Thursday, December 25, 2008

Lately I've felt the internal nagging that is the, "what I'm a doing with my life?" sort of feeling. And I honestly don't know what I have been doing, except that all of it feels pretty alright, if only it weren't for that nagging feeling, which I need to shake in order to achieve utmost contentment. Anyway, it's taken me over six weeks to get half-way through my current book, which is Sometimes a Great Notion by Ken Kesey. It's a great book, I love it, but no time to read, I've found, because I'm always doing other stuff that I can never put my finger on. You know, like not doing anything important at all. But what the hell is important? Do I feel like I'm wasting my time? Is it just because I have the vague intent of going back to graduate school someday? Is it because it's the off-season? Is it because it's winter which just seems to lend itself to the over-abundance of down-time? I'm a just restless? Yes. My bad.

Anyway, last week was the Holidaze Alleycat/Scavenger Hunt put on by the Pisgah Brew Crew (i.e. Justin and Beth) and it was quite the blast. I raced it with good ol' Phil Shaw and Kevin Booth, and I think we got third, though the scoring was all subjective and silly, so who knows what that even means. Either way, sprinting through town, across town, over and up town, out of town and back into town, all the while forgetting that traffic is still a threat and you're just racing for glory, so its not worth killing yourself over...oh but it is! So friggen fun. Go Alleycats. Asheville needs more. But in the mean time, a big thanks to the Brew Crew for putting that on, it was sweet.

Besides that, I've clocked quite a few hours, even a few with Alex, which makes my heart swell to an enormous size. Trackie Boy who can also hold his own riding street and can bunny hop, like, 4 feet, has built up quite the agressive cross country hardtail, and damn, boy can ride. Especially uphill, on a 2:1. He kills it, and then I get all embarassed, but don't admit it, and he's like, "whatever, you already ran an hour today and rode four hours yesterday." And I'm like, "yeah, that's all it is (sob, sob, sob.)" Anyway, the favor was returned, or whatever, as I built up a fixed gear. He calls it my track bike, which I think makes him proud, but it's a Trek 420 with one hell of a dented top tube and I think I paid for the chain and that's all, and calling it a "track bike" just seems too over-flattering. So I call it my townie. But I think it's my new favorite bike, of the arsenal of crud that I own. Go fixed gears. I can't track stand worth shit on it, but I'm figuring it out, slowly-but-surely. And getting bolder on the downhills, and around turns...and yes, pussy me funs a front brake. Sorry purists.

Anyway, I gave most of the parts off my singlespeed to Alex so he could build up his XC war machine, and in the process, striped down my geared race bike and turned that into a pimped-out singlespeed. So no more gears for awhile, which so far is treating me quite well. I'm running a 2:1, which has proved difficult but great on such standards as Bent Stupid Creek, Squirrel Gap, Rainbow Ridge, Kitsuma, etc. Snake Creek Gap #1 is the first race of the season, coming up a week from Saturday. Wtf!?! Right? Anyway, I'm excited. I hear a 2:1 is a bad choice for that course, but over-geared seems to work for me. I can't spin worth shit. Then a month later is the Icycle, then 12 hours of Santos, and then race season will be in full swing. Word!

Saturday, November 29, 2008


In the past week and half or whatever it's been, I've:
  1. Got a tatoo
  2. Moved into a new house
  3. Found and started a new job
  4. Learned to thoroughly enjoy my new job
  5. Make friends with my new co-workers who have finally found that its ok for them to make fun of me, thus more firmly solidifying the otherwise awkward friend/co-worker relationship
  6. Got my road bike stolen
  7. Hated all of humanity
  8. Built up a new road bike with old parts donated to me by Tavis and Alex
  9. Learned that some of humanity is so friggen awesome
  10. Learned to like my new road bike well enough even though its not my old road bike, which I loved through-and-through
  11. Some other stuff and stuff
Anyway, it's been tumultuous, I guess. But a smooth, fun little tumult. My new job gives me time to run in the morning and ride in the afternoon, which is the jam, but I'm still feeling like I'm not getting enough hours on the bike, especially not off-road. My riding was terrible for a few days, which led me to feel sorry for myself and express this sorriness ot Jamie of Weaverville BMX and ProBikes, and he told me I need rest. I listened to what he had to say, and I very much trust his advice, but being one who always trusts, but never takes other's advice, I decided to just get rid of my geared bike for the time being. So I did that. No more stupid gears off-road. Singlespeeds are so much more reinvigorating than any rest could ever be, and it doesn't make you miss these stupendous fall days.

Or something.

Don't tell Jamie I didn't take his advice. He'll be pissed. He said that's why my road bike got stolen--so I couldn't ride it. Knowing him, he's probably got it stashed at home, or he sold it to some kid at the BMX track for $125. Dang.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

USARA Nationals and another minor competition

This past weekend was USARA Adventure Racing Nationals, held in a little town in the Blue Ridge mountains called, creatively enough, Blue Ridge, Georgia. This was to be my swan-song of adventure racing, so I could move on to bigger and better things, by which I mean shorter and more fun races. Once upon a time I used to run marathons, and with those, I would run the first 20 miles feeling great, then the real race started after that, and I'd just try to hold myself together for the last 10k, and that was fun. The weight is in favor of fun, and even the hurting part is bearable because its taking you toward the finish line. But for some reason with adventure racing, I spend the first 20 hours hating it and wondering why I'm doing it and wanting to cry and go home, and then for the last 4-10 hours, I feel great and I love it, and I have a blast. But that doesn't even out enough for me, and so I don't really like the sport. Add to that a sea of gear-headed dorks, stupid route planning (80 miles of gravel road when you're surrounded by an area raped with awesome singletrack! WTF?!) erroneous logistics for what would otherwise be a dandy romp in the woods, and the feeling that all I am is the little girl trying to keep up with my two male teammates...and the result is me hating the sport.

But this time wasn't so bad, honestly. Of course, as usual, I hated the first 20 hours of it, and at one point around midnight, I told my teammates I was dropping out. Thankfully , they ignored me, and we eventually got a gap where a guy gave us his Subway sandwich, and the vegetarian-since-age-seven in my went "Salami! Yum, give me two!!" And five minutes later, we got to a checkpoint where a bunch of men listening to Rod Stewart ("this isn't weird, is it?" they asked) offered us a quick warm-up by the fire and some Michalob Ultra (of course...this was an adventure race afterall.) This came right before the bike-to-trek transition, so I think the mixture of fire, beer, and change of tasks helped reinvigorate me, and finally gave me the second wind I had been waiting 19 hours for.

The rest of the race, which lasted until about 9:30 the next morning (our finishing time was 26:20:21 or know, like a day and some change.) And for the rest of the way, at least during the dark time, I kept falling asleep on my bike, which was crazy and rediculous. This was my 5th of so 24 hour race, and I've never had that problem before, but there's a first for everything, so whatever. I crashed into a few ditches, and eventually, right before dawn, crashed pretty good, and that, mixed with the pending daylight, helped wake me up for good (or at least until around 2 pm, when I fell into a post-race, drool-puddle, rock-hard nap while trying to read "Sometimes a Great Notion.") About an hour before the end, the 2nd to last checkpoint provided us with some whisky after we whined about them not having coffee ("I have something else that'll keep you warm" the guy said, and the rest is history.) It ended with a 3 mile jaunt down a railroad, ala La Ruta, which everyone tries to be like. Posers.

Anyway, we ended pretty strong, and I ended not hating adventure racing that much, which is a good way to go into retirement, I think. Unfortunately, I did miss one heck of a camp-out, cook-out with Alex and Pals up in Madison and the Swank, two things I am very sorry to have missed. But no regrets. 24 hours of woods-romping, even if half of it is taken up whining to myself, is ok by me.

And last night was the inaugural Inter-Asheville Bike Shop Bowling Tournament held at Sky Lanes. There was a good showing from Industry Nine, Pisgah Works, Suspension Experts, and then me and Alex for ProBikes (stupid Jed had to work...he would have pulled us through, being the God that he is) until we suckered I-9's best players onto our team. I think we still lost all over. I don't even know if anyone really won. But overall, a good time was had, I think. So you know, that was cool and stuff.

I'm about to go get a tattoo from old pal Galen. I'm not saying what it's going to be, except to saythat's its going to be awesome. Like the Pisgah boys' bowling skills/fashion senses awesome:

Monday, November 10, 2008

The Gameplan

Turns out I'm going to be racing for Independent Fabrications next season, which I'm thoroughly excited about. There are some awesome folks racing for them, and I whole-heartedly agree with the unstated mission statement of the company, so I'm thrilled to be representing them as I ride around in circles and then spread goodwill post-race. But with this newfound direction and motivation for next year's race season, I've come to the realization that I really would like to step up my game. That is, get friggen faster, and get better all-around on a bike. And I want to do it without the smile-draining, fun-sucking drag of current, conventional training, which I don't really think will be a problem.

