Friday, August 1, 2008

Friday, August 29, 2008

And the rains came

After not seeing rain for most of the summer if finally decided to come this week. Somehow in between the clouds I was able to squeeze in a few road rides. Nothing too special: went out and back to Jump Off Rock on Monday, a Big Willow loop on Wednesday and another Jump Off Rock today. I’m feeling pretty good on the road bike but am eager to get back to Pisgah single track.

I called Bikeways today to check the status of my frame warranty. I was curious to know if Redline was going to send me a new one or if I should start shopping around for a new bike. They said a new frame was going in the mail today for me! Then when I got home from work they called and said my frame was in! Talk about fast shipping! Now I just need to gather a few parts and build it up!


Posted by clay at 04:07:34 | Permalink | No Comments »

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Summer Flies and August Dies

Another fun weekend in the woods!

Saturday I headed into Pisgah with Terri and Duma for a little light hiking. Terri has been running a lot and is fighting some blisters and knee issues so I didn’t want to do anything too strenuous. After breakfast I pulled out the Pisgah map and asked her to pick a trail. She isn’t familiar with the map or trails and didn’t really know what she was picking but after scanning it for a few minutes she pointed to the Pink Beds and said “How about this one?”. Perfect. The Pink Beds is a great little trail: not too technical but at five miles is long enough that at even our casual pace I was feeling it by the time we got back to the truck. It is also a very scenic trail that seems to change a little as you round each bend. There wasn’t much water but were lots of bridges for Duma to test his courage on:
My big ass dog is a scaredy cat when it comes to crossing bridges! It wasn’t the type of trail where I can let Duma off leash so he had no choice but to muster up the courage and walk across them. After the hike we stopped at Dolly’s where I had a scoop of Strawberry Cheesecake on a cake cone with rainbow sprinkles. It was really good and brought back plenty of memories of my previous life in Charlotte where I managed ice cream stores. As I was carefully licking my cone I asked Terri how she picked the Pink Beds and she said it was because she liked the name. Of course. It was a brilliant choice of trails and a great day to spend in the woods.

Sunday morning brought an early wake up call and after walking the dog I headed out on the road bike without too much of a plan other than wanting to get in some miles. I got in a good 70 miles starting at my place in Hendersonville. Too many roads to list but I headed up to Fletcher then Mills River, Etowah, Flat Rock, Saluda, the Watershed, Tuxedo, Flat Rock, back home. I was feeling good all morning but around mile 60 in Tuxedo had a sudden urge to go for a hike with Duma so I beelined it for home straight up 225. I guess church was just getting out or something because I was being buzzed by cars all the way up…

Once I made it home I dropped the bike and threw the dog in the truck and we headed to Mills River and then up 5000 to Duma’s favorite trail - Bad Fork. At two miles each way it is fairly short but gets steep near the top and I imagine gains a little altitude. It is also lightly used so I can let Duma off leash to run. Poachers beware: even though he is cute Duma doesn’t care much for bikes and if you happen to be coming down Bad Fork while we are on it he is going to come after you and he is going to win.
It was a good hike and I paid careful attention to the new reroute near the top: tight single track and hand built. No evidence of machine work to be seen. Hmm, maybe the same sort of work could work on trails where bikes are allowed. We made it to the Parkway and then back down to the truck in just over and hour - not bad for an end of the weekend hike! Now Duma is tired and so am I….

Posted by clay at 22:46:04 | Permalink | No Comments »

Friday, August 22, 2008

Gone Wandering

One of the things I learned at the Wild 100 is that my navigational skills are not what they should be. I know my way around the Pisgah trails very well because I ride them a lot. I never use a compass, rarely look at the map (much less read contours or anything else). I know the basics of navigation but rarely have to use those skills and at the Wild 100 found myself floundering around several times. So, today after work I loaded up Duma and we took off for Yellow Gap Road. Duma has more than a few behavioral problems and I’ll only let him off leash when I am relatively sure we will not encounter other forest users. Today I figured our best bet would be to pull off at one of the first unmarked trails off the road and go exploring from there and that is just what we did.

