Sunday, December 23, 2012


It's really rather simple to be fast on a bike.  It's like the old anecdote about carving an elephant out of a block of granite - you just chisel away everything that doesn't look like an elephant. Only, in cycling, you just don't do anything that doesn't make you faster.  While this singular-minded focus will make you fast on the bike, it comes with a large price tag.  But the addictive nature of the sport combined with my excessive-compulsive nature keeps me fighting the battle of balance on a regular basis.  Just ask my wife.  Or better yet, don't ask my wife...

You see, I've been involved in performance driven sports most of my life.  Both professionally and as "hobbies". Hard work has always paid off, but you are only as good as your last result. I've been fortunate enough to excel in this arena.  It's a shame, really, in some respects.  Because it makes it hard for me to accept that my value does not come from what I've done, but who I am.

I was created in God's image.  He sent his son to die for me.  The greatest christmas gift of all.  I just had to believe that He died and rose again.  For me.  No matter how many races I win or lose, where I work, or what I've done.  He died for me.

And for you.

No matter what you've done or who you are.

This Christmas maybe take a minute to remember that the greatest gift of all is for you.
A free gift for you.

Merry Christmas!
See you on the trails

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Shiner's Run Point to Point

The 2nd annual P2P race took place on some of my favorite trails: the IMBA Epic trails at Kerr Scott Dam.  It included Dark Mountain, OVT, Shiner's Run and Warrior Creek. With dry trails, warm sunshine and a better marked trail, my goal was to beat 3 hours for the 37 mile course.  There was no age groups for the expert class, so I would be taking on the best of the best.  

My class rolled off first.  This race being, pretty much just a kinda-long cross country race, I knew I'd have to go hard early.  So we hammered the switch back climbs up ovt that lead us to the Burn course on Dark Mountain.  I'd been riding my 26" FS bike here and I had forgotten how much a hard tail bounced around.  The loose leaves and my fast rolling tires made it a little treacherous.  I ended up trading places with another on a FS bike that would pass me on the descents, then I would re-pass on the climbs.  Eventually I would get away and roll down the final sweet dark mountain descent. 

Next was ovt and shinr's run, which really suited me and my hard tail much better.  There isn't much climbing, but it's fast, flowy, and bermed.  The hills that are there can be sprinted over.  It's really quite fun.  I could ride it all day.

Ovt ends at bandits roost campground where there is an aid station that I blow thru and head out on the open road for 3 miles of solo time trialling.  There are 2 riders up the road that I wasn't able to catch until the biggest climb of the day on the smooth, paved roads of warrior creek campground.  This was followed by a 40+ MPH descent (and an omigosh corner) that lead to a short section of trail that looked like it hadn't been ridden since this race last year. With a thick covering of leaves it was hard to discern what was trail.  I actually had a hard time getting enough grip to climb some of the short, steep hills.  By now the riders I passed on the big climb have nearly caught me again, but this section ends and it's on to old familiar warrior creek trail goodness.

It felt good to be able to go full gas again, and I hammer up some switch back climbs.  We are diverted through some campground roads, but then it's back to warrior creek business as usual.  There are mile markers set-up for each of the 12 mile loops and I'm counting them down as I'm pushing myself to try to catch other riders.  I can't help but smile as I descend the cork screw, and flew through the air on the various jumps and throw the bike into the banked corners.  I even clear the rock gardens with no issues.

After mile marker 11 goes by and I pop out of the single track, a volunteer directs me up a hill to the finish.  It's a long, hard, climb with no one to catch ahead of me.  Still, it only seemed right to finish strong.  I cross the ine at 2:50 with a bug or two in my teeth.

I would only be 7th on the day, but I put forth my best effort.  What ese could I do on such a beautiful day on such great trails in God's amazing creation?

Tomorrow it's off to try my hand at some cyclocross racing.  And my mtb?  It's going to make the transition to a rigid single speed.

See you on the trails!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

6 Hours of Moore's Springs

Ok, so doing two 6 hour races in two days may not have been the best plan, but I'm a sucker for 2-fer weekend.  I'd never been to Moore's Springs before and I had heard great things about the trail system.  Plus, the race was a fund raiser for the trails.  I couldn't resist.

I packed enough supplies to be able to race up to 7 laps, but my plan was to run a couple of laps and see how I felt.  I knew I wouldn't be able hammer after yesterday's race, but I knew I could at least run endurance pace for a while.

By the 10:00am start time it was already starting to warm up nicely.  I wasn't terribly excited about the LeMans start, so I just walked to my bike.  I did do a cyclocross mount and still managed to get ahead of quite a few folks.  I was definitely feeling the effects of yesterday's race though.  Not knowing the trails, I decided to follow some other racers around for a while.  It's not going well.  I'm not smooth, and I'm struggling to ride some of the tight switch backs and rocky sections.

I decide to ride my own pace on lap #2 and things really pick up.  The legs feel better and riding the rocks and switch backs is much better.  By lap #3 I'm starting to get really dialed in on the descents.  They are super fast with just enough turns, rocks, trees and switchbacks thrown in to keep you on your toes.

By this time my new plan was to do 5 laps, but having completed lap #3 in under 3 hours I decided to draw the line at 6 laps.  The trail is super fun and the laps go by fast.  By the time I get to lap 6, I'm pretty well fatigued.  After climbing the last, long, straight climb it was a welcome sight to see the final, fast descent to the finish.

I finished at 5:12 while running 2nd in open men, however the 3rd place racer made the cut-off time to do a 7th lap.  Which he did, overtaking me for 2nd.  Still a nice, hard fought podium finish to cap off a great weekend of racing.

I have one more MTB race this year: The Shiner's Run Point to Point race on the trails at Kerr Scott Dam.  Hard to believer the 2012 season has come and gone so rapidly.  Up next: Cyclocross!

See you on the trails!   ...though it may be on a CX bike. 

Saturday, October 13, 2012

6 Hour Grind on the Greenway

The Grind on the Greenway was the 3rd in a series of 3 races in the Turn and Burn Endurance series.  I had a good points lead in the 40+ category, so my plan was to play it conservatively.

The race start went well and I quickly slotted into 2nd place in my class.  A lot of people drilled it pretty hard from the start.  I held to my plan.  I found myself leading the 40+ class when the leader flatted.  I decided to focus on just riding my pace.

