Thursday, May 29, 2014

Trans-Sylvania Epic 2014 Day 5

Trans-Sylvania Epic 2014 Day 5

On or before day 5 of a stage race i typically decide that i am home where ever my bike is and thus want the vacation to go on and on (like the rambling of my posts here). My body starts to adjust to the difficulty of the racing, i start getting faster and the negativity of the world subsides in my mind allowing me to relax, read books, type blog posts and just really enjoy being me. It's funny how something so difficult can give you such a sense of peace. I've forgotten about work (almost), the problems in Russia/Ukraine, and what ever else was in the news the week prior to our trip. Right now it's only Pennsylvania trail, my wife and other crazy bikers.

Today started in R. B. Winter State Park. This place is a gem. Lush green ferns, dark Pennsylvania forests, moss, more rocks and Amish or Mennonites hanging out at the park. Today's stage was 31ish miles with about half of that being single or double track including a brand new section of double track trail. The weather forecast was perfect for a 215# guy who quickly overheats. It was 52 degrees and misty. The forest looked like a scene from RAMBO where Sly is running through the woods being chased by a crack local militia. The trails were a little wet and muddy from the prior days rain but still fairly navigable. I was ready to go. By the first Enduro segment i was about 2/3 of the way back from the leaders but in a much better spot than the prior days. I waited at the first Enduro start  for a moment or two to gather my thoughts and get in the right mindset to race hard on the technical down hill in front of me. I tagged my time card and swooped down the trail as smooth as possible until a snooty racer girl decided she was too cool to let a faster downhiller pass her despite my ample verbal warning of "racer, racer, racer". I guess the positive praise i gave her and her teammate the 4 prior days was construed as an insult. I shall stop saying "way to go" and "good job" and "glad to see you again" and "I'm glad to see y'all kicking butt this year". Oh well. A wise sage at the race offered me this wisdom: "Focus on the other 149 awesome people here and it will be OK". He was very correct and very wise to the dynamics of dealing with 150 ego pleasing bike maniacs who think they are all the bomb, including me. Wise people are few and far between and i try to absorb their wisdom whenever possible. Any way, maybe i should actually thank her because our poor interaction put a fire under my lazy butt and resulted in me riding harder for the rest of the day. Since i was faster than the prior days, i got to meet  some really nice people on the bike. The last few Enduro segments were fun and furious but the best part of the entire day was riding along alone, in total silence and absorbing the ferns and the beauty i was immersed in.

Trans-Sylvania Epic 2014 Day 4

Trans-Sylvania Epic 2014 - Day 4

He's not heavy. He's my brother. But my bike is heavy. Real heavy. It seems as everybody has grown an affinity for carpet fiber or carbon fiber or fiber crabon, what ever it is, i decided to grow an affinity to a heavier material...steel. Steel is real so they say. It's also heavy. It breaks less than carbon fiber when your weight is around 215#. I stopped weighing my bike once it crossed the 30lb milestone. Than i added a dropper post, heavier fork, boo bar and a super thick rear tire made from hippopotamus hide or something very similar. Any way, I'm riding a tank. 

So today i woke after a good night of sleep to rain tap tap tapping on the camper roof. This is not what you dream of as a mountain biker. I don't recall ever exclaiming "yay" I'm going mountain biking in the mud and rain. Oh boy! Maybe we'll have some summer hail or tornado or a giant lightning storm. Luckily we did not. The rain stopped 5 minutes before the race start and off we went. So many people in so much better shape than me. I usually feel like I'm in decent shape however when you are surrounded by Olympic athletes, professionals and lifers, it's easy to feel like a turd on the trail. I am not a turd on the trail. I'm a turd on a heavy bike, having a good time with people i like being around twice a day: the start and the awards ceremony where i get to witness them collect their daily accolades for being super fit and dedicating their lives to vo2 max and proper nutrition while I'm off worrying about the next payroll to meet. Is it a trade off? Yes, but they all welcome me none the less, for one common thing we share. We like to ride and with this group all are welcome. All you need is a bike and a smile. Heck you don't even need a bike, just a kind smile. I like being around these people. I feel somewhat at home at these type of events. No matter how i do. I've been on the up side of winning and now I'm experiencing the other side and that's OK. I'm slow and that's OK. I'm more fit than the average Joe, well maybe, but I'm OK, and gosh darn, people like me. 

