston Mountain, a nice 6 mile roadie climb that goes up hwy 421 to Mountain City and eventually into North Carolina. I have been hitting that thing as much as possible to get some hard, fast and dirty climbing fitness. I have been using my geared road bike some but also my singlespeed. With 48x18 gearing, the singlespeed is a beast on Holston. One time up has been all I wanted up until now. Today I will do two trips up the mountain and hope for the best. My goal is up and back 2X in 1:30. We'll see how that goes.

The TNR ride is a roadie ride on Thursday night that I did all last year. It's really fun and I always see alot of my friends there. Sometimes I really like riding with people (most of my training is done alone) and the TNR is mucho fun. The only problem now is that it begins at 6:00 and I don't get off work until 5:30 (in another city - 20 miles away). Getting there in 30 minutes with traffic is nearly impossible. I left work Thursday precisely at 5:30 and headed towards Johnson City. I was already changed, tires pumped up, water bottle filled, all I had to do was get there and get on my bike.
I was 5 minutes late and not a soul to be seen was in the parking lot. I got on and chased without a warm-up. Five minutes, ten, fifteen into the ride still nobody. Damn, how fast were they going? I thought. Finally, I caught a couple of riders off the back of the main pack and I managed to bridge up to within a minute of them. Since I was on my singlespeed, I was at a huge disadvantage on the flats so I tried to make all my time up on the climbs. Twice, I got close enough to try and seal the deal but both times, I missed. There is a longish flat portion before the final 2 mile climb over Buffalo Mountain and I knew I couldn't do anything there so I tried to recover some (I had thus far ridden my ass into the ground and was cooked) so I could make one last stab on the mountain. By the time I got there, I only caught a couple more people and the main pack succeeded in eluding me.
It was a great ride though and kinda gave me a hint at my current level of fitness. Sadly, if I am going to continue being late and chasing, I will have to bring out my geared bike. My singlespeed just isn't geared high enough to do anything on flat roads. At first I was kinda bummed because this is as much as a social ride for me as it is anything but I think I am going to like chasing rabbits - it's fun.

Tomorrow is a big ride in the dirt. I am trying to really finish my current training schedule strong in preparation for the first big races (for me) for 2009 - Dirt, Sweat and Gears, 12 Hours of Tsali and the Cowbell Challenge.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Helter Skelter

"When I get to the bottom I go back to the top of the slide Where I stop and turn and I go for a ride Till I get to the bottom and I see you again Yeah, yeah, yeah"

That song was in my head yesterday (not the Beatles one but theMotley Crue version 'natch) somewhere during my first ride back after a week of couch surfing and basically doing nothing except being sick. Rob Morley and me decided to think outside the box a bit and what we came up with was a wicked variation on the hill repeat theme - we did mountain repeats!
We headed to the base of Holston mtn where we parked and after a short warm-up, we hit it for the first of three reps to the top and back. Holston is a respectable climb, about 6 miles long and around 5-6% avg grade. It won't kill you but it will get your attention. The first lap up is pretty simple, anyone can climb it once. Lap 2 was about cold reality and finally lap 3 was, as Rob says, all blue collar. It was pretty rough. Probably not the best first ride back after a week off. It's my way of showing my body that I am not dealing with a full deck. Ah the life of manic-unstability.
The whole workout was only a little over 2 hours and although I wasn't wiped out at the end, I didn't want anymore either. I'll definitely add that one to my bag of evil tricks.

My view of Rob (who is younger and a lot lighter than me) leaving me to suffer alone.

Third lap. Blue collar suffering and character building............

.......An attempt at a artsy shot........

Friday, April 10, 2009

Couch Surfing.....

That's what I've been doing all week. I felt it just as I woke up before last Saturday's race, the beginnings of a "bug". I race anyway and felt fine during and after. Sunday, I went out for a couple of hours on the road and felt fine. Monday morning was a whole 'nother story though and it got worse before getting better. I did nothing at all for the next 5 days except work and come home to ride the couch until the next day. It's been a rough week and I feel like shit.
Now I feel bad because I have missed a whole week of riding. I need to ride, I have a physical dependence to ride my bike and if I cannot do so for a few days, things get bad.

