Sunday, July 18, 2021

Tour de Burg part 3

east ridge of the Ring 

 Stage 5

The final day was the Queen Stage:  Massanutten Twin Towers.  I woke up with a foggy brain and heavy legs.  Spirits were good, but I was a little concerned with having a PTSD moment.  You see, I rode (and HAB'd) the full pull on The Ring last year and today was two 11 mile stretches along The Ring.  

The peloton started at Roosevelt Camp and slummed over to Edinburgh Gap, about a mile from the top.  The first timed segment would start here, hit the trail at the gap and traverse the ridge to Woodstock Tower, and Super D it down to Little Fort campground.  I was grateful for this long transition, as my legs were soooo dead.  But they came back to life (a little) once the timing began.  I felt pretty darn good riding and then finishing the Waonaze peak climb pushing my bike.

The ridge riding was spectacularly rocky, but at least it was a slight steady descent, with just a few punchy climbs.  I was feeling the rhythm of the trail, about a mile into it, when I heard the sickening sound of my tire spewing sealant on the rocks.  I calmly dismounted, whipped out my plug kit, and quickly inserted the first plug.  But still it leaked.  So I shoved a second in.  Damn it!  Air was still leaking.  I tried to let what little sealant was left soak into the plugged area.  In the meantime, Sue came up on me and asked if I needed help.  Getting frustrated, as I realized I was going to have to tube it, I graciously accepted her assistance.  Together we got Blaze back up and running.

I was cautious at first, since the bead had not seated fully and I was scared to death of pinch flatting.  I knew I had to move quickly, to beat the time cut off, so I had to push it a little.  Man, that back end was rowdy, though, what with 30+ psi.  I slowly found some flow again, as I became more confident that the tire was going to hold.  I ended up finishing the timed section in 2:02, and had 3 minutes to get done what needed to be done.  I quickly ate some food, filled my CamelBak with ice cold LaCroix, and took a pee.

At least with not much time to mess around, my legs did not lock up, and the party pace over to the second segment was quite nice.  Well, at least while I was descending and pedaling the flats.  But there was a really steep climb up to Milford Gap that about sucked the life out of me.  Crikey! And I have to "race" an 11 mile east ridge section from the gap back down to Camp Roosevelt.  This was where the mental game came into play.  I would say about 40-50% was unrideable for me.  Kelly and I rode/walked together for a large portion.  We fed off each other's grit and fortitude.  I knew I would finish the full pull, even if I had to walk this whole damn section!

East Ridge vista

Towards the end of the ridge, the trail mellowed just enough to where I could ride for an extended period.  But my shifting was off; I thought it was due to chain wear, but when my rear wheel got all wonky, I stopped to assess the situation.  Well, shit!  My axle was 1/3 of the way out!  I had hit a rock a while back and I suppose it knocked my axle lever loose and it slowly was backing itself out.  Dang!  That could have been catastrophic had it happened on the final descent.

A rideable section

Finally, after 2 1/2 hours, the descent began down to Edith Gap, and then down to the finish.  But it was still really hard.  With nothing left in the tank, my rock riding skills were abysmal.  And then there was that damn double track section which had me thinking I was in Purgatory ... it went on and on and on and on.

The final 1 mile descent

I was never so happy to hear that beep as I crossed the finish of the final Super D.  Pedaling on back to Camp Roosevelt, my legs may have been heavy, but my heart was full.  I had a spectacular week at the Tour and had accomplished my goal of finishing this beast.  With this final section taking 2:32, today's stats were 32 miles, 5300 feet, and a total time of 6:34.  I had a total saddle time of 28 hours over the 5 days.  

Mike had a spectacular spread of food awaiting the racers.  I filled my belly with meat, more meat, and some yummy sides. I got to chat with Preston, the "Rockfather of The Ring."  He had put me up at his place back when Sue Haywood and I rode The Ring over 2 days back in 2015.  This master of rock crawling could make short work of Short Mountain.  So it was great to see him again.  

Sue, my trail angel and flat fixing buddy.

A big thanks to Melissa, for inviting me.  Had it not been for her, I would have missed out on an incredible experience.  Sign me up for 2022!  

Wednesday, July 14, 2021

Tour de Burg part 2


Stage 3

I was seeing this as a "rest" day, being as it was all road save for an 11 mile gravel segment.  At 9 am, the slum rolled peacefully slow towards Shenandoah Mountain on smooth pavement, quite a change from the last two days' chundery gnar.  After 25 miles, the first timed segment began with a climb up and over Briery Branch Gap, then down to the gravel of FS61 and FS61H, a distance of about 16 miles.

