Monday, November 15, 2010

CBC Cyclocross Race#2

After getting home late from a seminar at BarCamp the previous day, I had very little motivation to get up early and race my butt off.  Surprisingly, I was up around 7am and feeling almost awake by 8.  That must have meant I was still a little hungover from last nights fun...  I made myself some coffee, got suited up, loaded up the bike & gear and headed over for race #2 of the CBC Cyclocross series...I was certainly not expecting to be able to perform today like I did last week, but curious to see if my hectic week really does play a factor on my performance level.  In other words, I was experimenting on myself.  I already knew the expected outcome, I just wanted to verify it.  Verification complete.  Without an proper night's sleep and a generous amount of mental and physical preparation, I am a sluggish toad.

The weather was perfect.  No extra layers were needed...The course was tough and very different from last week.  It would have definitely been in a mountain bikers favor if I had selected the proper gear and had enough strength to turn the pedals...I ran a 42x12 and really suffered right from the start: Mental preparation error: make sure you can race with the gear you chose...There was inclined forest loam singletrack, layered hillclimbs and sandpit turn traps.  It was gonna be a tough day for sure.

Starting line: the man said go and I couldn't.  The entire pack took off and I sat there trying to get my pedals turning for what seemed like forever.  As I finally got things moving, I snapped into position in the back of the lead pack.  Knowing after only 1-2 laps that I would not be able to hold this pace, I totally backed off and just let people fly by for a while just pedaling along deciding if I should just quit.  I found my body really fighting me to stay moving and my legs were like two slabs of rock.  I kept pedaling along waiting to get past this wall and hope the blast came back soon.  It came back, but a little too late.  35 minutes in, I finally started to pick things up and felt a little better flowing along, but still hating my gear selection.  I dealt with the slow pedaling and started being more efficient in use of my brake as I only had a front brake on the bike because my rear one was at home in pieces.  I then picked up the riders I had targeted to let slip by and placed decent gap between us and I started trying to level my pace to survive the remaining 10 minutes.  Then my chain flew off and I had to stop and fix it.  4 riders flew by again and once again I jumped on and took off after them.  I don't know how I was able to chase them down, but I picked off 3 of them once again and just could not catch the remaining rider in a "Trek" jersey riding just ahead of me...defeated, spent, hungover.

I went out there today to really test myself against the factors of life.  I realized that just because life hands you a hectic week, you shouldn't hide inside on the weekends as a result.  Challenge yourself to the fullest everytime you can.  I may have lost this race on several levels, but I gained some valuable keys to winning races in my future where I stand a better chance.

Good stuff CBC!  Thanks for the fun!

Congratulations to Nathan Smith and David Hall for placing top 2 in Cat 1 Mens!

BarCamp CHS


I recently attended my first and surely not to be my last BarCamp in Charleston.   It was everything I hoped it would be and a bit more.  While it was not an uber:geeky low-level coding seminar like I really want to attend, it was something a bit more diverse.  Bar Camp is a loose network of user-generated conferences that allow one to share their most intense technology or other related hobbies and talents with others of like interests...the name itself is a spinoff of the geeky word which developers use frequently in test applications: "foobar".  Since there was already a "Foo Camp", the only logical choice was to use "Bar Camp", right?  (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/BarCamp).  


The words of the day were in no particular order: organic, Drupal, cloud, SQL, confidential, Google, beer, Java...did I mention organic?

Upon arrival, I was worried everything that was to be said would have been spam pushed from some major companies wares, but I was slightly wrong.  Yes, there were major influences publicly there such as Google, Yahoo, BlastOff Games, ATDesk, etc...but they were all low-key and very open in their sharing of information...


After registration, I bumped into a few old friends from previous companies I have worked for and we socialized for a few minutes before the sessions got underway.  It was great to see so many local talented technology professionals attending this conference!  


The first thing that happens at BarCamp is the pitch session.  After finding a seat in the auditorium, everyone who wants to hold a seminar goes up before us all and has 30 seconds to lets us know what they are going to be talking about.   There is someone on hand to moderate and holds everyone to their 30 seconds which is great because a few presenters were pushing the 30 second limit...60 presenters went up and 60 presentations were to be voted on.  The vote was, however, skipped after realization that 10 sessions an hour for 6 hours would fill in the timeline perfectly...Thus, BarCamp started and everyone hurried over to the Seminar wall to find out which  seminar to attend during the first hour of BarCamp.  My first hour's choice was a seminar on Cybercrime.  It sounded interesting and I definitely enjoy figuring out how hackers do what they do, so off I went....




  Late for my first seminar was not a good sign...why I was late is a good question...I must have been trying to make sense of the schedule for too long.  I missed his opening case scenario and introduction and wondered if I would even get anything out of this.  After hearing all the regular mundane, do's & don'ts about personal information security, the speaker (from Phishlabs) hit upon a neat little topic which I thought would be great if he intended to followup entirely.  Fortunately, he did followup and described a situation involving the tracking of a generic spam message based on the email address.  The basics of the message were unimportant, but the spam senders email (hotmail) address had an IP embedded in it which revealed its origin.  Upon tracing that IP back to its source, it was found to be based from some PC in Somewhere, USA.  After then being able to contact that actual PC owner directly, it was found out that the PC was in fact infected and was being used as what is sometimes referred to as a Zombie Bot!  So, by being able to, with the owners permission, trace back the directed commands being sent to that ZombiePC to perform, they were able to trace it beyond the reflected source.  The trace resulted in the command coming from some spot in the Netherlands.  After further investigation, it was found to be an IPSec line and not traceable at any point beyond that...Fascinating!  This is an organized endeavour!  After further analysis of it all, it was found that this entire "system" is made up of coordinated efforts... First someone creates software used to initally infect PCs via undisclosed vulnerabilities.  Still another developer writes tools used to "control another persons PC in an efficient and virtually undetectable manner. Then they sell those tools on the blackmarket to someone else needing "infection & control tools".  The buyer then uses those tools to setup "virtual harvests" of compromised PCs out there that obey their every command via those secure connections.  Well, once that was understood, the speaker even described the technique used to be able to obtain over 5 million actual, not stolen "hotmail" addresses.  The buyer basically purchases blocks of valid hotmail address from yet another source which specializes in creating bulk hotmail addresses mappable to the Zombie PCs IPs for tracking purposes.  This "email source" even has a special technique in validating these email address to get by the Captcha system by paying people in third world countries pennies per captcha that they decode for them.  Once decoded, the captcha answers are zapped back to awaiting automatic scripts specialized in creating the hotmail accounts...It was more than enough to make your head spin!  There is a serious game being played out there!

My next seminar goal was to attend my friend Paul Reynold's: Reading Code for the Layperson...it was a really great seminar and started out simple and thorough.  My objective was to see if there were other techniques being implemented out there to write more "readable" code.  Halfway through, I remembered the HFT(High Frequency Trading) seminar was going on, so I promptly exited his talk since most of this was review for me. Since I am a novice day-trader, anything having to do with trading, high speed and awesome technology were really intriguing to me.  I walk in and realize a friend of mine Nathan Smith whom I ride bicycles with is doing the presentation.   They were still going over basics of HFT which I already knew somewhat and made it just in time for the juicy details of what happens during a  live transaction.  That was pretty cool.  Then they explained that there were algorithms (business logic rules) applied to the feed to further analyze and set buy / sell points in a more optimized manner.  Truly cool stuff.  Live trading feed, realtime analysis, semi-artificial intelligence algorithms used to handle decisions...wow.  Then, when I thought I had it all grasped in my head,  they said this stuff happens at the rate of some ridiculous # of transactions every 2 micro seconds...micro seconds is equivalent to one millionth of a second...insane..Needless to say, I really got a lot out of this presentation...



Then off I went to my next seminar: Cracking a Windows accounts...I was curious if other methods existed which were more creative.  After 10 minutes in this seminar, I summarized the methods he was going to use and exited promptly not wanting to waste time as I wanted to get some info from Andre Pope's seminar on "Teacher's Preparation for the upcoming wave of tech-savvy students".  Andre is out in the teaching trenches talking about what he is doing in realtime.  He speaks from the heart as well as his technically enlightened mind on how he is converging his collaborative knowhow with current teaching methodologies in order to better connect with his current students.  As a technical futurist myself, I really can "envision" the realities he is attempting to explain to modern-day teachers.  I also gained a lot from this seminar.

