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Thursday, July 21

The Good Newses

Two pieces of great news you'll either love or be indifferent about because they don't affect you (or you don't have feelings)  Not my fault you're not living right.

Firstly, the 2017 Breck Epic registration is open... already... before the 2016 event even takes place.  Benevolent promoter, Mike McCormack has decided to offer some super duper donkey pooper low early bird entry fees.

How low?

How low would be inversely proportional to how high you'll be on the Wheeler stage, which is very.

Like $649 low.  For a six day stage race.  In Breckenridge.  The closest stage race to heaven (in literal distance... heaven is only directly above America BTW).

Is this race good enough to throw your money at (pardon my dangling preposition, it does that from time to time)?

I've been there the first five years straight, skipped a year to go on a normal mountain bike mancation, and then went back last year.  I think skipping a year between my attendance works for me, as I like to go and see new places, but not being there really pulls at my heart strings all the more when I miss one.  I really do love that race.  Even the "not breathing" part.

I have a decent amount of friends who are looking to throw their cowboy hats (Mike loves cowboy hats) in the ring, so more than likely I'll be going back as well.  Make that a 95% chance, because predicting my future thirteen months out seems optimistic at best.

Other good news?

I saw this on the Instagram on Tuesday:

Do you believe in miracles, because I do now.

I first started riding Pisgah back in... 1997?  Was it that long ago?

Anyways, back then, getting around Pisgah wasn't as easy as it is now, what with GPS, STRAVA, the internet...  not to mention, we were dealing with a certain lack of popular exposure and a sense of "locals" mentality.   We figured our way around the woods by staring at (terrible) maps, reading guide books and guesswork.  We had no idea that some trails were "seasonal," and we rode all the things whenever we wanted to (again, pardon).

Seasonal.  Closed to bikes from April 15 through October 15th.  If I've been told correctly, the trails are very popular with hikers during those times, so to avoid conflicts... no bikes.  Since learning about the whole "seasonal" thing, I've done a very good at job avoiding those trails when I'm not supposed to be on them... despite the fact that a lot of my favorite loops are impacted down in the North Mills area.

One such trail, Bennett Gap.

Only a tiny section of the trail is (was) actually seasonal.  It's the portion that completes the Coontree Loop, a popular and easy-to-access trail for hikers.  If you stare at the map, you can also see that Bennett begins and ends on the same fire road, so from October 15th to April 15th, it sees a fair amount of shuttlers.

I'm sure someone could say they heard me mumble something about the difficulty of the climb not being quite worth the reward of the descent.  This probably has a lot more to do with the time of year that one can (could) actually ride the trail.  When it first opens, it's covered in a thick duvet of leaves.  A four star hotel duvet, not the one on my bed.  Such an unpleasant surprise, finding all the hidden obstacles whilst astride me hard tail.  By the time it gets run-in and you can see shit, it's cold AF in Pisgah.  Add to that, that's my fat-and-outta-shape season.  Climbing is not my friend.  We're not even acquaintances.

So maybe I hit it twice a year... since this is the same time that my favorite (less-climby) loop over on the west side can be had due to it also having a key piece of it on a seasonal trail as well.

I'm not saying that I've never shuttled Bennett.  Once... mebbe twice.

It's just that when I go to Pisgah, I want to do more than just ride in the back of a pickup for half the day.   Shuttles tend to disappoint me with the amount of standing around and organizing and passengering and general bullshit that happens when a bunch of dudes have too much time to high five...

Anyways, to be able to ride Bennett Gap during the summer?  Bonus.  Super bonus even.

I have to thank the Pisgah Area SORBA for doing all the hard work (politicking) to get this approved by the USFS.  I can't believe they got it done... just never thought things would ever change for the better (being the glass pretty much empty kinda guy that I am).  Also, a big thanks to The Pisgah Hub and Tavern for throwing the first sponsored PAS workday in the cleanup effort to get it ready for heavier use (not too many hikers hit the upper and lower portions, so yeah... overgrown I would imagine).

I guess the only thing that I ask is that as you enjoy the fruits of their labradors, keep in mind that we are still sharing the trail with hikers... who might be surprised to see us out there.  I'm not directing this at the begoggled Enduro™ shuttlers specifically.  A real asshole can ride down the mountain in stretchy, super hero clothes as well as pads and a full face helmet.  It's a super fun trail for everyone, so as your bombing down the mountain in the coming months (and years and decades), keep in mind that as this trail has been opened up to us, it could also be closed.

