Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Trail Running Helmet?

**All pictures are from the NORAMM Damascus trip**

What Have I Been Doing? I have been attempting to improve my fitness through alternate means. I had hoped that I would be able to ride at this point as it has almost been four weeks since I hurt my wrist. However, along with some stupid moves, the healing process has been slow and I want to make certain that I am able to ride during my favorite season which is right around the corner.

Last week, I was able to get out on Tuesday after the Vegas trip and try the Overlook Loop at Jone’s Gap State Park. I honestly don’t know all of the exact statistics but I do know that this loop gains 1,200 feet in the first two miles of trail. Then it levels out with some more moderate climbing and once past the overlook it is mostly downhill for the remaining 1.2 miles. So I am guessing that this run is ~5 miles with 1,500 feet of climbing. I made it a personal goal to be able to finish this loop in less an hour and a half by the end of September.

Last Tuesday I felt like utter poop the entire loop with temps being high and a HARD weekend of partying under my belt. I was able to pound out the loop in an hour forty-three minutes.

Yesterday I felt real good, the temps were lower than I ever thought they would be for August and I killed the loop. My split time to the overlook was 9 minutes faster than the previous week and I was running much more rather than fast hiking. I completed the loop in one hour twenty-eight minutes crushing my goal more than two and a half weeks early. I am a little nervous about making any loftier goals as speed becomes exponentially harder to gain on this trail due to its steepness and I have been rolling my ankles trying to run to fast. I will just press on without a goal in mind hoping to run the much steeper ups as I gain more fitness.

I did receive the EPIC Design bag in the mail but I have yet to fit it to the bike as I have a hard time looking at bikes during my hiatus. I will report on the bag soon though as I know my fan base is just dying to know.

I posted some of my older stuff on Ebay as you can see in my new gadgets to the right. If all goes well, the revenues from these sales will be put toward good use. Who knows what I have up my sleeves but its not going to be the same old Undead Drunken Monkey. . . If anyone is dying to own a brand spankin’ new 20” Karate Monkey frame, I have one, I am just not committed to selling that fine piece of steal on Ebay just yet. This is my spare, so don’t go worrying that I am selling all of my bikes. Hit me up if you are local or a good blogger friend, we could possibly work out a deal. This bike has not been out of the box and comes with a fork.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Endurance Training

Last Thursday - Friday I stayed up for 30 hours with many hours of dancing involved.

This week I have gotten 10 miles of trail running in on 100+ days of heat.

I did the overlook loop at Jones Gap in one hour forty-three minutes. It will be difficult but I plan to have this down to an hour and a half by the end of the month.

Last night I met Brad for our version of Dirty Thursday, the downhill at Paris will be sweet. I wasn't able to do much so I left Brad to his own demise and ran with the dogs for a short fast loop.

Late edit **I almost forgot, my Epic Bag is paid for and shipped. I received this email from Eric yesterday:

I tried a new way of doing the internal straps that you requested. I used side release buckles instead of just velcro straps. If they are too long you can just cut them down.Its hard making bags for 20" karate monkeys, I always want to keep them for myself!

I had asked him to make some modifications for my particular needs. Nothing beats custom.


Thursday, August 07, 2008

Backpacking Jones Gap


**This is a not too exciting story that I am recounting for my own personal benefit more than for anyone’s entertainment. It was a struggle, a lesson in backpacking and now I have three full pages written**

For my second and third days of vacation, I had decided to do an aggressive two day hike through Jones Gap and Caesar Head State Parks. I packed my pack pretty heavy as I wanted this hike to be another one of those “training days” for the pain and suffering coming up in the Fall. I had even thought about lugging a full bottle of wine around with me for the haul but declined at the last minute for a flask of Bullets Bourbon.

My partner for the trip was Buddy as the temps would again be pushing 100+ with a humidity that was unsurpassable. It seems lately, that no matter what I do, I reek of my own stupidity. Here I was dehydrated from the day before but for some unholy reason I thought I could make it the 12 miles to Caesars’ Head with only four liters of water.

I wanted an early start but I hadn’t registered my overnight stay so I knew I needed to talk with the rangers before taking off. When I arrived ~9:45am on Tuesday morning I realized I had made another mistake. The Jones Gap office didn’t open up until 11:00 so I used my cell to call the Caesars’ office and was able to make a reservation over the phone. She told me that there was no camping on my route but that if I made a “slight” detour on “Natural Land Trust Trail” I would find my campsite D1. We were off.

My planned route for the day was to hike the entire 10 miles of Pinnacle Pass trail to Natural Land Trust where I would shore up for the evening and then go on the search for water.

