Friday, July 31, 2015

Summer Heat

 When I get a free day in the middle of the summer, I take advantage of it.  I loaded up the kid and we headed down to Lake Jame for some fishin' and lake swimmin'.   It was so hot that the lake didn't really cool us off much.  While it was an adventure, we agreed that we would not come back during the summer.....
We got back in time for me to head down to the Liberty Bikes Thursday Night Ride.  About about a dozen folks showed up.  I had a blast hanging out with old friends, chatting and joking around.  I was able to glean some more helpful info. 

If you want to ride with a group, or currently ride with a group, here are a couple of tips that will help those around you stay safe and happy:

-Always ride smooth and steady.  Don't be jerky,  don't surge, don't swerve, hold your line.... If talking distracts you from riding in a safe manner,  stop talking and focus on riding smoothly.

-Always, always, always, wash your body and your kit before riding with others......  

If the shoe fits wear it.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

If Winning is Failing

If winning is failing, I don't want to win.  All of the time and effort I have put into training to be faster has paid off.  I am faster than 10 yrs ago when I started this endurance thing.  I have maintained a level of fun through the whole experience and learned a lot.  I have a made a lot of friends.  I have had a lot of successes and quite a few epic failures.  

And that brings me to my point.  I'm tired of failing.  Life consists of failing and that's fine,  stuff happens.  But if I convince myself that I can do something and consistently push past my limits with risk to life and limb,  there when be a time when things don't turn out so well.  And the fun is greatly diminished.  I'm not saying I'm never going to compete again, because I'm sure there will be a time. 

But for now, I'm going back to enjoying the ride.  

After the first 2 hrs of ORAMM, I was finally able to settle in to a rythym and enjoy the scenery.  Enjoy the ride.  It didn't even bother me that I don't have the skill to ride some of the tech and switchbacks on Heartbreak Ridge later in the day.  It didn't bother me that I had no idea where I was in the group. (the kid was convinced that I was in second or third in the ss cat!) 

I feel like I have finally turned a corner and proven to myself what I am capable of.  I feel like I've shown the kid what someone can accomplish with hard work and dedication.  I hope that ideal will stick with him through life.  I feel like I can go out and ride, epic or not, and simply enjoy being on the bike. 

I'm  looking forward to Monster CX and some bikepacking adventures that I have planned.  Its gonna be a good time! 

But for now, I'm going sailing!

Monday, July 27, 2015

ORAMM 2015

 ORAMM 2015 rolled around.  I had assembled a crew of awesome folks to run rest stop #2 for me and they gave me the green light to go ride the event, so I trained as much as I could.  Summer training is less than optimum, with family schudule, summer ride program, the shop etc.  I just tried to get a couple of long rides in and stay consistent.  Most of my training was on the road bike, for convenience and hoping to build some endurance. 

Sunday morning rolled around and I was a nervous wreck.  The drive down, I focused on positive thoughts and tried to control my mind.  It kept wandering to past failures and DNF's.  This would be my 5th attempt at ORAMM, with 2 finishes and 2 DNF's,   I had every right to be nervous.  But the nerves weren't helping me eat breakfast!

I chose to drive the 150 gallon water bladder out to Curtis Creek and ride my bike back to the start.  This way I would avoid the pre-race chaos/nervousness that fills the air, and get a 3 mile warm up.  

I managed to eat enough bagel and roll back to the start.  High fives and hugs to my support crew and the squeezed into the pack.  Todd counted down and we were off. 

Suddenly things go chaotic.   It seems that  there were some confused roadies out here who thought that we were in the Tour.  Sketchy passes, sketchy riding.  It all made me really nervous and a little pissed off.  I tried to settle into a rythym, but with so many people it was impossible.  This was survival mode, waiting until the first couple of climbs to these agro dudes would start sweating and hopefully chill out a little. 