Shortly after the campground I saw a “No Camping Here” sign and a little bit of singletrack heading up a drainage so I parked the truck and headed up the trail with my faithful companion. Once we were far enough away from the road I unleashed the D-Man and he immediately went to bounding up the trail.
We were headed straight up to a ridge and I had my compass out and was taking bearings and all types of other fancy stuff. It is amazing how easy navigation seems when you aren’t in a race and aren’t too far away from a road or your vehicle. The trail we were following had signs of horse and bear use and I figured it was going to hit FR5050 or maybe Yellow Gap Trail but halfway up the drainage I lost the trail and the bushwhacking started. It didn’t take too long to gain the ridge and once we did it was easy going. We found a little campsite that I made a mental note of.
After awhile a road came into view and after consulting my map and compass realized it was Yellow Gap. Not wanting Duma to chase the next car coming down we quickly backtracked. I thought I knew which gully to follow down back to the truck but got more than a little confused. I tried one and it was clearly wrong, went back up to the top of the ridge and tried another and it was wrong… I knew that any of them would lead back down to the road and knew the compass bearing I was following was right but wanted to retrace my exact route. Duma seemed rather confident so I decided I would just follow him as he bounded through a few thickets. Before I knew it he had us back on the trail we came up on and he then even took me on a slight detour to check out this tire swing.
Not the type of thing I usually see in Pisgah but then again I normally don’t leave the trail. I love my dog!

Posted by clay at 02:14:01 | Permalink | No Comments »

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Just another roadie

Today at work I’d decided I was going to take Duma for a hike tonight. Either some exploring off Yellow Gap Road or our old standby of Bad Fork but when I got home I discovered he had taken the liberty of eating my brand new sunglasses while I was gone so my interest in hiking rather than biking waned. I ended up doing a road ride up to Jump Off Rock. Nothing to report other than I am starting to feel good again. Spinning helps the aches a lot. Maybe Duma will get that hike tomorrow or maybe I’ll kick up the road miles….
Posted by clay at 03:54:46 | Permalink | Comments (1) »

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

What a Day That Was - Wild 100 Race Report

Let’s just say that when Broussard and myself arrived at the Elk River Touring Center last Friday the scene was quite chill and instead of doing the logical thing and going for a quick spin to warm the legs up and get familiar with the terrain I opted for the illogical option and had a few beers while tuning up my bike. Bikeways had come through in time with my wheel and I made a few minor brake adjustments and Zach fiddled with his fancy gears. Before I knew it a few beers had turned into many and as midnight rolled around the pile of empties was staggering. Somewhere along the way we had enjoyed a wonderful dinner at the inn’s restaurant so we at least had a little nutrition.
My alarm went off at six and all I could think was perhaps the festivities might have been better saved for the night after the race. Half a bagel and a Redbull later and I was ready to race. A little hurry up and wait and then we were given our maps and I heard Zach say the first checkpoint was up Props Run. A group of fast looking guys immediately took off up the trail and I quickly followed suit. Props is an eight mile trail that gains 1900′. For the most part it was gradual and the only problems I was having was dealing with all the mud - it had been awhile since I’d ridden a wet trail. After an hour and a quarter I reached checkpoint one and was thinking it wasn’t so bad and feeling pretty good about the day. I stopped for a second at the checkpoint and took a first glance at the map, located checkpoint two and figured my best option would be to follow someone who looked like they knew what they were doing.

Checkpoint two was on Tea Creek and on the gravel road on the way to the trail I caught a rider and we chatted for a bit. He said that it was his fourth year doing the race and he seemed confident that he knew his way around. I did my best to hold his wheel but once the trail got technical and tricky he pulled ahead. A short while later I encountered Zach and a group of riders who were all looking decidedly lost. After weighing our options I backtracked with Zach and we found a somewhat hidden turn and then quickly hit checkpoint two. Zach pulled ahead of me on the climb back out to the road and I settled in for what was sure to be a long day in the saddle.