Over and back on that mountain in the distance

The legs were great on the slum, and semi-decent on anything less than 6% grade, but once the road pitched up to 9% or greater, they just would not go.  I settled in and focused on Sue and Tomi's wheel, just trying to hang with them to the top, but even with their help, I still popped off with about a mile to go.  I was so happy to see Mike at the top because then I knew the descending would begin.  The backside off the gap was buttery smooth pavement that I could take at a good speed.

The gravel section was everything from chunky bedrock to smooth dirt.  It undulated in such a way that I was able to carry momentum through the rollers and turns, finding a good rhythm that my legs were happy with.  Ferns, ferns, ferns lined the gravel ... absolutely beautiful.

A good number of riders opted to ride their road bikes.  I would say the puncture rate was 50%.  I arrived at the lunch stop with plenty of time to fuel and rest.  My time for the segment was 1:52

Lunch break selfie, bellies happy

We then party paced over to the next timed section, which was back over Briery Branch Gap from the opposite direction, all pavement and 12 miles.  I was toast even before I got started; my legs didn't feel good until the descent 😅.  My time for this segment was 1:02. At the end of the segment, all the ladies (one of the biggest fields in TdB history) were called up to have a group photo.

Such a strong showing of powah

After this, we were supposed to slum the 25 miles back to town.  Well, that party pace must have been on amphetamines because once the pavement leveled off, I could not even keep up in the draft, first popping off the front group and then the second group.  I eventually found my group and slowly pedaled back to the Court Square.  The road day ended up being 85 miles, 8000 feet, and total ride time of 7:05.

Stage 4

Back to the mountain bikes, this day started off with a mere 2 miles to warm up the legs before hitting the Lookout climb on the Wild Oak NRT.  At least the trail was dry, for had it not been, it would have made for a long HAB.  The trail opened up and smoothed out a little, but the Hanky double track climb, a series of 5 pitches, was still an SOB.  Once on Dowell's Draft, I could catch my breath a little, but this was still a technically tough descent, at least until I got to Magic Moss, where I could open it up.  But, oh, how those little uphills hurt so.  My legs got bogged down in lactic.  This timed section was 12 miles and took 1:57.  

Magic Moss exit

A nice 7 mile gravel pedal over to the beginning of the second timed segment allowed me to prepare myself for the next heinous climb, the Horse Trough Hollow section of the Wild Oak NRT, a 3 mile 2000 foot beast.  I tried staying on Lindsey's wheel, but about halfway up the front wheel began wavering due to the steepness and my fatigue ... and I was off, walking.  The next 30 minutes of this hour climb included small bits of riding, but mostly HAB, especially when the underbrush got so thick I could not see the trail.  Finally on top, it was not much easier, as the Chestnut Ridge and Grindstone descents were loose and sketchy and interspersed were short grunty climbs.  This was some seriously fun, but difficult trail.  Time for this 10 mile section was 2:00.  Overall, it was a 30 mile, 5600 foot, 5:28 total time day of a good ole mountain beat down.

Today's reward was a good cold soak in the Stokesville blue hole.  Nothing like an ice'ish like soaking in the river to numb the thrashed legs.

To be continued ...

Sunday, July 11, 2021

Tour de Burg


The Tour de Burg is an annual event in Harrisonburg, Virginia. It dates back 24 years when Mike and Chris decided that they wanted to ride multiple epic days during the time that the Tour de France was happening.  They would hammer out big back-to-back-to-back-to-back, etc...., days in the mountains of George Washington National Forest. Every year more and more friends would join in this hillacious sufferfest.  And then sometime in the early 2000's, it officially became an unofficial event, attracting the most hardcore mountain bikers around.  Soon, non-locals got wind of this event and would make the annual pilgrimage to this mountain bike mecca.

The director sportif himself

I had heard about TdB for about 10 years.  But, for various reasons, I just couldn't make it happen.  Or perhaps it was because I was intimidated by it.  There are no GPX tracks and no to minimal course markings; the only way to find your way along the stage is by listening to the Mike's pre-race briefings and the one page PDF file that is sent to you the week before the event.  Not to mention the big names that come out to play:  Jeremiah Bishop, Sue Haywood, Kyle Lawrence, Lindsey Carpenter, Cheryl Sorenson, Libbey Sheldon, to name a few.

So when I got a text message from Melissa asking if I had heard of it and was I interested, I answered yes and yes and immediately cleared my calendar.  Now, it had been in my head that the whole stage was "raced."  Apparently I had not heard of "slumming."  I was pleasantly surprised when Melissa told me that only certain sections were timed and that the transitions were at party pace. There were 2 timed sections per stage and after the first one was a lunch break.  However, the lunch break only lasted 1 hour after the first person finished the timed section.  And if you didn't make that 1 hour cut off, you either had to bleed out your eyeballs to catch up to the peloton as they made their way to the next timed section or get SAG'd out in a vehicle.