Near the end of lap 2, my front tire goes soft in the high speed double track section.  It was pretty sketchy for a while, but I hung on to ride back to the pits.  By then it was completely flat.  I had my spare bike already prepared, so a quick shout to pit support/son and I was on bike #2.

The switch from a 29'er hardtail to a 26" full suspension was pretty big.  I had been struggling with the front derailleur dropping the chain onto the small ring on the first bike.  It was nice not to have to worry about that.  The extra suspension was nice on bike #2, plus the knobbier tires were more forgiving in the sand.  However, the smaller wheels didn't rollover the bigger roots nearly as nice.

I had to work the bike more, which was probably good skills practice.  While it requires more work and concentration, it made the laps fly by.  At lap 6 I am still on my pace to do 8 laps, with about 10 minutes to spare.  At lap #7 it's clear that I can run 8 laps, but I may have enough of a lead that I don't have to.  I back up the pace just a little.  That way I have the energy to run lap #8 if I have to and if I see 2nd place catching me, then I KNOW I will have to run lap 8.

I cross the finish line at the end of lap 7 with 7 minutes to spare before the last lap cut off time.  My pit support says that 2nd place isn't going to make the cut-off time to do another lap.  So I wait patiently on the sideline ...just in case.

Finally, the final lap announcement is made.  Being first in my class to complete 7 laps, I take first place.  3 minutes later 2nd place rolls through.  A solid effort.

I got the check for the Turn and Burn series title in 40+.  Sweet.

A cool morning turned into a warm, sunny afternoon.  It felt good to race my bike, then relax with family and friends.  I am continually humbled by all the blessings I am able to enjoy.  It is truly by the grace of God.

See you on the trails!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Iron Cross X

Iron Cross
   The forecast for Iron Cross X was for cold temps and plenty of rain.  Conditions I usually excel in.  I think I actually ride faster in the rain.  I wasn't too thrilled about the 42 degree part for the start of the race, though.  It was gonna be tough to dress appropriately. The more clothes you wear, the more rain you can soak up.

   However, I woke up (before my alarm - always a good sign), looked out my Carlisle, PA hotel window to find the parking lots were dry.  Perhaps the course wouldn't be a muddy mess - at least for the start.  I loaded up the car.  No rain.  Drove to Pine Grove Furnace State Park (well, the wife drove but I didn't wanna give the wrong impression by saying that I rode to the park).  No rain.  Registration, bike prep, warm-up, pre-race meeting.  No rain.

  So we started the race (with a bit of confusion as to where and which direction the start actually was) with very overcast skys.  I actually got a call up for series overall rankings but couldn't find the front of the field to take advantage.  Turns out it didn't matter much.

   It was a mass start, so 300 riders all roll off at the same time.  I wanted to make my way to the front because I didn't want to get trapped behind a lot of slower riders thru the "death spiral" and the other traditional CX parts at the start.  I never did see a death spiral.  We did a small loop through the state park - including a sandy beach, and then onto the road and fire roads.

  There were KOM/QOM awards atop the first climb.  It must have been a pretty big deal because the lead group drilled it from the start.  I was having a hard time keeping up.  The pace never let up.  I was feeling overdressed with a long sleeve jersey, gore outer shell and knee warmers but felt that it would pay off when the rains came.  I checked my heat rate and it verified the feeling that I was pegged trying to keep up.  I decide to pedal along at my own pace until the terrain and climate suit me better.

   I typically don't get real good starts in these longer races and therefore I usually spend the day passing other riders as I work my way toward the front.  Maybe not the best strategy, but it's motivational.  So I was feeling a bit disconcerted as riders were occasionally passing me on some of the climbs on the road.  I decide to ride with a pace line.  It goes well, but it feels slower because I'm doing less work to go the same speed.  On a sharp right corner a rider goes down hard on the wet pavement.  It's all I can do to avoid running over him.  The side knobs on CX tires don't bite into cold, wet asphalt.

   The last part of the climb to the KOM is gravel road and I notice I'm pulling away from those around me.  When we hit the first rocky descent it's game on - I'm in my element.   I've got 40c knobby tires and I'm not afraid to use them.  From here we go to wigwam (I think) - a ridiculously steep run up that requires shear determination to keep putting one foot in front of the other to keep making progress.  I'm too tired to go on, but I feel like if I stop I won't be able to start again.  So I keep plodding along and actually pick up a few spots through this (literal) climb.
   At the top is a power line climb, complete with loose, big rocks that aren't easily navigated by bike or by foot.  At the end of the power line is aid station 2, where my wife is waiting for me.  It is my one planned stop.  I decide to drop my jacket.  The rain hasn't come and all the hiking and climbing is making me pretty warm.
   A chilly descent followed.  It's a blast on these gravel roads.  They are usually pretty smooth, so if you are careful to avoid the rocks and potholes you can spend quite a bit of time at 40+ mph.  Of course descending means more climbing, but the climbs aren't super steep and the miles click off rapidly.  Just before aid station 3 (or maybe it was 4?) there is fresh gravel.  The bike sinks in and it's difficult to find the traction to pedal through.  It also makes descending quite hairy.  The bike would start bouncing and bucking over the rippled  gravel and it would want to take the bike in every direction but straight.  But this section is short and it was back onto fast, smooth gravel road.
   With the miles winding down we are directed on to some single track.  It was miles of fast, flowy single track.  The only thing slowing me down is the fear of flattig on the few rocks that are on the trail.  I never realized they had this many miles of smooth single track in all of PA.  We never seem to ride on them at Trans-Sylvania...
   The trail does get more gnarly at the end.  It becomes double track.  I think every tree that has ever fallen in Michaux Forest fell across this trail.  There is endless bunny hopping of downed trees.  My arms are actually getting tired from pulling up on the bars to clear the trees.  One of them I didn't clear and I end up over the bars. 
   Then I get to the last run-up.  Well it's actually rideable with the right gear and motivation.  I didn't have quite enough of one or the other and I hike the bottom, but I hop back on to ride the last half.  It's ridiculously steep and it's all I can do to keep telling my legs to keep the cranks turning over.  It's not real technical, but it makes up for that with severe steepness.  At the top is "Larry's Tavern" and he's open for business - handing out beer to all takers.  I pass and prepare to drill the last couple of road miles to the finish.
   I learned never to let up because I got out-sprinted to the finish by a rider who I had been towing along the last road section.  Oh well, I had a good finishing time somewhere around 4:15/4:20.  Good enough for 7th in 40+.  Garth Prosser and Gerry Pflug would take the top 2 spots in my class.

