Tuesday, May 30

Well, would you look at that?

Just look.

Look at me, over here... staring off into the not so distance at the silver lining of the dismal cloud that hath hung over me these past two weeks.

Had I developed my illness any later, I mighta been on the road to Pennsylvania on Monday and had to deal with it up there... and eventually dropped out.

Had I not been totally wiped out on Tuesday, I mighta left on Wednesday to attempt the three day TSE.

Had I not already had my time off on the calendar scheduled, I prolly woulda went to work.  Because I'm dumb like that.  I go to work sick.  Then I get sicker.  Instead, I crushed all three seasons of Ted Lasso, and that felt... "significant."

I felt good enough to go into work Thursday and Friday, and because it was going into a holiday weekend, I wasn't too busy.  I ended up saving two days of  PTO to use on a later adventure.  Buenos.

Then I was given the gift of this past three day weekend to spend even more time on the couch... doubly blessed with two solid rain days that kept me from being tempted to get on a bike.  I just stared out the window and felt nothing.

I experienced six days out of eight without pedaling a lick.  I can't say I've done that in my past thirty or so years of existence.  Even when I had COVID, I was back out on a bike soft pedaling a few days later.  This shit really kicked me in the dick, and last Tuesday it was just me curled up in a ball on the couch thinking I was dying (even Ted Lasso couldn't pep talk me outta my hole).

But I wasn't and didn't.  Which is nice.

Of course, The Pie got it too... which since I went to the Minute Clinic and got all the drubs, I saved her a trip.  Essentially, we got a BOGO on that one.

Obvs, I'm bummed to miss this year's TSE... but not as bummed as I was when I wrecked out of the event years ago with a broken butt-part.  I'm also glad I didn't go up there and pull an Anthrax.

I'm all good with that and super optimistic that I'll be at least back to 90% for this weekend's Mountain Cat 100.

It will be an adventure.  The pre-race email answers as many questions as it does inspire new ones.  I remind myself to once again embrace low expectations.  Watts will be joining me, along with hundreds of unfamiliar faces (and mebbe a few sorta familiar).  


I will rise again.  This I know.

Monday, May 22

Looking for movie recommendations...

Well, it was fun while it lasted.  Only posting because I feel the need to stick a pin in it.  This will be the first Trans-Sylvania Epic that starts without me on the line.

I started feeling a little sick this past Wednesday.  I never know what my body is doing in the Spring when I feel ill.  I never had allergy issues when I lived in Ohio, but Charlotte, NC slapped me in the face quite a few times in the past.  So, I found myself playing the "is it allergies or a cold?" game with the added bonus question "Covid?"

Thursday was meh, and I slept on the couch.  Friday... I had a coughing fit in the courthouse that was part physical and a larger part mental as a I felt trapped at the Judgments window when the clerk disappeared into the bowels of the building with my appeal, I forgot to bring cough drops, and couldn't escape to the hall to get to a drinking fountain.  NBD.

Friday evening, The Pie had me test for Covid... because she's smart.  After trying too many expired tests, I finally got a real negative.  At least I dodged that bullet.  More couch sleeps.

Saturday, I escaped outside for what I thought would be a Sad Dad™ to the SC border that turned into an adventure on some abandoned golf cart paths with Dr Mike.

Not sure if that was "over doing" it, but Saturday night's sleep sucked and was interrupted by multiple bouts of coughing.  Despite all that, I made sure all my shit was ready on Sunday to leave the next day.

I was even making my travel sammiches last night, mostly thinking that my late friend Bill would tell me that I need to manifest my future.  Denial is half the battle.

At least I tried.

I had a rougher night than I did the previous.  Standing on my back porch at two in the morning having a coughing fit and trying to cool down and not wake up The Pie (hopefully sleeping soundly in the bedroom), I knew I wouldn't be getting in the car on Monday to drive up to Pennsylvania.  

I'm bummed, but at least I'm respecting my health.  Ryan (TSE promoter) had been kind enough to offer me up one of the old staff cabins so I wouldn't have to worry about ruining people's sleep in the Eagle Lodge, but the prospect of waking up Tuesday after another potential rough night number three of sleep to watch the TSE start without me sounded terrible.  As bad as the last two nights have been, this is going to be gone tomorrow (insert more denial).

