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.