   It never did rain until the 6+ hour drive (ride) back to statesville.

   My congratulations to all the finishers on this cold day.  It was a great event and I look forward to racing Iron Cross XI in 2013.

Sees you on the trail!

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Three Peaks USA

After this weeks' botched (by me) Pisgah Stage Race, and basically riding myself into the ground doing some long, hard (but fun) training days I wouldn't say I was really "ready" for Three Peaks as far as form goes.  But I was READY to be racing again.

I had a pretty tricked-out cx bike ready for the race:  A Blue Norcross set-up 1x10 with AC Aero 420 wheels and 700 x 40c Kenda Happy Medium tires.  Add a saddlebag (2 tubes and inflators) and (gasp) water bottle cages (at least they were carbon) and the bike was ready.

I didn't have that fresh, "snappy" feeling, but with the cool sunny weather I was ready to go at the start.  The plan was to hammer the short climbs, pace the long climbs and bomb the descents and technical sections.  ...that is, until mile 5.3.

The first technical section is a long rocky section that we would two times today.  Some 0f the CX bikes struggle here.  Thanks to my wide (by CX standards) tires, I manage to gain a few spots here.  At the end of this section my front tire goes flat (mile 5.3).  It's not a pinch flat, perhaps just an unlucky encounter with a pointy rock.  A few minutes and a new tube later I'm back on the bike.  The plan now is to make up the minutes and positions I lost.

I manage to gain back most of the positions I lost.  Until I get to the Emerald Outback trail system and I am directed the wrong way (along with quite a few other riders) up a climb.  We get turned around reasonably quickly and back on course.  The short detour costs me most of the positions I managed to gain back.  But it's a great day to ride and a great course.  I'm determined to finish the best I possibly can, so I hammer on.

At aid #2, mile 23, I see Thom Parsons from Cyclingdirt's car.  I prepare for the worst because I figure he is set-up to take pictures of a gnarly section of trail.  I am not disappointed.  The trail is wide, but it is loose, rocky, and steep.  In fact, many of the descents, though short, were so steep that I can't slow down for them.  I have to balance between locking up the brakes and trying to stay slow enough not to bash into the rocks willy nilly.  It's actually kinda fun.  The more of these descents I do, the more confidence I get.  Until I bottom out the rear rim on a rock I didn't see.  Instant flat.  No worries.  I have a 2nd tube.  Except this time when I unhook the rear cantilever brake I don't notice the cable housing gets unseated and it takes me extra time to figure out how to get the brake lever reconnected.  More time lost.  Still determined to get all I can.

It turns out I was almost done with this rocky section and I was on to aid #3 where my wife is waiting.  I meet her, get refueled and hammer the climb then descent that would bring me back to her on a lollipop loop 10 miles later.  I stop to pump up the rear tire.  It was a bit low and now I'm concerned that I may have a leak, or if it's just the CO2 leaking out of the latex tube.  Either way, it's more incentive to finish fast before the tire flats.

It's only about 11 (or so) miles to the finish from here.  Mostly one long gravel road climb then back into the technical, rocky section where my first flat occurred.  With no more tubes left, I don't want to flat again, but taking it easy doesn't seem like a good plan either.  I ride thru the rocks somewhere in between.  No flats.  A bit more climbing follows, then some sweet road (complete with tight switchbacks) descending followed by one short but sweet climb to the finish.  The clock ticks 4:36.  A little slower than my goal time, but good enough for 7th in class.  A very satisfying finish.

See you on the trails!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

PMBSR Stage two: Enough's Enough

Stage two started 12 miles up the road from the Black Mountain trail head at the Cradle of Forestry.  The sun was out and warming the trails by the time we rolled out at 11:00am.  Against all stage race precedence we actually started out rolling downhill.  On open road.  For several miles.  Of course it was a lollipop loop, meaning this would all be climbing back to the finish.

A shorter stage was planned today.  But a tough day, including famed Farlow Gap.  After yesterdays disaster I was looking for better things today.  My legs didn't really like the start.  The climb went OK, but I was struggling from yesterdays bike toting stage.  After the first major fire road climb, the terrain trended toward punchy rollers.  My specialty.  The legs come around.  It's going to be a good day.

Cove Creek is the first single track we get too.  I note that it's labeled on the trail marking post with a green circle indicating it's an "easy" trail.  There are no "easy" trails in a race, however.  It just means that it's "easy"-er to go fast.  So we hammer through most of it.  It's kinda muddy in sections and there are some "bridges" to cross.  A bridge in Pisgah is 2 logs (really wide ones have 3 logs) cut with a flat-ish top and a rail on one side.  Ride at your peril.  I hike.

After Cove we enter grassy over-grown gravel double track.  At the top of a hill there is an option to the right.  No markings.  I go straight.  Still no markings.  Other riders are yelling to other riders about which direction to take.  The consensus is that I missed a turn.  So I go back up the hill and take the turn and begin climbing.  Still no markings.  I do eventually meet someone walking carrying some marking tape who indicates I'm headed the right direction and to turn left onto Daniels Ridge.

When I get to the Daniels Ridge sign post there are no markings, but I head down the trail as told.  Still no markings, but the trail is a blast.  I continue on to the bottom of the trail which dumps back out onto some more grassy gravel double track.  I did not see any markings, but I head in the direction the trail seems to have pointed me.  There is a rider alongside the trail fixing a flat - an indication I'm on course.  I meet a rider with no race number coming down where I am going up.  He says I'm good, which I take as another indication I'm headed the right way.  Then I meet a rider headed towards me who isn't really sure which way is right either.  From here things get kinda fuzzy.  Every direction I attempt to go I meet someone telling me I'm headed the wrong direction. 

