Wednesday, July 30, 2008

What Color Should Zeke Get?

After much contemplation over the past month, I am pretty sure Zeke is going to trade in his Ford pickup for a Ford Edge. It does make sense as he is a family of one and Big Red likes to guzzle the gas.

So he called me up today to get my input on the color. Well, it is no surprise that little 'ol me from Tennessee would choose the Blazing Copper, aka orange! Other reasons include: easier for stupid drivers to spot, hides dirt well, and would look good with a House Divided novelty plate on the front (Tn/Ga).

What about the other colors?

Creme Brulee: need I say more? Zeke likes women.

Black: would look great with a big Specialized "S" on the rear gate or side, another good color for the House Divided novelty plate.

Light Ice Blue: once again, just too feminine.

Pacific Ink Blue: would look great with Specialized D4W graphics.

Vapor Silver: looks too military

Red Fire: Nope, not THE GEORGIA BULLDOG red.

White Sand: easy to see and keep clean, just not sure Zeke is a white kind of guy.

So let me know what color Zeke would look good in.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Wilderness 101 Race Report

The weather could not have been better: the first dry hundy, yeah! Chris Scott woke us up with the customary gong at 5:30 am. The temp was in the low 60's. Instead of my normal pre-race PopTart, I tried a PB&J. I carried my 50 ounce Camelbak with Glacier Mist Rapidade and a flask of Gu.
The first 3 miles was a neutral start on pavement. That was nice and allowed for a bit more warm-up. Once we turned onto dirt, the road turned up and the race was on. I was up against the powerful Pennsylvannia natives, Cheryl and Michelle. Cheryl slowly pulled away from Michelle and I on the first 2 mile climb. I was feeling pretty good, but remembering the disaster at Mohican, I kept some in reserve and rode with Michelle. We hooked up with a train of people that, at first, did not seem to want to work together, but after a bit, found a good rhythm.
Doug (on an Ericksson bike?) was in this group. Every hundy I have done this year, we have been there right together for the first few hours.
From Aid Station 1 began a doubletrack climb followed by a wickedly fast descent. Superfun! After more gravel road, the next bit of singletrack (Longberger Path) was relatively flat and flowy. Towards the end were a series of 3 bridges that got progressively narrower and then a 20 yard rock garden. This year I knew it was coming up, so got in a good position and was able to clean it.
I made it to Aid Station 2 (40 miles) in 2h31m, 29 minutes faster than last year. But this year I knew the most difficult was yet to come. Michelle and I pulled in together just as Cheryl was leaving. We left together and decided to try to reel Cheryl back in.
The next 20 miles had the 3 most difficult climbs. The first started immediately leaving the Aid Station and climbed 1400 feet in 3 miles. Michelle was just too strong; I popped off her wheel about halfway up the climb. She looked like she was going to catch Cheryl. At this point, I settled into a rhythm and rode based on HR and RPE. Although I was disappointed I could not hang with Michelle, I was happy to be feeling good.
The descents off these brutal climbs were steep and technical and brutal on your palms and balls of your feet. Wallace Trail was a descent through a dry creekbed. I saw no lines through this, so I made my own. One mistake, however, and your bike or your body would pay. With TransRockies just around the corner, I decided to play it safe, and so stayed well within my abilities. Stumpy was a bit addled, as she wanted to fly down the trail, no brakes! Sorry, Stumpy, your day will come.
At the 50 mile mark, I was still 10 minutes ahead of last year's pace. After grabbing a bottle at Aid Station 3 (54 miles), I began the 2 mile singletrack climb up Spencer Trail. From there was a short section of fireroad, followed by Sassafras Trail. This has got to be one of the rockiest in the race. Bone-jarring for me and then some pain in my left knee began to flare up whenever I would try to stand and mash. So I sat and spun. Towards the end of this trail, I think, was a loose and sketchy descent with a sharp right turn that I overcooked last year. Well, I about made the same mistake, but managed to stay upright and on the trail.
Beautiful Trail was a scary descent on a steep slope of what looked to have been a landslide a long time ago. Scary as in rocks following you down as you rode over them and one bad bobble and you would be taking a tumble down into the rocky ravine. The trail eventually levelled out (becoming No Name Trail) into kind of a boggy area with wet roots and rotten wood bridge crossings. The old growth forest was breathtaking and the smells of wet leaves and rich soils was captivating: one of many reasons why I love to ride singletrack.
Aid Station 4 (74 miles) was under a bridge. Since I was the only rider in I was treated like royalty. I practically did not have to do anything. They held my bike, filled my Camelbak, and helped me exchange my gel flask. I was off within a minute.
Stillhouse road was a 2 mile climb on a washed out "jeep trail." It reminded me of the ORV roads up in Tellico Plains. Then came the Sand Mountain Trail followed by the Little Poe Trail which had several mud puddles (Stumpy was clean up until this point).
The course finished up with 2 Rail-Trails separated by one long steep climb and one fisherman's trail. I had to TT this last 11 miles as there was no one in sight. I had been hoping to hook up with a train as my quads felt like they were going to explode.
I finished up in 8:59, only a bit faster than last year. I heard that Michelle and Cheryl had a battle for quite a while until Cheryl was able to pull away once and for all.
Other Notables:
1. Thursday night before the race after searching for a vacant hotel we finally found a Microtel that was practically empty. It may have had something to do with the fact that it was right across the street from a federal penitentiary.
2. Where was Aid Station 2B (B as in Beer) this year?
3. Betsy Shogren riding a singlespeed (not by choice) due to a thumb injury. A definite Bad Lass!
4. Cheryl's inexperience with popping champagne which led me to having an earful of alcohol. Just you wait, Cheryl ... payback will be coming!
5. Swiftwick socks are the bomb. No sand, dirt, grit could make its way through to my "toesies."
6. 150 ounces of fluid (120 Rapidade, 30 water) and 14 Gu's consumed.
7. No more PB&J's as a pre-race meal. Even though consumed 2 hours prior to racing, it sat like a rock in my stomach for the first 40 miles.
All in all, a good day in the woods.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Camp Poppy

