Friday, March 10, 2017

Southern Cross Race Report

Survival (and fun) were the goals.

I believe that we athletes are in tune with our bodies more so than the common folk.  I had been "off" for a couple weeks.  My initial plans for this weekend were to race P36, but as the days grew closer, the night time temperatures kept dropping, and I decided to pull the plug on that one once the temps dipped below 25 degrees.  I also just wasn't "feeling" it, as I had been for my 2014 attempt.  So I decided to race the Southern Cross instead, "race" being a loose term.  Even though I had rested leading up to this one, the legs just felt heavy all week.

Her name is Freedom!

With the name of the game being fun, I raced my Niner Air 9 RDO.  I put on the fastest rolling MTB tire I had, the Specialized Renegade 2.1's.  I was wishing for the 1.8's that they used to make.  Come 'on, Specialized, get with the program!

Sitting about 10-15 rows back, I was looking at the selection of gravel tires, as I was interested in what people were running.  But what caught my eye was this dude's saddle bag.  Not really a bag, nor a strap.  It looked like the tube and tools had been wrapped in Cling Wrap, not once or twice, but at least a dozen times.  How he could even access that was beyond me!

With a bunch of heavy hitters lining up at the start, I expected the neutral roll out to be not so much. Fortunately for me, it was slower than I expected, and allowed my legs some time to arise from the dead.  There was some chaos in the inital miles, especially when a couple leash less dogs decided to play Frogger with the peloton.  How a major pile up did not happen was quite miraculous!

Once we hit the gravel, the pack began to thin out.  I was not feeling fantastic, but better than expected.  Able to hit the stutter bumps with ease and speed, I made my way around quite a few cross bikes. These initial rolling miles weren't too bad. I yo yo'd with a few women. Once I turned onto the climb leading up to the Jones Creek Trail, I ramped it up a notch, wanting to clear myself from as many cross bikes as possible.  The legs barked, but did their duty.

I was in my element on the single track.  Just ... not ... long ... enough!  I was hoping I had put some distance between myself and the 3 ladies I had passed just before entering the trail.  But when I hit the Winding Stair climb, I thought I had entered quicksand.  I made judicious use of the big pie plate cog on my Eagle drive train.

I was thinking how I wish I had a pacer to help me on this climb.  Sho' nuff, I came upon Mr. Metronome.  The creak of his bottom brackett, with each pedal stroke, was mesmerizing.  Soon, I realized, my pedal strokes were matching his. But after about 10 minutes, if I continued at his pace, I would go mad!  I had to get away!  Forcing my legs to the breaking point, I was able to free myself from his grasp.

Halfway up, I got passed back by two women.  I had nothing ... nothing.  My heart rate was where it should be, but there was no power to go along with it.  I was only 1 hour 15 minutes into this (4 hour race for me) race ... let the suffering commence!

I bypassed the first aid station and once I was rolling along Springer Mountain ridge line, I felt a little better.  The descent was so much fun.  Using all the descending skills I could muster, I was able to catch up and pass the two women who ran off and left me on Winding Stair. Towards the bottom, I came upon Mary.  Together we made the right hander onto the pavement and continued descending. It was here I realized that tire selection does make a huge difference.  Wishing I had some skinnies, I tucked in behind Mary and rode her wheel for awhile before she pulled off and let me lead.

As the pavement flattened out, we were caught by the two women who were tucked in behind a couple guys.  They blew by so fast, I had no time to jump onto their wheel.  Nor would my legs have allowed it, as they began to wimper again ... on the flats!

The climb up Noontootla is a beautiful 7 mile gradual grade on pristine dirt.  But today, it was an all out effort just to make forward progress. My thoughts kept changing from how beautiful a day and how blessed I am to why the heck am I in this slump?  Then "The Legend," Big Dawg Mike Palmeri caught me. Together we pushed each other up the mountain.  I was happy to be in his company of positivity.  I was in awe of just how strong of a guy he is, as I had never had the opportunity to ride with him before.  Towards the top I slowly rode away from him.

I stopped the second time I hit the aid station and swapped a bottle and grabbed a gel, as my flask was empty.  This should be enough to see me to the finish, although I had the brief thought that I might have ridden better had my flask been full of Jack Daniel's as opposed to Hammer gel.

