Monday, December 12, 2011

Unforseen awesomeness

Blog Hiatus over?...maybe.

Most of the time city projects are a hindrance to alternative transit, and don't care about pedestrians/cyclists on the greenways. Other times, they either possibly have secret elves that do care or most likely mistakenly make fun additions to the greenways.

I will neither confirm nor deny that a certain commuter this morning removed his panniers and achieved sweet air for a brief moment eliciting a verbal response from a city utility worker, however I will note there are some peculiar tracks on this mound.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Fall 2010- CX time in TN!!

Well it’s been a while. School/work was super busy this summer with conferences, time consuming experiments, working on up and coming publications, and taking my comprehensive exams. I basically was off even commuting by bike for about 7 weeks. I gained some weight, and as I found out this past weekend, I lost quite a bit of fitness over the summer months.

Friday night I went and saw Travis Book and his band (The Infamous Stringdusters) play a killer show and the Rhythm and Roots festival in Bristol and hung out a bit after, which put me home quite late. The first day of racing was a good learning experience, and was the first time I tried to elevate my heart rate since one of the Knoxicross race in February earlier this year. I started the day dehydrated and tired. At 90 degrees I was in a water deficit for the entirety of the day.

Jammin it!


The start was gradual…for the first 30 feet and I felt good, then someone up front decided to rev the field’s collective motor and I was instantly deep in the pain locker. The CX1/2 race basically left me in the dust after about 100 yards and as I suffered and watched, I remembered these guys had been training and were always much faster than me, however at the close of last season I could usually hang with them for at least ¾ of the first lap. I figured there’s still more honor finishing the back of the 1/2 field than doing well in the CX 3’s, which I don’t think in my dismal shape I could even do now. Shaggy got me about halfway through the race in the face with a good beer spray and this combined with an already increasing feeling of nausea I was having was enough to make me throw up on the back half of the course. The laps following this were actually my best of the day I think. Stephen Basset had a great start to the CX1/2 season riding a solid performance in the upper part of the pack for a good part of the day. Alex Dayton got a flat somewhere around halfway through he race and after I passed him, we played cat and mouse the rest of the race, with me trying my hardest to maintain the gap and him closing ever so slowly until the end of the race, with me barely holding him off.

The single speed race started what felt like a slow pace as well and feeling a burst of energy I shot off the front of the field on lap one with an attack that put a good gap on the group. This lasted for about 20 seconds until they promptly reeled me in and the rest of the race I was giving everything I had to stay mid pack. There was a painful amount of climbing, for which I was over geared, and as I cranked away like Conan the Barbarian pushing a large wheel, people danced by me with more appropriate gearing. Stupid me, in my pre-riding the course I forgot that legs after an hour of hard racing just don’t push gears with the same tenacity of a fresh test lap. I somehow clawed my way back up to 4th on the day, minutes behind the top riders. I was satisfied I hadn’t given up and quit however. After the races Saturday I definitely questioned my “enjoyment of cross” and thought about hanging up the CX bikes and buying a floating fishing chair and beer instead. My skin was dry, hot, and I felt like I was getting mild heat exhaustion. I also didn’t pee until 11PM that night further confirming the level of dehydration, which I stupidly allowed myself to get into.


With Saturday’s performances I decided to pony up and double up again. If I wasn’t going to do well, I was at least going to die trying and attempt to work my way back into cross shape or at least tolerance of anaerobic fat man efforts. The CX1/2 field once again left me however this time I managed to stay with them a full 500 yards, which made me feel...less inadequate. At least at this rate in 5 years I might be able to keep up for a lap. As the race wore on I started to get my rhythm back, breathing under control, and people started dropping that tried to hang with the big boys up front. I ended up passing 2 people on the day, and even though I was way in the back still, it made me feel a lot better about the race aside from the obvious obligatory suffering.

The SS race started off faster than Saturday’s and I immediately slid into 6th position. There were some fresh legs in the group from guys who had rests between races earlier in the day, and rather than try stupid attacks on my own I followed for a majority of the race. The group eventually whittled down to Scott Smith (TVB), Mike Seek (MSG/TCRC team), Kona Guy in black (Pirate team?), and me struggling to stay on the back of those three. Kona guy, who had dominated the day before in commanding fashion, launched many attacks through the whole event spending the majority of the race on or off the front.

Kona guy and Mike took turns viciously attacking but nothing stuck, as the four of us seemed more or less evenly matched. I was suffering lots, but tried not to show it. There was lots of shoulder and bar bumping and the race was very physical from the get go. The TVB cheering section was once again wild with excitement, as Knoxville had good representation in the top of the field. On lap 1 Phil Burgess got me pretty good with a beer spray in my left ear on a slow uphill U turn, which made the cheer section sound like they were under water the following lap, and made me most of all want to quit for said beverage. However, their tenacity and volume added greatly to the excitement of the race and I decided the faster I got done the faster I would get that which I desired.

