Friday, March 31, 2006
Sherando and the Gap - in Quest of VF
Living at sea level in the flatlands of eastern Virginia leaves a cyclist pining for mountains. Even big hills. Anything other than man made bridges for elevation changes. We live in a land devoid of VF(vertical feet), so when the opportunity presents itself .... it's time to carpe diem. The day after the race I went out to Sherando Lake to test my legs on some of the miles and miles of MTB trails. Sherando is in the valley to the east of the Blue Ridge Parkway, in the morning shadow of Wintergreen Ski Resort. Never having been there before, I'd done some serious map recon, as well as getting insight from some locals that had ridden there before.
The map showed the western entrance to Reed's Gap was just down the road, should I give it a go? I'd ridden up Reed's from the other side many, many years ago and remember how hard it was. Oh well, nothing to loose, I can always turn around and ride back. On the road bike for some warmup around the park, then a few miles up the road to the gap. 1100 vertical feet in 3.5 miles. Grades of 15%, but at least they weren't continuous. It was a low speed, heart pounding, balancing test in a 39/25, but well worth it.
Turn's out the Blue Ridge Parkway was closed north of there. I rolled across and looked down at the east side of the gap. A nicer road but tougher climb. I thought about riding down for a very brief second ................. nah, then I'd have to ride back up.
Time to roll on some fat tires. If you've ridden Sherando before I hope you enjoy the photos. Click on the trail titles to go to a slide show of each. If you haven't ridden there, you should go, soon! Debate rages between what's the best - Sherando, Douthat, or Walnut Creek. Now that I've ridden each of them once (wow) I'd say they're all great, but Sherando is the place I'll return to first. The reasons being - I've got many more trails to explore there, and it "feels" like more of an adventure in the wilderness than Douthat. The riding is more technical than Douthat too. I also like the close proximity to some of the best road riding around. I'm NOT saying any one is any better, but I'll be going to Sherando again before the others.
I opted to park in the park rather than the other spots (Coal Road) just 'cause it felt safer. There is a slot to collect money, but no envelopes. I threw 4 bucks in there anyway, the days adventure was worth at least that much. Aside from a few fisherman and some loggers, there was no one else in the parking lots. I never even saw another cyclist or hiker all day, and only one fresh set of bicycle tracks. I wanted to get all the climbing out of the way early as my legs were tired. Here's a map of the route. Follow the yellow highlight. I GPS'd it, but haven't loaded the track yet.
Up White Rock Gap Trail to the Parkway
Pick up the trail behind and above the upper lake. A great workout. Moderately technical climbing up 1100 vertical feet to the Parkway. Only one or two dismounts necessary. Bear left (straight) at the split to Slacks. Part of the way up I had to stop to take off a jacket and jersey. It was a beautiful sunny day and the climbing was buildin' up too much heat. Saw some interesting stuff toward the end of the trail. Try and figure THAT one out!?
Once up to the Parkway, I wasn't sure where to go. Directly across the road was a sign to White Rock Falls. It wasn't on my map, but hmmmmm, "seemed" like a good idea at the time. That would prove to be a regretful decision.
White Rock Falls Trail to the Falls and back up to the Parkway and Slacks Overlook
I started dropping hard earned VF quickly once on this trail. All the while thinking - "What goes down must come up". But hey - it was an ear to ear grin downhill, with one "forced" bailout (whoops), and one tough rock garden before the falls. At the falls I snapped some photos, looked around, slammed a gu or two before trying to ride out. It was all uphill from there. 1.1 miles, 600VF and all but a very small stretch was unridable. Heck most of it was almost unwalkable. I mean almost unwalkable without a bike. With a bike it was a real struggle. Too steep, narrow, and rocky, to push the bike up. The only way up was to shoulder the steed and put a hand on the ground. Hiking boots with no bike woulda been a good workout. Not sure how long that 1.1 miles took, but I was sure glad when it was done.
From Slacks Overlook down Lower Slacks and back up White Rock Gap. Nice trail - some rocks, but pretty much all rideable. I took the Parkway back up to the Overlook. Looking across the valley from Slacks Overlook you can see the high peak of Devil's Knob where Wintergreen Ski Resort in located. The lower peak to the right is Black Rock Mountain.
Upper Slacks to Bald Mountain Overlook
Just another 800 VF on tired legs. The rocks were fierce on upper Slacks. Then got worse on the way up to Bald Mountain. The cool thing was the snow on/around the trail. Up over 2900 feet all the snow hadn't melted yet. I was still riding in a long sleeve underlayer with a short sleeve Craft T-Shirt. Some tights over my shorts. I hit a loose rock on the way up that ever so gently laid me over on my side. It felt so comfortable laying there that I just didn't want to get up. BUT, like Everest, I had a 4:00PM summit turn around time. Had to make sure I would be back before dark. It was hard to believe I'd been riding/carrying my MTB for over 3.5 hours. Time to get a move on.