At any rate, I plan to get back on the bike this weekend and hopefully back to my regular schedule next week.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Roast Duck. It's what's for dinner............

I pulled into Warrior Creek Campground in North Wilkesboro NC early Saturday morning and readied for the first annual 6 Hours of Warrior Creek put on by the BMCC. I had ridden in the area before at the Burn 24 (Dark Mountain trails) and on the OVT and figured the Warrior Creek system would be similar with characteristic short, punchy climbs; steep swoopy descents and fast, rolling sections with lots of berms. I wasn't far off in my prediction as the trail was just that: fast, swoopy bermed descents, short, punchy climbs and just a tad of technical stuff to keep you on your toes. At the end of the day, I think I would have changed the name to the Ike Turner trails though. Riding there is one thing, racing however is another. I felt like I had been bitch-slapped for 6 hours by the time it was over! It was tough - but very fun.

Here's what happened.

I met up with a bunch of my buddies from home: Bob, Anet, and Wes Lamberson, their coach Andy Johnston, Ben Appleby, Michael, Greg, Anthony, Brad, Sara, Andy and Abbie, Eric the Wonderdog, it was nice to have alot of homies around for a change. I also saw Dicky sporting a trick, new Meatplow, Stephen, and quite a few people I have met through racing. There was quite a turn out for a new event. After all the preparations, I lined up my Vassago Optimus for the start. I was exceedingly happy that there would be a mass start as opposed to a LeMans start. Any day is a good day if I don't have to run. I was a bit worried when I heard that there was 1.5 miles of pavement before the singletrack though. Usually that means bad things for a singlespeed rider as even mediocre geared riders can use their mechanical advantage and get ahead of you only to stub you up in the woods at the first rock or crooked root they come to. Here was a different story though as the first 1.5 miles included a nice, long climb! Yay!

I lined up next to Bill Collie (another homie and really strong rider) and right behind Dicky. As Andy said in the pre-race banter: Go hard or go home! When we took off, I rode hard and crested the climb within a pack of about thirty that included some really heavy hitters and we had a gap of about 30 seconds over the other hundred or so racers that were behind us. I think every race should start with a climb and mass start! I was in some strange territory though. I could see just ahead of me people like Andy Applegate, Dicky, Will Black, Bill Collie. I knew I couldn't stay for long but it was nice to be there for as long as I could hang in I had a great start and the first lap had some traffic but mostly is was the easiest first laps I have ever had at one of these things. After the initial effort from the start, I tried to find my "all day pace" and get a look at the trails since I had never seen them before. I quickly learned that this was a demanding course with very little place to rest. You were either on the gas or bracing yourself against one of the numerous G-outs that tried to slam you against the top tube of your bike or jamming into one of the many bermed turns. I came through the Start/Finish area an hour and some change after I left it and recalculated my pre-race goal of 6 laps. I needed to slow down some and since my first lap was over an hour, 6 laps wasn't happening.

I went into lap 2 and backed off my pace a little. It was starting to get warm which was fine with me but I am used to riding in 40 degrees and wet. 70 degrees and sunny without being acclimatized to heat was kinda uncomfortable. I was still riding and climbing well but the course was already going to work in kicking my ass. It was tough. Into my third lap, I was looking at a part of my pain cave that I hadn't seen in awhile. It's a dark, hot, nasty place that isn't a lot of fun to be in. My shoulders and arms were tired and I was careful to not screw it up. About a mile from the finish was a couple of semi-technical rock gardens that weren't hard to ride but if you didn't pay attention, you could get hurt easy. After my third lap, I stopped in my pits for about 5 minutes to stretch my back and neck. It was about then that I realized if I didn't get my butt in gear, I would miss the cut-off and my chance at 5 laps so I took off. Somewhat slowly...

My 4th lap was all about blue-collar suffering. I was hurting and had to walk some of the steepest climbs because I just didn't have the legs any longer to keep my 32x18 turning. In my last lap, I noticed I didn't get passed a lot except for a few team racers. I guess the course was taking it's toll on everyone. Regardless, I didn't care much about that then. I was in a bad place.

