27 April 2011

A few of my favorite things ...

Podiums

Usery Pass/Pass Mountain

Cholla slalom

The view from Mine Mountain (Salt River basin)

Awesome bike shop owner rides, especially when used to deliver Chipotle to the crew

Chipotle for myself

New-to-me singletrack on "Test Bikes" so I don't have to transport my own

McDowell Mountain Regional Park linked from new-to-me singletrack

Chipotle

The top of Mormon ... after cleaning the climb

National ... especially when it includes cleaning the descent of the upper staircase for the first time!

Chipotle

Cute kids

Old buildings (Really old buildings)

Gigantor plates of awesome nachos (cleaned that too)

Civil War monuments (even desecrated ones -- New Mexicans don't care much for their Texan neighbors)

Solo Civil War battlefield tours

Home

21 April 2011

T W O !!!!

Remember this?

Well ... never say never!

Maybe we'll call it Squirt?

19 April 2011

30 years

Do you remember what you were doing on Easter Sunday, April 19, 1981?

I do.
I may have missed a few years, but let me tell you, three decades of riding bikes feels pretty darned good. Thanks Mom and Dad for teaching me how to ride and setting me on my life's journey ... oh, and sorry about the mailbox.

Ride on!

18 April 2011

Thirteen

By the way, my number yesterday was 13.

This is important. Just sayin'.

Eight is Enough

Super-quick update this morning from my fun time in Tennekentucky: The Ocho lived up to its billing, and despite a healthy dose of chain suck, I managed eight laps in 7:58, good enough for third place. My first podium in a while, and it felt fantastic!

What didn't feel so fantastic was running about half the course on lap three, dropping from second place and fading back to 9th or so and losing about 45 minutes. As we all know, there are these decisive moments in bike racing. And when my moment came ... well, for once, I didn't give up. I got the bike fixed, I climbed back on, and I started jamming. Lap 4 felt pretty OK. Lap 5 felt better. And then all of a sudden, I was on the verge of getting 8 in 8, but needed to turn some quick laps on 6 and 7 to make it happen. And as I rolled out for number 7, my 12-minute deficit to 3rd place was down to 2, and a few minutes later I was topping out of the rock garden passing my way to the podium. And though the last two climbs felt like I was crawling, my body contorted in a weird angle that just barely kept the bike moving forward, it. felt. awesome.

What's more, my friend Nolan made the trip with me, getting in his own solid race and putting up with the results of my double helping of chili the night before. Nolan's a great guy who has seen me go through some pretty serious highs and lows in the context of racing, and it was fun to get out there with him. Only next time we'll make sure his tires are more suited to the course -- really, those trails were a blast ...

15 April 2011

Like Butta

Sometimes you're faced with difficult decisions. Sometimes those difficult decisions are win-win all around, and really, they're not all that difficult, now are they?

Solo last night, with the group doing a group thing that involved food and drink and not riding. It was my last chance to hit a seasonal trail before they close today, so I had the tough choice of Bennett or Cat Gap ... let me tell you, if I haven't mentioned it before, living here can be so rough sometimes.

I rode both last weekend, but there's something about hitting Cat from Butter -- after climbing 417D -- that is just so satisfying. With 475 closed, I didn't get to do that on Saturday; instead, I did Butter as an out-and-back. (Of course, as we all know, I didn't really achieve the Gap itself though, did I?) So one more time, with feeling:

475B > 225 > Cove Creek > 475 > 471 > 471D > Butter > Cat Gap

This is the first time I've put all of these together at once, and with darkness pushed back but still approaching, I knew I had to hustle if I wanted to make it happen. I had a couple of halfway options if I found myself running short of time, but I also had the added motivation of trying to make it as quick as I could, just for fun. And despite the double helping of 12 Bones sitting heavy in my stomach, it was game on as I started to climb ...

A quick hi to Andy and Elizabeth (just finished riding and on their way to the aforementioned group thing), and then it was all me and the mountains. And it was awesome! Or, at least, that's the way I'm going to remember it: truthfully, it was more than a little painful at times. (Especially the braking ruts on 475. UGH.) But all told, I rode a bunch of stuff I've never attempted before, cleaned it! and can count the dabs on one hand -- a far cry from the first time I saw these trails last April, or even the last time I raced them back in November. Only a couple of planned dismounts the whole evening (bridges on Cove, the half-notch log on Butter that I'm not quite ready for ... or am I?), and I even had enough time to play around on the alternate lines off the river rock for a bit -- the river rock that has loomed large in my mind as a BIG SCARY OBSTACLE for the past 12 months. I only just attempted it for the first time a few weeks ago, and now I'm wheelie dropping it for fun and wondering what all the fuss was about ...