Back to the race - It started off fast as usual but it was mostly gravel road. We had a few miles of single track mixed in and two very long Enduro segments. My plan was to start off a little faster than the prior 3 days in order to avoid multiple hours in the woods. The plan was good however poorly executed. I stayed up with a few faster people and continued with them until the Enduro segments. The first segment was a portion of an Enduro segment from stage one. That segment went well along with the other two. Part of the course was on the Wilderness 101 route which covers a long run on an abandoned rail road grade complete with old tunnel. Prior to the old rail bed was "Fisherman's Trail". Aptly named since it is mostly used by fishermen for fishing access along Penns Creek. Parts of this trail look like the bottom of an abandoned rock quarry. Needless to say, it is difficult to ride especially 25 miles in on a 42 mile day. As i rode and walked the fishermans trail all i could think about was cooling off in a clear Pennsylvania mountain stream. Sure enough, partway through the trail appeared this magnificent specimen. I proceeded to lay down my bike, remove my back pack and sit in the middle of the stream. It felt amazing. As a back of the pack racer i get to experience way more than the top riders. After the cool down i finished the rockathon and got out onto the former rail bed where i was alone. There were no other riders in sight so i slogged forward to trestle crossing #2. Many moons ago while racing the Wilderness 101 i rode across said trestle with skinny cross country style handlebars which barely fit between the wooden walk way railings. I knew my fat Boo Bars weren't going to fit so i pulled the front wheel up and wheelie walked the bike across the bridge. Next came the tunnel and a great surprise. At  the end of the tunnel was a fine surprise. Evidently some smart person assumed bike racers enjoy adult beverages so they made a bee double E double are you n and were handing out the results of said bee double E double are you n in nice sanitary plastic cups handed out at the end of the tunnel. The day was hot. I was closer to DFL than i was to Captain First Place so i stopped, stood in a cool puddle in the tunnel and helped the kind people rid themselves of evidence. My melancholy mood changed to chipper. I rode the next 1.5 hours at my pace. Bombed the last couple Enduros and called it a day. It was a good day.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Tran-Sylvania Epic 2014 Day 3 - Enduro Day

Finally. A chance to thank Pisgah for her lessons regarding navigation of high speed, hand numbing, mind blowing descents. The trails here in PA are tough. The rocks turn a smooth pedal stroke into something more similar to a swift kick in the but. It really feels like you are getting kicked in the butt, over and over and over and over again. Oh, I forgot to tell you, I do ride a hard tail so maybe some of it is my fault. I just can't let go of the interaction with the trail that comes from riding a well built, super fun, steel hard tail 29er. It's a Transition Trans Am. Plug. This bike rocks. It's the best 29er I've owned, hands down. The only other bike that is similar was my custom titanium 26er by Steve Potts. Plug. Steve Potts makes awesome bikes and I'm building up my first custom ti Steve Potts 29er soon. Anyway, today was super fun to me since the race was five small Enduro segments within a 22 mile route. Each Enduro segment was timed. Once you finish each Enduro segment, you can leisurely roll to the next segment and then you are timed again. In total, we raced (5) five to fifteen minute segments at mach something speed. I was really focused despite the killer climbing necessary to reach each of the five start lines. Wow. Rocks everywhere. Loose soil, rocks and did i mention rocks? 

Of the five segments my favorite was on a trail called Wildcat. It dropped quickly from a gravel road, made a quick right, gave you a false sense of "easy" and then slapped you in the face like you cussed your Mama during Sunday service. Wham! As soon as you realize the false sense of "easy" was a white faced lie, the trail drops straight down one of the top 5 steepest lines I've  ever ridden. By the time your arms are screaming from trying to brake gingerly and not loose your line your legs are screaming just as bad. Simultaneously you want the pain to be over and the downhill to never end. Contradiction of  desire. Such a rush. It's loud with the bike clanging, rocks flying, super hard breathing but then suddenly all goes quiet and you have're in the zone. Zone is a quiet calm place surrounded by chaos, danger and potentially life threatening circumstances. It's why i ride. 
It's probably why many other people ride. Zone is a place where work typically does not take you with some exceptions. Zone is peace and focus. Focus does not come easy to me. When i find it i like to re-create the circumstances that delivered it. Hence riding my bike as fast as i can down a mountain that i wouldn't want to walk down. Yes. Peace. Peace. Peace.

Day 3 was bueno.

Thanks be to the Grandfathers for guiding me down safely. I could hear their calm voices as i launched. Peace.

