Friday, September 26, 2008

Need a good laugh?

Tuesday, September 23, 2008


Just had to throw a shout out for the Blue Eyed Devil and his annual Bootlegger's Bliss. Saturday November 1st, save the date. This will be the third installment of the event and it's always a good I've heard. This will be my first year attending and I'm rolling on Pink's admission ticket, cuz I'm a slacker who would rather drink beer than brew it.

I'd like to brew and RiderX even invited me to learn. The Big Dog, however, had other ideas and we busted rocks that day.

Some day....hopefully.

Oh, and bring your cheap wheels if RickyD shows up.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Douthat 2008

The MORE fall camping trip at Douthat was a blast, as always, and I feel sorry for the people who bailed. The weather people were calling for rain, 30% for most of the weekend. As soon as I turned west on 64 the clouds parted, moon popped out and we had beautiful weather for the whole weekend. Sure, it was a little hot and humid, but, the trails were in great shape and I got in some good riding.

Saturday I hooked up with the "fast" group led by Jonathan and we planned to head south out of the park in search of newly cut trails . The ride started with 15 people and like most rides in Douthat it began with a climb. The extended climb up Stony Run really spread out our group and by the time we got to the top there were mummers of a mutiny. At the Tuscarora Overlook more than half the group decides to do a shorter loop and headed North instead of South on Middle Mountain. Our reduced group of 7 press south at the summit and are greeted with tight single track that sees little traffic. The trail was narrow and many a rock were hidden by the encroaching brush and this added a welcome sense of adventure to these spectacular trails. Off Middle mountain and out of the park our map was of little use and we had to rely on vague directions and hand drawn marks on the original map. To be sure there was a little second guessing, but, I was with an adventurous group and we were having a great time. The GPS came in handy once as a way to confirm the groups location and direction. A little piece of mind can go a long way in unfamiliar territory. As the gravel road turned to single track we encountered the new trails we went in search of. Some of this trail was built by the Boy Scout and some by the local clubs. The Boy Scouts have a little to learn about bench-cutting, but, their labor is always appreciated and the new trail is a welcome addition. No idea what the name of this new trail is, but, it brought us all the way back to the middle of Stony Run, just below the switch-backs. From here we could have bombed down the trail, jumped back on the road for an easy spin back to camp. Instead, we decide to hit Locus Gap and keep dirt under the tires. We then pick up Huff's and traverse all the way to Backway Hollow and a screamer down to the campground. I cooled down an Imperial Porter and a nice dip in the lake. Great ride!

That night MORE had its potluck dinner and first every Kung Fu movies. I borrowed my brothers big "event tent" and it served as a central meeting spot for dinner and later became the movie theater for the night. We screened a Power Point presentation of Denis' trip to France, I showed some slides of various bike trips/races of my own. JoeP brought along the movie he made for the winter party, which is VERY well done and always a hit. Joe also brought The Kung Fu Hustle and it was a pretty entertaining movie. We topped of the evening with Off Road To Athens, a spectacular movie about several mountain bikers quest to make the Olympic team. Somewhere in all that I participated in the naked crit, but, we won't go into any details on that one. I will say that John went down hard, Scud has pictures and I'm lucky not to be in hand-cuffs.

I next morning my head throbbed from all the porter I consumed and the pancakes did wonders to make me feel human again. We had a lot of work to do breaking things down, so, I opted for a shorter ride with a slightly less rambunctious group. I also decided to give the new La Cruz another spin on the dirt. It was an interesting ride to be on skinny tires and drop bars, that's one of the things I like about the bike. She climbed well, however, I had some issues with the brakes and I had a couple sketchy moments going into a few of the switch-backs. I had one flat that took too long to fix, but other than that, it was a great ride.

Back at the campsite I started breaking things down. Damn.....I had a lot of stuff. I really have to stop packing so heavy. Of course, the largest item was the event tent and I was happy to have assistance taking that down. Car loaded up I was headed home. Another beautiful weekend of camping and riding. I can't wait for next year.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Psycho Cross Shakedown

Rich aka Chet aka Phil and I recently built up a couple cross bikes and needed a little shakedown ride to make sure things were tight. DKEG comes up with a little route inspired by RiderX's famed 1903 rides with one small of freaking rocks!

Phil exceeded what I'm sure Ellsworth had in mind when they created his pure CX race thoroughbred. A sexy mix of aluminum and carbon with canti brakes and no braze-ons for water bottles, his bike was made for the grassy knolls of traditional cross racing. I opted for a more utilitarian (read cheaper) steel steed and Salsa's La Cruz disk specific cross frame and fork. The La Cruz is a bit more of a "jack of all trades" bike and really exceeded my expectations during our ride. Both our bikes were spec'd with Shimano's Ultegra SL group that blew my mind with uber crisp shifting throughout the entire ride, even when the trails took a turn for the rocky. I was also happy to have the non-UCI-compliant disk brakes providing the stopping power. I always knew I could stop on a dime, if needed, and I needed that power a few times during the ride.

