Saturday, October 26, 2013

Couch Potato Recon Y'all

So last Sunday (October 20th) I got with a couple buddies and went to Pisgah to pre-ride The Couch Potato race course.

After riding it, all I have to say is that the picture above is complete bullshit. There is no way a skinny legged, wide body, beer chugging, couch laying, potato chip eating fatty like Mr. potato head above is gonna finish this race. I guess 30 miles and 4,000 feet of climbing doesn't sound like much if you say it really fast. Actually in Charlotte it wouldn't be a big deal, but in Pisgah it's another story.

The first trail is Cove Creek, and you go straight up it. Now it's not a very steep trail, and it's also not very technical for Pisgah standards anyway. What it lacks in skill challenge though it adds in sustained climbing over small root ledges. No big deal, but enough to start working the legs/upper body early and get the heart rate climbing at times. You also have to cross 3 or 4 of these dandy bridges.

At the top of Cove Creek you hang a left and keep climbing up FR225. It's called a forest service road, but it is essentially overgrown singletrack with lots of very small loose rocks that make traction a chore at times. Whew, 45 minutes of climbing and now I get to ride a xc bike with a seat way to high, down rocky, baby head infested eroded out gullies. Actually I can't lie, I kinda like this part. the only part I don't like are the 10 stream crossings and the fact that it takes 12 minutes to get down something it took me 45 minutes to get up.

Above is a pic of the flowy "easy" section on Daniel Ridge trail. Sorry, but as I was hanging on for dear life I didn't have the brakes to stop and actually get a pic of any of the rock gardens. Would have been fun on my longer travel bike, but a little challenge on the xc bike.

The brave crew, left to right - Serge, Jonnynails, and P.Diddy:

So we stopped at the car quickly at the bottom of Daniel Ridge Trail to get more H20 and some fuel, and then we climbed up FR475. This was an easy climb as far as the surface - hard packed fire road. The road is F'ing long though, and it climbs, and climbs, and climbs. It was easy to keep a good pace, but it took a little toll. We thought Serge got eaten by a rogue white squirrel at one point.

Once at the top, we got to descend a little on the fire road. It was one blind corner after another - I kept waiting to come around a corner at 35mph and have billy bob in a pickup truck coming the other way. Luckily none of us were destined to be road kill that day.

A little more climbing and then straight down Butter Gap Trail. Love that trail! Was wishing once agian I had the long travel bike or at least a dropper post. Had some technical, but still rideable creek crossings. We choose to walk a few as it was wet and the rocks looked like bad news. I got going to quick through one section and then tried to stop before a 3 foot root ledge (only saw a horizon line as I approached it) onto really steep rocks. I never got stopped and now had no speed. Still don't know how I didn't go over the bars, but somehow I managed to muscle the bike through that shit. Again, this trail would be boss on a 5/6 inch travel trail bike.

At the bottom of Butter Gap we hung a left onto Long Branch. By this point we were getting pretty wore out. We thought that most of our climbing was over. WRONG. Not only was there more climbing, but it was fairly steep and techy. I'm gonna ride that trail the other way someday soon because it would be a fun downhill. It was steep enough that I was solidly in zone 4 heart rate and borderline lactate threshold for a lot of the climbs. A place I'm trying to stay away from in the race, at least until the end anyway. I thought it was never gonna end. We were all pretty pumped when we reached the fire road as we knew it was downhill from there. My back wheel was feeling pretty squishy  bombing down the fire road. Sure enough I was getting a flat - cut the tire on the rocks somewhere. Didn't surprise me, even though it was a brand new tire I just set up tubeless 7 days ago. At least it held on for the first 3 hours.

Not the fastest ride I've ever done, but one of the harder ones for sure. Looking forward to next Saturday's race. Note that we didn't finish the last 10 miles of the course - I went back and did some hill intervals on that a couple days later. I'm guessing I'm looking at 3:40-4:00 hrs to finish at race pace. That is if I eat right, drink right, it's dry, and I don't cramp up. Pete and I both had leg cramps afterwards while at dinner. I'm sure our fellow customers wondered what the hell was wrong with us as we stood up and screamed while trying to straighten our leg out just begging for the pain to end.

The family stayed up in the area for a few days afterwards to enjoy the beautiful NC mountains fall weather. Like I said, I got in another ride doing some hill work and riding the other 10 miles of the course we missed. We also learned that the little guy likes staying at hotels! Looks like more road trips to the mountains with him in the future!!!