Lunch happened afterwards and I got there a little too late as there wasn't much left to choose from.  I was able to cobble together a ham and cheese sandwich from some scraps and flung some lettuce in there to help ease the hunger pains...chips were also available.  I found myself feeling very much like a kid in high school again not knowing where to sit and overwhelmed by the amount of people already congregated in the eating area...so off I fled to find a nice quiet couch outside the scope of the enormous amount of talking heads...I find a spot near Nathan and continue to pick his brain on the ATD machine itself...not a lot more was gleaned as most of my questions had to do with areas of a confidential nature which he was not at liberty to discuss...I found alot of this door slamming throughout the day with many professionals...regardless, lunch was a good time.




Then off to the History of Hacking seminar I went.  I had high hopes for this seminar, but found it to be stammered and lacking in essential immediate information.  The topic header did not accurately reflect the subject matter and I left early and disappointed.  I slipped into the Yahoo Query Language seminar and found it to be a powerful way to get information from the yahoo databases that they allow you access into.  It's a great second door if Google APIs start to get bogged down from user glut....

At this point, I was getting dizzy from the amount of information being gleaned, but I was determined to make the most of this day.  Thanks to the many BarCamp sponsors, delicious Island Coffee was available everywhere and anywhere.  Tasty cookies and other sweets were also available as well as major label sodas! 
After getting my fix, I went on to my next seminar: the Google Q&A session.  Like the history of hacking, I was also disappointed by this seminar as practically every question you could possibly think to ask was carefully considered, muttered aloud and then redacted as not being able to answer on grounds it could disclose some key piece of the Google Collective.  The head Absorbaluff, er I mean speaker smiled and made lots of clever remarks and was able to hop skip and dance his way through a one hour session with no juicy details of the Google empire described.  Yes he was that good at dodging questions.  

So this was a mjor revelation that at BarCamp, you are just have to realize that you are not going to enjoy everything said, or not said.  Its about what you get out of it that matters most....

My next seminar was userinterface design with emphasis on the button.  Unfortunately, this talk was focused on web design and I absolutely loathe web design, primarily because I suck at it.  I can do the technical stuff all day long, but layout, graphics and visual aspects stop me cold.  So I left early knowing this was over my head, and went onwards to find out about NoSQL.  I had no clue what this was and still don't really have a clue, but from what I determined it is primarily for web-based data management, and allows very loose typing of records...which spells danger in data integrity in my old programmers head, so I get up and leave before I get lazy and adopt this a a new way of programming.  I hop into a few other talks and find nothing being accomplished by doing this, so I wait out the hour in a Java seminar and move onto the last seminar of the day: HomeBrew 101...


Yes beer making is one of my passions and this being a 101 seminar would make it simply a review of the basics, but you don't know what you may have never known, and I knew that much so in I went...It was a good review and I was relieved to see that many of the same difficulties I faced in brewing beer were also challenges faced by others.  The speaker was clear and focused on the basics.  He demonstrated with real equipment and kept it simple and clean the entire time.  He keyed in on sanitation many times throughout and stressed it heavily at the end.  There were even a few homebrews to try out at the end which really peeked interested from more than a few.





Then off to the afterparty!  After being mostly on my own floating from one information session to the next, I was now able to catch up with Mikey, Andre, and Paul to discuss BarCamp at the Mellow Mushroom.  It was a great time and we talked about anything and everything for more than a few hours eventually finding ourselves back on the path to our homes...what a day!

I am really looking forward to the next BarCamp and hope to have something to present next time myself....

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Pumas Final Match...

I must say after seeing my girls play their hearts out on Thursday against the Cougars, I was very optimistic about next season.  They played with such passion and fierce desire to prove they are learning, that I was able to stop "coaching" for a little while and just watch the great game unfold.  Yes, they did not win, and the odds were stacked against them, but that REALLY did not matter in this match.  What mattered was that they completed every basic and intermediate play that is vital for developmental soccer.  Defending was outstanding, offense was actually moving the ball downfield, and the attackers really figured out where to go without my constant "coaching" from the sidelines....too much fun to watch!  After not seeing that "spark" most of the season, I am glad I was able to witness it once before waiting out winter and starting up again in spring.

Gooooo PUMAS!

Monday, November 8, 2010

CBC Cyclocross Race#1

After looking forward to this event series all fall, it is finally here! Cyclocross racing time again! Thanks to the guys at Charleston Bicycle Company & North Charleston Wannamaker Park, the CBC Cyclocross series is in full effect!

Upon the initial week before this race, I was in mediocre shape with occasional rides out at Tuxbury, Francis Marion gravel roads and a little bit of Marrington thrown in for variety. I even hit the spinbike for a few days to regulate my cadence and work with more resistance. I was in good shape, but not great shape...too much else going on in my surrounding life to really focus on my passion for cycling right now unfortunately.

So, the first official cyclocross race of the season crept up on me way too soon and before I knew it, I was loading up the bike in the frosty early morning weather. There was a decent turnout for the first event and the course seemed fast and furious. I wish I had geared up more as I was turning a 42x17 which gave me a decent flat singletrack speed, but a spinny open road speed. So, the race starts with a whimper and I roar like a lion to the front of the pack....front of the pack? really? seriously? Yes, front of the pack is where I set myself and then proceeded to hold that position in the top 4 for the first 3-4 laps...then as expected, I started to fade. I was mentally ready for 30 minutes of hard effort and found that the new combined classes based on little or no expert class resulted in a mixed category race with everyone hammering for 45 minutes instead...so, that was that, I was running on fumes and trying to hold steady. I would burst forward, pass and then fall back and get passed. The last 15 minutes were all like this...tough and high-speed...I was passed on my final lap by one other rider who had been with me neck in neck for quite a while near the end. 6th place would have to do...

I finished the race with my lungs burning and my heart pounding. It was an indicator that I needed to do more to place better next time around....But how to find the time??

Overall, lots of fun, lots of support and I definitely heard more than a few cowbells cheering us on, which is great to experience.

Can't wait till next week!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Pedaling for Peanuts...

      After a long dry spell off the bike, I got the urge to pedal as hard as I could again. I found a neat sounding little grassroots race up in Wilmington called "Pedaling for Peanuts". It was for a good cause, and it was on trails in the Wilmington area which I had yet to explore, so I was definitely considering it. I started to talk myself out of it a week ago as I did not feel like I was entirely ready for 6 hours solo on the bike yet, but I really wanted to ride. Then, I got a invite to race with an old friend, Marshall Brown, on his Team Yellow Flies as his current partner had to drop out. It did not take me long to decide as this really sounded like a great idea based on my current fitness. I actually mentioned the race to a friend of mine, Justin, who went for it hook, line, and sinker. We trucked up to Myrtle Beach and met up with Marshall and proceeded to catchup along the way. He actually knew of another guy racing this weekend from Charleston, whom I had yet to meet, Ed Thomasson. Funny how many people in common we seem to know....



   When I got our pit setup, met Ed and the others,and Marshall and myself registered,  I started to wonder whether or not my current setup was a good idea based on all this talk of roots, sand and tight turns...I have been pushing myself since the "Great ORAMM Disaster of 2010" to focus on riding taller gears, standing up and hammering more and quit wimping out on climbs by sitting in the saddle and spinning...Instead, I have been riding a super tall gear on the flats of Charleston of 42x12 and found this to be quite a nice bit of resistance.  I even rode this gearing on our local trails at Marrington and found it to be one heck of a tough exercise.  Thus, I went with the tallest compromise I thought possible: 34x17...which was about 57 gear inches...I was worried about the gearing, the fact that I chose to ride fully rigid, and went with a fatter front tire.  Only time on the trail would answer all of my questions.


   I volunteered Marshall to go out for the first lap since I kind of did not want to go out too hard and punish myself right away.  Nonetheless, the team style LeMans start had me doing the running and Marshall waiting on me.  It was hard to run that fast since I had not sprinted in a long time...I came in second in the sprint and gave the baton to Marshall and off he went into the woods in a great position.  I went, sucking for air, back to the tent as the running really worked me over.  It felt weird to sit back and wait as I am usually going strong once they yell go until I can't go any further or the end of the race, whichever comes first.  Then out of nowhere, here comes Marshall looking strong, and before I know it, I am charging through the woods floating over roots and pumping over the hills.  I felt great, the gearing was perfect, and my legs were holding strong.  The trail was super tight, twisty, rootier than I imagined and a bit sandy in all the wrong places.  Nonetheless, I felt ready for this environment since our local trails share some similar conditions.  I flew through the switchback climbs standing up and out of the saddle on every climb.  This trail twisted so much that I completely lost my orientation after about 5 miles in.  I then simply followed the markings and hoped I was still on the right trail.  After what seemed like 10 miles, I popped back out of the woods and into the pits to a surprised Marshall who did not expect me back so soon.  I jokingly heckled him to get his gear on and move it!  He jumped back into action and I went back to the pits for a bit of downtime.  I got antsy after about 5 minutes and wanted to get back out there and race which was a good sign that I recovered from that lap quickly and was ready for more. 

