Wednesday, December 30, 2009

redneck silliness

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I thought this video was pretty hilarious and it reminded me of a photo I recently saw of some friends back in TX who experienced a snow storm, big for them. I think I saw 3 or 4 snows as a kid growing up in the Lone Star State. Anyway since TX is flat and there are no good hills to sled down, (that's sleigh riding for you East TN folk), they hooked up a rope to their riding lawn mower and pulled each other up and down the street. I hope there were no abrupt stops made.

all clear

What the heck have I been doing as of late? Not really riding and I hate to say this but it's kind of been a nice break. What? Yeah I know, I guess it's why I haven't blogged much. I haven't been lying around on the couch drinking beer, I've been shocking my muscles in other ways. Melinda has been off for Christmas and it's been nice having her to work out with. The dogs are good company on the trail but she can actually talk back to me with words instead of noises or motion which makes her much easier to understand. We've been running, hiking, lifting weights & trying out P90X, one of her Christmas presents.
P90X will hurt you, 30 minutes into the 1st DVD & I pulled a hamstring and had to call it quits but a little ice and ibuprofen and I was back at it the next day. Whoever says stretching is not necessary is an idiot.

Why no riding? The last winter storm that blew through our area wreaked havoc on every trail system within a 2 hour drive leaving us with really no place to ride and it's been too cold for me to ride on the road. Luckily NTMBA and the Tri-Cities have one of the best trail crews around. While much larger cities like Asheville are still looking at their trails wondering what to do with all the trees that fell, we are looking at ours which are now clear of debris thanks to a few hardy folks who know what it takes to keep riding all year round. Melinda's uncle, Joe is the one who did most of the work and organization of the work days so hats off to him and everyone who helped him.
Bays Mountain is still closed with the same issues but we're not allowed to go in and help clear trees yet because of a wolf problem. Before the snow hit, strong winds blew a tree down crushing the fence of the wolf den allowing them to escape. Most have been caught but 2 remain on the prowl and the park will remain closed until they are found.
So with all this time off the bike I have taken it upon myself to try new things and stay motivated. Hopefully this weekend will see some singletrack goodness but with rain in the forecast who knows. I'll just keep looking at the new shiny bits on the dirty Mamasita and continue to wonder how they will feel once they get dirty like the rest of the bike.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

are the holidays over?

Once again the holidays are over and every year I say I'm not gonna eat bad, yeah right. I say I'm gonna workout everyday, yeah right. I did do a little better than usual but there seemed to be a few to many cinnamon rolls out there that found there way into my mouth. I have been trying to sneak in some calorie burn time as much as possible but the elliptical trainer at work is really getting old and my ipod selection is getting stale.
Still no riding here for me as the trails are not completely clear but they're close thanks to a mean crew wielding chain saws and clippers. I wish I could say I have been out there in the thick of it doing my part but I haven't, all of the work has been done while I sit at work. Thanks again to all those who have done the work, you are very much appreciated. What's funny is there are probably alot of riders out there who probably won't know there was ever a mess.

Santa was good to Melinda and I this year, I'm anxious to get out and test out some new gear and bling. I spent a good portion of a day installing new cranks on both Melinda and my bikes. Some carbon here and there and a whole new cockpit for the Mamasita.
Probably one of the coolest things I got was a flip cam.

I'm kind of obsessed just a bit with shooting video and taking pics which does make the blog a bit more interesting in my opinion. I have a feeling this little guy will see alot of trail time and up the cycling videos a bit. I generally hate having a bunch of stuff in my jersey pockets but this thing is too much fun to leave at home and it's very simple to use which makes shooting video with full finger gloves on a whole lot easier.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

back in the woods

Travels last week, a bunch of rain, a bunch of snow & working nights has really taken a toll on my time on the bike. With the wintery assault mother nature just laid on us it looks as if it my be a while before any of us see any trail time at our local singletrack hotspot, Warriors. Us country folk here in the south may not be as used to the snow as some of our northern brethren and 6 inches may not be a big deal but the snow we saw this week was wet and heavy knocking out power, water and uprooting trees everywhere.
Melinda, the dogs & I got out and hit the trails today for a little snow hike and to access the damage.
We found several good sized trees blocking the trail and a bunch of smaller pines that fell creating a domino effect in several areas.
We didn't arrive prepared with a chainsaw but we were able to remove 4 small trees by hand and clean up alot of debris.
I was able to lift this pine with the force but that is is far as I got it. I guess I need to work on my Jedi skills a bit.
It was nice to get out and hike after being stuck in the house and enjoy the snow which is something we don't see very often.

Thursday, December 17, 2009


Sorry for the lack of posting folks everything has been on hold for the last few days. Last Friday I got the call, my Grandma passed away. We knew it was coming as she hasn't been well for some time. Luckily for me I had just started my monthly 7 days off so traveling to the Lone Star State was not a problem as long as I could score a good deal on my travels. Fortunately I was able to score cheap tickets on a flight out of Knoxville and was able to save even more money by staying with family.
I was really only there for a day and a half so I don't have much in the way of good stories to tell. I will say that I had a hard time recognizing my home town with all the changes it's gone through since my departure. I used to make return trips once a year but as I get older I seem to travel south less and less. I felt a bit embarrassed to admit that I did not know my way around town when I was asked to drive my Uncle's car after the funeral. I moved away before my 16th birthday and what used to be farmland is now peppered with shopping centers.
Upon arrival I was expecting warmer weather but other than the lack of mountains to block the frigid wind it felt about the same. I did manage to eat some good Mexican food, something that is hard to find in east TN despite the fact that there are quite a few Mexicans here.
One thing I found interesting were the street signs that instructed motorists to "Share the Road" not with cyclists but motorcycles. I was surprised to see this but I guess it does make sense since they share the same dangers as cyclists, maybe there needs to be a double duty sign for motorcycles & bicycles alike.
Despite the fact that a majority of my trip was centered around a funeral I did get a rather interesting tour of my Uncle's collection of antique trucks and cars. My Uncle has a fascination with 1950's era Fords. In his collection I counted 6 trucks and 6 cars all ranging from the late 40's to the late 50's. Had it not been freezing and I not been wearing thin slacks and funny black leather shoes I could have spent the entire afternoon in his backyard listening to stories about each vehicle.
My sister and I flew back in town late last night and it feels good to be back in the mountains even though the Mexican food is below average but I feel like it's a more than fair trade.

