Saturday, May 9, 2009

Best Day Ever

This week good friend, former Knoxville resident, and all-around super bad-ass single-speed guru Tarik Saleh was in town. He let me know before his arrival that work related conference-type science things were bringing him back for the first time in three years and that bicycle-type riding would and must happen. I figured just to visit would be great as this guy is one of the best people to come around these parts and that he was the reason that I became so fond of this single-speed obsession that I still enjoy to this day. Time allowed him to come by the shop on Tuesday and catching up and much laughter commenced as well as the beginnings of a Thursday ride plan. I told him that I was off for the day and that whatever work-related things should be blown off in the interest of riding. With the recent onset of East Tennessee monsoon season it looked as though we would default to a fixie road ride as he brought the venerable Bike Friday folding fixie travel bike with him anyway.

However, I had secured a borrowed mountain bike that would fit and was a single-speed just in case mountain biking were to happen and when he called Wednesday and said he was going to blow off attending any of the talks I knew we had to go. Nowhere in town would do as the trails just don't handle rain, especially this much, very well with Norris being the exception but if you go there you might as well road ride instead. So, Big South Fork was the answer as I believed that the Grand Gap/John Muir loop would have to drain well and would provide a very scenic and super fun loop. It just so happened that The Hammer and Keith D. were available so off we went and while others sat around and bitched and moaned about the rain we went a little farther north and ended up totally scoring!!!!!! Trails were perfect and the sun was even out for most of the day. Lots of laughs, lots of ripping, beers were had and not only that after we all dispersed in K-town for our early evening activities we reconvened at the Sunsphere bar and had many drinks, many laughs, and many good photo ops. Look for those at the home of blog gold-Moscaline sometime real soon. To Tarik-very good to see you, great ride, my stomach still hurts from laughing so much, and I can't wait till Durango!

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Other stuff out there

Recovery from Cohutta was way better than expected. One thing that helped was hanging with A.J. and going to a Smokies baseball game and enjoying hot dogs, popcorn, and large cups of yellow beer. Spun around Monday morning just to make sure the legs still worked and with Thursday approaching, realized that the legs were pretty damn good all things considered. I already knew that riding may not happen because my best pal in the world "Smithboy" was coming up to the mountains with his merry gang of flat-landers to do their annual hike and overnight at Mt. LeConte. Their plan was to hike up Thursday (my day off) and spend the night at the lodge and come back down on Friday. I figured that this was a perfect opportunity to do something different but still have some movement. Met up with the crew on Thursday morning and hiked up Alum Cave trail mostly with the group and then back down on my own. Makes one realize how great the Park is and how close it is and that all of us should take advantage of it and never, ever take it for granted.

Cohutta Conclusion

Big, long downhill ended too quickly but before long arrived at checkpoint #4 got water, heed and salty chips and kept moving. Eventually the flat single speed hell part started (or so I thought) that Dholmes spoke of from last year. Pedal, pedal, pedal-coast, coast, coast-repeat. This was also the first real open section of the course and the sun was strong but again I like being hot so much more than cold, it didn't bother me a bit. A little rolling up and down and then the REAL flat section began and it seeemed to last for-freakin-ever. Along the way I caught up to someone who looked familiar from way earlier in the day and sure enough it was one of the super-fast women from earlier Betsy Shogren-wife of East Coast mountain bike legend Gunnar. She had looked so strong earlier but now not so good, so we chatted for a minute and she told me that she started the day with a bad head cold and had considered not racing at all so it seemed that was catching up to her. As I slowly started to pull away, I thought I wouldn't have gotten out of my tent if I had a cold, she is definitely hard core (she ended up 4th in pro women!!). On the flat hell went and finally some signage indicated that Sylco campground was close which meant the climbing to get back towards the WWC would have to be coming soon. Sure enough right turn on FR 221 and climb, climb, climb. Nice, smooth dirt road and in the shade made this not so bad and it actually felt good to not be on the flats. Got to another checkpoint and couldn't believe I was at 5 already and sooned realized it wasn't 5 but one of the 65mile race checkpoints as the 2 courses had converged recently. So, for me this was checkpoint 4.5 and there was an extremely jolly volunteer who offered up "ice towels" for my neck which were fantastic to really wake me up and get a quick re-charge. Kept rolling and eventually the road got gravelly and loose as the rest of the forest roads had been really fun and fast, this part was sucky but I knew downhill to the last bit of singletrack was coming soon enough. Got to checkpoint 5 and was asked by someone if I wanted water poured on my head and I was like "sure". Well, he poured and didn't stop when a normal person would have a I thought, "shit I am gonna drown at a rest stop in a 100 mile mountain bike race!!" He stopped when I started gasping for air, I told everyone thanks and kept rolling. I remembered from 5 to 6 was only 10 miles and the singletrack would finally come and this would soon be over. Got to 6, though about off-loading anything I might not need anymore but just kept moving-good on water and food-only 10 miles left! Started West Fork trail and hoped to just ride it all and not walk and somehow did but by the time I got to Quartz loop I felt bad and good ole flat, fun Quartz loop was an ugly display of slower than slow mountain biking. Good little downhill on the last part gave me a recharge and rolled down Bypass and to Chestnut Mtn. fairly good. Finally got to Thunder Rock and was so happy I thought I would cry, but also realized that crashing now would really suck because even if it wasn't bad I still might not want to get up. Rolled fairly quick anyway, caught a couple of people who were happy to move over and near the bottom caught one more rider who was going pretty fast. I figured his pace was perfect, I'll follow and soon be to the road. Well, he decided to take a hand off of his handlebar going around one of the last turns and nearly crashed big time. His bike went sideways and somehow he got his hand back on and didn't die. Made it to the bridge and actually considered that I was real close to going 9 hours!! I had set my goal that 10 would be fine and 9 was possible if things were going good and I couldn't believe it. Spun my brains out down the highway, crossed the bridge and looked at the clock as I went across-8 hours 42 minutes. Very happy to be done, someone handed me the "finisher" coffee mug and I rode back over to the car. Hammered poo- I just sat on the ground for a few and was thankful to be done. Soon I remembered I had beer and a purty new mug to drink out of.....

