Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Green River Games

I was pretty stoked to try my first Enduro race this past weekend. I had heard that the Green River Games was a "downhiller's" Enduro as it is a really steep, exposed, raw, and technical trail system in the Green River Gorge. Being someone who used to race a lot of DH, this sounded great to me.

The wifey, junior, and I head up to Hendersonville on Thursday. I was hoping to get a ride in at the Gorge so that I could at least be familiar with the terrain and turns. Never worked out to ride the entire Green River Gorge trails, but I did get to check out most of stage 3. It had been raining for a few days prior to getting here and pretty much all day on Thursday so it was gonna be muddy. It was one of those rides where I was so wet that soon as I got to the car I had to get my shoes and socks off!

On Friday the little guy and I got a full tour of Industry Nine facilities and production machine shop. A huge treat to get to see how those pimp azz wheels get built.

Afterwords I didn't want to tackle to big of a ride, but felt like hitting something fun. Looks like a ride on the Green's Lick trail in Bent Creek area is in order. A little sloppy, but always a fun spot that never disappoints.

Race day finally arrives and we have to be up at 5:30am to be able to check out of our hotel, get breakfast, double check the bike, and get down the Gorge and be ready to go at 7:30am. I'm less then amused - those who know me can attest to the fact that I'm the least thing from a morning person. I'm pretty nervous because I have no idea what I'm in for. I'm really wishing that I had gotten a chance to ride the course at least once right now. One thing I noticed right away on my first drive down the 19 sketchy switchbacks on Thursday is how beautiful this gorge is. Why have I not gotten out here sooner? That is going to change for sure. It looks even more pristine with the sunrise. Attend the racer's meeting and the promoter is going on and on about how hard the riding is out here and how dangerous of an area it is. I'm really not getting warm fuzzies over here about now. I wait until my name is called (we had 1 minute interval staggered start times) and head out for a big day on the bike.

Photo Cred: GoJamMedia

First thing I notice is how hot it is, and it's only 8am. Second thing I notice is how technical the "easy" trail is that we have 90 minutes to climb up to get to the top of Stage one. This trail is very "heart of pisgah" in nature at times and it's pretty slick. There were no easy miles at all and I was having to power up stuff over and over. I know that burning these matches is going to come back to bite me later. After an hour I had only gone 3.8 miles and I have 6 miles to get to the top! I finally get up top and want to sit down and rest after 89 minutes(we were given 90 minutes before penalty), but I'm called for my start time on stage 1.

Finally getting to enjoy some descending. Right away I notice that besides being really steep, it's also really loose. The fun part of that is you can rear steer it a little with the rear brake. The bad part is I'm just waiting for the front to tuck and put me on my face. I went into the race thinking that I'd hold back a little since I wasn't able to ride most of the course. Well, that went out the window once I got a feel for the dirt a little. I can always tell when I start pushing it and going fast. How can I tell you ask? Soon as my brain starts saying "Jon, you should really be wearing a full face helmet for this shiznit". That's when I know that I'm pushing it!

What happens next is basically a blur. I see a little drop coming up and I wheelie drop it. For those that don't know, a wheelie drop is when you pull the front end up as you launch off something that usually has a flat take off. This way your bike is balanced evenly front to back in the air and you land nice and smooth on both tires at roughly the same time. It was a very needed skill when I raced downhill and I'm glad I learned it because I use it tons now.

Good example of a wheelie drop - I may have not gone this big

Anyway, what I saw before I wheelie dropped was the trail after the landing generally going a little to the left. As I go off the drop a branch kinda smacks my face lightly. Just enough to make me close my eyes for a second. Upon opening my eyes I got some bad news. Trail goes hard to the right. I try and stuff the front wheel down into the turn and hold on. No bueno - funny thing is I thought the Rhododendrums would stop me. Nope. Something about a hot knife and butter ring a bell?!? Next thing I know I start sliding down a really steep mountainside. Lucky for me, I spotted a small tree and hooked my arm around it. Not so lucky for my bike, it kept on going. I do a quick examination of myself and I appear to be ok. I rang my bell some and my knee doesn't feel daisy fresh, but nothing appears major. I'm full of mud and dirt head to toe. Mud is packed in one of my ears, all over the right side of my face and body. My knee pad went up my inner thigh and is getting frisky. I finally spot my bike and it's a long way down the really steep hill. I have to scale this hillside carefully to not slip and fall again. Takes at least 30 minutes to get the bike and get trailside again. Bikes not terrible considering. I straighten some things - bars, break levers, saddle, try and fix the rear break, etc.., and then mount up. One thing that I can't believe is that my Garmin is still on my bars. How the hell? Kuddos to you guys at Garmin, that stuff works! I make my way to the bottom of Stage 1 and I'm really late. Bike is also shifting like crap. A bent deraileur hanger tends to do that I guess? Most of the volunteers and timers have already left bottom of stage one. I'm told by someone though that I probably won't make it to Stage 2 before they pack up and I will definitely get the time penalty if anyone is even there to start me. After a quick assessment I decide to ride out and DNF. I really hate a DNF, but considering the circumstance it seems reasonable. I'll be back for sure next year though. Really like being in that Gorge in general. Next year I'll be sure to ride a bunch out there before the race. Thanks to the guys and girls who put this race on for a great event and for helping get us more trails to ride!