Now back to our regularly scheduled program of singletrack, bikes & big stinky dogs.

Friday, December 11, 2009


Cold weather, not my favorite time to ride but I still do it. I've never been a fan of cold weather riding for 2 simple reasons, my hands and my feet. No matter what I do they get cold and rarely ever warm up. I've tried everything from plastic bags to the fanciest cold weather riding gear I can find to combat the needle stinging sensation that hits my hands as I try and squeeze the brake levers or shift gears but nothing seems to help. Sometimes I can get my hands to come back to life but it takes some work, but for the first couple of miles it's pure agony, my feet never really seem to come around. I think it has something to do with my circulation but that's just my best guess. Every year I try a new pair of gloves thinking this pair just may be the ones that keep me from thinking at any minute I may loose a digit or two but deep down inside I know that won't be the case. I know what your thinking, "Hey Greg it's just a sign of getting old". Not so, I actually have seen an improvement in my years and I think being in better shape has something to do with it, possibly increasing my circulation. No matter what the case I will continue to ride but chances are if I'm off all day I'll pick the warmest part of the day and ride by my self rather than meet up with the guys at night when the temps drop into the 20's. If the warmest part of the day is in the 20's I'm strapping on my trail running shoes, I stay warmer that way and the dogs like it when they get to roll with me.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

a mouth full of nails

Nothing really biking related here but there was some excitement all over East TN as Mother Nature unleashed her fury on us in the form of some really strong wind gusts. As I pulled into my driveway at home I began assessing the damage. Half of the ridge vent was blown off my roof and laying in the yard, and couple of shingles were missing.
Three trees must have gotten tired and decided to lean on their neighbor, one couldn't find a buddy to lean on so he just laid down on the ground. I spent the next 2 and a half hours on the roof replacing the ridge vent and I guess a good portion of my day tomorrow will be devoted to staking up my evergreen trees. There is just too much junk in my neighbors backyard to cut them down.

Melinda thought it would be funny to snap pictures of me on the roof with a mouth full of nails.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Sugar Hallow investigation

Sunday I took a break from Christmas shopping and spending too much money in stores I'd rather not talk about and I got out in the woods on my bike where I belong. Lately there has been some rumors flying around on my local mtn bike forum of a new or semi new trail system in a local city park by the name of Sugar Hollow. The system is rumored to have been built by a group of boy scouts and to have 8 - 10 miles of singletrack. I decided Sunday was a good day to go out and lead an investigative team to see if the rumors of singletrack goodness were true or not.
I downloaded a map off the city's website and jotted down a few notes of which way to ride that some mystery guy posted earlier in the week. On my way out of the house I noted that the weather was a bit warmer than the previous day but I grabbed my winter riding jacket just in case I got lost trying to navigate my way through the woods with a poor excuse for a map. Upon arrival the sun was shining but as soon as I stepped out of the warmth of my truck I realized that I was going to need the jacket for sure.

It must have been 5 or 6 degrees colder with the wind whipping around the parking lot freezing my finger & toes, a great way to start off a ride. Even tough guy Chris Dillow looked cold as we waited and waited and waited on Fat Tony to roll in. When F.T. finally rolled in he apologized for being late and muttered something about baking cakes and pies. As luck would have it F.T. has yet to repair his brake lever despite repeated attempts in his bike shop/kitchen. I offered up one of my trusty steeds as a loaner and he accepted.
Unfortunately tough guy Chris Dillow and I continued to get colder and colder as we waited on F.T. to switch out my, never let me down, SPD pedals for some others named "Candies", which are also loaners because Crank Bros. is repairing his supposedly bomb proof "Candies". What a great name for a bike part that supports a majority of your body weight.

Once all the part swapping was complete we finally got our ride underway, frozen digits and all.
We entered the woods and I was surprised to see alot more snow than anywhere else. What little snow we got on Sat. had melted away by that afternoon.

There was indeed 8+ miles of singletrack that circled the campground. We did have to ride though the campground to connect all the segments of the trail that were short and broken up in places so I would definitely suggest taking a map with some sort of route planned out.
The trail did lack switchbacks in some necessary places causing us to do a bit of hike a bike. The one set of switch back turns we did find lacked the smooth "S" curves that I'm used to and used a more "Z" like approach making it a bit difficult to ride in the snow and wet leaves. I won't complain much though as 8+ miles of singletrack located right in the city is a rare gem and with a little work they could be a great set of trails to ride after a hard day in the office.

Before we started the ride I told F.T. he was welcome to ride either the Monkey or the Mamsita, he chose the Monkey since they have previously spent time on the trails before with success. Sunday was a bit different story and I think it may have had something to do with the "Candy" pedals he out on. On one of the more technical sections the KM threw her chain sending F.T.'s knee right into the stem. He danced and rolled around on the ground in pain while I had a talk with the Monkey, told her to play nice and replaced the chain.
As we rolled into the parking lot I looked at my computer and noticed we were about 2 miles short of the expected route. I rechecked the map and realized that we had indeed missed a large section but decided to leave it for another ride in favor of the warmer conditions of our cars.