The rolling ridge line leading to Cooper Gap had me alternating between standing and sitting.  Funny, but I felt better when I was standing and pretending I was on my single speed.  I was in my own little bubble save for another who would catch me on the climbs, but then I would drop him on the descents.  He gave me just the spark I needed to go just a bit harder.  I finally dropped him on the long descent down to the 4-H camp.

And then, lo and behold, Big Dawg caught up to me.  He must have blistered that descent.  I was super happy to see him, as I needed a big strong man to carry me to the finish.  I lost what little remained of any power somewhere on the final descent.  Mike told me to hop and and enjoy the ride. Still then, I had to get after it a bit, just to hang on. Mr. Metronome latched on, too. Fortunately, the noise was at a minimum on this flatter section of the course.

I rode into the backside of the winery, crossed the creek, pedaled up the grassy hill, pitifully hopped a barrier, and flung myself across the finish line.  I can say that I did give it my all; it just wasn't that much. Still, good enough for 2nd in the 40+ women, and only 50 seconds back from first.

It has been said that you learn more from your losses than from your wins.  It is now a week later, and I am still scratching my head as to why the legs weren't there.  And then I think, perhaps they were, and that this is as good as it gets for being 48 years old.  If it ends up coming down to that, I can accept it.  But, if there is something else, something that can be fixed, I hope to find the answers soon.

Huge shout out to Jean, Angie, and Beth. Beastly, in a good way, women!

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Snake Creek Gap TT 50 Mile Race Report

Post race great state of mind

Having not raced since October, I was a helluva lot of nervous about my fitness.  Back in the day, I used to get butterflies about my competition.  That flutter in my stomach has since been replaced by a new one: how would I stand up to my former self?  My coach, Lynda Wallenfels, told me back when I was 41 that I was at an age where I still had room for improvement, but at some time there would be a plateau, and then you would be fighting tooth and nail to stay on it.  I did not want to admit it last year, but as I turned 48 last month, I do believe I am on that plateau.  I don't think I am at the point of slipping off, but I want to do everything within my willpower to stay there for as long as possible. And still have fun!  Because once it stops being fun, it is time to move on.

So I toed the line with a different plan in mind.  Ride the first 20-25 miles and if the legs were feeling frisky and spirits were good, then race the last half.  The weather was perfect:  50 degrees at the start ... for February!  We were let off in 5 second increments.  I lined up a bit early and was able to get off within the first 30 racers.  Less passing for me = less energy expenditure. I gauged my progress both by feel and heart rate.  I had already left my ego tied up in the closet that morning, so it did not concern me one bit when I was passed by half a dozen racers in the early sections of Dry Creek.

Within the first 4 miles, I had my first laugh, as I listened to 2 racers ahead of me have a war of words when one passed the other.  I did not think the pass was that bad, but I could have missed something as it was up the trail 20 yards or so.  A few minutes later when I made the pass on one of them, I made sure to give wide berth and let him have the trail, as well as cheer him on.

So I rode the Dry Creek system at a fun group ride pace:  spinning up the climbs in granny, holding a steady L3 effort on the flats, and trying to limit brake usage on the descents.  Time and several recent rains had removed much of the trail debris, including leaves and babyheads, making the creek crossings and tight switchbacks easier to negotiate without the fear of a rock taking out your front wheel.

Once I exited Dry Creek and began the climb up the double track, I made a conscious effort to eat and drink.  I heard racers behind me talking; one of them sounded like a woman.  My gut tightened and my body wanted to go, go, go, but my mind kept me from doing anything stupid.  There was still 32 miles and 5500 feet of climbing left to go. Never looking back, I stuck to the plan.

Hitting the first bit of single track, I felt back in my element and the legs were happy enough to sustain a constant pace crawling over rocks, roots, and surging during the steep, grunty sections. Lots of guys who went too hard too quick were feeling it and having to dismount on the steep, loose sections.  Everyone was playing nicely until the final super steep rocky climb just a hundred yards or so from the gravel descent.  I was motoring along and preparing for that final climb where one misstep can equal a rear wheel spin and having you walk it to the top. Well ... I had to let loose on one young racer like a mother wolf does to her pup when he gets a little too rough!  He attempted to pass me on that last tricky section at the absolute worst time.  Needless to say I showed my teeth and snapped at him.  He backed off (laughing a little, as if I was not capable of cleaning this section). Showing him and several others who had gotten off their bikes, I maneuvered around them, cleaned it, and at the top told the young lad that he could now pass me on the left, even though the gravel was just 20 yards ahead.  As he passed by, he said, "Thank you, ma'am."  Wow, I just got ma'am'd!  I will take that as a compliment and hope that he learned a little patience.