I knew Dholmes was ahead of me all day but didn't see him around at first. When I found him he told me about his day and that he improved his time by like 20 minutes but only moved up one place in the overall. Still, 8th singlespeeder and 7:51 is incredible-such a stud and he didn't even look like he had done anything...

Next our thoughts were of Ed and knowing he has been a riding fool, knew he would easily be finished in 10 hours like predicted. No sooner had we begun speculating than here he came up through the parking lot yelling at us and came in with a time of 9 hours and 19 minutes!!!!!!!!

I just hope when I'm approaching 60 years old that I can still do this at all much less haul ass like our man ED!!!

Still out were Daughter of ED, "little bit" and new friend Stephen. Ed was sure that "little bit" might have succombed to the heat and that she hasn't done this before- not even a road century. But sure enough, because she is an extremely gifted athelete, probably somewhat stubborn (wonder where that could come from!) and just plain a bad-ass she came rolling in just over 11 hours and has even had a slight detour from the suggested route (wonder where that could come from!!). Awesome ride! We ended up gathering for the awards ceremony and some of the very average post-race food and Stephen rolled in looking tired but overall pretty damn good. I had found from talking to him the day before he hadn't really done a ride exactly like this but has ridden alot and even hiked the AT, so to just keep going is never a problem for someone with the right mentality.

Finally loaded up to head back to K-town but had to do some tailgating at the Shake Shack just before Cleveland and that was the secret to getting me and the others back home-MMMMM, milkshakes!!

Saturday, May 2, 2009

More Hot Cohoota Action!

Everyone had talked about the expected summertime temps. for race day on Saturday-mid 80's and there seemed to be concern about hydration and what not. I kept thinking bring it, because I like warm way better than cold. Of course though being that we had to get up at 5 AM and were starting down by the river the morning was cool for sure. Everyone got up, drove to the WWC ate, got dressed and rolled up to the start. The announcer really didn't give a pre-race pep talk as much as he just called the pros and other heavy-hitters to the front of the pack. The start went off smooth and immediately was fast up the highway. This is when one gear and a slight uphill are both good because there is only so fast one can go. Up into the first singletrack of Brush Creek and the natural train formed-not at the super stupid fast front but with people that were moving efficiently and knew how to ride. Loop around, back to WWC up on more trail, did my favorite-River View-even though we went the wrong direction, and up to the 1st rest stop around 18 miles in. Quick water and snack and back rolling and thus the gravel/dirt road extravaganza began.

Rode through beautiful canopy, down, up creek crossing more up, then down and eventually started what seemed to be the first decent length, but gradual climb. Looked around since I was with a group and realized the pro women had caught me and so I thought that I would ride with them for awhile as they surely would be keeping a great pace. This worked for awhile until we did some descending and the road went flat and they did the big-ring, group roadie thing and were out of sight pretty quick. Hooked up with another SS guy who was from Birmingham and we chatted as we rode because the terrain was easy spinning at this point-pedal, coast, pedal, coast then the first real climb of the day came. A few miles into this one my rear tire felt soft and I began thinking, stupid new wheels, stupid tubeless but I remembered that air could get "burped" out so I stopped, hit some CO2 and kept rolling. Seemed to work as I had someone at the next rest stop (#2) check it with a floor pump and it was holding. Another quick stop and quickly resumed pedaling. A few miles later though a weird thing started happening-my legs were feeling really tired. Not a good sign being 40 miles into 100 and knowing there was alot of climbing left on the course. Just went into conservation mode for awhile and hoped checkpoint 3 which was about the halfway point would come soon and then if I could get to the big, long downhill from around 60 to 75 miles that would give lots of recovery time.

#3 came and I started hitting the HEED drink and that seemed to help my legs to come back around. Big downhill finally came and I caught a couple of people which always makes you feel good. I told one guy, that these were the "free" miles-no need for much braking!! And despite a few small uphills this downhill went on forever and for a dirt road was pretty damn fun.

I'll finish later, gots to go work on bikes..........