On the initial descent into the valley Phil got a little loose on a sweeping right turn and spun the bike around 180 35 mph! Not wanting to have to explain things to his wife I encourage him to go "a little easier", we still have 30+ miles left on the planned route and I don't want to spend my day in the emergency room. He smiles and takes off on the next steep section. Personally I think he just didn't like the squeal his canti's was producing, so, he didn't use them. At the reservoir we take a hard left and begin the first climb of the day. The previous days rain settled the dust on the gravel road and gave the mountain streams plenty of water to cascade down the mountain. This has to be on of the most spectacular sections of "road" in the Shed and the day was shaping up to be near perfect.

After a good bit of climbing we get to the first section of single track and the "trail of tears". Things were a little sketchy at first as I had to get accustomed to the skinny 32's on this wet and rocky climb. Finding the right balance the La Cruz carried me up the hill with a sure-footed confidence that put an instant smile on my face. Even the wet log piles that required negotiating could do little to dissuade the bike from achieving its goal and the top of the climb. We bomb down the ridge and picked up Salamander at the over-look. This section produced some of the biggest grins and almost uncontrollable giggles as the narrow small blocks tackled the technical rock sections with aplomb.

Off Salamander we road it for a little until the "gold-fish pond". Back on the dirt we take the trails to and around Sandflats, a short section of Blue and then the "golfball" connector trail over to DeLauter and Five Points. At this point we begin RiderX's traditional 1903 route and some incredible gravel/country roads through Frederick. The gravel of Rum Springs gave way to the asphalt of Highland School and our max speed of the day @ 54 mph. That was a screamer! Quick left on Wolfsville and then a right on Meetinghouse. We re-group and take in some calories that will be needed for the next series of climbs. Up Meetinghouse and then the steep and loose Wildcat. Right turn on Wolfsville for a little road section, left on Spruce and a quick left back to the gravel and Hayes. This was a nasty bit of "road" that was long, steep and rutted in several sections. Right turn on Stottlemeyer and an extended road climb. I can't remember the name to the next road, but, we stopped, refueled and took it over to Tower. At this point we were on our way back towards our starting point and felt we had spent enough time on the road. Our tires required some dirt and the Blue trail off DeLauter was happy to oblige. Phil got the first of our only two flats on the road and then the second one a little while later after a nasty rock garden on Blue. We all agree the descent down Blue sucks and decide to give the "tricky trail" a shot on our skinny tires. This is a section of trail that gives pause to many people when running full blown mountain bikes and we hit it with our cross bikes. It was kinda ridiculous and amusing at the same time. With the exception of one small ledge drop I clean the whole trail including the rock slab drop back onto Blue. It was here I was extremely happy to have the stopping power of the disk breaks. I set up quickly and hope to catch DKEG and Phil as they negotiate the slab. David looked good at first, but, didn't get enough weight over his rear wheel and did a flying superman OTB, hits the ground and then his bike lands on top of him, just to add insult to injury. He doesn't get seriously hurt and even threw his arms in the air like a gymnast upon a successful dismount. Phil looked good the whole way and rolled the slab like the seasoned pro he is. From there we climbed up Buck Flats trail and back to the car.

The La Cruz put a smile on my face from the moment I threw a leg over her and kept it there throughout the day. She didn't complain once as I asked her to take on trails the engineers never thought she would see. 32 miles, 4300 feet of climbing and lots of big honking rocks. Damn, I LOVE my new bike!!

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Sadistic & Masochistic

AKA the Shenandoah Mountain 100 (SM100). For many people this is the race they train for all season. All other activities on their bike are in preparation for this grueling 100 mile race through the Shenandoah Mountains in The Commonwealth of VA.

It was that way for me last year. I "trained" for the race, foregoing rides with my buddies in hopes to finish with a respectable time. Now training really is just going for a bike ride and that is always fun, but, I did miss out on some good times with my buds. All that work resulted in a very disappointing 12:47, severe leg cramps and a year of gloating from Frenchie. This year I planned to get some official training rides in, but, with the exception of one ride with Becky and Liz (who wouldn't pass up on that opportunity?) I didn't do any "training" rides this year. I've been racing and riding the rocks of Frederick and Michaux this year. Post ride beers with the gang and really having a great time. The weather has been exceptionally nice this year and you have to take advantage of that!