Mike Seek leads the Steep U-turn. I try to hang on in back.

While the race was only 4 laps, it seemed like an eternity and I can play all the minute highlights back in my head. This was by far one of the most exciting SS races I’ve ever had the opportunity to do. The course was dialed in at this point and some areas were beginning to get really loose on the corner drift. My slick/low profile tread tire choice on the day was beginning to look like a bad idea, but things were reasonably predictable.

On the second lap I had slotted myself in 2nd behind Kona guy with Mike and Scott both hot on my heels. Coming into a series of sharp 90 degree S turns I stupidly tagged my inside peddle and went down, slowing up Mike and Scott quite a bit. Sometimes when you’re pushed to the edge the anaerobic juices get to your head I think. Kona guy took advantage of the situation and attacked gapping us all. The three of us with Mike leading gave chase, and by the close of the second lap, we had closed the gap and were back together.

Kona Guy trying the patented Contador "I didn't know he fell" attack.

Scott and I didn’t really throw in the attacks as much as Kona guy and Mike. I think at the end of the day this may have helped us stay with them. On lap 3 I was back with Mike trailing Scott and Kona guy, who were still leading by about 20/30 feet. I saw when we came to the barriers Kona guy was a bit slower than Scoot and me and took note. After the barriers there was a series of about 5 s turns, before a long finish stretch and I knew whoever had the best position off these, would have the best chance at the end of the race if it came to a sprint to make the line first.

As we came through for the 4th and final bell lap, Kona guy and Scott put in a nasty dig that gapped Mike and myself by a good bit. At the backside of the course on the top of the 90 feet of climbing the course had, they had an appreciable 3-4 seconds on me and what looked like an uncloseable gap descending down the hillside. I had managed to get a little room between Mike and myself at this point, however this was not helping, as I was all alone with empty space in front of my noodle legs. I took a lot more risk on the final descent before a loose corner near the pits and pulled about half of it back. From here the course had one more super fast descent, a 90 degree right hander, and then began a straight drag into the barriers at high speed before dumping into the final tight S turns. As we rounded the final 90 I was just about to sit up and feel very satisfied with my 3rd placement on the day and decided to say screw it and drill whatever I had left out of my legs. I decided I could always take the bus to work come Monday if I couldn’t walk and I didn’t want to have an ounce left in my body when I was done for the weekend.

As Kona guy came into the final barriers it looked like he checked up a bit to make sure he had a clean dismount. Scott was trailing right behind him on the left. I went right and dismounted way too fast for comfort and almost closed my eyes as I dismounted and jumped for my life. I cut in sharp off the last barrier to the ensuing left hander that led into the S turns and my rear wheel grazed the front of Kona guy’s witha satisfying "brrrap!". At this point I was pegged and had nothing left. I concentrated on clean technical riding through the turns and came off the final turn right in front of Kona guy for the sprint. I put my head down and gave it all. With him breathing down my neck and gaining, it was a very close and welcomed win. I think another 30 feet and he would have had me. I was hoping to have pulled Scott with me through the barriers, but he was just right behind Kona guy at the finish I think. At the close of last season I was in much better shape. This race win was not because I was the fastest or strongest rider in the field. I had played my cards just right and caught a lucky break, which is generally rare. Often guys ride off the front at the end of a race and you don't see them again until they hand you a beer at the finish.

It definitely feels good when a race plan formulated mid race in your head comes to fruition in such a fashion. I couldn’t think of a more exciting end to a race and start the 2010 CX season. Had my attack failed, it would have been just as exciting knowing the race came down to the wire. I know there are much stronger competitors in up and coming races in addition to these guys again, so this season I will have to approach the SS classes with a little more strategy and a little less leg. TVB has a strong CX team, so I’m hoping we can work together to collectively distance the Knoxville SS scene from the rest of the field. It was a good close to a rough weekend and wake up call for my fitness. I also found the uncomfortable truth that wearing the TBRA jersey from last year’s point series makes you a target, which adds to the excitement and level of competition around you. Here’s hoping for a good competitive race season.

Thank you Shaggy!!

Friday, March 12, 2010

Spring Fog rollin' in

Well was trying to go to bed early tonight and ended up staying up and watching a chick flick. Looked outside and saw some neat fog rolling in. I was expecting aliens or a new galaxy to sprout at the park across the cove from us. Kinda neat.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Winter- A love story

I’ve decided after having a real winter for the first time in a long time, I’m in love. I love you winter and I can’t stand the 40 deg rains of spring that are coming. In fact I loathe spring. It’s the ultimate tease season where one week it’s in the mid 60’s and the next it’s 37 and raining. If it’s going to be cold I want snow and lots of it. Abby (love her right before my newly kindled love of snow and winter) and I decided to put off our Valentines Day this year until the week after. While everyone back home was getting out their T-shirts in celebration of coming spring weather, we packed up every bit of extreme cold weather gear we could, and headed to the mtns. To get one last glimpse of winter before stupid spring came to town. Our plan was to do a hike on Roan on Saturday and Ski Sunday at Beech mtn in NC. The past week was a bad week for sleep for both of us so we slept in Saturday and got a late start, but made good time.

