Monday, April 30, 2007


This is a shot of me in my first-ever mountain bike race; Middle Mountain Momma at Douthat State Park in 2001. I raced "Beginner 2", finishing in 6th place. I remember thinking how incredibly hard it was. Little did I know that 6 years later that I'd still be doing this crazy racing thing.

This year's edition of MMM is coming up Sunday- it will still be hard, but at least now (after racing this event several times - once on a singlespeed) I know what to expect.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

If you had to choose...

If you had a choice between racing in dry, choking hot, dusty conditions or slimy, wet, gooey mud, which would you prefer?

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

There are no words that can go here.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Skipped it.


I awoke this morning to rain and 46 degrees. Flurries and wind are in the forecast for this afternoon. I'm tired of riding in this crap. Today is the day of the Dragon's Back race in Catawba. I will be skipping it.

This is my bike, all ready to race with fenders and all. Notice how clean and dry and warm it looks. I'd hate to upset it by dragging out into the coldness and wetness yet again. So, we will both be staying at home today.

Middle Mountain Momma at Douthat State Park (the best race course ever!) is in about three weeks. Maybe it will be Spring by then.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Connect the dots

The Roanoke Valley is teaming with Greenway activity. New sections are being built regularly, and the overall network is really starting to come together. The Roanoke River Greenway will be the backbone, stretching from Explore Park in Bedford County all the way to Green Hill Park in Salem. Other Greenways will tie into the Roanoke River Greenway providing an awesome network of car-free pavement for many to enjoy.

I serve on the Board of Directors of Pathfinders For Greenways. Our role is to recruit and organize volunteer labor for the construction and maintenance of Greenways and multi-use trails in the valley. Recently the Board has been doing Greenway tours for its members and the members of the Greenways Commission to show them the progress that is being made. As a cyclist I see it first hand quite often. I'm always riding on them. But, I had never ridden all of them in one ride!

I decided to ride every completed section of Greenway this past Good Friday. Pookie had to work, so I wanted to do a ride that wouldn't take me too far from civilization but could give me the training time I was looking for.

So I filled a few bottles, packed my pockets full of snacks and off I went into the 38 degree temperature and 20 mph winds.

Twenty minutes after leaving home I arrived at Roanoke River Greenway in Salem.

At the Moyer Sports Complex in Salem the Greenway takes you right along a sweeping bend in the river.

Hanging Rock Battlefield Trail is always a very peaceful ride. This day was no different.

After a fairly long section of road riding from Salem to ValleyPointe, I arrived at Valley View Mall. Then from the Mall to downtown I rode with zero traffic! Lick Run is awesome in that it connects two busy urban centers with a tranquil ride along a stream.

Some serious curves; The Greenway corkscrews its way down from a bridge over I-581.

I headed toward the Hotel Roanoke on the newest section of Lick Run. Once I reached downtown I headed through Vinton to the bike lanes on Hardy Rd.

There I jumped onto Wolf Creek.

Wolf Creek Greenway meanders through a nice stand of trees. This Greenway feels more remote and "natural" than most others.

The end is near, but it will be moving soon. Wolf Creek will soon extend under this fancy new bridge all the way to the Blue Ridge Parkway.

I turned around and back-tracked on the Wolf Creek Greenway and back through Vinton on Wise Ave. Then I rode under a train, on a trail that leads to a bridge over a stream, next to the road.

In my opinion, the coolest little bridge in the valley. Technically it's not on a Greenway, but it is directly across from the end of one. See the sign?

I'll cross that bridge when I come to it. As you can see in the picture, I came to it two and a half hours into the ride.

Tinker Creek Greenway carried me from Vinton into Roanoke and will eventually connect to the Roanoke River Greenway.

I happened upon a crew working hard putting down fresh blacktop on the Roanoke River Greenway...

...near the Vinton water treatment plant.

More and more everyday! This new section of the Roanoke River Greenway will most likely be paved the next time I see it. Just last week it wasn't even there!

Three hours into my ride I arrived at the base of Mill Mountain, so up I went.

Most of the climb up the Mill Mountain Greenway (aka "The Old Road") looks like something you'd see in the Tour De France.

After coming off of the mountain I headed toward the city on the flat section of Mill Mountain Greenway.

The end of Mill Mountain Greenway brings you right into downtown Roanoke at Elmwood Park.

All the way across town I went along Wylie Drive (The Roanoke River Greenway again) and across the city limit to Roanoke County to Garst Mill Park. Although one of the shortest in the valley, the Garst Mill Greenway is especially nice - a fine ribbon of paved bike path next to a scenic stream. The park itself has great amenities as well.

At Fishburn park I entered the Murray Run Greenway which is a nice combination of singletrack dirt trail and crushed-gravel, double-wide pathway.

The end of the Murray Run Greenway right next to Patrick Henry High School was the last bit of trail for the day. The signs is complete, but this section of Greenway isn't - although it's still very easy to connect the to the completed section of Murray Run by using an alley nearby.

Five hours and about 65 miles later, I had successfully ridden every Greenway in the Roanoke Valley. What a great ride this was!

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Yo, tempo!

Got tied up late at work, missed my Greenways meeting, rode 30 miles in an hour an a half. Now if I can only get my legs to feel this good at the beginning of my next race!

BTW...Carvins Cove trail signs are coming along slowly but surely. I just picked up some picnic ketchup bottles for applying the paint to the letters. These work great! I wanted to try a few things to see what works best before inviting folks to help out. The bottles are the ticket. I knocked out the white lettering on a dozen signs in about an hour.

