Sunday, September 19, 2010

Day 5 - I think i saw a big white squirrel

Day 5
It’s the day after day 5, so I’ve been sleeping, eating, celebrating, socializing and basically enjoying the company of other similarly weird masocylcists (a new word combining masochism and cycling used to describe a cycling endurance competitor). The last day. There’s a podium spot on the line for me (since the race directors podium has two more spots than most) so I have to give it my all. Day three was my rest and relaxation day. I’m not sure why it ended up like that but sometimes things don’t always work out like we planned, like a career path or a marriage. So now I have no excuses for slow pedaling with a self-defeating attitude. We had a 6 mile paved road start then some technical climbing, followed by gravel climbing, more technical climbing, a super technical downhill, gravel, more technical up and down then gravel up and one last hurrah of a technical down. Overall, today’s course was on par with the four prior days but slightly leaning towards the technical side of things. I consider myself a good technical rider. I can climb things that don’t look climbable and descend sloppy, loose rock piles, hop logs and scurry over roots. I’m not the best but I can keep the cranks spinning over tricky terrain. In my formative days of mountain bike racing I used to ride with people many years my senior, who were also “lifers” of the sport. One fellow stands out in my memory…a barbarian, he could be termed, who NEVER stopped pedaling. No matter what obstacle he had to cross, hop, navigate or slide through he never stopped pedaling. I’d follow this long haired cannabis fiend as closely as I could, in awe of how he seemed to “hover” over the trail, wanting to acquire this smoothness and agility on the bike. After six years of living next door to and riding in Pisgah my hovering skills must rate equal to an IQ of a mensa prospect. Every dog has their day and our great creator injects a dose of humility upon us with perfect timing. On day four, I realized that I was “hovering” at a pace I had rarely entertained. I was cranking over things that I usually walk around or over and wasn’t even giving them a second thought. It was see and conquer. My eyes were piecing lines on the trail like perfectly picking each new piece in a 3d puzzle of a never ending stair case that was drawn by some guy long dead who is probably pissed that his art ended up on countless mouse pads. Along I motored until bam! - I hit a rock with my right pedal when it was at the lowest point of the pedal circle. “No big deal” slipped through my mind until I realized that I was now pedaling sans right shoe. I chuckled mid trail, dropped the bike and crossed my fingers hoping that my shoe didn’t tumble down the hillside into the under growth and dead vegetation. My sloppy, dirty, stinky, BROWN shoe was somewhere twenty some odd feet behind me. I walked to it sock footed and gigged from inside. Not just a polite surface giggle to acknowledge a co-workers quip at the water cooler, but a deep down inside, true giggle – the kind of feeling that rips you off your cloud and grounds you to this unreal reality we call life. I needed grounding, as usual.
Day five gave me additional grounding in a more literal sense than the shoe incident. As mentioned earlier, my best skills are in technical areas. So in order to place well in day five, I had to ride the technical sections better than my competitors. Coming up Bradley Creek trail, I spotted the number two fellow in my class. I kept gaining on him at each creek crossing and I knew I’d be up on his wheel by the beginning of a thirty minute gravel climb up forest service road 5015. I also knew that he could drop me on the gravel climb – so I kept my distance. If he would have seen me, he may have increased his pace and put more time on me on the climb so I stayed just out of sight. I hit the climb at a good pace and as I rounded the last turn I saw him and the fourth place fellow in my class just leaving the rest stop. Good I thought because next was a seven mile technical climb followed by a 4 mile screaming technical descent on one of the best skill testing, hand numbing, bike and body breaking trails in Pisgah. Now was my chance. What am I made of? My buddy and often race partner Yuri was there and was “keeping it real” for me like in the Dave Chappelle skits. He asked me if I minded I he rode with me and I said “come on”. Yuri did just that. He was behind me keeping it real. “Come on Dave, pedal this faster – this section is flat”. “Drink now before the climb. Eat something so you can digest on the downhill” I kept hearing things like these direct to me. It took my mind off the pain and also made me realize I could go faster than I was going. I picked it up a notch and up in the distance saw the number four guy in my class. He had just finished walking over a large rock and I yelled “coming through”. He moved up the hillside as I hovered over the rock and never missed a pedal stroke. He complimented me on the move and said “keep it up” or some other encouraging words in a fashion similar to me when somebody has the ability to speed by me. Not long after that I came up on the number three guy in my class. It was on now. There was no way my ego was allowing this guy to beat me at my game. He heard my freight train of a bike rattling and pounding the trail and stepped up hillside to let me by. I said “thanks”, sped by and acted like I was in no pain. Oh yeah, Yuri was still behind me “keeping it real”. I made it to the top of the climb, quickly stopped to press the sweat out of the pads in my helmet, slipped my glasses on and hit the downhill known as Pilot Rock trail. I know this trail well. It holds claim to thousands of milligrams of ibuprofen, x-rays, broken bikes, dislocated shoulders, great stories and the beginning of wonderful friendships. I was on and descending like I had two competitors directly behind me. The sound of Yuri’s bike faded behind me and now it was nothing but rocky switchbacks, rutted downhill terrain and focus. I aced all the switchbacks with the exception of the second to last in which I had to lay the most pussy footed, ever so slight dab on the side of the trail. I cussed. Loudly. Mainly because I’ve never cleaned this trail from top to bottom and I was on course to accomplish that in this run, in day 5 of the Pisgah Mountain Bike Stage Race. I lost my cool, kept pedaling and hit the last right hand switchback before the rock garden. Bam. Stopped. Not moving. Pain. What’s broken? Me? Bike or both? I let out a yell equal to the suddenness of the stop. I was face down, tucked up under some large rocks to the upside of the trail and somehow managed to stop my forward progress with my hip lodged into a large chunk of granite with curves that somehow received the curves of my hip to inflict pain over the widest area possible. I wiggled this and that before I tried to get up. My first thought was “great. I’m out on day five of a five day race”. I took a breath, stood up, grabbed my bike and rode on through the rock garden with such vigor that I cleaned the last log like I’d done it a hundred times, when in fact I’d never done it prior. My handle bars were off center from the crash. I passed a huge white squirrel on the side of the trail and thought I must be delirious because it was uncomfortable large for a squirrel. Oh well – must move forward. I still didn’t hear Yuri so I must have made some time on the two guys behind me. I hit the next rest stop, got water, a quick adjustment on the handle bars and motored on. Yuri caught me and kept me going on the rest of the gravel. Thanks Yuri, you’re a true friend. I needed to keep a good pace because there was still a five to six mile gravel climb ahead. I made it to the end of the gravel climb, rode and hiked the last climb of the five day race, then against my better judgment, looked behind me down the trail to see if anybody was coming. I saw, nor heard no one. Excellent. With my side aching, body beat up, legs throbbing, sweat pouring and stomach churning, I dropped Black Mountain trail at a fast yet comfortable pace. I crossed the finish line in third place in my class for the day – I held off fourth and fifth in my class. Pain comes in many forms. In this five day mountain bike stage race in Pisgah National Forest, I believe I met most of them.
Peace. Congrats to all the competitors, volunteers, race director Todd, the Forest Service and the good ole U. S. of A. for having a National Forest system to use.

