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Thursday, September 29, 2005

The Mountain



Am I ready? The mountain is. Three thousand nine hundred twenty eight feet. Six and three quarter miles. Up. Nothing but.


The pain will come early and will never subside. There isn't a single place I can think of to rest along the climb's entire length.


This is the final race of my season - unless I catch the cyclocross bug- and it will no doubt be the hardest - at least for me. Since I live and work in the Roanoke Valley, I see Poor Mountain everyday staring at me from its lofty perch to the West. It's waiting for me. Everywhere I go it casts it's huge shadow. I can always see it, and it always sees me.

Singlespeed. I absolutely love my singlespeed. Sunday morning I may hate my singlespeed. I may hate it for six and three quarter miles. Up.

Am I ready?














Saturday, September 24, 2005

VA Derailer #4 - Falling Creek Park



Sometimes, things can fool you. The New York Yankees for instance, stumbling through most of the season until September, and then trouncing everyone in their way. Like your $39.95 per month cell phone plan-the one costs you $73.22 for some reason when the bill comes in the mail. Like the Falling Creek MTB Race in Bedford, VA, race number four in the Virginia Derailer Series.

At each of the previous Derailer Series races, I had asked fellow racers who did the entire series the previous season what the Bedford course was like. I heard it all: It’s nothing but fields, it’s the easiest in the series, it’s the hardest in the series, there are lots of places to spin out and recover, there are no places to recover, etc…

So, last weekend a few racers from Roanoke and I visited Falling Creek Park to discover a course unlike any other. It looks easy. Imagine a cyclocross course with some newly cut single track thrown in for good measure. After our pre-ride it was plain to see that this race would be tough. Deceptively tough. This course is one of those that if you showed up race day without riding it ahead of time, you’d feel like you should be flying by the looks of the wide open trails. However, once you started tackling the many ups and downs through the power-sapping grass, you’d be cursing your legs for failing you.

I prepared race day like I always do: Big bowl of Cheerios, small cup of Sheetz coffee, some hammer gel, a blast of Static-X and Mudvayne, and a 45 minute warm-up. I felt good. I felt strong. Now it would be a question of if I could be stronger than this course. I wasn’t going to let Falling Creek Park beat me.

The Pro/Expert guys took off two minutes ahead of us Sports for a quick ¼ mile prologue through a wide-open, grassy loop. We all watched them circle around behind us to dump into the first singletrack section of the course. We were next. I got a good jump on the field, but a few guys with gears (I was – as usual – on my trusty Gary Fisher Rig singlespeed) got ahead of me onto the trail. “Be patient”, I thought to myself. None of the riders that got ahead of me were pulling away, and I felt like I wasn’t working hard at all. I was sitting third in my class – behind Quinn Hershberger and Philip Love – until I was able to sneak by them both early on in lap one. Both of my rivals looked strong. I knew I’d have to jump on the gas if I was to stay away for three laps, but I couldn’t blow-up by challenging this tough course.

As the race progressed, I felt more relaxed and started pulling in the rest of the younger Sport guys. Each time we dumped into an open field it was easy to take inventory of who was out in front and behind. I kept inching closer to Caleb Smith and David Anderson, the two leaders in Sport 18-35. I would catch them, and then they’d pull away. This ritual repeated several times. They both stayed strong for the remainder of the race and finished in 1st and 2nd respectively. I rolled into the finish area after three hard laps to finished 3rd overall in Sport, and 1st in Sport 36-49. Best of all, I felt like I could have maintained the pace I was on for another lap.

My lovely bride again won the Sport Women 36-49 class by being the only chick brave enough to race in her age group. She did beat up on some of the Sport guys though. Way to go Pookie!

Youngster Ryan Owens (Expert 14-17) took the overall Expert win, followed closely by Roanoke Cycling Organization mastermind Ron Glowczynski (Expert 36-49). The Expert 18-35 win went to Chad Davis.

The folks at Bedford County Rec & Parks and the City of Bedford did an outstanding job. Hats off to all of the volunteers and staff that gave up there Saturday so we could come out to race. It is much appreciated!

