Saturday, May 31, 2008

Greenway Challenge...Done

The Greenway Challenge came and went today, and it went about as well as I could have expected. Seeing as I haven't been running or paddling lately, I hoped that I could survive those two events and put in a good enough showing on the bike to keep me near the front of the pack. Although this event really didn't fall into my TransRockies training plan, it seemed like a good way to get an intense workout in and kind of test the water to see if I was ready to race again.

The race started with a run to our bikes. Yippie, I was the first one to my bike and I took off. I was chased by Patsy Williams-Smith and we both nearly crashed on the first 180 degree turn coming off a downhill in the grass field. There were three cyclocross barrier sections, so that was good for me, although it didn't gain me more than a couple of seconds at each barrier.

Halfway through the bike, we had to go through this "spider web" thing. It wasn't too hard, especially since we got to watch the lead guy go through it and show us what NOT to do. I wore a girly pink shirt so Chris could pick me out from a distance, but Patsy wore one too.

By the end of the bike, I managed to get a small gap on Patsy. This would be the only time I would lead the race, as she came flying by me on the uphill bushwhack section of the run. I had to resort to hiking speed, and she was able to just keep trotting up the hill. Patsy is a smokin' fast endurance runner, so I wasn't surprised..I mean look at her legs! Being at near max effort when I started the run was not something that I was used to, so my body was very unhappy.

The run got progressively worse for me. I got cramp in my side which lingered for about 10 minutes. I also had to walk some sections on the Boy Scout Trail so I was worried that someone would catch me from behind. We had to run up some decent hills and eventually around the rim of this quarry which was pretty cool.

I was slowly running out of steam so I got the paddle put-in just in time. I didn't bring a fast boat, as I was initially told we had to portage it ourselves. Of course this rule changed on race day, and the RD said volunteers could help the women with their now I was worried about being chased down on the water by the women with 16'-18' boats. The biggest mistake I made was not asking for help to portage my boat after the paddle (it was legal to do so). Carrying this beast up the hill was more than I really wanted to deal with at this stage. I was seriously about to fall over, and I think I almost knocked over some spectators.

I crossed the line in second place, so I figured that given my current lack of running fitness and relatively slow boat, that was the best I could expect. Here I am at the awards ceremony sportin' the BEEFCAKE T-Shirt that Chris had made for my 30th Birthday. That's me...such a BEEFCAKE.

After the race, we headed to Raccoon Mtn to ride the mountain bike trails over there. They were pretty fun - a lot a fast swoopy singletrack with a few tech features thrown in here and there. All in all, it was a pretty good way to spend my 30th Birthday!

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Perfect Timing (ugh!)

Just in time for the Greenway Challenge I've come down with an annoying sore throat. I'm sure its going to feel just peachy as I'm gasping for breath with my HR at 190. Did I also mention that it is supposed to be close to 90 degrees on Saturday? I hope its not that hot in Chattanooga, because I haven't been properly acclimated yet. I was spoiled last weekend with temps near 80 in the sun, and most of the time I was relatively shaded. My legs will hopefully recover enough by then so that I don't self destruct on the running portion of the race.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

TransRockies Training Camp #1 - A success!

We're back! My first TransRockies Training Camp was a huge success. We found an awesome spot to camp and the weather was absolutely perfect! We were seriously in heaven.

In three days I rode 25.5 hours (all on the MTB) and covered approximately 240 miles and climbed 40,000 ft.

And best of flats, no mechanicals (bike or body), and no rain!


We arrived at Cooper Creek WMA at about 8 pm to find that all of the “improved” campsites were already occupied. It turns out that the only amenities at the campgrounds were a well and stinky pit toilets, so we kept driving down the road and found a nice, quiet site just off FS 236. It was essentially an old roadbed in an old growth forest. There was also a nice flat area down the hill next to a small creek – really a primo site and super private, but the thought of trudging up and down that big hill every time I wanted food out of the car was way too much for me to deal with, given the amount of elevation I’d already have to deal with on the bike. That being said, we pitched our tent on the high ground and set up camp pretty close to the car.