I rolled across the line 7 minutes past the cut-off and ended my chance to do 5 laps. I was 25% disappointed and 75% happy that my suffering was over. I was cooked!

The fun wasn't over yet. The BMCC had set-up a nice barbecue/awards ceremony with free beer from the Blowing Rock Brewing Co that was really great. For a first event, the BMCC really set the bar pretty high with a great course, fun race and awesome post race eats. I can't wait to go back next year.

After stuffing my face with hog and filling up on Blowing Rock Bock, in my haste to get back to TN, I forgot to check where I finished -doh! I looked before the final results were posted and I was in 12th ss and 44th overall. That's fine. I wanted to better but i was happy with how I did and I know just where my fitness is right now. My next event is the Dirt, Sweat and Gears race coming up in May and it's my first "A" race of the year.

Congratulations to Andy Johnston and Wes Lamberson for their win in the 2 Person Male class and to Bob and Anet Lamberson for getting second in Co-ed. Great job y'all!

Friday, April 3, 2009

Touch of Gray

Damn, has anyone seen the sun for longer than two or three hours in the last three months? I hate to be a little bitch but this is getting a bit old. Every day is cold, gray, wet and just maybe a glimmer of the center of the universe at one point or another. Five out of my last seven days of riding have seen me either cold, wet or cold and wet. It just gets old.

At any rate, I have the orange crate packed and ready to head to North Wilkesboro after work for the the innaugural 6 Hours Of Warrior Creek race that is tomorrow. This is the third and final race that I targeted specifically for training before the "season" starts for me in May. I hope that the training I have been able to do (which isn't much unfortunately) will prove to be working and I will see some improvement over the Heritage Park race from a few weeks ago.

Rain, cold, wet, whatever. It's racing and racing is fun. I'll have a full story when I get back.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Blue Collar Training

Saturday brought sun and uh, not really warm temperatures to Tennessee. It wasn't wet though and it wasn't as cold as it has been so I took the opportunity, along with a few pals, to head to the hills for some mountain riding.

This time it was the road bike's day to get out and see the country side. The route for the day was a fairly short (50ish miles) trip over the border into North Carolina and back but it included two major climbs - Spivey Gap, and the much-feared Indian Graves Gap. A lot of work for such a short ride. It was sunny but pretty damned cold still and a lot of the descents were shaded which made it even worse. Still, it was better than the rain, ice and snow we have had off and on all winter.
Pretty much any trip from Tennessee to North Carolina is going to take you into the mountains and this route is real popular with the roadie crowd due to the good roads, relatively light traffic and fairly tough climbs to whip your butt into shape.

Not a big deal in a car but on a bicycle, to get to North Carolina from Tennessee will make you work for it.

At the bottom of Spivey on the NC side, we stopped to regroup and grab a snack. The Grand Finale of the day would be coming up in just about 12 miles - Indian Graves Gap. IGG is a true bastard among climbs. It is a stairstep climb with 4 steep pitches separated by some fast descents and rolling flat stuff. You cannot get into a good rhythm and you will hurt if you choose to go that way.

Something wicked this way comes...........

It's a good climb to train on though and one that I try to incorporate into my schedule as much as possible every Spring. After the first 3 steep parts, you have a little bit of flat stuff that lulls you into a false sense of security. The worst is still to come...

Tennessee is just beyond that ridgeline. The only way there is up and over.

I am almost afraid to say it but this trip over IGG wasn't as bad as it has been in the past. Maybe I am getting fit after all. I can only hope so but I am reluctant to say so just yet. I still have work to do yes.

It was a great ride. Cold yes but dry and sunny. I'll take it.

I took a break from riding Sunday to take my family to the NASCAR race in Bristol. I am not a fan and haven't been to a race there in about 25 years (uh, the place has changed a little). I will have to admit, it was pretty interesting and a fun day.

We had great seats, you could see everything.

Say Cheese.........

Nathan was hooked up. (The radios we rented were COOL! You could hear the pit guys talking to the drivers.)

The racing was pretty good and there was a gazillion people there.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

2009 Optimus Ti - They're Coming!

They're coming!!!!!!!!!