Finally, I make the decision to head down a single track trail.  It eventually leads me onto Cove Creek where a course marshal is standing.  He asks where I came from, which was a question I was unable to answer but told him I had already ridden Daniel's Ridge.  Apparently I pretty much had to start over and climb back up to Daniel's Ridge.  Which I was not about to do, especially since all the riders had already gone thru this checkpoint.  I had worked too hard to start all over, at the back, with the very real possibility that I'd make more wrong turns.  I had enough.  This was no longer fun.  I rode back the way I came in on Cove Creek.

It was a beautiful day for a ride.  As I rode back to the finish, I wished it had been under better circumstances.

Later that evening I decided to pull the plug on the race.  I was no longer eligible for any kind of GC award, and it was going to be pretty hard to get motivated to hammer getting beat up day after day on Pisgah's rugged trails.  And if I was just going to ride around, I may as well do that at home.  The wife's vacation had been cancelled at the last minute and she was unable to come to the race.  Staying up here to ride around seemed a bit selfish, so I headed for home.  There will be more races.

Best wishes to all the racers, promoters, and sponsors!

See you on the trails!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

2012 Pisgah MTB Stage Race - Stage One

Sam Koerber (MIA), Jeremy Bishop, and Wes who???
Rain.  Hiking.  Lots of rain lots of hiking.

There was lots of rain overnight, and it didn't change much during the day.  Stage one rolled off in the rain.  Except for getting water in my eyes, the clawhammer climb went well.  I stayed with the lead group.  I don't really mind racing in the rain when it's fire/gravel road or single track that still has some grip. 

So at at the mile 7 aid station things were looking pretty good.  But soon we headed into single track.  From here on, all of the single track and much of of the fire roads would be literally riding (or trying to avoid riding) in a flowing stream of water.  I was doing OK, powering through the stream, but when we got to squirrel gap's "1/2 track" things got pretty sketchy.  I really do not do narrow, side of the mountain slick trail well.  In one sharp corner I actually slowed too much and the rock I thought I was going to roll over stopped me abruptly and I just fell off the trail.  ...onto more rocks.  I heard the unmistakable crack of carbon fiber.  I thought my bike was killed,  Turns out it was only a water bottle cage.  This is where Morgan Olsson passed me.  Later, 2 more would get by me.

Eventually I managed to get through this section and to the mile 22 aid station.  I refueled, got a chain lube (Thanks volunteers!) and headed up the fire road climb.  I was pretty recovered because of how slowly I had been riding and managed to pass back 2 of the riders that had passed me on squirrel.  It was only 10 miles to the next aid station and I was hoping it was all fire road so I could make up more time.  But, about 7 miles later we turn onto more single track.  This section is much more rideable for me though.  It's actually kinda fun.  I can push the pace without fear of running off the side of the mountain.  I think it was this section where we had to cross a stream (river?) that was pretty deep and flowing kinda fast.  I actually had to lift my bike out of the water to keep it from washing away from me.  There were quite a few stream crossings today, but being soaked from the start it didn't really phase anyone.

By now things have begun to take a toll on my bike.  The brakes are constantly grinding, my water bottle is barely hanging on and my saddle bag straps are tearing off and it's swinging like a pendulum.

I blow through the mile 32 aid station knowing there is only 7 miles left, including the fabled descent down Black Mountain to the finish.  I forgot how much hiking there was to get to the descent.  Immediately after the aid station I'm off the bike hiking.  Then on a little, but mostly off.  Lots of hiking.  And then the descent starts.  The top is the most technical, and I play it a bit conservative because it's really quite slick.  I hear a thud as my saddle bag straps finally give up.  I decide to stop and pick it up.  So now it's a jersey pocket bag.  A begin downhill again - but only a few hundred yards before I hear a metallic clunk and I slide to a halt.  The rear wheel is locked up.  Well, it will spin backwards, but not forward - which is the direction I want to travel.  Surprisingly, shaking it, kicking it and calling it names does not solve the problem.  But carrying it does.

So I hike.  And hike,  And hike.  It's like 30 minutes before anyone passes me.  I think lots of other riders had issues too.  There is no comfortable way to carry a MTB that far.  Every now and then I drop it, or get stuck in some brush.  Finally I reach the bottom of the steepest part of the descent and lo and behold the rear wheel spins.  So I hop back on for the last 1/2 mile.  Absolutely no rear brakes, but I didn;t really need them much at this point.  I cross the finish line in the rain at about 5:15.  A full hour slower than last year.

I did end up 3rd in my 40+ class, but probably a lot of minutes out of GC. 

And my bike?  Turns out I had only 3 brake pads left.  One of the front ones is worn into the backing plate and the remaining rear "pad" is almost completely worn thru the backing plate.  The other one must've gotten wedged into the rotoe causing it to lock-up.  Eventually it fell out and that's why I was able to ride the last 1/2 mile or so.

Later I replaced all the pads, the rear rotor, the saddle bag, the bottle cage, readjusted my bent rear derailleur, and my front brake lever that was "adjusted" by a tree on a Squirrel.

Tomorrow we roll out of the "Cradle of Forestry" at 11:00am.  Most likely to drier weather.  Hopefully to less carnage.

Oh, and congrats to kinda-local-to-Charlotte racer Wes Richards for a fine performance.  The Pro class was combined with the open men class and Wes put down a smoking time to come in right behind the 2 pros!!!

See you on the trails!
My remaining brake pads after stage one

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Fool's Gold 100

The final race of the NUE series rolled out of Montaluce Winery in Dahlonega, GA amid overcast skies.  I was really looking forward to this race after Wilderness 101's DNS and Shenandoah's DNF.  I was pretty determined to finish.

I wasn't really feeling the extra "snap" indicative of being fresh and ready to hammer.  In fact I was feeling a bit sluggish trying to keep up with the neutral roll out.  But I thought this course would suit me, and, like I said - I was determined to finish.

I had decided to run my own pace up the early big climb and see where I stacked up.  I dropped out of the lead group early, but pretty soon I was catching people that were getting dropped form the lead group.  It wasn't long before I was in front of all the pro women so I felt my pace was pretty good.