Just a tip to all you new racers.  If you want to make a pass, it is YOU that needs to yield the trail, not the one being passed.  The passee may get to one side of the trail, but they are under no obligation to stop or get completely off the trail.  For example, during the race Thomas Turner passed me so quickly and smoothly that I never felt like he was going to knock me off my bike.  He also let me be aware (prior to passing) that he was making the pass.  I never slowed, but got to the right side of the trail, but never off of it, and he was around me within 2-3 seconds.  And that, ladies and gentleman, is how to make a clean pass!

I was happy to see that Pine Needle Hill had returned to its former self (well, mostly) after being heavily logged in the fall.  Having taken it easy up until now, and without feeling any heaviness in my legs, I began to race.  I hadn't heard the female voice in quite some time, so she had either popped or had gone into stealth mode.  That gave me a little boost of confidence and I was able to tackle the next 4 climbs (dare I say it?) with ease.  I came into the Snake Creek Gap Sag with offers from beer to Cliff bars to massages.  There was definitely a party like atmosphere!

Making quick work of a Red Bull, dropping my CamelBak and grabbing a bottle for the final push, I was out of there before my legs had a chance to think they were done.  This climb is one of the toughest on the course.  Gaining 700 feet in 1.4 miles, it throws everything at you: several quad busting grunts, 1 tight steep switchback, and two false flats.  And if you spend too much time in the pits, your legs will scream the whole way!

But once up on the ridge, you can rage it ... if you have anything left. Which today I did.  All that conservation early on allowed me to find my happy place and work my Niner RKT and the trail. Coming down the descent to the creek crossings, a large Kamikaze stick leapt into my rear wheel. Anything less than an Industry Nine and I would have been probably been walking out. After the initial jerk to the bike which almost caused me to crash, the stick snapped, but half of it remained wedged in amongst the spokes.  It took a little muscle to get that bastard out and I cannot believe it didn't break any spokes!

A final on the bike refuel for the last 7 miles of gnar and I was eager to tackle the funnest part of the whole course.  A lot of people dread this section and I get it.  This is, by itself, is THE HARDEST section of The Pinhoti.  But throw in 40 miles of racing prior, and it can really test your character. Every year, I hear lots of cussin' and swarpin' along this ridgeline of boulders.  I love testing my skill when fatigued.  It takes such sheer motivation and perseverance to find that absolute last bit of power in your drained body.  You must also stay mentally sharp or you will find yourself floundering around in the dirt and rocks like an overturned turtle.  Hurricane Mountain always shows me that I am stronger than I think I am.

Hitting the pavement, I dropped my post, tucked in, and screamed down the pavement to the finish. Rolling in at just under 5:32, I knocked 5 minutes off of last year's fastest time.  I guess this old dog still has some tricks up her sleeve!

Open Women's Podium

Sunday, January 1, 2017

The Outdoor Store - My Local Bike Shop

Established 1996

My favorite store celebrated 20 years of service in 2016.  It is hard to imagine I have been a patron for 18 years.  It is also hard to believe that a store of this nature (selling bikes, outdoor clothing, and camping gear) has survived in Athens, a town of 14,000.  The Outdoor Store is a testament to Pam and Bruce Blevins' commitment to providing quality products as well as outstanding service to its customers and the community.

With the astronomical increase in web sales over the past 5 years, it is hard for small local businesses to survive and compete in a world dominated by internet giants. I've been reflecting on my own shopping practices the past few weeks, especially when trying to get last minute Christmas gifts.

What really got me stirred up was the closing of Bear Creek Bicycles in Dalton, Georgia, after almost 10 years of providing the same quality of product and service that my "bike shop" does.  I had never stepped foot into Bear Creek until December 21.  But ... I knew from email contact, friends and social media and through events they sponsored that they were a top notch LBS.  Following Shane Adams on Instagram also allowed me to see what a devoted husband and father he is ... and is in part responsible for my plans to travel across the United States with my daughter this coming summer.

Stellar service, fine bikes, good times ... no longer.

So for Shane to do everything right and still have to shut his doors got me thinking about how we as consumers search for the best deal. Sometimes the "best" deal is not the cheapest.  I try my best to purchase most of my cycling products from The Outdoor Store.  It may not always be the cheapest, but they will go to bat for you should there be an issue with the product.

