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Tuesday, May 21

2019 Pisgah 55.5k

Me, trying to work out the shoulder knots or practicing my podiums before the start?

photo cred: Mario Quivera
I go ahead and line up right at the front.  Things are gonna get tight real quick-like heading directly up Black Mountain trail.  Figure I wanna stay outta single speed unfriendly traffic and allow the fastest riders by me on the lower, much wider section.  I get the hole shot to the first corner.

photo cred: Mario Quivera
Apparently, I know this start so well, I can ride it with my eyes closed and chanting, "Om money podium hum."

I watch as the faster riders come around me, nobody on a single speed in sight...

Well, until we get near the top of the first hike-a-bike, and I see a single speeder behind me.  Shit.

The last thing I came here for was a "bike race..."  Well, second to last mebbe to measles.  I wanted a no pressure supported ride in Pisgah WITHOUT RAIN.  Now I'm "racing," more or less, in some kinda triple dog dare scenario.

I hope this guy passes me, and I never see him again.

The short downhill to Hot Dog Gap and he closes right to my wheel.

Good.

We push up Middle Black, I ask his name...

"Steve."

"I'm Rich."

"I know who you are."

So, I wonder... does he think I'm the guy who was decent at riding bikes and mebbe still is or the washed-up has-been I've resolved to be until I'm dead or riding an e-bike (same same)?

It doesn't matter, because as soon as he and his squished bike hit the first descent on Turkey Pen, he's gone.

Good.

Down Turkey Pen and loving every minute (except the parts that go up), and happy (as I can be) to be alive, passing a geared rider in a section of thunder chunk.

Well, I got off the bike to hop giant downed lerhgs.

photo cred: Mario Quivera

photo cred: Mario Quivera
Into the first aid station.  Grab a handful of Peanut M&M's.  Woot.  This is what I came here for.

Up and over Bradley Creek, and arrive at the bottom of the climb up 5015.  This is a place where I can make my biscuits.  I give it a bit, pass another geared rider, and then I see him.   Steve.  Fucking Steve.  I was so hoping I'd never see him again.

Catch my breath, put in an effort, make the pass... hold the effort for as long as I can stand, hoping to get myself outta his line of sight and give him sads.

Into the second aid station.

"You’re fifth overall."

Huh.

That's kinda cool and certainly another motivator... although I didn't wanna be motivated.  I feel myself reaching for a second virtual hamburger...

Fill a bottle, ride outta the aid... see bacon outta the corner of my eye... make a u-turn.

I have time for bacon.

Making my way up Laurel Mountain trail,  I'm gonna need a build a multi-minute gap on the climbs to hold him and his fjork off on the long descents down Pilot Rock and Upper Black Mountain.  I put it on cruise control, swallow a bug in my gaping pie hole, look back... there he is.

Fuck me.

We're together again.  Chatting again.

"You're either going to have to blow up or have a flat tire to beat me at this point.  I'll never descend faster than you."

"I might actually blow up."

I get up the Thousand Dollar Climb ahead of him, start down Pilot Rock... and have to pull over to let him by less than a quarter of the way down.

Good.

As far as I'm concerned, game over.  Thank dog.  I don't want anymore of this.  I ride as one might down Pilot Rock on a rigid fork, on the edge of comfort and control, always looking for a second or two of relief from the torture.  My clean yet plodding line through the Humvee section only producing a mild amount of ire from the heckle pit.  I manage to get all the way down alive and unscathed, and I pop out on the fire road. 

Look to my right... there's Steve.

Fucking Steve.

He's either having a physical issue or mental.  Dunno.  My best guess is a cramp.  Pilot Rock is one of those kinda descents, just as physically punishing as any thirty minute sustained climb.  I grind past him as fast as possible...

"Why can't you just go away."

The voice in my head once again coming outta my mouth.

Get to the last aid station, fill my bottle while pounding tiny paper cups of Coke down my throat.  Steve pulls up and looks for his drop bag.

"The next time you pass me, please just make it stick."

I'm Steve's biggest fan.

I get outta the aid station first, up the back entrance to the Wheelchair Ramp, make more biscuits.

To the hike-a-bike to the top of Black Mountain, I realize there's very little reason to look over my shoulder.  I can only hike over the top at a certain speed, and from there, I'm just gonna have to hold on going down and hope that I built enough of a gap to keep Steve behind me.

I might have adjusted my comfort level a bit  through the techy bits, and when I got on to milder yet speedy Thrift Cove, I just let it all go.  I risked all the biscuits I'd made earlier, finally looking over my shoulder when I made the final left turn down to the final bit of smooth'ish descending... fuck.