One of the questions I am asked the most at the races (other than why don't you ride faster? hahaha), is when/how can I get an Optimus Ti frame. Well here's good news for ya.

Do not hesitate if you have been riding the fence or wishing Vassago would do another production run of one of the most sought after 29er's on the market, well your time has come.

The 2009 Optimus will be available for shipping sometime in April. If you want one, you'd better get on the ball and email to place your order.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Bad Medicine

Bad medicine is always the stuff that cures what ails ya. The nastier it tastes, the better it is. I thought about that in the closing laps of the Dirty Spokes 6 hour race at Heritage Park in Watkinsville Georgia yesterday. I was definitely taking some bad medicine with the expectations of it making me "better", or killing me. You know what Nietzsche says about that.

The Dirty Spokes race was the second of three races I have targeted for early spring training. What that means for me is that I didn't really have any expectations for results or anything else, I just wanted to go and get some saddle time in a race environment. Having said that, I did have some goals for this race.

A. Not ride like a pissed off teenager for the first half of it and blow up afterwards.

B. Ride the entire race without having to stop (see A)

C. Have no significant crashes.

D.Finish in the top 10. (I know what I said about results but top 10 is always a secret goal of mine in any event - unless there's only 9 racing....)

E. Do 6 laps.

I made good on B and C and so so on A and just missed on D and E but all in all it was a good event for me. Here's how it happened.

I got to Heritage Park late Friday and quickly put the Honda into RV mode and tried to get some rest. Just before turning in, I checked the weather once more and it didn't look good. There was pretty much no chance of not getting wet during the race. After a night of weird dreams but amazingly good sleep, I woke up to 39 degrees but no rain -yet. I may bitch and whine about being cold but I can deal with it. I don't mind being wet, but I cannot stand being cold AND wet. So far, so good. I checked the radar once more and saw a huge green and blue blob over Atlanta and heading our way and I just tried to not worry about it. It is what it is. After signing in, mixing a days worth of drinks and finding a place to set my cooler along the course for easy access during the race, I got ready to ride. It was freezing.

As I was riding around, I overheard talk about how evil this section was or about the monster climb and how so and so was riding a singlespeed and that was just crazy on this course. If I had listened, I would have been convinced that there was no way I could do this race without certain death. but I have learned in my racing experience that one person's evil in another's playground and things aren't always that bad.

At 9:45 we lined up for a mass start. I looked around and saw about 100+ riders and thought about my plan for the start. There was no Lemans start which made me happy, I hate running. The truth is no matter how you start these races, there's no way to avoid a huge cluster**** in the first lap. That's just the way it is. I was shivering at my LTHR during the final moments before the start and wanted to get going so I could get warm. After we started, I did my best to get a decent position but not get to far up front so I wouldn't have to ride that hard and I could get a look at the course during my first lap. Going into the singletrack into trails I have never seen before, riding balls out behind 50 other people that I don't know can be kinda hairy. It wasn't long until we came to a techy spot and everyone stopped. Getting through that, I saw that there was a lot of roots and a few rocky spots and plenty of places to crash since everything as wet. We got to what I later would learn was the "monster climb" and there was a congo line going up it so I called up some cyclocross skills and grabbed my bike and started running through the woods with it. I passed several people and opened myself up a little breathing room. Despite my best efforts, I rode the first lap like a pissed off teenager.. It was either that or sit up and let dozens of people pass me and I wasn't going to do that. Things would settle down after the first couple of laps.

I got a better look at the course on lap 2 and decided that my gearing choice (32x18) was perfect although it would have been nice to have something a little lower for the monster (that damn thing hurt!!) it worked great for everything else. The course was littered with wet roots and rooty, technical climbs that required a little more that just pedaling up them. You had to move, shift weight, lunge and jerk your way to the top and that used up gobs of energy. I rolled through lap 2, exchanged two empty bottles for freshies and out I went for lap 3.

I had settled into a good pace and was thankful that it never really started raining. It sprinkled some and there was this mist off and on all day that made things really slick. I saw quite a few crashes and had a little trouble on some of the rooty climbs where there was no traction but overall I was doing ok. I had slowed from my earlier pace and by lap 4, I was starting to feel the pain of my efforts. I got a little sloppy and bounced off of a couple of trees but as still running crash free. I walked the monster because I didn't have the energy to climb the damn thing again.