I have had many items warrantied over the years.  Most of the time it is simple enough to get a new product.  However, there have been a few times where Bruce has had to be my advocate, on his own time, and carry on a lengthy conversation with the maker of the product.  And then, he has had to take additional time to uninstall the warrantied product, ship it, and then re install the replacement product back on my bike.  All of this costs him time which equals money.  For instance, this past summer, Bruce had my SID RCT fork on and off my Niner RKT so many times I lost count.  It was not working right and he must have spent at least 6 hours of his time working with SRAM to try to fix it. He ultimately got it warrantied.  It cost me nothing, but at a rate of $50/hour labor, it cost Bruce $300.

How many of us have gone to a store to try on a product, only to purchase it online because we can save a few $$?  Shame on us!  I can somewhat understand shopping for a frame or complete bike online because you can sometimes save a lot!  Now the bike industry has gotten to a point where there are opportunities for the consumer to purchase a complete bike for less than what the local bike shop can buy it for.  Crazy!  That is just one of the reasons that Bear Creek had to close its doors.  I also found out that some of the big name bicycle companies are making it harder for the small bike shops to make small purchases without a penalty.

How many of us use Amazon to get that little thing like Stan's sealant, an inner tube, or on the bike nutrition product?  I have a handful of times. And what did we save ... a dollar or two, the cost of the sales tax?  We need to keep it local as much as we can.  For without our LBS, then we are left to travelling afar to seek products and services or left to online retailers.  I trust my LBS, but can I trust a company with whom I don't have face-to-face contact, who doesn't know me by name, but only by an order #?

I definitely don't want to see The Outdoor Store close its doors ... ever!  Fortunately for them, they are not just a bike store, and can rely on selling shoes, clothes, and outdoor gear.  I usually don't make New Year's resolutions but for 2017 I resolve to make as many purchases at my LBS.  Over the course of the year, it might cost me $50, but it will be well worth the additional expense. I want The Outdoor Store to keep opening its doors for another 20 years.

Here is to a new year and supporting out "Mom and Pop" stores!

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Sponsor Highlight - ReVive Massage

I began using ReVive Massage Therapy last October when I threw my back out picking up my 7 pound cat.  I had made a post on FB.  Virginia, the owner,  responded with a mention of massage in addition to the chiropractic care I was receiving.  Not wanting to sound like an ambulance chaser, she gave me my first massage free. So I drove the 55 miles down to Chattanooga to see if she could "fix" me.

I was impressed with her knowledge of anatomy and the functional relationships of the musculoskeletal and nervous system.  After that first session, along with several chiropractic adjustments, I was well on my way to recovery.

Over the past year, I have been to see Virginia about 8 times.  Several have been for a particular issue such as rotator cuff strain, hamstring pull, and hip flexor strain.  I have also gone when my muscles have gotten "sticky" and tight after a hard training week.  Small, but powerful, she has been able to release the muscles as well as help in recovery of my overuse injuries.

Ladies, if you are looking for a relaxing massage, head somewhere else.  But if what you want is another tool in your recovery game, Virginia is the one.  It is going to hurt and she will make you cry for your Mommy, but those "painful" massaging hands will get your muscles, tendons, and ligaments back on track and ready to perform.

2016 is the first year that I regularly incorporated massage into my recovery regimen.  I have been pleasantly surprised at its effects.  So much so that I wish that I had the time and $$ for a lot more!

She is also IASTM certified.

I am very fortunate to have her for the 2017 racing season!

Friday, November 18, 2016

2017 Marathon Nationals Recon

The wildfires around me gave me the opportunity to seek better air quality.  So I headed west to Arkansas to do a little home work.  Next May is the USAC Marathon Mountain Bike Nationals. The venue is Iron Mountatin at Lake DeGray.  Don't worry, it is nothing like the Iron Mountain course that Chris Scott takes great pleasure in testing your mettle. I have heard nothing but good about this course.  Two lap format with a short parade lap to sort the racers out prior to hitting the single track. Counter clockwise flow.

SS'r paradise!

According to my GPS, the lap is 23 miles with 1700 feet of climbing. The trail has a rocky base and laid out so well that I don't think rain would be an issue at all.  Nothing too technical, and by that, I mean, I didn't have to session any section.  Few roots, but lots of cat head rocks.  Fortunately, most of the rocks are embedded and so won't be taking your front wheel out from under you.  This trail is fast and furious! There are a few short rock gardens that make it interesting, but everything is rideable. I could just give the trail builder a big ole' squeeze! I would guess that the course is about 85% single track.  A few short pavement sections will make it easy to grab some nutrition and fluid.