I carried enough stuff to blow through aid station #1 at mile 18 at the top of the climb.  Next came the super fast gravel road descent.  After seeing a few cars on the course I decided to play it a little conservative so that I wouldn't end up a hood ornament on one of the local's pick-up trucks.  About the time we turn off the descent I start to feel the rear tire going soft.  Actually making the super sharp right hander onto the single track prooved to be problematic - I slid the front tire and went down.

It didn't take long to realize there was a problem.  The rear went from a "squirmy" feeling to bouncing off the rim.  Not good, but no "hiss" of air leaking so I keep my weight forward and try to reach Aid #2 at mile 27.  Unsuccessful.  The tire is quite flat now and I seriously considered just banging off the rim to the aid station.  But, I was here to finish, so I stopped and gave it a shot of CO2.  This got me to aid station #2.  I picked up an extra CO2 cartridge hoping I wouldn't need it.

The 2nd biggest climb of the race followed a loop (Bull Mountain Loop) that would bring us back to the same aid station.  It was primarily a fire road climb, but some pretty fast and fun descending on single track.  I was looking forward to doing it again on Lap #2.  When I reached aid #3 I had Anthony check the air in the rear tire: 15psi.  So I had him fill it to 35psi in hopes it would be enough air to keep from faltting again. 

Some more gravel and more sweet single track followed to aid #4.  I stopped for my drop bag here.  I refueled and prepared for the 23 miles back to aid #5 which is the same as #2 and #3 from the previous lap.  The course was redesigned for 2012.  We skip the biggest climb from early in the race but we did 3 shorter, steeper climbs.  My rear tire has so much air in it now I'm getting pretty beat up on my hardtail, but it sure beats fixing a flat alongside the trail.

When I get to aid #5 I'm greeted by ambulances and paramedics.  Apparently someone has crashed in between #5 and #6.  I have no idea who it is, but I hope all turns out well.  The climb up Bull Mountain goes well - there is one short section I hiked both times.  And there is a Gator (John Deere type, not alligor) stuck beside the trail.  It starts to rain on the descent.  What was a slightly slick trail becomes a bit more challenging.  About 2 miles from aid #6 someone warns me to slow down.  I do, and pass by the injured rider and a cast of others who have stopped to lend a hand.  About a mile later I meet paramedics carrying a stretcher up the trail.  Again, I hope that all ends well for the injured rider.

By the time I get to aid #6 it is quite wet, but barely raining.  Anthony checks my air again: 30psi.  We deem it good to go to the finish.  This would be my last planned stop.

The trail to aid #7 is very slick.  I'm not used to riding the red mud they have here.  Sometimes it's soft enough to get some bite and sometimes the tires slide right over it.  Much of the single track is downhill and pretty flow-y.  I tried to keep the pace high, but I keep sliding and seeing where others have slid off the trail.  I play it a bit conservative, but no one is catching me and I keep catching racer's from the 50-mile class.

I bypass aid #7 as planned.  By now the sun is out and the trails are a bit drier and easier to navigate.  It's 10 miles to the finish from here and I've got a little more energy left than usual at the end of one these races because of all the soft pedaling on the slippery parts.

After a few more miles of single track we enter gravel road, then paved.  Almost home.  I thought.  However it's like 5 or 6 miles of smooth, undulating, paved road back to the Winery and the finish.  It's funny how I can pace myself up 10 miles of gravel road at the beginning of the race, but this smooth road is wearing me out.  I pass about 10 more 50-milers on the open road before making the right turn into the Winery.  The newly cut grass route is actually quite slick and a lot harder to roll on then the road I was just on.  But it's a short section and pretty soon the Kenda arch looms ahead.  I struggle up the final grassy climb and come in somewhere around 8:03.

I thank God for the successful race and hope that in some way my efforts can glorify Him.

My 2012 MTB season is quickly coming to an end.  Of course, Pisgah MTB stage race is coming up and perhaps the Dark Mountain Point to Point race.  After that - Cyclocross season.

See you on the trails!

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Shenandoah 100

I knew going in that Shenandoah 100 was going to be a motivation test.  My ribs were still sore from last weekend, plus rain was forecasted for race day plus Shenandoah has a bit of hike-a-bike, a lot of pace-lining on the road and lots of off camber trail.  Still, it's one of the 4 NUE races that I can drive to, so I wanted to go.

The race starts at 6:30 - first light.  I got a good start and worked pretty hard early.  I wanted to get as many miles in before the rain started.  It's all road and fire road to the first aid station at 11 miles in.  I lined up with the 8-hour group for the start, but I'm passing an awful lot of people.

After aid station #1 we get to some single track.  It's not raining yet, but the rocks are still wet making the going a bit treacherous.  I'm doing Ok, though, having to hike some sections.  I passed eventual female winner Sue Haywood on the road.  She passes me back on the rocky climb/hike-a-bike section.  She's pretty smooth over the rocks.  I get the edge on her on the rocky descent and pass her back.  ...only to be passes back on the next rocky climb.  Oh well.  The last big single track descent is gnarly rocky.  I haven't had much luck fixing flats in the past, so I'm descending with a little bit of caution.  I thought I was doing pretty well because I passed several racers, but then I got passed.  ...and passed again.   ...and a third time.  I stick with my plan.  Which works out well.  Two of the racers that passed me ended up alongside fixing flats (including one Sue Haywood).  The third racer that passed in the super fun roller coaster section ended up crashing near the end and I passed him back too.

Just before aid station #2 at mile 31 it starts to rain.  The forecast was 50%-60% chance of rain.  I think it ended raining on 50-60% of my race as predicted.  I was surprised to have caught Morgan Olsson at the aid station.  He has a pretty good history of top finishes in these endurance races.  So I ride with Morgan for a while through the double track or grassy single track.  In the rain.  Lots of rain.  Lots and lots of rain.  Sometimes I think I have the upper hand on Morgan, but I can't really get ahead of him.  So, we ride together some more.

When we get single track, though, I can't quite match Morgan's pace.  We do some FAST very narrow single track descending on the side of the mountain.  I'm flying ...until I get just a touch off line and wipe out in a big way.  I didn't hit anything, but it got my attention!  The first soggy rock section we get to I notice my seat is moving around a bit.  I knew if I didn't fix I'd end up seat-less, so I bit the bullet and pulled off the trail and tried to tighten the seat bolts.  I couldn't really get to the front bolt with my multi-tool, so I just tightened the rear bolt as best as I could go.  Now the seat is (mostly) tight, but pointed a bit skyward.

