Friday, February 26, 2010

South bound and down

When we were approached by Bent's Cycling in Lakeland Florida to consider a trip South for the 12 hours of Santos, there really wasn't much to consider. The weather here in Chattanooga has been anything but typical for us for several months. We have had snow and ice and very cold temperatures most of the winter. So when we heard that it was going to be sunny and 65 degrees in Florida, Mike V and I were figuring out all the details as quickly as possible. We never really looked at this event as an opportunity to race. It was more of a chance to meet with the shop owner and employees at Bent's Cycling. They have recently signed on as an Authorized Lynskey Performance dealer and we wanted to get to know them a little better.

After work on Thursday, we loaded up some bikes we had at the shop and hit the road. We stopped in Macon, GA that night for a little shut eye to break the trip up. It was a slow start on Friday morning but we found the closest Cracker Barrel and had some much needed coffee and breakfast. More driving followed and it seemed that each mile we covered the weather only became better. We hit the Santos Trails mid day on Friday and found the exceptional spot Bent's had saved for us…right past the Start/Finish line and directly next the transition area. This would prove to be a key element in the race. So after some hellos and how are ya's, we geared up and went out for a little test run on the course to assess any necessary bike changes and get a feel for the course. Shorts and short sleeves were the order of the day and it felt amazing. It has been quite some time since I last rode in summer gear.

After we finished our lap, more of the Bent's crew had arrived. We also ran into the Piney Flats race team from East Tennessee. What a great surprise! We hung out in the lot for a while talking bikes and racing and what tire pressure and gear choice are you running, you know the usual. Then some folk from The Great Bicycle Shop in Tallahassee showed up. They are also a dealer of ours so it was a full blown Lynskey party at that point. We all loaded up and went out for a pre-race dinner and some more socializing. What a great group of people. It was a chill evening as we sat around the tents and campers, had a few beers and talked some more shop. It was a great way to wrap up an evening.

The following morning it was business as usual. Sorting gear, setting up the pits, filling bottles, making playlists and all the pre-race preparations you can imagine. I have to mention that Mitch from Mitchell's Coffee House and a Bent's Cycling team member made the most amazing cup of coffee for us that I think I have had in a very long time. That stuff was so good. There was a mass Le Mans start that was going to take place so we tried to strategically place our bikes up the road where we could find them and grabbed a place in the line up. A few pre-race jitters (maybe it was the coffee) and some conversation with some competition and then we were off. Running up the fireroad was not too bad other than the mass chaos and rummaging through a pile of bikes looking for the one you brought. The first lap was pretty crazy and there were several bottleneck sections, but it went pretty smooth overall. By the third lap, the course was flowing nicely and people had started to spread out so you could really get some nice flow on the trails. I think Mike and I were running 3 laps then changing bottles on the 4th. This seemed to work pretty well. He and I rode together and also apart for most of the daytime laps. At about the 7th hour, someone said that you guys (MikeV and I) were in 2nd & 3rd. We were both totally shocked.

We laughed on the way down that we were in Spring Break mode not necessarily in race mode. This was great news for us. But that also meant there was a lot to lose as well. Mike V hit the gas and took off and turned out 2 killer laps that carried us into the darkness. I was just motoring along and trying to stay consistent. I came though on my 11th lap and found out that Mike had put some time in on me and I was sitting nicely in 3rd. When I came though transition the next time, one of the guys in our pits told me that Mike V was only about 4 minutes ahead of me, which was all I needed to hear. I hit the gas and went all out on the last 2 laps. He had just enough time on me to roll in for a solid 2nd place finish and I held onto my 3rd. What a great day after all. Not really expecting too much had paid off. That along with a little in-house rivalry always makes things interesting.

After the race, most of us were pretty worn out and we hung around at the pits for a bit. After the awards ceremony, everyone was ready for some sleep. We woke up early and packed up the mass of gear and bikes we brought down, said our good byes and went to breakfast. We had a wonderful time and want to thank everyone for the hospitality and kindness. Many thanks to Bent's Cycling for taking care of us. Thanks to The Great Bicycle Shop for support and conversation. Thanks to the Piney Flats crew for being there and showing off some of your killer new Lynskey bikes. And last but certainly not least, thanks to the Gone Riding crew for putting on a spectacular event. And of course, many thanks to OMBA for building and maintaining some really sweet trails. Florida had way more to offer than I could have ever imagined. We will see you guys again next year!