On Saturday we headed to Roan Mtn. I used to frequent Roan in my high school days and last summer rediscovered it through a road race that went up the side of it. We went for a hike earlier this year with a respectable amount of snow on the summit, but it paled in comparison to how much snow had accumulated from the last time I was there. The snowdrifts on the road that was mostly clear of snow and ice for one lane were higher than I was tall in places. We got up to Roan in the late afternoon unfortunately so we didn’t have a whole lot of daylight to work with. (had to go to my home in Bristol to get my skis) We hiked up the snowed in road, which had about 2 feet of packed snow on it this time and veered off onto a trail a few hundred yards up. The last snows that hit the mtn must have been super wet because the amount of snow on the trees was amazing (it looked like someone had gotten in a giant pillow fight with he forest) and gave a very soothing smooth, rounded, and white ambiance to everything around it. After hiking on the trail that was less traveled for a few hundred feet we realized leaving the car without the snowshoes we brought was a mistake. We were post holing 10-15 inches just about every step as we made our way up the trails.

We headed back to the car and decided that we would instead hike up the bald side first to the first of two summits, to check out the views before the sunset. This side of Roan never has a whole lot of snow on it because of its wind exposure, but I decided this time since there was a lot I was going to do what I’ve always wanted to do on the balds…ski. We saddled up with snowshoes with my ski gear and headed for the first summit. I knew hiking up by the frozen layer of ice over exposed snow, this was not going to be a “quality” ski run but at least I would get to say yes I’ve skied Roan to my kids and grand kids one day. This reminded me a lot of backcountry skiing in CO with friends, but without the spoiled powder conditions they always seem to have. It was also incidentally the first time I had been on my alpine skis in about 3 years. I managed to skirt and traverse my way down the mtn back to the gap with 2 good feeling turns and the rest I wrestled with a frozen layer of ice over soft snow. The wind had sculpted some very nice formations around any bushes and exposed sticks no the summit as well.

After returning to the gap we still had a few minutes of daylight to work with so I gave Abby a piggy back across the pavement in her snowshoes, dropped the skis off at the car, and then mounted up with snowshoes to explore the snow we were post holing in earlier. We ventured off the trail a few times and found pretty consistent light and fluffy snow in the woods that was about 2-3 feet deep and lots of fun to pop and run around in snowshoes. I had a brief thought of getting lost when we were running headlong through the woods laughing in deep snow but realized there was no way we could get lost with first tracks 1-2ft deep in the snow. We ran around until dark, which wasn’t even that dark because of all the snow, and then high tailed it to our abode for the evening in Valle Crucis.


There are 3 foot tall guard rails under there somewhere...

We stayed Saturday night at the Taylor Inn, a small bed and breakfast and were wowed by the beautiful surrounding scenery and work that had gone into the house by a foreign couple that moved there a few years back to run the business. It was neat to stay in an old house and enjoy French cuisine cooking by the owners. While it wasn’t the cheapest thing in the valley, for the atmosphere and company it was the best deal going for the weekend and great choice of venue. (the best western without continental breakfast was more than this place) Definitely will recommend this place in the future to those who are looking for a secluded unique getaway experience, friendly company, and great food.

The tea/coffee/hot chocolate bar with homemade cake for us made the sell very easy.

Wipe your feet and your shoes go in the tray by the door.

Fresh Kisses...

And Flowers.

Sunday we headed to Beech mtn where we skied all day in near perfect conditions. The slopes had absolutely great snow (soft powder by eastern standards) and the temperature although a bit warm was pleasant all day. The lines were short as well, I don’t think we ever waited more than 10 minutes for the lift. We stopped a couple times for snack breaks but for the most part skied all day long till the lifts closed. (26 runs) Also it seems I’m getting to be an old man with old technology. I was the only person I observed with “straight skis” all day on the mtn., and they were a conversation starter on many lift rides up. Everyone’s gone to shape skis apparently and gone are the days of squashing your bananas (forwards shin positioning in the boot), pizzas (snowplow positions), and French fries (skiing parallel- hard to do with shape skis without overlapping tips). I saw some old faces from the days of Ski Patrol in High School and we shared a couple of stories. It was nice to be on the mtn again and see for a change the resort was doing well, as we’ve had some pretty bad winters these past years.

Beautiful clear day with picturesque views.

Snack Time!

And finally us in action trying to remember how to ski....

Great Valentines trip and we got lots of winter outside activity in. Here’s to 6 more (or more) weeks of winter!