Today BikeSnobNYC, who consistantly is like music to my ears, said it perfectly:
"Personally, I'm against training. In fact, I feel that if you're against doping in cycling, then you should be against training too. Some riders have access to more and better training, which in turn forces their competitors to attempt to match that training in order to level the field. In turn, the former riders seek out increasingly esoteric training methods to reclaim their advantage. The result is a cycle as vicious as it is dorky, and as anybody who's spent any time around bike racers knows, training (like drugs) can take a horrible toll on a person. Sure, training is much less likely to kill you than drugs are, but in large doses, it is almost guarenteed to make you incredibly boring and unpleasant to be around. If I want to have fun, I'll ride my bike. But if I want to spend a lot of time around people who constantly monitor their bodies with electronics, can't drink alcohol, and go to bed early, I'll volunteer my time at a hospital."

I love it! This paragraph is a masterpiece. My oft-used line is "fast by default" which I use to describe riders for whom I have a lot of respect, and the type of rider I'd like to become. That is, a rider who is fast because all they do is ride, and all they do is ride is because that's all they want to do. I'm so against power-taps, but I'm all about working on my gate-starts at the BMX track, trying to keep up with Alex's sprints through yellow-to-red-lights, and running a 2:1 in Pisgah just because it hurts and its fun that way--that's power training by default, I can feel the benefit, and nothing's beeping at me. And I want my handling skills to get better, which I'm planning on doing by building skinnies in my back yard with Lexy's slag wood, riding my bike through the house, challanging everyone to games of Foot-Down until I can hold my own, and of course, just from zipping through town trying not to get hit or doored or beer-canned.

In some interview awhile back, Jill Kintner said something along the lines that where she wants to be as a rider is to be able to do whatever she wants on a bike. I love that. I, too, want to be able to do whatever I want on a bike. And on all sorts of bikes. I want to ride my bike through the house, trackstand to turn a light off, fakie my way out of it to fit through the doorway, then park my bike nicely in the corner. (I was trying this the other day, but couldn't get the fakie part right, and kept cheating by touching the wall...I'll keep trying.) I want to be able to do on a bike whatever I can do on my feet, only better and more impressively. I want to develop the handling skills to do whatever I can picture in my head.

I'm so far off that. I can't even bunny-hop without clipless. Whoops. But hey, I'm still young.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Last week it snowed and I rode the trainer. My general rule of thumb is that no matter how cold it is, if it's dry out, you're not allowed to ride the trainer. Wet and cold, you're allowed to whine, but dry and cold, you still have to ride outside. But after working in the stupid woods all day, commuting to and from work in 30 degree weather (which is normally fine, but in October? Not quite ready for this, nature. Ease up, there) and realizing I had been cold from 6:30 am when I left the house until 6:30 pm, when I made it home after 10 hours of working, taking the long way home, and dropping off 3 lbs of deer meat for Alex, etc. I figured being cold for 12 hours was enough. High time to get sweaty and do one-leg pulls on the trainer while rocking out to 90's music. I'm such a puss.

On Friday Alex and I took a couple demo Yeti 575's out to Pisgah to ride big bikes and feel cool, but fatty Alex snapped a chainstay less than an hour in, so we wound up hiking out, disappointingly as it was a wonderful fall day, back in the 70's after the mid-week winter freak-out. But so it goes. I'm not such a fan of big bikes anyway, slack head angles, 7 inches of forgiveness, 2.4 tires, all that rediculousness. Keep mine straight and steep, with the constant feeling that you're about to get tossed from your bike. That's the jam.

Saturday I sort of got my fix in, but was all sick with a headcold and whine, whine, whine, so more sort of slodged and pleghmed my way through a four hour mountain bike ride. Sunday, still feeling sick, I spent about four hours riding all over the place and yet no where at all on my road bike. It was awesome. This has been my road riding lately--no more epic loops for some reason, I'm just zipping here and there with some sort of half-formed agenda, taking the longest, most convoluted routes to places I need to get to that day, thus turning a 20 minute errand into a 2.5 hour ride. I guess this is base training, or end-of-season rest/transition period, but I do feel like I need to sit down and figure out where I'm going with my bicycle-riding life. You know, like a, uh, er, a (cough, cough) training plan. That'll be a good task for when I'm unemployed, I think. That and building cold frames and chicken coops and turning Alex's suburban house into one heck of a homestead.

Anyway, collegiate nationals a couple weekends ago: props like woah to Johanne and Dan from Brevard. Jo won everything twice (DS and omnium) and Dan podiumed all over the place. And Matt from the Warren to the Wilson for getting 3rd or something like that in the omnium, and of course, Rebecca Toma-wiki-wiki-wiki-Goddamn! who won XC (on her SS, of course) and tied for omnium with Jo but got squeezed to second because of rules, or something. Anyway, fast little scholars, always a good scene, ridiculousness and mayhem and bikes and smiles.

I've got Adventure Racing Nationals this weekend. Gulp. Wish I were doing the Swank, quite honestly, but its sort of like eating broccoli as a kid: You feel forced to do it, you never quite enjoy it or see the point in it, but you're probably getting some trace benefit out of it that you're completely unaware of...maybe. And it appeases those around you. Stupid team sports. Oh well. Can't complain too much about running around in the woods for a day. By the way, I just heard an awesome joke about broccoli, but's one of those that can't be told on such a family-oriented blahg as this. So remind me about it later.

And now I'll leave you with some words of wisdom. Last week, I was walking back to my little office at the Southern Research Station with a mug-full of coffee, and a construction worker said, "Hey, you're spilling all your coffee!" And I said, "Yeah, I know, I'm terrible at this." And he said, "You just can't look at it." So I lifted my head, picked up the pace, and didn't spill a drop. We used to watch former WWC forest manager Richard drive the work trucks off-road with coffee filled to the brim, and he'd never spill a drop either. I thought he was God, but turns out he just knew not to look at the coffee. This story also, for some reason, reminds me of the time Lexy and I were throwing a football at a basketball hoop, trying to make a basket. And I said, "I'm just not trying anymore" and of course I made it on that one. I don't really know where I was going with this, but I think the moral might be that looking down and trying only causes you to fail. But if you just do it, you're golden. You can't lose because you're unattached from the outcome. And if you're not looking--you don't even know how much coffee you're spilling anyway.

That doesn't make any sense. I'm no philosopher. But I do rock at crossword puzzles. Go Vote. I mean, if you feel like it.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Double Dare and Pisgah Pale

I probably average about 17 hours of bike-riding time each week, so I was hoping last week, with the Double Dare this past weekend, that I would have something like 87,000 hours in one week. But it turned out to be just 29. So it goes. I've never been one for simple arithmetic.

Even though it resulted in a disappointingly dinky weekly total, 20 hours worth of riding (which, admittedly, also included some hiking, eating, and some PBR shot-gunning) in two days proved to be pretty beefy. But in a good sort of way. It was an absolute blast. The race format was Noon to Midnight on Saturday and 6 am to 6 pm on Sunday, with 10 checkpoints each day. Only one was mandatory per day, which created a very open-ended "race", by which I mean, a good way to force yourself to ride loops and trails in directions that you otherwise never would.

Of course I didn't feel like sitting on my saddle at all on Sunday or then Saturday night, descending down 256 from Mt. Pisgah back to White Pines in 34 degree weather felt a little drawn-out and torturous, but that's peanuts compared to shot-gunning PBRs at 9:30 on a Sunday near Shining Rock (which was, of course, part of the race) or campfires or Jeremy making an amazing plate of eggs and pot of coffee that morning, or climbing Pilot and getting to watch the sunrise over to our right, or getting to ride trails I'd never ridden before, and don't really know why I never bothered, and now having a bigger inventory of Pisgah and wonderful ideas for big rides, and the newfound/refound motivation and apprectiation for bike riding that a good epic leaves you with.

Anyway, a good way to spend the weekend. I can't wait to get back into the woods. I get to go back today, but that's for measuring trees, which because its part of work and my bicycle isn't present and Mike Brown won't be there with beers and a slingshot...just doesn't feel the same.

I spent yesterday sleeping in, running, going for a 2 hour road ride, clearing Alex's new backyard, making plans for cold-frames and chicken coops, getting my fixed gear up and running, and then making some homemade pizza and store-bought PBR. This is how I envision unemployment--long days of getting lots of good stuff done, until you loose your dignity and get evicted from your house. Shoot. Back to work today though, working for the man and having a steady source of income for three more weeks.

I'm skipping the BMX track today, since Lexy won't be there to drive me home afterwards. Maybe I'll go try not to die on my fixed gear. You should see the top-tube, heh-heh...scary! Alex doesn't like it, he says its a piece of shit, which it is, but it wouldn't be anything of mine if it were any nicer. So I dig it. And I finally wore knickers, winter-gloves, and socks on my commute to work this morning. It usually takes me about a month of being a frozen-idiot before I remember how to dress for cold-weather rides, but I think this past weekend helped me along a bit (e.g. "I won't need booties for the Double Dare, it won't get that cold..." and then we rode from Bent Creek Gap to White Pines via the parkway and 256 in mid-30's weather and I realized I was retarded.) You would think that living in the mountains for 4 or 5 years would have taught me something about elevation and shit getting cold. But no...