5th in class for the race.

4th place in class for the day. 42.31 miles. Max speed of 36. Race time of just under five hours. 8.8 avg speed for the day.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Day 4

Ok. So I finally rode like I know I can. It took three days in a five day stage race to get some legs under me. Today’s route started from the Black Mountain Trailhead, otherwise known as “smokers cove”. The route included some of the second most technical trails in the forest I call home. We climbed up over Black Mountain via Thrift Cove then crossed Turkey Pen to Squirrel Gap. Lots of single track! Since I had my little vacation ride yesterday it was time to move. I started near the front of the pack and settled in around 15th or so. We had a rough climb up to Turkey Pen but I’ve completed that climb at race pace over eight times for other events, so I was ready for the ensuing pain for the next two hours. To my advantage, many of the other fellows in my class did not know what was before them and how to gage their effort. I finished the climb, crossed the 7 mile ridge and continued. Another twenty minutes of gear grinding went by and in the middle of the forest, I heard cowbells a whistle and loud obnoxious cheering. My friends were around the corner! Sure enough! Some of my friends had taken off work to come and cheer on the racers. Their cheering came at a perfect time. What a ruckus. What a wonderful ruckus. Sometimes chaos is beautiful for exactly what it is. Often in long races, I’ll find myself so focused on only the trail in front of me. It’s my euphoria. It’s where time disappears for me. Sometimes I couldn’t guess how long I’ve been at it, and those are the sweet moments. Simple. Nothing else in the world. Silence. Sweat. Pain. It’s a good day in the woods. Thanks to all that offered pep talks to help me bump the funk I was in. Times weren’t posted by this writing but I think I got third in the class and am uncertain about the overall ranking. We will know tomorrow.