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Trog


I guess this blog is as close to a training log as I've ever had. A Trog, I guess.

I may be inadvertantly starting a whole new internet revolution.

In looking back over my posts I found that I don't write at all about "training". No hours logged in the saddle, no miles per week. No average heart rates. I don't keep track of any of that stuff. I just ride - alot.

This week I added a new ride to my strict weekly training routine (joking). The Roanoke Cycling Organization Classic Wednesday Ride from Victory stadium.

A new experience. A new group of (fast) folks to ride with. A new route. The ride does laps on some semi-country roads just outside of downtown. The course is hilly and gives you very little opportunity to rest. It's a good'n. I spent the first lap hammering, then getting dropped, then spent the rest of the night trying to catch up, but with little success.

It was a great workout...worthy of mention in my Trog.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Professional Drivers


I know what you're thinking:

Q: This is supposed to be a bicycle blog. What's the deal with the title of this post?
A: Follow the link below to an excellent article all cyclists who have ever ridden on the road can relate to.

Q: Two posts in a row you send me to someone else's site. Do you have writer's block?
A: No, but this article is too important not to spread around. Send the link to all of your co-workers who drive like idiots.

http://www.bicyclinglife.com/NewsAndViews/Prodriver.htm

Monday, September 19, 2005

Ned


I want to be like Ned when I grow up. Follow the link to a great article about the one and only Ned Overend - the greatest mountain bike racer who ever lived.

http://www.cyclingnews.com/riders/2005/interviews/?id=ned_overend05

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Loss for words

A collection of images of cycling.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

This is usually how unusual thing are.

No two rides are ever the same. That is especially true for our regular (but not normal) weekly outing at Carvins Cove, the mountain biking jewel just minutes from Roanoke.

Please allow me to illustrate:

This week we saw the first appearance of Skip’s cyclocross machine. He rode an hour and a half on some wicked stuff that beats most folks up who ride full suspension bikes. He rode that thing down Gauntlet. That had to hurt.

Paula was ready for a ride that would wind it’s way into darkness. She is a she-beast. Every week, since the ride's inception over a year ago, she has been there. The only woman brave enough to come out and ride with a group of guys. She has very little quit in her. This week, her knee forced her to turn around just about a ½ hour into our excursion. That just never happens.

We rode a trail that isn’t there. I can’t tell you anything more about it yet, but the pictures show you what awaits you, oh ye who longs for some new singletrack.

I busted myself up. I’m part idiot. Always have been. I can do lots of stuff that most people say they could never do – speak comfortably in front of large groups of people, learn to play a song on the guitar just by hearing it in about two minutes, a trackstand on either of my bikes – but the easy stuff gives me fits. I fell over while I was waiting for some folks to catch up. I wasn’t doing anything. I was just sitting on my top-tube with my right foot clipped in and my left on the ground. Idiot attack! I fell over.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Lust

I must be out of my mind. About a year ago I sold all of my (geared) mountain bike possessions to become a full-time single speeder. I wanted life to be simple. I wanted a life without shifting. I wanted to escape the continuous barrage of new shifters and derailleurs that the market tempts mountain bikers with. I wanted to be free of all that.

It has been a decision that I am very happy I made. I love my bike. I love its simplicity. I love having only three options: sit, stand or push. I have learned the zen of single-speeding and have had more fun than ever.

There is however, something that haunts me. Something I lust after. Something I must have. I know it is wrong, but I can’t help myself. I certainly must be out of my mind.

That something is the pinnacle of craftsmanship. The bling bling to end all bling bling. That which I lust after is a Chris King Single Speed Disc hub. It will cost half of what I paid for my entire Gary Fisher Rig.

I must be out of my mind.

Monday, September 12, 2005

VA Derailer #3 - Using a knife in a gun fight.

De-railer. Now I have an idea of why the creators of this fast-growing mountain bike race series chose that name. The Peaksview Park trail system in Lynchburg is like racing on rails. The third event in the Virginia De-railer series was very dry, extremely fast, and provided very few opportunities to pass.

…except for that blasted paved section!

