29 March 2010

Motivation > Intent

So here's a question for you: Does the end justify the means?

As I was standing near the highest point of Laurel Mountain yesterday, hail coming down around me for the fourth time and thunder claps going off seemingly right next to me, this question came into my head.

And not in a conventional sense, mind you, but in terms of motivation. See, I was up on Laurel, hiking my way toward Pilot Rock, in a driving rain/sleet/hail storm, helping to clear the trail for future mountain bike endeavors. This was the third weekend in a row I was up there, in all sorts of conditions, each time making a bit more progress toward an open trail.

And there's the rub: As much as I want this trail open for all users, I really REALLY want to ride it myself. It was the first loop recommended to me when I arrived here, and because of the nasty weather that started that same week, I've not yet had the opportunity. It's one of the "Classic" Pisgah rides, a real scorcher, and the little bit I've sampled has me wanting more. It's my home trail: I can be on it in less than 20 minutes!

But all this begs the question: Is there something wrong with undertaking activities which in the end mostly benefit others, if your primary motivation is really selfish? Does the end result -- an open, flowing Laurel Mountain-Pilot Rock loop -- justify my true intent, that I want to ride it? Does it matter?

Anyway, that's what was going through my head, especially as my food ran out and I was committed ... but also in just a bit over my head. It was a fun, exhilarating chance to hike an epic loop in tough conditions, and I'm happy to report that from the Yellow Gap side, Laurel Mountain is in great shape all the way to Good Enough Gap!

Checklist update: Last week was pretty cool, as I was able to check off Kitsuma (Thursday with Nolan and Stephen), Mullinax-Squirrel Gap (as far as Cantrell Creek) on Friday, and DuPont on Saturday. All were super-fun rides, but when my coworker told me I should "prepare for the most fun EVER" at the top of Ridgeline in DuPont, I was a bit incredulous. Six and a half flowing, flying, screaming minutes later, I couldn't wipe the smile off my face ... and I went and did it two more times. Imagine the best of 9 Mile, but with real climbs, and you begin to appreciate DuPont. Why didn't I move here sooner?

We saw one Wisco group at DuPont, and I'm looking forward to a couple of rides with another group this week. Did someone say we'll be in the 80s by the weekend?! Bring it!

25 March 2010

Two in a day!

Been a while since I posted race news (until this morning), even longer since I posted twice in a day ... how's this? BRING IT!

RE: SM100 Entry
Thursday, March 25, 2010 1:22 PM
From: Shenandoah Mountain Touring LLC

Just writing to let you know that we have you registered for the 2010 Shenandoah Mountain 100!

We look forward to seeing you on race day!


- Jake Brown

Shenandoah Mountain Touring, LLC.
P.O. Box 1423
Harrisonburg, VA 22803

H A M M E R !

It's been a while since I posted an honest-to-goodness race-type item, so how's this?


Not only did the aptly-named U.S. track racer Sarah Hammer win Worlds, she dominated. As in, set a personal best 3:27.826 in qualifying first seed, and then went on to win the gold by nearly four seconds. Four. Seconds. In 12 laps. Favorite for Olympic Gold? Oh, yeah.

Seriously, this is just insane. Not only did she turn in 1:09s in qualifying, but in her Finals run, she started out conservative and was trailing/even through the first three laps. But in the span of 250m, Hammer dialed it up, and by the kilo was up by over a second, by 2km was up by 2sec., and by the finish at 3k had added another 2 seconds.

Ho. Ly. Crap. That's huge.

It's really great to see Sarah back in the mix. After dominating (and winning Worlds in 06 and 07), she suffered a back injury that put her in 5th at Beijing, and then broke her collarbone in the Points Race, knocking her out of competition for all of 2009. But she's since relocated to the UCI training facility in Aigle, Switzerland, where her husband is the head coach, and the change of scenery has obviously done her some good. A lot can happen between now and London, but if this is any indication of where she's headed, I wouldn't be putting my money on anyone else.

Go Sarah!

23 March 2010


Sorry folks -- I'm not going to be paying JSKit for comments on the blog going forward, so I'm trying to revert to Blogger commenting. And I deleted them both :-)

Anyone have any advice to add back in Blogger comments?

2010 season plans ...

... are coming together.

22 March 2010

Full-body workout

One major advantage of starting the race season later in the calendar year is that you get to enjoy days like Saturday in a different way: Instead of stressing/obsessing over whether I'd get in my prescribed hours on the bike at such-and-such an effort, I could head out with a vague plan and beat myself up for a bunch of hours. Which is what I might do anyway, but this time it was different!

The reason it was different is that the Asheville area has had the harshest winter we've had in years, decades, some say half-a-century. And the trails need help! This isn't Midwestern rake-and-clean-and-drain type of help, though there is some of that; this is more of a can't-see-the-trail-through-this-downed-tree-and-the-one-on-top-of-it-and-the-one-behind-it-for-the-next-100-meters kind of thing. The call went out on MTBR that folks were going to work on Laurel Mountain, one of my "home" trails, and I figured it was the least I could do to join in.

