Thursday, November 29, 2007

Night Rides

That's what most of my riding has been lately. I'm only able to get about an hour in during daylight, then its time to turn on the NiteRider. The weather has been good lately so the rides have been fairly pleasant. Since I'm in my base training phase, I spend most of my time riding alone, so I guess its good that I'm not afraid of the dark. Riding at night is somewhat refreshing to me and I enjoy the fact that there aren't as many folks out on the trail. I enjoy the crisp air and the feeling of making the most of the day.

I've been spending a lot of time lately working on getting the Blankets Creek Duathlon race info together so I can create the race website. Look for the official announcement to come out in the next week or so!

Sunday, November 25, 2007

40's and Raining

Yep, that's how it was today. Julia and I set out to do a ride on the Silver Comet. It wasn't all bad, as we only got rained on for the last 20 miles, but my road bike is caked in leaf crap and looks like this...

Maybe I should have stayed home and done this all day...I think these cats are way smarter than me.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Climbing Trip

We decided to leave the bikes in the garage today and instead head out to Sandrock, AL for some rock climbing. About 10 years ago I was fairly passionate about climbing until I got into mountain bike racing. Once I started racing, climbing was put on hold indefinitely as my bike racing training didn't leave much time to hit the crags. Since then, I can probably count the number of times I've been out climbing on one hand. Despite being way out of climbing shape, we had a good time. My only complaint is that my fingers are pretty sore right now from a combination of rock abrasion and dessication from my climbing chalk.

Chris on Misty...5.10A/B? He just danced right up this. I, on the other hand, had the pleasure of my fingers going numb from the cold rock and was not able to feel anything I was grabbing onto for the second half of the climb. It was somewhat disconcerting and apparently I was grunting a lot too. I'll blame that on it being the first climb of the day.

Scoping out the way on a juggy 5.9 route. This climb was pretty fun, mostly big holds with a couple of slopers thrown in.

Further up on the same route.

Julia works the same route.

Chris on a 5.10D. This climb had some crimpy moves and dicey footwork about half way up that I struggled with. The pebbly rock was somewhat painful too on my unconditioned fingers so I didn't feel terribly motivated to keep working this one.

Although it was a bit chilly at times, we had a good day of climbing and I'd like to think I'll do it again in less than another 10 years. Tomorrow is back to business as, run, weights, swim, and more bike!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Care Package from DeFeet

Hooray! I just received a package of goodies from DeFeet. I'll be trying out these new Merino Wool Blaze socks tomorrow on my ride and I'll try the white Cloud 9 socks on my run on Thursday. DeFeet was good enough to hook me up with a variety of socks and accessories for the 2008 season. I can't wait for the wool knee warmers to arrive as I love the wool arm warmers that they sent.

I also tested out my new Polar Heart F11 Rate Monitor. It seemed to work well, as I've been having some issues with my 625x even after sending it back to Polar for maintenance.

Tomorrow I'm working from home so I am going to try to get a decent ride in before it gets dark since it is supposed to rain on Thursday. I haven't had to clean my bike in the past 2 months and I certainly don't want to start now : )

Sunday, November 18, 2007

One Week Down

Whew..I just finished my final workout for the week. All my workouts this week went well and I'm feeling good. I've been taking my vitamins and eating a bit better than usual. I decided to give up drinking soft drinks and sweet tea too unless I do a ride over 3 hours. I also managed to get up early every day this week to get to work before 7 am so I could maximize my time and actually get some work done.

This is how my week went:

Weekly Total: 16:12 (whoo hoo!)

Next week should be fairly relaxing as I have 2 days off and we are staying home for Thankgiving. This will give me plenty of time to get my workouts in, and hopefully get some work done on the logo design for the upcoming Blankets Creek Duathlon. More to come on that later...

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Lights Out!