Most riders I talked to welcomed the mile or so of hard-top bike path that separated each lap. It provided a break from the constant up-and-down, twisting, turning, relentless singletrack trails that made up the course. It also gave most folks the chance to pass. My singlespeed and I weren’t as fond of the pavement.

The race started as most do with nervous pre-start chatter from some competitors and silence from others. The Pro/Expert class was slated for three eight-mile laps, Sports two, and Novices one. When I looked around I couldn’t help but notice that I was the only nutcase on a singlespeed. “Hey Quinn, what’s up with the gears?” I asked of Quinn Hershberger, who had been the other usual singlespeeder at this year’s events. Quinn and I are currently 1-2 in points in Sport 36-49. “I saw all of this pavement during my pre-ride and decided that gears where the way to go.” At that moment I knew I was toast. We’d have to revisit this tortuous, evil, flat pavement three times today. Almost three miles total in two laps. I would be spinning myself silly. “Ok, I’ll just have fun and finish where I finish.”

The Pro/Experts took off two minutes ahead of the large Sport class. Then we were off. Actually, everyone but me was off. I was kicking my pedals over at what seemed like 1300rpm working my way up to a whopping 18mph. Everyone passed me. I knew I’d have my work cut out for me when we hit the singletrack. I do well the more undulating and technical the trails are. Peaksview is just that – it never gives you a break. Just the way I like it.

As we came off the pavement we were greeted by a nice short, steep dirt wall that I had to get off and run. A few of the folks who sped past me at the start chose to walk, so I passed about three or four right away. Then the field started working its way gradually uphill through numerous switchbacks that had some mildly tricky root sections. A few guys bobbled through them and provided me an opportunity to pass them. As the racers spread out, I worked my way around whenever I could. This was perhaps the hardest course to pass on that I have ever raced. I would get right on someone’s wheel and be ready to shoot by when the trail would abruptly turn back on itself. The only sporting way to get around racers was to announce my intentions to pass, then let them pick the spot. What made this more difficult was that the course leveled out and became faster to ride the further into it you raced. I found myself on many occasions behind someone just ever so slightly slower than I was. It made for very difficult passing.

Through the first lap I was able to pick my way though most of the Sport riders and had passed the Expert women. I knew that the leaders in my class were gone, and that they were already blasting down the pavement many minutes ahead of me on their second lap. I settled in and figured that wherever I was sitting in the finishing order was where I was going to stay.

My second lap was faster because it was lonelier. I could hear brakes squeaking and chains rattling all around me, but didn’t see nearly as many racers as the first lap. Then about ¾ of the way in, I saw Philip Love, who I knew couldn’t be far off the lead. Philip and I have been very close at every race thus far, and he has been riding stronger and stronger. Then, just ahead of him I saw Jay and Quinn, the two leaders! Wow, I caught everyone! The euphoria I felt quickly subsided as the long flat stretch of pavement chiseled its way back into my memory. Even if I could work past all three, which was all but impossible as they are all very strong riders, they would completely leave me in the dust on the bike path. Before I knew it, the trail ended and the pavement began. I passed Philip and made one last hopeless attempt to get away from him, but he shot by me like I was standing still when the terrain leveled out.

I rode myself into fourth place in my class. I felt great and had fun, and that’s what it’s all about.

BONUS! After the race I was speaking with Kenny Palmer from Bikes Unlimited (Great job guys! Fantastic event!) who was fairly confident that there will be a singlespeed class in next years De-Railer Series. Then there will be a whole group of racers spinning themselves silly on that flat stretch!

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Potential

A few years back I took a promotion and was relocated by the company I worked for at the time to Denver, Colorado. I thought, as a cyclist, this would be the best move I could ever make. As it turned out, it was considerably more difficult being 1500 miles away from family than my wife and I could have ever imagined, so we returned to Roanoke within a year.

One thing I took away from that short stint in Denver is how good a bikeway system could be when cyclists get involved and help push the process. Many people consider Colorado as the center of America’s cycling universe. Colorado Springs is the home of USA Cycling, the umbrella that covers USCF (Road racing), NORBA (MTB racing), USPRO (Track) and NCAA cycling. Boulder is the home of several world-class pro MTB and road racers. And, the Denver metro area boasts some of the fanciest bike shops you’ve ever seen. The cycling community is very, very strong.

