Thursday, July 31, 2014

Thursday Night Liberty Ride

I want to take a moment to try to define the undefinable. 

 People ask me periodically about this ride: is it fast? Do we regroup? Are there sprints?  etc.   I try to talk about pace,  what the avg is etc,  but there are so many answers that should start with, "It depends".

It depends on who shows up, the weather, how many show up, if there was  a Ring Of Fire the night before, if there is a race coming up.  So many possibilities.

The ride has been compared to Tuesday Night Worlds,  both on the river and in Etowah.  While those are great rides, and have purpose,  this ride is different.  This is a fast paced spirited ride, and one will have a difficult time trying to control it.

Here are some general guidelines on what to expect, join us only if you intend to have fun while being challenged.

The Group:
Lots of really strong folks, guys and girls show up for this ride.  I have made a lot of good friends, people who really care about others, and who want to see cycling progress as a sport.  It is a mix of pro level racers, to amateur racers, to some who don't race road at all.    The one commonality that I have seen from the group, is that we are not there to intentionally drop anyone and there is a thread of caring, where we watch out for others on the ride.  To the point of occasionally easing the pace, if someone is lagging.  Especially if that person is someone who regularly contributes to the group.  We want to go fast, to get stronger, to learn how to handle the bike better.

General Guidelines:
No Drop Ride:
This ride has been billed as a "No Drop Ride".  Sometimes people do get dropped.  Sometimes people sign on to the fast group, when they don't have the fitness to be in that group.  Its a bit of a common sense thing.  I feel like anyone has the right to ride, but if you don't have the fitness, then don't expect the entire group to wait on you.  The A group will wait,  just not for long,  which is fine with me.  If I get dropped and they don't wait, well I'll try again next week.  The B group will wait longer.  So if you get there and the A group is gone,  wait for the B group!

Believe it or not,  there are no "Sprint Zones".  Yes, there are several places where the pace typically, but not always, picks up.  There are also  places where people give it a go and try to go off the front, or sprint.  Most of the time, but not all of the time,  the rest of the group follows.  But,  every once in a while,  no one sprints, the pace stays steady and everyone chats away,  quietly wondering if someone is going to go, but hoping they won't.   And then there are the random place where someone will go for the surprise attack,   just some random place on the route.  Just to keep it interesting. This is a much more organic, grassroots feel than a lot of rides.  ( not better, just different).

Don't Be A Jerk:
This one is self explanatory.  Respect the other rides, take a turn or two at the front.  Don't suck wheels and then try to take the sprint.  These methods won't garner any respect.  Point out potholes or obstacles.  Obey traffic laws, ( we can all improve here).  Take a turn or two at the front,  unless you don't have what it takes, but then don't try to take the sprint..... 

What To Expect (ie. look forward to) or not expect:

Expect to get worked.  Expect to fell like you are going to explode, to hang on for dear life.  Expect to take a pull at the front now and then.  Expect the unexpected.  Expect friendly people, quiet people, people who care.  Expect to go fast and be ok with getting dropped.  Don't expect to be coddled.  Don't expect for the group to wait if you don't have the overall fitness to keep up. (in that case,  expect the B group to scoop you up).

And this just scratches the surface of what really happens on the ride.   The thing is,  last year,   I struggled with the group.  I wanted to see an organized, rotating paceline type of group that catered to the fast and the less fast.  I wanted to see everyone working together, as  a well oiled machine,  everyone taking equal pulls.  Going fast enough that the slowest could keep up, but slow enough that the fastest still got a workout.  And I got burned out.

This year, I stopped trying to control, trying to put what I wanted on the group.  What I realized is that what we have is a well oiled machine,  out there being what it is, and doing what it does.  Week after week, we go out,  get faster,  challenge each other.  Once I let go of my ideals,  I started having a lot of fun...... undefinable fun.

See you on Thursday!

