Monday, May 18, 2009

Sumter Metric Century

After “pre-riding” this course last year during a fundraiser, I knew I needed to take a LOT of gear inches with me as the climbing on this course around Midwestern South Carolina was miniscule at best. I decided to try something really stupid and throw some big volume cross tires on the Drunken Monkey along with a 34X15.

After unsuccessfully trying to mount the tires tubeless and destroying two tubes on the back tire setting them up with tubes, I was just sort of hoping I could get through the race with out DNF’ing from flats. I HATE running tubes in races.

After a 4:30 AM wakeup call, I met up with 3 other WNDC members and we took off headed deeper into the red clay region known as the Central Savannah River Area. When I used to live in Columbia, I scouted these trails alone and always thought it would be a great idea to link them together and that is exactly what this race is all about.

After a quick and easy race day registration, I staged my bike and got ready for the LeMan’s trot.

During the trot, I heard The Hawley Blog himself commenting on my trotting pace, “I like that pace you got Jonathon.” I think what he meant to say was that if my shorts (plaid) were any indication of my speed, than I had hit ludicrous speed.

On the bike I thought I might have been the first SS into the woods but I must have been wrong even though it would take me a long time to figure that out. I hadn’t tried the 60 PSI cross tires on any trail so I was anxious to see if I could keep it upright through the first section of root filled single-track.

It was obvious that I was going to be slightly slower than normal on the single track but I still kept a decent pace and I only had to let a few riders by, one being a SS that I hoped I would catch once things would flatten out. After a lot of banging around I was out on the first gravel section of the day and had kept it upright even though riding the skinny tires through the woods was intense and not pretty.

Instead of making a point to track the only SS’er that I knew was ahead of me down, I chatted with several folks for a bit and just generally realized that even on the gravel I was having a hard time spinning the gear up to speed. The tires were a great call but the gear was too much for me to handle, oh well.

After grabbing some bottle refills at the first 20 mile checkpoint I took off on the flat single track that is Wine, I love this trail it goes on and on as a tight six inch ribbon of single track that is meant for the big ring. I carefully negotiated the first and only technical rocks on the course and then took off. The only other scare tactic the trail uses against you are all the wet and slippery bridges. Most of the bridges have mesh over them to prevent a disaster and I was really enjoying myself through this section.

As I started to get into a groove I came up on one bridge real fast and realized it did not have mesh. I had to check my speed and tried an easy pull of the brakes but found myself sliding off the bridge next to my bike. No harm no foul, I was up quickly and back up to speed in no time.

Turkey was a repeat of Wine and I was happy to see the gravel and spin my legs out for a bit. At the second rest stop I had a sag bag waiting for me and it was SOOOOO hot I could only drink one of my precious yuenglings to keep the WNDC alive and choked down a ham sandwich. This of course occurred after I laid my bike down in the middle of a poison ivy patch. I had an extra tube in my sag as I was only carrying one but I left it there as I had not flatted.

Two miles away from the rest stop and 36 miles into the race I flatted. Right as I had the tube change in, the rolling dying rider lookout truck came into view and asked me if I would like a floor pump, hell yeah I want a floor pump I have to get this tire back up to 55 PSI. Even at that pressure the tire felt squishy and I was now out of tubes unless I wanted to ride back and get an extra, NO WAY. I had 30 miles to go and just had to hope it wouldn’t go flat again as nobody was going to have the right sized tubes.

I hit Modoc (Stephen’s Creek as I know it) and was surprisingly able to ride most of the 5.5 miles. I love this trail and was having a good time in the mud as we had just missed a thunderstorm. After a couple miles and passing people I came across a twisted bridge that people were falling off of trying to walk across the thing.

I hopped down into the creek and crossed that thing through the water. I didn’t need anymore of those experiences today.

Out of MODOC, more water and Powerade and I was on my way for the last grueling 15 miles along gravel and pavement. The worst part about the last section is that I was just barely catching up to some folks so I could see how far ahead of me they were on the highway and it looked like they were riding to Charleston.

Crossed the finish line in just under 6 hours and 3rd single speed out of 7 riders, I was waaaaay behind the first two and it adds to the learning lesson of gear ratios.

Great time, thanks to CSRA and all the volunteers, that was the best after ride burger I have had in awhile plus I got a sweet pint glass for my effort.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Appearances are Everything

Here it appears as though I am about to ride my bike, did I?

Thanks to Clay for the picture. He has been covering the WNDC quite well this year and its nice to read but I figured it was time for an update.

Yesterday was one of the best editions of the WNDC yet this year. We had the reigning DSG mud champion with us down from the Midwest along with some Creole crew, or is it Cajun? I always forget, anyway we had at least four states represented with 11 riders.

The route was a big one which included some of my favorites in the forest:

Reasonover -> Camp Summit -> Airstrip -> Shelter Rock -> Barn Trail -> Bridal Veil Falls Road -> Conservation -> Johanna -> Twin Oaks -> Briery Fork -> Grassy Creek -> Sandy -> Tarklin Branch -> (quick stop on the kids ‘skills’ trail) Holly Mountain -> RidgeLine -> Jim Branch -> Isaac Heath Locust -> Lake Imaging -> Buck Forest Rd -> Conservation -> Airstrip -> Fawn Lake Loop

I am always up for a classic tour of the forest when someone new and skilled shows up to ride. However, neither slick rock nor Burnt Mountain was ridden. Judging by the looks on everyone’s faces after Ridgeline, I don’t think anyone was let down. I think I heard “I can’t imagine a trail getting better than that” coming from someone.

The kids trail always turns out more injuries than any other. One was a victim of a knee bashing and I was almost victim of a groin pull trying to exit a skinny.