Friday, January 8, 2010

Post-Snake Creek and More Winter Weather

It has taken me nearly a week to shake off the personal pain and frustration that went down at the first round of the Snake Creek Gap Time Trial. I know that many people were dissatisfied with their results and times posted, but I have been in a daze. I have not gone over the 4 hour mark in a really long time and I rolled in somewhere slightly under 4:15. You may wonder what the hell was I doing out there? Well a funny thing happened...Let's start with the fact the temps at the start were just a hair over 20 degrees with high winds and snow flurries. Usually I make the decision to under dress for this race despite the conditions since I know I will be warming up fast on the trail. As always, about 2 miles into the start, there is a decent sized creek that you have to cross through. This year it was a bit wider than normal and it was well below freezing outside. I rolled up to it and stopped to get a good look at it. Then backed up and tried to go at it with some speed and lift my feet up with hopes to make it through and not get my feet too wet. Needless to say, that is not how it worked out and I made it about half way in then ran out of speed and wound up walking to the other side. I instantly knew that was going to have an effect on the outcome of the day. As I rolled on, I just tried to put the fact that my feet were soaked out of my mind. The first half of the trail went pretty well. I never put in too hard of an effort, but my main focus was just to keep pedaling and catch the folks that were in front of me. I would roll up on someone, ask to pass and then sit back down and churn the pedals. I went through the first aid station and realized that my bottles were frozen solid along with my shoes and socks. Ice was forming in my pedals from where the water was seeping through my shoes. I eventually lost complete feeling in my feet and then my hands. I remember thinking to myself that I dressed down because I would get never happened.

I tried to stay focused and keep pedaling. That was all I could think about. Around mile 30 or so, I was hauling ass on one of the few downhill sections and rolled my front tire off the rim and launched myself over the bars and crashed hard. It appeared that my valve stem got damaged and the front tire leaked air for a while, but since I had been climbing, it was not very noticeable. Well it became pretty clear that something was wrong on the descents. So with frozen hands, I had to pull off a busted valve stem and proceed to install a new tube to get back on the move. I fumbled with this mechanical for what seemed like forever, but was nearly 10 to 15 minutes. During this time, a heard of guys that started behind me caught up and went on by. This was the nail in the coffin for me. I was cold, shivering and could not feel my extremities. So I pulled it together and just cruised my way back to the finish line. I was truly grateful to be finished that day. I know the Snake Creek course is always difficult, even when you are prepared, but this day was something else. I am glad to have this one behind me and will be taking the necessary steps to be ready for the next one. I can only hope it is warmer next month.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

I thought I was done with this blogging thing

I have been considering dropping out of the blog world because I have felt anti-social and borderline redundant. Not to mention the massive time gaps between entries that seem similar to an annual highlight reel. While all this is true, there are several new opportunities on the horizon for 2010 and hopefully they will help bring the key pecking magic back. Or at least give me something new to ramble about.

It has been a hard winter around my place. A few late season injuries kept me out of the racing scene and it has been all downhill from there. After returning home from Durango and the SSWC, I had one last 12hr race to hit then it was going to be a quick turn towards cyclocross season. Well at the last 12hr event, I crashed on a muddy downhill on the first lap and hyper-extended my wrist trying to save myself after the bike just shot out from under me at full speed. I hit the ground with my hip first, then on the wrist, then continued to slide down the hill in the slick, orange Georgia clay. I was totally stunned and just jumped back on the bike without thinking. I was trying to shake it off and get back into the groove but each bump and root just caused more and more pain in my wrist, not to mention that my entire left butt cheek was hanging in the wind. Finally after a couple more laps, I had to pull myself out of the race since I could no longer take any descents without out nearly coming to a stop. Oh well, we had a good time for the rest of the race and I worked on my social skills since that was all I had to offer that day.

After a few weeks of healing up, the next event took place. This one was a totally out of the blue kind of thing and those are the ones you have to watch out for. A shoelace in the chainring caused a crash that broke 2 ribs and bruised 2 more...there went cross season, It took nearly 3 weeks before I could actually take a deep enough breath to even consider getting back on the bike. I started out easy by commuting to the bike foundry and then slowly started picking up the efforts. Once I could do a push-up I felt it was time to get back to business and try to salvage some of the off season. That was just a couple of weeks ago, but at least the time off the bike has me feeling like riding all the time again. I have not taken much time off the bike over the last few seasons and sometimes a forced hand is better than you can imagine.