My next door pit neighbors, Ed and his crew had cooked some great food and I found myself nibbling and eating stuff I never tried in the middle of a race.  Marshall came back out in consistent time and off I went for my second lap.  I took off strong and immediately wrapped around a tall berm too hard and my low pressure tire got wrenched off my wheel by a nasty root.  I heard the bead pop and the tire went limp.  I went sliding off the bike to the right and got up staring at the tire not knowing what action to take.  After a moment, I decided to pick up the bike and run back to the pits since they were about 50 feet away.  I got back, popped the bead back on with a CO2 quickflate, and re-did my lap.  I was about 7-10 minutes down after all of this and still managed to put in a good lap, but unknowing of our current position.  Marshall then went out on his third lap still looking strong.  I sat back and started replenishing my water and sugars with my Honey Stinger goodies.  All of the new stuff from Honey Stinger tastes better than ever and am really happy I stick with these products for my race nutrition.  After an unusually long wait, I noticed a few teams coming through which I knew were behind us.  Then more teams, and Justin flies through once again looking really strong, whom I heard had one of the fastest lap times of the day.  I started to worry as I was cooling down fast.  I finally hear from Ed's teammate, Spencer, that Marshall had a mechanical and his seat came off.  I wonder what Marshall is doing and whether or not I need to start the lap over to get things moving.  Before I make any decisions, Marshall comes riding up telling me he has been standup riding for the last 2 miles...yikes!  I tell him to try and get his bike fixed before I return and set off on another great, fast and consistent lap.  My legs once again felt fantastic!  I arrive to find Marshall worried as he was not able to fix his bike and does not know what to do.  I ask him if he still wants to ride and if he wants to use my bike.  He definitely wants to ride and pedals off on my bike with a worried look on his face.  I also start to worry that he is going to get fully punished out there on my bike since it is a singlespeed, fully rigid and not setup for his riding style.  I lay back in the pits fairly certain I will not see Marshall again until well after the cutoff time since he is riding a different bike.  Justin comes by shortly after looking very strong and I hear rumors that he is the predicted winner by about 20 minutes!  I go next door and grab me a plate of some of the best pasta I have eaten in quite some time and savor the tastes.  I feel like I had about 4 more hours of pedal time left in my body and am happy to know I am in great shape for the fall season.  Then shocker #1 happens, Justin comes crawling out of the woods way too soon with reports of full body cramping and no desire to be on the course any longer, first place gone.  Shocker#2 happens shortly afterwards; Marshall comes screaming out of nowhere with 5 minutes to go before cutoff time.  He is smiling from ear to ear mentioning something about how awesome my bike is and how much he now loves singlespeeds....another converted soul for the singlespeed army!  I take off and then stop short at the checkin area to determine if going out on another lap will change anything...they tell me no since we lost positions because of those mechanicals earlier.  I call it a day and coast back to the pits.  No podium once again, but it was an excellent day for lap racing.  It was hot, humid and one heck of a tough, rooty trail, but fun was had. 

Thanks to Marshall for calling me out to be on his team. 
Cheers to Ed, Spencer, Jeremy, and their wonderful wives for the good food!


Looking forward to more fun races!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

ORAMM 2010

I guess I could blame it on the ridiculous heat, the fact that I haven't been riding quite as much as I was a few months back, or I could just chalk it up to pure lack of motivation to actually race my bike through 62 miles of some of the toughest backcountry Pisgah has to offer... or maybe it was my 32/20 gearing choice, or maybe it was because I chose to wear a CamelBak this year, or maybe....meh.  Too many excuses!

Regardless, let me finish up this draft post with some information for my own reflectance to never let me be in this position again, if I can help it.  I came into the race with some gastrointestinal issues which plagued me for most of the weekend and left me very dehydrated.  I also was not mentally prepared this year for the heat onslaught experienced (115 degree index).  This combination of factors made the latter part of the race quite uncomfortable for me and I was no longer having fun, so I decided to exit the race after logging in around 42miles and reailzing I still had 20 more of the harder miles left to go.  I still think it was a good decision as I heard there was a massive rainstorm upon my expected arrival time which would have made my suffering even greater.  Kudos to those who finished!  I was stoked to see so many familiar faces racing at stronger levels than before.  Congratulations to the CBC bike team guys for enduring their first ORAMM, hope to see you guys at next year's race!  

Next stop, Swank 65...

Monday, May 10, 2010

The Greenway Grinder - 6 Hours worth...


My fingers are still sore from the stress of the root barrage endured this Saturday...The 6 Hour Grind on the Greenway was definitely a shocker to my system as I had let my training routine go south a bit. It all started when I realized the Pisgah Stage race just isn't as realistic a goal as I want to believe I can achieve based more on personal situation than actual time and effort, so I went back to focusing on getting more done around the new house, finalized the handling of the old house, which recently sold(yay!), as well as assistant coaching my daughter's soccer team with emphasis on core strength training. I also have been working on some software updates for my company to handle the latest ridiculous specification changes and security mandates Microsoft made when introducing Vista/Windows7. Thus, it's just not that I don't wanna ride my bike...I just can't get on the saddle enough to enjoy myself...ok, enough whining, on with the ride report...

