Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Gravel Bikes

Gravel roads, or "groads" as my friend Michael C. calls them,  have become very popular for training, racing and just getting out. 

I have been using  my steel frame mtn bike as my gravel grinder, set up with Kenda Small Block 8's, and it has been serving me well.  But, it is on the heavy side and one size too small so it lacks in performance and speed.

I started setting some money aside with the hopes of getting one of the Salsa Warbirds
but ended up getting a tooth crowned instead.  Back to the drawing board, I went to visit Kevin H at Liberty Bicycles here in Asheville and he recommended the Vittoria "Open Pave" in 700x27.  I was skeptical but he knows his stuff so some trust was in order.   
I got them mounted up on my Foundry Ratchet and took off for the gravel roads of Bent Creek.   After 8 miles of pavement, I hit the gravel for the big test.   They did the trick.   I was a little slow on downhills and turns, not wanting to flat or washout, but the tires are great.   They enabled me to ride the entire gravel road loop before heading back out to the pavement and back home again. 

If you want all the technical specs, give Liberty a call.  If you want to go groading and only have a road bike, go get a pair, mount them up and start riding!  

Back to saving for that Warbird!

Monday, January 11, 2016

The Snake 2016

9 days into 2016 and I rode my first race of the season.

I left Asheville and headed down to Georgia.  Switching between country music and classic rock for the 4 hr drive and cruising with traffic.   I had considered trying to carpool with some other folks headed down for the race, but sometimes a guy just needs to be alone.  Its good to clear the head and not have to worry about anyone else for just a little while. 

I got to Dalton, checked in at the hotel.  This time, I brought some pre made spaghetti and salad with me, and I went ahead and ate that before heading up to check in.    I picked up my number and my shirt and met up with Ron Marcus who was providing shuttle for me.  We made plans to meet at 6:30am and head out to the start.  Daryl would also be joining us for the ride out.

Back to the hotel room and lights out by 8pm.

I managed to get some sleep until around 2 am, then it was dozing and waking until my wake up time of 5am.    I wish I was better at early mornings but I suffer.  As long as I can remember, I have struggled with early morning.  Hungry, but nauseous.  Can't eat, so I nibble and try to get some food down, because if I don't,  I get car sick on the way to the venue.   Ugh. I need to figure out what to do here.....

I met up with Ron and Daryl and we headed out to the start.  I focused on relaxing and sipped water.  I was really glad 30 minutes later and I was intact when we pulled into the gravel lot.  Ron is a smooth driver and I was grateful.

I rode around the lot warming up and then lined up to start around 10th.   I took off and got into a rythym ready to ride my pace.  I really love the GA mountains and planned to ride my own pace and enjoy the views.

For the first hour, I was feeling pretty rough.  Still nibbling and sipping liquids.  I felt so rough that I contemplated quitting.  I knew that if I did not start feeling better, this would turn into an epic hike a bike.  I kept eating and sipping and after around 2 hrs, I arrived at the midway point.  I felt slightly better so swapped bottles and moved on.  I might have been able to save 1-2 minutes here but as first I could not find my bag that was covered up with a sign, and then I fumbled with getting the bag open and bottles swapped.  A volunteer finally came over to help out.  I was grateful for that.

The temperature was between 40-50 with some wind up on the ridges.  Perfect for me.   The course was mostly dry too.  Today would be the day for a PR.... I only lacked the fitness.   Not a big deal.

Up and down, along the ridge, soaking it in and having fun.  I maintained my pace and managed my nutrition and I started feeling better.

Up the last gravel climb and a left onto the last 8 mile section.  It is a really fun ridge line ride with lots of techiness mixed with some smooth fast single track.  I maintained my pace until I passed the fire ring.  Sweet,  1 mile to go, I told myself in my head.  I picked up the pace and started to hammer.  After a mile, I was still a couple of climbs from the towers that mark the final decent to the finish.  Crap,  that fire ring marks 5 to go, not one.  I slowed down again and resumed my pace.

Finally I rounded the bend and headed up the last climb past the towers.  I took it easy on the gravel decent, lots of fresh loose gravel there and hit the pavement.  I took up the whole lane and got up over 39mph.  Rounding the last bend, and crossing the finish line, I wasn't sure if I had broken 4 hrs.  It was really close.