In short, don't be an asshole, asshole.

I'll be going up there this weekend if you would like a lesson.*



*you might have to wait up for me on the descents tho

Tuesday, July 19

Red Truck

The biggest problem that I have after the altercation I experienced with a man driving a red pickup truck yesterday on my way to work would not be that I stood my ground for no good reason (other than being in the right), but that I then spent the rest of my morning carrying around the fact that I lost my cool and remained angry, whereas I'm positive this was just one more shitty thing in his shitty life to be forgotten by the time he parks his red truck.

not my picture
I'm not saying you're an asshole if you drive a red truck, but your odds might go up a bit after the acquisition and an undetermined period of usage (according to my limited observations and rushed conclusions).

BTW:  On my first few runs of the day, I had my eye out for red trucks.  I had no idea it was such a popular color amongst truck enthusiasts.  Noted.

No matter who was in the right, we both failed at being Buddha.


Monday, July 18

Muh Timbers

Shit.

I'm lacking something.  Somewhere.

The Pie and I had a DINC weekend.  Time on our hands.  An economy to boost.  Rain Friday night and I wake up wondering what normal people do on a Saturday morning when they don't ride mountain bikes.

Whine, piss, bitch, mope about the house... certain the local trails are closed.

What do people do?  Srsly.

"Why don't you just buy a road bike so you can get a good ride in when this happens?" asks The Pie.*

*shiver*

Go downstairs and check the local trail status.  Some things are open.  Mebbe not what I'm in the mood for but also not buying a road bike.

Check the weather.  Humidity through the roof and storms coming later.

I'm not going road bike shopping... but this:

Full disclosure. My Thomson drooper has been sent back for warranty.  Fore/aft play.  No bueno.

That leaves me with the Stickel, which I really don't wanna take out of Pisgah mode.  32X20 and all that, not to mention the not-too-quick handling from putting a 120mm fjork on a bike meant to be rigid or at the most, 100mm of air-sprung squish.  Not the best bike for the local twisty turnies.

Any ride is better than no ride (or a road ride), so fuck it.

One quick local loop at pleasure pace (32X20, so no choice, natch) all by my lonesome and backtrack a little to drop/jump some things that drop/jump a few times.  Nobody ever does that on a road bike ride.

Good thing I got out so I could sweat my balls off while I could.  Huge storms came through Saturday evening. 

Sunday, I found myself looking at road bikes on the internet.  Watching le (other) Tour in another window. 

Close the window with the road bikes for me and watch the road bikes for others.

Organize the junk room.  What's become of me?

"There's nothing wrong with taking a day off," says The Pie.

Not knowing what else to do (other than go to Bike Source and buy a road bike)... I went running.

I know.

It's not that I hate running.  I did try to start up again this past winter... which is probably dumb.  Too cold.  My old man joints ache.  I gave up pretty quickly this past... November?  Who can remember these things?

I might stick with this for awhile.  Without a race to train for in the near future, I can't see getting up at 5:30AM to get enough saddle time in before I leave for work to make a difference.

But I can see getting up at 6:15AM to work up a sweat and enjoy feeling like an athlete (or something).

BTW:  Just throwing this out there.  This is too much to google, what with all the words and stuff.  Anyone know if there are downsides to working out in the heat, day after day, week after week?  For an "older" person?  More recovery time needed?

Just wondering.  My commute home from work is only @25 minutes, but when I get home?  Whooped.  Hard.  I could take a cold shower and go straight to bed.

Of course, I don't.  Shower, eat, hang out, go for a walk, drink beer... watch something on the entertainment rectangle.  Don't normally feel like this, but when it's hot?

Yeth.  Almost every day.

Don't mention hydration.  Some days I do a good job.  Some, not so good.  Doesn't affect the feels.

* I'm not going to lie and say that I don't wonder about this some times.  Just like running, I used to like this.  Just like I used to enjoy listening to Bruce Springsteen.  Bueno or no bueno?