It started with my good friend and upcoming ultra endurance racer, Mark Sackett, putting the bug in my head about the Grind on the Greenway happening in about a week...I knew it was coming up, but wasn't sure if I could manage it into the weekend soccer schedule. Oddly, the weekend's games had been moved to Sunday, which left Saturday open and clear for some possible racing action...All that was left was my decision to go for it. I had not turned a pedal in about a solid week. My bike lay covered in mud and scum from the last 4 hour training session at Marrington, and I had not even picked out the winning gear combination. At this point, I still sat on the fence about wanting to do this race as I did not feel like driving all that way as well. The other issue was the SingleSpeed category: it was full of rippers. I definitely felt I had no contention against the heavy hitters currently dominating the SingleSpeed category since there is not an age grouping in this class, so I entered Solo Men 30-39 just to bench test myself. All that was left to decide was the drive up to Ft. Mill. Fortunately, endurance & XC mountain biking is experiencing a steady wave of interest from some strong riders here in the lowcountry and another good friend of mine, Matt McMaster, offered to give me a ride up to the race! So off I went with the Charleston Bicycle Company race team members Jana Glover, Lise Morrison, Matt McMaster in Jana's super luxurious personal shuttle van. It was a great ride up to the race with good conversation and anxious energy from everyone. It was their first time riding in an endurance race and they were also not familiar with the lap format of 6/12/24 hour races yet, but they were ready for anything and looking in great shape, unlike myself...
Parking, unloading and gear setup occurred in record time and everyone was fluttering about trying to get everything handled the best that they could. The spot we picked for our tent was in a strange corner which was all that was left on our end of the pit station, but it did not make for a totally difficult situation, just tricky. The race started in a mass start scenario to try and spread us out and I found myself closer to the upper pack than I had anticipated. I tried to feed back, but others staggered as well, so I fell into line and started spinning. My gear combination of 32x20 was a bit too spinny for this area and wished I had 2 less teeth to get some more momentum speed for the hill climbs, but that was what I had setup and thats that. The singletrack started fast and furious as I was in a much faster pack than previous races. It was a shock to the system, but I hung in there and rode consistent and strong throughout most of that first lap. I got bucked midway through my first lap and flipped straight over my handlebars, landing twisted like a crab staring at my bike with no injury other than a bit of shock and time lost. I quickly re-straightened my handlebars and took off again trying to get my speed up. With the wind knocked out of my sails, it took a bit more effort to get my pace back and I soon found myself feeling a bit rough around the edges after only one lap. The second lap was much like the first, only this time I felt the true intensity of the exposed roots lurking around every corner as well as the sloshy muck sections where new roots were showing up. The Greenway course is fun, technical, and fast twisty in some parts, but there are some nasty roots dropped in too frequently to gather full speed and carry it forward. The climbs were short and punchy with no major effort required, just determination. 3rd lap was a bit slower as I was feeling the pinch of the heat now bearing down on all of us. I started passing more riders lagging on this lap. Then, the dreaded lap 4 was started and I was feeling weak from the start. As I pitted before lap#4, I came upon Matt, who was taking a break under the tent. As I went to refuel, my legs started to cramp up. I could not figure out why except for possibly not eating enough? I followed Matt out on lap#4 and was steady on his wheel for about 2-3 miles before I decided to stop and relieve my bladder deep in the woods. All of a sudden, my legs went into hyper cramping mode and I started feeling faint and weak. I took a break at the top of every miniscule hill climb and tried to coast through every downhill I could. This was a major showstopper as I was midway through lap#4 and realized that this would stop short my 6 lap goal... I saw lots of familiar riders start passing me by and dreaded the fact that my body was not functioning right at all! At one point as I sat there debating the very issue with myself of whether I was staring at dandilions or daisies, Mark Sackett pulls up and looks me in the eye and asks me if I am ok...I slowly come out of my fog and respond with yes, I have everything I need, I just don't know what it is. Mark gave me a puzzled look as I urge him to move on and not give up his position in the race to help my lame self out. Lise comes by shortly afterwards and also checks up on me and I tell her all is well, move along...I finally make it back to the pits after the dreaded lap#4 and have a long think and decide I will rest for a while before going out on lap#5. Lise is sitting in the corner debating the sanity of this event and I let her know that this is what it all comes down to, physical as well as mental perseverance...She offers up a large camelbak filled with gatorade that she could not drink since she is thinking of quitting at this point. I actually take her up on the offer as gatorade sounded tasty right then and there. I guzzle down the entire contents of the camelbak, pop a few Advil, mount my bike and start back out on Lap#5 before I talked myself out of going back out for another. Surprised by my immediate decision, Lise also jumps back on her bike and decides to punch out one more lap...She takes off much faster than I because of my spinny gearing, but I quickly catch back up to her on the climbs. She still looked like she was tired and overall done with this course, so I pass her by and continue on my way, looking to try and possibly catch up with Matt. Before I realize what is happening, I discover my legs are back to carrying me up the climbs. I start turning the pedals at a smoother pace and start passing people again. It dawns on me that the earlier heatwave we endured might have left me more dehydrated than I thought. The massive gatorade refill from earlier left me totally refreshed and zooming through the trail once again. I clean every obstacle with little or no stumbling and find myself completing lap#5 at EXACTLY 4:30pm. This meant I made the cutoff time to go out for yet another lap! I would be able to meet me goal if I could get myself through this last lap! As I pedaled through the pits, I make a last minute decision to not stop since I still had one more water bottle to carry me through the remaining 9 miles. As I pass my pit zone, I see Matt sitting back looking refreshed and strong. This meant he would be out chasing me very soon. I put the hammer down and decide to use that anticipation as fuel for the tank. I pick up the pace and continually visualize Matt chasing me down on the last lap. It works well and Lap#6 passes by in a blur. Lots of cramped souls were on this lap. Pain everywhere. I return to the pits to find Matt still sitting there, Jana sleeping in the grass and Lise in the corner wondering what madness made me go out on a 6th lap...I just told them I had the chance to go out on another lap and I did, regardless of how I felt. It was a great personal accomplishment, a weak showing for the day, and a massive shock to my physical state. All in all, a good day. I made some new friends, hung out with some old friends, watched some slower friends kick my butt and watched faster ones kick my butt once again...I also witnessed some newer friends enter into the endurance racing world, hopefully to be seen again at future events.
The ride home was just as fun as the ride there...except with lots more to talk about and experiences to share, such as the misadventures of Jana, who tried to squeeze in some run training with her cycling during the race...Matt is getting stronger with every race and definitely a future hopeful...Lise surprised us all with her second place win and strong showing in her first ever endurance mtb race! Mark Sackett is getting amazingly strong and his determination is paying off-next stop Burn24 for him. Mike Pierce surprised me with a really strong showing as well! Like I said, it was a good day...

Cheers!

12th place, 6 laps;Solo Men 30-39 on a singlespeed no less!
Garmin connect lap data: http://connect.garmin.com/activity/32835406

Monday, April 5, 2010

The 6 Hour Battle of Warrior Creek...

That's what it felt like...A surging battle with hundreds of Indian brave warriors pressing forward....

I made my way up to Wilkesboro, NC for the second annual 6 Hours of Warrior Creek endurance race. This was a race which was not on the official calendar for the year, but just happened to occur and I just happened to obtain a free transfer entry into the event. I had been very curious about this trail since last year when a few of my close friends had started mentioning just how perfect these trails really were. I then mentioned the race to a few more of my cycling friends and they also agreed that Warrior creek was an excellent, fun course. Fun was definitely the main theme which I insisted on carrying forward as I did not know what to expect. I left late on Friday, made my way up to the Bandit's Roost campground and claimed my spot. After driving a few hundred miles and realizing I had forgotten my tent, I made a quick decision to sleep in the back of my zippy Prius. Meeting me there were Mark Sackett, Mike Pierce and super pitman: Nicolas Deloach. We meet and I start rallying everyone to jump into Mark's van to go preride the course. We finally find the course and quickly start pedaling away! The first entry point into the course was at the 2 mile mark and set the overall tone for the rest of the weekend: FUN! This course is unbelieveable! I immediately got swept up in huge banking turns with spread out sections full of pump bumps helping to keep the speed into various lines with little or no pedaling needed. This course truly was a giant BMX course. I could not believe some of the incredible features this course had to offer! So smooth and so fast and so tricky! The turns would sneak up on you and really smack you around if you were not ready for them. Off camber singletrack really kept your mind spinning and focusing on the singletrack. Good power climbs with well laid out switchbacks and rock gardens topped it all off. Saturday was going to be a great day for rolling in the woods! After getting a poor quality pre-ride dinner, talking about racing and our bikes, getting our bottles and stuff ready, we were all looking at 11pm and time to sleep. I made my bed in the Prius and feel asleep within minutes. Morning clambered in much too soon as I was really enjoying the perfect temperature and sounds of nature to get up and ready. But ready or not, it was time to race!

We break camp at 7am and eagerly make our way to Warrior Creek campground to start 6 good solid fun hours of rolling through the hills. upon arriving, we realize we have made good time and find a great spot in the cul-de-sac leading back out to the trail. The place is getting so packed that we find ourselves parked in front of the Team Ergon booth with the Odeas both getting ready to race. I get my Infinit-infused fluids and Honey Stinger chews and gels out and ready for a solid energy filled day and set off to see who else is here. I bump into Stephen Janes who I did not know was going to be there. He looks strong and ready to throw down some serious racing. I bump into Shanna Powell of Endless Bikes and get hooked up with a few collector's series spoke cards which will go on my everyday riding wheels until I can figure out how to keep them in place on my I9s. Shanna is riding some crazy rigid beast of a bike complete with a big toot horn on the front and streamers to set it all off nicely: the rolling epitome of keeping it fun on the trail! I see and talk with Mike Stanley of Niner bikes showing off the latest cool bike, the Jet 9(drool!). I catch a glimpse of superstar Team Dicky rider, Rich Dillen, but I am quickly pushed aside by either the paparazzi or maybe his team manager, Mike Piazza, has appointed bodyguards to keep the throngs of admirers and facebook stalkers at bay. Lots of familiar faces start to appear from the many endurance events we seem to congregate to year after year. I roll back to my pit and rest for a few minutes taking in all the lovely bikes rolling through the area. Its a good day for racing! As usual, the countdown to the race begins unexpectedly and I get into position for what appears to be one heck of a large mass start. My neutral start strategy places me lower midpack with Mike Pierce, Matt Depp, Allan Atkinson and a few other names I cannot recall alongside me. Mark Sackett is somewhere up front and hungry for a win today. The race starts and takes us up and down the paved streets of the campsite area. This rolling start attempts to spread us out into an orderly mob before entering the singletrack. It is really crowded all around me and I wonder if I will lose more energy riding like this or should I have been further up in the pack. Too late, as I enter the woods and hit that first bit of singletrack. Already there are guys huffing and puffing, blown out, from cruising too fast on the start paceline. The passing frenzy begins. Then ends as abruptly as it starts as there is simply nowhere to go. I stay in line and focus on an efficient, easy low level cadence to conserve energy. The banked turns and fun spots are fully packed with riders, fast and slow. I actually pass a guy on the high side of a banked turn because he kept slamming on the brakes and creeping through the fun turns. Walkers already on the climbs! Tip-toers on the rock gardens! This goes on throughout lap 1 and I arrive back at the pits ready to make up some lost time. I zoom through and Nicolas hands me a fresh water bottle. No time lost in the pits, I go forward entering back into the singletrack with a bit more lap traffic, but this time passing is possible. I start slowly making my way through it all using perceived exertion to stay aware of my bonk limit. My BMX skills really do come in handy here as I whip my 29'' Salsa Selma through the corners with precision which amazes me. I find a pace I like and start controlling my speed and energy levels for most of this lap. I turn in another decent lap, not strong, just decent. I go back out on lap 3 and start trying to assess when I can start opening up my legs which feel great thus far. I fall into line behind some crazy girl with a red tutu by the name of Shanna Powell and we talk for a while. She has the incredible ability to talk, ride and comment on other rider's fashions all while lofting crazy air off the whoop de doos. It was pretty cool just to be able to ride with new friends. I push ahead and find my pace is slightly stronger than I anticipated and tackle the climbs with ease and rock gardens with style and grace. I zoom back into the pits and rip off my noise making bike tool pack. I decide that I am going to have to invest in one of those Awesome straps when I get back home. For now, duct tape was the answer to hold my tube on the frame. Lap 4 was more of the same as lap 3, legs felt great but not super powerful. I felt a little fade, but was able to work through it with no cramps the entire time. I cleaned the climbs once again and was excited that Lap 5 was almost upon me. As I enter the pits, I realized this would be my last lap since the time cutoff was 3:30, so I took a quick break, ate some food, and set back out on my final lap. This lap had me hot and cold throughout. My legs would fade and my body would weaken with no signs of cramping, just weakness. I kept thinking about what I was missing....Fluids, electrolytes, food...hmmm, maybe I just need more sugars...I stopped and propped myself against a tree and slurped down a chocolate Honey Stinger gel washed down with water, which I thought would have sent me into cramp mode, but instead seemed to do nothing, at first. After about 5 minutes of continued slow speed slogging, I started to come out of my slump. I began to pick up my pace and then like Contador passing Lance on the Swiss Alps, I was back to dancing on the pedals again! I started picking off a ton of riders who were struggling, suffering or both. I pass a rider who appears to have flatted out and roll by only to hear him ask me for a tube. I actually was in the process of chasing down one last singlespeeder who had passed me earlier and did not really wanna stop, but being the nice guy I am, I quickly stop, rip the tube off my frame and give it to him and wish him good luck(I later find out that he was 2nd in men's open and would not have placed at all if it were not for the tube I gave him). As I proceed onwards, I track down the singlespeeder who had passed me when I took my Honey Stinger gel break. His legs had shut down and he was walking the climbs. I punch forward and pass him in a full standup climb up the last remaining climbs to seal the deal. I roll through the rock gardens for the last time and call it a day with Lap#5 in the bank. My legs felt weak, but a 6th lap would have been possible. It was a good day to play in the woods!