Up the first little climb, pass about 40 people, down the little decent before getting to the greenway.  My thoughts were interrupted but what sounded like: rubbing tires, bikes and bodies hitting each other, bikes and bodies hitting the pavement and then my bikes was shaking,  it felt like someone had landed on my rear wheel and I though I was going down.  In that split second, I pedaled to get away while I could hear bike and body bouncing and sliding next to me.  Crap that was close.  

 Up the greenway,  I chatted with Jason, Drew and a couple of other people I knew.  There were not many locals in this race.  It used to be a huge local contingent lining up.    Lot's of folks from Florida. 

Up and over Kitsuma, the weather was warm but the descents were cool.  This was great,  even if it got hot, if I could cool down on the descents, I would survive. 

More sketchy riding and passing on the single track, and I was getting more annoyed everytime.   I realized that I wasn't into that sort of thing and thoughts of quitting entered my head.   The mountain bike racing I remember was filled with good times, people encouraging each other etc.  Not folks yelling at others to "GET OUT OF THE WAY". 

Through Old Fort Picnic Area and up the pavement to Graphite were the first rest stop is.  I ate half of a Pro Bar on the road and then stopped to re-fill a water  bottle.  I was keeping track of fluid intake and was right on schedule.  

Up Star Gap and down Lower Heartbreak onto Jarret's Creek road.  Up until this point, my head was filled with self doubt and thoughts of quitting.  I tried all the tricks I know to change my attitude but it wasn't happening. 

I got in with a group of guys who were having fun though and everything changed.  I managed my pace and settled into a rythym, finally.  Then I started to enjoy the ride and my thoughts turned positive.  I started thinking about finishing and how great that would feel.  I started to focus on where I was and what I was doing,  blocking out the agro negative around me. 

I rolled into rest stop 2 and was greeted by the best crew in the world.  Bottles refilled, a little bit of sammy and I was rolling on.  
 Left turn on Curtis Creek Road and I kept my pace,  eating and drinking.  Pavement changed to gravel.   Then, BLAM. I felt a sharp pain in my left thumb knuckle.  The stinging pain got worse,  I started shaking my hand.  A hornet thought my hand looked tasty and attacked.  That hurt. 
 I stopped on the side of the road and found some plantain, chewed it up to make a poultice.  Another rider looked at me like I was crazy.  I told him what I was doing, and he rode on....   At that moment Todd, the race director drove around the corner and saw me.  He yelled:"Hey, what are you doing, Facebooking?".  Ha,  funny guy!

The climb up Curtis Creek went well, it was hot, but just where I could handle it.  I did quite a bit of walking, wanting to preserve my legs for the second half of the race.  It really would have helped if I could have trained a bit more but, I felt I had what it would take to finish. 

I finally ground my way over the top and sprinted past about 5 people.  I didn't want to get stuck behind them at the rest stop. 

Rest Stop 3, run by Pisgah MTB Adventures,  Patrick, Chris, Shannon and friends all there eager to help.  In and out, and on the road again.

The grind south on the parkway was a lot of climbing with one good decent,  almost enough to recover but not quite enough to feel good.  Then I got to the hike a bike and Heartbreak Ridge.  I took assessment of how I felt.  Good.  I was hungry, for some solid food, like a hot dog or some pizza, but there was none of that around.  I settled for another gel.   Then I started the decent.  

The rough part about descending on an empty stomach is that there is room for the internals to bounce around and it kind of hurts.  It is definitely uncomfortable and forces me to go a little slower. 

Down the single track, hiking up, down some more, hike some tight turns, cross the creek, cross the tracks and bust out onto the  pavement to a cheering crowd.  It is so nice to see so many people out there cheering on the racers.

A quick stop at Rest Stop 4 and I was climbing Mill Creek Rd.  I felt great and upped the pace a little bit.  I made it to the top fairly quickly and then up to Kitsuma.  Somewhere at the top of Mill Creek, I called the wife to let her know I would be finishing in about an hour. 