39.83 miles. 31.5 max speed. Race time of 5 hours 31 minutes. 7.5 avg speed.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Day 3

Day 3
All I can compare this feeling to is 2-a-day summer football practices. Although I definitely do not hate cycling. Today was billed as 9,000 feet elevation gain and 40 miles. My legs feel otherwise.
Since the first two days of this adventure were rough, I decided to chill today. Chill I did. We had a running start to the bikes then a quick downhill to the main trail. Often a race promoter will make the racers run to their bikes from a distance of up to ¼ mile +/- but in todays start we had to do a summersault of some sort in the middle of the run. With me, summersaults died out with the last days of park rides that go round and round. Needless to say, my start was slow. I predetermined starting at the back of the pack and keeping myself from the front line hoopla. Trying to maintain a pace I’m not used to kicked my butt the last two days. My theory is that if you start in the back the only way you can go is up. My plan worked and I took my sweet time. I lost two spots in the overall but no big deal. It just does not seem like my week on the bike. Technically, I’m on. Physically, I’m off. I’m thankful for all the other races where those two were partnered perfectly – so far, this race is not one of em. Life goes on. Work continues. A bunch of crazy people bike in the woods. We all do our stuff. This is mine.

6th in class. 44.68 miles. Max speed 31. Race time of 5 hours 41 minutes. 8.2 avg speed.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

PMBSR - Day 2

Day 2
Felt better this morning and actually got a good warm up under my belt. Thought it was going to be a better day then yesterday then cramps set in on the first third of squirrel gap. I passed a few fellows in my class and thought it was all coming together then crash - not into a tree, not like Dave Mathews but like I was going to barf or who knows what. I kept going, despite how horrible I felt. I guess I was dehydrated. Hammer Gel products in liquid form other than gels evidently disagree with my stomach. I can’t seem to absorb heed or any of that stuff. We’ll see if that was a contributing factor to my slow, slow, slow time today. I’m still in 4th due to some unfortunate mechanical problem to the fellow who was in first. I’ll try to bust a move tomorrow. Maybe the legs will cooperate. Off to bed.
4th in class. 40.31 miles. Max speed of 29.5. race time of 5 hours 12 minutes. 8.4 avg speed.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Pisgah Mountain Bike Stage Race Day 1

PMBST –Day 1
“Look mummy , there’s an aero plane up in the sky” – this lyric from oh so long ago sums up my somber mood for the beginning of the first day of the Pisgah Mountain Bike Stage Race. Most was perfect: the sky, the temperature, trail conditions, bike…everything except for my somber, melancholy attitude. I felt peaceful, speculative, wondering, almost out of sorts with the world and just there. I should be happy. I mean another week off work, 5 days on the bike, the best trails I know, the trails I love most…my trails. Maybe I need a lift. Spirits low, non-existent, where are you spirits? This is my first stage race. How should I feel? What does the rule book say? Is there an emotional rule book? There’s a book on etiquette but that won’t suit the situation. No. I have my own rules. And my rules are fine. There’s no right or wrong, just be and enjoy. A somber start on day one is no big deal. There’s still day 2, 3, 4 and 5, God willing. Hopefully the caldera known as Yellowstone won’t blow up this week and mess up our breathing and oh yeah, kill a bunch of folks. I guess that’s what it takes to be a stage racer – focus on self and the task at hand. I focused on riding without judgment and succeeded. I didn’t dab but once all day (and of course it was while posing for a picture) and cleared some technical parts that I usually “almost” clear. About mid ride the chorus to “bring the boys back home” from the same album as the first song mentioned in this blurb of semi –conscious thought, popped into my head. This tune poses a request, which if answered would be a solution to a terrible mental dilemma the musician was obviously suffering while writing the song. Too me, it meant light at the end of the melancholy tunnel. I finally found my pace of “no pace” and rolled with it. Twas a beautiful day on the bike.

Today everything is a step toward tomorrow. “Back off a little you’re going too hard for day one, eat some pasta and bird, eat some pineapple, clean the bike, wash the clothes and line up mornings’ departure necessities.”
I’m tired and want to whip some ass tomorrow. So I’ll end my ramble and head for the pillow and hopefully to dream land full of bike jumps that flow like they can only in dreams.