Friday, August 9, 2013

Letting my legs do the talking

Well maybe not completely - I mean this is after all a blog, so I'll have to do some talking. I guess I was referring to the fact that I have been back to getting ready to race again, and have been hearing some smack talk from a couple people. Go ahead and run your mouth -I'm gonna sit here nice and quiet and let my legs do the talking - that is, if you even show up to the race. When I'm tired towards the end of the race, I'm gonna remember you running your mouth and dig down deep in my gut to find something to handle your ass with. Actually, I should pay someone to do this before every race. It's like throwing fuel on a fire.

It's all in good fun actually - can't wait to line up with the fore mentioned smack talker. Actually I'm really looking forward to the rest of the 2013 races. It has been a long time since I was this motivated and having this much fun doing all the work to get in race shape. I've got a couple Endurance races, some Cyclocross races, and even an Enduro to do before the end of the year. After that it's Winter Short Track where I'm going to race a rigid single speed. The short track course is very rigid friendly as it is pretty buffed out and the weight I save on the bike will help me as I'm blowing myself up attacking the short climb. I have already targeted a couple early races next season to go after. First up is the classic 6 Hours of Warrior Creek which I have yet to do yet. Thinking of mixing it up on the single speed for this one, but not sure if I'll go full rigid or suspension fork on this one yet. Have to get up to Warrior Creek and figure it out sometime over the next 7-8 months! 

Looking forward to these posts becoming race reports real soon. 

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Potato - Pa-ta-to

That's right, I signed up for The Couch Potato Race in Pisgah National Forest on November 2nd. Don't let the name fool you, it's Pisgah after all. The race is 30 miles with 4,000 feet of climbing. You can't come off the couch and crush it, although in some ways that's my plan. No, I'm not really coming off the couch - but in a sense I'm getting off the riding my bike at a moderate pace couch and getting on the training for a race couch. Two completely different couches altogether. With great trails like Cove Creek, Daniel Ridge, Butter Gap, and Long Ridge it looks to be a good time. The mileage is also right in my "wheelhouse". I seem to do better at the 30 mile distance more so then the shorter mileage/harder effort or the longer/50+ miler races.

Here is a link to check the race out for your self:

Even better, why don't you sign up and see if you can beat me. I just got one thing to say to you.......

Maybe Pete Dixon should be asking himself this question right now as he plans to "show up to blow up" and leave me in his dust! Come on out and give it full gas - I'm really just wanting to finish in around 3 hours or so is all.

Between now and the Couch Potato I'm going to race The 6 hour Grind at Anne Springs in September. I doubt I'll race all 6 hours, but more likely maybe get 5 laps in and cash it in unless I'm feeling it. After that is Wilson's Revenge, which is a couple weeks before the Potato.

I'll do a couple CX Races here and there and eventually get ready for Winter Short Track and next season where I plan to focus on the longer endurance races. I'm excited to be pushing myself on the bike again. It feels good to be doing some structured rides again. I have a long way to go, but at least I've started. I'm dedicating my races to a friend of mine who was injured when a semi-truck hit him this past Mothers Day. You are an inspiration to me buddy, and I'll be thinking of you when I want to throw in the towel during these races.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Getting a taste of the Pain Cave again

I was all pumped up to get racing this past Sunday for the Winter Short Track. I had missed a couple races as I was sick and was anxious to get back to putting myself really deep in the pain cave. I guess most of us bike racers are kinda sick and demented that way. I mean, I really like suffering on the bike - that just doesn't seem right, does it? For me, the more it hurts the more pissed off I get. Sounds strange, but it helps me dig really hard. I had gotten some good training rides in lately, maybe too good actually. I did hill intervals Friday and a fairly long endurance ride Saturday. Actually had a pretty full week on the bike in general with tempo rides and such. I kinda figured that fresh legs were gonna be out the window on Sunday. I was partly right.

I get to the race nice and early. Get my race number, get geared up, and start my warm up routine. I'm fairly anxious to see how it goes today as I've lost 5 pounds since my last short track race 4 weeks ago, and I felt like I'm in slightly better shape. I also decided to race with the big boys today. By big boys I mean Clydesdales (200+). Don't laugh, these guys are all in shape. If your envisioning guys with beer bellies in tights you'd be sorely mistaken. Think tall, muscular, and able to straight up stand on the gas pedal. Most have been racing for many years and most of them do good in the Cat 2 races as well.