Monday, July 28, 2014

ORAMM: The Beast is Conquered

 The 15th annual ORAMM is in the books and I'm an official finisher.  It was a tough day in and out of the saddle, but with the help and encouragement from my family team and friends,  I was able to pull through and finish!

The day started out with the high forecast to be around 95 in Old Fort.  I had managed a rest stop the previous day at the Jerdon Mtn Challenge, and was organizing rest stop 2 today.  I had recruited an awesome group of folks to cover for me and I was excited to line up with 499 other racers.

After dropping the trailer with the 150 gallon water bladder off at rest stop 2, I rode the 3.5 miles back to the start line and waited for the start.  After Todd finished with the "race talk" and rules, the gun went off, and we rolled out.

I was in the front and thanks to a couple of pushes from Jason Luque, I was able to hang in until the first climb.   My goal today was to finish,  if I could finish fast, that would be icing on the cake.  The group rolled the pavement and headed up the Point Lookout Trail.  I got into my rhythm,  chatting with old friends about our personal goals.

Surprisingly,  when I got to Kitsuma the trail was not clogged, and most people were riding.  Those who bobbled and dabbed were kind enough to jump out of the way of people still riding.  I was able to ride the entire way.

Thanks to the Luque Crew from FLA USA for the heckle section about halfway up.  They were making a ruckus in the woods that I have not heard since several years ago at the stage race.  If you don't race, you should heckle....period.

I ate some chews and made sure I was drinking enough.  I had started a little on the hungry side, but knew that once my nerves calmed, I would be able to eat a sandwich and get the system on track.

Snaking up and down on Kitsuma, some loud dude got behind me, yelling for people to get out of the way.  Thinking he was joking, I joined in for a few minutes.  When I realized he was serious, I told him he should chill out and enjoy the ride.  He squeezed by me and the guy in front of me, only to get stuck behind the line of 20 in front of us.  If you know Kitsuma, you know towards the end there is an alternate little trail that drops on the right and then shoots back up into the trail.  I hit that right and dropped in,  I let go of the brakes and shot back up the other side giving me the speed to pass the 2 people in front of me, including loud dude.  But, I didn't.  I checked up and resumed my place in line.  It was a fun move though. 

I had been watching my pace and while a hair higher than desired, I wasn't red lining, and there had been plenty of places to let my heartrate drop.  It was a little disconcerting to have the old nauseous feeling returning.  It wasn't that hot out yet, and I was sweating still.  Weird. 

I stopped at Rest Stop 1 to refill my bottles and headed out again.  Climbing Star Gap, I did a lot of walking.  I was feeling worse as time went by and I couldn't figure out what was wrong.  I figured I would keep pedaling, drinking and eating, hoping that my body would calm down.  Maybe it was nerves, or stress, or lack of sleep from stress.   Or maybe my body was worn out from a busy summer.
I rolled into rest stop 2 and ate a sammy and some chips,  and sipped some Coke.  Felt worse.  I went and sat in the creek,  no different.  If it were heat related,  the creek would have made some sort of difference.  I visited the porta jon and felt slightly better.  I laid in the truck bed.  I got up and walked around, frustrated and still nauseous.  Walking around made me feel slightly better.   I laid down again.  I finally went and sat in the mini van with the air conditioner on high.  It made me shiver, but still didn't feel great.

Finally, after about 20 minutes of air conditioning, I felt a twinge of hunger pain.  It felt good,  after about 5 more minutes, the nauseousness subsided.  Then it dawned on me.  I had switched to a different gel and energy chew brand for this race.  It was a brand I had used in the past, I thought it had worked then,  but I also got sick a lot in the past.  Dang it.  That's what it was.  Something in the nutrient was making me sick.  I got out of the van and got suited up.  Ate a little bit and felt decent.

