Monday, March 12, 2012

To Pedal or to Paddle....

Last weekend little man, Mrs. Jonnynails and I went to the Whitewater center to let little guy climb some rocks. It was also the opening weekend for water releases for the season. Got my interest peaked again to do some paddling as I was watching the kayaking going down on the rapids.

US Whitewater Center in Charlotte, NC

I love going to the Whitewater Center, both to mountain bike and especially to paddle. The pic above shows the lagoon area, pumps that move the water, and the entrance to the main channel where the rapids are. There is a lot to do here: 12.5 miles of great mountain biking trails, two rock climbing walls, zip lines, adventure courses, rafting, kayaking, flat water paddling on the Catawba River, and there is even a really good restaurant that gives you a view of the whitewater - bonus, they serve all kinds of beer. Feel free to get your drink on and come heckle me while I Kayak. The center is a great place to learn kayaking skills and get in the water anytime you want to paddle. The consequences are not as bad as a real river as there are not any places you can get pinned and no undercut rocks. Just as I was getting river stoke again, we had some friends over this week. My friend is a good paddler, far better then me. He mentioned going to Tennessee this summer to run the Ocoee river. That's all I needed to hear, now I'm all about it! I can work on some skills at the Whitewater Center beforehand. Here's a little preview of the goods in the below video of the Ocoee:

Best I can tell, it looks like a giant playground with mostly Class III and an occasional Class IV rapid. I believe this video is an easier part of the river - there are some bigger rapids further down river that you can see HERE. The video quality is better as well. Pumped to go run a couple rivers this summer, including this one. Of course this all means I'll need to work on some of my paddling skills. I can do a combat roll, but it's not bombproof yet. That'll be job #1. A combat roll for those that don't know is where you right yourself after getting flipped upside down in the water. You do so while staying in your Kayak. It's a technique kinda thing and you need to take your time and set up properly - if you rush it, your gonna miss your roll and be back in the water upside down again. Your doing all of this blind, without air, and while getting thrashed around in a rapid maybe smacking rocks. There is a little bit of a panic involved, but to do the combat roll successfully and consistently you need to learn to be really calm and fight off your survival instincts that are telling you to get to the surface as quick as you can. Here's the technique of a roll:

I'm fairly comfortable in Class III water as I paddle it at the Whitewater Center, which is suppose to be harder water then an actual river due to the whirlpooling eddies that really swirl due to the man made construction. However, I can work on catching all the eddies at the Center. This helps you learn great handling skills as you peel out of eddies, ferry across rapids, and learn to use your edges. If it's harder then the real thing, then I should be able to handle the river.

Another spot I'd like to hit in the mountains is on the Tuckasgee River. This river is in western NC and has a really fun "play" spot called Eternity Hole. It's a great spot to work on tricks and playboat moves as it's nice and deep so when you mess it up your at least in more then 1 foot of water like some other spots. Video of Eternity Hole:

Of course all this paddling is good news for you folks I race mountain bikes against. I should be nice and tired, plus not on the bike as much. Fine by me if I'm not the fastest guy out there. Balance is what this summer is going to be about. Riding the all mountain bike in the mountains with the wifey, hitting the jump lines in the backyard with my homies, teaching little guy to ride a bike and swim, do some XC racing, maybe a enduro or dual slalom race, lots of kayaking, chillaxing and BBQ'ing at the crib, Camping with the Fam, and hell - maybe I'll even play some golf. Pumped for Spring/Summer like never before, it's gonna be a good year.

So my thought as I roll out of bed in the morning?

Should I pedal or paddle.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Can you eat The Whole Enchilada

Enduro racing has started gaining a lot of popularity in the last few years. What is enduro racing? That's a good question. Best I can answer is it's a mountain bike race on a mountain where you race against the clock on a specified course. The course is usually mostly downhill on singletrack with a little bit of climbing and some flat sections thrown in for good measure. Actually these climbs and flat sections just get you to the next downhill. These races fall into the "all mountain" category of riding and most people ride 5-6 inch travel suspension bikes.  Courses tend to be technical in features with rocks, roots, steep hills, gap jumps, and drops. Not as gnar as a DH course, but tons of fun.

New for 2012 Bigfoot Productions in Colorado is putting on  new series of 3 races. See it HERE. The season final in this series is in Moab, UT on a trail called The Whole Enchilada. There is a SICK video of the trail right HERE. This trail starts in an alpine forest at 11,200 feet and descends over 7,000 vertical feet all the way down to the desert and the Colorado River. It's steep, rocky, rooty, has tight switchbacks, gap jumps, slick rock, drops, and behaves this way for 26 miles! Who wouldn't want to do this race?

one of the easier parts

Unfortunately for all of us on the right coast, most of the enduro racing is on the West coast. It would be great if this type of racing gains popularity and finds it way here. I mean we have a great training ground in Pisgah for it. There is an enduro race in Demo Forest which is in Santa Cruz, CA. I've ridden/got lost there with Mrs. Jonnynails. It's the week before sea otter. Wait, that's 15 minutes from my wife's parents house -hmmmmm. Downieville Classic near Tahoe is only a few hours away from them as well. The Downieville race will be the All Mountain World Championships this year - you can read about it HERE. That one is definitively on my list!  Maybe I'll get my enduro on this year?? I'm sure the grandparents would love to see their grandson, daughter and favorite (only) son-n-law!

As usual, the U.S. is way behind Europe in cycling. Read more about US Enduro racing HERE. Oregon has a 4 race series, Cali has the two I mentioned above, Colorado and Utah have the new 3 race series, and Canada has a few in British Columbia. Best I can hope for in my area of the country are some super-d style races, which is a much shorter version of an enduro race. There is a new rumor going around that there will be a 3 race super-d series in Wilkesboro, NC at the trails in and around Scott Kerr Dam this year. Should be fun. The course there is a blast with jumps, rocks, and berms - it's just really short. Speaking of berms, who wouldn't wanna shred some on a "all mountain" bike? Here is a pic of my buddy Cecil doing just that.

photo credit Jay Schultz

That picture just makes me want to ride. It was taken at Clemson this past weekend, where Cecil got 2nd in the Pro/Expert class. Clemson is another really fun course. It's officially a DH event, but I think most DH racers will tell you it's really more of an all mountain type of course. I don't mean to take anything away from the place - super fun with some good sized table tops, a road gap jump, one of the best wall rides I've ever been on, and a fun "north shore" style stunt/drop at the end to finish off the run. The only reason I say it's more "all mountain" vs DH is that there's a lot of pedaling throughout the course (especially at the top) and it's not very steep. Clemson folks did an amazing job with what they had to work with though. Looking forward to riding there soon and maybe doing the next race they put on. Most people run it on a short travel (5-6 inches of suspension travel) but people also bring full on DH bikes and even hardtails! It's all about the fun level, and fun is something I'm wanting to get back to on a bike. Training for XC is great and all, but I find myself wanting to just go out and have fun on the bike way more. Speaking of fun and since I'm pimping my friends out on my blog today - Here's a shot I took of Action Jackson while we were riding Cove Creek, Daniel Ridge and Farlow Gap trails in pisgah. It was enduro training at it's best!

You can't see it in this shot, but the trail goes 180 degrees in the other direction and if you miss the turn you roll all the way down the mountain. So, you better make it. Fun isn't it. Do you think he made it? My simple advice to you today is to go find what kind of riding gives you the most fun, and repeat.