I can never really write enough about Ridgeline. Something about the far sight lines combined with high speed ripping sounding turns just gets me all emotional. I even entered and exited the log ride at a high speed but had to leap off a little early instead of leaving it all to chance. I had a “roadie tanned” Beefcake behind me laughing like a 5 year old coming down a four minute slip and slide which added to the hilarity of it all.

Good times for sure.

Thanks to ZB, I will be trying a tubeless cross tire 34 X 15 setup for this weekend’s Sumter Metric Century. It will either be a great idea or a disaster but it should make for good story telling either way. I plan to be on the lookout for cars and any bleach rain drops though so hopefully those exciting details will be left out this go around.

Hears to hoping everyone out there is riding their bikes again. A goat in a mountain shell has turned back up in the WWW, good on ya and I hope our treads will cross again soon.

Monday, May 04, 2009

I didn’t Die and I’m not Blind. PMBAR 2009

Its hard to go out to a Pisgah Production race and not come back with a good story. This year was no exception.

For Joe and me, it was our fourth year competing in PMBAR as a team. We have now completed four PMBAR’s with two 17th place standings as our best.

Earlier in the week Clay and I had talked about how we would need to dedicate our full attention to the racer meeting this year as things were going back to “Old Style PMBAR.” This meant we would be racing for 4 out of 5 checkpoints instead of 7 like the last couple years with the fifth checkpoint counting as a 2 hour time bonus.

I had good intentions of listening to the race meeting but I was having a hard time because I thought I might be going blind in the left eye. I had inadvertently grabbed my eye-dropper full of bleach instead of my eye drops about 10 minutes before the start of the racer meeting. Luckily the sting was so bad on the first drop I didn’t add anymore and instead just sat there hoping that putting the “real” eye drops in would help flush the bleach and I wouldn’t go blind. I do know for a fact that your eye can survive minimal contact with bleach. Remember kids, moderation is key.

I had heard the most important rule though, all the rules are on the map and we start/finish on Black Mountain just like previous years.

So we decided to take off up the mountain and look at the map later. I figured I would be walking soon enough and I would pull out the map and look at the checkpoints while we were walking.

Joe took off ahead of me and just as I was ready to start jockeying for position a bunch of gearies jumped in front of me going into the single track and dropped it into the granny gear. This frustrated me so I decided to just huff it by them without a call out. Its important to try and win PMBAR on the first turn.

After making the turn past Thrift and up the steep switchback I had Joe grab the map out of my pack and I read the checkpoints off in my head twice. By the time we made it to the descent headed to Pressley Gap, I had chosen our route for the day and had already waved 5 checkpoints off as ridiculous for my current fitness level.

It was fun flying through Pressley with everyone sitting there staring at the maps because I knew we were headed to Turkey Pen.

Our route for the day:

Black -> Turkey Pen -> S. Mills River -> Mullinax -> Squirrel -> Horse Cove -> 5018 -> 476 -> 1206 –> Pilot Rock (out and back) -> 1206 -> 276 - > 475 -> 225 (out and back) -> 475 -> 276 -> 477 -> Clawhammer -> Maxwell -> Black

I made most of the route decisions pretty quickly in my mind but for awhile I thought we would descend Laurel and hit 5000 instead of 225 but then Joe told me he had never ridden Pilot. So today would be his first hike up Pilot and his first descent on Pilot and therefore I changed the fourth checkpoint to 225.

I had a blast on all the single track. Turkey was fast and fun as usual as well as squirrel. The hike up Horse Cove is short. The views from 5018 always blow my mind. I struggled hiking up Pilot but kept eating and felt better and better. I cleaned Pilot coming down (stopping to shake my hands out twice) where Joe had an OTB experience in the rock garden.

As we were headed up Pilot, I saw Wes and Bennett coming down. Then we saw them again as they passed us going down 1206 headed to the West side. That meant they had ridden to 5000 and back in the time that it took us to hike up and descend Pilot. I figured they were flying and in the lead. I started to feel pretty good about my own route choice as I had picked it as a “fun” route.

The ride over to the end of 225 was pretty uneventful. Coming back was a different story.

Back when I would make the drive from Columbia SC to Pisgah, I almost had a brush with a hospital trip while riding on FS 225. I was flying down the hill headed to Cove Creek when I rounded a corner and met a small red car flying up the hill. I pulled a nice hippitty hip hop and narrowly missed the side view mirror by a few inches. This was back in 2003 or 2004.

Now back in 2009, I was off in “peaches N cream” land thinking about everything but riding my bike as we headed from our fourth checkpoint to the finish. I was riding down the hill from the checkpoint and riding smack dab in the center of the road. (Key South Park music DUMB DUMB DUM DADADADUM DUMB DUMMMMMMMB.)

I came around a corner just as a Jeep Grand Cherokee came around the corner the opposite way. I can’t really tell you how but somehow I managed to grab two fistfuls of brake, lay the bike down on its side, plow the front end of the bike into the Jeep and then roll off to the side of the Jeep in one fail swoop. I rolled over a few times on the road and jumped up saying “ohhhh man I am sorry I was not paying attention.” The look on this guy’s face was enough to know that I had just avoided a serious trip to the Hospital and the first true test of my healthcare plan at work. I continued to apologize as the guy put his jeep in reverse and pulled back away from my bike. Luckily he had quick reflexes and had stopped before actually running over the entire bike. I surveyed for damange, the only thing missing was my front carbon brake lever (why do they make those out of carbon again?) I found the lever lying on the ground, stuck it in my pack and we were on our way. No harm no foul.

From there it was an easy adrenalin filled cruise back to the start finish. The only time I missed the front brake was coming down Black but it didn’t slow me up nearly as bad as missing ¼ of my handle bar like last year.
That was one of the best ones yet Eric and volunteers!!!! Thanks so much for allowing me to live an event filled life.