Think this for a typical Clydesdale

Not this:

I seem to always start my comeback race seasons in the Clydes class as I let my weight slip over 200 pounds. Last year thanks to not racing and only riding sporadically, I let myself get up to 218 lbs. Yikes, that's heavy for me. I've managed to lose 8 pounds since before the 2012 holidays, and I'm pretty much losing a pound or more a week now. Guess my blog name is a little off at the moment - maybe it should say 210 pounds of dough boy. Fear not though, I'm on track to be back at 190 late spring and shooting for a goal of 175 by the end of the year.

It's finally race time! I ditch my warm gloves, arm warmers, shoe covers, and Iphone (music) that I was using during my warm up. Get over to the start and get lined up. I reset my Garmin and boom, the race is started. Funny thing happened. My mind was telling my body to sprint, but my body wasn't having it. I thought I was pinning it, but I watched as the entire field went by me and I go into the woods last.

Photo cred: Mrs. Jonnynails

You can barely see only a part of me at the back in this photo. I was like WTF just happened? Now I'm at the back of a long congo line thru the woods. I'd have to wait until the hill to start to pass people. We all finally get to the end of the single track and start to climb the hill. The good part of this 3 minute climb is that there is plenty of room to pass. The bad news is the grass section of death. The grass is super soft and it feels like your riding through glue with your brakes on. On one section of it I'm standing up working my ass and going like 5 mph. The leaders were gone and any hopes of even trying to keep up with them was now officially over. I started picking people off here and there and always made sure to jump the jumps and give the crowd something to yell about. I gotta say it was fun hearing them get all excited when everyone in front of me was rolling the jumps and I was throwing some mini whips and cross ups all Old School BMX Style!

Thanks for the pic Pamela

I finally caught the guy in the blue/black jersey in front of me in the above pic. I passed him, he passed me, we caught up to another guy in our class. All three of us passed each other back and forth for about two laps. I noticed that I could keep up on the hill and that I was way faster going down it. 

Thanks for the pic and the cheering Brock and Amie

So now I started thinking race strategy. First I made sure to pretty much coast behind these two guys down the hill. Letting my heart rate and legs recover and rest. Then I drafted them all the way up the hill. Guy #1 had guy #2 right on his wheel and I was right on guy #2's wheel. I shifted into the big ring and waited until the very top of the hill. This is gonna suck, really bad, but I gotta do it - will I survive this attack? I stand up and hammer as hard as I can. I mange to get by both of them before the corner in one move and nobody seems real interested in matching my attack. I can't blame them - it was a short effort, but way above my threshold. When I finally let off I feel like I'm gonna throw up or pass out. I manage to hold it together and get into the woods for the downhill. See ya, bye bye. I'm gone now. Officially dropped them. The blue/black jersey guy tried to come after me on the next lap, but I had a gap and I made sure I gave it full gas every time up the hill.

Neal announced that the race was over, but I did another lap for good measure. I mean if I was gonna go deep in the pain cave today then why not. Garmin said 7 laps in 32:49. My last lap officially didn't count obviously, but I ended up in 5th which was mid-pack. I was fairly happy with my performance as I finished right behind the fast guys in this class. Maybe with a better start I could have kept them in sight and gotten more motivated, or maybe not? There is one more Short Track race left this winter, which is next week, and you can bet I'll be giving it full gas trying to get a podium spot! I'm just stoked to be back riding my bike a lot, training, losing weight, and most of all super motivated to kill it this year. With me all it takes is the motivation part and the rest is just a matter of time. 

Thursday, January 24, 2013

First scrap of the year - winter short track race #1

Sunday January 13th got here before I knew it. The holidays flew by and next thing I knew it was race time. January 13th was the first race of the Winter Short Track Series and for me it was my first race since 2011. No, I was not in shape or nearly ready for this race. In my year off I had gained weight and lost lots of fitness. Between injuries, surgeries, and catching colds it just didn't work out for me in 2012. Every time I would get a few good weeks of riding in it seems something would happen and I'd be back off the bike for weeks at a time. Glad to have all that behind me and start charging in 2013. I had a good solid 7 weeks of base training before the first race - enough to hang in there, but I knew that I wasn't going to be at race speed or even close. That's o.k. though - I know from previous years how long race fitness takes to build. Hopefully my body will remember and adapt quickly. My plan this year is to build up, do lots of mountain bike racing through the spring/summer, and hopefully be fast again in the fall for Cyclocross season.