That said, I'm hoping that I do get better, and there's a chance that I might just leave Wednesday to make the three day TSE happen.  Or not.  I'm trying to be positive.  Life is good, and bike racing is a small part of that.  It is awfully hard looking out the window at some insanely nice weather (and an overgrown front yard), but the less I do, the faster my condition will improve.


Also fuck.

Wednesday, May 17

I wrote a blerhg, I wrote a blerhg for you... and everything you do.

I know I had it posted for months over there on the sidebar that I was intending to go to the Trans-Sylvania Epic this "season," but I finally stopped dragging my feet and registered late last week.  I didn't know how I'd feel after doing the Pisgah Stage Race and then two weeks later PMBAR in the lead up... and also with intentions of doing the anticipated shit show known as the Mountain Cat 100 the weekend after TSE...


Leaning harder than Jay and Silent Bob in front of RST Video into my YOLOs and FOMOs and gonna do it all because I don't have a whole lot planned for the rest of the year.  I don't know when or if I'll ever stop doing this race.  At some point, I'll be too old or dead (which is also too old).  One of those options will be easier to accept than the other, so since I'm still alive, and I'm not in the box just yet...

LFG and whatnot.

I like yellow shoes.  It's probably pretty apparent.

Yes, I have five pairs of the same shoe, one in orange, one very used (2+ years) but still going strong, one started this "season," and two still in the box.  I know what I like.  Those Mavic shoes have very hike-a-bike friendly soles, they're on closeout (so getting them in the future is eventually be no buneos), they're super comfy, and you mighta noticed... they're yellow.

I think I bought my first pair of yellow riding shoes in the very late '90s.  I'd finally gotten a messenger dealio at a local bike shop, and I hadn't been able to afford a pair of SIDIs since I got my first pair in the return bin at Bike Nashbar for $12 back in '94.  There were two colorway options in the Dominator to me, yellow or black.  I bought yellow.

This was at a time in my life when I still marginally cared about what others thought regarding my decisions.  My consistent riding companions were firm believers that all things should be black at all times, and they gave me a constant barrage of shit over my shoes.  I got so tired of it that I ended up taking a Sharpie to them... and I regretted that decision almost immediately.  

So perhaps just like when my father tried to talk me out of buying a new bike when I was fifteen because I'd be driving a car soon and the bike was just going to collect dust, I'm going to spend the rest of my life proving a point.

Or I just really like wearing yellow shoes.

This weekend, I'll be packing an assortment of yellow footwear and the bits and baubles I panic-grab from various drawers, closets, shelves, and hooks.  Next Monday, I'll be on the road for my twelfth TSE. 

Thursday, May 11

2023 PMBAR: Part Two

Riding up 5015, once again, I'm aware that Watts knows what is now happening... because we've done too many of these together.  I'm at stage three of my disjointed stages of PMBAR-related grief.  Denying that we took the wrong route.  Depressed when I allow the truth to settle in and realizing I've wasted yet another year.  Bargaining with myself thinking mebbe the other single speed teams will screw up somewhere else. 

I'm now in my anger stage.  I take my self-hate and turn over the pedals with all this rage that I'm now allowing to coarse freely through my veins.  He's staying a constant distance behind me, in his way letting me know that he can ride this pace, but doesn't really want to... or I'm just reading too much into things. 

We get to the top of Yellow Gap and we're greeted with grilled cheese and Coke (thanks, Nico).  In my mind, we just had these two out-and-backs (playing away from our weaknesses) to the top of the world and then my way homer that I'd planned. Out on Laurel, my phone started blowing up, because I forgot to put it in airplane mode.  At my age, I assume someone died, and there's little I can do about it here... so I ignore it.  Good thing, as I would find out later, it was the campground telling me I only reserved one night and mebbe we should leave?  Doh.  Glad I avoided additional sads and stress.  Bonus Oreos at the Laurel check point and filtered water (only spilled one full bottle this time) at the top of the Pilot/Slate check point.  In my head, we were all but done. 

That said, I knew Watts was feeling that way he does when he doesn't really know how much there is left, and he doesn't ask me because I don't really know miles or time because my brain doesn't operate in those margins, so "some doldrums to pavement to an ouchy to more walking to some undulation terrain to Clawhammer..."

Pretty sure his brain sparks back up at the concept of coasting down Clawhammer, but it also grasps the "back up to Hot Dog Gap" part... and all that stuff in between could be heaven or absolute hell and asking me for more information will just results in an made-up onomatopoeia word jumble.