Friday, December 4, 2009

what's on your Christmas list?

Every year I ponder on whether to make out a Christmas list or not, actually I always plan to make one but every year I decide to keep it simple and I think to myself, "be conservative". You might be thinking to yourself, Christmas List? Who really does that? Well my family does and has for years, it's kind of a tradition and we always buy gifts for each other anyway so making a lists makes things easier. It's actually kind of a fun thing to do, see what my folks put on their lists especially my Dad, he likes to add items that are usually out of everyone's price ranges just for a laugh. It's not unsual to see an AK-47 or some sort of antique British race car. Me I kinda like to do the same but of course the things I put on my list are bike related. This year was no exception, halfway through my list I added a pumptrack, hey why not. It really wouldn't cost anything other than a little hardwork. For the past 3 or 4 years a Surly Cross Check has graced the list, this year a new color was requested, "Beef Gravy Brown". I know I haven't raced much CX in over a year but I love a good CX bike and a steel frame has been on my mind for some time now.
When Melinda and I first got married it took her some time to get used to making out a Christmas list but we eventually won her over. She still has the shortest list of the family. The first year she submitted her list, my Mom was surprised at her list accusing me of making it for her. She did have a few girly items but there was also bike parts which my Mom thought was crazy. What girl puts bike parts on her Christmas list? I had to convince her that Melinda made the list on her own with no persuasion by me whatsoever. I think still to this day my Mom has trouble with believing it and I'm pretty sure she has yet to buy her anything bike related. She always goes for the more proper female items or at least in her mind.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

bad ju-ju

As stated in my previous post Melinda's brother Dustin, his girl Melissa and their 1 year old house wrecking machine Chase were in town last weekend for the big turkey cook-off. They live up north in the great state of Pee-Ya where he swears the trails are tougher to ride than they are down here in the cushy south. I say cushy because we line sides of our trails with old discarded mattresses so when we loose control on our perfectly groomed trails we don't get hurt. There are an abundance of old mattresses lying around if you know which neighborhoods to look in.
We don't get to visit with them on a regular basis but when we do we try our damnest to make the best of it and sneak in a ride or two. This last weekend being the holidays and such we had to keep the non-riding family members happy so we only snuck in one ride and we barely got that one in. The plan which changed 56 times for what reason I'm not sure, I think there was some behind the scenes tom-foolery going on (somebody didn't want us to ride). Once everything was straightened out the plan was to hit Bays Mountain Saturday afternoon and ride the backside. Not to leave anyone out, Nana, Melissa & Chase tagged along to do the other non-riding aspects of the park. Just leaving the house was an adventure, We met at 12:30 but didn't leave until after 1:30 because somebody kept having to go back into the house 6 or 7 times to get this or that. The funny thing was, it was the same person, one that wasn't riding hence the behind the scenes tom-foolery comment.
Once we finally arrived at the park Melinda's aunt realized she forgot her helmet and had to return home to get it. I was really beginning to think our ride was sabotaged and wasn't going to happen. it was now after 2:00 and the park closed at 5 and we were planning on riding the backside, not a quick thing to do.

Melinda, Dustin & I went ahead while Olga retrieved her helmet with plans to meet at the top of the mountain. We rode slow and steady and I played around with a bunch of new camera mounting positions for new angles. I'll try to get a video together sometime this week and post up. Once we Olga and Joe caught up with us we headed down the backside. I glanced at the time and decided we weren't gonna make the whole route. Dustin and I continued down for a shorter version while everyone else took the new trail Bear Run as a short-cut back.
As Dustin and I descended down the backside I kept waiting for him to pass me as he was a bit faster downhill than me the last time we rode together. I kept turning around and looking for him but he just got smaller and smaller and he fell off the back. Finally once outta sight I stopped and waited and waited and waited. When he caught back up he stated that he had taken a trip over the bars smashing his Garmin and leg. He kept blaming it on the sun in his eyes and the brown ice. What I don't understand is up in Pee Ya the leaves fall earlier in the season and so the brown ice shouldn't have been an issue for him, I've ridden Pee Ya in the fall and you can't see the trails because of the leaves. I told him if we don't keep moving the sun's not gonna be a factor much longer and seeing the trail is really gonna get tough. I picked up the pace a bit in an effort to make it out before dawn and that's when things started to turn ugly. We finally reached the bottom and cut left down a trail that can't be mentioned in an effort to save time and Dustin flatted. He didn't flat just any old tire but he flatted a Panaracer Rampage 2.3, one of the burliest tires out there. We jumped into tire changing mode and and as I watched him pull out all his gear I noticed something was missing, the pump. No biggie, I had CO2, I started digging around only to find one cartridge, not enough juice to inflate a 29er tire. Ouch, we gave it what we had and only got about 10-15 lbs. at best guess, definitely not enough to carry Dustin's towering frame. I told him to ride it like a feather and keep his speed low but it didn't help much as he went for a second trip over the bars.
I made several calls to the rest of our crew to see if we could get some support in the way of a pump. I guess back in the parking lot while they were so busy making sure we had our phones on us they forgot theirs so we made no contact with them until they got to the car. I conned them into driving my truck up the forest service roads to meet us part way but we still had alot of ground to cover.
While we limped his bike out I told Dustin something was very wrong with his karma, ju-ju or the bike gods were angry with him because nobody has that much bad luck. Burning a Huffy in sacrifice might be in store to get him back on track, either that or the next time we ride it's gonna have to be the Greenbelt with a support car following.

Not everyone had a bad ride that day, Melinda really surprised me with her efforts. She really attacked the trails. I hope she keeps that up and I hate that we split up because it's not often enough that we get to ride together.