I finally did a thing again.  Not that I wanted to do this thing, but the thing was there, and I couldn't turn this hamburger down.

First single speed (sport class distance 37 mile distance, 5hr 31 min in the saddle, margin of victory only 01.51)...

 and fifth place overall.

I think second and third musta got into a team building exercise knee fight.

That really felt good and absolutely awful to actually "race" a bike.  I have to give so much credit to Steve, because had he not pushed me all day long to try, I woulda just been on a bike ride.  He reminded me just how stupid and fun bicycle sport racing can be.  He made a very good hamburger.

And now off the Trans-Sylvania Epic tomorrow... to mebbe "race" my bike in the 50+ class or to find out that once again, I over-burgered myself.

Monday, May 20

2019 Pisgah 55.5k: Preamble

I know I said I was going to be way too busy to do things and what not, but...

Like the delicious hamburger that Kurt offered me Friday night at 9:30PM that I said I didn't want because that's late for me to eat real food the night before a race, and I'm old... but I ate it anyways.

Or the fourth or fifth beer I cracked open at 10:30PM on Friday night because Nick said he was gonna have one more before bed...

I'm a little too open to suggestion and often times make decisions that are not in my best interest future forward but seem like a great idea right at that moment.

The burger was good tho.

Going backwards in time but in the same theme, I got a coupla texts from Eric "PMBAR Honcho" Wever on Wednesday.


7:12 PM... probably cracking the post-shower beer beer.  37+ miles and almost 8,000 feet of climbing... beer buzz math says ok.

I promised myself I wouldn't overdo things less than a week out from the Trans-Sylvania Epic (again).  That said, a quick look at the weather... a chance to ride thirty seven something miles in absolutely perfect Pisgah conditions?  I convinced myself that I could mebbe skip all before work training Friday through Tuesday in exchange for the 55.5k, and in return, sleep in and "recover."

Pretty much the bike ride equivalent of an expertly grilled and prepared burger with all the fixins.  How could I say no?

Rob Peter.  Pay Paul.  Fuck Dick.

So do I swap the heavy'ish tires on the Vassago and squish my way around the forest or change the TSE nineteen tooth cog for a Pisgah friendly twenty tooth*, suck it up, and ride rigid?

Obvs the cog swap sounded like less effort, at least on the front end of the stick.

So leave work Friday at 5:00PM, home, dinner, drive to the Rampton Lodge, beer, burgers... more beer... and in bed by 11:40PM.

Wake up at 5:00AM, coffee... hope for results... nothing.

Red meat a couple hours before bed, maybe not so buneo of an idea.  Fortunately, a stop at Ingles so Nick could grab some breakfast offered the opportunity to address my "issues," and I was starting to feel like it was gonna be a great day in Pisgah.

Mebbe.

* The funny thing is, I got home Sunday, washed my bike, and went to swap the 20 tooth cog back to a TSE-frandly 19 tooth.  Pulled off the cog, put the cog that I put in a memorable place on my workbench a few nights ago... and the chain was already tensioned.  Huh... I don't know how I did it, but I had swapped a nineteen tooth cog for another nineteen tooth cog.  According to Nick...

Wednesday, May 15

Stand By

So, there I was, sitting at work on Monday... not doing much at all.  Then something clicked in my head, and I remembered that in a little over a week, I'm gonna need to stuff all my Trans-Sylvania Epic shit in the back of the Fit of Rage and drive all day long.  It's been two years since the last time I had to do this, remembering all the little things I need to pack...

Anxiety is a hell of a motivator, especially when you're good at it.  Anal compulsion and the fear of not having a key piece of gear and the ensuing meltdown sure to occur.

It only got worse as I made a list that grew and grew and grew and grew and grew...

I should laminate this list, but I won't.

I planned on some overnight bro-bro time in the mountain this weekend, so leaving all the packing until the last minute was a no bueno scenario.

Time to start assembling the piles.

And freaking out just a little bit.

I need to make the most of my after work hours and spend time with family and eat and ride and pack and play and sleep and food gather and beer acquire and dunno?  Mebbe go over my bike (again)?

I'll be busy getting ready for this weekend and next week, so lower your expectations for quality content here to rock bottom, and everyone should be okay until I get back from PA in a couple weeks.

Monday, May 13

Eight Mile Radius

I met Jesse the Dude almost twenty years ago.  Recently, when he invited me to his 37th birthday bike ramble about town, I was intrigued.  Normally, he celebrates his birthday doing something LARGE and intimidating, so a ride from drinking hole to drinking hole in Charlotte seemed like it was in my wheelhouse.