The Yellow Trail is my second favorite.  Rocky, but plowable.  Kinda like a much tamer version of The Snake. This trail has a good bit of climbing, the longest of which is a double track, access road climb up to the power lines, but only about 1/2 mile at 3-4% grade. Most climbs are 50-100 meters.

Soooo much floooow!

The Green trail, particularly the lower section, is my favorite.  Rocks, rocks, rocks.  Equivalent to the rockier sections of Raccoon. And these you have to pick your way through and be careful not to strike your pedals.  No problem with quick engaging I-9's.  There is an uphill rock garden that I probably wouldn't notice on gears, but on my single speed I had to dance my way up.

Had to hold my tongue just right to clean this uphill rock garden.

Love me some rocks!

The Orange and the Blue Trails are a rockier version of the Small Intestine trail at Raccoon. The climbing is evenly distributed over the length of the trail, but the flow was so good, it was easy to carry a lot of momentum uphill.  These two trails were smoother than the Yellow and Green.

Orange Trail 

The White Trail is a highway!  A cross between Tanasi's Brush Creek and Tsali's Right Loop.  It meandered along a point, offering up spectacular views of Lake DeGray.

White Trail

One lap of the course and I had it pretty much dialed in.  I did a second and was even faster, knowing what was lurking around the corner and when I needed to get ready to stand and grunt up some of the steeper sections and switchbacks.  Today the course was slippery as the drought has extended its reach to Arkansas.  The corners had a collection of loose dirt and gravel, as well as leaves.  I would say that with rain, this course will be fast like Warrior Creek.  Lots of sharp rocks, so run tires with sidewall protection.

Saturday, November 12, 2016


I've been on Niner bikes since 2011.  My first Niner was an Air 9 Carbon that I built up as a SS. I no longer have her, but she is still on the racing scene, under the guide of SuperStrong Mary Sickler. The first of this year I got the RKT RDO and I've just welcomed the Air 9 RDO to my family.

It has taken awhile to get "Echo" dialed in; that's my RKT.  Yes, I name my bikes (and still sleep with stuffed animals). Why Echo?  Because when I was in the Army, my MOS (military occupation specialty) was a heavy equipment operator.  Dozers, pans, graders, and front end loaders took skill and finesse to operate.  And so the same goes for her.  But once you have mastered the skill, it is an absolute blast to be in the saddle and raging single track.

Fox SC 32 in stealth mode

I initially had a RockShox RCT 100mm installed on her, but it just didn't feel or act right.  I was able to warranty it (although I was not told what the problem was).  At first I waited to get my hands on the new RockShox SID WC, but the delivery date kept getting pushed back.  So I decided to try the Fox StepCast 32 Boost.  I am so glad I did.  It felt right ... right out of the box and after removing all the tokens.  I totally agree with Dickey on this fork.

A great stopper

SRAM's Guide brakes are on the opposite end of the spectrum as compared to the Avid's. Plenty of power and I just love how they feel; not squishy like the older Maguras I had on my Jet 9 RDO.

I-9'a are just ridiculous in so many ways

I chose a set of Pillar Carbon Industry 9 wheels.  This is the first carbon wheelset I had.  I really don't notice much difference in them as compared to their Ultralight aluminun hoops, but then again I am but a mere half pint.  What I do notice is that they go where you point them, the engagement is what I need for rock crawling, and the spokes/hubs are sexy!

Completing her build is a Niner bar and stem, Ergon grips, SRAM 1 x 11, RaceFace Next SL with Cinch direct mount, Xpedo M Force 8 Ti pedals, and a Specialized S-Works Phenom saddle. I also installed a Reverb dropper, which cost a bit of weight, but so worth it for confidence in descending the gnar.  Even with the weight penalty, she comes in at 22.8 pounds.

Have yet to take her on the maiden voyage

I am ready to take this one for a ride.  However, what with all the wildfires, my lungs would be all sad with any HR above 100 right now. So, she sits in the basement awaiting the rain.

Loving the color palette

I've outfitted her with the StepCast and the new Ultralite 235's. Industry 9's new AnoLab page where you can build your custom wheel set is super sick! Pretty much tried to build her similar to Echo, so that I can rob parts if I need to in an emergency situation.  The Guide brakes are probably overkill, but when I was running XTR's on my older Air 9, they just did not have the stopping power I needed.  I like the 4 piston power.  At some point, I would like to try the SRAM Level brakes.