After a lovely Christmas at home, for the first time in 12 years, I took a little time for myself. A few fellas loaded up and went down to Dalton for a recon mission on the Snake Creek Gap course. What an adventure...that place keeps you on your toes the entire time. Totally relentless and unforgiving. You think, well it's only 34 miles, that is not bad at all. Then you try to think about all the other places that you have ridden that were harder or even longer, but somehow, it doesn't seem to help. But that is the fun in it. Then on Sunday a ton of Knoxville peeps came down to Raccoon Mountain and we had a lovely time there. I got to see a couple of people I have not seen in a while, rode with some people I never have before and we all met up for beers after. What a wonderful weekend.

Now with the first Snake Creek Gap TT on for this Saturday, I can only hope for the best and have a good time. I never have high expectations for the January installment, more of a will to compete and a reason to train this time of year. I will be on a new team for 2010 and have a few new sponsors as well, so there is much to look forward to this year. While I will be keeping the 12hr format as my primary focus, there will be a stage race and a few 100 milers in there too...just too keep things interesting. Many thanks to my new home with the Motor Mile Racing team out of Chattanooga, Lynskey Performance, Industry Nine and Maxxis. I look forward to seeing you all out there and cheers to great riding in 2010!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

On the road again

Well so far the travels have been better than expected. It is pretty awesome when you just let things happen and have no real expectations. I have had a loose itinerary and a few places I wanted to stop but nothing more put together than that. I have known that Thursday starts the Durango experience that will be the SSWC09, but the rest has been open. I made it to Hayes Kansas on Monday night after about 15 hours of driving and that was an experience all in itself. I feel for the folk that live in Kansas. I am sure it can be nice, but from first impression, I will not be looking to stick around for any period of time in the future.

Tuesday morning I left for Colorado and got a call from my pals at VeloNews to see if I still wanted to swing by and have a ride and a visit. We set up an appointment for Tuesday morning and I kept driving. Well as it turned out, while I was fishing through my maps I found a few bits of info about Estes Park that I still had from 2003. So that was it, I was going to Rocky Mountain National Park for the night. The plan was to get as high up in elevation and start riding in an effort to get acclimated to the altitude. So as I was passing through Boulder around lunch time I called Kevin back and asked his recommendation for lunch. Well as luck had it, he and David met us for lunch on Pearl Street. That was a great surprise and then we were off to RMNP via Lyons. When in Lyons, we stopped and picked up some Dale's Pale Ale to help with a night of camping.

The night in the park was killer. We grabbed a primitive spot and I suited up for a few hours of altitude training. I know I started around 9000ft and rode up to nearly 11000ft. It hurt like hell. No matter how hard I wanted to go, I just could only creep along. There were times that I would feel good then go hard, then have to settle down again. I played this little game for about 2 hours. By the time I made it back to the camp spot, it was time for the hammock and some down time. I wound up sleeping in the hammock all night and to wake up looking at the Rockies was so sweet.

We cruised back into Boulder to meet up with the new tech editor at VeloNews. Zack was a great guy to meet and we spent about an hour talking about the Lynskey brand and the three bikes I brought along on the trip. He shot some photos and then Kevin, Nathan, David and I hit the bikes for nearly two hours ripping up some road, gravel and greenways. It was awesome. I love it that these guys are retarded for cyclocross. You could just tell they were fired up about cross season.

From there we rolled down to Golden for a quick stop at Spot Brand to see Frank. I have been working with these guys for some time and many of them I have talked to on the phone or emailed a hundred times, so it was nice to meet them all in person. We talked shop and took the nickle tour and then we had to hit the road. Time to drive down to Monument for a little R&R and staying with friends. So far that has been amazing. I got out today for a nice ride from the house and hit the lower base of the mountains and am still trying to get used to this this air. I feel like I am recovering quicker, but still not there yet. I am off to Durango in the morning to meet up with the Endless Bike Co. crew. The Run What You Brung show will b going down tomorrow night and that should be a blast. I will shoot some video and photos and try to post them no later than Friday morning. More to come soon.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Where have you been?

It has been way too long since I spilled off on the blog and I am pretty sure that many of you have completely bailed on me. It is not like there was nothing to report on in my life, but it seems more like I have been doing the exact same thing nearly every week that it has become borderline redundant. As I sit here on the eve of departure, I thought it would be right to pick back up where I left off so many months ago...
All is well and life is good. I really mean it. Work is great, riding has been great and life has been amazing. I truly feel blessed and fortunate. I have been looking forward to this day for some time. Tomorrow I hit the road to embark on a two week adventure. Durango here we come. SSWC09 is next weekend and along the way, I plan on visiting some of the cycling industry's finest. Stories, news and videos will be posted regularly throughout the next two weeks. Tales from the road that should be too good to be true are anticipated. Next guaranteed stop will be Thursday night in Durango. Thanks to Tom @ Norse Cycles, we will be hanging out with some top custom builders and racers at the Run What You Brung, custom bike show. More info here. The plan is to drive straight to Fort Collins and start working our way South. More to come from the road.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

I went to a party and there was a bike race...?