Green River Games 1, Jon 0

Next Enduro for me will be Cranksgiving at Paris Mountain in Greenville November 21-23rd. Can't wait, really like this kind of racing. SYOTT.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Summer Series in Tha House Y'all

I've been pretty slack this summer bike racing wise. I was doing well up until the death virus in May. Something about being sick for almost 4 weeks takes the motivation to train right out of me, and along with it goes the motivation to race. I have however been riding a lot, but it's been a lot of cruising up the hill and charging down them. Kinda how I used to ride when I raced DH.

The second to last race in the summer series was being held at my local stomping grounds though, so I thought it would be a good idea to head out to Anne Springs and at least give it a go. I entered Master Men (45+ years old) even though I usually race CAT 2. There was no way I was fit enough to race that length right now. When I get to the line I'm happy to see a pretty decent sized field for one of the last summer series races. There are about 8 or 9 guys in the field. We line up and I make sure to get up front and on the inside left as there is a big left hand turn right in the beginning. Race starts and as we go through the turn 2 guys try and go around me on the right. Sorry boys, I raced to much MotoX to get punked like that. I take them wide and make them run off course or slow down. Both slow down. Now I have 4 minutes of mostly downhill, and I know every line out here. I figured I would be gone - you know, just drop the whole field. I was partly right. Someone stayed with me, and I mean right on my wheel with me. I was actually impressed. I pin it out here - it's my home track, WTH? After a while I started feeling like the poor Bison below…..

We catch the group in front of us and make our way up the first climb. The 2 girls in Sport nicely let both of us by and I absolutely hammer it. Like 160% of threshold hammer it. Figure it's time to put a gap on this guy and call it a day. Problem is, he is still sitting right on my wheel. Down another hill, through a tunnel, up a small climb, and then I make a mistake on a pretty big root. It almost stops me and sends me to the right far enough for him to slip by. He gets up front and does what a lot of people do when they get around me. They slow down. I really don't understand this? Do you think that just because you got around me I'm going to give up? If you knew me at all you would be running for your life. Now I'm pissed, motivated, and coming from the position I love to come from: HUNTER. I'd much rather be hunting the person in front of me then be out front and be the hunted. So I go to the left side of him and show him my front wheel. There really wasn't room to pass, and I didn't intend to pass him, but I wanted to shake him up a little and get in his head. I was hoping he was wondering when I was going to try that again. So he finally wakes up and goes super sonic up the hill. I wasn't ready for it  and he gaps me - 3 or 4 seconds, no big deal. I catch him on the next downhill and we both stand and crush the next climb. I feel great and I'm all over him - just a matter of time before I make a move and put this one in the bag. That is, until I all of a sudden out of nowhere I get a chest cramp. Like Owen Wilson in Hall Pass I try and work through it, but it ain't happening. The only thing to do now is slow down. Sucks to have to let someone walk away from you when you have the legs. That's the issue with riding but not training. Not enough high intensity work is gonna catch up with you. I had to slow down enough that I started giving third place some hope. I kept him in check though and dialed in a nice Silver medal performance.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Bike-Cation Maple Syrup and Covered Bridges

The vote for the family vacation this year was wide open for most of the year. We talked about Jackson Hole, Whistler, Western NC Mountains, and even a "Nor-Easter". Due to budget constraints this fiscal period, the CEO and Executive Board of Directors ruled out Whistler for sure. Jackson Hole was soon to follow. Apparently it's expensive to go out of country or out "west" to a ski area in the summer. Who knew? We go for 2-3 weeks and lodging gets out of hand for that long. It looked like Western NC was going to be the winner-winner-chicken dinner. The CEO then did some searching on the internets and found some kids camps in Vermont. Holy maple syrup, you mean we can ride mountain bikes everyday? Deal done. Covered Bridges and Moose, here we come.