Checkpoint three was Gay Sharp Knob. Zach had warned me about this one and had provided me with specific directions on how to bushwhack/navigate my way to it as the trail is hard to find and/or follow. My navigation problems began on Crooked Fork trail when there were a few unexpected turns that were not marked on the map. I slowly made my way down to the road and then across the highway to the road that lead to Gay Sharp. It was at this point I decided to pull out my compass and put it around my neck even though I really don’t know how to use it. At the beginning of the road a coed team caught me and told me they did the race last year and knew their way to the checkpoint and I decided to follow them instead of Zach’s directions. Well, they knew where the trail started and then after a short bit seemed confused and we proceeded to bushwhack our way across an impossible cow path for way too long. We were nowhere near where we should have been and instead of backtracking I kept following them. This was a mistake of epic proportions and easily cost me over an hour and took a whole lot more energy than it should have. We eventually made the checkpoint and I immediately left - I wanted nothing more to do with Gay Sharp Knob.

Checkpoint four was back in the Tea Creek Canyon and to get there we would have to take two separate trails that crisscrossed highway 150. On the climb up 150 I passed a road on the right thinking it might be the trail and started to turn down it but then a car came driving out of it and I turned around and continued climbing 150 figuring that it couldn’t have been the trail. 150 was a good climb but paved and I was feeling good and ready to get back on track after Gay Sharp and I had my map spread out on the handlebars studying where I was going for the first time and trying to guess where Checkpoint six was going to be. After awhile I reached the Little Laurel Overlook and realized that I missed the trail by a long way! Shit! I couldn’t believe it. A lot more lost time and an unnecessary big climb taboot! A rider had been following me and I told him of our mistake as I passed him but he said he wasn’t turning around. I don’t know if he decided to quit the race or if he went on out of bounds and don’t really care. I wanted to finish by the rules so I turned back and made my way to Red Spruce Trail.

On Red Spruce I really started to feel bad. The long paved climb had been hot and left me with a headache and I realized I’d hardly been eating all day. I was at the point in the race where if I could have quit I would have but first I had to get to a good spot to quit so I had no choice but to push on. After entirely too long but not as long as it could have been I hit 150 again and then crossed over onto the next trail. I caught back up to the coed team I had met on the way to Gay Sharp and told them of my mistake of climbing 150. It was nice to have some company so I fell in behind them and tried to take it easy and get over the headache and the doubts I’d been having. We quickly hit Gauley Mountain and I was feeling good again and took off as fast as my singlespeed would let me.

Checkpoint four was on Red Run - a very technical trail that took every bit of concentration not to crash on. I actually managed to ride most of the trail and only had to dismount for a few of the nastiest stretches. Somewhere along the way I met a rider climbing it and he recognized me from the local bike club. He wasn’t racing, just visiting, and we chatted for a bit before I quickly pushed on. Somewhere along this trail my bike started making some really bad noises but I decided my best option was to ignore it and pushed on into checkpoint four. Once I got to the checkpoint I talked to the guys there about the different trail options I had: I could either climb Right Fork to Tea Creek Mountain and then get a killer descent down to the next checkpoint or I could take Tea Creek would would pretty much be a wet hike. After much deliberation and with the help of the guys manning the checkpoint I figured my fastest option was to stomp my way through the creek.

I got down to the first trail intersection and changed my mind. I decided I had to hit the Tea Creek Mountain downhill even if it took longer than Tea Creek would. It turned out that Right Fork was ridable and I made fast work up to the top of the mountain. Tea Creek Mountain was everything I had remembered it to be. It drops 1600′ in just a couple of miles. Fast Fast Fast! My bike was still making bad noises and I was still ignoring them and simply bombing the downhill. I had to stop a few times briefly to shake out my hands but made it to checkpoint five in just about a hour after leaving checkpoint four.