4th in class. 12.78 miles. Max speed of 43. Race time of 1 hour 15 minute(ish). 9.5 avg speed.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

A day in PA

“Where’s this David Cook guy?” ripped me out of a semi relaxed state of welcomed non-stimulus after 101 miles of rushing thoughts, focus, attentiveness and sweat. I was sitting on the grass, cross legged, eyes closed, with my back against the blow up Kenda banner at the race finish. Apparently another Clydesdale racer didn’t like seeing his name in second place on the results page because he was questioning the race director for David Cook and a scale. Much to this fellows surprise, “he’s right here” directed at him from my mouth with the same tone he addressed the race director, seemed to stop him in his tracks. I guess he heard me, but assumed someone would present them self to him. I didn’t. I knew what he wanted…my digits on a scale. The race director, went for the scale with said questioning racer in tow. The racer came back to where he heard me announce my presence from the comfort of my make shift Kenda pillow and was looking around. I looked up at him and said “I’m David Cook”. He looked at me and said “oh”. His expression showed that his hope of finding a sub 200 lb fellow disguised as a clydesdale was left somewhere back on one of the five mile climbs behind us. All he could say was “where did you come from?”. The curtness and courtesy extended to me was reflected back at him in my voice, stare and body language. I started to get up and he said “no, keep your seat” but I insisted. As I stood, he acknowledged, with a smile, an understanding of not having seen a number less than 200 on any working scale since early high school. After our brief encounter, all was good. We smiled and laughed and talked about the race. I didn’t really feel like standing anymore but it was fun talking to a fellow racer.

I dropped about an hour off my time compared to last year and evidently this fellow won last year and was surprised for some competition. My memory from last year was obviously wrong because I thought I’d have to get a sub 9 hour time to place. With this in mind, I checked the Clydesdale results from the bottom up, reading each name closely. My eyes could see the top name coming close and still I wasn’t on the list. Then I came to the top name. My eyes read it then read it again and it was my name! What a surprise! I had no idea I’d won or even came close. I just went hard and when it hurt I just kept going.

The course is similar to many of the east coast 100 milers, lots of gravel and little single track. The singletrack in PA was either butter smooth or lovely loamy soil embedded with 5”-10”bone jarring rocks. The rocky sections were just as fun as I remembered from last year. But this year, my 29er full suspension added (or removed) an entire dimension to my race. What was bumpy fun last year turned into smooth, fast rolling “on your left”, “can I pass” posh, silky smooth-built for my marathon epic FS ride. Earlier in the day, as people were passing me on the flat gravel, where I usually dominate, I was swearing my new ride…I was plotting sales pitches for ebay and had visions of a feathery carbon 29er hardtail in mind. After cleaning the first rocky section, where race vultures typically hang out, I knew the huge smile on my face was the result of how much easier a FS 29er rolls technical rocks. No dice. I’m keeping the tank. Hooked. I’ll make peace with the extra weigh, like I made peace with carrying a pack in Pisgah. I zoomed through some of the hardest technical trail segments on the course like they were an extension of the smooth gravel roads.

As with anything you do multiple times, efficiency increases. This years’ climbs, albeit familiar, didn’t hurt as much as last year. I knew what to expect. I remembered the long climbs and looked forward to the short but sweet sections of Pennsylvania single track that so closely resembles the trails of home. The long day in the saddle was complemented by beautiful PA lush forests of tall trees, deep green ferns, blueberry bushes and cool crisp mountain air.

We went in with expectations of fun and plans to do our best. Mission accomplished.

Woman – 6th overall Female. 5 pro/elite finished ahead of her.

Man- 1st Clydesdale.

WNDC in da house.

Monday, May 3, 2010

PMBAR. Nuff said.

Pisgah Mountain Bike Adventure Race 2010.
I've finished last in this race and now I've finished 8th. Wide spread. So is Pisgah. So is the difference in my mind, body and soul compared to how it was when i arrived in Hendersonville in 2004. I knew it would be hard here, but not to the extent it is. Now i know why mountain people often emanate a quiet presence...with hard skin and a squint in their eyes. They know what hard living is but the beauty of the mountains and all the mountains give is worth the price we pay. That price is acknowledged by the silence. Yes it's hard here. We overcome. We realize lack and shed layers of glitter but end up with all we need, sometimes more.