 First though an important stop at the Camelback waterpark in PA on the way up, yes, we drove!

Little guy and I had a blast on the slides. I honestly don't know which of us was having more fun. That's one of the great things about having children - You can act like a silly idiot and no one thinks any different of you! In fact, the more slap happy I get, the better the Dad I look like!

We chose the Killington area near Rutland, VT for the first leg and holy crap was it a good decision. The riding in that area combined with temps in the upper 60's/lower 70's and all the fun family things to do made it a great place to stay. Bonus, little guy LOVED his camp.

A big Hike to the top of Okemo Mountain

I actually got welcomed by the local wildlife the first day riding the bike park at Killington. A Catamount, which is the Vermont name for mountain lion, chased me for about 50 feet. Lucky for me, I was going downhill already and this really helped me just pin it. He lost interest quickly, and I think that I surprised him and he thought I was a deer at first. The bike park does not disappoint. High speed gondola to the top and tons of trails to choose from to get down. It was very rideable on my 140mm all mountain 29er.

After 4 or 5 days shredding the greater Killington area and bike park we headed north to Burlington, VT. Really cool town on Lake Champlain. Awesome downtown scene with tons of shops and restaurants. Driving distance to Stowe and Sugar Bush. A killer bike path next to the lake that led all the way to Canada.

Nice bike path that cuts right up the middle of the lake

After a day riding around Burlington, we ventured over to Sugarbush ski resort after hearing that it was the only lift accessed park in this part of Vermont. 

Super fun riding - high speed technical. Tons of rocks the whole friggin' way down without a break. Rocks, boulders, pebbles, and more rocks. It was also steep. Definite DH bike territory. I was feeling a little under gunned on my stumpy fsr evo. Oh well, that's why they put brakes on your bike.

Next day we decided to check out Stowe area bike trails. I skied Stowe as a kid so it was cool to see it again and get to experience a different side of it on the bike. 

Long trail with so much tech and rocks it was silly. Many breaks were needed, luckily they provided us with some places to sit. To bad they were not operational.

A stop at the Burlington beach - 62 degrees and "sunny". Notice the water is pretty empty?

A quick visit to Burton Snowboards where I found the board that started it all for me 25 years ago.

Then we headed to the Great White North of Can-A-Dia. First though, of course, we find another place to ride bikes. Back to Stowe again to try another trail.

Is it a VT Moose, the elusive Sasquatch? Nah, it's the Mrs. riding all covert like

We cross the border into Canada and head to Montreal for a visit. Very much like Europe - or so I'm told since I have never been to Europe. It looks like what I have seen in the movies anyway. Interesting thing is that everyone who greets you says Bon Jour/Hello and waits to see which one you say back before figuring out how to talk to you. 

We pretty much did the tourist thing and discussed the finer points of French cuisine. Below Brock is saying, "what do you mean they don't have pizza in Montreal Daddy?"

Just kidding there buddy

Lots of interesting street performers and of course tons of restaurants and good things to eat everywhere. We ate food 24/7 and walked around like clueless Americans.

We headed back to "Merica" and ended up going back to the Killington area since we liked it so much. The weather was pretty good on our trip - we had one rainy day up at Stowe where it poured and we got skunked on biking, but overall it was perfect weather. When we got back to Killington it decided to make up for all our good weather. Since the lifts were closed and the trails would be super sloppy we went and hiked some of the Appalachain Trail.

The weather passed after a couple days and we got one last day at Killington to enjoy the bike park again before heading home. We took full advantage. 

Even though it was a pretty cold day, the "Snug" toughed it out and rode until her fingers couldn't pull the brakes anymore.

Laps in the Gondola

Brockster had a great trip with lots of camps and lakes, beaches, hiking, and riding new adventures. He really liked the Ho and tels(his name for hotel) and getting to sleep in the same room with Mommy and Daddy.

Bask in the Elements

I sure will miss riding up these things……….

Friday, May 16, 2014

Race to the River

The whole Slippery Sasquatch team headed down to Columbia, SC for the Maxxis Southern Classic series race at Harbison State Forest for the annual Race to the River. This race is also part of the South Carolina State Championship. I really like this race because of how hard it is. You wouldn't think it was tough being in Columbia. Most people think it's flat down there. A good amount of it is, but there is a surprising amount of climbing in the middle of the Race to the River course.