I decided that I'd be racing in the single speed class during the winter short track races. I liked the fact that it is essentially an "open" class with cat 1, 2, and 3 racers. Additionally, I thought it would be good to give my little girl's legs some torture in the hopes I'd get some added strength. I made sure to get a good warm up by taking my son on his race, which was right before mine.

I lined up for the start of the race and decided that the 3rd row (out of 4) was about right. We took off up the hill on the start and as soon as we got to the woods, there was a big bottleneck as 32 guys were trying to get into the singletrack. We all got jammed up and next thing I know some guy goes over the bars and a couple racers around him are falling as well. See the video coverage of this incident here: Short Track Single Speed Pile up. Video compliments of Bart at Queen City Bikes. I had to make a quick move into the woods and around a tree to avoid the accident. If you look close in the video you will see me in my Carolina Bicycle Company jersey about 15 seconds in (# plate 217)on the left side avoiding the pile up. Glad I got around that mess!

We now head down the hill. The short track course is just that, really short with a 2 minute downhill section and a 2 .5 minute uphill section. It is not technical at all - really smooth with berms, rollers, some singletrack, some pavement, and some gravel fireroad. I'm always dragging brakes behind people on the downhill portion, it does get irritating losing all that momentum and having to regain it on the small punchy sections of uphill. There are enough people in front of me that the pace is very manageable heart rate wise and rather slow. We get to the start of the uphill and some guy spins out about 4 riders in front of me. We all have to stop, and somehow I manage to track stand so I don't have to take my feet off the pedals. The guy stumbles 3 or 4 more times and now people are screaming at him to get off the track and out of the way and let us by. Of course he doesn't, but eventually we get moving. I was blowing up every time up the hill. For you non-cyclists out there, blowing up just means that you are redlining your heart rate over and above what you are actually capable of doing lap after lap. It catches up to you later in the race as you burn all your matches. I was seeing 188, 190 heart rate numbers which are really high for me. I had to throttle back some on the climb, which kept me stuck behind some slower riders on the downhill.

There were a couple jumps on the course in the downhill section. They were relatively easy, and even though I was on a hardtail, and totally gassed, I still tried to give folks a show by airing them out best I could (they are really small jumps).

Unfortunately, Saturday night before the race I felt like I was coming down with something. It was confirmed Sunday morning when I woke up before the race. Then when we got our son up he had a big time runny nose. Sure enough, some kinda bug is going through the house - even Amie felt bad and she rarely gets sick. I decided that I would still race. I could tell during my warm up that I was more out of breathe then usual, oh well, I wan't gonna win anyway. I thought about quitting every lap, especially on this slow grassy death crawling section that just took your mojo right outta you. I just kept on fighting though, even as the girls in the class behind me started catching up and passing me! I even drafted a few of them up the hill and got some laughs from other racers (who had raced earlier in another class) that were watching our race. I eventually sucked it up enough to get rid of a couple guys who were keeping things a little to close for my comfort. Finished in 39 minutes and did 8 laps. It was good enough for 21st place out of 32. Not the start I was hoping for, but I had fun and it's only the beginning. I'm still off the bike now as I'm still sick, but I'll be back at it soon with a vengeance! If you have never tried short track racing, you gotta get out there and see what it's like. I had a great time cheering for other racers, watching my 3 year old do the kids race, and suffering some on my own.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Like Father, Like Son

It's true what they say, like father like son. Don't believe me? Read some more and you'll understand why I think it has some merit. Even though my main man (my 3 year old Brock) was pretty young for bikes more then a year ago, it didn't stop the wife and I from trying to get him on a strider and a little tricycle. We tried and tried, but never wanted to get too pushy about it. I would just suggest to him, "hey buddy you wanna try one of your bikes today"? I was always answered with a very quick and resounding "no, I don't ride bikes today"! So we never pushed it too much, but would take the bikes out, maybe try and get him to sit on one. He just wasn't ready yet.

 This past summer Amie and I would go to our local mountain biking spot, Anne Springs in Fort Mill, SC and ride. She would ride while I would take Brock for a hike in the woods. When Amie was done, then I would get to ride my bike and she would hang with Brock. It wasn't long before Brock decided he was missing out on the fun. So one day late this past summer Brock says, "I want to go mountain biking". So I sat him down and said, "ok buddy, but first you have to learn how to ride your bike before we take you on the trails". He immediately said, "today daddy"? to which I of course said, "sure buddy".