Monday, November 30, 2009

was your Thanksgiving crazy?

The day before Thanksgiving Melinda and I headed up to NC for our annual Christmas tree hunt @ Elk River Evergreens, a great place to find a tree. All you have to do is roam around the farm, find your tree, flag down some workers on a four wheeler yielding a chainsaw. (I checked with the owners & they do have up to date visas)

Luckily we found our tree and the one next to it looked acceptable for Melinda's Mom so we took them both and headed back home before anyone changed their mind.
Melinda and I got up early Thurs. morning and headed over the mountains into NC again to spend Thanksgiving with her Mom (Nana), Todd the plumber (her husband), her brother Dustin, his girlfriend Melissa, and their 1 year old son Chase from Pee Ya. As we drove in Dustin sent us a text message that all hell was breaking loose at Mom's house, apparently she had bitten off a bit more than she could chew with dinner and so had the oven. It bit the dust early that morning with nothing cooked except for a couple of pies.
Luckily a spare oven was located by Todd the plumber and after a bit of fussing, cleaning, & oven relocating we were back in business but a bit behind schedule. We had breakfast at noon and lunch @ dinner time, or for those of you in TN, that would be biscuits for dinner and dinner for supper or something like that.
After breakfast/dinner or lunch depending on where your from we killed a few hours while Melinda and her Mom cooked the bird and several casseroles. Dustin had yet to fix the free hub that he crunched back @ Douthat so I called several bike shops until I found one previously that week and we did our best to install it without any of the proper tools necessary. A few hot laps around the yard proved our efforts a success but the making of short bike videos were brought to an abrupt halt when Todd the plumber realized we were riding bikes in his yard and came out madder than a hornet and told us to get off his grass.
Not wanting to get thrown out of his house before dinner or supper was served we put the bike away and went inside to find something more productive to do. Chase, Dustin's kid had just had a birthday and Melinda and I bought him his first set of wheels. I wanted to have the ride assembled before our arrival but Melinda wanted to see him open the present, I stated that a 1 year old does not comprehend opening a present or the pictures on a box. He does comprehend the gift already assembled with a bow. She disagreed and as I assumed Chase looked at the giant wrapped box and instead of unwrapping it and cheering with glee at the box he pulled off the bow and played with it in the floor while Nana and Melissa finished unwrapping his new ride.
In protest I left the assembly of the new wheels up to Dustin and Todd the plumber. I was positive that a plumber and a guy who can rebuild a muscle car could easily assemble a small kids first set of wheels. Not so, I could hear a series of obscenities being used, so I decided to investigate the problem. Upon entering the living room where the assembly was supposed to be taking place I found Todd the plumber trying to drive a screw into plastic with a hammer while Dustin read the Spanish directions. I took over as Todd the plumber walked off mumbling something about "I like to see you do it any better". I tossed the hammer to the side after a quick inventory of the parts reveiled that there were no nails involved and proceeded to finish the job reading the English version of the instructions.
When the bird came out of the oven I was instructed that it was my job to carve the bird since I had watched a cooking show previously in the week on how to properly carve a turkey. I really wasn't to sure about my skills but Melinda insisted anyway.
While everyone was busy cooking or watching TV, Chase decided to entertain himself in the bathroom, I swear I didn't provoke him to pull the toilet paper off the roll, well no more than 3 times.

Jackson, tired from all the cooking and TV watching found a suitable place to nap on one of the other grandkid's barbie couch.
Once all the TV shows were watched and all the food was prepared we all sat down to a delicious meal that took all day to prepare but less than 45 minutes to consume and 2 hours to clean up. It was a great day but I'm glad thanksgiving only comes once a year.

Saturday, November 21, 2009


I've been pondering on a post like this, a 2009 wrap-up of sorts and while it doesn't seem too exciting there were a few firsts for me this year. I guess you could say the season is over as far as racing goes, I can't think of any more I could do except for cyclocross and while I'd love to do a few it's tough to find the time with my schedule. I officially winterized the ECO this week so camping is out of the question unless I want to de-winterize and then repeat the process all over again.
We started the year off right with the sale of the lemon... err I mean Pancake Shack and the purchase of the ECO. The ECO is really not much heavier than the shack was but it's definitely nicer and a whole lot less work setting up and taking down, making camping and races much more fun.
Early in the year before racing really got fired up it looked as if my race season wasn't going to amount to much, some of the races I did in the past were running on dates that conflicted with work and some just plain dropped off my radar. I picked up a few new races like the 6 Hours of Warrior's Creek & the Disc Burner which are a definite must for 2010. Also new for me this year was solo endurance racing. Although I didn't take it too seriously I had a blast and really preferred it to racing with a team. Racing solo allows for much more riding, no-one to let down but yourself and a lot less stress. I still enjoy racing with GRT, which I will continue at the HOT but I plan to repeat the solo ventures again in 2010. As much as I complained about the 12 Hours of Tsali and Gone Riding I will probably give that one another shot as long as it works out with my schedule. I will give it a better effort this year, this year I made a few mistakes that helped me make my decision to throw in the towel a bit early. It didn't help that all my friends were drinking beer and whooping it up in the pits either.
This year Melinda and I ventured to the beach, something we haven't done in 4 years or more. We had a good time but we also realized we enjoy the mountains more. A few days chilling on the beach sipping frosty drinks was great but we started getting antsy when we realized that was all there was to do. I've already begun brainstorming a new trip to the mountains, somewhere new hopefully. I hope the holiday season keeps me busy because 4 months of no camping or events sure does seem like a long time. With all the racing over with and over night trips on hold there it's time to give back a little and get to building more singletrack. What's on tap for the winter? Maintenance at Warrior's which has already begun, a new trail at Bays Mountain is on the radar, a whole slew of new trails on Buffalo Mountain and of course cold mountain bike rides followed up with a good dark beer.

