Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Day 5-One Last Ride and Time to go Home

John was still on his way back from Charlotte and Mark wanted to go visit his family cemetery, so Josh and I headed out for a ride. We planned an out and back route that would take us to the to of Flat Top Mountain. On the map the climb appeared to be in the 1.5-2 mile range, but looked really steep. As we rode along the country roads I was a little depressed knowing that my next ride would be back home in Chicago dealing with crazy motorist, stoplights, and no climbing, just headwinds As we approached the turnoff for Flat Top Mountain we were greeted by a fairly steep gradient. As we continued on the climb became steeper, and the switchbacks were super steep and didn’t give the normal opportunity for recovery. My legs were really feeling it today, but since it was the last climb of the trip I wanted to try and push the pace a bit. After a couple of miles I was chased by a dog, and I had to sprint to get away from the pooch. After that sprint I was done, and entered survival mode the rest of the way to the top. The climb ended up being 3.2 miles in length and with no flat sections it was one of the toughest climbs of the trip. After waiting for Josh we cruised back down. The decent was a ton of fun with a bunch of switchbacks to practice my poor cornering skills. We returned to the cabin on the same roads, and my North Carolina riding was done for now.

Overall it was a great trip; with plenty of riding, lots of good food and beer, and time to catch up with old friends.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Day 4-My Assault on Mt. Mitchell

Day 4 was by far the toughest day for me. John had gone to Charlotte for the day to check out the City for a potential job relocation and Mark and Josh wanted to watch the Indy 500, so I was on my own to ride. Prior to the trip I was really hoping to ride the Blue Ridge Parkway, and hopefully to the top of Mt. Mitchell, the highest peak east of the Mississippi topping out at over 6,000’. This seemed like a perfect opportunity to check out the Parkway, so I loaded up Mark’s car and headed to a start location about two miles from the Parkway entrance in Asheville. I had estimated that the ride to Mt. Mitchell would be about 25 miles, and based on review of maps the route seemed to be mostly uphill from my start location to the base of Mt. Mitchell. I had never been on the Blue Ridge Parkway and was excited to check it out, as I have always heard it is an amazing place to ride. The Parkway was designed as a recreational route, and even though it was only two lanes with no shoulder the auto traffic was really nice to cyclist and had no problem waiting their turn to pass me as hammered away at 10 mph. The views from the Parkway were amazing with huge vistas and miles of forest. As the ride progressed I was really starting to feel the affects of the long climbs, and was starting to hope that around every corner I would see the sign for Mt. Mitchell. The turn-off finally came 31 miles into the ride. I now had another 4.5 miles of climbing to hit the top. The first two miles of the Mt. Mitchell climb are the hardest and it levels out towards the top. At the top I picked up a coca cola, some peanut butter crackers, and a Gatorade to replenish my reserves. I was now at the mid point of the ride and had another 36 miles to get back to the car, but a good portion of the return trip would be downhill. For perspective the out portion of the ride took me 2:45, while the return trip took me 1:45 for a total ride time of 4:30. In the end I got 10,000 vertical feet of climbing and built up a huge appetite.

Day 3-More Climbs and lots of Hippies

Day 3 started off with sore legs, but after some coffee, over medium eggs and bread with peanut butter and jam I was ready to go. Today’s ride started off with a nice downhill section, but quickly turned into an uphill slog. We hit two big climbs within the 1st hour of riding, but eventually the road leveled out and we could ride some easier tempo. After the two first two climbs Mark headed back for some much needed sleep. Josh, John, and I continued on, riding some rolling terrain, and winding roads. The winding roads led to some confusion, along with road names on the maps not meshing with road signs. We luckily were good at making educated guesses and didn’t get too lost. As part of our route we did get a chance to ride a really cool 1.5 mile long gravel climb. Luckily it wasn’t too steep or we would’ve had some issues getting traction with road tires. Today’s ride ended up being about 3 hours in length.

That evening we headed down to Asheville to check out the city. I have always heard good things about Asheville so I was eager to check out vibe. After some research we decided on an Indian restaurant, and were not disappointed. The food was super spicy and by the end of the meal I was so bloated because of all the water I drank that I could barely walk. After dinner we walked around the town. Asheville is a really nice city, with a beautiful backdrop of mountains and a walkable downtown with shops, restaurants, and a large amount of hippies. It reminded me of Boulder, but I thought Asheville’s downtown had a lot more to offer than Boulder.