Collegiate Nationals this weekend! I am so excited to be standing around with 20 oz of coffee, wearing a beanie and a down-vest and watching all these nervous kids freeze their butts off while racing for glories and stories. That was such a friggen hard race last year--I wanted to win so bad and Kate Chapman (watch out, too, for her...she's so strong and will soon take over the world--of endurance-racing, at the very least) was relentless and it kind of hurt for awhile and I had worked really hard and I really wanted the win then I did and then I smiled, and now my jersies are collecting dust somewhere and I lost my medals, but now all that silly stuff is over with...until grad school, of course. My work here is done. I love retirement.

As Megs would say, "Go Phillies!!"

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Kethcup. Ooh, Kethum, ID. Let's go there with bikes...

Hey! Wanna hear my most favorite poem ever? Well, not ever...but for the love-genre it is, and its the poem that's going to go on the doilie-place-settings at my wedding (not that I plan these things or anything...) Here it is (by e.e. cummings):

yes is a pleasant country:
if's wintry
(my lovely)
let's open the year

both is the very weather
(not either)
my treasure
when violet's appear

love is a deeper season
than reason;
my sweet one
(and april's were we're)

e.e. cummings is the jam because, not only does he write awesome poetry (some of its really erotic, but I'm always too embarrassed to read that stuff, so I just skip along to the PG stuff) and uses unconventionality in form that just seems to make so much more sense (kind like in real life), but he also doesn't even bother to capitilize his own name. I went through a phase like that in grade school--i thought it be a cool self-humbling statement if i always wrote my name like kylie krauss. I stopped doing that, though, as soon as I realized feigned self-righteousness and conventiality works for most other people, and they were all getting along much better than I, or i, or whatever. What the hell am I talking about? Oh well, I'm digressing anyway.

Spring, like e.e. cummings, is the bomb-dot-com, as it were. But like co-worker Brandon and I happened to notice today, fall isn't too bad either, assuming you're able to ignore what it's about to lead up to (i.e. winter, which is a terrible idea, seasonally speaking.) But fall, for what it is, is awesome. Especially here, in the Southern Appalachians. Word.

As much as I don't want to identify with the octogenarian motor-tourists that drive 25 mph down the parkway oggling over oranges, reds, and goldens...E.O. Wilson's whole Biophilia hypothesis forces me to excuse them. Everyone loves fall for its aesthetics. And dang! As they ought to.

It does, however, make me rediculously restless. Dwinding daylight and changing seasons coupled with me soon to be jobless, waiting to hear back from team sponsorships, not know what I want to do next year (work? grad-school? bake corn bread and make coffee for my man?), etc. It's been the most wonderful Indian Summer so far, and I'm trying to squeeze in as much riding as possible, knowing this isn't going to last. Soon there'll only be, like, 15 minutes of daylight once you're out of work, and it'll be all cold and wet, and my Campi grouppo will get all salt crusted from the road spray. I didn't just say that.

But yeah, fall riding...sure is swell. I've been feeling awefully strong this week--the Rainbow Ridge-Kitsuma-Rainbow Ridge oreo ride was great, I tried to take it slighty slower and focus on the key technical and power moves, all-official like. Last night I hammered a standard Bent Creek loop. My singlespeed's been sitting at home this week, waiting for me to put in a half-link so I can finally run it as a true 2:1, without a stupid tensioner, so I did Bent Creek on gears, which I hate doing. It makes me disappointed in myself. A couple easy rides the next two days, then I somehow got myself into doing the Double Dare along with Jeremy Hargroves. I think it's going to be a real tough race. I'm excited though--I haven't raced since August, and I've been feeling a little slacky.

In other aspects of my silly little life, my job with the Forest Service is ending soon--seasonal position as a research technician. It's been a good time, goofing off with co-workers under the guise of advancing the science of forestry. Or something like that. And so I've been trying to find another job, which, for those of you in Asheville, know is about as hard as cleaning Farlow your first time--unless your Sam Koerber, or God, then that analogy doesn't make sense. But yeah, trying to find a job. Trying to keep on keeping on.

And the guy I've been climbing to the top of fire escapes with to watch these fall sunsets, and other such acts of rediculous adorableness, is moving to this side of town, which sadly, yet conveniently, means no more evening sprints on the townie across, well, town. We used to use phrases like "smitten" all the time with eachother, now we're solid-like-a-wolf and use phrases like "re-smote" "smodden" and "forever smod."

And if that's not making you feel sick, wait 'til you see this.

I'm excited for this weekend--a good excuse to ride for 12 hours two days in a row, and there's no entry fee, so officially we're not really racing, so no pressure. No pressure at all....Gulp.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Fall's Re-Sprung

Last night Alex was playing 20-questions of sort with his daughter, and he asked, "Would you rather have a car or a motorcycle?" and she said, "I'd rather just ride my bike."  We, and Alex in particular, temporarily melted into a sappy sac of uselessness.  So much wisdom and insight for a five year old.  Rock on.  And a few questions later, he asked, "If you were to write a book, what would you write it about?" and she said, "Dinosaurs. No, wait! Math.  Math and dinosaurs."  Gosh dang, I love that little girl.

Anyway, besides reconfirming that bikes, math, and dinosaurs really are about the coolest things was great because it was the best ride for me in awhile.  It was all getting a little stale lately, with too much work and other commitments and fading daylight and whine-whine-whine that all my rides were micro-rides for the past few weeks.  My definitions are that a micro-ride is less than 1.5 hours, a ride is 1.5 to 3 hours, a good ride is 4-5 hours, and a big ride is anything over 5 hours.   And so, by these definitions, not only had I not been on a good ride in quite some time, I also hadn't really been on a ride.  Once you take out the hour of commuting I do daily, I was really only riding for about another hour. Not enough at all.  Granted, those two or so hours were great for what they were, and I've been riding the hell out of the hour I have, which might wind up helping my speed, but I needed a day of just riding, getting to go until I got bored or, not feeling like I had to be back for anything.  

 So I left to go to the sneak attack trails over to Mills, then up Trace, which for some reason I'd never bother riding up before--I've been down it countless times.  It wasn't quite the tough grunt I thought it would be, more like a prolonged whimper. And the sourwoods are all bright red, and the Betulacea all bright yellow, and everything looked like fall--yet the temperature was warm and perfect.  Two hours in, I realized I had only drank a quarter of one of my water bottles, so I decided to keep adding to the loop I had in mind, and got back in just under 4.5 hours.  It would have been nice to go longer if I didn't get off to such a late start and the lesson I keep relearning would have changed my habits (i.e. that water and big red gum aren't enough for rides over four hours.) But oh well. I got home from this ride much more content than I had in awhile, so that was good.

Monday I'm doing the ol' Rainbow Ridge-Kitsuma-Rainbow Ridge oreo ride, which is one of my favorites, and on Tuesday, all the seasonal trails re-open in Pisgah, and out!!

Collegiate Nationals are happening in two weeks from this weekend. At Lees-McRae college in Banner Elk, NC.  You should go and watch the fastest schoolkids in the nation go around in circles. And there's always a bajillion good parties going on that Saturday.  

Lose your car keys.

Thursday, October 9, 2008


Not that I've been trying to look at other bikes or anything, but...oh, swoon:

Straight lines. Steel. Lugs. Italian. I love it. The closest I've got is a Trek 420 that I have built up as a townie. I love that, too, for what it is, which is a straight, steel, lugless, American janky-ass piece of shit. Far, far inferior, but gets the job done, and I love it for that reason. Tomorrow, to make me love it even more, a track wheel's going on the back of the ol' 420. It's going to be fixed. I'm going to get hurt.

Bowling, Huh?

Exactly one week after Election Day, which would be November 11, which is also the date 11-11, which is an excellent sign according to Urantia and the person I trust more than anyone, Megs Denison, is the INAUGURAL ASHEVILLE BIKE SHOPS BOWLING TOURNMENT.

Invited are Industry Nine, Suspension Experts, Hearnes, Carolina Fatz, Pro Bikes, Sycamore Cycles, BioWheels, Ski Country, and Liberty Bikes. I'm assuming, however, that this will be like a typical group ride in that half the folks will wimp out, half of the other half will show up late, and the few that do make it will have one hell of a good time.

Too bad this guy can't make it (recognize him?) :

I think he's busy that week, either crying or rejoicing, it all depends on what YOU do on November 4th. Actually your vote doesn't really matter that much, despite what people try to tell you. But you should still vote anyway, just because you can, and because it gives you an excuse to leave work for a bit.

Anyway, for as many people there are who ride bikes in this town, the culture is a little diffuse. We're working on that. Ever been to Gainesville? Those guys stick together. Probably just because they can and because it gives them an excuse to leave work for a bit. I'm not a fan at all of huge (I mean, like, 4 plus) group rides...I always secretly try to get separated from the group, or hope the group breaks up on its own accord, or I keep riding until others have broken off to head back early and its just me and two others left. I don't like being a flock of weirdos clogging up roads or trails. I'd rather just be a handful of weirdos doing that. I don't know why, maybe just because you can't get away with more in little groups.