(Ed. note: The work y'all do on Midwestern trails isn't any easier, it's just different. Here in Pisgah, the trail tread drains very quickly due to elevation and soil, so we concentrate on different things. It's acceptable here to let leaves and twigs on the tread take care of themselves throughout the season, derailleurs-be-damned, so we don't rake much. Instead, we focus on just making sure we can get through the trail through all the downed trees, and cut drainage from the natural springs when we need to, when the natural drain is clogged with leaves, etc.)

I stopped off at Lowe's on Friday night to pick up a brand-new Coronoa 10" folding saw, loaded it into my Camelbak, and hit the trails. I did a quick ride loop on Bear Branch to get at least some riding in, and then met up with Tom and Charlie at the Yellow Gap Road gate. We climbed, and climbed, and climbed, and then hit the trailhead.

Here's the score: I went out and hiked Laurel last Saturday, and cleared what I could by hand for the first 2 miles or so of the 7.5-mile trail. And then someone came in behind me with a saw, and cleared what I missed, but only made it as far as I did. So we basically had 5.5 miles of trail ahead of us, with no idea what we'd hit.

Hurricane? Blizzard? Gale-force winds? Tornado? Think of the devastation from each of these natural disasters, and you start to get a feel for what it was like. There are entire gaps that look as if someone set off a bomb, with downed trees littering the ground for hundreds of meters in every direction. The trail was a mess, and although a few others joined in to help for 20 minutes or so at a time (one young guy for a couple of hours, thankfully!), the three of us were pretty much on our own. And we didn't get very far!

We made it maybe 4 miles over the course of the next 7 hours. 4 miles. 7 hours. Unbelievable! The great news is that there are only 4 or 5 remaining chainsaw areas; everything else, we were able to clear with our handsaws and a bit of elbow grease. We were hoping to make it to Pilot Rock, but no such luck -- we had to turn back just before Good Enough Gap ... I guess our efforts were just good enough for the day. (sorry, couldn't resist)

The weather was beautiful, sunny and in the 60s the whole time, and since we were above 3500 ft. for most of it, the sun was nice and intense. Man, did that feel awesome! The satisfaction of getting out and doing something that productive, in such a beautiful setting, was fantastic. I'm sure I'll talk about this day for years to come -- we did a hell of a job, and folks who get out and ride that loop this summer will have a better time for it.

As for me? It was a great all-body workout, and holy crap am I sore today. And check this out: For all our work, the descent back to the trailhead took all of 15 minutes. 7 hours = 15 minutes. But let me tell you what: That was some of the raddest 15 minutes of riding I've ever done. Perfect bench-cut, screaming fast clinging to the side of a mountain, on trails I helped open ... oh yeah, that's what it's all about!

Getting my ride on: I'm not looking for sympathy, because I sure as heck got my ride on Sunday. I headed down to Davidson, "The Real Pisgah," and up Avery Creek Road before turning up Bennett, a seasonal trail that will close in a couple of weeks. And I promptly got lost! I accidentally went down a hiking trail (but what a descent!), and then took a wrong turn at the FS road before I figured out where I was. One thing about Pisgah: the climbs take a lot longer than they look like they should based on the map, and the descents are a lot shorter and faster! I managed to make my way over to Clawhammer via Buckhorn Gap Trail before it started to rain, and then bombed the FS road down and back to the car. Woo-hoo!

And here's the thing: I was speaking to some hikers who came up to Pisgah for the weekend from the coast -- a 5 hour drive. And they were understandably disappointed that it was raining, and they'd not get a chance to get out more. That's when it hit me: These are my home trails. I can head home when it starts to rain with no regrets -- I'll be back in a few days. Folks make pilgrimages to ride here; I eat breakfast, roll out, ride, and still have enough time to clean the garage when I'm done.

How did I get to be so lucky?

18 March 2010


I'm thinking I may have been misleading lately: I actually have been doing a little riding. There's a fantastic riding culture here at work, and there are very few lunchtimes where I'm not heading out on Cane Creek Road (really!) with at least one or two coworkers. And then there are the after-work rides, which this week have taken on a whole new dimension -- the switch was flipped, and all of a sudden we've got daylight until almost 8 p.m.! In March!

One thing Asheville has that Chicago kind of doesn't is choices. Lots and lots and lots of choices. Living on the North Side of Chicago, you can basically go ... north. Or south, but then you're in the city and/or along the LFP. Here, things are very very different -- literally, depending on which way the wind is blowing, you can go in any direction. And every direction leads up.

This is how my week has shaped up so far:

Sunday, with a south wind, I headed out from home and through the DuPont State Forest. I was making my way toward Ceasar's Head but didn't quite make it -- this time! From my front door, the out-and-back to the base of CH is exactly 100km round trip, with the 2200ft climb exactly halfway through. It's fun to plot it out on mapmyride and see how "big" CH is vs. the climbs in DuPont, which are sizable on their own ...