But I'm happy now.  I've gone into my final stage of grief, acceptance.  I've screwed the pooch.  We've lost.  It's almost over.  I'm glad Watts isn't close enough to me when I keep breaking out in song (when I can breathe).

I warned you I'd get back to this.

To be honest, win, lose or whatever, it's been an absolute smashing day in the woods with my frand.  I don't care if we get beat with a better route (again).  I got to ride my bike in the Pisgah in good company, and we dodged a serious weather bullet and ended up with fantastic weather and the best trail conditions you could ask for... and still plenty of time once we finish to drink all the beer we could until they turn the lights off on us.  I couldn't be in a better mood (well, mebbe if I thought we were winning).

We catch up to fellow single speeders Scott and Todd, and you could tell they were going at a four checkpoints/eight and a half hours into the day pace.  Watts started turning the pedals as if the force of The Quickening was drawing him to our undeniable dismal destiny. 

"There can only be one... or in our case, two... but later we can have nine after six."

We are up to Hot Dog Gap before we know it, and one final run down Lower Back to the finish where Eric and all the lavish celebrations awaited us.

"How did it go out there?"

"Pretty sure I gave up the win with a bad route... again."

Eric had a twinkle in his eye that I didn't want to believe... I think he's telling me that we won... but...

"Go get cleaned up and get back for beer and burritos."

I choose to not share with Watts what I think I saw because why get his hopes up for nothing because of course it's nothing.

Well, apparently and mebbe for the first time ever, I read Eric's facial expressions correctly.

Look, we did a thing.  First single speed, ninth overall.

And that was that... aside from the sitting around until midnight drinking beer and going over tales of glory on all parts.

Gawdammit, what a great day.   Thanks, frand.

2nd place Cinderbloch and Hamburgers behind me planning his next year's revenge.  Et tu, Hamburgers?

Noting this for mine own future packless PMBAR reference:

6 packs of Clif Blocks (5 consumed)
2 large bottles of Carborocket (consumed)
1 large bottle water with Nuun (consumed)
1 large bottle water (2/3 consumed)
1/2 toasted cheese (4/5 consumed)
1/2 Coke (toddler sized)
2 Oreos (destroyed)
1 Sawyer filter  

Not sure how I did it, but even with some useable space given up to the phone, I still had room for all my food and new for me this year, a water filter.  I didn't enjoy using it, I didn't like spilling two (or was it three?) bottles, but the water tasted like water.  The only thing in my jersey pockets was the Clif Blocks and a Pisgah Map... which I didn't have to carry because I had the Pisgah Avenza map on my phone, but I like the paper map for big picture stuff AND really pinpointing CP locations.

That was for me when I try to figure out what I did last year that worked, but if you bothered reading it, kudos.

Wednesday, May 10

2023 PMBAR: Part One

Standing around in the minutes before the racer meeting, the scuttlebutt is being bandied about.  Sneaky surprises, Daniel Ridge mebbe making a comeback, fear of another "Wooden Nickle" year...I notice I don't see any boxes with passports in the hands of the volunteers.  Hmmm...

Racer meeting.  Running late.  Almost no doubt we're going off on time regardless, so I suspect that Eric "PMBAR Honcho" Wever is going to keep this tight.  Rules.  Have fun.  Don't cheat.  Off limits roads...

"276 between blah blah blah and yadda yadda yadda..."

I've finally done enough PMBARs to know my blahs and yaddas pretty well.  Certainly sounds like were heading over to Daniel Ridge with that information.

"Your passports are at Buckhorn Gap and you must take Black Mountain the whole way to get there.  The race starts in nine seconds."


I'd told Eric many, many times in the past how funny it would be if we didn't get our passports until we got to Hot Dog Gap, four miles and fourteen hundred feet of climbing away from the start.  I guess he thought if that sounds funny, eight miles and twenty two hundred feet of climbing would be almost twice as funny.

Note to self: Eric has twice the amount of sense of humor that I do.

Fortunately, Watts and I are near the start line and get out with the first wave of tryers.  It takes us darn near an hour and ten minutes to get to the top and roll into the gap to see what's in store for the day.

Dismounting or tripodding?  You decide.

Prolly tripodding.

I grab the passport and tell (ask firmly?) Watts to follow me just a hair down Wheelchair Ramp and outta sight from everyone who's gonna just plop down in the dirt to figure out a route. 