Yesterday I went and did an off-road base ride at Blankets. I rode some of the new trail that they are in the process of building and was amazed at the progress they have made. The trail has a good number of switchbacks and some long (well, long by Blankets Creek standards) uphills and downhills. It was hard to tell how the trail flowed since I was trying to keep my heart rate low. Luckily no one was out there to see me poking along at a snails pace. Next, I headed over to the Dwelling Loop to do some night laps. About halfway through my first lap, I pulled out my NiteRider Moab and was shocked to find that it wasn't working. In the two years that I've had it, I've never had any problems with this light, but it finally decided to flake out on me. While I'm messing around with the cords, some guy comes along and asks if I'm ok. I say I'm fine and then he continues to stand there and watch me jiggle the cords, push buttons, and curse under my breath. "I'm really ok, you can go ahead" I say to him, as him standing there watching me is getting me more annoyed. He finally leaves and shortly thereafter, my light comes on. Hooray! Time to roll! I was very careful (meaning slow) on the downhills for fear my light would go out and send me hurling off into oblivion or some broken off trees that I could impale myself on. Against my better judgement, I rode two more laps with the jacked up light and sure enough it did go out halfway through my third lap. Luckily I was going uphill at the time, so no carnage. I jiggled the cord some more and it came back on. After that, I figured I'd better call it a night and I headed home. When I got home and disconnected the light, the whole plug ripped out of the lamp, exposing wires and otherwise rendering the $600 light system useless. I contacted NiteRider and was pleasantly surprised that they said to just send the whole system back and they would warranty it. Apparently, a lot of other folks have had similar problems since the rep knew exactly what I was talking about. Since the light is technically out of warranty, I expected to pay for the repair, so kudos to NiteRider for recognizing that the systems have a design flaw and doing what is necessary to remedy the problem. Its nice to know customer service isn't completely dead. A big thanks also to Kevin of OutSpokin' Bicycles for letting me borrow his NiteRider Flight system while mine is being repaired.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Doin' the "Horrible"

Yes, in February I will be doing the Horrible with fellow endurance athlete Neal Radford...The Most Horrible Thing Ever that is. The Most Horrible Thing Ever is a 36 hour non-stop mountain bike race in the Pisgah National Forest in mid February. I raced the Pisgah MTB Adventure a few years back and was thoroughly cooked by the time we were done, and that was only after 9 hours. Oh and did I mention this race begins on Friday at Midnight? If 36 straight hours of Pisgah style riding wasn't bad enough, add a couple of days of sleep deprivation to get the ultimate character building experience. Check out this great logo...the race is no frills, no entry fee, and no prizes, but I really hope they get some shirts made to sell. This is one I gotta have.

No Swim for You

Well, I hit the gym today with plans to do my swim and then lift weights. Of course, when I get to the gym I find that the pool is closed because someone um.."had an accident." So I had a decent lifting workout but now I'm going to have to get up extra early tomorrow to get my swim in before work. I like my sleep so hopefully I can drag myself out of bed...

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Here we go Again...

Well, today is my last day of lounging around and being lazy. Its time to dust off the heart rate monitor, get back on the wagon and start base training. I used to do my base training exclusively on the road bike, but this year I'm going to mix in about 50% off road riding and just keep myself under control. I've had somewhat of a breakthrough lately as far as my technical riding goes, so I don't want to lose that over the winter. I will also be running 2x a week, as well as swimming and lifting 2x per week. My schedule at work is flexible enough so that I can do some of my workouts during 11 am -2 pm when it is nice and warm. It means staying at the office until it gets dark, but at least I can get my workouts in before the chill sets in.

The OutSpokin' bike demo yesterday was a great success. We had approximately 35 people come out and demo a bike or two. The most popular ride was the Specialized Stumpjumper Expert, which is a 5" travel all-trail bike. I test rode the women's specific version, the Specialized Safire Expert. The Safire was very cushy and a comfortable ride. It featured an upright riding position and handled the decents with ease. While the bike is not an agressive race machine, it is well suited to recreational riders who are looking for comfort and high end componentry.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

We have a Winner!

Just got back from a short night ride at Blankets so Chris could try out the new Spark. He was officially impressed with the bike. His words "I'm gonna be so much faster now."