Finely at the top, I looked around for an observation tower that was supposed to be there, but all I found was an outhouse. I looked around there for some bear tracks, and saw none. Proving once and for all that, at least in this part of Virginia, bears do $hite in the woods!
Jeep Road to the Switchbacks Mills Creek and Home
Almost missed the turn as the sign to Switchbacks/Mills Creek Trail was torn down. Once on it. I knew this was what I'd heard about. What a scream! Had to force myself off the bike to get photos 'cause it was too much fun riding. The trail was already covered in the afternoon shadow as the sun was setting behind the mountain. Switchbacks is everything it was made out to be. Fast, fun, a sweet reward for all the climbing to get to it.
Mills Creek Trail crosses over Mills Creek many times. I found it hard to follow toward the end. The sun was setting and I felt an urgency to get back. Any significant mechanical at this point and I'd of been forced to stumble through the unknown forest at night. Glad I had the GPS - I don't leave home without it.
Finally got to the Coal Rd. Yee-haaaaw. Even better - it was gravel! The sun was low and the shadows long.
A 5 mile road ride past the Torry Furnace, a pack of yappin' dogs, back into the Park, and I was done for the day. Over 7 hours in the saddle(s), with lots of VF. It would be my last ride for a while as surgery was the next day.
Can't wait to get back to Sherando to get my
PS - This sore, achin', healin', throat is getting old.
Thursday, March 30, 2006
Silver Cups and Chocolate Bunnies
Jeff Cup Cat 4 Women
Strong showing again from the ladies on our team. Fast Lisa was Fast, the Cook was Cookin', and Sally was Super. Many BAR points for our team. Fast Lisa hadn't won a race in her life before February, and scored her third top podium spot in as many races. Well done. She got the Silver Jefferson Cup as well as the traditional chocolate Easter Bunny. Here's the finish :
Fast Lisa is Fast ........
and takes the sprint.
The Cook is Cookin'. Well....... she really can't cook, but she sure can ride.
Sally is Super
A strong field of 100
K-Dog marks an early break
Art the Dart gets 5th. WTG
Da boyz (nice 'do)
RideOn ('cause I can't)
Wednesday, March 29, 2006
A"Quick" Race Report - HAH
There's not a thing flat about the Jefferson Cup road race in Charlottesville Virginny. A ten mile triangular loop. They stage you at a school parking lot about 2 miles from the actual start/finish line. At any one time there will be 3 groups on the course racing, staggered 5-7 minutes apart. Each group gets a rolling police enclosure complete with motorcycle escorts and support vehicles. Makes you feel special. At least until you go OTB! Hah. Groups do between 3 (C5M, C4W) and 7 (PRO123M) loops. The start is a 3 mile climb (with one rolling hill), up to the highest elevation on the route. After the last right hand turn in the course you have a steady 3/4 mile 2% grade up to the finish line that was into the wind this year. There are 2 screamin' downhills where the bold, strong, or gonzo can hit speeds topping 50MPH. Really a fun, challenging, and technical road course, even for a newbie FOF (Fat Ol' Flatlander) like myself. Field size in each class is limited to 50 or 100. Our team TriPower was well represented with 15+ members spread across the fields.
I'll give a report on a few of the classes. If I screw up any of the details, it's not intentional. Let me know and I'll change 'em. It was just almost as much fun to watch as to race (aww heck, that's a fib - watching was fun, but racing was WAY better!). After I finished my race I rode around the route backward takin' pics and yelling at people.
Pro123W - 40 Miles (clicky clicky makes pics biggy biggy)
The field of 40 included Trek/VW Pro, and MTBer extraordinaire Sue Haywood.On the first big uphill at 3 miles a break of 3 got away. It was initiated by Dee Dee Winfield and Andrea Dvorak of Charlottesville Racing Club. Tammy Sadle of HPC-List matched their AXE-celeration (use your best Paul Sherwin voice here) to stay with the locals. The 3 worked together well and opened a gap of over 1 minute by the end of the first lap.
The break caught Sue Haywood in a bad position and unable to immediately respond. When Sue started to chase in earnest, her pace chopped the remaining field in two, then she went off the front in attempting a solo bridge to catch the 3 women break.
BJ Samuel worked hard with a few others to bridge the main group back together as the three leaders continued their strong effort off the front.
The break had established nearly a 4 minute gap on the main field by the time they went up the winery hill on the 3rd lap. These three ladies were working hard and working well together.
As the last lap neared, the lead break poured it on, and Sue Haywood settled into a sure 4th place.................................