I was pleased with our site, as it was very tranquil and we wouldn’t have to deal with all the drunken Memorial-Day ya-hoo’s who were likely staying in the campground.

Pretty homey if you ask me, and plenty of room for more tents if we have some company next time!

Ample parking, day or night...

Our backyard...


Today was my “easy” day. Only 70 miles and 11,000+ ft of climbing. I broke the ride into two loops, so that I could swing back by the campsite to refuel and let Chris know that I was still alive.

My first loop was south on FS 236 to Cooper Creek Rd, which turns into FS 33. I took FS 33 until it hits Hwy 180 and then climbed up to Wolfpen Gap. Once there, I kept climbing on Duncan Ridge Rd and took that across the ridge and back down to FS 4 and eventually the campsite. This took a little over 2.5 hours and I was feeling good.

After a quick PB&J and a little Coke, I was out for loop #2. For this one, I headed back out to SR 60 via Mulkey Gap Rd and then proceeded to FS 69/Fish Hatchery Rd. I took the FS 333 cut through to Double Head Gap road and then headed south to FS 42. From there it was a long climb up to Winding Stair Gap, across the ridge, and then back down FS 69 the same way I came in. This loop took me 4.25 hours. I was pleased that I didn’t use my small chainring on the entire ride – I must be getting stronger!

On the way back in, I stopped at Cooper Creek to “bathe” and soak my legs in the REALLY COLD water. It must have done the trick, as I had good legs the next day. I had just under 7 hours of rolling time for the day.

That evening, we had to head to the local store to buy ice, so we stopped at Sea Creek Falls on the way back for a little side trip.

Goat trail near falls...I vaguely remember stumbling up this in the dark during NGAR '06.


Today would be a bit tougher…76 miles and 13,000+ ft of climbing. The good news was that I was meeting Kim and would at least have a riding partner. We headed towards Fish Hatchery Road and climbed up to Winding Stair Gap. From there we descended and picked up FS 77 which we took over to the Bull Mountain Trail. We climbed the gravel section and Bare Hare and right about the time that we can start cruising on the downhill section of the Bull Mountain trail, Kim’s rear hub completely locks up and the wheel won’t roll. So we were stranded 30+ miles from the cars, with a bike that was completely inoperable…The only thing Kim could do was to loosen the skewer a bunch so that the wheel could rotate in the dropout. I handed over my phone to Kim and decided the best thing would be for me to ride back to the campsite and come back and pick her up with one of the vehicles. This was no easy task, as the campsite was a 3 hour ride away. So there I was, alone again, with no phone and no personal protection (I had Kim for that). I made it back to the campsite, told Chris the situation, and we headed back out to rescue Kim.

During that time she managed to roll her bike down Bull Mtn, then ride up Cooper Gap and down FS 15 with the skewer completely loosened, so when we found her, she was only 10 miles from the campsite. The downside was that her carbon dropouts were pretty much destroyed.

Once we got Kim back to the campsite and on her way back home, I still had to head out for about 2.5 more hours of riding, as our loop had been cut short by the mechanical. I rode a forest road loop up to Duncan Ridge Road and then climbed on that until I hit the Coosa Trail. On the way up, I saw a big, fat black bear about 50 ft from the road…Yikes! Ride Faster!!! I THINK the bear took off, but I was still apprehensive about riding back by that same spot on the return trip. (I made sure to sing to myself and make lots of noise.) By the time I got back, I was up to 8.5 rolling hours for the day and all I could think about was food.

If I have to choose between food and cleanliness, I’ll choose food every time, but it resulted in me having to go do my icy creek soak after the sun went down, which made it seem even worse. I must be dedicated to put myself through these sort of things…

Yes, I am wearing a swim suit...


