Friday, June 17, 2011

stealing time

When my alarm went off at 4:30am yesterday the last thing I wanted to do was get up and go ride my bike. A full night's sleep sounded like a much better idea and I could easily have just gone riding twelve hours later after work. But Terri, being the supportive and disciplined type, told me to get up and go so I did. I was at Turkey Pen and rolling down South Mills River by 5:30 just as planned.

Early mornings are one of my favorite times and it isn't often I am on the bike and rolling before the sun comes up. The full moon was still lurking around the clouds and it was nice knowing I was the only guy out there on a bike right then. Right away I encountered the first of the downed limbs from Wednesday night's storms that would seriously slow down my ride.


There was something a little bit erie about clearing dead fall in the dark by headlamp but it needed to be done and with all day to finish the ride I did it.

In case you missed it I have signed up for the Trans North Georgia Race this fall and that is one of the main reasons I am trying to do these rides at times I would not normally be riding. One of the biggest challenges of ultra racing is the mental game that you have to play. After a certain level of physical fitness is achieved I believe the most important thing is mental fitness. Being able to convince yourself to keep going is not necessarily an easy task. I have had a lot of things on my mind recently, some of which are simply silly and petty and some of which are actually quite serious and with just myself, the moon and my headlamp I had a really hard time focusing on the ride and having fun instead of the mental dialogue that keeps running through my mind. I wanted to use the dead fall as an excuse to just turn around, drive home and get back in bed but instead turned on my mp3 player and listened to the music play. If you get confused...

I decided instead of slogging across the river a dozen times to head up Cantrell Creek for Squirrel. By the time I got to the chimney dawn had broken and once again the forest was coming back to life.


I love Cantrell Creek but I guess I really just love Pisgah. Cantrell has the feel of being in a real rain forest and ever since I broke my hand on it a few years back seem to have a deep connection to it. It probably is better ridden down than up but I've never been fond of the better directions for trails. I rode most of the way to Horse Cove where I had planned to stop for breakfast but when I got there tarps were strung up and campers were sound asleep so I pulled my sandwich out and started eating as I walked up the trail. I ended up walking almost all the way to Squirrel from there. It was very wet and I just didn't feel like putting in the effort to ride it and it is likely not much slower to walk it. I reminded myself I was 'training' and having the discipline to walk certain stretches of trail might just be good training for the tnga. Squirrel came easy enough and I stopped at the intersection for a second breakfast.


It was now fully light and I didn't need my light. I checked my watch and saw it was when my alarm would normally have been going off and there I was at Squirrel and Cantrell and there was no place I would rather have been. I was feeling good and knew I was going to be back at the truck sooner than later and was having ideas about prolonging the ride. The surreal early morning hours on a bike often seem like free hours that really don't count as time and I wanted to ride all day. As I reached Laurel Gap and saw the sun for the first time of the day I used mental discipline again to force myself not to keep going.


I headed all the way down Squirrel to Bradley Creek and eventually Riverside to Vineyard. Along the way there was still plenty of downed limbs that required almost constant dismounts to clear and considering my walk up Cantrell it was starting to feel more like a hike than a ride. I scared a group of backpackers who were just waking up at the intersection of Squirrel and Mullinax and chatted with one of them for a minute. It sounded like they had quite the night in the storm but had made the best of it. I then encountered another group just waking up and looking for the rest room on Bradley. I got the impression most backpackers aren't expecting some idiot with a bike to be on the trail at 7:30 am!

A short distance later Bradley Creek trail was completely blocked by a very large tree that had fallen the night before. I can only imagine what it was like huddled under a tarp the night before with trees like this crashing down around you!


The only way around it was to wade up the river and even part of the river was blocked by it.


I guess the storm had also put a lot of water in the river as the crossings on Riverside were as deep as I have ever tried them. The final one on Vineyard was waist deep on me and very swift. I almost slipped at one point and thought for sure I was going to loose my bike. It was yet another case of tragedy narrowly adverted and I made it across and up Vineyard without incident. I was back at the truck and home in time to still get a full day of work in!

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