We broke down the pit area in a mad dash to get to the lodge for the awards ceremony. Mark Sackett placed 5th! That is one strong finish for a group as powerful as I had witnessed today. Mike Pierce had a long hard day in the saddle and left early. I came in 12th in Singlespeed and felt great to have energy on reserve after such a long day throwing the bike around those turns. Shanna got 1st in women's SS which was much deserved after witnessing the beating she was taking on that aluminum rigid beastie. Raffle prizes were awarded and I actually won an Awesome Strap! After eating some great BBQ & beans and saying my goodbyes to friends both new and old, I jumped in the Prius and set out for home to get some Easter family time in...What a Saturday!

Monday, March 29, 2010

Part 1: The Run.

Just made it through one heck of an eventful weekend. I never realized I could do what I did this weekend, but once you get in the flow, it all seems to work itself out.

First off there was the Charleston Cooper River Bridge Run 10k. This event in itself is a handful for most. Last year, I had planned on doing the run and then the Ride after the Bridge Run Century hosted by Charleston Bicycle Company. Unfortunately, running was not as easy as it seemed as I pulled my calf muscle badly enough to have me out of commission for about 2 months afterwards. This year, I set my sights on the same 2 back-to-back goals....

As the date for the Bridge Run came near, I found myself nowhere near ready to run the Bridge. After hearing some "hype" from friends stating they were also doing the run, I motivated myself to continue with my plans. I did minimal training for the Bridge Run as I knew as long as I ran slow n steady, I would be able to complete the entire run. Wifey pulled me out for a nice long run and this had me wondering if I should be running at all. Coming up on the day of the event, my long time friend from Myrtle Beach, Jeff Dekleva told me me might not be able to run the event due to a previous running injury. This left me bummed as everyone else I knew who was running the Bridge had backed out or simply decided not to run it. I kept with the plan as I knew once the run started, it didn't matter who else ran since it was just me against the Bridge. Thursday, I received the great news that Jeff was running the Bridge so, Wifey, the Raven and I met up Friday night for dinner with Jeff, his brother David, Kristen and another couple of friends whose names I cannot recall. There was some smack talk as to who was going to win. Based on the motivation factor, my money was clearly on David. We planned on meeting up at Starbucks in the morning, but that was a silly plan altogether which will be explained in a moment. Upon waking early at 6am Saturday morning, I sat there slowly getting my morning started thinking about how smoothly everything was going when I realized I should already be in my car on the way to the event to find a parking spot! I panicked, grabbed my bag of clothes for afterwards, and bolted out the door. I rushed to Old Mt Pleasant arriving around 6:30 am and a ton of traffic! Some of the office complexes had turned into fast cash parking lots and I had no cash, so I went off in search of a secluded place to park the Prius. After finding a spot some blocks away, I jump out into the 45 degree weather and hurry down to Starbucks which was crowded beyond belief. Realizing there was absolutely no way to find Jeff and Co., I hang out close to the crowds for warmth and await the start of the run. 15 minutes before the start, I see the lines at Starbucks diminish and grab myself a small cup of coffee. It went down smooth and easy. I felt great and ready to go! Upon the 5 minute warning, I am walking down the sides looking for a place to jump in when all of a sudden, the announcer simply yells out 3-2-1 GO! I was surprised there was not more of a readiness count, but immediately my lines of entry were cut off. Walkers & runners mixed together and before I knew it, I was jumping the fence to mix in with the rushing crowd. This was eerily similar to last year. I immediately told myself to maintain my excitement and just walk until the start line. The only thing that counted was the chip time anyways. After passing through the start gates, my adrenaline rushed and my legs started running. I held myself in control for the first 2 miles doing a light jog with very little passing unless needed. Upon seeing the Bridge coming up, I noticed large gaps in the crowd because of people who had pushed it too hard in the first mile and decided to open up the legs a little. I started running smoothly up the Bridge with little hesitation. My body felt great and my mind was clear. Passing tons of people at this point, I made the gameplan up to run a strong, but steady jog up to the top and then fly down the backside. Good legs, good plan; it all came together. I reached the top in excellent time, and started my mad out of control dash down the backside. The controlled fall I had discussed the previous night with David worked out to my advantage. The load on my legs was very light as long as I kept the flow moving along. The only problems would be walls of people, which were starting to thin out because of their exhausted efforts getting up the Bridge. I felt great and moved along to the bottom. Reaching the left turn off of the Bridge, gravity took over once again and I felt a little worked from my free-run. I throttled my pace down to a light jog and took the time to recover and get my heartrate down. Reaching the first right turn in the city, I felt once again light on the feet and started a nice steady strong stride passing lots of people once again. Going through the streets felt great and I actually was able to notice the throngs of people standing on the sides yelling and cheering this time around. It was great to not be in pain like I was last year around this time in the run. I was able to enjoy the last few miles with a overwhelming sense of accomplishment and the realization that I can set my sights higher next year timewise. As I reached the quarter mile stretch, I opened up my stride and sprinted to the end just to give it a last second punch. Running through that gate with that amount of energy on reserve was an amazing feeling! I had a grin on my face and my body was humming. I let the post race endorphins rush through my body as I went in search of food and anyone I might know...I found the food, but never found the others...As I wound down, I realized it was still cold and I had to get ready for soccer, so after a 30 minute cool down, I went off in search of a shuttle to my car and ended my Bridge Run 2010.

58:00 runtime was recorded in the official books. I had it marked at 52 minutes by my watch, but that is that...either way, I had a great run!

Go home to rest? Nope.

2 hours later, I found myself standing up running up and down the sidelines coaching at the first of my daughter's 2 soccer games scheduled for the day...Then dinner out with friends that night. That was the longest Saturday, I can recall ever having.....

Part 2: The Ride.

Saturday seemed to never end. After arriving home from soccer and dinner, I set out to get my stuff ready for the Ride after the Bridge Run century the very next day. A century is a 100 miles. 5 water bottles, 4 with Infinit, 1 with water, Honey Stinger Gels and Chews and minimal riding clothes were set out. I was going to be on my road bike for a very long time Sunday and was not sure if I would be able to do it based on the previous day's run, so I decided to simply ride it on my own, not use any of the support services and just tag onto the ride drafts when they came whizzing by if possible. This was done primarily because I ride these roads all the time, and I needed to get some training in for the 6 hours of Warrior Creek next weekend. Because of the nature of this decision, I would be skipping out on the first and last 10 miles to the finish, totaling my ride miles at around 80 miles/4 hours which is more than enough for me to know if I could do more. Having a draft help out is just icing on the cake.