After a 2 hr layover, I was rolling again.  Still not sure if I could finish this beast and 2 hrs behind on calories, I was determined to keep trying.   I thanked my team and bid them farewell.  Rolling up Curtis Creek, I was greeted by the USFS Ranger,   he asked what I was doing so far back.  I told him what was up, and he told me all he was hearing was excuses.  Haha,  funny. 
The climb up Curtis Creek was a slog.   It was around 85 degrees, with barely a whisper of a breeze every now and then.  Not enough to serve any cooling purpose.  I ground onward.  I walked,  barely speaking to people I passed.  I was in conserve energy mode.  The nauseousness/hunger came and went.  I drank,  forced myself to drink.  I was tired of drinking, but knew that I had to drink.  I passed some guys who were walking.  One commented that "we have to be close to the top".  I said nothing.  I knew that those words are something you never tell yourself,  until you are at the top. 

I can't remember how long it took,  but I made it to the top.  I text Rhonda to let her know that I was going to keep going.  I filled my bottles, and headed out.  I had managed to scrounge enough hammer and gu gels at rest stop 2 to help me get to rest stop 4.  I had been using these during training and they had work fine. 

The Parkway was sunny and stuffy.  To the west, there was high misty cloud cover, to the east, blue sky and sun.  It was pretty warm.  Up the major climb, a quick pit stop in the woods.  My body was still flushing the culprit.  Back on the bike, barely looking around, wondering if I should turn around.  Drinking, eating a gel.  Onward. 

Before bombing down the hill at close to 40 mph,  I doused myself with water to cool down.  Halfway down, I was shivering.  It felt great, then I started the last paved climb and warmed up quickly.  3 ish miles and I was glad to see Heartbreak Ridge.  Slow climb up the hike a bike section.  The enduro people were there along with group from the Mc Dowell County EMS.  As a side note, they were all over the race course,  doing their job,  it was great to see them out, supporting this race. 

I was not worried about the Enduro, so I hiked down the first techy bit before riding.  I got on the bike and cruised.  It felt faster than I normally ride it, so I just relaxed and rolled.  I started feeling better.  I did not take the time to enjoy the views.  I just focused on forward movement, efficient pedal stroke and relaxing. 

Oddly enough,  as I made my way down the windy trail, I started feeling better.  I continued drinking Nuun and sports drink.  I let go of the brakes a little and enjoyed the decent.  I could hear a train down in the valley below, I hoped that I wouldn't get caught. 

Sure enough, as I neared the end of the Enduro section, the train roared past.  2 minute delay and a quick chat with the Hoyts, and I was off again. 

A brief stop at rest stop 4, refilled the bottles, grabbed a handful of chips, bummed a hammer gel and I was off again. 

The climb up Mill Creek Rd was a bit easier than I expected,  I put my body on auto pilot and allowed my thoughts to drift towards how it would feel to finish this beast.  I could hardly believe that I was still moving forward,  that I felt decent considering the circumstances.  Up the gravel road and onto the pavement, one last gel before the climb up Kitsuma.   Anything that threatened to raise my heart rate and core temp, I walked.  I was not worried about finishing fast, just focused on finishing. 

I was able to let off the brakes a little on the downhills and have some fun enjoying the trail.  It would probably be a while before I got back out this way, so I wanted to enjoy it,  and I did.  The last little bit of singletrack opened up into the Old Fort Picnic Area.  I pedaled past the Mobile Command Post,  waved and said "Thanks". 

3 miles of pavement to go, I started picking people off.  1 by 1,  I was able to reel in and pass about 4 or  5 people.  That felt good.  

Then the finish and the hands in the air,  victory was mine: I conquered the beast.  

Friday, July 25, 2014

Here Goes....

Well,  its Friday and I toe the line in 2 days.  It is going to be a huge weekend and I'm looking forward to the challenge.   Trips For Kids WNC is sponsoring a Rest Stop #2 in both the JMC and ORAMM.  In addition, I am racing ORAMM. 

I must say,  I am blessed to have a crew of volunteers running the stops each day.  Especially on Sunday,  having friends that will be working for the cause and rooting me on at the same time.  That's special and I don't take that for granted!  I have cool friends and I'm thankful that they call me a friend.