But I do love cammraderie, and I love seeing 27 bikes locked up outside of a bar (which never happens in Asheville, but should, and I can't understand why it doesn't--see blahg post below), and I do love running into friendly faces at trailheads, and I do love seeing the guy who actually owns a successful business party down like woah once in the safety of a post-race/post-ride setting.

At some point, Phil, Kevin and I were talking about the phrase, "...So you ride bikes?" and all its other forms. As in, "This is my friend Such-a-whozit. She rides bikes." And then you know, it is understood, that she knows how mush psi she likes, she has more than just "a" bike at home, she gets cranky when she hasn't ridden in awhile, she thinks arm-warmers are more practical than silly, and so on. This is in sharp contrast to someone who has a bike and rides it. You know, from time to time. Don't get me wrong, if you're on a bike, no matter what your cause, you rock, go you. You're probably still pretty cool if you're not on a bike, I just can't judge. It's just not as easy to tell that you're cool by our (i.e. the collective our that is the culture of "people who ride bikes") standards. But oh, ride bikes? Cool.

There's just something different between people who ride bikes and those who do not. Bike riding is weird and silly and made fun of from both inside and outside the little group. Kind of embarrassing, but still really fun for what it is.

Sort of like bowling.

Actually not at all. But less all us bike riders become too uni-dimensional, I figured it was high-time to try another activity. So...

November 11. Come. Tell you're bike-riding friends.
See who's # 1. (Besides Jamie Ritchey, which we all knew anyway)

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

"I'm not angry...just disappointed."

While I was away in Vegas, I got a call from a friend asking if he could sleep on my couch--something about a gas crisis and not being able to make it home and back with how much gas he had left. I had no idea what was going on, but considering what a Flop-House our place is anyway, I said of course he could sleep on our couch.
Gas crisis, huh? I was flying back from Utah when the ol' Blackout of '03 happened up in Cleveland and that whole area, so I missed that whole adventure, and there I was living it up in Vegas, using the hell out of non-renewable resources during the gas crisis here in the Southeast. Dang, I miss all the good stuff. Maybe this is a good sign...I'll probably be tele-skiing in Whistler when the apocalypse happens. No I won't. I just jinxed myself. Great....

Anyway, I'm sure even if I were in Asheville at the time, I wouldn't have noticed the gas crisis regardless. I think driving is about the most nerve-wracking, blood-pressing-rising, self-destructive thing you can do. So I tend not to do it very much. Maybe once every three weeks. Plus, it's terribly inconvenient. But no one else seems to think it is...instead they think biking is inconvenient, but that's only because they don't bike. I've done both. For trips less than 1/2 hour, the convenience factor is the same and driving is far worse anyway because its simply evil.

People punching people in lines while waiting for gas? That's hilarious. People thinking they need to drive to work that's four miles away? That's fucking disgusting. There's nothing funny about that, and it's such a post 1940's American concept to think driving is the best (and some people consider it the only--which is really gross) way to get from here to there and back. I recently bought a car from my brother, mainly so I could drive my mountain bike to races and bigger rides in Pisgah, which I'm sure could easily be called hypocritical, but that's fine. It is hypocritical. And if I were entirely flawless and never felt rushed or tired, I would ride my moutain bike for two hours to the trailhead, go ride my mountain bike for four hours, then ride the two hours home. But I don't want to do that. And maybe how rediculous that sounds to me is how rediculous it sounds to some people to ride their bike across town to work. Maybe that's just so far out of the question for them. It must be, otherwise they would have thought of it before they couldn't get gas anywhere in town.

I'm not pointing my fingers at everyone...just at a few key types of people. As much as I love and respect my friends, I am slightly appalled and disappointed with a few of them because the idea of riding their bikes to work or class never occurred to them until this "crisis" happened. I'm thinking especially of the ones that are actual bike riders...but not commuters. When you own at least three bikes, its hard for me to understand why you wouldn't ever consider one as your main mode of transport. You're already in shape and like bikes well enough, apparently...why are these people still so fixated on their cars? I just don't get it, and so I can't sympathize with it very well, so it makes me frustrated, and that's all.

I'm glad we had a crisis for the sake of my friends that ride bikes but never considered commuting on bikes. I'm glad there was a crisis for people that never really biked but had a townie and started using it out of necessity. I'm sorry for the folks that don't have the means of getting to work any other way but by car because they live an hour from thier work and public transportation in most parts of this country is somewhere between aweful and nonexistant, and I'm sorry for all the kids in my roommate's preschool class that couldn't show up for school that week becuase their parents couldn't get them there. But to all my able-bodied friends that drive their cars just because it's what they've been doing since age 16, and they never thought that putting on a backpack and biking to Amazing Savings or wherever is just as easy and quick as it is with a car...I'm shaking my head at them, wondering when they'll learn, and wondering why they seem to get so angry at the government for supporting their apparent needs. I don't know anything about politics at all (it reminds me of high school cafeteria gossip, so I tend not to pay attention to it.) But I know that I hate over-exploitation in all forms (excpet when it involves Halloween candy, then I, too, am a greedy bastard) and this is case #1 of "action, my friends, not words." You can't be driving to work hating on our government for wanting to increase the amount of oil available to the general public. They're doing it for people like you, silly.

I'm thoroughly convinced bikes can save the world. At the WWC homecoming last Friday, Alex and Pinkie were talking, vaguely, about the history of transportation in NYC. With Pinkie's stance being that the car was great because it replaced horses, which, of course, fouled up the streets and created the age-old American problem of having too much extra shit. Leave it to Alex to mention the bicycle. I was in-between conversations so I don't know what points were made between these two, but my own massive amount of common sense (scoff here, please) makes me back the bicycle with mule-like stubborness, mag-wheel toughness, and Chrysippus-like stoicism (don't bother analyzing those similes, especially the latter.) After the initial production, and every once in awhile for a few new parts here and there--there is nothing that goes into or comes out of a bike. No hay in, no shit out. No gas in, no CO2 and world destruction out.

Go bikes!

Or rather, go bike! To work, or class, or the grocery store, to over there and back, or, like, from the boys who got it right, you could just sit at home and drink a tasty brew:

Monday, October 6, 2008

Getting out alive.

A couple weeks ago I managed to weasle my way into a business trip with Kevin and Phil of Suspension Experts to Interbike. It was in Vegas, which is a place I never really had any desire to go to in the first place, and am now convinced that I have no desire to go back, but not one to pass up an opportunity to weasle my way into anything, I decided I ought to do it.

My first thought flying into Vegas was "dang, that's a lot of lights." Then walking through the airport my thoughts we're "Why the heck did that Starbucks charge me so much for this goddamn coffee?" and "Holy cow, all the men have really nice shoes. Weird."

I managed to make it to the hotel, The Stratosphere, ooohhh!!, and called Phil, as directed, because he said there would be no possible way I'd be able to find my way through the casino to our room, which was numbered 3-08-16...of course, it was. There were a fuck-ton of rooms in that hotel. And there are a fuck-ton of hotels in Vegas. It doesn't make any sense. But nothing in Vegas does, and that's why I had to sit outside of the hotel waiting for Phil to direct me through a casino no mortal soul would be able to navigate themselves through, alone, the first time around.

Sitting there at 11:30 pm local time, 2:30 am my time, at the beginning of this little adventure that was to be a week at Interbike, I reached into my jeans pocket in a desperate attempt at comforting myself and making myself feel at home. What did I bring from home that I had forgotten about that was now in the deep recesses of my pockets? Oh, dang...a Miller High Life bottle cap. I strongly believe that all your favorite pant pockets should have a bottle cap in them. You should just keep them there and carry them around with you and replace them when they get lost to the washing machine. It's good luck or something, for its also fun to pull out a bottle cap at a random (or discomforting, in this case) time and try to think of where you were, who you were with, and what was going on when you were drinking the beer (or soda, for you U-21ers out there) that once belonged to that bottle cap.

Anyway, I couldn't remember where that High Life cap came from, then Phil came, and the week began.

It was a good, overstimulating week. And anti-vacation of sorts. Lots of bike products and bike people. Some really cool innovations, like inifinite-engagement hubs (by a lil' company called Stealth) which use needle bearings in crazy little ramps--no pawls at all. Dang! (But warning...I-9 hubs are still the best. Don't be fooled.) And the Hammerschmidt crankset. Planetary gears. Swoon. Neat. And this awesome Belgian (or you know, some other non-American country...) company that had the same sort of cranks, but the shifting was done by kicking a little button with your heel on the side of the crank. Beautiful! A dingle! I've fantasized about this for so long--zipping down to Bent Creek on a more appropriate road gear than the near 2:1 I ride off-road, then not having to adjust chain tensioners or anything--same chain length, just kick, and you're in a trail gear. Word! Plus, it makes it ok to kick your drivetrain, which previously had only been reserved for momemts of anger and frustration.

So anyway, there was a lot of looking at products and wanting and thinking and dreaming up awesome new bikes to build. But there was also free crap to grap and free snacks to eat and free beer to drink, and I ran into some folks I know and met some new folks and made some really great small talk and tried but didn't manage to sweet-talk my way into the Campi cycling cap, but so it goes...