Trans-Sylvania Epic 2014 - Day 2

Bad. Long. Hot. Never under estimate the difficulty of 40 miles of Pennsylvania rocks, hills and more rocks. We have rocks in Western North Carolina but they are typically small and usually move. In PA they are big and reach up from the earth to grab tires as you roll by. Upon completion of day one i knew that a podium spot in my age group was very unlikely. I knew that coming into this race. The Enduro aspect is still in my sights. Unfortunately there is only one winner in the Enduro category and it's winner take all. No second place losers. Long story short, I bonked around 25 miles in, went through two 3 liter camelbaks, 2 water bottles, 2 flat tires and 2 naps trail side. Distinction between reality and la la land was a fine line of which i was straddling over. A kind biker and two young riders stopped to ask if i was ok and if i needed help. All i could say was nothing at all. Then finally i lied and said i was ok. She read my answer and pressed on with questions which evidently pulled me back from the la la land side of things. I remembered my name, which a few moments prior i could not, and decided that i had to get out to the next check point and call it a day. Finally, after what seemed like the longest walk of my life i came to the last downhill and rolled into the check point, 30 minutes past the cut off. The race director knew i was toast and complimented me on my arrival. Ego hurt. Legs hurt. Feelings hurt. Brain hurt. Hands hurt. Everything hurt. I climbed into the sag vehicle with sad bike strapped on the back and got a king of the mountain segment on Hwy. 322. Somehow me and my bike averaged 57.x miles per hour up a 4 mile climb. I just wish i would have been on it.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Trans-Sylvania Epic 2014, Day 1 review

It's been a long time. I shouldn't have left you. As Eric B would say. 2014 and here i sit broken hearted. Tried to .......woops wrong saying.

I find myself at the 2014 Trans-Sylvania Epic for the third time. It's all new and improved but i am two years older. Some things changed. Some didn't. I still like to race. I still like to ride, even though I tried to walk away from it for a bit. Racing gets in your blood like a bad virus you don't want. There have been times that i didn't want it, but around it comes and here i am in the middle of Pennsylvania, in a camper, with my wife, my tired legs, a belly full of food and nervous energy about the next 6 days. The new to me change is this thing called Enduro. It's like a race within a race in which your down hill segments are timed and the rider with the lowest overall time is crowned the Enduro champion. I'm older and don't want to keep up with the fast kids so much but i do have a slight fascination with the down hill. I'm not claiming to be the best downhiller but i will claim that i can hold my own.
As is typical format for this 7 day adventure, today was a 15ish mile time trial but it had 1 Enduro segment. Strategy was a big discussion among the competitors because in order to have your Enduro time tracked you have to stop and "clock in" at the top of the downhill and then stop and "clock out" at the end of the Enduro segment. A quick stop in the woods may seem like no big deal however when you are racing against 50 other guys who finish a 15 mile race with a time range of 10 minutes from first place to last place those seconds you took to stop eventually add up over 7 days of racing. The super fit super fast guys will most likely not stop to 'clock in/clock out" so that removes about 20% of the pack. The guys slower than me (not too many) will be near the back of the pack and i will come in around the middle (just like results of my lack of winter training). So with some of the people eliminated as my competition, i decided to try my best on the Enduro. The actual "Enduro" section of the trail was familiar from the prior 2 times i have participated in this race with one difference, it was in the opposite direction of what i was used to. I did remember this section of the course because it is a beautiful section of the forest that is covered in ferns. All you can see is shoulders and heads bobbing above the ferns. It is a fine specimen of Central Pennsylvania forest. Well, i did also remember that the uphill was significant and that in turn would make the downhill of the reversed course fabulous. The Enduro section was probably at about mile 12 so by the time it arrived, i was eager to go down hill instead of climbing. There were beautiful rocks to launch off of, chitter chatter rocks moving under my tires as i dropped the trail and green ferns everywhere. It was almost like Star Wars and the Ewoks flying through that crazy green lush Redwood looking forest. Anyway, it was a welcome respite to the difficult grind of the uphill single track and it put a big smile on my face.

I finished the course. Cleaned up and returned to the race venue for dinner and the evening awards. Results were posted but i didn't jump up to check my placing. I felt like i had a solid run but the competition here is tough so i somewhat discounted being near the top. Finally the group around the results list thinned and i checked my times. Mid pack in the 40+ class but 4th in the overall men's Enduro! I am psyched! One spot off the podium and just three people ahead of me Time to step it up with my hard tail 29'er and ride like i know how. It's on!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Alley oop oop. Oop. Oop. Oop!

July 3, 2011 - First Annual (hopefuly) Brevard, NC Alley Cat Race.