After having stopped (and getting passed) I guess I was all out of sync with the trail because I was really strggling to ride the soggy rocky climb.  I get frustrated and hike a bit.  Sue Haywood catches me and asks how I'm doing.  I said "kind of awful".  She asks if I need anything then says "There is a sweet descent ahead."  Believe me I was ready for some descending.  I thought.  Watching Sue roll smoothly along reminded me to just relax, pedal with my legs, work the bike and ride my pace.  I feel like I'm going slow, but I'm much smoother now.  Back in rhythm.

Until the descent.  Normally I could really bomb the descent and make up time, but I keep getting caught out.  The rain has slowed, but the trail is still soggy.  I slide off the trail another couple of times.  One time I had to drag my bike 15 feet back up the hill onto the trail.  Stupid side-of-the-mountain trails.  Plus now my seat has started to move around again.  When we finally get to some more open trail I feel like I need to make up time.  I decide to ride hammer down and fix the seat at the next aid station.  And then it falls off.  It was a wide open section of trail so I stop and take the time to level it up and snug it up.

When I get to aid station 4 at 57 miles I have the aid station volunteer put a wrench on the seat bolt that my multi-tool doesn't reach well.  I instruct him to tighten the heck out of it.  He does.  So now I'm ready to roll again - thinking all of my seat problems are behind me.

The 12 miles from aid #4 to #5 at 75 miles are all fire road.  Mostly very uphill.  It starts out as a gradual climb that gets steeper as you go.  Perfect for me.  And then the mile 66 "snap".  The carbon seat clamp bracket snaps in two.  So I ride sans saddle all the way to aid #5.  Occasionally I have to stop to readlust the saddle bag which now has no good attaching point.  The climbing is OK, but tiresome since I can't ever take a break.  The little bit of descending is nice, but I can't make up any time.  By now I've decided I'm going to DNF at the aid station.  You lose a lot of control without the saddle and with my record of crashes so far today I feel it would be the prudent thing to do rather than get impaled for what would now be a mediocre finish.

I figured there would be an easy way back to the campground from aid station #5.  I was wrong.  It turns out my choices were to continue on the 20 miles to the finish (Shenandoah comes in under 100 miles - more like 95 miles) or to ride 20 miles back to the campground.  Images of having to hike single track climbs (and possibly some descents) and of course, the whole impaling thing make my decision the all fire-road/road-road "mostly" downhill 20 mile route.  So I head back down the way I just spent so much effort climbing up.  Almost all the way back to aid #4, onto another fire road then a road-road.  I stop at aid station #6 (from the wrong direction) and pick up my drop bag for the remainder of the journey.  Four miles later I cross the iconic iron bridge and make the right turn up the final climb of the day - the entrance to Stokesville Campground.

Almost without notice I find my car.  No cheers.  No pictures.  No finishers mug.  But my cooler is waiting for me in the car.  I begin the rehydrating, change clothes and head to the finish to find my wife who is still expecting me to roll through at any time.  As I do, I see Morgan Olsson cross the inflatable Kenda finish arch and pause for an interview with the announcer.  Shortly afterward Sue Haywood also finishes and gives her victory interview.  The official time clock reads about 8:33.  I briefly wonder what might have been.

But I'm in one piece.  The ribs held up.  My form seemed good.   ...and next week is another NUE race.  The season-ending Fools Gold 100.

Congratulations to Jeremiah and Sue on their overall men's and women's and victories!

See you on the trails!

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Race day too

Race two of the weekend was the Maxxis Southern Classic Series finale on the awesome trails of Dark Mountain.  I had missed too many races to be in any kind of points competition.  Which was a good thing, because I was still pretty used-up from Saturday's 55-mile race.

The Cat 1 races started at 12:30.  Good for me, because it gave me the opportunity to sleep in and recover a bit.  When we did roll off, I felt pretty awful.  I had done a 30 minute warm-up, but I was struggling to put out the power I needed to on the climbs to keep up with the lead group.  So I didn't.  I seriously considered pulling the plug and just quitting if I ever got to the end of the first lap.  But I was enjoying being on a bike that wasn't all screwed up from crashing.  The full suspension was a welcome change on the descents and roots as well.  So I kept going.

Lap two was better.  I ditched the sunglasses I had forgotten to take off before the race start, making it easier to read the trail.  And then I started catching people.  I'm not sure if I started to feel better because I was catching people, or if feeling better was making it possible for me to catch people.  No matter.  It was the carrot I needed to keep pushing.

Dark Mountain is the kind of rugged trail that rewards aggressive riding.  You don't really have to be smooth.  You can straight line the rooty sections and power over them, you can bomb the descents and sprint the next climb and you can dive deep into the switch backs before grabbing the brakes and pumping off the berms.  The entire trail is really quite fun.

So lap 2 went well, on lap 3 I passed a few more riders (mostly from the younger classes) and just before the final descent I catch Jim Shelton, who is in my class but racing a single speed.  I couldn't pass him on the descent, but when we got to the flat gravel road leading to the finish line, we both knew it would be game on.  I didn't want to pass too soon, and get passed back.  It turned out that wasn't an issue; I was struggling to stay on his wheel.  We round the final left hander and almost hooked wheels.  I had to back off a touch and we were both in full hammer mode to the finish.  There was no definitive finish line, but the scoring tent was in front of a right hander.  I managed to nose ahead of Jim a bit, but we both went wide on the corner and almost ended up in the scorer's lap.  In the end, I was scored in 5th, 1 spot ahead of Jim who put in a heck of an effort on his one gear.

It was good to know that I could still sprint at the end of the day.  Especially after how slow I felt at the start of the race.  I'm looking forward to Shenandoah this coming weekend.  Hopefully, all of the miles I have been putting in will pay off in the 100 mile race on Sunday.

Thank you to all who cheer us racers on!
Thanks to all the promoters who put together these amazing races and race series!
And a special thanks to Cycle Works in Mt. Airy, NC for putting my bikes back together after I bend and break them!!!

See you on the trails!

Congrats: Morgan Olson, Eric Marland and Jim Shelton.  40+ Champs!