Monday was an easy day tooling around the Oklawaha Greenway to Jackson Park, site of the NCGP 'cross race. The double high-speed barriers are a permanent installation, and the trails through the woods will be perfect to teach Kate how to mountain bike. Will she be the next Allison Dunlap or Katie Compton?!

Tuesday was a fantastic ride with Stephen, clearing the head and just enjoying the Swannanoa Valley. Can't wait to get back up there sometime to try out Kitsuma!

After a fun loop on Emma's Grove Road at lunch with Jim, last night, with just a little wind out of the north, I headed up Merrill's Cove over to 74, and then up onto the Blue Ridge Parkway. Another out-and-back, which meant climbing back up Rose Hill Road from 74 ... ouch. 6, 7 and 8 percent grades, and I cut off without even completing the full climb to the summit. Yee-ow! This is how it is around here -- we have so many options from the office, all of which climb. One hour lollipop rides get you at least 600ft of vertical, and almost every climb has at least a 6% section, and most have a 7% or more. The "easy" climbing day is "only" about 300ft of climbing with sections at 5% ...

Today might be another lunch ride, and then tonight ... Bent Creek! Finally! Stephen (and maybe coworker Eric) are going to show me around the most popular part of Pisgah, the trailhead that is closest to the city. I've been waiting 3 months to see what Bent Creek has to offer, and now's my chance. Should be fun!

Tomorrow will be easy again, probably another loop of the park via the Greenway. This weekend is open ... spring is here, and I've got choices! Pisgah may be out due to deadfall on the trail (the trails drain really well and the tread is good, but it's hard to ride when you have to hike over trees every 100 meters!), but then again I hear many of the trails are getting cleared ...

Can't wait to ride!

16 March 2010


Kim and I had a great talk this weekend about blogging, Facebook and influence. Mainly, we talked about this guy, and how insanely positive he is. If you were to only know him virtually, you may think it's an act -- but it's not. This is really how he thinks, and -- more importantly -- acts.

Our discussion also highlighted one of the main reasons I've stepped back from social networking lately: Blogs have become the office water coolers of life, a public b*tch-fest about the weather, work, family. And they feed on each other. I find Facebook to be even worse -- it's faster, easier, and doesn't require much thought to execute. I flipped it open for a minute yesterday to see what's happening, and lost count of how many posts were complaining about how tired we all are because of the time change, and how dreadful the day would be.

For those blogs that aren't complaining, it seems they've become straight-up ride reports, with nothing more invested in them than statistics. And/or photos, in which said blogger looks like he or she is getting a root canal while riding salt-encrusted roads in fully body armor. I'm all for documenting rides, but do we all really turn off our minds when we ride? Do we think of nothing more than the wind, the clouds, the snow? Where's our sense of place in the universe?

[OK, full disclosure: I'm also a little jealous. Yes, I'm riding, but my volume isn't where I'd like it to be, and it's painful to read about rides lasting a bazillion hours through plains and mountains while I'm waiting for the weather to clear and riding a desk right now. I realize training is best handled in a Zen manner, but dang it's hard to not compare my time on the bike with everyone else!]

So it was good to disconnect for a while, and to get some perspective. Lose the influence of virtual others for a while. I'm not yet sure I'll wade back in fully, but I enjoy writing too much to totally turn it off. What I discovered more than anything, though, is that I don't particularly enjoy getting sucked into the vortex of negativity that's out there, and I'm in a new place in life in which I can confidently shut that out. So I'll be taking steps to do so, and -- how does it go? -- turn my sight inside myself "to try and understand/the serenity of a clear blue mountain lake."

Enjoy the day!

03 March 2010

Play > Pause > Fast Forward

I'm lucky -- Kim sends me a photo every day of Kate, and let me tell you, she just keeps getting cuter and cuter. My little monkey! They'll be here in a few days for a visit, and it was great to see them (and Kristin!) in Minneapolis. Kate just about blew a gasket when she saw all the "Beh!" bikes at FrostBike.

Travel is over ... for now. Business is booming. Snow is flying here in WNC.

And I'm not riding.

This post is my way of saying I'm going to continue the experiment: I'm finding myself oddly freed by not blogging, and not reading Facebook is a way of not feeling bitter toward those of you who are out there in all sorts of weather conditions. It's just not safe here during and for a few days after a snowstorm, and with work going gangbusters, I have other things on which I need to focus. I'm going to start training in earnest this weekend, but I'm postponing my season: No Sea Otter (racing anyway), no Cohutta, probably no Nationals. The flip side is that I'm going to be fresh as the day is long come July and through November, and I'm looking forward to killing it (hopefully) at a particular stage race just before Interbike.

In the meantime, I'll use FB as needed for work stuff (shout out to all my new Friends from New York and New Jersey, yo!) and leave you with this shot of the Mills River valley from high atop FS 5051. Seeing the mountains on the flight into AVL, then stepping off the plane and straight into the Pisgah National Forest, makes every trip worth it ...