This weekend was a huge success. I do not know who is more tired: the adults or the children. Even though the adults outnumbered the kids, I think we were no match for their energy.
We met up with Zeke and his son's family (John, Ann Michelle, Mia, and Gunner) Friday night at the Whitewater Center for a night hike. The kids had fun using their headlamps to light the way and fry our eyeballs!
That night the kids (Carly, Mia, and Gunner) got to "camp out" on the screened in porch with Poppy, aka Zeke. Gunner lasted about 5 minutes once the lights went out. Then he ran back into the house to sleep with his mom. It may have had something to do with Poppy telling them a ghost story.
Saturday morning we headed to Lake McKamie on top of Chilhowee Mountain. We first stopped at the Whitewater Center and watched as the water was released into the Ocoee. The kids thought that was pretty fascinating.
Carly and Mia formed teamed up early on to find newts. They were successful and caught one pretty quickly. But he escaped from "the moat" as the girls were off looking for more to catch. Gunner enjoyed making sand castles with Poppy.
Then they all got on the turtle float and enjoyed being towed around the lake. However, once Poppy and I began the game of flipping them off the turtle, Gunner decided he wanted no part and got off. The girls enjoyed face-planting into the water. When they came up sputtering and coughing, they screamed, "Again, again, Poppy!"
John took it upon himself to be the cook. While we were busy having fun in the water, he was sweating over the grill and fighting off yellow jackets. But he cooked up some mean burgers and dogs!
Each of the adults did manage to slip off for an hour. John and Ann Michelle ran the trail and then Zeke and I rode some singletrack. The kids also brought their bikes and pedaled around the lake perimeter.
After dinner at Good Fella's, we went back to Poppy's house. Even though he has only one bathroom, the 7 of us managed to get cleaned up in less than 2 hours ... and with hot water. We managed to get the kids to bed a bit earlier, which was a blessing for us. This is supposed to be an off week for me, but man was I pooped.
Today we headed over to the Hiwassee Outfitters for a trip down the river. We all had "duckies" except for Poppy, who brought his flatwater kayak. Kim also joined us in her kayak. John was worried about Gunner being frightened by the rapids, but as he soon found out, Gunner enjoyed the fast water.
Ann Michelle will probably be the sorest tomorrow as she managed to find every rock in the river and got stuck numerous times. Kim was the "river angel" of the day as she was able to manuever in her boat and get the stranded ones back to higher water.
Poppy stayed the coolest today as he managed to capsize twice. I now know why he invited Kim. She was the one to catch his kayak and bail the water out.
Carly seemed to get a bit bored this time. After all, this is her third year in a row. She was the happiest when hitting the rapids, but did not like the slow-moving water. She is ready for more Class III rapids.
After the trip, Kim was kind enough to give the girls some lessons in her kayak. Now Carly was all about that. She liked Kim's tiny little kayak and did very well paddling from Daddy to me and back again. Looks like I will be taking lessons next year alongside Carly. Now to just find a purple Jackson kayak!
After the float trip, we all went our separate ways. I really enjoyed this weekend. The kids had a blast and wanted to know when the next Camp Poppy was going to be. We will have our work cut out for us next year to top this one!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

What's Wrong With This Picture?