It looks as if it's going to be a busy winter.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

the creeper

Yesterday I did my annual Creeper Trail Ride in VA. a ride I do actaully do more than once a year but it seems like it's been that long so I have no problem calling it my annual ride. A year or so ago a few guys I work with decided they wanted to do this ride and invited me to join them. I accepted not really knowing if they would all make it to the top of White Top Station which is 17 miles from the start. It's not a hard ride by any means but for some who aren't used to doing 30+ miles it can be a bit tough. Our first attempt I was stood up by everyone because of the threat of rain, determined to ride anyway I hit the trail all by my lonesome and really enjoyed myself only getting hit with a slight drizzle. The second attempt about half of them showed and all but one made it and with a fairly decent pace.
A year has past since that ride but has been alot of smack talk in the control room about how the next time we roll they were going to ride me into the ground. I played along and stayed on them about a second trip before it got too cold for normal folks to ride bikes. After a bit of badgering and some more smack talk a date and time was finally set. The day prior to the ride I wasn't sure it was going to happen, some were unsure if the rain was going to hold off and after a few phone calls with no definite answer I finally decided to ride with or without them. At 8:30 yesterday morning I was told as long as I don't hear from them they would be there. I conned fellow rider, "The Local Cult Hero" to go with me just in case I was stood up again. We arrived at our destination point and 30 minutes later the smack talkers finally rolled in. As they stepped out of the car I learned that once again not everyone showed. I guess the idea of actually doing the ride was a bit too much for some and they decided to hide out at home where it was warm and safe.
Once everyone was ready we rolled out with a casual pace, I kept waiting for someone to pick it up and take off trying to beat me to the top but it never came. Everytime I turned around the group from work started slipping off the back. Mike and I would stop, wait and once they caught up it wouldn't be long before they got dropped again. Finally I stopped and asked if everyone was ok only to learn that some hadn't been on the bike since last years ride and were really feeling the effects. I then knew we might not make it to the finish so I dug around in my bag and fished out a Hammer Gel to see if that would help. After some more resting and refueling we finally got rolling again. The closer we got to the top the wetter the ground got and eventually we caught up to the drizzling rain. We rode for a couple of miles hoping the rain would slack off but it didn't. A lack of energy and the rain finally took it's toll on the group and a decision was made to turn around 4 miles from the top. No one wanted to admit it but I could tell they were all ready to bail, I told them I was game to finish the ride but no one took me up on the offer so we headed home. As we rode back downhill and out of the rain their spirits seems to pick up as did the pace, I think they were all ready to get back to the car and into warm clothes.
I'm anxious to see if anyone has anything to say when I go back to work, I have a feeling the smack talk will be hushed for a while. I'll try not to give them too hard of a time in hopes that I'll get them back out on their bikes again but that may be a tough one.

Monday, November 16, 2009

summer's making a comeback

With all the warm weather we've had the past couple of days and more on tap I wouldn't be surprised if the price of gas doesn't rise. Everytime the weather acts funny the oil tycoons take advantage and try to make a buck.
It's hard to think about turkey and Christmas shopping when the trails are in pristine shape except for a little brown ice, (that's dry leaves on the trail for all you couch potatoes).
Melinda and I snuck in two great rides this weekend, Saturday we hit our local gem, Warriors Path and then heading to WNC for a little Dupont action. Our earlier plans were to hit Bent Creek in search of a smoother trail, Melinda is trying to get away from the caged clipless pedals in favor of the broken looking ones as my neighbor likes to call them. Saturday morning we remembered that Bent Creek allows hunters to come in so we moved our plans further south as our cycling kits are green not blaze orange.
Our decision to hit Dupont was a good move, the trails were in great shape and the falls were bigger than I have ever seen them. Bridal Falls normally only covers half the rock face allowing use to climb to the top but yesterday the entire face was flowing with raging whitewater.
As luck would have it, about mile 1o we had a mechanical, Melinda snapped a chain stopping our ride for the day. My trusty chain tool is attached to the multi tool I lost back at Big South Fork earlier in the year. I know I should have replaced it by now but other expenses have gotten in the way since then and I tend to be a little forgetful. Luckily we weren't far from the car so we hiked it out riding the downhills.

I know I said I was done talking about the HOT but I ran across these pics I ran across these pics that some spectator took of the gnar that was the race course.


Thursday, November 12, 2009

gettin' ready

Rough week at work this week, lotsa of work going on, the kind that makes your heart rate increase and your palms sweat. I'm almost to the end and things are a bit calmer now just a few more hours till my monthly 7 days vacation. With all the work and rain very little cycling related stuff going on at my house. I did walk around the bike room at look at my bikes hanging in position some ready to roll some not. The call did come in yesterday amongst the excitement that my parts for the Mamasita are in. Plans are to pick them up early and transform her back into a mean trail eating machine. Also on tap for tomorrow, gonna head up into the woods on foot with some of NTMBA's finest for a new trail scouting adventure @ Bays Mtn. Who says all the trail building talent has left the building? I call B.S.!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