Day 2-To the Bat Cave

Day 2 started by chilling out in the hammock and waiting for Mark to awake from his coma. After discussions of potential routes we decided we would head out some roads that would take us on a loop around Lake Lure. It would include a couple of nice climbs, and an option for an out and back climb at the end of the ride.

After a few mile decent we realized that we missed a turn and had to retrace our steps up the climb back to the turnoff. As the miles ticked by we came upon Lake Lure. I was amazed at the beauty of this spot. The mountains came right down to the waters edge and surrounded the lake on all sides. We then cruised along the winding road that traverses the edge of the Lake. John and I had pulled away from Mark and Josh as we cruised through Bat Cave, NC. I was definitely in the hurt lock and in serious need of a coca cola. We stopped at a place that was getting ready to close, and luckily caught the owner who sold us two of the sweetest coke classics I’ve had in a long time. As we continued on we approached that last two climbs of the day. The first was a about 2 miles in length followed by a short false flat section that lead to the 4 mile out and back climb. John and I ticked over the pedals on the two mile climb with ease, thanks in part to the coke buzz. As we made the turn onto the out and back climb we were greeted by a wall that would last for the next 2 miles before there was any relief. About a mile into this effort I was really struggling and my cadence was down to about 50 rpm. I really suffered the rest of the way and was glad to make it to the top. After resting we headed back down to the bottom. At the bottom we waited for Josh and rode the last couple of miles at an easy pace back to the cabin. I was completely dead after that ride due in large part to the 90 degree weather.

That night we cooked steaks on the grill, drank some Piraat
that Mark had brought and watched some old TdF videos, along with some more South Park episodes. Good times!!

North Carolina Trip-Day 1

Day 1 started off bright and early in Cincinnati. John aka Art Vandelay and I headed south on I-75 towards Black Mountain, NC, which is just outside of Asheville. The drive from Cincy to NC is about 6 hours and covers some beautiful country through Kentucky and Tennessee. Coming up from South Carolina was Mark aka Meat Bikini and Josh aka Equalizer Guy. We were to meet up with Mark and Josh at the cabin of Mark’s relatives. This is where we would be staying and the base camp for our riding. I wasn’t sure what to expect by the description of the place being a cabin. As John and I discussed during the drive there is a large spectrum that encompasses the different types of cabin; anywhere from a mouse infested dirt floor cabin to a nice home that happens to be in the woods. As we arrived at the cabin we were pleasantly surprised to see that the cabin was definitely towards the end of the spectrum of “nice home in the woods”. After catching up with Mark and Josh, who for me it has been several years since I have seen the two of them, we unpacked the bikes and headed out for our fist ride. Mark decided to stay at the cabin and relax as he had been up for 24 hours + at the Vet clinic where he works. After reviewing the topo maps we picked our poison and headed out for a couple of hours on some beautiful country roads. This was my first chance getting to ride in NC and was amazed at the quality of the roads, along with the amount of climbing available.

After riding we headed down to Black Mountain for some dinner. We found a really good Mexican restaurant and I stuffed myself on fajitas. We then headed back to the cabin to watch some South Park and drink some Goose Island Matilda. Day 1 was great and that was only the start.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

