Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Theee Backyard Experience...

So it was Halloween, and I was hanging out doing my thing, handing out candy, drinking a few tasty beers...then the trick or treaters fade out and I find myself in front of a bonfire with lots of cool neighbors all hanging out relaxing and I thought...well, I guess I am not going to Charlotte tomorrow and ride in the BackYard Experience (BYE).  Then like some weird sign, it started to rain, the people all ran home and I was left there to ponder my upcoming actions...  It was 11pm, my truck was already packed, and I had just finished my last beer.   I knew I would be driving up alone as one of my friend, Bert, had previously cancelled on account of fear of cold weather and another friend, Ernie, who needed a ride in the morning, I predicted, would never make it due to still being out and about partying till the early hours of the morning.  12am and I decided then and there to let fate handle this one.  If I woke up early, I would simply slither out to my truck and make the haul to Charlotte.  Morning came earlier than usual and I found myself up before my alarm clock went off.  I let my dog out to do his early morning business and then decided to roll with it.  Hangover apparent, I poured some day old coffee, slurped it down, jumped into the truck and rolled onwards to Tanger Outlet to wait for my friend to surprise me with anticipation and a hangover as well...as predicted he was a no show.  Trucked gassed up and breakfast handled, I rolled on to Charlotte sans Bert and Ernie...(note: names were changed to protect the less than innocent)

   Why was I driving to this event?...mostly out of curiosity, somewhat out of challenging the elements on a very minimal level.  The Backyard Trails in Charlotte offer some very unique challenges due to the fact that they take total advantage of the urban woodlands in their very compact surroundings.  They are in fact, pretty awesome.  Swoopy, loopy crazy fun wrapping through a very dense little area in the Charlotte metro area.  This brilliant use of minimal space had me wanting to ride more and more.  So, that, along with the fact that lots of riders that shredded would be there as well as lots of beer and food afterwards made for an inviting day no matter what the weather was like.

  As I was rolling to Charlotte, I ran into a freak snowstorm right outside of Columbia which caused traffic to slow.  It was at this point that I considered turning around, but I kept on rolling as I had all the cold weather gear necessary for a long day in the mountains, so Charlotte would definitely not be a problem.  Cold would not scare me away!
I made it to Charlotte in record time and loaded up on Starbuck's coffee.  I found the starting location, registered and went back out into my truck to change.  At this point I realized things were about to get real.  I was layered for the first time this season and not sure what my body was going to feel like in all of this gear.  As I pedaled out into the street, the extra layers made me feel sluggish and clumsy.  I was definitely worried about my choice of clothing as well as the weight of my backpack.  This was noted to be an all day event with 4 stages and it was encouraged to being your own food and supplies, so I did.  Too much in fact....
   The riders meeting was brief, informational, and to the point.  Before I knew it we were rolling down some neighborhood streets to a far point of the trails to a mass start shakeout point.  Go was yelled and we were off!  I sprinted forward only to find my gear choice was stupid low and I was spinning like a fool.  I recall changing it to help with the muck and predicted slower speeds on the trail.  It would help, but not here.  I brought my cadence down and waited to roll into the woods.  I entered the woods near mid pack and was rolling along fine until a few miles in when I felt the burning pain in my legs remind me that XC pace at this spin rate was not my thing.  I ignored the pain and kept on passing people and rolling smooth.  2/3rds into the first stage and I was rolling along strong and hoping the weight of my pack would not be a factor...but then something else went wrong.  My bike started getting sluggish and was rolling the wrong way in turns...my front tire was flatting out!  I could not believe it!  I had not had an issue like this in a while.  I couldn't figure out where I had picked up anything to cause me to flat out, but here I was losing ground and exerting extra power to stay alive.  I finally pulled over and tried to figure out what to do.  I could not see a leak, and the pressure was still there, so I grabbed my pump and started pumping.  And pumping and pumping and pumping....sigh...still pumping.  I pumped while a dozen riders passed and then one wouldn't as he chatted me up and then announced he was the sweep.  I panicked, pumped a little more and tore off to finish the stage.  I passed about 5 riders on the way, finished and then sat there pumping some more.  I was frustrated and blown out from all the pumping.  Stage 2 began and no more than 100 feet into the stage, my tire starts feeling mushy again.  I stop once again and start pumping....this time looking for a leak...nothing!  I tear off throughout the mushy wet muddy trail and try to make the most of my day realizing I would not be racing today, just surviving.  I focus on the beer at the end and hope that would be enough to get me to cheer up....it did.  The weight of my pack was bearing down on me as well as it was fully loaded and really causing me pain.  I tried to ignore it, but as I finished stage 2, Rich Dillen noticed my facial expressions and stated I really looked like I could use a beer.  I gladly accepted and dulled the throbbing pain in my lower back.  After relaxing and sorting out my bodily issues, I focused again on my now flat front tire.  Should I stick a tube in there or figure things out?  I knew there was Stans fluid in there...real Stans, not that pseudo-environmentally safe crap that just turns to water...So once again, I broke out my mini pump and started working it...the tire that is.  I pumped it up hard and spun it listening for hissing air...then i caught it in-between people babbling all around me.  The air was leaking from the valve core!  It seems that the cold 35 degree temps had unseated my valve core and it needed tightening.  I gave it a few twists at the stem nut and the hissing stopped!  It felt good to know my tire would hold up and I would not have to slap a tube in there.  I was, however, upset to lose so much ground because of an issue like this.  But, another beer and all my issues were resolved.  The jump line bonus stage started and I rolled down on my only attempt to style out some extra points, but as I neared the twin cannons, I slid out and almost lost all control.  It was just way too muddy for me to be crazy today.  I carefully made my way down the jump line with people chanting to jump everything and anything all the way down.  I controlled the urge to do so and parked the bike to join the cheering section letting them know I was not ready to take on the ultra slick jump lines.  As I found me a spot on the rocks, I witnessed the truly crazy and skilled riders of Charlotte take on the jumps in the worst shape possible.  They all jumped, crossed up, table topped and one handed their way across the mounds of sloppy clay with style, and poise.  It was impressive to watch!  One rider stood out more than most and later I found out it was an old school pro BMX legend and idol to me...Mike King!  He was laying out nearly flat table tops landing smoothly into a berm on the backside.  He was crushing it!  Another rider was pulling turn down, crossed up one handers shirtless!  It was awesome stuff to watch...and the best reason I had to know I had not missed this event, besides the free beer...Stage 3 went off shortly afterwards and was the most technical by far.  I went through the stage on heavy legs and sore back.  Too much gear was dragging me down.  I also froze up on a skinny near the end and took out another rider who was following closely behind.  I was feeling rough and a little beat up.  Once again, the day turned bright thanks to a beer hand up by Chris Muddiman.
A very nice IPA saved the day!  I rode off again through stage 4 without a care in the world, finished, changed clothes and came back to a warm fire, good friends, delicious food, and great beer!  It was a crazy day and it was all a bit foggy due to my being half awake all day, but nonetheless worth all the effort.  Hanging out by the fire, I made some new friends, talked about other rides we had all done together and drank half full bottles of Old Mecklenburg's finest.  I even won a new pump as a prize for being one of the participants furthest away!  The prizes for the top 3 were handmade lamps and they looked awesome!  Lots of schwag was tossed and none left unhappy.  Afterwards, Jana and Paul offered me a place to stay the night and we explored the NODA district for a bit of dinner and then I went off to slumberland as I had to return early in the morning for family stuff....One busy day for The Backyard Experience!  Can't wait till next year!!

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