That strength has helped the bike folk of Denver to join forces with their local governments to design, construct and maintain a fabulous system of paved bike ways throughout the metro area. This has had a positive influence on bicycle commuting, and provided the residents many opportunities to exercise in a virtually car-free environment. Bicycles and cars don’t have to share busy roads and streets near as much. The cyclists, runners and walkers are happy, and the motorists are happy.

Here in Roanoke the groundwork for a fantastic Greenway system is moving forward. Roanoke Valley Greenways (www.greenways.org) is working toward bringing together several existing short Greenway sections in order to connect Salem, Roanoke and Vinton. Their site is the best source of information about what’s happening, what will happen in the near future, and how you can get involved.

Wouldn’t it be nice to commute to work on your bike without fear of some yahoo trying to run you off the road? How cool would it be to only have to use your car to get out of town? How about hopping on your bike for a trip to the grocery store? An extensive Greenway system can help make all these trips by bike possible.

We as cyclists need to make our voices heard. Get involved! The potential for our fair city is incredible.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

It's the most wonderful time of the year.

This morning the air had a different feel to it. As I pedaled through the Lick Run Greenway – the only peaceful segment of my commute to work. The place where I can pay attention to what surrounds me besides traffic – I could feel that fall was closer than the day before. I could see leaves falling. I could smell it on the breeze. I could feel it in the chill on my skin. Fall is coming, and it’s not far.

The thermos full of coffee in my messenger bag is close to becoming not just a morning jump-start, but also a means to reheat. Arm and knee warmers came out of hibernation first. Two days in a row now. Full-fingered gloves will be next as I found myself curling my fingers into a fist and setting my hands on my hoods in an attempt to avert the chill. Shoe covers can’t be far behind. Then, my vest will be replaced with a jacket.

Fall is not far at all.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Trail building makes you happy :)

I’m not sure why things are the way they are. For instance, I like riding my road bike, but I have absolutely no desire to go build new roads. Building trails on the other hand is never a chore.

I enjoy getting up early on a Saturday, grabbing a good cup of coffee and my work gloves and heading out to meet up with others who also freely give up their weekend beauty sleep (and some of them could use it – just kidding folks) to bring you – the mountain biker – more trails to ride.

Nothing beats the feeling you get the first time you zip down a sweet section of singletrack that you helped create. I can’t help but feel that part of me went into the trail. My sweat, my muscle, my mind. That trail also becomes part of me. The only thing better than riding it is hearing someone tell you how much they enjoy it.

Yes sir, trail building makes you happy for sure.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Get over it.

Like most of us who ride our mountain bikes on a regular basis, you probably have some local trails that you frequent because of their proximity to where you live or work. That’s exactly the case here in Roanoke and Carvins Cove Natural Reserve. This great collection of single track is only minutes from a major interstate (I-81), and Southwest Virginia’s largest city.

Each Thursday, many locals share each other’s company and some fine mountain biking at the “Get Dirty at the Cove” ride on the Blue Ridge Bicycle Club’s weekly ride menu. (www.blueridgebicycleclub.com) The group this week consisted of 9 riders, including myself.

As with most trail systems, no matter how you mix it up, you still end up riding at least one or two of the same trails week after week. You become familiar with the creek crossings, the grunts and the downhills, the water bars, roots, rocks and the subject of this post: the dreaded logs across the trail. Some are a cinch on the very first attempt. Even the most novice of novices can negotiate them with ease. Some require a bit more finesse and skill. And some…well some, everyone uses the go-around. One such log in the last category exists on the trail formerly known as Fun House. It has a new name (Arrowhead) that someone thought to be more appropriate (?), but everyone still uses the original moniker. This log was my nemesis.