Today would be the toughest day, not only because I was already tired, but because it was 90+ miles with around 15,000+ ft of climbing. Thankfully, there were some fast pavement sections, but there were also some grueling climbs as well. My day started with heading over to Fish Hatchery Rd and taking FS 333 to Double Head Gap Rd. From there I took back roads along the Toccoa River towards Shallowford Bridge. Once there, I headed up Aska Rd to the Long Branch trail. I climbed Long Branch and Green Mountain, then descended Green Mountain into Deep Gap. Then it was a long and painful grunt on the Stanley Gap trail to Stanley Creek Rd. Here I met Chris and refueled. I was feeling pretty good, considering what I had just ridden over, and at 3.5 hours, I was a half hour ahead of schedule.

I continued towards Cherry Log on Rock Creek Rd, and then wound around for a couple of hours on back roads until I climbed up to Watson Gap on the Cohutta 100 Route. Climbing up to Watson Gap was definitely the low point of the ride for me. I just felt hot, lethargic, and unmotivated. I think I even did that burp/puke in your mouth thing... I popped some E-Caps and drank some Coke and my outlook quickly improved. The next series of climbs over to Potato Patch didn’t seem that bad, even the steep pitches after Betty Gap. A big thanks to the Forest Service for dumping a load of fresh gravel on all the roads, so that the descents were as much work as the climbs. I arrived at Potato Patch for a second major refuel at 7.5 hours in. You’d think at that point, I’d just ride down Bear Creek and call it a day…but no, that’s not my style. The plan was to ride down Bear Creek, and then take Pinhoti 1, 2, and 3 to the “finish” at the Cohutta Overlook. It would make for a much more dramatic ending, especially if the sun was setting as I rolled in. The downhill singletrack on Bear Creek, Pinhoti 1, and Pinhoti 2 really lifted my spirits and I was excited to know that unless I was eaten by wild boars, I WAS GOING TO FINISH MY RIDE!!! I don’t think I’ve ever been so elated climbing up Pinhoti 3 in my life, but every foot climbed was a foot closer to my goal. I arrived at the Cohutta Overlook in just under 10 hours rolling time, thoroughly worn out and thoroughly satisfied.


Overlook grand..

Now could somebody please feed me some real food?

Best weekend in a LONG LONG time.

I was so happy that I was actually able to complete all three days of riding, and I actually felt pretty good the entire time. I wasn’t flying, but I was pretty steady and reasonably comfortable, even on the steep, grunty stuff.

I’m planning another one of these training camps for the July 4th weekend, so hopefully with some more notice, I can round up some more folks to join me. Perhaps Julia and Neal? There's some unexplored areas I'd love to check out, but need some company for such an endeavor.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Take Cover! (and sometimes it pays to be lazy)

What's that weird white stuff on the back deck??? Nope, not snow, but FREAKING HAIL...AARRRGGH! We just got pounded by a massive thunderstorm that had me rounding up the cats and taking cover in the basement.

I was actually about to head out on my evening ride, and decided to check the weather radar. (It WAS bright and sunny but I'm a pessimist..) Once I pulled up my zip code on, I see in BIG RED LETTERS - TORNADO WARNING for Cherokee County. I turned on the TV and sure enough there was a massive storm coming right at us/me. They were saying to take cover if you were in Canton and Holly Springs and well, that's me so I called Chris (to tell him the roof might not be on the house later tonight) and took cover in the basement with the animals. I brought my laptop downstairs to keep an eye on the storm, but then the power goes out, along with the cable modem...So all I could do was sit and listen to the house getting pounded with an onslaught of wind and hail. It eventually subsided, so I went back upstairs only to be greeted with the worst of it. A massive downpour of hail and wind gusts was hurling tree branches everywhere. My poor car was being hammered with sticks and hail in the driveway and our garage was way too full of crap to get it moved inside quickly.

More weird white stuff..this was after Round One of the storm. Forgive me FX...