This Saturday I'll probably put in a couple more hours and should be able to get a good chunk of them completed.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

A walk in the woods

The Dirty Dawg at Mountain Lake Hotel has been on my calendar since late winter. I was looking forward to this race for a lot of reasons; it's the first of the year, the trails at Mountain Lake are very fun, it's a cool place (both the weather and the setting) and it's a great chance to test my early season fitness.

When Sunday morning finally rolled around, I was even more excited than normal. I felt strong going into this race. Not "I can win" strong, but "I won't embarrass myself" strong. You see, this is my first season racing Expert 35+. I know, I know...I raced Singlespeed in WVMBA races which is technically an Expert category, but this was my first ever race in "real" Expert class.

Pookie and I loaded up our usual ton of race crap in the Jeep and headed out into the cloudy morning through Blacksburg up the side of the mountain. The closer we got to the top, the soupier it got. Not quite a drizzle, but a bit thicker than a mist. "It really won't be too bad" I thought. "Unless it starts raining". Blasted brain! Why did you even think it? Sure enough as we were setting up our event tent and unloading bikes, the rain started. Slowly at first, becoming steadier with each passing minute. Once we registered in the big barn that served as the command center for the race, we met with El Toreo teammates Ron-O and Bob-O. The usual race banter started and helped put me at ease. I wasn't all that nervous. I had a really good idea of what to expect; fast as hell right out of the gate and hang-on-for-dear-life all the way 'til the end. I was right. (More on that in a moment)

I did have a bit of doubt creep into my cranium. The Crow. "What crow", you ask? The name of the tires I was running for this race (ultra light, super fast rolling, thin sidewall, semi-slick) are called The Crow. They are made by Stans No Tubes and they are fast - uphill on pavement, but that's about it. The idea behind them is similar to a rock climbing shoe. They're made of a softer rubber compond for better grip, but have very minimal knobbage. The Crow doesn't like wet feathers, and it was raining pretty good. The trails were basically peanut butter covered with wet leaves. Let me share my race with you. Don't blink or you'll miss it.

The Expert field took off into the drizzle at 12 noon like we were shot out of a cannon. I had about 13 minutes of warm-up and I felt like it - ouch! My legs hurt and they were tight, but otherwise I felt good. The starting stretch was a gradual uphill carriage road with a hard-packed gravel surface. No trouble. Then we hung a right onto a section of trail that is perfectly suited for my abilities - rocky, wet, rolling and fast. Well, The Crow didn't want to fly like I did. The Crow wanted to slide all over the place. I was washing out, both front and rear, in just about every little turn. This wasn't very twisty, mind you. I felt like a beginner. The guys in front of me started pulling away. Every time I tried to pick it up a bit, I'd loose traction and have to back off to avoid a crash.

Now my confidence drops below zero. I am a better rider than these tires were allowing me to be. "Well, I'll ride my two laps and go home. If I finish last, so be it".

Out of the first singletrack section we go, then onto a paved climb. Just ahead I could see the folks who passed me a few minutes ago when I was flopping around like a fish out of water. Cool. I could hang on and pass riders in the spots where I didn't need traction, and ride conservatively on the technical sections. Speaking of technical, the downhill rock gardens started shortly after a bit of fire road climbing and a quick pedal through an open field. Here comes the flapping fish again. I could not stay on the trail. I was all over the place and would have had more control if I had removed these freakin' tires completely and rode on the metal rims alone. Let me sum it up for you; THESE TIRES SUCK.

If I tried to brake, I'd slide. If I tried to turn, I'd slide. If I tried to pedal up a steep section, I'd slide. This was going to be harder than I thought with these P.O.S. tires.

I managed to wiggle my way through the first rocky, slick section into an area when I could see far enough ahead that I could just let loose and hope to get enough braking traction to keep from embedding myself into a tree. As I was bombing through this rocky section at an astonishing 7 mph, I heard the sound of my race ending. The slice in my rear tire was about two inches long and allowed all of the air to escape in about one and a half seconds. The Crow was dead.

Actually, I didn't know my race was over until I pulled out my tube and wrestled it into the tire (I was running tubeless), inflated it and heard the tube pop because it was sticking through the slice in the tire. On top of that, my CO2 inflator's efficiency was about equal to pumping up a tire with a birthday balloon. My walk begins.

About 50 yards down the trail I find a little pow-wow of others who have their bikes upside down with their tires getting attention. I had arrived in Flat City. One of the riders was my lovely wife, also racing in her first Expert class event. I stopped to coach her in her tire changing. I couldn't actually help her as it's against the rules. So, I stood about a foot away from her face and screamed "HURRY UP!!!!" about six times. That didn't seem to help. Incidentally, I'm writing this blog entry about three feet from the couch where I will most likely be spending the night.

So I walked. Cold, wet and tired. About five miles back to the Jeep where I took this picture. It's the last time you will see these tires on any bike I own.

There is a bright side; Pookie finished her race after fixing her flat in spite of my "help", and claimed first in her class by default. All of her competition knew she would be at this race and stayed at home since they knew they'd be toast. Also, I got my crappy race out of the way early in my season. I've been very lucky the past few seasons when it comes to bike parts holding up and carrying me through an entire race. Now I can buy some real tires and start focusing on Dragons Back coming up in a couple weeks.

Now I'm going to feed The Crows to my hungry trash can.