Sunday comes quickly and before I know it, I am rolling along with some local friends who are also going along for training rides of sorts. We ride all the way up to Huger before the Bridge Run Ride pack is upon us. It was a crazy, exciting feeling to get swept up by hundreds of riders all of a sudden. Before I know it I am leading the pack for a few miles at 28+ miles per hour and adrenaline is pumping through my body. To picture this, you have to realize I am in front of about 75-100 very strong riders with fresh legs all pedaling as hard as they can inches from each others back wheels! What a rush! I smoothly pull to the left after a few miles and let someone else take the pull, feeling very satisfied that I helped pull the pack along. I make my way to the back listening to friends advise me on where to fall back to and when to make my way to the front once again. I pull a few more times and start to think about ways to conserve energy for the entirety of the ride. I fall back farther into the mass and am surprised to see how deeply the line of riders really is. I find that many riders simply lurk in the back and never actually take their turn up front to pull. Either way, they are making a draft for someone else, so it all works out I guess...I slide in midway into the horde and maintain my position for a great many miles. Then as the weaker riders start to fade, I feel them peeling off little by little. After one or two more major turns, sections start to gap and separate. I lose 2 water bottles in this period because of the rough road conditions. I barely recover in time to make it into the second section as a lead breakaway group of about 10 riders pulls away. It's pretty cool to actually be close enough to the front of the action to see it going down! Those lead riders had to be pushing it extremely hard to get away from our group which was chasing them down at 25+ mph! This went on for the next 20 miles...Then upon reaching the 50 mile mark, I hear a rider mention my tiny Park hex wrench tool had fallen from my bike bag. Thinking about losing the water bottles earlier and now my tools, I decide to pull out of the pack. I smoothly exit left and pedal out to the opposite traffic lane and watch the pack fly away at breakneck speed. I wonder if I made the right choice to get out with 50 more miles left to go. I feel really worried that I should have stayed in place as I pedal alone back to locate my hex tools with a wind pushing me along. Then as the fleeting pack is almost out of sight, I hear shouts, yells, brakes squealing and cleats scraping asphalt! I turn around and look hard to where they are at and notice them all bunched up almost on top of one another. I realize someone has crashed hard. As I stare in amazement, I notice the entire pack pickup their bikes regroup and take off like a mad pack of animals on the run. The pack thins out and all that is left is one rider crushed into the ground and one rider staring at him deciding what to do. I race back to the injured rider and assess the damage. He is hurt really bad. Major scrapes on his forehead, twisted neck, possible spinal injuries, arm pinned under his back, legs tangled in the bike, possible broken bones, etc. I slowly untangle just his bike and urge for him not to move. I ask him if he can breathe and he replies yes, and I tell him I am going for help. I get back on my bike and race back to the support station to notify a rider is severely injured. I start to feel a bit tired riding back and forth, worrying that I may be out in this wind for the rest of the day. I race back to the rider who is now being helped by many and let him know help is on the way as an EMT arrives. They start to take over and I exit out of the way to let them do their job. Shocked by what I have just witnessed and the amount of energy expended to get help flowing, I fall into a sluggish crawl for the next few miles. It doesn't help that the wind is howling into my face and I have so much on my mind now, such as the fact that I almost ended up in that crash if it wasn't for my decision to go back and get my tools. After getting my thoughts back on my pedal spin and energy consumption, I get some Honey Stinger chews and gobble them up. I finish off my third bottle of Infinit (wonderful stuff) and feel my energy reserves stabilize. As I drift into the death march home, I hear a group come up on me and a rider mentions for me to tag onto the back and enjoy the ride. I smoothly enter their draft and trail them for a few miles letting my legs clear out the fog they were in from stopping for so long. I take charge and start pulling the group, noticing their speed increase as I pull them on longer and longer periods. Slowly, we start hitting 20mph averages and develop a nice smooth cruise. We pick up a few more riders and really start kicking it into high gear. Before I know it I am on the final 15 miles home and just open hammer it all the way to Clements Ferry Rd. I politely thank them for letting me tag along on their ride and they thank me for the extra pulls I contributed to get them back home. I cut out and spin out the last mile home satisfied that I had made it back with energy in the tank to spare. Surprisingly, I had enough energy in my legs to possibly squeeze out another 50 miles.

3 hrs :58 mins 82 miles

http://connect.garmin.com/activity/28283223

It was a great day for riding!
My weekend mission was a success!

Monday, March 8, 2010

Snake Creek Gap #3

After my last experience at Snake Creek Gap, I was not too enthusiastic to return to Dalton and give it another go, but with the promise of nice weather and the option to carpool, I made the solid decision to return and face the Snake once again....

It was a smooth ride up to Dalton until we decided to listen to my Garmin Nuvi GPS which siderailed us with a 1.5 hour delay because of poor alternate routing...Once in Dalton, everything was once again under control and relaxed. Matt McMaster and I met up with Mark Sackett, Mike Pierce and some friends from Charleston, Ken Privette and Mike Wagers who were there for their first battle with the Snake...During dinner we shared information on how to handle the mountains all the while thinking of how we were going to ride it ourselves. I went up with a plan to keep it slow for the first 20 miles and then increase my power output incrementally. I stuck with the plan and did not deviate as I had also had similar advice from Dave Hall in regards to how to tackle this 34 miles of trail. My friends weren't so sure it was the best plan, but it was my plan and I wanted to try and stick to something which has been working well for me lately. After a great night's sleep at the Quality Inn, we went down and had some free breakfast and hit the road. Upon arrival for registration, the weather was already looking positively better. I was still cold and had several layers on, but not as many as in February. After some chatting around the fire and loading up our bikes on the transport trailers, we hopped in the big bus and rolled upwards towards our 34 mile destination...No sooner had we gotten comfortably numb on the bus, we were dumped out and made ready to ride....Not wanting to stand around and wait for my legs to start tightening up, I quickly jumped in the takeoff line and before I knew it, I had started my challenge on Snake Creek Gap once again!

I felt a bit mentally cloudy and not yet entirely responsive...but some quick climbs and rapid downward acceleration made sure I was in the game for now... After a few miles, I noticed my tire pressure was too high and my new I9 wheels were definitely stiffer than my old ones...I also think I may have used the wrong tire for the current condition of the trail as it was loose and sandy, nothing like the conditions in February. Cruising along on a open fireroad climb, I come across Mike Wagers who had the deer in the headlights look in his eyes...been there, felt that-not a good feeling...I arrive at the dreaded raging creek of doom and discover that it is a little less than knee deep and pull a wicked wheelie and charge right through it. I come out fairly dry with nothing soaked at all! I continue onwards and keep picking my way through early casualty traffic, always checking my speed and keeping a steady pace...I come up on Ken Privette who is hunched over, grunting, and pedaling like a man on a mission. I mutter something positive to him and continue onwards. I reach the 10 mile mark and clean lots of climbs I had previously walked up. I find a few that I still had to walk on, but most of my walking time was spent running up those climbs to keep my time low. My plan was working well and I was well and working. Upon hitting mile 15, something seem to have messed up the strike plate underneath my shoe cleat and it would no longer engage in the right pedal. I did not want to stop, so I kept pedaling along trying to think of what to do. After doing a fast and messy one footed descent at mile 17, I decided to pull over into the woods and fix my cleat properly. Tools were pulled out, cleat was removed, faulty strike plate was removed and disposed of. All parts reassembled and I was back under way, but with a massive time loss. Matt caught up to me while working on my show and he looked strong. Shortly thereafter, Mark came flying by trailing Namrita Odea who seemed to be having a stellar day. I really wanted to keep up with everyone, but my plan was to keep it slow for a few more miles and on top of that, my legs were cold again from the maintenance stop. I got back into a rhythm and just kept cruising along focusing on the ride and the scenery....After a few more miles, I ran back into Matt who was having some possible hydration issues with severe onset of cramping. I urged him to eat and drink and pace himself for awhile which he did, but shortly caught back up with me. For a while, he was moving along and seemed to be having a good recovery. I reached my first planned destination which is the 21 mile gravel road climb which meant I was "allowed" to increase my attack speed a little based on my overall feeling. I felt great, so I started a nice tempo climb up the gravel road passing a few geared riders along the way. After a few minutes of this, I mentioned to Matt how nice this climb is when the weather is right, but heard nothing behind me. I looked back to realize I had dropped Matt never to see him again until after the race. I knew what had happened as it has happened to me several times in the past. Matt's cramps onset and then returned much harder than before, not allowing even the slightest pedaling to occur. I pedaled onward pushing those thoughts of him suffering out of my head just wanting to keep myself together for the next 10 miles...I rode onwards at a nice clip, playing in the switchbacks, taking on the rock gardens whenever safely possible and passing lots and lots of riders cramping and near cramping in the woods. I started to push myself harder only to find out I did not have a lot to give at once, so I eased up a little and then held on to whatever cadence I had. I would attack climbs, and hug the closest tree near the top of each one for about 30 seconds to recover and then move forward. I did this for the next few miles pulling myself off trees and hugging them to hold me while my heartrate was back under control. I trudged onwards until I saw the 4 mile mark at which point I started pedaling like a madman! I ran up climbs which I could not pedal up and quickly worked my way through lots of small rock gardens and tight singletrack. The descents worked my arms and the neverending 4 miles of trail left worked on my mind. I kept looking for the radio tower on the mountain which meant the race had only 2 more miles to go, but it would not come up! After some major frustration and some near falls on the sharp rocks, the radio tower appeared and the rest of the way was sprint history for me. I worked as hard as possible knowing I could rest on the downhill return on the highway. I hit 40 mph on the downhill straights and really felt glad to have finished.