Sue Haywood in 4th. I had the chance to chat with Sue after the race in the parking lot/staging area. Yep, she loves2ride. She should be arriving in Curacao about now for a UCI World Cup MTB race. Best of luck to ya'!
Wish I could go out and get a good
RideOn.................................................. but I must follow Dr's orders.
Hey - Thanks for all the get well emails and messages. They are appreciated. Doc says the surgery went well. He was able to remove "something" from the back of my throat. I feel better already. I'll feel a WHOLE lot better once I can get back on my bike. For now I'll just have to settle for writing about riding and looking at pictures. If I mis-reported anything, email me and I'll correct it. - the blog name(at)mindspring.com
Tuesday, March 28, 2006
The Good, The BAD, and the Ugly
Sorry not much bloggin' of late.
Here's the news:
Did my first road race on the challenging and hilly Jefferson Cup course! What a freakin' blast! Can't believe I have to wait a whole year to do it again.
The day after the race I went and rode for 7+ hours at some of the most incredible single track I've experienced.
I have a zillion photos to post later this week from the recovery bed. Race and ride reports will follow.
I sort of hinted about a snarl in training plans a while back. Today I'll be going into the hospital for surgery on my throat. I've had a swelling back there coming and going for a while. Like a golf ball growing in the back of your throat. Technically - "Excision of Peritonsillar Cyst". I DO NOT expect this to change my Trans-Iowa plans. Recovery should be 10-14 days. Not ideal timing, but there really wasn't a choice.
I'm working on a new 'doo that I should have perfected by TI,
It's called the HVRT - Helmet Vent Rooster Tail. Sort of a mohawk variation. It has magical powers. Might burn up from an helmet mounted HID, but I'll have to work that out.
Wednesday, March 22, 2006
Overdressed, Overheated, and Underpowered
36 degrees with 20-30 mph winds - yeaaaa baby bring it on.
I should be more careful what I ask for...........
Bundled up and headed out at 5:45 for the "hill". Va. Bch. is actually flatter than a pancake, so we are forced to journey out to a "secret" hill and repeatedly thrash ourselves on it's colossal 80 feet of elevation change. The hill is hidden in the back of one of our many military bases so you have to bring an ID and get through the security checkpoint.
I was looking up at some of the high dunes on the way in thinking there should be some good MTB trails back there.
There could be..............but it might not be too good of an idea to try and find 'em ---->
K-Dog thought it better to stay in the cozy warmth of his bed, so it was just Fast Lisa and I. 45 minutes of leg numbing up-downs, then a big loop of the base and it was down to see who'd show up for the rescheduled 7:15er. I was late so it was a 30mph sprint with a nice tail wind to get there. What little my legs had left was used up on the way, so I was hoping for a group of 20 or 30 to ride with. HAH! Then I could just tuck in and hide on the return trip back into the wind. The only stalwart was Art the Dart.
Good thing I brought a bungee cord, 'cause I had to strap it to his seatpost for a tow around the the whole loop. It even broke once or twice, and he was kind enough to slow so I could reattach. Over to the shop by 8AM, no one there. Beat back into the wind to get home by 9AM. 3 hours in the saddle, only one bottle of plain water. First time I'd felt the bonk delerium in a while.
Was having trouble clipping in so I summoned up my vast years of cycling experience, intuition and mechanical expertise to find the problem.
Also had some chain skipping while climbing out of the saddle. Looks like I'll need a new chain before the race on Sunday.
I got this sweet ASSOS jacket almost 2 years ago on sale at the end of winter for 50% off. Problem is, it just never gets cold enough around here to ride in it. I went out today with a long sleeve base layer, a tshirt, a thick winter jersey, a light windblock layer (dam - sounds like too much already, WTF was I thinking?) then the ASSOS on top. Don't know what model it is as it's been discontinued. When I got home every layer (even the outermost one) was soaked through with sweat. Gotta learn how to dress better.
Tuesday, March 21, 2006
More people are vacating the Trans-Iowa Race. I haven't kept exact count, but I'd have to say over 10% of the 70 person field has withdrawn. The most interesting explanation was by one of the (only) 7 finishers last year. "I'm just feeling too good to do it again." or sumthin like that. Unfortunately my training plans have encountered a serious obstacle. Shouldn't keep me out of the race if all goes well. More on that later.
Speaking of TI - It looks like some folks are building up some freaky lite bikes for the race. Can't wait to see all the different rides out there. If I had to choose right now I'd say I'm taking the cross bike. Tire choice might have to be a game day decision. I'd like to say I'm man enough to ride the PIG (woops I mean RIG), but I don't know for sure. Haven't totally ruled out the EPIC either. May take the CX bike and the EPIC up there then decide. Still have some testing to do. Even have one top secret bike in the works.............. just have to polish some more chrome.