With the coming storms, I offered up my house/porch as a starting point... we could always watch the rains and jet when possible, drinking all the Coors that was left in my cooler... that Zac had actually bought last week at PMBAR.

So The Dude, Zac and Moosa all showed up at me casa around 3:00... something?  The plan was much larger than just starting at my house, but the weather forecast was glum.  Then the rain came and shit on our heads.  Hard.  We sat and talked.

The Dude was looking at all the number plates on the porch walls and found the one from when we met all those years ago, the Pro-Lyte 24 Hour Challenge.  He was around 18 years old and had zero support in the pits.  Myself, I was just getting into the sport that I was apparently decent at (staying awake, riding a bike for 24 hours, and causing self-bodily harm).  My "people" helped him out with what will always be a memorable race experience, the race being halted less than a third of the way in in for lightning and 2" of rain in just in hour.  What followed was... a whole 'nother story.

We were trying to figure out what year it was, this mounted on the wall behind me the whole time:

Derp.

Anyhoo, we sat on the porch, crushed some shitty beers, and waited out the storm... until I realized it was a "real storm."

So much rain (like almost 2" in an hour) that my neighbor's yard does this:

Which makes my backyard do this:

Which makes my side yard do this:

So, I mighta left the party to "deal" with all that for a bit.  I need go keep my HVAC unit from floating away.

Anyhoo, the lightning subsided and we suited up and headed south to the Waldhorn German pubbery.

That's the birthday Dude BTW.  Honestly, it takes a lot of rain to get this part of the greenway flooded.  Something around 10-12 feet above normal.  Fuck.

Onwards to Waldhorn, where beer comes in liters and with strange, nonstop pretzel breads.

Oof.

Anyhoo, we did what damage was needed and then headed back north'ish.

I warned everyone how slick the new greenway was coming down off South Blvd, what with the strange green fluff grass stuff sprayed all over to insta-grass everything.  I'd gone out for 24 greenway "training miles" that morning scoping it out, so I was totally aware.  Despite my knowing better, I totally went sideways and down anyways.

So, that happened.

And then Punta Cana for foods, and that's where I called it a night.  I tried ghosting out, but my bike was locked in a pile, and the rain was pouring at that point, but I was just a few miles from home.  The party was getting larger and headed way north... and for some adult reason, I'd been up since some silly hour doing something way earlier.

Good times, erosion, beer, late night guilt Cuban sammich (with fries), Sunday "we will rebuild" moments, and a week and a half to go before TSE with another very possible celebration weekend coming up...

I wonder... ummmm... how to do this better?

Friday, May 10

We ready?

Firstly, if you ain't read Watts's version of his '19 PMBAR experience, I suggest you use your Friday morning toilet time more wisely and click over there.  Is much buenos.

But if you're caught all caught up, let's go.

I was up the Sunday after PMBAR before 7:00AM and home around 9:00AM.  Despite that a fair amount of locals woke up in the comfort of their own beds, I'm willing to bet that I was first to have a clean bike, all my lower bearings (wheels and bottom bracket) checked and lubed if needed (new Industry Nine Hydras showed no sign of moisture or contamination), new brakes pads (and clean pistons), new drooper cable, clean (not rusty) chain, and while I was at it, new grips to boot.  Not to mention, I swapped to my TSE ready gear of 32X19.

I was a very busy boy who was blessed with an empty house, so no real expectations from anyone but my dog Boppit.

He was a bit disappoint.

That wasn't what I did all day long.  I managed to watch two movies and get 3-4 half hour sessions in my squeezy leg bags, which musta counted for something, as my ride to work Monday post-PMBAR was not even slightly ouchy.  That has to be a first.  Later in the week, my shins did hurt, I imagine from run/joggling behind Watts down Bradley Creek between the downed trees and creek crossings.

Hard to believe that the Trans-Sylvania Epic starts in less than two weeks.  I'm ready... ish?

Well, my bike is ready.

Blurry evidence that I did not lose my bike in Bradley Creek.

My fitness... well, my fatness anyways.  I know it's not a direct correlation, but I do tend to think about my state of readiness being somewhat linked to my weight.  I'm at that tipping point where while commuting, my exterior stomach fat (AKA subcutaneous) tucks in behind my belt buckle as opposed to draping over it like a harbor seal basking in the sun on a warm rock.

I know this means I'm on the right track, albeit a few weeks late... but whatever.

With only two weeks (less than) to go, I feel like everything I do is semi-critical... which makes this weekend's weather predictions pure shit.

Vegetables, proteins, mebbe some saddle time?

Beer... and assembling the stage race crap.

Where's my Thomas the Tank pillow case and Princess sheets and power strip and sleepy eye thing...

etc?

