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Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Learning to Fly, White Oak WVMBA #6

My Juicy's were a little out of adjustment when I started the race and from there they just got worse. By the race's end they were really sketchy. Not that they didn't work, they stopped me real good, they just had this huge dead spot until you got them the whole way back to the bars, and then they grabbed like nobody's business.

Near the end of the race at that downhill section they were getting bad. I thought, 'self you don't have much in the way of brakes maybe you should take this one a little easy, just a hair more cautious perhaps?'. Bahhh do ever listen to that little voice. I couldn't help myself: fist this was a race, and second this down hill was fun! fun! fun!

I kind of remember it as a hump, like a table top but with a short approach and really steep long landing. I layed on my front brake before the launch but there was none, I don't know what happened for sure, after my front break didn't respond I may have tried to grab a really good handful while my bike was in the air, I was going too fast for this section and desperation set in, I was just thinking about nose diving into the bottom of this drop and really wanted to slow myself down. When I touched down I probably compressed most of my forks travel and then it was total ejection. My bike landed 20 feet off the right of the trail but nearly even to the spot I ejected, I mean how does that happen? I landed way up the trail, past the bottom where the trail started to rise again.

That is one strange feeling, the way the ground looks when it's coming up at your face, it sticks with you and it's not soon forgotten. I recall that feeling very distinctly, I was 15 and we were riding ten speeds up an old abandoned railroad bed. The bag I was carrying found it's way into the spokes and lodged between the fork and wheel. I believe it was actually the fishing real in the bag that stopped me so dead. It got really ugly after that. Helmets are good, they keep your head off the trail and give you something other than your face to skid on. Bad things happen when you use your face to brake across gnarley rail bed stone and cinders. What followed was about 2 1/2 hours of very intricate exacting surgery. Dr. Falcon if you ever find your face in a seriously bad way. He's awesome.

So I got up, checked all my parts, nothing major, took a few seconds to collect myself, retrieved my bike and went on my way. Where was that guy I passed near the top? Still no sign of him.

At the finish line a race official inquired how the leaves and mud ended up in my helmet. Plowing up the trails with my head does that count towards trail maintenance?

Monday, May 19, 2008

Bavington and 27 Miles of Sweet Single Track

Bavington is one giant single track feast and Sunday I set out to explore all the places I haven't ridden and ended up riding one gigantic 27 mile loop. Today wasn't going to be any sort of race pace ride, just a steady all cardio calorie burning pace to try and build up stamina. No matter how in shape I seem to be, at the races I really start to die at mile 13. I figure a consistent steady endurance building ride is what I need to help me make it through those last four miles of the race.

So started on the east side over by the old airport. This is the first time I've been over here, I've ridden almost every yard west of the creek but for various reason never ridden the east side.

I completed ten miles over there, did the figure eight trail, thorn something loop and the single track half loop over by the old airport. Made a right onto the jeep road crossed the old airport airstrip and got over to the old airport parking lot. Off the parking lot managed to find the trail that takes you down to the big creek crossing. After this I started heading for the stuff over by Haul road. I felt pretty good and today was going to be the day to do it. I'm going to ride the whole damn thing. I crossed the big creek at about mile ten, did one giant loop covering everything except for a small section I skipped east of Haul road that didn't quite fit in. When I looped back to the big creek crossing I was at mile 26.

So to try and answer the often asked question: there's about 27 miles of single track at Bavington. If you plan on making the attempt give yourself at least four hours and start earlier than I did. It was nearly dark when I made it back to the car.

Cyclometer Log
0.0 Access Road to figure 8 loop
4.2 Crossed Knowlton road did the 'Big Thorn' loop
5.7 Down the road toward Knowlton building
5.8 Right into crude parking lot
??.? Took access road that heads towards old airport
6.1 Right onto single track traveling loop counter clockwise
8.7 At field right onto access road eventually crossing old landing strip
9.1 Old airport parking lot found the single track trail near beging of lot
10.4 Big creek crossing at trail intersection took left towards haul road
10.8 Old truck
11.0 Left onto double track
11.1 Right onto single track up the steep climb
??.? Left at T onto single track loop
??.? Out onto Haul Road
??.? Up switchbacks at 5 Points Extension Haul Roading Parking area
??.? After several miles cross haul road back onto single track
19.2 Intersection Kramer and Haul
??.? Entered Lost Watch loop at sharp bend on haul road
20.4 Finished Lost Watch loop taking single track towards RC airport
??.? Went up airport driveway entered single track at visitors parking lot
24.3 At airport entrance crossing Kramer road headed for big creek crossing
25.2 Big creek crossing
26.3 Old airport parking lot