clean, clean & clean some more

Enough is enough no more talk about the Hill of Truth race. I am in the process of going through the Mamasita and assessing the damage. So far so good everything seems to be in good working order, a little crusty but working. I noticed that my drivetrain wasn't spinning after I cleaned and lubed it and upon further inspection I realized my lower pulley wheel in my derailleur was frozen up. I made a quick call to my LBS and got a set on order plus a new set of brake pads which were on their way out anyway. As I was shooting the bull with bike shop aficionado Mark P. I went ahead and pulled the cranky wheel out of the derailleur, it finally came loose but not as loose as it should so instead of trying to clean it I think I'll go ahead and replace them both.
While I was in the zone I pulled my brake calipers and all I saw was brown, I sprayed some brake cleaner in the caliper to help loosen things up trying to be careful not to get it all over me. Unfortunately some ran down my hand and under my watch. I went to the sink to wash it off and I noticed that my watch was looking a bit funny. Upon closer inspection some of the plastic had melted and discolored. The weird thing is that my skin was fine, no burning or irritation. I guess I'll need to be a bit more careful with that stuff in the future.
As I clean up my bike and the ECO trailer I have come to a sad realization, last weekend was our last camping trip of the year and my last race of the year, at least that I know of. It's kinda sad and now I get the joy of learning how to winterize the camper. It's kinda of depressing knowing that winter is closing in on us and daylight is getting shorter and shorter.
I did receive a bit of good news the other day in the form of an email. Registration is already up for the 6 Hours of Warriors Creek, a definite must on my calendar but it's 4 1/2 months away.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

12 Hours of the HOT (the funny, cool and weird)

Are you sick of hearing about my weekend? I think I'm almost done. Believe it or not we had a ton of fun and I am already looking forward to next year rain or shine. Riding in conditions like last Saturday's just improves your skills and makes you that much of a better rider and I for one could use all the practice I can get.

The sun did come out for a small portion of the day and I know it doesn't look sunny in the pic but we were greeted with not just 1 rainbow but a double. I can't remember ever seeing a double rainbow before so I chalked that one up on my cool chart. It wasn't long afterwards that the clouds rolled back in and dumped on us some more. Thank goodness for EZ-UPs, did I say that already?

Endurance racers can be some of the most unusual folks, the more hard core they are the more weird they seem to be. Just hanging out at an event like this can resemble staying the night at a carnival and sitting around the fire with the carnies. It doesn't always have to be Halloween to give these folks an excuse to dress up or simply wear nothing at all. I've seen, heard and read about nudity at these events multiple times and the naked lap is something that tends to happen at many races especially after the kids go to bed or sometimes during the middle of the day depending on how much free beer is flowing. The HOT has seen a few naked laps in the past years but it usually takes a donation of $$ from the crowd to encourage some fool to do it. This year was no exception, but three guys decided not to wait for an incentive. They proceeded to do a few naked laps around camp for free instead of the race course. I failed to witness this but Melinda took advantage of the Kodak moment.

An endurance race wouldn't be complete without beer, alot of the time beers get cracked during the race, at least that's the case for my crew. It's hard not to partake when your pit crew is enjoying a dark frosty beverage when you come flying through the pits. This year free beer was being handed out courtesy of some guys in a Sweetwater Van. I'm not sure if they stole the van or if they worked for Sweetwater because there was no free Sweetwater, but they did have Fat Tire, Yuengling & Yahzoo. Everytime I walked past I grabbed 2 or 3 not to drink right then but for after the race. It's safe to say that I got enough that I didn't come home empty handed.
Speaking of free stuff, swag is always a must at these events, To pay $50+ in entry fees and not receive free swag is a cardinal sin. Listen up promoters, nothing hurts your numbers more than not giving back to the racers. I'm not talking about ads for products, we want the goods. I've received bags of advertisements many times before and all that does is fill up the trash bins in the campground faster. We want gels, bars, beer, stickers or whatever, oh yeah, skip the watered down spaghetti dinner, we all show up with food. The promoters for the HOT always do a fine job of rounding up free swag, I haven't bought a water bottle in 3 years because of this single race. I always come home with an arsenal of Heed, gels, endurolyte pills etc. This year they didn't seem to have as much of a variety but I did come home with about a years supply of Hammer products.

GRT has never really gotten into the costume scene but I always make sure we have some sort of decor mounted to our bikes, usually in the form a small jack-o-lantern. This year we went with a little more scarier attachment, mine was Frankenstein. Out on the course several times racers would turn around see Frank up front leading the charge and pull over to get out of our way.

I'm not sure if this guy meant to fall in the mud or if he did it accidentally but once he was down he decided he liked it or wanted everyone to think he meant to do it because he turned around got a running start and did a few mud slides on his belly. I wonder if that kit went from red to brown permanently.

All weekend people came and went wether on a run to restock the cooler with beer & ice or just giving up and heading home. All that traffic plus bikes and people milling about made a pretty good mess of the field between us and the road out. I could tell that Melinda was worried we might get stuck but I kept assuring her our truck was a 4x4 and we would be fine. I don't think she had faith in me after our experience on the beach in the Outer Banks. Two years ago our friend Bob got his RV stuck in this very field and had to call AAA to pull him out. By the end of the day Saturday he had pretty much decided he was going to have to do the same this year and he did. I wonder when he's gonna realize his RV doesn't have four wheel drive and quit parking in the middle of the field with a 100% chance of rain coming. Sunday morning we took our time loading up letting most of the crowd clear out so we had more options for an exit strategy. I scoped out the area found the route of least resistance and traffic, put the truck in four low and didn't stop till I hit pavement. I did sling some mud & grass but a slow and steady pace saw us through.
Had enough? I have, I need to go work on the Mamasita, she's not been touched since we got home on Sunday and I plan to ride this weekend.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

The 12 Hours of the Hill of Truth Part 2.

The Saturday morning leading up to the race start was filled with not just mud and thoughts of sliding down the Hill of Truth still clipped into my pedals but the nervous energy that always plagues me, once again got me questioning my sanity for entering this race especially with the nastiest trail conditions I've personally ever seen during a race. We all gathered around the check in tent for the usual racers meeting that is normally plagued with sponsors acknowledgements but near the end, John B. the race promoter/organizer gave an unusual shout out to NTMBA, our club. He thanks us for always showing up with one of the biggest crowds every year. That made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside and chased away my nervous jitters for about 30 seconds.