Great..just great. As if I already didn't have a hard enough time keeping up on the descents. Keep an eye out on the trail for the new and improved faster Chris.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Bike Demo

Join OutSpokin' Bicycles this Saturday from 10 till 4 for a bike demo at Blankets Creek. We will have a full size run of WOMEN's Specialized bikes, as well as medium and large frame sizes in the Specialized Stumpjumper, Turners, Ellsworths, Niner Singlespeed, Vicious Cycles, and Titus Motolites. Come check it out and meet the OutSpokin' crew.

Chris will be on hand to show off his new Scott Spark 15 (see photo below), which wasn't supposed to arrive until January. Surprise! Its here already and smokin' fast. Hopefully my Scale will come in soon so I can convert my Titanium IF to a singlespeed.


In August of 2008, this is where I will be.

Yup, after many years of hmming and hawing about how cool this race looked I finally found myself a partner and we signed up. I'm looking forward to doing more MTB racing next year and this will be the culmination of my season. I'm racing with local endurance star, Carey Lowrey, who dominated the endurance circuit this year. We are currently accepting applications for male groupies.

If a 7 day MTB stage race in the Canadian Rockies isn't motivation to get in shape, I don't know what is. I start base training next week, so look for me on the trail with a "SLOW MOVING VEHICLE" sign on my back.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Adventure Race National Championships

We just returned from the Adventure Racing National Championships in Potosi, Missouri. Our official placing was 19th, which was not what we were hoping for, but you never know what you're going to get with adventure racing. Our lackluster performance wasn't due to lack of preparation or fitness, rather it was all due to some poor decisions I made as the team navigator. On the upside, the course was really fun, had some great mountain biking, and we didn't have to work nearly as hard once we were "out of the hunt."

We were given maps and directions at 5 am the morning of the race so I had to quickly plot and come up with our route. There was no time for excessive strategizing or putting distances on the map. I finished the map work well enough, was happy with our o-course strategy, so we bundled up and headed to the start.

The race started off with a short prologue where one team member had to run and pick up the passport while the other two paddled the canoe to the far end of the lake where we would pick up our runner and then complete a 1.5-2 mile lake paddle. The boat pick up was complete chaos..there was a row of 25 canoes stacked 3 high. People were grabbing boats and pulling them down on top of each other. James grabbed a canoe, and I grabbed pfd's and we made a pretty fast getaway to go meet Bo. This whole section was kind of evil as it was 25 degrees outside and the gunwales and paddles had ice on them. We were in the top 5-6 teams to pick up our runner and somewhere in all that chaos, I managed to lose my paddle so we only had the two guys paddling. It didn't seem to matter, as we held our position and were in the top 5 coming off the water.

Next was the o-course, which I opted to do counter-clockwise to save about a half mile of running. The attack points weren't as good, but I was confident I could get us through. We hit the first few points no problem and then disaster struck. I did not take a careful enough bearing as we whacked to a CP and we ended up on the wrong spur. There was a really good road at the top of the spur which looked like it just had to be the one on the map so I was completely assured we were in the correct location. I was so confident that I didn't take my compass out and check the direction of the road. We headed into an overgrown reentrant and spent a considerable amount of time looking for CP with no luck. After about 30 minutes we decide to reattack from a nearby hilltop. I knew where the hilltop was on the map, and it even had a "YOU ARE HERE" idiot-proof sign, so I was confident with the location and all we had to do was pace count 200 m to our reentrant and attack again. I was still so sure that I knew exactly where I was that I didn't verify the road direction with the compass. We pacecount and end up in the same reentrant. This time we walked all the way down it and then back up another until we were back on the hilltop. At this point my head is spinning and Bo and James had me convinced that I was looking at the wrong hilltop, despite the big "YOU ARE HERE" sign. Finally up at the hilltop again, I pull my compass out and throw it down on the map. Suddenly our mistake becomes crystal clear. The road we assumed was the one on the map was actually not shown and we were attacking from the completely wrong road. I still can't belive I made such a stupid mistake but the pressure of racing seems to have that effect on me. So after about two hours of running in circles, we FINALLY found the point and moved on. We hadn't seen anyone else in over an hour, and I expected our bikes to be the only ones left at the TA when we arrived back there.