DNF and Stupid Rookie Mistakes

Kelly had been telling me all week that Tom Skilling was reporting rain for Southern Wisconsin on Sunday. I told her that I am a Brant Miller fan, Tom Skilling’s brother was a crook, and was only reporting a 30% chance of scattered storms. On the way up to Lake Geneva there was a slight drizzle, but by the time we reached the resort the rain had stopped and the course was dry and in great condition. I got signed up and headed out to check out the course before my race. Rookie Mistake #1I thought I had enough time to get in a lap before my race, but ended up missing my start by about 30 seconds. So I was off on my own chasing no one up the first set of climbs. Stupid mistake, but I was glad to get in a pre-ride lap to check out the singletrack and the gnarly rock garden. I entered the first singletrack section I was heading into a downhill turn and grabbed my rear brake, and the lever went all the way back to the grip. Rookie mistake #2, my rear brake cable was loose and I lost all power on the Avid Mechanicals. So after a couple of minutes of getting my tool out and tightening the cable I was off again. At this point I began to feel a few sprinkles, but I was hoping the Brant Miller wouldn’t let me down and the rain would hold off. A few minutes later the rain was coming down harder, and the rooted rocky sections were becoming slicker. After the first lap the rain was really coming down, and the whole course was becoming a greasy mess and was becoming really difficult for me to ride the off-camber singletrack sections. Towards the end of the 2nd lap there were sections that took all my effort just to walk up, and I was really wishing I had my toe spikes. As I came up the last hill to finish the lap my bike wasn’t rolling (big problem for a bike), and the 1st generation Fisher Paragon 29er with minimal tire clearance was so packed with mud I decided to call it a day. I was a little disappointed I didn’t continue, but the thought of hauling around a 26 lb bike with an extra 20 lb of mud didn’t sound that great.
So I am off to North Carolina tomorrow for 5 days of road riding. I am really excited to ride on some hilly roads, and get in some long miles in a beautiful part of the country.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Butterflies in the Stomach

I am getting nervous for Lake Geneva on Sunday after reading this blog and looking at these photos. It looks like a great course, and should be fun, but the last couple of days I have been really psyching myself out. My main concern is that racing with the Elites I will get in someone’s way. I also hope that I won't bite it in the rock garden. The climbs look super fun, so it should be a good day on the trails. I just need to believe that can I do it, and ride hard.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Like Oil and Vinegar

Sunday was the Monsters of the Midway Criterium that is hosted by the University of Chicago Velo Club. The course is a four corner crit consisting of two long straightaways and two short connector sections. It seems that last couple of years I do about one crit a year just to remind myself that I don’t really like racing crits. I raced the Cat. 3 event, and it was pretty uneventful. As the course is really simple there was a 99.9% chance that it would end up in a sprint finish, so I essentially sat towards the back of the pack for 50 minutes, making sure no one got off the back. I think I did a really good job of this, and no one got off the back until the last two laps. I ended up finishing with the pack, and didn’t really contest the sprint. The good part of the race was that I never felt like I was ever really on the edge, and hopefully that will bode well for Lake Geneva this coming weekend. Based on reports, Lake Geneva will beat the cicada hatching by two days. After that we are in for 3-4 weeks of hell. Riding, especially off-road, is going to be awful. Luckily I will be heading to Asheville, NC on May 23rd for five days of road riding. I am really pumped to get on some nice roads with actual climbs, and I think it will be a good final tune-up for the Big Ring Classic on June 3rd.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

This last week I have been trying to live the rock n roll lifestyle, while working, training, and hopefully sleeping. Thursday night I went to see the Junior Boys at the Empty Bottle. Kelly was out of town at a wedding and was super disappointed that she couldn’t make the show, so I went with Joe, who is the boyfriend of one of Kelly’s coworkers. He is a super nice guy, with similar musical taste, so it worked out, we dranks asome beers and had a good time. Junior Boys put on a good show, but I do wish their music was a little bit more up tempo. They do a couple of songs that are more dance oriented and it seemed to get the crowd going and got the biggest response.

Sunday night we went to see LCD Soundsystem at the Metro. Kelly and I have been trying to see this band for a couple of year, but have either been out of town or missed buying tickets. Needless to say we were pretty excited. LCD Soundsystem’s music is normally stripped down punk-dance rock, but for touring James Murphy and the crew come with a full band, including a couple of drummers. The sound was huge and made for a great show. The last song of the main set went on for about 15 minutes, with a serious jam of three drummers all going full bore at the same time.

The final show was last night at the Empty Bottle. Opening was Fujiya Miyagi followed by Peter, Bjorn, and John. Kelly and I couldn’t decide who we were more excited to see, and both bands didn’t disappoint. Fujiya Miyagi is an english trio that does down tempo electronic rock. They have a really unique sound and by the end of the set had the audience really jamming. About a half hour later Peter, Bjorn, and John took the stage. You may know these guys now that their song “Young Folks” can be heard in an AT&T commercial, and at least hundred times a day on WXRT. Unfortunately due to the continuous airplay the song has gotten a little old, but the rest of their song catalogue is just as good so it worked out. I was really impressed with both bands, and look forward to seeing Peter, Bjorn and John again at Lollapalooza in August.

So now it is back to the real world, and time to put my rock shoes in the closet for awhile.