Monday, May 12, 2008

The Spirt of Mountain Biking Henry Clay WVMBA #4

The Henry Clay WVMBA #4 at Coopers Rock State Forest, West Virginia. What a day for a race. The trails already muddy and more rain arrived even before the race began. The rain let up before the race started and the clouds let the sun show for a little while but half way through it all started back up again. Mud, wind, rain, thunder, lighting, the sound of tree branches snapping overhead, and wet muddy rocks.

Now most everyone prefers the trails dry and fast but 'A little rain never hurt no one', (excuse my urge to quote Tom Waits) or even a lot of rain, but rain it's just no reason to take your bike and go home. This is what Mountain Biking is all about. Riding trials has always been about adversity, challenge and pushing yourself. There's a reason mountain bike races run seventeen miles, it's about the challenge, both physically and mentally. Think back when you first started: there were all the hills that we couldn't quite climb, logs that we couldn't make over, rocks sections that we couldn't quite ride. Everything a challenge; so I view this race as more adversity to overcome. For me seventeen miles is quite long, I tire at about thirteen and the last four miles I'm really straining to push myself to the end; but slogging your bike through 17 miles of muddy trails and wet rocks, now there's a challenge. I could whine and complain about the conditions or I could just go out there and deal with it. I was up for a challenge.

This was my first time on the trails at Cooper's Rock, and in spite of the mud the trails were a blast. Race highlights:
  • Stick in my eye! Next time I make a pass I'll think twice about riding through an over hanging tree branch. A broken branch pointed in my direction deflected off my glasses and found it's way underneath. Scratched my lower eyelid and then catching on the rim of my upper eye socket. I can still see; mostly, it's all good.
  • Nearly riding off a 20 foot span and the one handed seat post save to keep my bike from going over. Now I know what combining wet wood with rubber tires gets you; that bridge deck might as well have been ice but I'm obstinate; I wasn't getting off and walking. I made a feeble exhausted attempt at squaring off my turn to get a straight on approach but I was a little crooked when I pulled myself up on the bridge deck. Shwing there goes the bike flinging over the side, myself, I just focused on staying 'on the bridge', quick reflexes and a left handed grab and I keep the bike from going over the side, not letting that bike go over was paramount. I was exhausted and the last thing I wanted to do is go down there and fish my bike out of a creek bottom; Earned a nice whack on my shin off the edge of the bridge deck. It's amazing how during a race you can maul yourself like that and not even notice. At the end of the race I look down at the huge goose egg and scrape on my shin and think, I have absolutely no idea how the hell that happened. Couldn't recall, not once, crashing the entire race... oh yeah the bridge deck.
  • Then there was the roadie that would let me blow by him every downhill, in seconds I was gone, totally out of sight. It felt good to look back and see that he was absolutely nowhere to be seen. The good feeling short lived because 3 minutes later he'd catch up to me on every single climb. I gotta say letting me pass was much appreciated. Muchos gracious amigo.
  • There was the single track that tunneled it's way through thick interwoven mountain laurel almost tight enough to block out the light. I've never ridden through a cave but this has to come pretty close. What a cool section of trail!
  • Then the fast section at the base of the giant rocks. They had to be stories high but who's looking up, I was moving fast as hell through there. Eventually the trail pushed through a narrow crack between two squared off building size boulders, at that point the trail was maybe four feet wide with rock walls on either side. Unnerving, but how cool! It ended in a steep section where we grabbed our bikes with one hand and crawled up out. Now that was the sweetest section of race course I've ever ridden!
In spite of the conditions I finished under two hours. I should be happy with my time but I feel like I could have placed better. More training, more training.

Gregg's Recap of 2008 WVMBA #4 Henry Clay at Cooper's Rock
Aaron's WVMBA #4 Henry Clay Blog Entry

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