Thursday, May 9

PMBAR '19: Part Three

We get to the Horse Cove intersection.  Time to inspire Watts with the good news.

"Squirrel is mostly downhill with one hurty part and then it's up the Wheelchair Ramp, down Clawhammer, up to Hot Dog Gap... short hike-a-bike and down the slippery mess that lower Black Mountain probably will be when we get there."

We're fumbling our way down Squirrel.  Watts tries to do one of those sneaky tight turns through a creek bed (the kind I won't do when I'm tired and it's raining), and he takes a tumble.  At least he fell up the mountain instead of down.  The look on his face says it all.  He's not having what people call "fun."

We get to the tiny hurty part, I start up... and stop in my tracks when I hear Watts scream.

Ummmm... it's not that hurty.  Wonder what he managed to do to himself on a climb?

I run back down, and he's fiddling with his face.  He's got a large piece of goopy something in his eye.  We consider the drawbacks of trying to wash his eye out with a water bottle that probably has some remnants of Carborocket Half Evil, but decide the reward outweighs the risk of mebbe horse shit in his occipital hole.  The process is a comedy of errors, me trying to help, three hands needed to hold his eye open top and bottom and squirt the bottle.  We take turns at eyelid and bottle duty, many attempts being fruitless... until finally a glop of who knows what comes flying outta his eye.

We get to the "fun" part of Squirrel Gap, and Watts (now with restored yet blurry vision) follows me down the trail.  My brakes are making that funny noise that may or may not indicate a certain lack of pad material.  I flash back to when I mentioned on Facebook that everyone should be checking their pads, what with the spotty forecast and all.

Myself?  I felt a cursory glance should suffice.

Unless it didn't.

I focus on "preserving" my rear pads, knowing that the real danger will be coming down Black Mountain at the end.

Bottom of Squirrel, get on the Wheelchair Ramp... which is usually the perfect grade for a single speeder... unless it's absolutely saturated.

Which it totally is.

I'm feeling good, probably because I know I've got very little left to ride in my last PMBAR ever.  I'm hammering away... Watts is fading.

I stop.  Hand him some Gummy Tummies.  Hammer.  Repeat.

Watts tells me what I already know.

"I've reached my f--k it point."

And this is where I feel terrible.  It's my fault we're still out here.  It always is tho.  Somehow, my screw ups always seem to add that amount of time that's just outside the f--k it point.  It probably has more to do with the fact that I always tell my partner how badly I screwed up and how much potential time I added to the day.

I need to stop doing this to people, especially my little friends.

Over the top and down Clawhammer.  We come across a man walking down with two kids.  He stops us.

"Is this 477?"

"No.  It's down at the end of this road."

"How far?"

Jeesh.  How do we tell this man who obviously did not think ahead before walking his two small'ish children up Buckhorn Gap... and who knows how he got here... how do I tell him he's miles away from 477 and probably even more miles to wherever he started?

There's nothing we could do other than give directions and say "good luck."

On to Hot Dog Gap and I try to ride at Watts's pace, chatting him up... realizing this is only slightly better for his morale than letting him suffer alone.  It's what I do tho.  The sun pops out, and I remind him that soon we will have beers and sunshine.  We reach the gap, hike up to the top of Lower Black... begin the slip and slide of death.

Watts admittedly doesn't like this kinda Pisgah, at least on a rigid single speed... which he's normally riding.  Rooty, wet, washed-out hot mess of a trail with a fair number of "oh shit" sections.  Having some idea what he's comfortable with, I descend ahead and stop when I think he needs fair warning, his brakes not quite being what they were when when started the day.

"You don't want none of this."

Watts stops, dismounts, begins to walk... and somehow he and his bike collapse as if the planet Mars landed on his head.

"Unnnghhhh."

"I'm gonna need to walk a bit.  My knee hit something hard."

Fortunately, his "bit" was pretty short, and he got his unbendy knee to be bendy again.  Back on the bike... and finally we pop out at the bottom and finish.  I see a very clean group of single speeders hanging out and a keg and burritos to my left.  No time for high fives and silliness.  I want to clean up ASAP and drown my sorrows... at my last PMBAR ever.

Down to the creek, splash myself, give my bike a couple good gadooshes into the water, head back to my car.

"Hey Dicky, they're looking for you."

Shit.  What did we do wrong?  I mean, Eric didn't look at our passport or even ask about my route.  Did I screw something up?

"Dicky, hurry up and go get Watts for the single speed podium."

Huh?

Apparently, the Crank Arm Christians did not go for the bonus checkpoint.  With the two hour bonus, we got them by ten minutes.  And Gary and Chris?  I don't know what they did, but they came across the line four minutes behind us.