I'm getting to the end of the 2014 summer ride program.  It has been a great summer and I am worn out.  I haven't had time to train consistently, and it is getting hotter by the day.   Lot's of challenges in trying to prep for a 63 mile mountain bike race.

But,  nothing compared to the challenges that the kids in the program face everyday and will continue to face in their futures,  if you are paying attention, you understand.  If you don't know what I am talking about,  go volunteer for a local youth agency that serves the underprivileged. 

And so, I dedicate this ride to the kids.  That's right,  this one is for the kids.  I hope I can inspire!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

ORAMM is Coming

Days left until I toe the line at my nemesis race: Off Road Assault on Mt Mitchell.   I'm nervous to say the least.  And excited.  The last time I attempted this race was in 2010 and I DNF'ed.  I also DNF'ed in '09 with an ambulance ride and visit to the ER.  The last time I completed the entire route was 3 weeks after the race in 2010.  I went solo,   had to get that monkey off my back. 

Fast forward 4 yrs, and here I am.  4 yrs of rides, pain, suffering, success.  WN Precision fit, Siren's John Henry set up Single Speed, nutrition and training advice from a lot of people, including Namrita and Eddie O'dea! 

To say I'm ready would be overconfident.  I didn't follow a training plan this year.  My DNF at the P111K definitely encouraged me to "train" but I decided not to follow rigid structure this year.  My 250 mile ride from VA to Asheville brought my legs back to life and taught me a little more about nutrition.   I'm having fun on the bike and not stressing about how many hours I'm getting.  I'm still following my HR and know approximately how hard I can go for how long.  My friends tell me I am riding strong and looking ready. 

I have my doubts,  its natural, but overall, I am ready. 

I just hope I can get some sleep between now and race day!

Friday, July 11, 2014


 Its been a while since I have posted.  It is summer time and summer time is slammed time.  I have trips going out almost everyday and on a rare day with no trips..... I take advantage and get office type stuff done.   Fun times!

The ride last night started well enough.  Hot and humid and not too fast.  The skies were clear after a huge storm had passed earlier.  I was glad to get out.  I'm averaging 2 training rides per week this time of year, and with ORAMM coming up,  I don't take this time for granted.   I'm bound to be losing fitness though, so my nemesis race will be more like a big ride.  That's fine with me.  I want to finish and sit in that creek without feeling like I'm going to die!
 So, we were cruising along Butler Bridge Rd last night, a group of 4 off the front when a vehicle turned left in front of them.  Bob and Jamie hit some brakes and went down hard.  Officer McMurray was helpful and informed the guys that they were better off not filing a report because their insurance premiums would go up.  That's what I gathered second hand anyway.  Jamie asked the guy for a card, he said he didn't have business cards,  that the state does not pay for them.  I though police were required to have some sort of ID that they could leave with a person.   Maybe I'll order some from Vistaprint and send them to him.
Bob's wife came and picked the two up and hauled them to the hospital.  The rest of us continued the ride, a bit deflated and discouraged for our friends.

Its good to live in a cycling community that sticks together in crisis.  Its good to live amongst people who care on many different levels.

Prayers for Bob and Jamie for a speedy recovery.
Have a great day!

Wednesday, July 02, 2014


This morning, I'm thankful.  For a lot.  So much to appreciate, so much that I sometimes take for granted.

The wife, working all night to help people.  The kid,  being a kid and challenging me to be a better dad, without even knowing it.  My house,  it is solid, warm and dry.  And now thanks to a lot of blood, sweat, tears (and a couple of f-bombs),  it looks good and is more functional. 

My friends,  for the smiles, encouraging words, keeping me on my toes, helping me laugh.

Yes, I know this is vague, but my bike rides and anyone who has helped me achieve in that area.  From sponsors to race volunteers to race promoters to competitors.

And then I become overwhelmed with so much to write and so little time.

Thankful for my job,  I get take kids on bike rides....  awesome.

Make a point today to be thankful!