Thankfully, I was lazy today and didn't head out to the trail right away when I got home, or I would have been stuck over at Blankets in this $hit while the tornado sirens were all going off. I've never actually been caught in a hail storm on my bike, and personally, I'd like to keep it that way. Chris is still stuck at the office, as more storms keep popping up and he doesn't want to drive into one.

Oh great, the National Weather Service has now issued a tornado warning for Cobb County...I guess I'm not going to get much accomplished tonight.

What have I done??

So with the impending drop in fitness, agility, and mental acuity that comes with turning 30 (or was it 25??), I decided to sign up for the Greenway Challenge, which is a two-hour-sprint-until-you-puke-your-guts-out sufferfest. Why did I sign up? Who knows what I was thinking...perhaps it was the fact that it's on my birthday and racing is my way of giving the big middle finger to turning 30. I'm definitely not in multisport sprint shape, considering I haven't paddled since the whopping 15 minutes we paddled at the Blue Ridge AR. My running is in similarly poor shape, with my run "workouts" consisting of ten minutes on the treadmill before lifting weights. And the biking..all on a cart path. Navigation?? Nope, none of that either.. I'm doomed.....

Sunday, May 18, 2008

12 Hours of Tsali

After being on medication for my asthma and taking it easy for close to a month, I figured the best way to test the body was to do a team relay race. I joined forces with Carey Lowery and Julia Radmann to take on the 12 hours of Tsali.

Julia and I left Atlanta after work on Friday, so we didn't get up to Tsali until around 8:45. When we arrived, our plan was to just set up our tent behind the pit in the parking lot or at the boat ramp. We didn't want to deal with the park rangers telling us to move in the middle of the night, so we checked out the campground, which was jam packed, with 3-4 cars per site. We finally found a site with only one car and one guy and a bike, so we figured it was safe to ask him if we could share his campsite. He was a bit taken off guard by the entire situation and seemed hesitant at first, but in the end he said ok.

The night was chilly, great for sleeping, but not so great when we got up and had to sit around for 4 hours until the race started. I resorted to sitting in my sleeping bag, as I didn't bring clothing for a 40 degree morning. Thankfully Carey arrived with a hot breakfast for us and we were happy again. Danielle Musto also arrived with her husband and we got our pits set up.

I was quite impressed with Danielle's setup. It was the perfect picture of organization, with everything neatly in its place and a log book of how much she ate, drank, and when, lap times etc. I was so jealous : ) The race hadn't even started and Danielle was smiling..see below. She smiled pretty much the entire race..even before and after lap 11.

We debated who should do the start lap, as there was a 1/4 mile run to the bikes, and in the end, we figured Carey would be so much faster on the bike, that the tiny bit of time lost on the run wouldn't matter. Here's Carey just after picking up her bike - she doesn't even appear to be breathing hard.

Once Carey completed our first lap, I took off on our second. It was quite eerie, as with the exception of having two guys pass me early on the fireroad, I never saw ANYONE the entire lap. My body was a little bit freaked out at the intensity level and I picked some really bad lines through some of the mud holes which slowed me down considerably. My first lap was steady, but not as fast as it should have been. I think I spaced out a bit too much with no one to chase and fell into my endurance riding zone.

After two laps we were about 3 minutes down to a 4 person all female team, so we were a little worried. One of the girls on that team was smokin' fast Natasha Cowie, as well as a second fast girl. Thankfully their other two team members were not as fast, and Julia was able to reel in their rider and pass her pretty easily. Now that we had the lead, it was just a matter of maintaining it. My 2nd and 3rd laps were faster than my first, and Julia ran consistently fast laps as well. Our only worry was that we only had 3 and they had 4 racers. If they decided to send out Natasha more often, then it would have been a much tighter race. They stuck to their rotation and we stuck to ours, so every rotation we put about 8-10 minutes on them. This made Julia happy, as can be seen below by the smile as she finishes up her lap.