As always the race started at the crack of dawn, pre-dawn to be exact. The bullhorn and gong woke up the campers around 5:30am after a night of torrential downpours. My tent actually developed two leaks, one on my feet and one on my forehead. In the middle of the night, in the deluge, I crawl out into the downpour and re-stake the fly to eliminate the puddles forming and hope for the best. Huge droplets were bouncing of the fly that now resonated like a snar-drum, but, at least I was dry. So here it is 5:30 and I have a pot of joe and some water boiling in an attempt to get refreshed before a long day in the saddle.

Coffee in and kitted up I head for the start line and hope to position myself a little better this year. I'm lined up in the first 1/3rd of 500 racers. I know all the geared guys will blow by me on the road before the first climb, but, I don't want to fight my way through the entire field like last year. The gun goes off at there is an almost immediate log jam as the pack is funneled into a narrow slot on the road. Somehow I manage to find a flow through the pack and can at least move through and onto the open road. First climb and I start passing geared riders content with spinning up the hills. My legs are a little tight, but, I have 100 miles to get them good and loose.

With the first climb over and back out on the road the geared guys catch back up and pass on the flats and descents. I know I'll see them again soon. It is the order of things. Second climb is on single track and is slippery as snot, so, I walk. It won't be the last time today. A group of WVa single rockstars is in front of me and they tease the geared guys that ride buy. We are walking at about the same pace as they are riding and we make sure they are aware of this fact. All in good fun of course. At the summit we are rewarded with a screaming descent that puts an ear to ear grin on my face. This, to, was the order of the day. Long punishing climbs that rewarded the dedicated with extended, white knuckle screamers for what seemed like an eternity. Really good stuff that made all the suffering worthwhile.

Somewhere between CP1 and CP2 I develop a slow leak that required me to top it off before the descent into 2. At the aid station I help a volunteer swap out the tube, grab some water and a banana and hit the road for the climb up Hanky. On the climb I notice that a female SSer and I seem to be going along about the same pace and we start to encourage each other up a couple of the nastier sections. The climb sucked, as usual, but going down Dowell's Draft is a blast and that got you to CP3. Quick re-fuel at the station and back onto the road for some more crappy mileage. It was here I formally met Rebbecca and we talk story for a while to help pass the time of this long road stretch. As the hill pitched up I start to open a gap, but, continue to see her throughout the day. She would end up the women's SS winner.

Once the road turned to single track the climb took a turn for the nasty. Steep, rocky and narrow....oh, and off-camber. Tough riding and I had to walk extended sections. After we topped out though the descent to Braley's Pond made it all worth while. At some point while railing through these high speed turns I thought how much I loved my bike and the feeling of freedom she provides. Damn, that was fun! The festivities were soon over as I knew aid station 4 and the dreaded 17 mile climb was fast approaching.

Quick re-fuel at 4, pop a pack of e-caps and start spinning my legs off. There is no other way to describe the section between CP4 and CP5 other than to say it sucks.....BIGTIME. Mind numbing road, gravel and dirt sections that you just have to lower your head and get through. A fellow SSer had a small cylindrical MP3 player that he cranked up the volume and we all rocked on to on the climb. I don't know who you are, but, thanks. Those tunes really helped me out through that section. As much as the music helped, the one thing I couldn't get past was the feeling in my legs. They were toast! I had a couple small bouts with cramping that I just sucked up and rode through, but, my legs were just dead at this point. I knew I'd finish, that wasn't a concern. If I had to walk every damn hill until the end I would finish, but damn, this sorta sucks.

I finally arrive at CP5 and I'm not planning to stay long. The volunteers lube up my chain as I stuff anything I can grab into my mouth. I also switch out my goo flash for the spare that is caffeinated. I inhale a double dose and head out for the final push. This was by far the worse section of trail I saw the entire day. Large puddles that extended across the fire roads, wet soft single track that hampered forward movement and hills that mocked me at every turn. I remember this section from last year and those memories were not very fond. I grunt my way to the top and am met with a loose, rocky and wet descent back down the mountain, Little Bald Knob I believe is the name. What ever it is called it was sketchy and I took it easy down this section. I opened it up where I could, but, long sections were quite loose and very wet. I slid as much as I rode.

Off that hill I knew CP6 and the finish were not far off. The last climb up Hanky was going to suck to be sure, but, I knew it wasn't going to be as bad as what I just did. I blow past 6 and grind up the road to the fire road. That was a LONG grind, however, the caffeine must have kicked in or possibly endorphins because my legs are feeling better. They have a little spring in them now and I ride the entire climb. I top out for the final time today and prepare for a well deserved screamer down the mountain. There is one last section of fire road that is something of a climb, it's only a minor annoyance and it leads to the final bit through the upper campgrounds. I bomb through this section with a renewed energy and exit onto the open field and the final stretch to the finish. Cross the line with an official time of 10 hours 20 minutes 59 seconds. This puts me at #125 overall and 26th for the SS class. It also means I shaved 2:27 off of last years time. Talk about redemption.