I realized about that time that I would finish lap 4 at about 2:15 which meant that if I was going to get 6 laps, I'd have to do two 45 minute laps in a row (the race ended at 4:00 sharp, If you started a lap before 4:00 but didn't finish it until after, it would not count). That wasn't in the cards for me.

Before my 5th lap, I switched bottles again, this time only taking one and I took a long drink from a coke I was saving for hard times. Leaving the pavillion to the booming encouragement from Bruce Dickman over the PA, I had a bit of the horse smelling the barn (or smelling like a horse in a barn, I dunno) experience. I rode and felt much better that I did before. That feeling took me half way through the last lap and left me somewhere about the time I fudged on a wet root and went down. Not hard but enough to mess up my tempo. I got up and rode another mile or so to this rooty climb and slipped on some roots and went down again, this time causing a bad cramp in my hamstring. That one pissed me off. I got up and just rode the remaining few miles to the finish.

Overall, it was great training and I would call it a success for me. The course as fun and challenging, especially for a singlespeed (but hey, we don't ride singlespeeds because they are easy right?) but it wasn't as evil as I was led to believe early on. The race organization was great and I hope to make it back to some of the other Dirty Spokes races later in the summer. I ended up 17th out of the 25 singlespeeds (dunno about the overall) and although I would have liked to finished better, I was fine with that. There's a lot of strong singlespeed riders in Georgia and it's always pretty competitive down there. I never really got warm all day. It was 42 when the race ended and still misty, no rain though so it could have been worse.

Many thanks again to my really cool sponsors: Vassago Cycles, Ergon, WTB, Crank Bros, White Bros, Carbo-Rocket and Under Armour. You all make really great stuff that continues to get the job done without fail. Good on ya all!

Next for me is the 6 Hours of Warrior Creek coming up in about 3 weeks in North Wilkesboro, NC.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Tan Lines

The South was finally blessed with two wonderfully sunny and warm weekend days instead of our regularly scheduled snow and ****ing cold we have been getting and I took full advantage of it. Saturday was filled with spring cleaning and basic chores punctuated by random playtime sessions with the dogs, the boy and the wife. I got all my tools and work area in the garage organized, spare bikes and parts all serviced, organized and put where they go, and finally I cleaned and prepped my Optimus for a trip next weekend to round 1 of the Dirty Spokes 6/12 Hour Series next weekend in Georgia.

Sunday was the treat for all that work. I took my faithful Jabberwocky and headed to Warriors Path State Park for a ride. It was beautiful. No arm warmers, no tights, nothing but warm sunshine. I quickly got down to business. On the agenda was 3 race pace laps after a short warm up on Darwin's Revenge. After riding through Darwin's, I came back through the parking lot and did Darwin's again followed by the rest of the trails there in a clockwise fashion. Warriors is not an easy place to ride. It is very technical, very rocky and very rooty. Although there are no really long climbs there, there is a bunch of short ones (about 1400' per 8ish mile lap of them) and they get tough, especially if you push it. I rolled through my first lap in 1:00 flat which is a very nice time for a lap there and I then rolled right into lap 2. I backed off because I was riding too hard (I have a problem with that and it leads to me being in a really bad place after 6 hours of racing sometimes). Half way through lap 2, I got a little sloppy and made some blunders that I was very happy that nobody saw. Warriors is that kind of place, you let your guard down for a minute and you'll get a surprise and you probably won't like it.
I changed water bottles between laps 2 and 3 and rolled into my final lap. I was tired but I knew that this was good stuff. I suffered through the final lap and then hit the road for some cool down and spinning before calling it a day. Three laps in 3:35 and I was cooked! But very happy. I don't have the fitness I need just yet but it's coming along pretty well.

Sunday, March 1, 2009


First, I will preface this by saying that to my friends and teamates in Canada and the midwest will most likely laugh at me. It's ok. It's all relative. We don't have the harsh winters here that they typically have further north. It's no secret I hate cold. What I hate more than cold is being wet while I am cold. I seem to end up riding a lot in the cold and wet, hence the Another Damn Cold Wet Freezing Ride.