What was it Watts was saying?  Anything can happen?  Like it did last year and apparently this year?

Hooray us and all that.

That thing about my last PMBAR?

I guess anything can happen...

After it's all said and done, it's all about hanging out with my little friends and playing games and having fun... and growing facial hair.

So mebbe I just give up on the concept that I'm disappointing teammates, knowing full well that at this point, they should really know what they're getting themselves into.  A huge thanks to Watts for all these years of understanding and patience and semi-positive attitude and good times and beers and just everything.

I'd do it again if he will.

Do you have it in you to return next year, Watts?

Look inside yourself, Mufasa.

Wednesday, May 8

PMBAR '19: Part Two

Mentally, I'm checked out.  I've "quit" PMBAR, but there really is no quitting.  The shortest route back to the finish is probably two to three hours, so finishing in five or six hours officially?  What's the difference?

Photo from our first check point on Bennett but whatever.

On the hike-a-bike up to the overlook, things just got worse.  Coming directly back down having already been to the check point were the Crank Arm Christians, then Gary and Chris... two of the other strong single speed teams.  We did hike past Yuri and Clay (also SS), but they had the best part to go and we still had the shittiest (I assume).  Are we in virtual sixth place??

I talk to Watts about the possibility of us mebbe volunteering at the 2020 PMBAR?  It has to be better, right?

He gives me the same speech I've heard at this point in the race for years.

"Buck up, little buddy."

"Anything can happen."

"It's okay.  I still don't hate you."

That's when the sky started to rumble.

We get to the check point, and Blalock is there.  He's got Pringles... mebbe something special to drink.  My frown didn't turn upside down, but mebbe it straightened out a bit.  We make the turn around and start back down.  Then the sky opened up on our heads.  I stopped to put my GORE Shakedry on, still scarred from the Bootlegger hypothermia experience two weeks ago.

Doh...I accidentally brought the one that doesn't have a dual zipper when it's inverted into its own pocket.  I fumble with it for a quick minute before putting it away and just tossing a cap under my helmet.  Same thing, right?

Get to the bottom and the storm is at full bluster (or at least what we thought would be full bluster).  Lightning pops nearby, and this just doesn't seem like it could get any worse.

What a stupid thing to think.

We get to the top of Bradley Creek and Rich T and TP Hudson are there.

"There's a lot of trees down on Bradley."

"There's always a lot of trees down on Bradley."

"No, it's way worse than ever."

Super.

So, Watts and I don our rain jackets and find ourselves hiking across the thousands of stream crossings, lightning going off so close it's almost pants-shattening.  Then the hail, sideways winds... ummmm... this is dangerous?

Watts stops, looks at me through the downpour.

"What should we do?"

I don't understand the question.  I mean, I get it.  I also wondered if there's a good thing we should be doing to be safe.   It's beyond my realm of comprehension at this point how we could decrease or increase the level of danger we're in currently.

I answer him with a dumbfounded look on my face.

"Ummm... we keep going?"

So is it dangerous to be in a creek during lightning or amongst tall trees or carrying metal bikes around all the dead fall and detritus littering what someone once called a trail?

Beats me, but whatever.  My last PMBAR will be an adventure and either my last by decision or electrocution, hopefully the former and not the latter.

We get towards the bottom of Bradley Creek, and the rain dies down.  We come across some guys filtering water... and they're bone dry, not wearing anything but their kits.

"You guys didn't get dumped on?"

"Nope."

Well, at least mebbe we're headed towards dry trails, emmaright?

Over to the South Mills check point and Tom is there with cookies.  I eat as many as I can possibly stuff into my mouth part without choking.  I tell Watts it's just a pretty flat diddy-bop and then we'll be at the worst part of our whole day, the "ride" up Cantrell to Horse Cove and the hike to Squirrel Gap.  The trails are dry... until they aren't.  The rain kicks back up, jackets go back on (or do they, so much of the on-off I can't even remember), and we get to our final check point.  Then it's the long hike up Horse Cove.

I don't need to talk about how miserable this is.  Seven or eight hours in, hiking the worst thing we've done all day, rain dumping on our heads.

But then we run into Banjo and three other riders, and they're sliding their way down Horse Cove which means they're still on their way out and away from anything close to the finish.  I realize I'm a jaded piece of shit if I think what we've got ahead is a hard endeavor.  I'm blessed to be already on my way back to dry clothes and beer.

So mebbe this is my last PMBAR, but it's almost over, and I'll have an official finish, and I didn't die (yet), and then Watts can look at me and say...