Jack, Layla, Jon and Mike getting ready for the start

I had just raced the Maxxis Southern Classic race at Dark Mountain the previous weekend. After a hard fought third place last week,  I felt ready to take a win at Harbison. The tough thing at Harbison is that there is no rest at all. Your on the gas the entire time. It's basically a few small climbs at the start followed by a very long flat section. After the first long flat section there are a bunch of techy climbs followed by another long flat section before a fire road climb at the end. 

The race starts and I pull the hole shot. As I climb up the first hill I actually back off a little to let Corbitt get around me. Even though there is a full field of about 10 guys, Corbitt won last week at Dark Mountain and is my big competition this week. My strategy is to ride his wheel on the first flat section, then hope I can hold on during the climb, and eventually try and drop him on the last flat section of lap one. Then I'll have to hoof it on the second lap, which is actually a shortened lap - they cut out all the climbing in the middle on lap 2. My thought process is that Corbitt is much better on the climbs, but I can smash him wattage wise on the flats. Turns out I was right about both. I stick to his wheel like glue and I'm only pushing tempo pace on the flats. I also realize on the single track that I'm a better bike handler. Problem is, we get to the hill section and I can't keep up. He gaps me and I'm blowing up trying to keep him in sight. He has 7 seconds on me for a while, then 10, then I hold him at 15 for 10 minutes or so, and by the time we are done with the majority of climbing I can't see him anymore. I hammer super hard on the flat section thinking I'll catch him. I keep seeing riders up ahead hoping it's him. As I get closer it always ends up being someone in the class in front of me. I pass rider after rider and no Corbitt in sight. As I finish lap one and start lap 2 I start to realize that I'm spent. It hits me like a ton of bricks and every 5 minutes or so I'm getting slower. I'm cooked and there is no way to fix it now. I start wishing I had one of those electric bikes:

Maybe I could of caught Corbitt on this?

The guys I caught earlier are now catching me. No big deal they aren't even in my class, but I had better back off and save some energy in case the guy in my class that is in third place catches me. I never saw Corbitt again until after the race. Lucky for me third never caught me as I had slowed to a crawl by the end. The last coulple of miles were all attitude, all I wanted to do is stop and collapse. After finishing I damn near passed out at the car. Like I said, this race is tough. 20 miles at race pace always sucker punches me at Harbison. The rest of the team all did great - just finishing this torture fest was a big accomplishment. 

Monday, January 20, 2014

On The Fence

I hate being on the fence. The back and forth in your mind weighing pros and cons. Drives me nuts. I like having a goal and working towards it. Right now I feel like Cal Naughton(Mike Honcho) in Talledega Nights, "I got a Pretzel in my head".

See, I can't decide if I should race Suffer Cross, err, I mean Southern Cross the end of February. You see, it's no small potato. Oh no sir, 50 miles and 6700 feet of climbing. It would be a great way to prepare for the rest of the season, though I might not be ready for that kind of abuse yet. That's a shit ton of climbing.

As you can see it doesn't entice you gently. That first climb is darn near vertical. Yeah, it's billy goat steep. Guess that is why they call it "The Wall".

I bet your saying:

stop acting like Tom Brady after a loss and just sign up you pansy.

Yeah, I here you talking big from your warm chair in front of your computer with your legs up. It's just a wee bit different when it's 34 degrees, raining, and your staring down the elevation profile taped to your top tube wondering why the fock did I sign up for this? The other side of the coin is that this would be a great start to getting me ready for the rest of the year. The more of these long events I do, the better I get at them. Since I'm putting a bunch on the schedule this year, that may be a good thing.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Ridin' Dirty

First race of 2014 is in the books. I'm a big fan of the Winter Short Track Series. It's local (20 min from the house), they have a free kids race that Brock get's pumped up for, the atmosphere is great, always fun to see all my cycling peeps, and I get to show up to blow up. We got a shit ton of rain Friday and Saturday, but luckily the Short Track course is built to withstand the winter weather here in North Cack-A-Lack.

I got to the race early and cheered on some friends in other races. The bikes and people were looking pretty muddy. As it turned out the course was in a lot better shape then I thought it would be, but the top half was pretty sloppy. Rideable, but a little slick in places.