Going BIG

Bruce built her up with an Eagle drivetrain and the RaceFace Next SL G4 with a Wolftooth direct mount 32T.  According to their website, it provides an ideal 49 mm chainline, as compared to RaceFace's 51 mm.

Trying out Wolftooth for the first time

My intention for her is gravel grinds and shorter endurance events where I don't need the FS and drooper capabilities that Echo provides. Right now, she weighs in at 19.25 pounds.

I must give Mike Stanley of Niner, Bruce Blevins of The Outdoor Store, Industry 9, and Xpedo a HUGE thank you for providing me with a less than retail opportunity to shred on this machine.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Trans North Georgia (TNGA) Ride Report

The Trans North Georgia is a mountain bike route that is 350 miles long with 56,000 feet of elevation gain.  It starts just east of Clayton, Georgia on the South Carolina border and finishes on Hwy 20, just west of Rome, at the Alabama border.  The route runs through the Chattahoochee National Forest and runs the length of the Pinhoti Trail (131 miles).  The course consists of single track, ATV trail, gravel roads, and some pavement.

The start, at the South Carolina border

Having missed the Grand Depart back in August due to my work schedule, Lisa and I finally decided to take the plunge last Thursday. The one and only time I had attempted this route was back in 2011. After 118 miles, I had to pull the plug on top of HogPen Gap due to intense foot pain.  I was filled with trepidation as this would be my longest ride ever.  Although my feet had been doing well, even allowing me to race a duathlon the weekend before, I was concerned about aggravating the nerves again and potentially causing a major setback.  I promised myself to listen to my body.

Day 1:  SC state line to Blue Ridge, 170 miles, start 6:45 am, finish 1:30 am, 18:45 ride time

- I didn't have to wait 15 minutes for Eddie O'Dea to show up.
- Riding with the fastest woman, who also has the third fastest time ever, is an honor.
- Watching the dawn break is one of my favorite riding times.
- With the drought, ALL the gravel came to the surface.

Wilson Gap climb

- Wonder how many dirty diapers I will see in the national forest?
- The Darnell Creek Trail was a blast, similar to Butter in Pisgah.

Darnell Creek

- Said the Rabun Post Office employee, "We are not supposed to give you any water."  WTF!
- Patterson Gap gravel climb took two pedal strokes to gain one pedal stroke's worth of forward momentum since the gravel was so deep and loose.
- Made it to Tallulah River Campground on 3 bottles.  Refilled here.

Tallulah River

- The climb up Blue Ridge Gap was WAY more pleasant with overcast skies!
- The descent off Blue Ridge Gap was still filled with chunks of gnar.

The potential for glazing over your brake pads was high!

- Tray Mountain ... the never ending climb.  Halfway up, we got passed by a 1990's blue 2WD tow truck.  We never saw him again.  How the heck did he get down off that mountain?  is a question that remains today.
-So this is what the Hickory Nut Trail looks like.  In 2011 there was so much undergrowth, I was bouncing off all the rocks and having to walk sections.
-Coming down the highway into Helen, two mountain bikers pulled onto the road about 50 yards ahead of us.  Even after 11 hours on the bike, my first thought was, "Let's race them!"  Can't take the competitor out of me, I guess.
-New pavement on HogPen was a delight.  I breathed a deep sigh of relief when I passed by the parking area where I bailed back in 2011.
-I thought it cruel that after climbing up to Wolf Pen Gap, there was still more climbing to be had going up Duncan Ridge.
-The Duncan Ridge descent was the gravel version of Heartbreak Ridge.
-When I am tired, 50 degrees feels like 30 degrees.
-I was asleep before my head hit the pillow.  A solid 4 hours.

Campsite, first night.  Thanks, Loretta!

Day 2, Blue Ridge to Dalton, 110 miles, start 8 am, finish 9 pm, 13 hours ride time

-7 am came WAY too early.  And this comes from someone who normally gets up at 5 am.
- My right IT band began to act up on the Stanley Gap trail.

Sunrise on Stanley Gap

-Stanley Creek gravel road descent down to Cherry Log was smoooooooth as pavement ... and blazing fast!
-The climb up Bushy Head Gap was straight up; must of had Costa Ricans putting this road in as there were no switchbacks.
- Riding through Cashes Valley, I began to smell the forest fire up on Rough Ridge, only 150 acres at that time. (now well over 3000).