Today Lisa and I headed to Dalton to ride The Snake. With TransRockies rapidly approaching, we wanted to get some riding time together. We started at the Dug Gap parking lot and rode the trail opposite of the way the race is run. The gravel climb up to the trailhead was a rude awakening for my legs. Ouch!
The first rocky ridgeline was fun; a lot of down trees, to which Lisa replied, "This feels like an adventure race." Conversation was kept to a minimum as we wanted to keep the tempo up and Lisa had to go to work in the late afternoon. We both handled the technical sections equally and our pace on the uphills was consistent and smooth. I got away from her a little bit on the downhills, but I was also kicking up some good size rocks. So Lisa smartly backed off; she didn't feel like losing any teeth today.
Once we descended down to the Snake Creek Gap parking lot (mile 17), Lisa said she wasn't feeling too good on the climbs. So we decided that I would ride up Horn Mountain at my pace and then turn around at the top and catch her on the way down. Then we would ride back on the pavement to our vehicles.
Most of this climb was in my middle ring. Towards the top it got rather steep and loose, so I dropped the chain down to granny. As I was slowly riding up the last pitch, I hit a "mawl-shaped" rock that lept up into my derailleur. I immediately ground to a halt.
My first thought involved $$$$$$. My second thought was, "Hmmm. How do I fix this?" Bear in mind that in 8 years of racing I had never broken a chain or derailleur. I always carried what I needed to make these kinds of repairs, but always hoping that if it ever did happen, there would be someone else to fix it for me. So now I had to rely on Bruce and Zeke's teachings.
The hardest part was unwrapping the derailleur from my cogset. Turning Pinky into a singlespeed was not as difficult as I had imagined. Aside from having a little too much tension in the chain which resulted in a creaking noise as I pedaled, I managed to get myself back to the truck 10 miles away.
No, I have not been bitten by the Singlespeed bug.

Sunday, July 6, 2008


We just returned home from our family vacation. We spent the last 4 days in the "Redneck Capital of the World," Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. Picture the people you would see at a NASCAR race and those were the people that I have been rubbing elbows with. But with the price of gas and our schedules, we chose to stay close to home. Anyways, Carly had a blast and that is the most important thing. 10 years ago, I vowed never to come back to this place ... but then again I had no thought of having children at that time.

Day 1: We went on a hay ride in Cades Cove and were treated to a Mutual of Omaha's Wild Animal Kingdom adventure. We watched as a doe tried to divert a coyote away from her fawn. However, the fawn stood up prematurely, the coyote saw it, attacked, and made off with supper.

Day 2: We went to Dollywood Splash Country, a waterpark. Carly had no fear and rode everything within her height requirement. I must say that I had a great time, too. What I thought was absolutely funny was the pre-recordings at some of the slides. Basically it said that if you were under doctor's orders or were in poor physical condition, you should not ride the slide. Well, hell, that would have eliminated about 65% of the line! There ought to be a law prohibiting bikini wear if your BMI index is higher than a certain value. Yuck!!

Day 3: We hiked the Trillium Gap trail up to Grotto Falls. I think everyone else in Pigeon Forge decided to hike this one today, too. It was a 3 mile roundtrip and fairly easy. But I wanted to stay within Carly's abilities and interests. We did get rained on, but that did not sway Carly's spirits. Carly spotted several salamanders which was pretty cool: a red, a yellow, and a brown.

That evening, we celebrated the 4th at Charlie's parents.

Day 4: We drove to Gray, Tennessee and went to the Gray Fossil Site. Back in 2000, during a TDOT construction project, a 4 acre area of fossils dating back to 4.5-7 million years ago was discovered. Thankfully, our governor deemed this an important finding and the state diverted the road construction around the site. In just 8 years, the storage facility is full of hundred of fossils of tapir, camel, rhinocerous, red panda, saber tooth, and badger. Now, that was cool! Carly had a chance to sift through some earth and look for fossils herself. Unfortunately, all she found was some fossilized wood; no animal fossils. She was disappointed. East Tennessee State University has created a paleontology degree. I can envision Carly working there one day. She has already told me she wants to attend the camp next summer.
All in all, it was a pretty good vacation. Although, I did daydream about riding some sweet singletrack. Now that I am home, I can go out and get my cycling fix.