By the end of the race, we had completed 13 laps, while the second place team only completed 12, as they missed the cutoff for another lap. Although it wasn't necessary, Carey went out on that final night lap to try to move us up the rankings in the overall.

Here we all our with our 1st Place trophies and champaign at the awards ceremony. A huge thanks to Zeke Lilly who was our awesome support person. He made sure our bikes were clean and pretty, and mostly functional.

I was thrilled that I had such a great time at this event, and also at the fact that I didn't have any body mechanicals or breathing issues. I'm not crazy about taking medicines and drugs, but if it allows me to compete and do what I love, then so be it. It was also really nice to finally win something in 2008. Hopefully Julia and I can repeat the performance at the Siege on Ft. Yargo.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Too Young to Buy Beer

So I've been moping around because in about two weeks I'm going to hit the big 3-0. Uggghhh..Chris asked me what I wanted for my birthday, and I told him I wanted the speedy legs on my 25 year old body. As crafty as he is, I don't think he'll be able to deliver on that one.

I was at the grocery store this morning stocking up on items for the Tsali 12 hour race this weekend, and I tossed a case of Mikes Hard Cranberry Lemonade into the basket. I generally don't drink alcoholic beverages, but I figured it might be nice after the race and might help me sleep better. When I handed the cashier my drivers license, he entered the birthdate and then did a double take, comparing me with my less than desirable drivers license picture. Then he actually asked me..'78 huh?' in a less than convinced tone. I told him I was going to be 30 in two weeks and he said "You definitely don't look 30." I don't think I looked much like my license photo either, as I had my hair pulled back, an OutSpokin' visor on, and to top it off, I was wearing my retainer. He was probably right to question my age, but I did tell him that he made my day. You have to think though, most underage people don't buy one 6 pack of beer and then $150 worth of groceries...(I made the mistake of going to the store while hungry...)

On the animal front, we found a good home for little Banshee. She was adopted by one of my single coworkers who already has an adult cat. I'm sure she will get lots of attention and hopefully she will like her new feline older brother...and vice versa. We miss her a lot, but wish her the best in her new home.

OK..Time to stop eating all the food I bought at the store and hop on the bike before it rains...

Saturday, May 10, 2008

In Pinhoti Heaven

Julia and I had a nice ride on the Pinhoti/Tatum Lead trails today. It was great to be back on some mountainous singletrack after doing mostly road riding and Blanket's Creek cruising since my body mechanical at the Cohutta 100. It was also great to ride a DRY trail. The other good news is I think the Advair is working. I felt pretty good for 3 hours and was still able to work reasonably hard after 5 hours. I didn't have any of the "140 HR and I feel like dying" episodes, so I'm feeling pretty good about that. Hopefully in another month I'll be back to 100%. I think I'm stronger too (thank you YMCA weight room), as my time on Pinhoti 1 and 2 was faster than usual, and I still could have taken it up a notch. I did start to get a bit tired towards the end, but I think that's normal for long rides. Tomorrow looks crappy from a riding perspective so its looking like road if anything.

We took Little Banshee to the vet and she was given a clean bill of FIV or Feline Leukemia, no worms, and no ear mites. As she is getting used to us, she has gone from cuddly to playful and has taken a liking to biting my toes. She also like to pounce on my other cat's tail...which I'm not sure he appreciates. She's also still only about 50% on the litterbox training, so that is keeping us busy. I think we have found a home for her, assuming she can get along with an adult cat that one of my coworkers already has.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Meet Banshee

Isn't she (I think..) cute? She needs a home!

Kim and I went for a road ride up at White today, and found this little cutie on the side of a busy road crying. I didn't hear it crying, but Kim did and went back to see where it was coming from. Sure enough, she came running up to us, crying her little head off. Knowing that we didn't want to leave her to be hit by a car or eaten by a scavenging bird, we tried to figure out a way to get her back to our cars, which were conveniently parked 25 miles away.