Tsali...It is hard not to bring up the name and not begin to think about all the good time that have been had there. Well in classic fashion, this trip was nothing short of a good time. I bailed the bike foundry a bit later than anticipated, but the bike world needed some extra love that day so I hung around. The biggest bitch with rolling solo to such an event is the lack of opportunity to get a decent spot let alone a spot at the campground unless you arrive a day or so early, especially on a holiday weekend. Good news for me my mate Sam did just that...arrived on Wednesday to guarantee the choice spot in the woods that weekend. Camp spot 10 is the shit and you should all know it. And yes, it was ours. I made in through the valley around 8ish and met up with the video squad of Craig and Allie who were there to shoot the race. Rumors of Bishop were abound and he and Silvey went on a B double E Run. I made quick work of tent city and worked straight into chill mode with the video crew. The boys returned soon enough and we started the weekend off right. A few Fat Tires in a can, which is the bee's knees IMO, but being in the metals fabrication business I think aluminum is the perfect vessel for coldies and that is about it. The evening rolled on for hours and there was no shortage of complete amateur comedic relief.

The morning came quicker than expected, as usual. Some light breakfast and a morning Coors got things started off in the right direction. We sat around the camp spot and finalized the last few bike details and picked right up where we left off the night before. After we staged our bikes up the long ass gravel road it became real that it was nearly go time. I want to segway into this next part by saying that I hate to run...seriously, hate it. Like, I only run when the cops are coming and when we have to do a La Mans start. Well that went just as expected, sketchy, crowded and awkward. So when I hit the bike, I went off like mad. It was part adrenaline and part get me the hell out of here...I want single track. Since I cannot remember when the last time I was at Tsali and did not pre-ride the course, I had no clue when the road stopped and the trail began. The pace was solid right from the start and I felt really good for the first few hours and started to slow down a bit due to some wicked leg cramps that came out of nowhere. I totally underestimated the humidity and heat because it felt quite nice out. I made a longer than usual stop after the 5th lap to re-group and change my kit...I noticed that my jersey was really salty thus explaining the cramps. So I sat down in the creek by our camp spot for a few minutes and changes jerseys, grabbed some food and went back out on the course. I was rolling along pretty good not having any idea where I was on the leader board and at this point did not really care. I was just out to do as many laps as I could without totally destroying myself. When one of the fella's I was racing came by me like mad and I was sure that he had lapped me while I was chilling in the creek. That just sealed the deal for me because I was not moving that fast and had no real desire to do so at that point. So I turned a couple more laps and called it a day. For some reason, I lost a lap after the results were posted, but no big deal to me, I was out of the running by that point anyway. I made my way back to the camp spot and hung out for a few more hours before calling it a night. It was a great trip and I always have a blast at Tsali. It is everything it is cracked up to be and more. Now for a few weeks off before my shortest race of the season at Raccoon Mountain. It is too close to home to not participate.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Dirt Sweat & Gears Recap

It is said that a picture is worth a thousand words...then this shot should sum up the entire 12 hours race then. Even with 9 seasons of mountain bike racing under my belt, I have never ridden in conditions like this. I think that my first 24 hour race at Snowshoe, WV was probably the worse mud and rain I had seen until this weekend. Half way into the 2nd lap the trails were nearly impossible to ride, even on the down hills. You could ride the field section after the start finish, then a small open area along the trail where my pit was located, then back to pushing. At one point, I would have to use a stick or my glove to scrape off as much mud as I could, then walk about 300 yards, then repeat the process again. I stopped and hung out for a while after my 2nd lap and was hoping for it to rain harder or just dry up and neither was the case, so I called it a day and socialized. I feel very fortunate to be in a position to race for money, but this weekend was one of the times that I was grateful to not need the cash that bad. When the most laps completed in 12 hour event was 5, you should get the idea. It has been the season of rain so far this year, no real complaints because we really need the rain, but it would be great to have a race where it missed us. The SSUSA event is up for debate at the moment, but the following weekend is the 12 hours of Tsali which I am already registered for...hopefully that will be a dry day, but no matter, I am sure that it cannot be worse than what we rode in at DSG. For a complete breakdow, some cool videos and photos check out Cycling Dirt...if their coverage doesn't get the message across, then you just don't get it. Thanks to Clay and Grant for putting on the event and all the racers and sponsors for making it awesome as always.