Stage 1

Talk about throwing the baby in the deep end!  This rookie's legs were screaming and heart rate soaring as this stage immediately started with a timed section, a 6 mile single track loop.  It began with a 2 mile, 1200 foot climb up Big Hollow Trail.  Super steep and super rocky, I was happy that my skilz were there, but damn, there were no flats where I could get a quick breather.  I ended up with some HAB as my lungs could not keep up with the oxygen demand. I got a brief respite on the Hone Quarry Ridge Trail, as it rolled along, but was still technical as the rocks were hidden by tall grass, which made for a few squirrely episodes.  The 1.3 mile descent down Heartbreak Trail was super rocky with several rockslides to negotiate and some ledgy drops. 


top of Big Hollow


I came into this race knowing that I did not want to do anything stupid or above my pay grade, for fear of ruining my France bike-cation at the end of the month.  So I chose to race hard, but also ride for the experience and take some pics along the way.  Still, this 6 mile timed section took a 1:09.

At the finish was lunch.  I managed to have about 30 minutes to fuel and prep for the next timed section.  We slummed on the pavement climb up close to Reddish Knob.  This timed section included a chunky ATV trail up and over Flagpole Knob and a full mountain descent on Meadow Knob Trail to Cliff Trail.  The descent was chunky and I was having to focus the whole time; kind of felt like the Heartbreak descent in Pisgah.  I did stop at the overlook and take a few photos.

Cliff Mine Tr vista

With about 1/2 mile left on Cliff Mine, my handle bar clipped a tree and down I went ... hard!  My bike and I looked like we were engaged in a game of Twister.  After freeing myself from Blaze, I was bruised and battered, but not broken.  Blaze's handle bars were all catawampus and in the process of trying to straighten them, I managed to give myself a 2nd degree burn on the knee from the searing hot brake rotor.  Well, THAT woke me up!  I had to walk down the trail a few yards, making sure all parts (bike and body) were working before I mustered the courage to finish out the descent.

The second timed section took 1:26.  For the day, it was 24 miles, 4600 feet of climbing, and an elapsed time of 4:42.

Stage 2

We started out with a 4 mile gravel slum over to the first timed section:  Up Magic Moss Trail and down Dowell's Draft Trail.  I was happy for this little warm up, as I think my legs were still in shock from yesterday.  Magic Moss was a 2.5 mile, 1000 foot climb.  It was very smooth and buttery, compared to the previous day.  Despite the overnight rains, the trail was hero dirt.  The Dowell's Draft descent was a hoot.  The grasses along the edge were really tall, making this trail half-track.  With it being slightly off-camber, it was a little slickety-slick at speed.  My brain was having a hard time processing at these high speeds and so had to back off, after I about slipped off the mountain.

Familiar with this, from SM100 race.

Time for this section was 47:35.  I grabbed some food from the SAG and caught my breath.  BTW, the SAG lunch stops were a cornucopia of awesome items:  sandwiches, soft drinks, chips, pickles, hummus, wraps, trail mix, candy, and fruit.  No one went hungry!  From there we bushwhacked up and over a ridge to hook into a trail that dumped us out onto pavement. We then slummed (party paced) down Deerfield Valley on a long paved slight descent which felt oh so good!  Then began a gravel climb up to the beginning of the second timed section.  I loved these transitions as it gave me a chance to recover and make new friends.  This section was a 10 mile traverse of the North Mountain Trail, followed by a 3.5 mile screaming descent down Chimney Hollow Trail.  By now, the pecking order had been established so we all staged ourselves appropriately.  I was glad to be towards the back, as this trail had dense undergrowth, including briars and nettle.  I pitied the poor fool who had to "break trail."  This section was stunningly beautiful, the trail near Elliot's Knob was rocky and slicker n snot, and the soul crusher was the 5 HAB sections that climbed 700 feet to the top of the Chimney Hollow Trail.

Slummin' through Deerfield Valley

North Mountain floral gauntlet

Near Elliot's Knob, the F-bomb section of North Mountain

The upper part of the Chimney Hollow descent was quite chundery and I unleashed a few F-bombs.  The lower section smoothed out and was ridiculously fast!  So ... much ... fun!

lower Chimney Hollow

This section took me 2:45.  The day's totals were 43 miles, 6000 feet, and total time of 6:24.

Melissa and I had every good intention of heading to dinner that evening, but where we were staying in Mt. Solon, it would have been an hour commute, and we were tired!  Every night at 7pm, dinner was served at Hillandale Park in Harrisonburg.

I knew I needed to recover as best as possible, which meant getting off the legs, squeezing the legs with my Elevated Legs, and getting to bed early.  I needed a solid 9 hours of sleep, which I did manage to get every night.  The stages would start between 9 and 10 am.

To be continued ...