Hard. Ever seen the winners? I have maybe once or twice. Spoke to a winner before. He didn't talk much and his skin looked hard, clothes worn and he carried an air of unspoken mountain confidence...the quiet kind that makes some people uncomfortable. Yeah, you know he could crank out 50 miles or 100 miles of Pisgah single track quicker than most people can do a road century with a tail wind but he doesn't speak of it, it's just known. Tough things are just things, no ranking of how tough or how easy, they just become things. Accepted tasks. Daily occurrences. Schtuff you just have to do. Like go to the bathroom or eat. Things you just do.

Just cross Turkey Pen. Just sprint up Black. Push up Pilot or ride up Laurel. Some things are expensive in dollars. Crossing Turkey Pen or sprinting up Black costs you soul points...challenges of inner strength. You may have the muscles and the lungs and a capable bike but do you have those items and the mental power to go forward one more step? Repeat? Then repeat again?

If you saw me after the race and my skin was hard, and my eyes squinted and i was mostly silent, don't mistake it for mountain confidence. I was just slap stupid worn out!

I'm working on it though. How cool would a first and a last in the same race be?
Lord willing, there will always be a PMBAR.

congrats to all who participated, volunteered and suffered.

thank you to Wes for letting me test the "demo" for one more weekend...
Props to Sycamore Cycles!!!!!! The best bike shop in the area!
Thanks to Yuri for not letting me nap all day on the side of Souf Mills.
Thanks to woman, well for womanly womaness.
Thanks to Clay for throwing out a huge challenge at the end of a long day. and so on and so on and so on.............

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

it's what i do.

i don't have kids.
i don't have a real job.
iv'e non verbally dedicated my present life to self gratification via bicycle.
by nothing else do i measure my success, with exception of woman.
but woman seems to measure her successes in similar fashion.
am i wrong?
am i correct?
does it matter once i'm dead?
so why should it matter now if i have successfully brought a company to a 50 billion IPO?
it shouldn't.
fuck it. i'm going to Dupont.
it's how i measure up.
if it's wrong on your ruler, use mine.
your rules do mine.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

To Hill and Back

This was supposed to be a 70-80 miler but as things went along i thought "ah, why not?". Started as the "Flat Rock Village Bakery" Saturday morning road ride at 9. We rolled down the water shed, cranked two laps around camp old indian, hit Hwy 11, Oak Grove, Lake Lanier, Tryon, Mill Spring, Green River Switch backs, Thompson, Fork Creek, Greenville St to Saluda, 176, roper, flat rock, little river, middleton, crail farm, old kanuga, 2 and 1/2 laps around Osceola then to the crib. tired as all get out. things went swell till mile 75 then i got tired. Joe and Cissy and David G. and Alexis came along as well but DG and Alexis split off after first lap of camp old indian casuse they had better stuff to do than suffer with Joe, Cissy and myself. Joe gets the spirit award for starting to feel great around mile 75 and puttin on the hurt. Cissy gets the "back to back" ribbon for mountain biking 7 hours in Pisgah till the wee hours of the evening on Friday then getting up in the AM an going "to hill and back". What really blows chunks is that this ride feels like 7 - 10,000 feet of climbing but according to mapmyride, it's only 4,700. I'd rather pimp my ride at this point. Ciao.

Monday, March 8, 2010

hilly from the hood

I'll call this route "hilly from the hood" because i leave from my hood and travel through some of the more (put on your best Mr. Howell-speak down your nose voice) "well to do" neighborhoods of the area. Some wonderful climbing though.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Feets aren't round

What's a wheel? Isn't that cheese? or something you spin and hope your ticker doesn't designate bankrupt?

No biking since early December. I vaugely remember a mental note to "buy the chris king lubricating tool" for that fancy bottom bracket that's barely spun enough to substantiate it's super cost.

Stir Crazy I am. So run i must. It started with a run/walk jaunt along the beach in Isabella, Puerto Rico - where it is sunny and warm, not frozen and icy.

Here is my longest run for 2010 (and 2009 and 2008 and 2007 and 2006):

It was pain, in that good way.
Maybe doors are opening up that were once adventure racing????
mucho tacos amigos.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

up and down and up and down and down

Is it better to be calm and centered in your enviornment when it's 12 degrees and miserable or frustrated and pissed off in a warm place in the middle of winter. Yin and Yang prevails in my life...a constant reminder of the other side. Just remember, whatever you experience has an equal or opposite side that you will also encounter. If you are down in the dumps an opposite good time will be around the corner and vice-versa. Yin and Yang makes the world go round.