Saturday, August 25, 2012

River's Edge MTB Marathon

Today was the second race of the Turn and Burn Series.  Instead of a timed race, Rivers Edge is a 5 lap, 55 mile marathon.  The trails have been reworked since last year's race and it is now very fast and flow-y.

We started on the main gravel road leading through Uwharrie.  I got a pretty good start.  Shortly after we funneled into the singletrack, someone dropped a chain.  The rider in front of me stopped abruptly and I was forced off my bike.  So I got to practice my cyclocross remounts a little early this year.

While I was working through the pack, the racer directly in front hooks his handle bar and goes down right in front of me.  I manage to catch the lead group and take my place in line.  When we get to the fast, smooth, sweeping corners of the Super Tree trail, another racer gets crossed up and goes down hard.

When we enter the single track to start lap 2 I find myself 3rd in line.  Morgan is on the front pushing the pace a bit on the climbs, but descending at a more reasonable pace.  And then, for no apparent reason, about 1/2 way through Keyauwe trail, I unexpectantly clip a small tree with the handlebars and go down hard.  I heard my helmet hit the ground hard and I had to fix the retention system to get it to sit on my head right.  There was no easy fix for the rear derailleur though.  The chain would make noise, occasionally drop and I was limited to about 4 gears that wouldn't skip teeth when I pedaled.  It was going to be a long race.

I struggled on with a few other scrapes and bruises.  The limited gear selection is not so bad on the fast parts of the trail, but I am way over geared for the climbs.  On lap 3 I launched my chain into the spokes ...twice.  And had to stop and wrestle it back out before I could continue.  By lap 4 I'm learning which gears I can use, and only have to stop 1 time to pull the chain out of the wheel.  So far no one has passed me though, so I keep hammering away.

Lap 5 I shift quite cautiously and never drop the chain.  Riding the climbs with the bigger gearing is causing me to be right on the edge of cramping.  There doesn't seem to be anyone closing in on me, though so I resolve to ride smoothly, and not risk losing any big chunks of time.  About 1/2 way through the lap I start to feel the rear tire getting a little soft.  Every now and then I bounce off the rim.  I look down at the tire, and it looks OK.  I'm determined to finish the final lap now.

I cross the finish with no one in sight in front of me, or behind me at a time of 4:24.  Good enough for 2nd in class and 4th overall.  I'm pretty beat up, my bike is pretty beat up, but I finished on the podium which was my goal.  Tomorrow I race an SCS race at Dark Mountain.  Fortunately I had already planned to race a different bike.

No wonder I had shifting issues

A cut sidewall was the reason for losing air late in the race

Me and Rick Pyle representing Cycle Works of Mt. Airy, NC in the 40+ class

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The big loop

This weekend I had the opportunity to ride on the roads I that I rode on as a kid.
On Saturday I rode a very well supported metric century with my uncle.  Together with thousands of others riders, we rolled along the scenic back roads of Lancaster county - through covered bridges, by Amish farms and rolling pastures.   It was a joy to ride with someone who shares my love of riding.
For Sunday I plotted a route that would hit all the highlights in the area.  I climbed the biggest hills in the neighborhood.  Hills that seemed almost insurmountable as a youth.  I rode to the neighborhood where I lived until I was 11.  I past that church my family used to walk to every Sunday.  I rode on the roads where us neighborhood kids would ride to go fishing or to go to the store to buy ice cream.  I rode by the bike store where I got my first (used) 10-speed.  The original 2 rings and 5 cogs 10 -speed, that is.  I rode by the house where I grew up daring to dream of some day being able to make a living in auto racing, and of being good on a bike - whatever that meant.
I rode by the first place I ever got knocked unconscious on a bike.  And the second..

I rode the routes I used to drive as a teenager.  Everything seemed so much closer together now.  I rode by the farm where my Dad grew up.  I rode by developments where lush farmland used to be.  I passed many new businesses, and many of the old ones, occasionally passing a horse and buggy or Amish "scooter".  

It was a great weekend on the bike.

The kid is now grown, but the dream's alive!

 See you at River's Edge on Saturday and Dark Mountain on Sunday!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012


After a week of road racing, it was a refreshing change to get back on the MTB.  I did this race last year as a CAT 2 and had a lack-luster mid pack finish.  I was kind of anticipating a thorough thrashing as a CAT 1 this year.  Last year, however, the trails were really slick.  This year the trail was quite a bit faster and, while I'm not in top cross country distance form, my endurance form is pretty good right now as I am preparing for two 100 mile races and a stage race in September.

The long grass climb is the hardest part of the lap for me.  It's not steep or technical.  It's just a grass hill.  The grass is kinda long and the surface is a bit rough and the incline is not quite steep enough to warrant pedaling out of the saddle.  It's just a long grind up a hill.  It feels like you are not going anywhere.

The course is pretty short.  The Cat 1's do 4 laps.  I was really hoping I wouldn't get lapped...

The start was (of course) at the bottom of the grassy hill climb.  The start area was wide enough for everybody who wanted a front row spot to start up front.  I didn't, but I did anyway.  When we started the inevitable happened.  Everyone sprints off the line leaving me to dangle alone off the back.  It seemed kinda silly to go so hard up the hill just to gently easy through the super wide downhill grassy section before the single track.

When we got to the single track section the pack stayed pretty close together.  I was pleasantly surpised that I was able to maintain contact with the lead group.  The pace was uncomfortably fast and the pack started to string out a bit.  When we got to the first part of the greenway section I took off.  It maybe wasn't the best place for an attack but it's usually a good idea to go fast in the fast sections.  After the greenway was some slick off camber trail that kind of reminded me of cyclocross.  If I didn't hit the brakes anywhere I could roll through it pretty fast.  It was really pretty fun and I think this was one of the better parts of the course for me.

There was one short, steep, slick climb near the finish.  I rode it every time, but not without spinning the rear a bit.  I could see where several others had to run it.  I caught a glimpse of my teammate and eventual 3rd place finisher, Rick Pyle, at the top of the climb on lap 1.  It looked like he had struggled a bit with it.  I lost sight of him after we went thru the start/finish, up the dreaded grassy hill and into the single track again.