Results are up for the TT. TriPower women kicked some major a$$. The rest of the team (except me) did great also. We had 3 guys come in within' 7 seconds of each other at just over an hour. Shite man, that's fast anytime, but this early in the year with less than ideal conditions it's incredible. Liz got second place and put and entry on her blog about the gender thing. They screwed up and gave me a DNS instead of a DNF, but what's one letter? Shoulda been a DFA - "Did Flat Again".
Was really achin' for a good ride outside this AM. 41 degrees, 10-12 mph NW winds, and rain at 5:30 didn't make it look very likely. Got dressed up anyway and piddled around waiting for the rain to stop. It slowed to a drizzle, but didn't let up. Went and got the trainer out of the trunk where it's been since Sunday. Just as I was about to put the bike on it it looked like the rain had stopped so I said what the heck, and went outside and rode. Then the rain increased. Got wet, cold and dirty, but it was worth it. Just didn't have the mindset to get on the trainer.
Gonna be colder tomorrow, but I'll be out getting my
Sunday, March 19, 2006
TT=Two for Two
The rest of the team rode it like they owned it.
Art had his game face on from the gun, and never let up.
The entire women's team was killin' it. Lisa was almost too fast to catch on camera.
As far as the gender challenge thing - They BOTH rode hard and well, and deserve a round of applause. I'll reserve further comment until the results are official and the dust settles. Could they have out ridden their respective coaches? Hmmmmm........ Good question.
Too many other strong performances to list. Congrats to everyone on a job well done.
Next weekend NO flats.
Saturday, March 18, 2006
Let the Games Begin-agin
The field looks to be TWICE the size of last year's for the 40k TT today. Next weekend the second BAR event is the hilly Jeff Cup road race up in C-ville. These will be my first EVER road races. Gotta start somewhere. The only butt I'm sure to kick is my own. The forecast calls for more of the same wind. 15-20 out of the NNW. Which means a screaming fast first leg to the turn around, then a gut wrenching grind directly back into the teeth of the wind.
The TT also represents the culmination of almost 6 months of smack talkin' with regard to this whole gender based rivalry thing. Its been going on so long that I'm not sure anyone remembers the actual wager. Something about shaving some body parts or letting hair grow on others. Hmmmmm. Not since Billy Jean King trounced Bobby Riggs has an athletic event stirred up such a fury of hormones. Testosterone vs Estrogen? Whatever the outcome I'm sure they'll put in great rides, and most likely beat me. It even sparked a nice motivational note from our team prez.
Had a great night ride on Thursday through the 'switch. Rode the SS. Felt good.
Off to get my TT
Thursday, March 16, 2006
Fellow Trans-Iowa entrant Paul J did a really nice gravel grinder on part of last years TI course. He put a nice writeup with photos here. Great job. The event nears. T-Minus 44 days till the start. (But who's counting?)
Paddy shut the door on his blog , presumably to get more riding in. Always was a good read and source of motivation. We miss it already. He said something about "spring" in the air. Dam man, that's Canada. Your spring is still gotta be colder than our winter. I'm sure he's out loggin' insane miles on one gear. Should have the Scott built up by now. Maybe watchin' some CSI?! hah.
UltraRob is finishing up Texas Hell week as training for solo RAAM this year. While there he's been posting on his blog daily. Good reads. Not only is he riding 100+ miles a day, but he's sleeping on the ground in a tent! WTG Rob. Allen Larsen, another solo 2006 RAAM entrant (and twice past finisher - 3rd in '02, and 1st in '03) is out there too. I believe that Allen is the only person to EVER beat Jure Robic at RAAM.
John Ceceri runs both the ADK 540 and the Saratoga 12/24. This year he's added a Brevet series. More info here. If you are up in that area I'm sure those would be great rides. Upstate New York is not only the place of my birth, but also a fantastically beautiful place to ride.
The last week was a buildup week, but I may have overcooked it a bit. Increased both mileage AND intensity. After a recovery ride on the rollers Tuesday night I tried a TT workout on the trainer yesterday and couldn't get my HR over 135. Need some more recovery rides I guess.
Funny reflections on last weeks rides:
I didn't notice till about an hour into my ride at Walnut Creek that my wheels didn't match. HAH! I guess I grabbed the stock rim when I packed up early in the morning and didn't even realize till I pulled overto take this picture. NO JOKES about the cool as $hite reflector. I'm sure that extra weight was what was making those climbs pure hell.
On the road ride I realized how much different the R3000 was from the Six13. The Six13 is a fantastic ultra bike. The carbon reduces the banging and vibrations of the road. The R3000 however is pure stiffness. When your legs say go - it moves forward without delay. Tradeoff is you DO feel every bit of the road.
Now get out there and get a