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