Friday, July 15

Fings

When I returned home from the Tour de Burg, I was given a writing task that kept me focused enough for a few days that I didn't have time for post-Tour blues.   I think it will show up in print... someday.  Assuming I didn't screw it up like I must have on that never-aired podcast interview I did with Fat Cyclist.  I wonder if it was my mumbling (which I'm sure got worse the deeper I got into the beers), the poor sound quality of my janky 2006 setup, or the fact that I really wasn't all that interesting.  More than likely all the above.

Back to a world without a longer term focus.

This is the time of year that I used to have a laser beam drive towards prepping for ORAMM, something I haven't done since 2013.  Pride and a lack of something to do make me want to go back more than I like to admit.  That and I miss that dark place I can put myself into when I get to a predetermined turn on Curtis Creek Road and go all in.  So bueno.

A certain group of miscreants are trying to get me to jump in the The Hub and Pisgah Tavern short bus for the Wilderness 101.  I can't seem to get them to understand that this race has nothing for me.  I can't describe the feeling, as I know others love this race.  I certainly don't have a problem finding a dark place there, it's just not the dark place I want to be in... ever... again.

I did finally make a decision...

Single Speed USA has been moved from the "Mebbe" column to the "do."

All it took was for Bill Nye and Jim to say they're going, and I fell in line.  I wasn't going to make the trip by myself, but with a slight nudge... this doesn't look as trbl.

Mebbe it does.  As much as I dislike jamming all my fun into a short time and all the traveling, a four day work week, followed by a four day work week, followed by a one day work week, ending with anther four day work week?  Buneo.

If I end up doing Fool's Gold?  Abbreviated work week #4 in a row.

I should be quite the train wreck going into the Shenandoah Mountain 100 for my (hopefully) tenth and final finish for quite awhile.  Don't know what I'll do on Labor day in 2017 since I haven't had to figure that out since 2005, but I'm sure it won't be "ride 100 miles."

Now, to try and stay motivated to not slip into winter mode in the middle of summer.

Wednesday, July 13

The final day of le Tour de Burg '16

While most of the others are at breakfast, I spend most of my morning packing my car, gathering up wet camping chairs, and pouring out half-empty beers (love that smell) in an effort to help bring Carp's backyard to a less sad state.  Starting to feel the effects of choosing to not eat, I eventually leave early to get some Mr J's and head to Hone Quarry for the final stage.

Short but still a bear, we're going to climb up to the saddle below Reddish Knob twice on pavement.  6,000 feet of vert in 38 miles.  Doing my ORAMM-based math, that's a lot.  I ride out with the lead group to watch the sprint, and when it's done, we head up the climb.  This is the riding that I really miss on road days.  Head down, endless climbing.  Eventually, I find myself out front and on my own.  Not really an accomplishment, as the others are trying to get up with minimal effort.  Just feels great to find a tempo and lose myself in it.

photo cred: Jennifer W
The stage goes off, up something and then down with more up in the down than one might expect.  "Speed scrubbers," Carp calls them.

photo cred: Nate S
Get down to the bottom in one piece, beer, Coke, many food stuffs.  This will be the last time I eat until I get back to Charlotte, so I make it count.

Back up the backside of the mountain.  I feel a little sad and watch others ride away until Nate rolls up on me strong.
photo cred: Nate S
"Last segment of the last day.  Might as well blow it out," he says to me with his mouth part.

So I go ahead and do that.

Head down and climb and climb and catch others and relish the last really big climb I'll do for quite awhile.  I'm truly happy.

The start of the last stage.  Uphill.  This (for me) is the only race that matters.  The sooner I finish, the sooner I pack up, say goodbyes and get to Charlotte without falling asleep at the wheel.  Tour exhaustion is not a great travel companion.

I gun it from the start and find myself in different company than usual... because I don't normally have such strong motivation to do much else than survive.  At the top, blown out descent, another tiny climb and then a very remote downhill.  Steep as anything we've seen.  Amazing fun.

Get to the bottom, bang a right turn... gravel.   See Buck catching me in the distance.  Do what I can to preserve yet another pointless placing in the non-GC.  Finish.

No beer.  Sprite (because... no Coke).  Clean up, high five anyone I can find, and get in the car.  Drive home.  Should be non-stop but the gas light comes on 20 miles from home.  Shit.  Makes sense tho.

Home, unload, shower... try to tell The Pie all the important things I can think of before passing out into the deepest of sleeps.