It all started about two months ago. The normal cast of Thursday characters set out to ride something different. We hadn’t really paid much attention to this trail up to that point and decided to give it a go. It had been months since I had ridden it, but it was unchanged from what I remember. Fast, rolling, loamy surface that offered great traction, some roots, and some downed trees. It was as Fun as Fun House had ever been. Then, on a fast gradual downhill, there it was. About 18 inches high, it lay all the way across the trail. It had been there long enough that a very well worn go-around existed to trailside right. Maybe it had been there all along. Maybe I was noticing it for the first time. Maybe I wasn’t ready to even consider riding over it until this moment. But something told me I had to ride it. No one else even gave it a thought. They just took the go-around and keep on truckin’. I stopped and stared. I wasn’t afraid; I just didn’t know how to approach it.

The log has a build-up on one side comprised of remnants of the carcasses of other trees not strong enough to stay intact once they fell. The other side has nothing. If it had a build-up on both sides, I don’t think anyone would have trouble riding it. If it had no build-ups on either side, I still think it would be fairly simple. Just a front wheelie up onto it, then a hop. No Sweat.

Problem is, with a build-up on one side and nothing on the other, your momentum gets funked up half way over. Your wheels aren’t where you’d expect them to be and it freaks you out. It doesn’t even look hard, it just is.

So, after a few minutes of gawking, I just lifted my bike over it and finished the ride. It was then that this log lodged itself in my brain. I had to clear it.

A week later, we were back, but coming from the opposite direction. I stopped, I stared, but this time I gave it a try. Clunk! Not quite. I lost all of my momentum. I pushed the rest of the way over it in disgust, and then rode away. Log – 2, Warren – 0.

Last week, same deal. I must have tried it 5 times. It still beat me. I was getting frustrated. Had I permanently scarred the area of my brain that controls riding over logs by failing so many times? Was my fork set-up wrong? Was my tire pressure too high? Was it too low?

Then, we set out this Thursday and I didn’t want to ride up this trail. I knew the log would be there waiting for me. It had my number and it new it. This log was my Daddy. When we turned up the steep grunt that starts the gradual climb up to where this log lives (yes, although it’s dead, it lives! It lives to mock me! To haunt me!), I could feel the anxiety welling up inside. It was going to get me again. Maybe I’ll just take the go-around and forget it.

I arrived at ground zero way ahead of our group. I stopped. “I refuse to take the go-around”, I said to myself. “I can make it.” Everyone rode up to me, took the go-around and disappeared up the trail. Everyone but Alan. “Come on Warren, you’ve ridden stuff harder than that”. “Really?” I thought to myself. But, this is the hardest log on Earth…or is it? I tuned around and gave myself a little distance to work with and made yet another go at it. The front wheel got up where it usually does, and then bang! Hit the bashguard. So I turned around and tried again. Lost my momentum. I lost track of how many attempts I made, but then it hit me…J-hop.

I had been practicing it on small stuff that I knew wouldn’t hurt too badly if I botched, but I hadn’t dreamed of J-hopping something like this. I made a run at it, shifted my weight forward then back pulling up the front wheel, then hopped to bring up the back. A touch of the back tire and I was over! The nemesis was dead! I had done the impossible! I had slain the dragon! Ok, big deal I hopped another log. But, if at first you don’t succeed….just get over it.

Thursday, September 01, 2005


VA Derailer #2 - The Southside Scramble

This past Saturday saw some brief showers, but otherwise ideal conditions for the second event of this years VA Derailer series. The welcome lack of blistering temps and slight cloud cover made hammering through the woods at Anglers Park in Danville a tad more enjoyable than the mid 90s of the MW Windows race a couple weeks back.

Major kudos to Chris Tomkins and the gang from Danville for building some great, fast, twitchy single track that kept all who tackled this eight mile loop on their toes. One slight mistake through the maze of saplings could easily send both bike and rider hurling off-trail with the greatest of ease.

I personally found the course to be challenging in many different ways, but still tons of fun. First, the topography kept me on the gas almost the entire time. No coasting in this race! Second, the Anglers Park trails have just enough rocks and roots to test your bike handling skills, but not so much as to scare off those who are still honing their technical abilities. And finally for me, the "saplings of death" that seemed to reach out and grab my bars all too often kept me thinking about "riding skinny" the whole race.

If you missed this one, make sure you put it on your calendar for next year. This is one race that delivers on fun without beating you up - at least not too bad.