It all started with a email and text message campaign (doesn't anyone use phones anymore to talk on?) to get people involved in riding today. I couldn't get ahold of many of the usual suspects and the ones that did show interest only David and Ginger agreed to show up. I wanted a couple of hours of relatively easy pace and with the cold ( no wet yet), Buffalo Mtn seemed perfect. I planned to do muscle tension intervals and Buffalo is perfect for that.

David has been sick and decided (after seeing the wet move in plus cold) that riding outside today wasn't in his best interest. Luckily Ginger still went otherwise I'd have rode alone and had all the fun to myself. Ginger is a roadie by heart, a transplant from Alabama with her boyfriend Nick (who's a strong rider too but unable to come out today). The fact that she still went with the rain just starting to fall at ride time proves that there's a little mountain biker inside begging to come out. I was hoping that the pattern I have seen before would repeat itself and that is rain in Johnson City but quickly turning to snow on the slopes of Buffalo. It's simple, rain = you get wet, snow = you get wet only slower.
Sure enough, within a couple of miles from the start (all uphill in glorious warmth-building incline ) the rain turned to snow and we were golden - for awhile anyway. By the time we got to the top of the ridge and heading towards the fire tower, this is what the situation looked like:

The snow was coming down good (along with the temperature) and it got cold quick. We only went to the base of the final pitch up to the firetower and turned back. By the time we got back to the bottom, we were pretty cold but had a nice 1:38 of our lives not spent being sedentary.

Yeah winter here sucks but I guess it vould be worse. I'll be riding in shorts again by the end of the week while my pals in the Great White North and places that get real men's winters won't see dirt for another 3 weeks.

I love the South after all...

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The First Cut Is The Deepest

With Cyclocross two weeks dead, the time has come for me to shift my focus onto more longer, less intensive events. This is not to say they are any more or less painful, it's just a different kind of pain. I set my sights on the 12 Hours Of Santos as the first event of the year - a training race. The idea of racing for training is nothing new, pros have been doing it for 40 years. They will start out in the spring and race in select events to systematically coax their bodies into fitness. For me, instead of coaxing, what I do is more like bitch-slapping myself into shape. My last long race was last August at the Fool's Gold event in Georgia. Then a winter full of cyclocross where the longest race was 45 minutes, I headed out last Friday to leave winter's cruel grip with my destination Ocala, Florida where I would find sun, sand, palm trees and hopefully warmer weather - oh yeah and a bike race.
I got an early start so I could ride some on Friday and get a look at the course which contained the Vortex trail. I had been forewarned about the evil that lurked on the Vortex and I wanted my first peek not to be in the first lap of the race. It was a long trip and I was happy to have 7500 songs on my Ipod plus XM to keep my sanity. Still, I had to find ways to pass the time.

I made it in pretty good time although it is quite possible I may have exceeded the posted speed limit in several states. I met Bob, Anet and Wes Lamberson along with Michael and Laura Ritter and Andy Johnston. We set up a corner of Florida real-estate and went riding. Santos is a huge place built on an abandoned quarry. It had trails that ranged from dead flat and fast to rocky, steep and things that could cause you to die (not figuratively but really!). There was tons of jumps and a few sick drop offs if you are in to that. In short, it is a place to go ride!

On the 2 laps I got to pre-ride the Santos course, me and Bob hit the Vortex first. Not exactly fun after hopping out of the car after driving for 10 hours, it took me a while to get into the groove. My 32x18 gearing worked fine although I did have trouble with some of the abrupt climbs. Florida may not have the 45+ minute climbs that I am used to. In fact, the Santos course didn't have a climb more that 45 seconds but they were rocky, had little or no flow leading up to them and very steep. I'd have to say my first trip through the Vortex got the best of me. Onto the fast, flat stuff and it was fun and flowing. The course had a sort of Jekyll and Hyde feel for sure. There were a couple of sections that the trail was on the side of a cliff (not figuratively but on the side of a real cliff complete with pain and probable serious injury if you fell off) and that was just cool. Dangerous but cool.
After the ride, there was dinner and an early chill out to get some rest. Shortly after dark, Ben Appleby and his wife Erin arrived and the Tennessee contingent was complete.