Highlights were sneaking into the VIP area at Cross Vegas with Rebecca "Hot Shit" Tomaszkwiszkiekszwik and her cronies, and riding the heck out of some fun bikes at the Outdoor Demo. Phil and I quite half-way through the day on Tuesday because there were too many people demoing the bikes and it turned into a cluster-fuck, so we starting eating Chipotle chips and drinking Fat Tire, then we took out the most ridiculous "bike" we could find. One, a Da Vinci tandem, which was more race-oriented and agressive then my road bike, I would say--so scary! No me gusta! 74 degree head angle on a tandem!?! Get me off of this! And some recumbant tricycles! So hilarious. Phil equated it to being tickled...its aweful and you hate it, but you can't stop laughing. It was so funny. And some guy on a road bike past us, and we apologized to him for being on recumbants and said we hated ourselves and were embarrassed, and he said, "it's ok, with people on recumbants, to point AND laugh." But hands-down the best part of the show was going into the bike-check room, which was a room full of bikes owned by people at the show. Mainly their townies, and mainly, the most awesome looking, well-built fixed gears. Some awesome old-school, neon-era mountain bikes, some new-ish race bikes (disappointing to see amongst so many other bikes with personality), etc. I walked around there for awhile, drooling, getting ideas for bikes that I want to build up, and probably looking a little suspicious to the old couple checking peoples' bike in and out.

Lowlights were running in Vegas. Disgusting. And the price of food. Oh, and that, upon flying out Friday morning, from the plane I saw a wonderful desert sunrise, and I thought "oh yeah, we're in the desert." Whoops. They fooled me.

It was a good time overall. Met some characters, saw some bike products, experienced Vegas (though not all that all-out, which maybe is for the better...) only missed two days of biking, and made it back to Asheville and normalcy in one piece.

Ah, youth.

The next day I purged my system with a long road ride followed by a long-ish trail run at Wilson. And then promptly slipped back into the ol' daily grind. Did Vegas ever really happen? Where I'd get all these key chains and coozies and stickers? Oh, right...

Thursday, September 11, 2008

New Routes through the Old Town

There's not much to write about now that the racing season's over, and it seems my weekends have been too busy for epics, and now the ever-dwindling daylight has been shortening my post-work ride to about two hours. I'm restless as can be, and I've been sending out resumes trying to find a new that gives me a solid 3-4 hour chunk of ride-time, plus enough money to pay rent. That's the major downside of Asheville--it tricks you into wanting to play all the time, then you realize there are no jobs available, then you realize you can't afford to play, so you sacrifice some play time for work, and then you're like, wait...this much work stinks. I quit. Let's go ride bikes. Then you're broke. And yet so happy...

We had a grand ol' house party last weekend, up 'til about 3, then up the next morning at 6 to drive to ETSU for the collegiate race. It was awesome. I got Lexy all dressed and packed into the car, I chugged six cups of coffee and rocked out to country music for the hour-long drive over Sam's Gap, then the two shiftless college-grads that we are hung out and watched kids ride around in circles all day. I got in some circles of my own--three laps of the XC course, which is my favorite of the SECCC (at least until the one at Santos next month, probably) and even better on a singlespeed. Everything's better on a singlespeed, though, so that was a pointless comment.

Otherwise, the best riding I've been doing has been zipping around town with my man Alex. He's always on his "don't-call-it-a-fixie!" which he runs with a 42-17, which is exactly what I run on my townie, only that's not a fixed-gear, so I suck. But anyway, he is bold, and an amazing bike handler, and a trying to keep up with him through town is terrifying and awesome, and I think this is my newest mode of training. Sprinting out of trackstands at red lights is the best power training since BMX gate practice, in my well-formed opinion, and the amount of audacity and assertiveness it takes to dart in front of cars, slap a hood, or let out a whislte to let them know you're going, screw their 2-tons of steel death's good stuff. It'll make you a good rider by default, I think mainly because there is no way you couldn't fall in love with bicycles as you outsprint cars down a busy road, weaving in and out of traffic, hopping over urban obstacles like curbs and broken glass and stupid hippies and geriatric tourists. It just goes to show how awesome bikes are and how aweful cars are, and that realization alone is enough to make you fast on a bike. Somehow or other. But whatever about being fast...go biking in general. Swoon. I'm so in love.

But, being the well-rounded, multi-dimensional person that I am, I also just bought an automobile from my brother, and Dan F-ing Ennis barted me his roof racks, which means I have a new founded freedom to go drive ( gotta do what you gotta do...) to the woods and ride the piss out of my mountain bike. No more same ol' Bent Creek to Mills loop. Oh boy, am I excited for the fall! Pisgah riding is great year-round, but Pisgah riding in the fall. Holy crap. Indescribable.

I think I wrote awhile ago about the stagnation of my learning curve...that I didn't feel like I was getting faster or getting any better on the technical stuff. Then it occured to me that really my only goal is to become the best bike rider I can be, and that means every genre. What I'm learning on the BMX track has helped my mountain biking considerable, and what I've learned trying not to die while riding downtown has helped my cornering on the road. Soon I'll be building up a 'cross bike for the winter, which will become a track bike in the spring and summer. As much as I want to hate the Wal-Mart-ization of things (i.e. everythings there, but its all pretty crappy) this diversified generalization of bike riding is kind of appealing to me. I'll always be most "serious" about mountain biking, I think, but I'll dabble in anything that involves two wheels. It's just too much fun. And those two wheels include dirt bikes. Ahhh...some day!

Hero of the moment: Michael Mooney. This past weekend he attempted to break (shamelessly destroy, actually) the World Record for riding a tall bike. And a very tall bike it was...40 feet. "What?!?!" you say. "Uh, yeah, I know." is how I would respond. He didn't make it, though. Lost his balance about 2/3 of the way in, which is about as excusable as it can get, considering he was on a friggen 40 foot tall bike. But he's still a hero because he'll ride anything. A bike is a bike, an experience is an experience. Some may be more worthwhile or valuable or make more sense than others, but all of it is good, and all of it builds character, so none of it should be hated on. Except recumbants, which just lend themselves to ridicule.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

I have to go back to work tomorrow!?!?!

The other day a few of us were doing the ol' porch sitting, beer drinking thing, and a friend of ours still in school asked some of us, who are no longer in school, how our summers were going. Phil responded, "Uh, just like my spring and my winter. We work full time, you know." This being my first year out of school, I had been dwelling on this tragic point of reality for awhile. For the past four years, around March of each year, I'd begin plotting grand adventures for myself. I went to Europe once, I mountain biked the hell out of Flagstaff thrice, I galavanted all over Colorado and Utah, and one time three friends and I biked west for two months.

But now I have a full time job, which means I'm finally making enough money to actually afford these silly little wanders, but it also means I don't have any time to take off and be irresponsible and gain valuable life experiences. It being mid-August already, I realized I had been really itching for something a little bit grander than my usual road and mountain loops...just something to make me feel like I was doing some sort of exploring or soul-searching or what-have-you. I wasn't getting out enough, is what I'm trying to say. Too much work, not enough play. And daylight is slipping away!

So I took a mini-vacation to Brevard. It's really just right down the road, but I think it did me well. The idea for it began with a mid-week night ride with Alexis, Dan, Johanne (national expert super-D champion...yeah, like dang!) , and Tony. Tony's the shit. He's been WWC's mechanic at nationals the past couple years, and for as many times as I would go out to his little work tent, and say, "Tony, you want a cup of coffee?" he would say, "no, I've got four more bikes to do, I'm good." Hard working, extremely knowledgeable, a great mechanic--he's awesome. And I've never really ridden with him for some pitiful reason, so this was great. Plus night-riding in general is awesome because otherwise mundane trails suddenly because exciting and technical and... confusing (even in Bent Creek, which is really incredible.)

The next day, my vacation began, with a stop on the way to do Pilot to Laurel, which is backwards from how most folks do it, but this way was awesome. Challenging climb up Pilot (and Dan just had a 34T middle ring, no granny! bwah!), then 7 1/2 miles of trying not to lose sight of Johanne (I always failed) down Laurel. Dan dropped us off at Jo's, where we shoved cereal and coffee and MTB Action articles down our faces until it was time for the Sycamore Cycles group ride. They've got a good thing going on at that little shop. Wes is pretty much the bomb dot com, and all those Brevard Natural Disaster kids (a talented little cyclone they got a-twisting out for them this collegiate season), plus a slew of other Brevardians and some random kid from Warren Wilson (uhh...) A speedy, short ride up and over some fun trails. Then Jimy "You can't burn the Devil, Son" Fink made me just about piss my pants with his antics and story telling over grandes and chips at El Chapalas. It was a good evening to wrap up a great day of riding.