He started first on his tricycle and I had to do some pushing here and there mostly going uphill, but he picked it up pretty well. He moved on to the strider in the fall. Seems like he always wanted to veer off the road onto the dirt. Of course I was all for it, quietly saying "thatta boy" under my breathe. For those of you unfamiliar with a strider bike, it is simply a small 12" wheeled bike with no cranks or pedals on it. The boy or girl scoots their feet on the ground to get it moving and stomps their feet down to hit the brakes like fred flintstone.

Brock pretty much let's his momentum carry him down hill and doesn't worry so much about the slowing down part. Eventually when he is going so fast that he can't control the bike anymore and he just crashes to stop. Makes for some exciting moments, and the two of us get some good laughs out of it. At least it's winter now and his big puffy jacket cushions his fall!

After one of his famous crashes - notice the sticks and leaves in his helmet and the smile

Over the Holidays Brock decided he wanted to make riding his priority everyday. Great, what mountain biking mom and dad wouldn't be happy with that? We even rode some sketchy stuff (freeride stunts) that I built in the woods behind our house.

Of course, just like his Dad, Brock was heading right for the biggest jump out there. It will be a while before he can carry speed to clear it, but it sure didn't stop him from trying. Must be encoded in his DNA or something. I foresee lots of days with the whole family together enjoying the outdoors riding our bikes for many years to come. 

We even found a way for Brock to get his bike to the trail. No, I don't actually drive down the road with the bike back there, haha. That bike gets the royal treatment in the car or a certain 38 inch tall guy gets upset - you don't want to upset the Leprechaun!

I even got the little guy to the U.S. National Whitewater Center for a mountain bike ride. My thought was to go to a specific area and "session" the moderate hill over and over. Brock was all pumped up though and decided like he always does that he wanted to keep following the trail. We scoot around the whitewater park channel and it's not long before we see a trail darting in the woods. Soon as we head in the woods my phone rings and it's an important call that I need to take or you will never get them on the phone again. Brock goes flying down the hill at the same time. I mean he's moving. The corner proves a little to much for him at that speed and BAM, right into a tree. Hard plastic tires don't grip so well. The crash looked a little nasty. He get's up right away and says he is ok, brushes some dirt off his hands, and mounts up and takes off again! I'm yelling alright buddy, totally forgetting and kinda not caring that I'm on a professional call and not a personal one. I quickly get rid of the call as I would rather enjoy the time in the woods with my son. 

We had some close calls on some steep sections. Lucky for Brock his daddy knows where things would go wrong on some of the steep downhills and stands in that spot to catch him. You see, this trail has some very steep sections for grown up, experienced mountain bikers. This is why I was so impressed with his willingness to charge stuff that looks big to me - I can only imagine how big it looks to him. We even climbed up some big hills and I was surprised at how fast he was climbing. We did a couple miles in under an hour.

Early last week Brock heard me talking to a friend about the upcoming Winter Short Track race. Would be the first race back for me since June 2011. As soon as Brock heard me say mountain bike race he immediately said "Brockie wants to go ride a NEW TRAIL" in a very enthusiastic and high pitched voice. At first we figured he could just ride a section of trail that isn't used for the race, but a friend told me that kids 8 and under race for free. We thought, why not sign him up - if he decides that it's not for him then no big deal. We told Brock he could go and "ride with friends" on the short track. Didn't want him to feel pressured or nervous about "racing". We lined up and Brock was super excited. He kept saying, "let's go, let's go. I was pretty shocked that everyone at the race pretty much stopped what they were doing to watch this race. Everyone was cheering, and encouraging - I even heard a bunch of cowbells. He was stoked and smiling at all the attention! It all kinda distracted him a little and he was more focused on looking around rather then scooting. It is a race after all! He was pulling up the rear, I mean way back - dead last. I joked with some friends that I saw on the course that Brock starts like daddy does - DFL. Everybody was smiling and having a great time though. Once he got into the woods he settled down and even got to roost a big berm. We finally cross the line for a big moment.

He even got a medal that he is still wearing 2 days later. I think you'll see more of him at the Short Track this year! 

For those of you who have known me for sometime, I think you'll agree that little guy is learning to be a charger like his dad! Next up hear about how my return to racing went............