So I throw a Stinger Waffle down my neck, get to pumping some Hilltop Hoods in my ears, and start warming up. I'm racing in the single speed class this year, and in usual fashion I show up late to the start line. I wasn't gonna win this thing anyway, but I get sick of starting from the back row.

The gun goes off and I actually got a great start. I weave and bob in and around people and find myself about mid pack as we go into the woods. I'm pretty happy at this point, because I always suck getting off the start line. Only problem is that now I need to keep up with the group. The mud isn't bad, but it is just enough to get your attention. I push way harder than I wanted to just to stay in my spot in the train. As we head up the first hill, a gap develops between me and the 8 or so guys in front of me. I try to close it, but my legs and lungs politely say "no bueno seƱor". About this time I get to the "rock garden", which really isn't a rock garden, but it is full of a lot of hecklers. To bad for me, as I glance up, I see some familiar faces. Sure enough, the word is out and I'm spotted. Let the heckling commence.

photo cred: Street Ghost/Kevin Thompson

I also noticed a lot of beers in hands when I glanced up. This was bad as my legs are in anarchy at this point and they see the beer and start screaming at me for tacos and beer. Now I say to myself, why the hell am I thinking of tacos and beer on the first lap of this race. I actually start picturing sitting on the deck of El Torito in Santa Barbara, looking at the pacific ocean sipping Tecate and eating chips….WTF?!?

Suddenly, I get bumped by someone "on my left". I slap myself in the face and keep digging. I jump on Ritchie's wheel as he goes by me and hang on past the start line and back into the woods. This is when I notice the "problem". Is it a mechanical? A flat? No. The "problem" is that I haven't redlined my heart rate like this in a long time. I'm in decent shape, but I just haven't done much (any) high intensity. I start getting a cramp in my side. It gets so bad, that I have to back off and slow way down. Four or maybe five guys go past. I spend the next two laps trying to recover. The mud has made it necessary to pedal on the downhill section, where I'm usually recovering and not having to pedal. Mud is slow like that and likes to give you that gluey feeling on your tires. Just ask Gerry. In the pic below, I'm sure he is winning a 100 mile race somewhere…….

G. Pflug, photo AE Landes

The stitch in my side finally gives up and I actually start turning some good laps. I felt like I was getting stronger lap after lap, but it was to late. The best I could do now was go the same speed as the 4 or 5 that got by me earlier and my "problem" knocked me out of my goal of finishing in the top 10. I've got another chance in 2 weeks though. Big props to the "hecklers" in the woods at the rock garden. I looked forward to what you were gonna come up every time I went by. You even had me laughing at 185 bpm.

                                             photo cred: Street Ghost/Kevin Thompson

Friday, January 10, 2014

Here comes the Circus

The race season is here!! Two more days to the start of the 2014 race season! This year is gonna be a good one. Lots of changes from last year and hopefully a lot more racing. I'm now working at BikeSource in Charlotte. Great shop with a huge selection. If you need it, we probably have it. Everyone there rides, and rides a lot. Some at a really high level. This is great to keep me motivated and putting time in on the bike to do well in races. The energy of others racing and riding a lot, somehow it just rubs off on you. Another big change is Slippery Sasquatch race team. Check them out HERE. We are putting together a nice group of riders who also race. Four members on the team already and the sponsors are getting lined up as I type this. 

So the year starts off with Winter Short Track, which is a 5 race series. My son Brock even races it, and believe me, this kid cleans up. Not so much on the track, but look at the little guy - finds himself a girlie friend in like five minutes. Hell, this year he is probably gonna have groupies!!

Brock and Mia 2013 Short Track

As for me, I'm jumping in with the Single Speed crowd. I raced the first race last season on the SS and finished 21 out of 32. Not great, but I was sick so I swallowed it and moved on. Hoping I can crack the top 10 this Sunday. I'm in better shape then last year so we will see. Speaking of the SS, my plan is to spend a lot of time on it this year. If things go right, I'm going to focus on the longer mountain bike races. 6 Hours of Warrior Creek, Big Frog 65 miler, Tree Shaker 8 Hour, Iron Mountain 100K, Grind on the Greenway, and Wilkes 100K all on one gear. Yeah, I know, I can feel the leg cramps already as well……..

It's gonna be a season of figuring it out - through failing probably more so then succeeding unfortunately. In between all those long sufferfests I'll drop in on some XC races, maybe do some Gravel Grinders on the CX bike, and run the gnar in my kayak.