Upon arriving, I jumped in line for food, water and sat back in the nice warm sun and soaked it all in. What a well organized event! Great volunteers, very nice and approachable. The crowd at the end was thick with talent all having completed their time trials in much less time for certain. I received my results with a time of 4hrs:26mins and deducted my previous time was 45 minutes longer than this time around. I felt great about the improvement and just smiled for the rest of the day....its good to have closure.

Cheers to Matt McMaster for a great ride although he worked much harder this time around... Hang in there Matt, its good to learn this stuff early in the season.
Cheers to Mark Sackett for another consistent result time. Man, you are getting STRONG!
Cheers to Mike Pierce for a good solid ride with only a rear brake! INSANE!
Cheers to Ken Privette for entering and completing his first Snake Creek Gap Time Trial...
Honorable Mention to Mike Wagers for attempting the Snake...some more offroad time in the saddle will transform you into a mountain loving kinda guy, my friend...don't give it up!

Cheers,
Joel

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

12 Hours of pain, 'er I mean Santos

Being that it has been rainy, snowy and just downright cold and mucky in Charleston, I had been quite sick of the cold and wet stuff, so when the calendar showed 12 Hours of Santos coming up, I was more than ready to take the trip down south for a day and bask in the predicted warmth of the sun....Talk about perfect weather! Rode down with Dave and Robert in the coolest road trip van on the planet ready for a great day of riding on Saturday. Uneventful smooth trip down south with the temperature climbing steadily as we drove. Arriving in great time, we setup camp, watched the freeriders blasting off the jumps and went for a few pre-race laps...My legs felt great! I felt great...I guess being on a road bike for the last 2 months with nonstop headwinds really makes you appreciate the vacuum-like quality of a tight, fast, twisty trail with little or no wind resistance. It was definitely worth the trip. I took a decent speed lap, then another at a lower speed, then played for a while on the rocky stuff looking for easy climb lines...Took time off the bike, waited for Mark, Mike and Nick to roll in and watched Niner & everyone else setup for awhile and hastily went for our annual Mexican food feast. I order 2 entrees with extra guacamole to make sure I had plenty in the tank for tomorrow's adventure and ate every bit of it. That night, the usual Santos campout revelry occurred at a much higher volume than last year possibly due in some part to an alleged conspiracy to keep everyone awake and miserable throughout the night. I heard Dave planning a revolt outside my tent and lots of mutual agreement, but I was so tired from the past week's lack of sleep due to work, that I greeted Morpheus with open arms...

Saturday came up nice and smooth until some of our guys started honking their car horns to annoy the other camps, oh well...The organizers of Santos(GoneRiding.com) had a great breakfast spread laid out for the riders complete with oatmeal, coffee, cheese danish and cereal! I ate happily and got suited up for a full day's worth of riding. Have you noticed yet, how I have not complained once about cold weather? It was THAT warm! It was a great day for a race. As always, from that moment on, everything went into fast forward and before I knew it I was running up a hill with a bunch of other nuts in search of our bikes to hastily make our way onto the singletrack express. I actually got into the woods pretty smoothly and proceeded to tag onto some steadily paced riders. The pain train rolled onwards without any major issues through lap#1. I skipped pitting since I did not need anything vital and went out for a full fresh lap. After opening up the legs a bit more throughout lap#2, I realized this was going to be an excellent day for me as I did not have any signs of hesitation when demanding more power. I eased back to make sure I would make it and settled into a very nice pace. I rode strong through lap#4 and then suffered a major setback which possibly cost me a chance at the podium...chain snap! Upon leaving the twisty singletrack, you enter back into a section of the "Vortex" before making your way back to the pit area. The Vortex is a mixture of tight turns and punchy uphill climbs. I went to redline the heartrate to get up the climb, fast and quickly, when my chain snapped without warning. I spun out but thanks to the steady platform of my new Time ATAC pedals, I was able to keep from smacking my knees and "tenders" on any section of my frame. I quickly unclipped pulled my bike over to the side and tried to assess what to do. I looked for the broken chain link, but could not find it. I was not sure what to do, as I could not fix it immediately and wasted a large amount of time making a decision. I finally stuck with just running the bike through the remainder of the lap and fixing it once in the pit area. I ran in, fixed the bike, got back on and took off again trying to makeup for lost time. I actually fell back into a rhythm and decided I would probably be dead last, but I was determined to finish my goal of at least 10 laps. Lap#10 came up quick and next thing I knew there was still plenty of time for more laps! I hooked up my Ayup lights(which worked perfectly) and took off for more pain. Santos was really starting to abuse me around this time as the lava rocks in the course are unforgiving and staggered to make it hard to float over them with precision so I slowed down. 2 singlespeeders caught and passed me in lap#11, and I worked hard to pass them back. We played like this for a while at the beginning of Lap#12 and then I finally noticed both guys suffering in different sections of the trail due to major cramps which allowed me to pass and drop them with ease. I was also feeling weak, but not that weak....I came in off Lap#12 at 9:23 and decided to not go back out for another lap since I thought both of the other guys were 1 lap up on me anyways. I later found out that only one of them was a lap up, so I could have clinched 4th place! If it were not for my chain breaking, I may have had a chance for 3rd place and that would have been fantastic, but nonetheless, this race was a major victory for me to actually tackle and finish a 12 hour endurance race which was truly an unknown to me.

Overall, my hands were hamburger meat, my legs were cooked, and my rear end was chaffed beyond belief, but my passion for lap racing grew a little more. I learned more about what kind of strategy I should try next time as well as how to eat & drink a bit more efficiently. My goal was to complete a 12 hour race with at least 10 laps. I more than satisfied that goal and certainly look forward to next year! I could not have even come close to this goal if it wasn't for Dave Hall's coaching tips and his leading of the WBL this winter which was hosted by the Charleston Bicycle Shoppe. Thanks to Mike from Niner bikes to assist me in the pit area when in need of some quick thinking and reconfiguring of my lights for the night laps, he really helped me out when I just could not think straight anymore.

12 Hours of Santos is quickly becoming one of my favorite races of the year, not only because of the warmth of Florida, but also because of the great people who come down to race, assist, and just generally be a part of it all. Did I mention all the cool looking bikes rolling around out there? Awesome stuff!

Results here:http://www.goneriding.com/2010/12%20hours%20of%20Santos/results/12HOURSOLO.htm

No GPS stats available since it went berzerk at around lap#2.
I believe I may have killed it at the Snake Creek Gap in the nasty elements. :(

Up next, The Snake Creek Gap Time Trial#3!

Cheers,
Joel

Monday, February 8, 2010

Snake Creek Gap TT #2


I cannot believe how tough this first race of the season has been for me. After hearing the horror stories of just how extremely cold it was back at Snake Creek Gap TT #1, I was really worried about becoming a stranded frozen popsicle out in the Chattahoochee National Forest....I really thought I was prepared for what was to come, but I do not think I was even close...mentally nor physically.