The next morning, I met Tristen, Nate, and Colin Izzard for another ride in Pisgah, and pretty much felt destroyed. I rode doubles the previous two days, and kind of just felt like chilling out, but the boys apparently didn't. Ouch. I rode like crap, but so it goes. Nate drove me back to Asheville, where I spun my dead legs and mental doubts out with an easy road ride, then spent the rest of the day doing the most zen thing I could think of...truing wheels at ProBikes while Alex and Jamie entertained/distracted me with their incessent banter. Those two form an unstoppable team of rediculousness.

Not wanting to end my Brevard vacation any earlier, and realizing this would be my last free weekend for awhile, I decided it was high time to do the West Asheville to Brevard route. I had mentioned it my friend Tally, and she got me all siked for an epic, so I packed three tubes, a bunch of CO2 catridges, six goos, a pack of Big Red ("powersticks" as I call them), and even a chain tool--which for me means things are going to get real serious. I was prepared for knife-fighting bears. But the ride turned out to be super straight-forward and casual, about six hours. The most trechereous part actually was the commute down 191 to Bent Creek, from there it was gravel climbs, fire road descents, Squirrel Gap wonderfulness, some South Mills, some Buckhorn, etc. and then zippity-do into downtown Brevard. I'm now thinking of how I could make this ride much more badass, which would include some of my secret stash routes, going out of the way to do Laurel, then not wimping out at the end (like I did yesterday) and finishing on Black Mountain rather than Buckhorn. But I had a good, rather relaxed ride and did see some wildlife highlights: the biggest tom (that's a male turkey for those of you who don't subscribe to Field & Stream) I had ever seen, a white-tail, and a bear cub climbing his way up a locust. Adorably gigantic ears, let me tell you. Good old friend of friends Conor met me in Brevard after a day of flyfishing to drive me back to Ashetown. All he asked for was $8 worth of gas and some ground beef. He's such a pal.
<--Not this big Tom,this big tom -->

Saturday night turned out to be considerably more epic than the day's ride, starting at the same flyfishing Conor's, then me, Philly Cheese Steak, Cody-No! and Camile "She did not just say that!" Prevost migrating to somewhere in Montford, and ending with the four of us getting a ride home from Dammit Sam in his peddy-cab. Sam had just finished a seven hour shift of hauling around tourists and was still willing to pick us up at 3 in the morning. Granted, he made Phil and Cody get out on the uphills, but man! was he a trooper on the flats and downhills, pulling all four of us. I owe that guy a burrito for all his hardwork, which is something I think I told him about 47 times that night.
Anyway, the exploring stopped there. Today I did an easy three hour road ride through the Swannanoa Valley, which is about as flat as it gets here. I was hoping for a Leicester or Madison County Maze ride with Art, but it didn't pan out, and I'm much more terrified of exploring on the road then in the woods, probably because when I picture trails in my head I see this:

But when I try to picture road routes, I see this:

I'm liking this end of the race season thing. I was talking to Art the other day about annual training plans, and I don't really know what that means or if I even really care, all I know is that since I don't have a race every weekend now, I go out and destory my legs any old time I want and I don't have to do easy days or anything bogus like that, so its really pretty enjoyable.
Collegiate season starts pretty soon.....Oh, dang!

Monday, August 18, 2008

Becoming Partially Whole Again

"I might have made a few mistakes, but maybe that's exactly what it takes
to get a little happy in this big, sad world. How many have you made?
And which have you laid on down to die?"
--The Avett Brothers
This past weeked was, to use a phrase that just re-entered my vocabulary, "the jams." Which then reminds me of a hilarious joke about jam, but this is neither the time nor the place for such crudity.

Anyway, Heartbreak Ridge was on friday...and I'm still stewing over how great that was, then saturday, I had no plans, which can be either terrifying or exciting. I wound up taking a convoluted way out to the BMX track to meet Lexy, Phil, Callum, and Cody. Lexy's letting my use his TAJ now, which I'm started to get used to, and maybe in another month I'll be able to beat some of the eight year olds. After awhile of pretending I was cool, I changed back into my spandex, put on my vented helmet, and rode a new way home...which was so good I think it'll become my standard: gravel road climb up to the best part of Elk Mountain, then its just zoomy-zoom all the way back into town.

As a sidenote to Saturday's fun, or to help suggest that I do do things besides bike riding and blahging, Saturday night was one of the most fun evenings lately, too. It was Lexy's week-late-unoffical Birthday party--which really just meant he got to call all the shots, which is how Jenna and I wound up at Asiana, watching Lexy down four plates of sushi. We then met up with some others at the Bier Garden to watch Michael Phelps show the world who's boss, and some other Olympians do their thing. Sometime and somehow later we wound up at a house party, made up of 10% Wilson alumni and 90% random ultimate frisbee players. The dichotomy of the crowd became apparent as soom as beer pong commenced, since all those alledged State School wienies were so geeked-out serious--so absurd when its in the context of beer pong. They kept saying silly things like "Yo, let us get the Power-I" or "Can you courtesy my cup to the back?" (To which Phil responded, "I'll give you a courtesy to the back." Of course he would. Ha! I loved it.) And they kept telling us we were doing things wrong, and coming from a school where anything official or rule-ridden is shunned, Beer Pong having such an extensive rulebook seemed rediculously absurd. Phil and I dominated the table for awhile, even though we apparently we scrappy, ruleless, and didn't know what we were doing, until we were ousted by Hart and Conor, two other former-Wilsonites, only much more scrappier and rulelessier. Take that State School Dorks! We can play a decent game of Beer Pong and still smile.

I'm now asking you to recognize this analogy for the sport of cycling, particularly mountain biking. Powertaps, inflexible training plans, proper hydration techniques, riding the trainer less your Dura Ace grouppo gets rusty, etc. is all well and good, but I still don't think any of this will do for you what frequent 6 hour rides in Pisgah will do for you. Besides it being infinitesimally much more fun.

Speaking of which...Sunday! Best ride, ever. I say that all the time, I realize, but this was the best ever for so many different reasons: made up route including trails I'd never ridden, wrong turn resulting in 15 minutes of unnecessary but rediculously fun climbing on an crazily overgrown trail, Laurel Mountain (which I'd been itching to do for so long), a life saving babbling brook where we could refill our empty-for-far-too-long bottles, a close-up view of Mt. Pisgah, a six mile sprint down the Parkway, a sweet final decent down Trace back to the truck, tailgate Sierra Nevadas (cooler-packed and ice-cold...homey knows how to roll), and most importantly, a rekindled friendship with someone who, I'm still certain, is one of the most important people in the world to me. It was a great ride, a great day, and dang...I'm still soft for that boy.

But I can't be. I'm not allowed. Homey's got a new girl, and a gorgeous one at that (which figures and leaves me, once again, to hope that some of my mediocre atributes might add up to something worthwhile...but they never do.) Anyway, the other day at work, after an impromptu heart-to-heart with my co-workers, co-worker Owen said, "You can't blame yourself for having feelings. You're not a robot, Kylie. Are you a robot?"

I'm not a robot. But if I were, I'd probably be made out of titanium, which would be cool. But for now, I have to adopt robot, "heart-part-made-of-stone" (for another Avett Bros. quote) mode. It hurts and it sucks and dang, he still gets me, I'm still so smitten, which I can't be anymore...but I am just so rediculously relieved, excited, all that jazz, to be friends with this guy again. Its "the jams", as it were. I don't know what to do from here, I never ever do, but I think the advice offered by one of the greatest bands to come out of the 1980's, 38 Special, (not really at all, but, hey, the lyric does the trick):

"Hold on loosely, but don't let go."

So that's that. Time to go ride the old road bike, recovery-ride style, which is good, 'cause it'll give me time to think, relish in a week's worth of great rides, and rock out to '80's music in my head.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

On Commraderie and Beer Vans

Well, in keeping up with my new found tradition, I will start this blahg post with a congratulatory note. This time it's to Alex of ProBikes, who recently set the new record for the 500m at the melodrome here is Ashevegas. I was lucky enough to have my high-end sports lens with me to capture this shot of him mid-lap:

This now officially makes Alex the fastest guy on a bike in Asheville. I had written that in a previous blahg post, but didn't really have any way to substantiate that, but now I do. Alex is fast, and he can bunny hop curbs like no other, and I hear he's a really good cook. Give him a pat on the back next time you see him.

Anyway, this past weekend, I rode with another fast Alex, this time Alex Uh-Ohman of ETSU fame in the Nighttrain 12 Hour Race. We finished second in the duo category, sandwiched between two Biowheels teams. The winners where a double-dude team, Kris Something-or-other and Eric Krause (who is kind of like my brother, Erik Krauss, but really only in the pronounciation of their names and maybe their taste in music, I don't really know...) And the team in 3rd was made up of two of the coolest cats around, Ian and Beth.

It was a battle-royale between Team Boner (me and Alex, of course...) and Biowheels #637 (Ian and Beth...#637 because Biowheels had so many teams there, but more power to them) for the first 11 laps. At that point, Alex and Ian had each done 6 laps, and Beth and I had done 5. The boys came in at about the same time, Alex handed the baton to me, and as I rode off, all I heard was:

Ian: "I just want to drink beer now..."