I was able to manage Kitsuma and then out onto the last 3 miles of pavement.  Mc Dowell County EMS had their mobile command unit set up in the parking lot.  Quite different from 6-7 years ago when I dropped out of the race here, begged for a ride to the finish, then was loaded into an ambulance to got to the hospital.  

I waved, thanked the folks and headed to the finish.  One last bit of single track where I was able to pass 2 more geared riders then across the finish line.  

My time was 7hrs 1 min 20 seconds and I was happy.  8 yrs after my first attempt with a finish time around 7:30,  I finally beat my own PR. 

 I finished and am so happy with my results.  I worked hard, managed my pace, my food and liquid intake and it worked out for me.  The victory soak in the creek is the best!  

It turned out that I had a lot of fun and I definitely want to do this again, but I think I might go on a two year rotation, doing the race every other year!   It takes about that long to recover from this one!!  

Thursday, July 09, 2015

Staycation Continues

 Since I was supposed to be out of town this week, I have some spare time.  I usually tend to fill my spare time with work stuff, but my mind and gut are telling me that I should take a break and recoup my sanity so that I can finish the summer strong.  It isn't until I stop doing what I'm doing that I realize how long it has been that I needed a break and how good it feels to take said break. 

I rode out through Leicester and while I did look out for Bill, I did not see him.
 I did find this little guy who I stopped to move into the moist grass.  He hissed at me, but I have other friends who tend to hiss and as long as there is no biting, I'm ok with that.  We all have bad days!  

 A not so quick stop in Marshall and a BLT at Zuma coffee.   I stopped in to see Rod at Brushy Mountain Bicycles.  Cool little shop and the guy has the drive and know how to make it work.  Stop in and get some lube or a tube, or even a bike!   He rents as well. 

I decided to go big and do a route that I had never done before.  Up the river, up Moticello through Weaverville, up Ox Creek and down the parkway.  The pavement and exposure in Weaverville almost shut me down, but I made it to the creek on Reems Creek rd to cool down.  

I planned to stop at the Exxon, but they were out of business, so I stopped at the Reems Creek FD.   They weren't to eager to help me fill my bottles but one of the guys finally warmed up to me and got me some ice and filtered water.  He told me the water from Weaverville tastes like crap.  

 Ox Creek Rd tried to kick my butt but I had a few tricks up my sleeve and I was having none of it's resistance.  I crept up going 3mph and raised a ruckus by posting the above  pic on Facebook....

I got home, got some business stuff taken care of and headed out to the lake to work on some skills for the race this weekend!   I hope it cools down a bit and the wind blows.  I'm ready!

Wednesday, July 08, 2015

Things Learned While Bikepacking in July

I left again from the house to go on a little trip.  25 miles into the ride I turned around and went home.  Every time I head out, I learn a little about myself.  Today I learned some more mainly about what I like and don't like. 

I started out feeling fine, but 8 miles into the ride, I was ready to be done.  That will happen on a trip so close to home.  I questioned why I wanted to go home when I had this opportunity.  I forced myself to keep going, focused on positives.  My gut told me I should go home. 

It was hot, and not cooling off.  I decided to keep going, it was bound to get cooler.  My goal for the day was 40 miles, and I was sure I could do that. 

15 miles went by and I was hydrated but still too hot.  There is a fine line between being hot and surviving the heat.  Once I am faced with surviving the heat, I'm not having fun anymore.  One indicator is when I stop to refill water bottles and don't cool down because the air is so thick and muggy.  Not so much fun.  

I stop around mile 20 to refill my water supply.  I'm at a campground.  I look around at all the people having fun and consider stopping.  I don't want to stop.  I'm goal oriented and I have someplace to be,  20 miles away.  I can do it, but do I want to?  Do I really want to fight the heat?  No. 

I ride another 5 miles.  Up to the next gap.  Sometimes its cooler on the other side of the gap.  Sometimes the breeze coming up from the river deep down in the valley has just enough of a temperature difference that it feels good, and cools the body.  Not today.  It is still hot; and muggy.  I'm discouraged and don't want to quit.  But I've fought this fight before and its not fun. 