Backpedaling in the story, you, the reader, must understand that I have been road training(basically being pummeled by macho roadies who love to drop neophytes such as myself in 15-20mph headwinds at paces above 23-25mph avg), working furiously on a new software feature, indoor spinning, and buying a new home all at the same time. Not to mention that Mother Nature and the unknown forces at work have been pummeling the Earth with massive amounts of rainfall, therefore rendering useless what minimal amounts of local trails we do have! It had not been an easy January...Then closing on our new house(yay!) and realizing we must evacuate our current house(doh!) made the start of race season that much more complicated. So, my "rest" week before the Snake was spent lifting lots and lots of heavy boxes, then working until 4 or 5 in the am, waking at 10am and then doing it again...and still doing it now. I do believe the best night's sleep I received was at the hotel before the race through the Pinhoti Trail System...

So, where was I? Oh yeah, Matt McMaster and myself headed up to Dalton Georgia late on Friday arriving just in time to get some late chow and meeting up with Mike Pierce and Mark Sackett to discuss Saturday's race strategies. Mark mentioned the rainfall would more than likely have a serious affect on the initial creek crossing which had been a frosty nuisance in January. I hoped he was wrong on that one. He also mentioned some serious rock gardens which were close to impossible to climb entirely while in the saddle. I shuddered to think about rock gardens along a ridegeline with temps forecast into the upper 30s...We did all agree that the overall temperature was better than January, but we knew of no other elements which were within our control...off to sleep I went with too many unknowns in my mind.

Saturday came fast and furious as expected...a minor setback, was the discovery that breakfast at the Courtyard Dalton was not complimentary and we had no time left to enjoy a waited breakfast. I simply gobbled up assorted cookies and breakfast bar items and we all set out hurriedly to meet the Snake Creek Gap challenge...41 degrees at the start...Arriving a bit late for initial registrants, we found ourselves rushed from one line to another to get our bib numbers and free tshirts (nice shirts Northwest Georgia SORBA!) and nice cloth maps of the Pinhoti Trail system, which will be mounted on a wall under glass in the future. We then found ourselves being shuttled up towards the start point in a super nice heated luxury RV which I was reluctant to get out of when approaching our destination. After waiting a few moments for our bikes to show up, it was time to say our good lucks and start on our solo adventures.

The Time Trial is setup to have 15 second gaps between riders in order to not have as many riders all scrambling for the same trail space at any given moment. It was an interesting and pleasant way to start the race. Mark took off first, then some other riders, then Matt, then more riders, then it was my turn and last, but not least, Mike. My thoughts kept going forward to the creek crossing: should I ride thru? or walk it barefoot? After some initial warm up climbing for the first mile or so, I arrived at the first creek crossing and my choice was made for me. The water was on the brink of unpassable. It was really coming through thick! My first thought was: there is no way I am gonna get across. Matt was already across. Then, I see some people strip off their shoes, hike on their bike and start sloshing across, getting pushed sideways by the heavy currents, then going deeper, deeper and then coming up and out of it. No WAY! Before my mind could convince me to turn around, I quickly took off my neoprene booties, shoes and socks, stuffed them in my jacket and started across. The creek pushed me sideways and I really had to push my way across...up came the water past my knees, up it came further...oh yeah, past my waist...still inching higher...oh there it goes...mid chest...COLD! I started to slosh faster and just as quickly as I dipped into it, I re-emerged soaking wet from lower mid chest down...so much for staying as dry as possible. My extra socks were soaked, but they were wool(Wigwams rock!), so I immediately wrung them out and slid them on. Mike comes across soaked through. The wind was quickly letting me know just how wet I was, so it was vital to cover up as quickly as possible. 2 pairs of semi-soggy socks, shoes and soggy neoprene booties back in place, I jumped on the bike and take off again to make up for lost time and build my body heat back up. Did I mention there were 2 more back and forths on that creek? I rode through one which went midway up my frame...soaked already, so it no longer mattered. I quickly forgot about the creek crossings as I then entered the no-man's land of mucky climbing, John's Mountain...

I realized at this point that I had selected a gear which was too high
for the circumstances that followed. I kept getting really bogged down in the mud and muck from the water pouring down the mountains. It was the most frustrating climbing situation I believe I have ever encountered. I would jump off and walk, but slip and sink deeper into the mud. I finally found a balancing point which made me maintain a certain speed, either walking or pedaling whenever I could. This went on for the next 10-15 miles. Pedal, get some speed going, approach climb with intensity, bog down, standup pedal lightly, bog down further and spin out from my tall gear choice...walk. Lots of hike-a-biking...After some mindless muck madness, I finally catch up to Matt who seems to be having the same issues except he is geared...but I notice he is spending more time in the saddle than I am which is good for him. We ride together for a while and then I fade/walk, then I catch up again, then take off on some nice singletrack. It goes on like this for about 5 miles...I ride his wheel for a while, then notice we are on a super nice ridge and decide to stop and eat something at the view. The stop was nice, the mountains were beautiful, light snow was falling and the food was sweet and energy filled. I slog on. More creek crossings! I suppose this is why it's called Snake Creek as it winds along like a coiled up rattle snake in various corners of the trail and then it stings you when you are not expecting. Yes, at this point, I got "stung"...Upon nearing the final creek crossing in a series of switchbacks, there were several rocks jutting about in the water, which I did see and hit anyways. It was the "your body goes where you look" type scenario. I saw the rocks and headed right into them. I hit them, rolled over a few, lost momentum, stopped short and fell sideways clipped in into the shallow creek. Soaked and a little bruised, I quickly getup, check myself, and continue onwards. Yelling at myself for getting sloppy, I take off again finding some nice gravel road climbs to make up some lost time on. I catch up to Matt again at a last chance rest stop before the entry into the rock gardens...I skip the rest stop as I am fully fueled and starting to get a chill as the temps are falling. Mile 22, and I ride onwards through some really nice singletrack. It then starts to weave up and down, work, reward, repeat. I enter the rock gardens and entertain my mind manuevering through the jagged terrain. I descend through it all and clean so much of it, that I actually start to begin having some fun! Overconfident, I realize that was just a warmup. As I hit mile 26-27, I see more rocks, more jagged edges, rocks in the turns, both inside and outside...I start to make small mistakes. I fall again, but it is a simple clean tumble. I realize I was lucky. I stop to assess my situation. I am getting colder, my body is not responding nearly as well as I had hoped, and my gloves are soaked thru and starting to freeze. I am sleepy tired, and feel sick to my stomach(mild hypothermia?). My emergency Snickers bar is frozen solid, which I force eat anyways. Not good. I start walking through sections which seem dangerous and simply look for clean lines only, no more challenges. I then start to have a few mechanicals with my chain. I guess the extreme torqueing I was doing on earlier climbs made my EBB slip and my chain was loose. I stopped once to slip it back on and tried to fix it, but my fingers were so numb that I could not feel my tools or work my fingers for that matter. So I simply slip the chain on and ride with less side-to-side vigor. It works for about 3 more miles and then chain off again. As I was putting it back on again, Matt comes rolling up and agrees this rock garden is for superhuman MTBers only...I tell him to keep going and don't stop. He disappears onward...I keep a cautious pace to keep my chain on and finally reach the radio tower. Back to gravel, back to roads and onwards to the finish...half frozen, ridiculously tired, I roll in 5 hours and 11 minutes later...

Mark was there already changed and looking much warmer than I feel. I start to shake uncontrollably and rush straight to my car to change. It hurts more to strip down than it did to remain in my wet cold clothing, but it was necessary. After a bowl of free chili and some talk about the trail and conditions around the fire pit, I start to realize I am not feeling any better or warmer. We wait for Mike to roll in, I say my goodbyes and Matt and I jump in the truck, jam on the heat and roll out. The ride back was another adventure in staying awake, but Matt shared the workload and just like that, we were back home and off to our own worlds again....

Snake Creek Gap Time Trial was very well organized, good support and overall great attitudes for the weather being what it was...Thanks to all the volunteers and organizers who help keep the Snake alive!

Up next....Santos.....

Snake Creek Gap final round next month? Only if those temps inch upwards: playing in the cold is for penguins and polar bears...



Friday, January 8, 2010

No Cowbell Challenge for 2010

Ok...pretty sad to read about it, but CowBell 2010 is no more. Why? Lack of sponsors, internal issues and tough times ahead for many a small company....Why so sad? Well for one, I had my heart set on winning a cowbell this year...yes its a selfish reason, but that little cowbell is so symbolic of a greater accomplishment...it is symbolic of coming back after giving up last year being so close to having earned it....Also sad because it was such a popular race for all who came and knew each other, also sad because of the amount of the money brought in that was given to good causes...sigh...Goodbye Cowbell...

http://cowbellchallenge.wordpress.com/