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...