Pisgah locals will recognize that while this may not be all that, for me it's pretty cool. Here I am on a ghetto 69er hardtail with minimum front suspension, riding stuff that frustrated and scared the crap out of me not too long ago. I may not be the cleanest technical rider, nor the fastest downhiller, but it's been pointed out to me that what I do have is tenacity, and that stubbornness is paying off. And it's fun.

I'm looking forward to this weekend, and looking forward to putting this week behind me. The Ocho is Sunday, and it sounds like I'll be headed to Tennekentucky with a good friend of mine, and then next week is a bit of a celebration (30 years of riding!) and off to the warm dry sand of the PHX and some of my other favorite trails ...


13 April 2011

8. A Matter of Time

At one point last night, Kim looks over at me as we sat on the couch, in our living room, eating ice cream and watching the Foo Fighters concert via the Internet.

"MasterCard should sell tickets to concerts like this."

Wow, we've gotten old.

Where did this young lady come from?
Things are good. Kate is two weeks in her big girl bed, though I bounced her out accidentally this morning and she did a full-on roll onto the floor. It was pretty spectacular, and she wasn't even fazed.

And like I've seen her mom do on the mountain bike so many times, she just climbed back up to slide off again.

So many things happened yesterday as a culmination of these first days of the new quarter that I'm still not sure today is Wednesday the 13th. But that's sort of the way it goes. Thing is, it all feels right -- even the challenges. This is my second April in North Carolina, and it's pretty great to have all of us together for this go-round. Kate and I are sporting tan lines already (and, truthfully, a little sunburn), and Kim is finding her stride with a new exercise schedule that seems to be working well. And I look out my window at the blooming trees, and there are blue jays and cardinals all over the place.

We're not in Chicago anymore.

Racing is picking up, and therefore training -- another sign of time, I suppose, is the pummeling I took on today's workout after staying up late last evening. But thankfully the coffee is strong even if the legs aren't, and that lunch ride is looking pretty likely ...

11 April 2011

Butter?

You had to be there.

09 April 2011

Big-boy loop

Concept: Clay (aka driftwood)

Reason: Eric

Checkpoints: Eric and Clay

Choice: 100km of road or 100km of Pisgah

Takers: Clay, FlavC, Asheville YetiRider, me

Singlespeed: Clay

Route plan: Clay


Route:
Black > Turkeypen Gap > Singletrack > Bradley Creek > 5015 > 1206 > 5051 > Yellow Gap > NMR > 1206 > 276 > 477> Club Gap > Buckwheat > Bennett > Coontree > 276 > Cat Gap > Butter Gap (out and back) > Cat Gap > 276

Checkpoints: (first two mandatory): This is the second week in a row Clay pulled the NMR suspension bridge. He assured us it was random, but I'm not sure. We initially were going to skip Laurel/Bradley, but then halfway up Black Clay suggested Turkeypen Gap. My favorite trail!

We stayed together until the climb back over Yellow Gap, when all of a sudden I was feeling decent and decided to keep on going. I wanted to hit five, and I wasn't sure everyone else was in the mood. Headwind on 1206, kept it together on Club, loved my last time on Bennett > Coontree for a while, and almost bonked out on the climb up to Butter. Saw Clay on my way back down, and finished with some refreshing rain, a tailwind, and a few minutes in Davidson River, now a full-on tradition ...

Checkpoint photos:





OK, so it's not a checkpoint, but it is mandatory! Thanks Clay for an inventive way to see more of Pisgah - now we just need to wait and see what Eric has in store ...

07 April 2011

6. These Days

This week's coda to last week's crescendo hasn't been as smooth as I would have liked -- trends and personalities and memories have conspired to create an ugly mish-mash of emotion, putting me in a pretty funky place for the first time in a while. Throw in a couple of minor recurring health issues, and these past few days have just kind of stunk.

There have been a couple of bright spots: Kate has moved to her big-girl bed; the race season started on a somewhat positive note at the 6 Hours of Warrior Creek; and the weather seems to be changing for the better -- but this week has been pretty rough, and I'm desperately in need of some time in the forest to clear my head.

Thankfully it seems I'm not the only one, and this weekend is shaping up to be exactly what I need. Eric has warned us that PMBAR is going to be harder than ever come May 7, so what better way to prepare than drawing some checkpoints and riding ourselves into the ground on a sunny Saturday?

