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.