The next couple of laps I caught several riders from various classes.  I learned the trail a little better each lap.  By the time the 4th lap rolled around I realized I had been letting myself gradually ease off the pace so I pushed myself hard on the last lap to try to catch 3rd.  And I did.  About 20 seconds after he crossed the finish line.

Still, a good day for me.  No mechanical issues, no crashes.  A pretty sweet trail.  These shorter races are hard for me to do well in.  There are so many super fast 40+ CAT 1 racers, you really have to be on top form to be competitive.  It gave me something to reflect upon on my 53 mile pedal back to the house...

See you on the trails!
...or on your way to the trails.  Putting in some big miles this week, so lots of road riding too.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Wilderness 101

What if I could've gone harder?
What if I could've dug deeper?
What did I leave out on the trail?

These are all questions that went unasked early on Saturday morning as the Wilderness 101 MTB race became Reality 101 somewhere on the road to Mount Nittany Hospital while I followed an ambulance that contained, my pit support, my friend, my son.
Focus and intensity.
It's how an ordinary racer like me occasionally achieves extraordinary results.

It becomes quite easy to focus when only one thing in your life seems important.

The drop bags I had just put in the bins for aid station #2 and #4 didn't matter.
The elevation profile of the race I had taped to my top tube didn't matter.
The two iced-down water bottles I put on the bike filled with water and heed didn't matter.
The nutrition and supplements I filled my jersey with didn't matter.
My choice of tires and air pressure didn't matter.

After hours of some pretty serious concern on my part; prayers by me, friends and family, and a battery of tests and countless hospital staff's questions answered on my sons part, he was released from the hospital with no immediate danger but with some questions left unanswered.

No matter what happened on that day, some things remained unchanged:
I will trust in Him
I will live for His glory
It's what I was made for

I was made in His image
I will race for His glory

My God can do great things
With my God, I can do great things

...and so can you.
You can do great things
You were made in His image.
See you on the trails!
...but not this week.  I'm gonna mix it up with the roadies this week.

Sunday, July 22, 2012


I didn't think I was going to be able to race ORAMM this year, so I missed out on getting an entry.  Once again I had to wait for someone willing to sell and transfer their entry.  I'm glad I got in for my 2nd year.  Last year I didn't fully realize how big of a deal ORAMM is.  The entry limit is capped at 500 and it's a goal event for an awful lot of riders - from those just starting out in endurance racing to professional MTB racers.

I wasn't sure how the legs would respond after yesterday's race.  I started somewhere near the middle of the 500 riders.  When the gun went off (early) for the 8:00am start I started passing riders at every opportunity.  I decided to keep an eye on the power meter and ride a little above threshold and see where I ended up going into the first single track section: Kitsuma.  For 7 miles I kept a steady pace and constantly passed people.  I wonder if the same people that are kind enough to let me by on the climb up old 70 are the same people that have to push their way to the front for the start?

I was far enough toward the pointy end of the field to be able to ride Kitsuma without having to wait on hike-a-bikers.  I did notice that yesterday I had taken a wrong turn onto a short walking trail.  I managed to avoid that mistake this time.  The bike trail was much more ride-able and I avoided yesterdays endo site.

I knew I would be missing a bit of yesterdays power, so my goal was to be smooth today.  I reminded myself of this while doing the Kitsuma and Jarrett Creek descents.  I didn't blow through any switchbacks today.

I only have one water bottle cage on my 26" bike, so it would be important to hit all the aid stations.  I had the help of #1 son at aid station 1,2 and 5.  I had drop bags at 3,4.  Aid station #3 was at the top of Curtis Creek.  Curtis Creek is a very long climb, and the miles slowly tick by.  It would be easy to go too hard early, or get impatient part-way thru the climb and get completely cooked before the top.  Again, I watch my power meter and try to ride a pace that is hard, but maintainable to the top.  It seems like half of the race is spent on this (and the next) climb.  But I reach the top feeling pretty good.  After a brief panic by the volunteers to find my drop bag, I reload and carry on down the Black Mountain fire road descent. 

The descent goes well, though I nearly hit an oncoming vehicle (Sorry, blue Element driver!) and it was a bit too short to be recovered for the Black Mountain climb to aid station 4.  I follow the same climbing protocol as Curtis Creek.  Watch the power and stay focused.  The stop at aid #4 goes well, but there is a bit more climbing up the Blue Ridge Parkway than what I remembered from last year.  Knowing that there is only one more big climb after this one, and two more sweet descents keeps me motivated to press on at that "uncomfortably difficult pace" that is endurance racing.

The hike-a-bike section from the Parkway up Heartbreak ridge is a bit of a struggle, but soon I'm back on my bike and headed down Heartbreak.  Last year's ORAMM was the first time I had seen this descent.  It really helped having seen it before for this year.  I stayed smooth, but the Rhododendron were way overgrown making it a somewhat stressful (but successful) descent.

Heartbreak is a looong descent.  It seems like I have just left aid station 4 when I pop out onto the road at aid station #5.  Number 1 son hooks me up, and I begin the climb up Mill Creek.  The first part of the climb is large, loose gravel, and for the first time I feel at a big disadvantage on 26" wheels.  But this section is short, and it's much more well-packed gravel the rest of the way back to Old 70.

I hit the Kitsuma trail with another rider, which is good because I probably would have try to go too hard up the steep, switchback climbs.  The climb goes well, and we hammer down the descent.  I feel pretty good on the descent.  But it's easy to feel that way when descending.

When we complete the descent (I actually passed a few people here) and pop onto the road I notice the fatigue had really started to set in.  I struggled to ride endurance pace.  The legs started to come back around and I pace-lined back toward Old Fort with another racer.

When we get to the final railroad crossing, just minutes from the finish, there are 4 other racers waiting for a train to pass by.  They had already been waiting 3 minutes by the time we got there.  Two or 3 minutes later the train finally passes and we hammer into town.  It didn't seem fair to attack the riders that had been waiting longer, and the legs were just fine with that decision.  I rolled in at 5:41.  19 minutes faster than my goal, 28 minutes faster than last year ...and exactly what my coach predicted.

It had been a great day, and a great weekend of racing.  It was nice not to have any issues and to have great weather and great pit support and to see so many of my racing friends.

I am very blessed.

See you on the trails!