With the first mile and a quarter of Pinnacle Pass behind me I was already at the stunning overlook and we took our time to take the view in. I was already dripping head to toe with sweat from the heat and humidity. My shorts were so soaked that as I sat there taking in the view, there were little streams of sweat water running off the rocks. Hiking in cotton shorts is bad and I knew that but being a moron, I did it anyway.

The next four miles on the Pinnacle Pass trail had some highlights as one rock outcropping reminded me of the slick rock 360 that is in Dupont at the top of Big Rock and Cedar Mountain. However, those first five and a quarter miles on the Pinnacle Pass trail were the hardest I have ever encountered. Besides a small flat section for a mile in the middle, the trail was either going straight up or down. With a 35 – 40 lb pack on it made for some tough going and I had drank all of my four liters of water in these first five miles. I thought I had iodine tablets in my first aid but I was wrong. Can you see a recurring theme here?

I knew that at the five mile mark I could hike a mile back down Oil Camp Creek Road and fetch/steal water from a house so I took that route. I took Buddy with me as an accomplice and found two vacation homes. The first had the water turned off and I wanted to cry, however at the second house there was a hose with cold water, OH THE BLISS. I drank one full bottle and then filled up with four more. That would make five liters drank with four more in the pack. I figured I was fine until I crossed paths with the Caesars’ visitor center.

A thunderstorm reared its ugly head and after leashing Buddy to make sure he wasn’t spooked by the storm we took off for the five miles of Pinnacle Pass that I had never been on with seven miles of hiking behind us. The walk to 276 was wonderful as the rain continued the entire way up, I was finally cooling off even though I knew my shorts were chaffing my inner thighs beyond belief with all the rain and no way to dry them. I had not brought a change of shorts.

Once I had made it to 276, it was 4:00pm and I sent a text to Kristin letting her know we were a mile from camp and we were safe. After I sent the text we made the push to Natural Land Trust. When I hit the intersection where Pinnacle Pass ends and Natural Land Trust begins, I realized I didn’t know which direction my campground was. My conversation had been to hasty earlier in the day. I didn’t have a map but it wouldn’t have done any good anyway as the campgrounds are not listed on the maps. To my great relief, I put the pack down and hiked up and down the trail until I realized I really had no clue. I found a ridge where my phone barely worked and I was able to get “down” directions from Adam at the ranger station.

This is where I deviated from my plan greatly, I had thought I was going to be within a couple miles of the Caesars head visitor’s center so I could re-supply with water before hiking down the 5 miles of Rim of the Gap in the morning. However, to find my campsite I had to hike all the way down into the valley on the opposite side of Jones Gap.

Once I had made it to camp, I was chaffed bad and wasted tired. I had planned for 10 miles and ended up logging 16 for the day. Buddy was a little tired after the effort and when I told him we were spending the night outside, this is what he had to say:

The evening went very well, I hung out in my underwear drying clothes and generally just hanging out. I hung a bear bag after our feast of dog food and Chef BoyRD meat filled ravioli’s even remembering to put my fork in the bear bag. The evening stayed balmy all throughout the night and since Buddy has frontline all over him, I picked ticks off of me all night as they would jump off of him onto me. Did I mention I only had two small tea candles and no flashlight?

Early morning came about and I was packed early but I had drank my 12th liter of water throughout the night which meant I only had one left to make it to some potable water source. **A quick note, Buddy was fine thoughout all of this water suffrage because the streams were a plenty and I would normally be willing to drink but I wasn’t about to catch a case of dysentery before heading to Vegas the next day. I did end up taking a few swigs from an upper mountain stream and I probably would have been fine with more but I wasn’t testing my luck**

So it was with these thoughts in my head that I decided to head further down Natural Land Trust, I wasn’t sure which way it took me but I figured it had to be better than the steep section that brought me to the campsite the night before.

As Buddy bounded happily down the trail, I had thoughts of cold water and soda. I came to the first intersection and immediately knew where I was. It was the intersection of Natural Land Trust and the Dismal Trail. From here I had another choice, hike up the Dismal trail which I know is extremely steep or head toward Raven’s cliff falls which is extremely steep. I figured that if I was going to suffer, I might as well have a waterfall to look at as I pass out. When I got to the cable crossing and the sign that informs hikers that they are .9 miles from the top of the falls, I knew exactly where I was again.

You see, a few years ago when my dad visited, we hiked this loop from the Raven’s Cliff parking area and as we headed up this section of trail, my Dad with no pack on his back said this to me half way up while standing on the steep trail “I think my little heart is going to pop out of my chest.”

What choice did I have? I started the slog as Buddy would bound up the slope and stop at an obstacle while he watched me suffer to keep up.

Eventually we made it to the bridge and I breakfasted with a handful of dry fruit while buddy laid there refusing to eat his own dog food. I knew the worst part of the trail was behind me so I drank most of the water I had and left and filled with creek water for emergencies. I still had three and a half miles to the parking lot and another two up 276 to get to the visitor’s center.