Beth: "But you should go, you're doing faster laps than I am"

So I rode off, not knowing if Ian or Beth would be behind me. Either way, 2nd place and 12 hours worth of dignity was on the line, so I took off for my 6th lap around 9pm, figuring I should just go kill it, as it was my last lap, I was having a rediculous amount of fun, and I really just wanted to see how much I could sketch myself out going that fast while night-riding. I never did get passed, meaning by the time I crossed the finish line, Alex was there to give me a big celebratory hug and Phil was there to give me 16 oz of celebratory beer. Turns out Ian's light had burned out, and he was left to stumble around the woods, using bike parts to forge tools to fend off bears (or some epic story like that) until some other racer was able to give him a light and he could return safely to the finish line.

Alex, displaying the team uniform, appropriate hydration technique, and good cheer.

This was my first 12 hour race, and while I felt wimpy doing it as a duo, it was awesome being able to time-trial for an hour, hang out, time-trial for an hour, hang out, and so on for an entire day. It was the first time I had ever ridden at Fontana when the trails were dry, and I had a blast going that much faster and being able to clean all the climbs--in the middle ring, nonetheless (if you've been out there for the Icycle, and you're not Ned Overand, you know what I'm talking about.) Holy cow, do I love those trails.

But besides the bike riding, the weekend involved such highlights as: tossing around a football like the good ol' days of yore, making s'mores, car-camping, a Pisgah Brewing Co. van with two taps coming out of the side doors, sitting around geeking out on bike tech talk with the other racers, playing cornhole, listening to live music, rolling my eyes as Alex and Phil oggled some stupid Audi in the parking lot, and such other random mini-experiences that made for one hell of a great weekend.

Oh, and when we got called up at the awards, it went like this:
Announcer Man: "And in second place, Team (pause, suggesting reluctance to continue) Boner...

Random Guy in Audience: "Ha! They sure stiffed the competition!"

Because I love puns as much as I love clever jeers coming from random folks in crowds, I thought this hilarious.

The Nighttrain was my sort of the epilogue to my race season. The "serious" races have come and gone, and for the rest of the year, there's just a scattering of big races (the Swank 65, the Double Dare, etc.) and maybe some 'cross races, iffn I can get a bike built up for less than a paycheck.

And the end of the season has, judging by this past week, been awesome. Every ride this week has been awesome:

Monday: Solo road ride along the river, out and back until I figured I'd run out of daylight.

Tuesday: Group ride out of Bent Creek with some great folks...Florida Transplant Luke Rozanski, Fast Brian, Philly Cheese Steak, and my adventure racing teammate Dwight. We ended the ride playing around at the pumptrack and log rides built with love by Benny Blitch, and then Phil and I met Art "You're How Old?!" Shuster at Papa's and Beer for some pre-collegiate season team talk.

Wednesday: Another solo ride, the usual parkway loop. But it was so nice, and with the breeze and draught-stressed trees dropping all their leaves, it felt like fall. I also saw another black bear, for a grand total of six so far, which is neat because I get to go, "hey, what a funny looking dog! Oh wait...!" But terrible because the reason I'm seeing so many bears is because they're building so many houses up on Elk and Town Mountain. Jerks.

Thursday: And another great group ride out of Bent Creek...this time Stephen and I just headed out, and he picked the usual trails but in reverse of how I usually ride them, which was refreshing and great, and made me realize I am out-of-singlespeed-riding-shape like woah. My legs don't spin and the power's not there like it used to be. But since race season is done, time for geared bike to be forgotten about for awhile. Anyway, we ran into Luke and Party Steve mid-ride and wound up going til the woods turned from all-grey to too dark to see much. Which now is only about 8:15, which is really quite tragic.

Friday: HEARTBREAK! This was awesome. Phil, Luke, Beth and I met Matt from Biowheels, some downhiller from Santa Cruz, and Mike Brown for the loop that everyone in this area must do. The last time I went to ride Heartbreak was a couple years ago with the WWC Bike Team, and we made a last minute decision at Star Gap, which produced an 11 hour ride, somehow...But anyway, I had never done the standard Heartbreak loop before, and this time it was so dry, the switchbacks were so flowy and rideable, and the group was awesome. It was great.

And now it's Saturday. There's a group ride in DuPont tomorrow, but Lexy has a state BMX race, which I'd like to check out so I can write another congratulatory note in my next blahg post. But anyway, two more cups of coffee this morning, and I'll get a run in, then decide where to go ride my bicycle for the rest of the afternoon.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

The Last Two Weeks

First off, big ol' props to Rebecca and Deejay for winning the mixed-duo category at 24 hour MTB Nationals...on singlespeeds, no doubt. If you can think of the coolest, most fun, talented, badass, laid-back-yet-still-crazy-fast people you know, then multiply that by 47 and add some charisma and good looks, you'll get a sense of what somone half as cool as Rebecca and Deejay would be. In other words, they rock, they're fast, go them.

Second off, the last SERC race was last weekend at Fontana, NC. Terrible performance on my part, where I pulled 3rd out of my ass while failing to appreciate what great trails they have out there...I sort of felt a little burnt out, it being the end of 5 months of racing. I wound up 2nd overall in the series, which is fine, but I don't think I'm going to do the series next year. I have grander plans, plus I'm bitter about dinky pay-outs and having to have missed ORAMM for that last SERC, being a slave to the desire to keep my 2nd place standing.

From Left: Bright-Futures-of-America-Rider Emily (15 and so Badass!),
Some Kid, Eventual SERC Series Champ Kym, Felecia, Anina,
and Rebecca-of-the-previous-paragraph-Tomaszewski

But this past weekend I got my longer-race fix anyway with the Goldrush 24 Hour Adventure Race. This was my forth or something 24 hour, and I still don't know how I feel about the sport. It's such a rediculously geeked-out and gear-headed scene, and I want to steal the trekking poles from the guy-who-acutally-brough-trekking-poles and stab the guy who refers to the sport as "A-R." Especially when used in a such a dumb clause as, "Only in AR would you see..." Shut up, dude...don't glorify yourself or this sport. You do adventure races, you're such a queer-ball to the general public, so quiet down and help keep us under wraps, you're embarrassing us. I think this same thing to myself when I'm totally in love with bicycles mid-ride and think I'm so cool zooming down a hill all fast on my titanium litespeed, then I stop to buy a soda, walking into a gas station in full spandex, and reality hits me like this:

Biking isn't cool, no matter how much our little sub-culture thinks it is. This doesn't mean I don't love it or appreciate the hell out of it, and I do still think cyclists are so much cooler than everyone else and that other people are idiots for driving their cars to go get sodas, but I realize that's only becuase I'm cracked out on the sport of cycling, and therefore druggedly biased. And I realize no one else really respects us, and will ever respect us less the more cool we think we are. This is sort of why I'm so weary of religion--it tries too hard to be imposing and self-righteous, tendancies of every sub-culture. And this is what causes people to despise other people, this is why there is hate, why high school cliques don't inter-date, why drivers hate roadies and mountain bikers hate equestrians and hikers hate mountain bikers and everyone hates triathletes.

And Adventure Racers are just triathletes with daypacks and a few more chafe marks. Yet, I like racing for 24 hours because of how bipolar you get: how sore then euphoric, how pissed and then clear-headed, how nauseaus then energetic, how sleepy then determined, and so on. I like pain that can be tracked back to a very clear source, I like goals that are achieved in 24 hours, but not easily, I like being lost in the woods but knowing its really no big deal, and I like how the only reason why I feel like I'm not going anyway is not because my future is indiscrete, I don't have a permanent job, I'm not in love, etc, but because I'm swimming across a lake at 2:30 in the morning with a full pack, a PFD, and running shoes.

I'm a terrible swimmer anyway, but even worse, apparently, when I have more crap then just bad form holding me back. And there were over three hours of swimming in this race, giving me plenty of time to feel like I was going nowhere and to reflect on the metaphor of this going-nowhereness. Feeling particularly down and out at one point, I decided to switch from freestyle to backstroke and I thought, "this sucks, I'm just going to lay on my back, think of Dan, and look for shooting stars." As soon as I did this, I saw me a shooting star, then another. I realize this means nothing, that the fate of "us" is in his hands (which means its been drawn and quatered and scattered in each of the four cardinal directions never to be pieced together again, I'm sure) and has nothing to do with normal cosmological occurances. But whatever, I allowed myself to be humored by this, and I did make it across the lake, through 11+ hours of trekking, 3 hours of biking, and some late-day running. And our team got 2nd or 3rd, or something, which qualified us for USARA Nationals again, which is good.

One of my teammates is from New Zealand, which one is he?

Correct answers will get a piece of toast with vegemite. And some sheep thrown in for good measure.

Anyway, the Nighttrain is this weekend, which is a party with a 12 hour bike race on the side. I'm so excited. I think I'm going to do the duo with Alex Uh-Ohman from ETSU. Word! Watch out for Team Destruction. Or something. And then I'm planning the Greater Pisgah Thru-Bike from West Asheville to Brevard, and then its time for collegiate season, where I'll spend my time giving feeds, heckles, and butt slaps, fully living up my retirement.