This year the race course was being run backwards, down hills we normally climb but also up hills we normally descend. The only hill that stayed true to form was the infamous Hill of Truth. This year not only did we climb the entire front side but the race started us off climbing half way up the backside. The race also was started in the wet grassy field next to the road where we usually start the race. The two new combinations really did a good job of scattering out the field before entering the tight wooded singletrack. As usual Brad lead us out will a blistering pace followed by myself in 2nd, Andy in 3rd & Anthony 4th.
While Brad was out murdering the field I got dressed in what I thought might be necessary and proceeded to do laps around the two mini lakes just in front of our EZ-UP city.
Brad came in in 54 minutes putting us in 2nd place, the fastest lap our team saw and the only lap GRT would see in under an hour. Every lap the course got slicker and muddier slowing the pace and increasing the effort to stay upright on your bike.
Looking at Brad as he handed off the card to me I knew I was in for a real treat.
This photo is a bit deceiving as Brad was a little muddier than he appears, but this was the cleanest lap he saw for the next 12 hours.
As I entered the course I knew right away I was going to be doing some hike-a-bike. I rode a good portion of the first climb but spun out as the ground gave way beneath me forcing me to walk. Once in the woods I found myself descending with better traction that I anticipated. As the course wore on and my confidence grew I began increasing my pace a little at a time. I was surprised at how well my tires were gripping the turns and roots as I tried my best to flow through the woods. Some of the shorter climbs I found myself cleaning, not with ease but better than I would have expected considering the disaster underneath my tires. As the course turned upward I started making small talk with the guy behind me who had been trailing me for some time. He asked me what category I was riding in and I reluctantly told him the truth, he said he was the same. Ah crap, I asked him if he was part of the Union College team that was trailing us in 3rd and he confirmed my fears. I then told him that my offer to let him pass voluntarily had just expired and he would have to work for it. We both had a laugh but mine was filled with regret because now it was all on me to keep us in 2nd with 3rd hot on my tail. If I tried too hard my efforts might get me in trouble with a crash considering the slick conditions. I decided to increase my pace but remain smooth and stable. As we drew closer to the hill of truth, (the biggest climb on the course) I actually put a decent size gap on him and started up the HOT riding further up it than I would for the rest of the day. I reached the point of the climb where I knew pedaling was just wasting energy and walking was the best idea. I was also heating up and needed to remove some gear and use my water bottle to clear out some of the mud from my drivetrain. The HOT is located in a powerline clearing with a clear view of a majority of the hill and all the riders climbing in front of you. This view was an advantage to the 3rd place rider who I had put a gap on. As he entered the clearing he could see me walking and shedding layers at the same time and he must have decided to cash in on his energy bank and continue pedaling in an effort to catch me. He did indeed close some of the gap but not enough to catch me and I had a feeling he might have just burned a bit too much go-go juice as the climbing was not over. I reached the summit hopped on my bike and took off in an effort to reopen the gap that had just closed a bit. After I entered the woods I never saw the 3rd place man again until he rolled into the pits several almost a full minute behind me. I successfully increased our time and we were able to put more and more time on them as the day wore on.
After every lap I hit the bike wash station to shed some unwanted weight in the form of mud, grass and leaves that had made they're home in my drivetrain. Then I proceeded to use the ECO's outside shower to wash myself off. There was no way Melinda would let me anywhere near a chair or the inside of our camper covered in mud.
Throughout the entire race Melinda took care of the entire team cooking beef stew for lunch and some amazing fajitas for dinner. She also kept us moving when it was our turn to ride and where we stood in the standings. Had it not been for her I don't know what we would have done. She definitely earned a place as a member of GRT that day. Even when the topic of pulling the plug early came up she scolded us for even thinking about quiting.
All day we kept thinking the rain was done with us and at one point the sun even came out but it didn't last for more than thirty minutes and more rain soon followed. Everyone's laps times got slower and slower as the race continued and the conditions got worse. Just riding on level ground required more effort than it should have. I only rode 3 laps during the course of 12 hours but the energy I spent was compared to 6 laps. Now as I look back on it the rain probably kept the course from turning into a complete nightmare. Once the sun comes out and the mud begins to dry it will turn into a peanut butter like consistency sticking to everything insight making your bike weight twice it's normal weight. Luckily for us the rain continued until 9 or 9:30 that evening.
One of the things I like about this race is the music that is played in the pits, it gets you pumped as you wait for your teammate to come in. Melinda got a picture of Anthony, Andy & I dancing to the funky beats while I waited on Brad. It kept us energized and excited about going out into the cold, dark & nasty funk.

Andy used some left over Miller High Life boxes to add a little flair to his helmet creating his version of a time trial helmet. I'm not sure if it helped his time or not but it sure looked cool.

Anthony also tried to cut down on his time by sliding down the last hill versus riding down, he said he crashed and continued down in an uncontrolled slide but I think he did it on purpose.
Earlier I told you Alan our mechanic/cheerleader had pulled the plug and gone home early. Once he got home he got online to watch us in real time as the promoter were posting our lap times and placing on the website. He and Melinda were in constant contact via text message as we closed the gap on 1st place. We were down 16 minutes most of the day but as the sun went down we started gaining on them. Right before Brad went out on his last lap we were only 6 minutes behind 1st and gaining. We didn't know it at the time but Brad passed 1st place and managed to lap 3rd putting us in the lead. I went out on my last lap thinking we were still in 2nd safely ahead of 3rd. I'm glad I didn't know of our lead because that would have made me even more nervous. Halfway through the course my front tire slide off the trail sending me into the ditch. I grabbed as much brake as possible and managed to run it out. I had gotten a little careless as I could see headlights behind me. While I was climbing back out of the ditch my pursuer passed me but I saw he was on a singlespeed letting me know he was not one of my competitors. I continued on finishing my slowest lap of the race as every climb I cleaned on my previous laps were too slick and I was quickly running out of gas. Once I entered the pits Andy took off and Melinda handed me a beer and informed me that we were in the lead. There were only 10 minutes left before cut off so as long as 2nd place didn't make in prior to the canon blast we had won.