Tuesday, July 12

Hairpy Berhfday

I need to stop and take a short break from the Tour de Burg coverage to acknowledge the one year old birthday... of my hair.

One year ago today, I shaved my head entirely bald for Watts Dixon's/Revolution Cycles 113 mile road "century," Erect. Why Not? Climax Ride for Nothing.

That was the ride that really pushed me into (re)discovering how much I hate road biking (and how much I miss hair).  Hoping to pull a little Pantani inspiration into the mix and to deal with the extreme heat, I shaved my head totally bald the day before the ride.

And then I let my hair grow ever since.

I used to say that hair is a vane extravagance in endurance mountain biking.  The hotter you are, the more you sweat.  The more you sweat, the more liquid you need to drink.  The more you need to drink, the more (heavy) liquid you have to carry.  Math and science and stuff.

I think it's a foregone conclusion that "racing" and "performance" isn't quite as important to me as it used to be.  I still enjoy it to some degree, but not enough to make certain sacrifices.  So, yeah.  Beer, hair, burritos.  So much more fun than racing.

The Pie has reminded me a lot lately that we are getting older, and now is the time to do the stupid things in life that you won't be able to do when you get too old.

She wasn't talking about growing hair, but that's what I heard... so why not?  Maybe she was telling me to buy a full suspension mountain bike.  Prolly that.  And the hair thing.

Tonight I will celebrate with the the blowing out of candles or something, this milestone that means absolutely nothing.

And then I'll get back to the final day of the Tour de Burg tomorrow.

Monday, July 11

Days Three & Four of the '16 Tour de Burg (the tainted vision version)

4th of July.  The Queen Stage.  I think I recognize some of the trail names, but who knows?  Keep the head down and move forward.

I check out my newly acquired "road bike" in the daylight.  The rear tire has gone flat.  Maybe it's a sign from Dog.

The weather forecast.  100% chance of shit.  Should make things interesting.

We start the first timed stage rolling out from the church in a light drizzle.  Light rain coat and a GoreTex cap.  Too humid and the coat comes off, the hat remains in an effort to keep the drops of my all too important glasses.

The sequence of events that followed are as muddy as the trails we rode.  The drizzle turning into a downpour.  Climbing against a river and feeling the water pushing me back. 

photo cred: Tomi
Walking and peeing as I push my bike up a climb.  Giving my gel to a shelled-looking Carp only to have him blast by me minutes later as he charges into the final descent.  Coming down Hankey and into the finish nipping a fellow single speeder in a very pointless sprint.  More rain, party pace to North River... more rain.  A stage I can't remember very well at all and end at the reservoir.  I think we're done.  I jump in the water and clean up.  Then I'm told we still have to trail ride Narrowback and some other trail back to the car.  I'm deflated but whatever.  This is le Tour.  Viva and all that.

Beer, dinner, fix the flat tire and install a bottle cage on my prospective road bike, beer, fireworks.  I notice that Chad has pulled the smart card.  He's gone to bed.  It's only 9:30PM.  I applaud his brilliance and power myself down for the night.

Wake up, head to breakfast in the Creeper Van.  I sit next to Carp and see that he's trying to rally some volunteers.

"You going to need help?"

"Yes."

And just like that, I'm bailing on another road stage.  To be honest, road biking just isn't my thing.  Helping?  More gratifying being able to assist others in the making of great bike race.  Immensely.

A myriad of duties are assigned, and Tomi and I do whatever is asked of us.  The racers are treated to a lovely day, and maybe I'm a little jealous, but just a little. Except when we're helping riders off the back fix flats.  Not that jealous.  Easier to drink beer and help than to drink beer and race road bikes.

photo cred: Jennifer W
Sometimes breaking down an aid station involves emptying Coke cans filled with wine.

Get back and prep for the time trial at Rocktown.  Carp suggests a pre-lap due to the very slick conditions (srsly).  I quickly realize I'm probably two beers too deep to be doing this safely.

photo cred; Jennifer W
Pre-lap done, sit down, drink beer, watch others start, head back early to shower and get things ready for dinner that night.

Beer, dinner, beer... I think a pretty late night again.  Don't remember, but when Ralph asks me if I want to go to breakfast the next morning, I can only open one eye and hear half the things he says.

"No.  No food for me.  Thank you."