What a blast! Thirty some odd people (i use odd loosely) including kids, adults, adults who are still kids and in-betweens. This was my first participation in an Alley Cat Race.

Typical alley cat format is basically no format at all. This race consisted of 10 or so check points, each worth a certain amount of points based upon their distance from the starting point. Also in the mix were a number of local landmarks, people and combinations of both that were each worth an additional 3 points each.

Who ever has the most points and returns to the designated finishing area by the cut-off time wins.

My buddy and official H8R, aka ZB, decided he just wanted to follow me for the race since he doesn't know Brevard all that well. Together we sped through Brevard and its outskirts, collected pictures, signed sign in sheets, danced, busted some rhymes, begged, consumed liquid refreshment, obeyed all and any traffic laws, improvised as necessary and hauled booty for an hour and a half and made it back to the Square Root (the official race end) within the designated time frame.

The race started from a very educational location and proceeded to a place of higher education where we received our official maps/passports. We had to race to the first checkpoint to get our maps. It was a dead sprint from the beginning. There was no direct route to the designated check point so i figured it would be best to stay off the main roads and enter through the back door. It seemed that half of the racers went for the main road route and i was part of the other half. We zoomed over to the side entrance of said place of higer education but i was uncertain where the building was that we had to go to. Up ahead of the pack was a recent graduate of said higher learning center so i knew it would be prudent to follow her lead. Sure enough, she led us right to the maps.

I grabbed our map, looked at the various spots we had to ride to and photograph, decided upon a route and busted off through the field. I decided upon a clock wise route that would enable us to hit every check point.

The obvious check points were mostly well known businesses in and around Brevard (Poppies, Red House Inn) but the extra credit points were as follows: catface, waving preacher man, running umbrella man, big roosters, iron elk, city limit sign, grazing yard cows, FL license plate, white squirell picture and a few others.

Since we are residents of the nearby towns and not Brevard "townies" like most of the competitors (i'd like to be a Brevard townie though) we didn't understand the signifcance of "waving preacher man" and "running umbrella man" but like i said, we improvised.

All of the navigation was made on the fly, with map in hand, trying not to soak it with sweat and some of the pictures were taken while still riding. Thanks to my former life as an Adventure Racer and my current life as a real estate appraiser, i'm fairly good at navigating, reading maps and taking pictures while still in motion.

If you look at the pictures, you'll see the fun embedded in our activity. We worked hard and i thought i was going to hurl several times. I'm not used to sprinting on my bike for that amount of time. Give me a six hour ride and i'll blow it out with much more ease than a dead on 1.5 hour sprint.

To my surprise, we ended up having the most points and I was awarded with the best trophy (other than my trophy fiance') that was hand crafted by Dan Ennis. This was hands down, the most fun i've had in a race in years! Oh, and my trophy fiance' tied for third!

Much thanks to Dan and Tristan for an awesome event!

Saturday, June 4, 2011

TSE - Day 7, the final day

TSE Day 7 – the final day

“I think we worked perty well together”, a quote straight from Cissy. Yeah. We finished. We’re bad. Oh yeah! 7 days! We made it. What an accomplishment. I feel great and I don’t want it to end. It was painful during the entire process but now I want it to continue. I want to have to wake early in the AM and hop on the bike on my sore arse and ride 40+ miles of difficult trails and spend 4 hours suffering. I want to do it again. What in my genetic make up makes me crave such suffering. Why do I enjoy punishing myself? What aspect of suffering gives me pleasure? Don’t know. Uncertain. I do know that I’m in Pennsylvania and they sell beer from the bar in 6 packs and 12 packs and I have a 12 pack of Pennsylvania brewed Yuengling sitting here beside me that probably won’t make it through the night (well at least 6 of them). I just returned from the bar (beer store) with said 12 pack which is extremely celebratory and now my wonderful woman is cooking macaroni and cheese from scratch in a camper after riding 7 days in a stage race and what could be better? You tell me and I’d say you are wrong. This is what I live my life for and I’m currently knee deep and enjoying it and here I am…. Smiling and happy and don’t want it to end. I see yoga poses out of the corner of my eyes, smell macaroni and cheese in my nostrils, hear rain on the camper roof, feel food and beer in my belly, feel pain in my quads, feel 7 days of racing just under my belt and I need nothing else.
All is good.



Official finisher of the 2011 Trans Sylvania Mountain Bike Stage Race co-ed duo team.

26.47 miles
30.5 max speed
2:46 time
9.5 avg

we're done