Anthony had hiked up the hill before Andy with a cell phone so we could let him know if 2nd came in before cut off. The plan was for Andy to ride to the top of the first climb and wait to hear if they went out for another lap. If they did he would continue on in order to secure our win, if not he would turn around and come home. 2nd place missed the cut off by several minutes allowing Andy to come back and securing our win in the Sport class at the 2009 12 Hours of the Hill of Truth!

Melinda snapped my picture at the finish with my Dale Jr. coozie, hey somebody had to put the #88 in victory lane this year.

In the past any of our podium spots have only earned us swag in the form of socks, clothing or other goods donated by the local bike shops. This year was different, we had never been in 1st place and 1st prize was a check. It wasn't huge but it did cover our entry fee which was very nice. I would like to say our win was a huge battle among many teams fighting hard for the win but it wasn't. The rain scared alot of teams off making this one of the lowest turnouts in the race's history. Had it been dry we may not have fared so well but I don't doubt for a minute that we earned every bit of 1st place. This race was one of the hardest and nastiest I've ever competed in and we stuck it out for the entire 12 hours while others stayed home on the couch where it was nice and dry and the beers were not covered in mud.
Think that's all I got, ha not hardly. I'll post more stories and pics up tomorrow and who knows what else for the rest of the week. There was alot more to the weekend than just a measly 12 hour muddy race.

Monday, November 2, 2009

12 Hours of the Hill of Truth Part 1.

2009 HOT from A Sparks on Vimeo.

Here is a little video teaser from the start of the race courtesy of Alan. Thanks dude.

There is too much to say and too many photos to share to get it all into one post so stay tuned here for a good portion of the week.

Friday was a beautiful sunny day, perfect weather for camping & racing but we knew it wouldn't last for long. Mother Nature had other plans in store for us. I think rain during the H.O.T. is becoming the norm. for us. 3 out of 5 years it has rained before or during the race and this year was no exception.

We made the most of the dry time we had Friday and set up shop quickly

Melinda and I scored a few Halloween decorations for camp since we were going to be away for the holiday. LED eyeball lights were all the rage this year! After everything was in order Melinda and I grabbed our bikes for the only dry ride we were going to see that weekend. We scouted out bits and pieces of the race course, wandered around off course got a little lost but found our way back out just before dark and in time for dinner.

Big Ed's pizza in Oak Ridge is a popular place and has become a favorite for us the night before the race. After a few years of eating spaghetti at camp we decided we'd had enough. I've never really been a fan of spaghetti and I can think of tastier ways to carb. load before a race.

After we got back to camp we built a fire pulled up a chair and listen to Brandon and Jared bicker back & forth like an old married couple about how to build the best fire.

Alan finished off the rest of the pizza that he ordered for himself. Hungry buddy?

Some time around 3am the rain started, light at first, off and on but the later it got the heavier and more steady it got. I didn't get much sleep after 4 am, all I could think about was how long would it last and how bad was the course gonna be? This year's course had more climbing than any other course in H.O.T. history and some were hike-a-bike climbs even when dry.

We set up every EZ-UP we had in stock and constructed what looked like a small town to protect us from the rain. EZ-UP's proved their worth that weekend keeping us dry at camp.

Slowly but surely the whole team gathered Saturday morning and began pondering the outlook for the race. We had a feeling attendance was going to be lower than normal this year and a few times the topic of whether or not we would even race till the very end came up. I tried not to think about it but even I was thinking of bailing on my night laps if there wasn't a podium finish in our sights.

I think Alan either got bored or was missing Angie because he decided to dance with our purple skeleton.

Since Olga pulled a no show we resorted to Brandon's I-Phone for weather updates. Brandon looked more prepared for the weather than anyone but I don't think he ever stepped out from under the EZ-UP city except to watch the start of the race and to go home. I knew it wasn't going to be good when he backed out of the race not even starting a single lap. I really couldn't blame him though, running this race solo would have to suck. Friday night Alan had told us that he was going to be our pit crew chief/mechanic/cheerleader but before the second lap of the race started he was packing up shop and heading home as well. Before it was all said and done NTMBA only had 3 teams left racing. All of the solo riders bowed out before the race began and hit the road.

One of the best investment we ever made was our camper top on my truck. It kept the dogs dry all weekend and out of the ECO trailer.

As I was sitting here typing this post I realized that I never got around to announcing the 4th member of Granny's Rotten Teeth Racing for the 2009 H.O.T. race. He was not an unfamiliar face to GRT, in fact he is one of the original founding members dating back to 2005, our first race at the H.O.T. Friends and foes I introduce you once again to Andy (the moustache man) Mullins.

It's probably a good thing I didn't introduce him prior to the race because the paparazzi might have prevented him from arriving on time.

I wish I could sit here and tell the entire story all in one post but I've got a lot of mud to clean off my gear. My bike is a disaster, the ECO trailer and my truck are covered in mud and the pile of laundry is towering. If I don't get a huge dent in it today Melinda will shoot me. If I string you along for a couple of days to hear the rest of the story it keeps you coming back for more and my blog hit numbers going up. So stay tuned here for dirty stories and even dirtier photos.