Kim tucked her in the front of her jersey and we rode about a mile to a store, where I was hoping to find some compassionate country folk who'd hang onto her for a couple of hours until we returned with a vehicle. When we got there, there was a foreign family working and there was some communication breakdown, so I couldn't really get my point across. So our next plan of attack was to continue on the ride and stop at the first non-sketchy looking house and ask them if they'd watch her, or at least let her stay in their garage for a bit. We stopped at a couple places, but no one seemed to be home. At that point, Banshee had stopped squirming enough for Kim to ride with both hands on the handlebars, so we just kept going. She rode for 20+ miles with her tucked in her jersey. Every so often, Banshee would peek her little head out the top, but then get freaked out at what was going on, then go back in the jersey to hide. It was getting hot, so we had to stop often to let her cool off. We arrived back at the park in White, where I stayed with Banshee while Kim rode the last 4 miles to the cars. (It gave me a good excuse to avoid the nasty rollers at the end of the ride)

Once in the car, little Banshee was all OVER the place. She likes to explore and climb, and doesn't seem to be afraid of fact she was climbing all over Chris when he came home. Definitely friendly and loving. We are in the process of trying to find a no-kill shelter or adoption agency for her, so if you are interested in providing a forever home for this sweetie, please let me know. I already have 3 cats and that is one too many.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Running Around in the Poison Ivy

Today I headed out to Blankets early this morning to get in a quick ride before we headed to an orienteering meet. Physically I'm doing pretty good it seems, and have been feeling good doing moderate rides on the singlespeed. I've also been enjoying getting huge at the gym.

The O-meet was definitely not one of my started with me taking 30 minutes to find the first point because I mismatched a park trail map up with my orienteering map and ended up wallowing around in waist deep poison ivy in the wrong location with very similar features. Once I realized my mistake I was kicking myself as the point wasn't that hard. I pulled it together and ran the next few points pretty well, until I had some difficulty finding a point that was down in a pit. I walked by it a couple of times and again wanted to kick myself again when I finally caught a glimpse of it. Then I was back to doing tolerably well, except for a couple more points that were out of sight from the direction I was coming, so I ran around in circles doing my WTF' should be here..until finally catching a glimpse of the points. The most frustrating one was near the end...a rootstock/log pile that I walked by 5 times thinking..ok, that's the only rootstock around, but I don't see the point. I eventually found it tucked behind the back of the log pile (yeah, I'm calling that one hidden), but only AFTER reattacking 4 more times. Ugh... By this point I was wishing I could conveniently lose my punchcard, but unfortunately it was E-Punch today.

The good news is that I felt decent physically and didn't seem to have any breathing issues under exertion. I hope the Advair is doing the trick. Chris had a pretty good run, even with a couple of missteps. The bad news is that all our clothing needs to be incinerated as it is covered in poison ivy.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Resting..sort of

I've been pretty good lately trying to keep up my strength while allowing my respiratory system time to heal..mostly lower intensity, shorter rides and hitting the gym 3 times per week. Lots of strength work on the bike and singlespeeding, be on the look out for my new, ripped, beefcake physique coming soon. (ha ha yeah right!)

Since we haven't been racing, we have learned that it sucks to be home on Saturdays...Why you ask? Solicitors..mostly various brands of religion and people trying to sell the newspaper or cut our grass. Today I ignored the doorbell and it was actually the mail lady trying to deliver a certified I had to go chase her down. Whoopsie.

In other exciting news, I start a new job in two weeks. It seems to be a great opportunity for me and they are a flexible company that allows their employees to telecommute a couple of days a week, which is fantastic, especially given the increasing gas prices. I'm taking a position as a Senior Engineer which is exciting and scary at the same time. I mean, I still get carded occasionally at R-rated movies, so the thought of me being a "senior" anything is kind of funny. Hopefully once I'm settled in, I will enjoy the new people and new projects. I will really miss my present coworkers and one of them even made me cry yesterday once they heard that I gave my notice..I know..I'm such an emotional wimp!