Race Day

We awoke to sun and.........................Frost. Yep 28 degrees and frost. Florida is the sunshine state but it never promised to be the warm, sunshine state.


I got ready and tooled around on my bike to see who all rolled in overnight. I saw my buddy Marcel Aguirre from Tampa and a few others that I have met throughout the South from racing.

There were quite a few people there.

These socks make me feel special.

My Vassago was ready to race with or without me.

Soon it was time to get it on. We lined up without our bikes for the LeMans start. The runn (I know there's an extra "n", running should be a four letter word) was about 1/4 mile followed by another 1/4 mile sprint and then singletrack. The first lap was a huge traffic jam. I got my bike and passed as many as I could before the singletrack and then just cruised in a really long line of people. We'd go for a bit until somebody messed up ahead and then the deck would be reshuffled and on again we'd go. The first time through the Vortex was a real treat. I got knocked off my bike twice, banging my shin on my pedals once (that felt good) and I just tried to relax and get through it. It was a long race and there was time to just chill out.

Bikes waiting for riders.

650 miles from home, first race of the year, I played the caution card.

The traffic kept me from riding a lot of the techy stuff in the Vortex on the first lap but by the third, I had ridden it all and noted the places where I'd really need to watch it later. It was about then that I realized that the flat, fast stuff had a gritty under belly too. Since it was all flat, it was all pedaling with no place really to rest. By the end of the third lap, I wasn't feeling to great. Since I had already exceeded my longest ride so far this year by about 300%, I figured that I probably shouldn't be feeling so hot and I stopped in my pit to rest and chat with Marcel as he strolled through. After stretching, some food and a nap (hahaha), I headed out for some more. My 4th and 5th laps saw my average speed drop from 13 mph on the first couple of laps to under 10 mph on my 5th. I crashed once when I got sloppy and hooked a tree and decided to call it a day. I had done enough.

It was a fun but tough race. The Ocala Mountain Bike Club has done an amazing job of making Santos a great place to ride.

Of the rest of the Tennessee gang, Bob retired after 4 laps with a cracked fork. Michael finished the 6 hour race and then helped Anet who gutted out 12 laps to take second in women's solo! Ben finished 3rd in the 12 hour solo sport in his first endurance race. Very nice.

Sunday, I was up early and headed back home where Tennessee welcomed me with open arms

and snow.

Many thanks to Bob and Anet for their hospitality and the use of the USS Lamberson for the weekend, to Michael, Laura, Ben, Erin, Wes, Andy, Marcel and everyone else for the encouragement and comeraderie.

Thanks also to Vassago Cycles and their continued support along with Ergon, WTB, White Bros, Crank Bros, Carbo-Rocket, and Under Armour.

Special thanks to George at Bike 29. The wheels worked great! Thanks G.

photocredits: Wes Lamberson and Marcel Aguirre.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Life Comes at Ya Fast......

Damn. The world's seemingly going to hell in a handbag (always been that way as far as I can see). People are losing jobs right and left and you cannot look in any direction hardly without being bombarded with something negative. Times are tough.

I don't know what that has to do with anything other than to say I have been really busy lately with life stuff and unfortunately my cycling exploits have taken a back seat for a bit. I still have managed to do the minimum with regard to training and making the transition from cyclocross to endurance. I know the switch from endurance to cross was tough last fall but I am hoping the other way will be a bit easier on me.

We'll find out this Saturday as I pack up the Honda full of Vassago bikes and sundry stuff and point it south towards Ocala Florida for the 12 Hours Of Santos. This is my first 12 hour solo race of the year and the first time I have ever done a 12 hour race this early in the year. Although Florida and the Santos course is way flatter than the stuff I am used to (<800 feet of elevation per lap), I am sure it will still be tough and by 10:00pm on Saturday night I should be tired.

I'll have a full story on the race and also the update on the Vassago Fisticuff that I promised I'd bring you. Stay tuned.