I spent a little time at checkpoint five. I knew I wasn’t winning the race by any stretch and wanted to make sure I was prepared to hit checkpoint six which they informed me was the same as one - the top of Props Run. After a few gatorades and sodas I pulled out and up Bannock Shoals. On this long climb I noticed that my bike seemed to have stopped making its noises and also admired how much travel my rigid fork had. After a long while the trail spit me out onto a gravel road where I spent a long time spinning very slowly past many mines and all types of other stuff we don’t have here in WNC. I eventually made my way down to a crossroads where the people getting five checkpoints turned right and all the six checkpoint folks turned left. Gil, the race promoter was hanging out there with some water and stuff and we chatted for a bit. As I was getting ready to pull out he took a look at my bike and said: “Dude, your frame is broken!”

“Dude, your frame is broken,” is not exactly what you want to hear almost 11 hours into a race with another checkpoint still to go. I was literally at a crossroads. What to do? Bag it at take a ride back? Take the short route and get five checkpoints? Push on and get all six? I talked to Gil about it and he asked: “Do you want to finish?”

I said yes, I didn’t come all this way to come up short. I told him I had a light with me and would ride the gravel slowly and carefully and then would walk/run the eight mile Props run downhill and off I went. I was still a long way from the top of Props and knew in order to make it back I would have to ride some so I took it very, very slow and carefully. It was the type of gravel climb where I would have loved to just hammer my trusty stead had had enough and I had to play along. It took me almost an hour to get to Props and I thought several times along the way I was lost but I made it there. When I hit checkpoint six nobody was there and it was right at about the twelve hour mark.

Eight miles is a long way to go on a broken frame. I tried to run but that wasn’t working. I thought about ditching the bike but that seemed stupid. So I walked on and rode whenever the trail was straight and buff, rarely more than 20 yards at a time. I hike a lot and knew that eight miles would take hours and it did. I had my ipod on and was singing along to the Talking Heads and Railroad Earth just trying to keep myself occupied. Since I was moving so slowly I decided I might as well clean up all the trash other racers had inadvertently dropped. Eventually it got dark and I pulled out my emergency headlamp and rode on slowly. A little while later I thought for sure I spotted a bonfire down at the touring center but it was just the full moon playing tricks on me.

After two hours on Props Run I finally made it to the finish. Broussard was there and first to congratulate me on sticking out the finish. When I pulled around to the kegs thunderous applause greeted me. I guess word had made it out I was finishing on a broken frame. I grabbed a beer and then a plate of some yummy food and sat around for a bit soaking it all in.

The Wild 100 was everything I thought it would be and more than I could have ever imagined. Epic? Sure, why not. They have a really good thing going at the Elk River Touring Center and I will definitely be back for next year’s race if not sooner!

Posted by clay at 07:27:52 | Permalink | Comments (1) »

Recovery Road Ride

Went for an afterwork spin on the road bike today. One of my usual quick loops: Davis Mtn. > Hebron > Finley Cove. 17 miles and just over an hour. I have really been hurting over the past couple of days and think it helped work out some of the stiffness.

Looks like I’ll be stuck on the roads for a little bit as bikeways seems to think that Redline will warranty my frame without a problem. Good news! I stripped it down last night only to find that my seatpost was stuck. I sprayed tons on penetrating oil down (up) the downtube and let it sit over night and then tried to get it out at work today with a pipe wrench but it wasn’t budging. Before I took my sawzall to it I took it by the shop and they said no problem - they’d just ship it with the post…. If anyone from Redline happens to read this I promise I don’t ride hard and take really good care of my bike! At the first sign of water I dismount and carefully carry my bike across! If Redline comes through with a new frame I am going to be super stoked. Hopefully I’ll hear something soon.

My Wild 100 race report is coming. I’m still trying to figure out this whole blog thing and can’t seem to get it all figured out….

Posted by clay at 02:53:35 | Permalink | Comments (1) »

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Wild 100

It took me almost 14 hours to finish but I finished. Ride report to come.