In the meantime, I've got the Foos on heavy rotation, their "leak" of Wasting Light constantly streaming in the background. I've had it pre-ordered for a while now, but I'm also given to listening to albums over and over and over again for long stretches ... so far, I really like what I hear, even if it does make me think about Mom quite a bit. It's funny how certain artists and styles of music seem to exactly mesh with periods of life, and kind of uncanny how Grohl & Co. have again found their way into my brain.

What else? The Siren is clean and lubed from last weekend's first lap at 6WC, tonight is a bit of DuPont with the Sycamore crew, and next weekend is The Ocho -- 8 hours in the hills of Tennekentucky. The funk will pass, and seeing the kid's smiling face every morning really helps that happen. A trip to Phoenix looms large on the horizon; that desert air should clear my head if the forest doesn't ...

01 April 2011

Impact

My Mom's been on my mind a lot lately. Monday marks one year since my dad's crash; Thursday marks three months since she died. This weekend a year ago, I was putting in massive miles solo, with the crew from Sycamore and with Greg, only to get that phone call on Sunday afternoon that changed everything.

I filled out a form yesterday that asked me what my greatest career accomplishment is. It's a tough question to answer -- I've not won any major awards, don't have any fishnet-clad leg lamps to point to, I don't go out of my way to seek recognition. But what I do have is satisfaction -- I enjoy what I do, I'm happy with where I'm at, and most importantly, I've been able to find a balance between family, work, fun and activities that make a difference in the lives of those around me.

I grew up surrounded by volunteers. My grandmother was a lifelong hospital volunteer in Texas. My parents were volunteer paramedics for 10 years while I was growing up; since leaving the ambulance service, they worked with various other organizations to lend their skills and their time. Writing my Mom's obituary was a real challenge -- though we managed to list many of the highlights of the groups she worked with, we still couldn't fit in everything. And even in her last months, she was helping launch yet another venture for local women in business -- it just never stopped; it was part of who she was.

In fact, and on this point I'm sure we'd both agree, it was through volunteer work that my Mom and I found common ground after years of stubborn conflict. Thanks to her incredible experience, Mom did some early groundwork for World Bicycle Relief while I was there, serving as a volunteer consultant on volunteer leadership, helping us clarify and understand our needs and playing a part in laying the foundation for the amazing grassroots work that Katie and Rebecca are doing today. That connection brought us closer together, and is largely responsible for helping me feel at peace with my relationship with her, now that she's gone.

The reason I bring this up is that these past few weeks have solidified a change that's been building. While I've been fortunate to have had many opportunities to give back in the past, I would say they've been almost incidental -- my work with WBR was half staff/half volunteer, I was hit-or-miss on trailbuilding days or attending meetings, I had a vested self interest in ensuring we raised the money for the velodrome. Mostly, I used the skills I had -- writing, editing, page layout -- to help organizations I believed in, and let others lead the charge. And when you get right down to it, I fit in my volunteer work around my racing.

But now I'm going legit.

I challenged myself when my Mom passed away to take a bit of who she was -- the volunteer, the leader, the volunteer leader -- and make sure I don't lose it. The underpinnings were already there, and I made a commitment to myself that I wouldn't let the opportunity to use those skills I learned from her pass me by. Sure, I need balance, and I definitely don't want to burn out, but I've come to understand that my priorities have shifted just a bit -- that workout I have scheduled may just have to take a back-seat to the meeting I need to be at, that policy paper I need to read. I said when I started racing that I wanted to "make an impact" at the national level, and in a small way -- a couple of top-10s and 20s -- I did. But the best person I can be isn't on the race course -- the best person I can be is in the meeting room, in the Senator's office, talking to business leaders, writing essays. The best person I can be will make a difference.

So the month of March was pretty chaotic. It started innocuously enough, with a wet and cold trip through Snake Creek Gap, cutting some solid time off my February race. But then it got really interesting: a trip to Washington, DC, for the Bike Summit; a Southeast regional IMBA Summit two weeks later; in between planning work for Trips for Kids WNC and a host of other projects. Not to mention a banner month on the job side ... and, oh yeah, bad weather and a tough time fitting in a ride. All of a sudden, paths opened up and visions appeared -- and I found myself in the middle of it.

I knew it was coming, I just didn't realize how quickly. In the past few weeks I've taken on leadership positions in a couple of different organizations, all of which need support -- and all of which will precipitate amazing change in the world around us. It's going to continue to be a juggling act, and as I stood there last night at 11 p.m. discussing the state of bicycling and healthy living in our region, having been on my feet for five hours and not getting a chance to ride yesterday, I'll admit it crossed my mind that I was just 35 hours out from a 6-hour race. But in the same moment I realized that this -- this -- is where I was supposed to be, what I was supposed to be doing. This is my chance to make an impact.

And I'm certain my Mom would agree.