Ours weren't the ONLY bikes still there, but there weren't very many...maybe 10 or 15 teams worth. I think they said we were in 65th place and over two hours in the hole. The wind was officially out of my sails but I was excited that we were going to ride the Berryman Trail, and you never know what will happen in AR, so we headed off on our bikes in decent spirits. We passed 30 or so teams on this section, and thoroughly enjoyed the sweet singletrack. By far the best biking I've done in an AR. We completed this section with no issues in 3.5 hours, which was the same pace as the top two finishing teams. We then headed out on a 8-10 mile straightforward trail run on the pretty Ozark Trail, where we reeled in a few more teams.

At a little before 5 pm we arrived at the canoe put in for the "river" paddling section. When we finally get to the "river" it looks like the teeny-tiny spring fed creek in my backyard. It was less than 10 feet wide and had brush and logs strewn everywhere, with an average depth of about 4 inches. This section was a real test of patience for us, as we were riding low since we are a fairly heavy team. We were out of the boat every hundred yards it seemed dragging or hitting some god forsaken log. The level of frustration was high and there was lots of grumbling, yelling, and throwing of paddles. This went on for a while..paddle, scrape, push, srape, push, bail water, push, scrape (notice not much paddling), until we finally reached the first and only CP along the river. It was just getting dark and all these cows were crossing the river and mooing at us. It was fairly creepy. We knew the CP was at a "wire bridge" that was near a powerline. I looked around for the CP for several minutes while the guys put on their waterproof gear. The cows were looking more menacing up close, especially with their glowing eyes from my HID. I'm looking here and looking CP..WTF???? Then I look up at the heavens and wonder why the hell I do these crazy races and THERE IT WAS!!! The CP was hung about 20' up on the wire bridge pole. We get the punch, bail the boat, pack up and head out. This was probably a 20 minute stop (something we'd never do in "game-on" mode), but we didn't see anyone so we were content to lollygag. After another 5 miles on scraping, paddling and pushing, we finally get off the river. Once we stop paddling, everyone gets really cold and we do something else we NEVER do, which was go and sit by the fire. Any good A-racer can tell you that a campfire is the first step to a DNF..NEVER, EVER, EVER sit by a fire if you intend to finish a race. Its warm and toasty for a few minutes, but then you freeze the minute you walk away from it. Fortunately, after a very lengthy TA, we were able to pull ourselves away and head out on the second running section of about 10 miles. We warmed up quickly and the nav was pretty easy. We were slowly still picking off teams, but I never really saw anyone. This section started nice an clean but then I made BIG MISTAKE #2 when we were looking for CP 20. Instead of playing it smart and following a bearing through the woods from a KNOWN attack point, we ran along this ridge trail like a bunch of lemmings, not paying attention to the fact that it very slowly broke off to the northwest and put us on the wrong ridgeline. We ran around in circles here for over an hour until I finally figured out my error and we headed into the correct reentrant. We then whacked back to the campground to pick up our bikes for the final bike section.

We started out with a few more miles of singletrack, which was still fun, but we were all becoming a little less coordinated, so we weren't as fast as during the daylight. We completed the final bike section cleanly and arrived back at the finish a little bit before 6 am.

All in all, I thought the course was pretty fun although it definitely wasn't as physically challenging as an NGAR, Overmountain, or CPZ race. I thrive on misery, and this race didn't seem to have any of that, other than our self-inflicted running in circles because I had my compass up my arse. For the most part, I'd say the navigation was pretty easy. I'm pretty confident my mistake on the O-course wouldn't have happened if we chose to go clockwise, since even if I still wasn't thinking straight, there would have been enough teams running around to make me think to stop and take out the compass. CP 20 was tricky, but that was really the only place where I think many teams had real issues.

As a team we raced well, and stayed pretty positive the whole race, mainly due to the "fun" nature of the course design. Congrats to all those that landed on the podium, and also all those that finished. See everyone at CPZ - I'll have my compass glued to my hand.