I felt great and I was pleased with the ride.  I felt more confident on the technical sections and was able to climb at a steady pace.

After hanging out for a while at the finish,  I turned the van north and headed home.  It turned out that Jamie Bookwalter needed a ride up to East Ridge, so I dropped her off on the way by,  grabbed a double tall mocha from Starbucks,  cranked up the country music, and put the pedal to the metal.

I found out on Sunday, that I got second place in the single speed category!

Edit:  34 miler, 4hrs 3 mins

Thursday, January 07, 2016

Feeling Bad= Feeling Good

What if you think you are feeling bad, but are actually feeling good?  

I have had a pretty challenging life so far,  who didn't?  I haven't met anyone who said childhood was a piece of cake.   It is life, I suppose.   And we deal with it.  But what happens next?

I think I have managed to work through a lot of my challenges and have been able to provide a calmer, safer, more stable environment for the wife and kid.  I hope so anyway.  Feedback from friends tells me I'm doing a good job, and I have honest friends and a lot of solid friendships which I am thankful for. 

So, after having dealt with challenges ( I'll always be working on being a better man) and having come to grips with things that have happened in the past,  there is a gap left there.  Not that I miss it, but when I get used to having something in my life, good or bad, when it is gone, there is a gap, an emptiness that needs to be filled. 

Well,  for a while now, I have struggled with what this gap actually is.  I've been feeling like something was missing,  but I have everything: wife, kid, dog, bikes, house, food friends, love etc.  Was I sad, depressed? What was this emptiness I was feeling?

Why do I still feel empty?

Then I realized, what if that emptiness I feel is actually peace?  What if the lack of stress and turmoil is this "empty" feeling.   Kind of like without light the room is dark, but in a good way.  What if that dark is something good?  It is not a fireworks show, it is not angels singing, it is not a Vimeo movie of someone standing on a mountain top. 

It is a stillness,  a quiet relief,  almost explainable......

Inner peace. 

Tuesday, January 05, 2016

Below Freezing

I took a ride out on some gravel with Kevin H this morning. Temps never got above freezing and we both had ice in our beard most of the ride.  It was cold.   The ground frozen solid.  I find it hard to move when its this cold.  With all of the layers, it is extra work to move the legs. 

I was cold for most of the rest of the day.  I think part of the problem was that my bottles froze and I only drank a little less than one bottle when I should have had more than twice that.... 

My motto for this season is: " If Michael Cosgrove is riding, I am riding"....  

Saturday, January 02, 2016

New Year

2 days into the new year and I'm realizing something that I can never comprehend.  I am in a place in life that I never thought I would be in and I don't feel like it is something I have earned or tried to get to.   I consider myself successful, not by the capitalistic standards that are used in most businesses,  but by the beat of my heart.  

I have the opportunity to do something I love.  After so many years of trying to do what I enjoying and being held back or prevented for one reason or another,  I'm finally doing what I love: sharing my passion for the outdoors with kids. 

While there are things that I need/want,  I have everything I need for today..... and then a lot more.

I'm gonna share something with you, because it is the basis of my world view.  I don't have all the answers and know that I never will.  I have found a way to cope with this crazy, confusing, awesome, amazing, terrible life and have a deep desire to share that. 

I believe that we were created for a purpose: to love.  I believe that after that, everything else falls into place.  But, you gotta start with loving yourself.   I'm 43 and and finally at a place where I feel like I am starting to accept myself for who I am. 

I don't do everything right, but I don't do everything wrong either.  Growing up, I lived in an environment where I never felt like I was good enough,  I lived in fear of disappointing those around me,  failing my family and failing God.   That fear has followed me around for my whole life.  I've managed to work on it, but I don't know that I'll ever be able to overcome it completely.  It is more of an annoying trait now than a fear.

And that is how and why I (and the wife) stepped out in faith and started Trips For Kids WNC.  I had a dream of what I could do to help the kids in our community and the only way to get that rolling was to step out and do it.  

And here I am, 5 years later and still loving it!    I can't wait to see what another 5 yrs brings!