I pull out my phone to call the wife and ask for advice.  The reception is not good enough.  I put the phone away, and turn around to head home.  I continue pondering why I do this?  Why do I start out fine and then decide not to continue on?  Have I lost confidence in my ride abilities?  Have I lost the joy of long distance riding? 

I spend some time mulling these and other questions over until finally I realize several things.  Answers that make sense.  Answers that make it ok to quit.  To wait for another day. 

I admit to myself that right now, I am not having fun, I am not suffering, I am surviving.  And that is the key.  I have suffered and I have survived.  I don't want to push my suffering into surviving.   Maybe it will come to that in the future, but today, I can control that outcome and make it home without worrying about getting a rescue.  I don't mind a bit of suffering, but even though it hurts, if it doesn't bleed over into surviving, suffering can be fun and part of the journey.  The outcome is worth the pain.  The outcome of suffering however, can be costly. 

I feel better.  I start to think positively about bikepacking and then make a mental list of what I like and don't like.  I feel the need to categorize how I feel so that I can enjoy my future trips and have delineated goals. 

  • I love to ride my bike long distances
  • I prefer to get a hotel, but camping works
  • I don't like to bikepack just for the sake of getting out.
  • I like to have big goals, a route laid out and I like to go for it.  
  • I don't mind suffering, I don't like surviving.  
  • I look forward to some cooler temps because I have some goals in mind!

Friday, July 03, 2015

Inside Out

Inside Out:

I took the family to see Inside Out " After young Riley is uprooted from her Midwest life and moved to San Francisco, her emotions - Joy, Fear, Anger, Disgust and Sadness - conflict on how best to navigate a new city, house, and school".

Having been uprooted from my home more than enough times in my child hood,  I understood very well what Riley was going through.  Not fitting in, losing old friends, parents too busy to pay attention to what was happening (or just not paying attention).

As I watched the movie unfold,  I didn't expect that some old emotional wounds would be opened up, and I didn't expect the tears to start flowing.

Pixar family movies tend to make me a little emotional but this one pushed a little farther.   I am finding it difficult to put into words and it will make sense if you see the movie for yourself, but I realized that the core memories and the islands are such an important part of a person, that when they crumble nothing is left except a bitter, angry shell of a person running away from his/her problems.

I have islands that have crumbled,  and I have core memories that have faded away into wisps of smoke.  For years, this left me wondering who I was, what I was doing and what my purpose was.  I was not allowed, or even taught how to deal with my emotions.  If I was sad, I was told to move on, or do something to replace the sadness.  I was not allowed to express anger or frustration.  I went overboard on being silly, trying to lighten to mood around me;  that got squelched too.

Early in my adulthood years, I'm sure I pushed a lot of people away for various reasons.  There are  a handful of people who "made the cut" or rather "refused to get pushed away" and stuck with me.  These people helped me understand true friendship and acceptance of others.

As the years have passed, living in Asheville, I have been blessed with friendships that I would never have imagined possible.  The core memories and islands that I have built are such a symbol of healing in my life,  I sometimes find it overwhelming and miraculous.  I could not have done this on my own.

I always knew that something was missing but I could not put my finger on it until now.

In the movie, Joy was always trying to keep sadness from playing her role.  She mistakenly thought that by keeping sadness out of Riley's life, that Riley would be happy.  As the movie unfolded, we saw just how important a role each emotion plays in a person's life.  I finally understood that emotions are ok and even important.

We made it back into the van and back home before I walked out to sit on the back steps.  I couldn't hold back any longer and tears of sadness and relief started to flow.  The wife and kid sat with me and comforted me.  I explained that while I was sad because I was lacking some important and nurturing core memories from my childhood,  that they are my family island.  In turn they encouraged me and reminded me how many islands we have built together.

The kid told me that I am working on my goofy island!

There is hope.