Posted by clay at 20:05:09 | Permalink | Comments (1) »

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

after work roadie

Went for a quick after work road ride today. Took one of my usual routes of hwy 25 through Hendersonville to 5th street and then out and back up the Laurel Park Hwy to Jump Off Rock. 17 or so miles without too much climbing and about an hour ride time… Probably will be my last ride before the Wild 100 and I was feeling pretty good but there are lots of differences between 17 miles on the road and 60+ on the trail…. I’ve been trying to get in the habit of stretching after riding and once again completly forgot when I got home - d’oh!

I dropped my rear wheel off at Bikeways yesterday and even though I hate to be the guy who wants his stuff pushed to the front of the line I did stress the issue that I need it to be repaired no later than Thursday afternoon so I can leave on time for the race. They called later in the day and said I should have it back on Wednesday. Woo-hoo!

Posted by clay at 02:00:36 | Permalink | Comments (1) »

Monday, August 11, 2008

My legs hurt

With the Wild 100 only a week away I decided to take a little time off the bike this weekend and went for a couple of hikes instead. The weather couldn’t have better and since I’m going to have to board Duma next weekend I figured he needed a weekend in the woods.

Saturday I slept in and piddled around the house until noon or so when Terri, Duma and myself finally headed off to hike Looking Glass Rock. I’ve been up Looking Glass several times (including a peak experience during last year’s Double Dare) and knew there would many people on the trail but I consider it to be the classic Pisgah hike so I was eager to take Terri there. We got to the trailhead and headed straight up the many switchbacks that start the trail. We took our time and when we made it to the helipad I suggested that we stop and rest for a bit. The helipad is a favorite stopping stop for me and I usually head to the right where there is a little private spot. I’ve noticed some blazes on the rocks there before but never thought to push my way through the trees until yesterday. A couple came poking through the trees and informed us that the blazes led to the side view where you got views of John and Cedar Rocks along with a sideview of Looking Glass itself. Well, we had to go check it out and I am glad we did! Simply amazing!

Of course I had to try and see how far down the rock I could walk before I fell off. I figured the helipad was there for a reason and played it somewhat safe but not before snapping a few pics of the dog and the girl.

Pisgah never ceases to amaze me - there is always something new just waiting to be found and this is a spot I will definitely be coming back to! After that we made quick work of the rest of the climb to the top and the traditional view where we found many groups hanging out so we took a quick peak at the trees and headed straight back down. It was a good day and a great hike!

Today I headed out to Jones Gap State Park for a hike with my friend Trey who is headed off to grad school in Florida next week. He had been talking about tackling a big 10+ mile loop but I knew I wasn’t going to be making that. We started out without too much direction and before we knew it we had missed our turn and were at the waterfall. So we quickly backtracked and then headed straight up the Pinnacle Pass trail. I told Trey i was only going to hike for an hour before I turned back down but we made fast work of the asscent and only stopped to water Duma and take a picture of this guy:

When we made it to the overlook Duma was done and not willing to go any further.

It took some coaxing to convince him we were headed down but eventually he followed and we made it back to the truck before we knew it. It was a tough hike and my legs were feeling it but on the drive home I realized I needed to take the mountain bike out to see how bad my hub problem really was before the race next week.

So, I dropped the dog at home, grabbed the bike and headed to the Mills River Campground. I parked at Fisherman’s and did a quick 5000 > Spencer > Trace > Fisherman’s loop. Everything was going great until the trail started to get steep and rough on Spencer Gap. Strange noises were coming from my hub and I tried to convince myself it was fine. Then on the little climb to the top of Trace my chain dropped. Then it dropped again as I went up the next little finger and it was clear that I would have to address the wheel before the Wild 100 after all. Trace Ridge is a kick ass trail and I thouroughly enjoyed the descent and even had fleeting thoughts of tacking on Fletcher and Middle Fork but knew I had enough fun in the woods for the weekend and headed on home…. tomorrow I’ll try and figure out what is wrong with my wheel and what it will take to keep it rolling….

Posted by clay at 02:43:10 | Permalink | Comments (1) »

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