Let me say that this 5 miles was hard, mind numbingly hard with no water. I was chaffed so bad from the day before that I had to walk like a defunct Rap Star with my hand on my crotch to alleviate the rubbing my shorts were causing. Later I realized that if I rolled my shorts up over the chaffing it alleviated it altogether even though I looked like I was wearing a cargo diaper.

Once I made it to the visitor’s center, every part of me wanted to con someone into giving me a ride down but I was so focused on cold drink I walked in and bought a 20oz Pepsi (they didn’t have coke), 20 oz Gatorade, filled my four bottles with water then went back outside to slurp in total ecstasy. After twenty minutes of drinking and watching distraught tourists look at me like I was the swamp thing, I decided I could push on. I took the two connector trails that ultimately led me to Jones Gap Trail and stumbled onward with my cargo diaper in full effect. As I hiked next to the Middle Saluda, all I could dream about was the hotel pool I would be visiting on the morrow.

I had planned for 15 miles over two days using 8 liters of water. I ended up with 26 miles circumnavigating both parks and drinking 17 liters of water plus the Pepsi and Gatorade. During the trip I ate one sandwich, two handfuls of dried fruit and a can of ravioli.

I had wanted to tear myself down before the Vegas trip and boy did I do a good job.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

I Just Want to Bang On Me Drum All Day Long ...


I don’t have much to say about NORAMM besides the fact that Dennis and I got in 25 miles at a blistering pace due to the fact that most of it was on the VA Creeper trail. We did include some single track that was very Pisgahesque with lots of blowdown from the Hurricane.

I have been on a hiatus due to the fact that I have been on Vacation. I hardly ever post while on vacation, in fact, just ask Brad because I totally ignored his SORBA requests while on vacation, it is just the way I operate, nothing personal.

The first half of my vacation was filled with a personal plot to kill myself through dehydration unbeknown to myself.

My first report is entitled “SOLO SLOG.”

I knew even though it would hinder my healing process, I wanted to get a big ‘gravel grinder’ ride in after Damascus. So last Monday I suited the Undead Karate Monkey back up with a mountain gear 34X22 and my big fatty tires.

Even on the drive up to Pisgah I wasn’t sure yet how I was going to tackle the day. I had no dogs with me as the temps were pushing 90+ even in the high elevations. I only had one destination in mind, the graveyard fields.

My ultimate route:

477 -> Clawhammer -> ???? -> Avery Creek -> Club Gap -> 477 -> 276 -> 475B -> 225A -> Seined Ridge (Hiking only) -> BRP -> 215 -> Old Indian Camp -> 475 -> 276 -> 477

I ended up parking in-between white pines north and south with a good route in mind. I was hoping to do something I had always thought about but had never ventured doing. I was suited up and on the bike by 11:00am.

The over-geared climb up Clawhammer combined with the prior weekend’s festivities had me thinking I might die on the initial steep pitches past Maxwell Cove. I knew once I worked the toxins out of my body I would be ok, or so I thought. I took the old road bed that parallels Black Mountain over to Avery Creek trail so that I would avoid the jarring on Black Mountain itself. I stopped multiple times to work my way through the thickets of blackberry bushes praying I didn’t get a flat with only one tube in my pack. This overgrown monster was quickly replaced with a hike-a-bike up Avery. It was much further than I remembered but last time I hit this connector was in the opposite direction.

I took a careful small descent down Club Gap as I was trying to avoid a shocking blow to the wrist. I was successful and this would be my only single track decent of the day as I was trying to avoid them altogether.
After climbing 475B and 225A, I hit a section of the forest that I had never been in before. The gravel road had been extended as the FS is logging up on Seinerd Ridge and much of the area is in disarray. I eventually found the hiking trail and made the obvious up headed to the Blue Ridge Parkway. The trail was super steep and my hiking/pushing speed was just nearing absolute zero when I finally saw the parkway. I was almost out of the water as I was only carrying 3 liters so that was priority.

I took a left heading up further. Once I made it to the graveyard fields I started spying people around their cars. I saw a young couple who were packing their car up for the day and they had a huge jug of water, I couldn’t resist. The young man said “How long you going for?” I said “A long time.” I had actually now been climbing for approximately 4 and ½ hours with only two descents that lasted less than two minutes a piece.

He told me to turn downhill after giving me four liters of water. I thanked him and pushed on toward 215. After climbing another ½ hour to 215, I was finally ready to head downhill. I had never been that high on 215 before and what a treat! The entire five hours of ascending was descended in 12 minutes. With the views at the top I had a very roller coaster endorphin high kicking and I had to remind myself to watch the road.

It was a slow slog back to the car and I was whipped which set me up perfectly for my next day of vacation. . .