Above: Potential teammate Alex. Wise choice?

Don't know yet, but at least he's smart about sun exposure

Monday, July 28, 2008

Aw, Shucks

ProBikes is my local shop, right around the corner from us...its whose jersey I wear in races and its where I go to read bike magazines, use obscure tools, annoy the mechanics with my ineptitude, ring up one hell of a huge tab, and feel like I have a semblance of an extended family.

I went in there today for the first time in a couple weeks (I'm usually more regular than that) and it was just Jamie and Alex, which was other official customers, so we could shoot the shit for a little bit. Jamie has experience in every type of biking ever, and he's done them all well, and he's Canadian, so he's great. And everytime I talk to Alex I learn or think about something new. He's the fastest guy on a bike in Asheville, he's rediculously intelligent, he'll dish out more shit than you can handle, and for all these things, I have a huge amount of respect for him. He's also all legs, which reminds me of the drawings children do, which look rediculous, but I think are actually an incredible example of the ability to draw perspective, which is hard for even advanced artists to do. Think about it: when you're knee high to everyone around you, this is how you would see people: I drew that myself and added the cycling cap so you would know it was Alex. Anyway, this is sort of what he looks like to me, because he's so tall.

These guys help me out a lot, in little ways that really amount to a lot more. The sort of "I'll be back around 5 to get that bottom bracket and put it in." Then I slip out for a ride, come back, and Alex has come and gone, to finish up some other job he had to do, and just for the hell of it, he finished up my bike for me. He freely tosses me spokes, Stan's, advice, ridicule, wisdom, etc. and I fully appreciate and take in it all.

Sometimes I feel like I put a lot of work into this cycling hobby, not to mention a lot of money, and getting breaks is hard. I sent out tons of race resumes last season, only to recieve rejections, dinky-sponsorships, or no response at all, and I see the same thing happen to riders who are a hell of a lot faster than I am, and super hard-working, and such good advocates of the sport...and its all them, not much outside help, and its hard. So when folks like Alex and Jamie and Phil and Kevin and to a much more prolonged extent, Art Shuster, show a little bit of faith in me, and are so willing to help, that means a whole hell of a lot to me.

Oh, and better watch out for Team Canada. Alex, (who is rediculously fast and deserves to show the rest of the world how fast he is, and I want him to because he's still young and needs to do this for himself) and I suckered Jamie, the GodFather-Like-Woah-of-Cycling, to be our "coach." Whatever that means. But we'll be sponsored by beer (Labatt's, of course), ice-fishing, maple syrup, and hockey. And Alex and I will figure out where our potentials lie. This is important, this is good. Sometimes being serious and determined is ok. We'll probably make fun of ourselves a whole bunch, we'll have to give up certain things like real jobs, Alex will call what we're doing (i.e. training) "gay", but that'll be ok, because we're going to go for it. We'll be faster than we are now, and that's cool. But we really won't try that hard, because we all now that that's not cool.

Jamie (right) on a day off

Philosophisizing.....or whatever

"Were spinning around in inifinite space,
why shouldn't we encounter difficulties?"
--Marie Rainer Rilke
Ok, so I'm back from my run in awhile, and first time in two weeks that my knee didn't hurt. I went kaboom on the road bike a couple weeks ago, and since them my knee's been old-man style. But I did to it what I usually do for injuries...keep forcing running and biking, making it hurt, acknowledging it hurts, but not doing anything about it, and then suddenly it just goes away. Of course, this isn't always the best way to handle injuries, and each case takes good-judgement and critical thinking, of which I have neither, so my advice will stop there.

Anyway, this injury-treatment method of mine is now applicable to boys. It hurts, it sucks, then one day its over, and I go out for a great run, and think about life philosophies, bad jokes, Beatles songs, and why anyone would ever own a tiny dog.

So here it is...what I learned from my first good run in two weeks: we should all just be like the British. They have a rediculously absurd and wonderful sense of humor, probably due to the fact that they live in a very dreary part of the world. For some reason this didn't work out for people in the Pacific Northwest, but they produced grunge and Nirvana, so I suppose it evens out. Anyway, what I'm trying to say is that life pretty much really does suck a lot of the time. It's grey and dreary and challenging and uncomfortable and so far beyond us (if you don't believe me, go read the newspaper or go have a beer with a social worker, which I did on friday, and wow....) but in the end, nothing ever turns out to matter that much, everything is so fleeting (especially, that is, in the long run), and the only way to get through any of this is to have a sense of humor. I think its ok to recognize that life sometimes isn't all that agreeable, so long as you can maintain a focus on the whimsy, absurdities and pleasantries of everyday life.

Bad road ride the other day...fixed easily by a roadside bush of ripe blackberries.

Boring-ass, motivationless day at work....fixed easily by an impromptu fight of bear corn (Cornopholis americana)


Three months of being sad over a boy...fixed by an incontinuitious weekend, immature blahg posts, and an evening run.

Well probably not entirely. But whatever. At least my knee's all but healed...I've got a 24 hour adventure race this weekend (ugh! I thought I retired from those...) and being hurt over the boy is ok because its been motivating me to step up my search for grad schools and ph.d programs, as a way to distract myself by day-dreaming of my future full of coffee, cowboys, and math classes.

The Final Blow, and Why I've Finally Resolved to Move the Hell On

I'm under the impression that no one really looks at this blahg, and that's the way I like it: that's how I focus my writing, that's why I write about unimportant things, that's why I don't usually bother to post pictures...I'm just sort of writing for the sake of writing, and because written out diaries are for little girls.

But I look at other people's blahgs fairly regularly (and some, like bikesnob's, fairly religiously) and that made me worried that some people might actually be looking at this. Whoops.

Anyway, came across a blahg of the boy of late the other day, and uh....woah, there passive agressive blagh posts. Second time something like this happened. Ouch for real, dawg. I've been so hurt over this, he won so hard (and he must know it), and its probably all me rubbing salt into my own wounds, but dude...I'm hurt. I tried and I lost so hard. Don't be like this, dude. So of course, the mature adult in me in combating my distaste for passive-agressive ways of dealing with relationships (or lack thereof's, or sudden declines thereof, or whatever) with a passive agressive blahg of my own. But whatever. He's not reading this, I'm sure.

I'll grow up in time for the next post, I promise.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Mountain Bike Nationals

Bicycle Nationals just took place in a little overpriced ski town in the Flannel Capital of the U.S. I had never been to a real live NORBA before, so it was pretty neat getting to see the pages of Mountain Bike Action (I only look at the pictures, I don't read the articles....honest) live and in person. Ryan Trebon is actually taller than he looks, his seatpost is higher than it looks, and he goes faster than you could even dare to think. But I spent the week in a house full of more humble and average-heighted professionals (goon-balls, really...but that's off the bike.) And it proved to be an absolute blast.

Start of the U-23 women's race.

I raced the U-23 race (got 3rd to Jamie Dinkens and the forever natty champ Chloe Forsman) and the singlespeed race a couple days later. There were something like forty dudes entered for the latter, and two girls. Lame. There were also only four pro women entered in the dual slalom. Lamer still. I fully appreciate the, as a collegiate racer pointed out once, "forty million to one" rato of guys to girls in this sport, but I do not appreciate showing up to a national championship and seeing hardly any competition. Elizabeth Shorgrun beat me like woah, and after racing three laps on her 32-22 (yeah, those climbs were steep...) she stayed on the singlespeed for the women's pro race and finished 23rd in that. She's a super badass, and if she'd give just a smidgen of her badassness to the next twenty women around her, we would have had a much more interesting race that day. Half empty podiums suck, is all I'm trying to say.

Moving on...fellow SECCC rider Johanne won the expert 19-29 women's Super D, Housemate-of-the-week Travis Livermon won the men's singlespeed race, Sam Don't-Worry-About-His-Last-Name won the Naked Crit, and Ryan Woodall had one good-looking mustache in the pro men's shorttrack. Good job, friends. I'm proud.

The only thing that didn't really win this week was the Otter Creek Porter. I was told I had to try it, which I wasn't opposed to, but its about as average as I am, which is very. I remember hiking up past Sterling Pond somewhere off the Long Trail in Vermont a couple years ago, getting to some shelter, and having a group of ruggedly good-looking, guitar-playing young men off me and bff Sarah some Long Trail Blackberry Wheat (this memory may have been embellished). Normally not a fan of the pussy beers, I was blown away: holy cow, perfect experience. So there's a special place in my heart for local Vermont brews, and Otter Creek kind of weasles its way in there by default. But I'm still in search of the world's best porter. I'll keep you updated.

But overall, USAC Mt. Bike Nationals was A-Ok. I'm pleased with my result in the U-23 race, and it kind of makes me ambitious for next season. I think I might get serious about this. I made new friends, old friends did well and made me proud, I spent too much money eating out but it was worth it, I didn't see any moose, dang, I rode the course backwards one day and liked it better that way, I read my book a lot, etc. It was a good week.

And now its back to the ol' work routine. One more SERC race this weekend, and then I'm kind of on my own for entertaining myself bike-wise. Weird.