Refueling and texting our loved ones.

- Watson Gap gravel climb was a powdery mess.  But powder is easier than loose gravel.

Watson Gap, poppin' with color!

- South Fork Trail was in excellent condition.  Nice to not have to ride through mud and horse poop puddles.
- Pinhoti 0 was a beautiful ride, but still a sum'bitch!

P 0 creek crossing

- 1/2 way up P 0, the smoke got thicker.  Just a wee bit nervous as to what we were headed into.
- Heading up to Potato Patch, the Three Forks parking area was blocked off and numerous forest service vehicles were parked.
- Bear Creek was the first time I needed to purify water.

The smoky Mountaintown Overlook

- The work done on Pinhoti 1 and 2 was well done.  Too bad I was too tired and had an extra 8 pounds on my bike or I coulda raged on those descents and big berms!
-Sunset came as we plummeted down Tatum Lead.
- New discovery:  trails grow at night.  The grassy single track leading to the Dennis Mill section of Pinhoti went ... on ... forever!
- Bats were dive bombing my lights as I descended the single track down to the Dennis Mill trailhead.
- Cracker Barrel never tasted so good at 10 pm, even though I believe my mashed potatoes sat under the heating lamp for the past 5 hours.
- The Super Eight in Dalton was a welcome sight.  I flipped/flopped like a fish all night, as every muscle ached.  6 hours of restless and painful sleep.

Day 3, Dalton to Alabama border, 70 miles, start 7 am, finish 7 pm, 12 hours ride time.

- The climb up Dug Gap was brutal.  I was praying for my taint to just go numb.  Thank goodness I had the ability to stand and climb, which is what I did alot of today.
- Lisa was on fire today.  I don't know where she got the energy.  I was dying a slow death.
- It took me 5 1/2 hours to ride The Snake course (backwards)!

So, this happened. The Pine Hill climb along The Snake.

- Logging ... a necessary evil, decimated the section of The Snake between the beginning of Pine Hill climb and the crossing on Pocket Road.
- I was wanting a dropper post, not for the technical descents, but so I could get off/on the bike easier.  After 300 miles, getting a leg over the saddle was no small task.
- Frito-Lay is making money selling air!  I was able to get a 12 ounce bag of chips into a small Zip-Loc.  The guys at the gas station were enthralled!

No guilt in eating the whole bag!

- Unfortunately I did not get to enjoy my Pepsi with the chips.  All the rattling in the Mountain Feed Bag on my handle bar caused the seam at the bottom of the can to come undone.  I had been feeling small drops of liquid the last 10 miles, but had no idea it was my Pepsi leaking. Very sads.

Desperately needed those 150 calories

-Second time I needed to purify water was at Dry Creek.  Bear Creek definitely tasted better than Dry Creek.

Chlorine dioxide.  30 minutes for most bugs, and 4 hours for Giardia and Crypto ... and no bad taste.

- We had to ride around Strawberry Mountain.  It was closed due to a fire.  That allowed me a much needed Coke in Subligna.  I hardly ever drink sodas, so this was a real treat.  I never knew that a Coke could breathe life back into me.  A much needed boost for Taylor's Ridge.
- Fifty seven hours into this journey and I still had some spunk to enjoy the single track on Taylor's Ridge.  Well, at least the flats and descents.
- I was so happy to see the rail-trail.  And that it was in excellent condition.

Lisa says, "C'mon, only 12 miles left!

- I swear I think Lisa had a motor in her down tube.  The final 12 miles she kicked it into high gear and pulled me ALL THE WAY!
- So blessed to have her as my friend.  I could not have done this without her.  She is the Queen of Adventure! When I was not feeling good (which was a lot), she was there to guide me through the dark places.  Her energy was good to feed off of.

P'd and Gap'd out!

60 hours, border to border.

Other than an angry IT band and a numb left pinky finger, I survived without any major issues.  My 2012 Niner Jet 9 RDO was flawless.  With two bottle cages, I was able to carry 3 bottles on my bike and keep the water weight off my back.  This helped to lessen shoulder and back pain, but did not help much with the taint pain.  I had a 1 x drive train with a 28T chain ring. More than once I was wishing for an Eagle drive train.  My bike, with loaded bags and water bottles, weighed in at 33 pounds.  My CamelBak weighed 5 pounds.