I don't need opportunistic lookieloos or pathetic tag-alongs wheezing my juice.

Club Gap mandatory, two in the Pisgah Butthole, two on top of the world.  Four necessary to finish, five to get a two hour time bonus.  I've already decided we're going straight to the Butthole, but in the back of my head, I'm trying to figure out if any of the open parts of 276 should come into play on the return trip from Club Gap or if it's just another one of Eric's red herrings.  

Down the Wheelchair Ramp, up Squirrel, and just about like any other year, I'm thinking, "How could anyone do anything unlike what I've decided we're doing?  This "optimal route" is too obvious."

Because I'm dumb like that.  

Riding in the presence of now local Jen Toops and her Ohio partner, Jeff, I feel like mebbe we're doing something right?  I'm bummed as we ride past the entrance to the reworked Cantrell Creek Trail because I've been wishing it would come into play at PMBAR someday.  Some rando rider without a number plate coming the other way says, "you're in fourth place."  This is not good news.  There are more than four teams that got their passports "ahead" of us, so that means they took another route... which my brain can't comprehend.  My Pisgah blind spot showing up right on schedule.

We get to the checkpoint and shortly thereafter, here comes Nick Brag and his teammate from the other direction.  Then another fast team of tryers.  Then another. I can't even figure it out, but I know that Watts knows what I wish he didn't know. 

There was a better way.  We run into a whole slew of teams coming into what will now be our first out-and-back checkpoint, and I'm able to piece their start together... including two single speed teams that now have a shorter route... at least for the first few CPs.

But the thing is...

I've learned one thing about racing PMBAR with Watts.  We're better off not choosing a route to play to our strengths, but to avoid our weaknesses as much as possible.  Sure, we can hike-a-bike like maniacs, but super chunky descents and steep but still rideable sections take their toll.  Our route has less of the bad and more of the good so mebbe the greater distance that keeps us on the bike more is better?  We'll find out in six or so hours, I guess. 

We see Cinderbloch and Hamburgers (strong single speed contenders) coming at us on our way outta the Butthole, so mebbe we got a lead on them... that we can lose later when our weaknesses will show themselves like a blue baboon's ass?

Down at Bradley Creek, stop to filter water because we decided to get off the pill, only spill two bottles whilst filling with trembling hands and looking back down the trail to see if we're getting caught.

Tuesday, May 9

2023 PMBAR: The Pre-Dumble

TBH: There wasn't as much dumb in our dumbling as usual.  It was almost as if we planned it.  I got off work early, hit minimal traffic (enough so that I was never thinking about turning around and going home), and had my shit completely straight and ready for race morning before Watts even got to the campgrounds.

Yeth, I will always be a little jealous of those that either sleep in their own beds, are affluent enough to consider a hotel worth it, or even those van-lifers, but this is the best version of me.  

Watts has been getting to the Pisgah earlier and earlier every year (I think).  We had enough chit-chat time while registering to throw out all the excuses to get them outta the way before seeking sustenance.

"I bled my brakes last Sunday, and although I was super careful and even rode it around afterwards, I'm pretty sure I contaminated my front brake, and now it's weak and skwonking pretty bad.  I'm sure it will be fine."

"What a coincidence.  I also bled my brakes recently, and one of mine is super mooshy... but that's also fine."

So everything's fine.

We decided to ride over to Ecusta Brewing instead of our usual Oscar Blues for dinners and also beers mostly because it was closer, but a little bit because we didn't desire a menu limited to "What kind of hamburger do you want... or there's chicken chunks?"  I'd put in an early request to limit our liquids to three, and I ordered the Nachos Gordos because once I saw it, I couldn't look away.  

Nachos fully inserted but only feeling 5% digested, 1.5 beers consumed, and Dr Mike and Bill Nye tell us they are on their way... after stopping at Oscar Blues for what I can only assume was a hamburger with a side of probably more hamburger, probably with a Hoppy Hamburger Lager to wash it down.  We ended the evening out a little later than I'd hoped, and of course after Watts finished his important business.

Surveillance video capturing the scene of everyone waiting for Watts to get off the phone so we could leave.*

Rode back to camp in the dark, and it seemed so tragically uneventful to just go to bed, so mebbe one van beer more because I miss those van beer days of yore?

"Woke up like this, go to bed like this also."

Even after a late night visit from the yinzers (Cinderbloch and Johnny Hamburgers... what is it about Pisgah and not being able to avoid hamburgers?), we still managed a reasonable bed time, followed by a night of sweaty fever dreams, occasional chills, and wishing I could magically just regain consciousness about ten minutes into the race and avoid everything in between.

Race morning came and as if we planned it, we were at the start in plenty of time for the rider's meeting somehow wondrously prepared for our eight to twelve hour adventure.

*Spoiler alert... but is it really if it's in the footnotes?

Tuesday, May 2

The Not-So Off Road Assault on Actual Mount Mitchell

Pretty sure I'm lactose intolerant.  Not like mega, but pounding 16oz of milk first thing in the morning is no longer buenos for me.  Diarrhea isn't normal, and it shouldn't have taken me so long to figure that out.  I shoulda known this long before I was miles and miles away from the bathrooms on top of the highest point East of the Mississippi.

Save yourself from telling me that humans are the only animals stupid enough to drink milk as adults.  We're also smart enough to make beer yet stupid enough to poison our bodies with it.  Also, vaping exists.

I let Türd talk me into riding to the top of Mount Mitchell this past weekend as part of our individual PMBAR related prep.  I coulda rode my garvel bike, being that this would be the kinda ride you should do on a garvel bike, but I didn't.  I grabbed my Vertigo Meatplow V.7 because... "reasons."  Also, burrito.

I haven't been on Curtis Creek Rd since the last time I rode up it in anger at the 2013 ORAMM (my very last ORAMM).  It was odd to ride it at such a leisurely pace.    

I'll always remember this rock cliff turn as my "all in" spot.  This of course was back when I was an "athlete."  I used to think if I got to the Parkway first, I'd win... I mean all I had left to do was get up over to Heartbreak Ridge, get down it unscathed, climb up to Kitsuma, survive, and then ride all those miles back to town without cramping.  Cake.

We went up and over the Parkway in the same way that ORAMM used to back in the day, down whatever road that is that doesn't even show up on Google Maps, down into the doldrums by the campgrounds, and then up all the way back up to the Parkway on South Toe River Road.  I've never ever ridden over there for "fun," so it was strange to have time to look around...

and it was nice to have access to a bathroom at the campground so I didn't have to restrain my bowels all the way up to Mount Mitchell.  There's a dope ass river next to the road that burbles you into a fine sense of communing with nature while bleeding through your eyeballs as you climb outta the hole.

I'm gonna say my Wahoo is pretty accurate since my bars are probably three feet higher than the base of this sign:

On the way back down the mountain and also coming down the Parkway, I found myself getting kinda sketched out well below the standard Fred Woo-Hoo speed.

Strange, as I can recall getting my very old road bike up to something stupid close to 50MPH (while wearing racing underwears) back in the day without getting nervous.  Mebbe it was the random gusts of wind hitting from whatever direction it might be going in this corner or that straightaway, but somewhere just below 38MPH had me dragging brake and noticing that my stoppers weren't feeling quite right... not adding to my confidence in the least.  FWIW: I felt much safer once we got back into the woods, on the garvel going down Curtis Creek road without all the Parkway "car enthusiasts"... but still with stealthy head-on motos to contend with.

At the bottom of Curtis Creek we were short of Türd's goal of seven thousand feets, so we climbed up into the Gateway Trails (despite Türd being on his garvel bike) and hit Betty Nugs.

Definitely need to get back out there and check out all the other stuff.


I decided to finally fix my rubbing rear rotor and mebbe get a clue as to why my brakes didn't feel so buenos when I got close to 40MPH (because there's so much of that kinda speed at PMBAR). 


Notice one pad is more worn than the others.  Figure out one piston is sticking.  Using the half brake block trick...

and I still could not get it out where I could clean it.  Go with a full bleed and...


Piston meet freedom.  While I'm down there, swapping out the uneven pads with fresh ones from TruckerCo (because I always tell people why second guess your pads when they're not that expensive from TC), and a fresh but less needed bleed on the front for good measure.  

I'll now have some peace of mind coming down Lower Black this weekend after eight to twelves hours of knowing at least my brakes work like actual brakes.

Saturday is PMBAR.  The Holiest of All Days.  The Dirtiest of Dirt Churches.  The best day of the year while also somehow being the worst.

Bring it.