Sunday, October 25, 2009

Tumbling Creek 6 Hour

The Tumbling Creek 6 Hour was originally scheduled for Saturday. We had a party scheduled for Isabel and her friends on Saturday, so I'd written it off, but bad weather all week pushed the race to Sunday, and woohoo! it was back on the schedule.

On the one hand, racing is fun. On the other hand, my ribs are still busted from Unicoi and I've been preparing for the race by getting sick, pigging out for 2 weeks and not riding. It could be ugly.

The line-up was stacked with the usual suspects, but everyone was playing an odd role. Russell was working in the timing tent. Johnny was on a team with Travis. Matt and Vonnie were pitting. Only Baldwin and Ursula were in character, racing solo.

The ugliness began with 38 degree weather and a LeMans start. Ie. running around a lake before getting on your bike. I hike a lot, but that's not the same as running. I really didn't want to run in my bike shoes, or with pockets full of stuff, so I wore my trail shoes, and put my bike shoes, helmet and all my crap by my bike, which, in retrospect, wasn't the best plan. I was dead last leaving the start. Annnd... I'd stolen the seat off of my road bike last night, but didn't get it adjusted right, so like a minute later I had to stop and fix that. I made it better, but not great. All day I was sitting slightly off the back, and now I have a knot in my left butt which might go away, or if I'm lucky, might become an epic saddle sore. We'll see.

At any rate. Lap 1 and 2 were fun, I made my way through the crowd, picking off riders left and right, but my ribs hurt pretty bad. Around lap 3 the rest of me started hurting and my ribs just sort of blended into that. The rest was a blur. I sketched pretty bad twice. The greenway sections were muddy. The trail has nine million exposed roots.

Vonnie was all "go Muse!" every time I came around. Matt gave me food and water. It's good to have friends.

At Tumbling Creek, you climb and descend, but neither are long and neither are steep. You're always on the gas. No rest. Even so, I had energy all day, but toward the end everything hurt and I had to fight with myself about using said energy.

I also realized today, that for the first few laps, there are spectators, photographers, and course marshals out there, all interested in how you're doing, all encouraging. Toward the end, they're gone, the course is empty, even the riders are spread out. When you're at your lowest, you are also at your loneliest.

It was 38 degrees when I started and 78 at the end. 40 degrees! There is no way to dress for that.

All of this is ugly. 9 laps ugly though, which was fine with me.

Baldwin bailed after 6, so for the first time in history, I actually beat him racing.



Johnny gave me a coke. 20 minutes later I felt alright.

I may be addicted to racing. When I look for words to objectively describe today's experience, "pain" comes to mind. Just pain. I mean, it was fun until it hurt, and it was gratifying to be able to push it that hard, but if I had to describe it in 200 words, the first 198 would be pain, and the last 2 would be fun and gratifying. And yet I'm drawn to it.

Post race I drove around the back and walked over to the wetland pavillion and relax a bit.

 Tumbling Creek Wetland Pavillion


 Tumbling Creek Wetland

Walking back to my car, I saw some dude checking it out, looking inside. He caught sight of me walking toward him and took off down the street kind of fast, but also trying to act nonchalant. I waved to him as I drove by and he turned his head so I couldn't see his face. Naughty, naughty.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Bowman's Island

Yeah, I go there all the time.

Me and the kids walked around a bit today. There are still a couple of purple lines on my map. Can't have that.

We started at the Island Ford trailhead, walked down the ridge toward Richland Creek, took the first trail at the bottom of the ridge, and lo...


a washing machine? I guess.

The trail led into the flatts and quickly became indistinguishable from the surrounding woods. One less purple line.

I wanted to get across Richland Creek and kill some purple on the other side too. We went down to the creek, but it was deep and fast-moving, and it was too cold for wet feet. Iz led us upstream for a while, looking for a better place to cross. The brush was dense, but there were a thousand game trails weaving through it. Sophie called it a "wonderland of sticks" or something like that.


Eventually we spotted a tangle of trees upstream, brought down by the recent floods. Maybe we could cross there.


On the way to the crossing, we found this big sinkhole with a little trickle of a stream running into it. There was a veritable gorge between it and the river. I imagine whenever we get some good rain, another chunk drops in.


It took us 30 minutes, but we tiptoed, crawled and clambered over the jungle gym of downed trees. Iz almost fell into the water once, but she saved it in one of the most impressive flails I've ever seen. I'm not sure I could have saved it. Her gymnastics classes really paid off. She wasn't in any danger, except of getting wet, but it was still cool.

Sophie has some work to do on her confidence. For every obstacle, she's quick to say she can't do it. She can't reach, can't balance, can't get up, down, over, under or through, but then of course, when she tries, she gets it done on the first try.

Iz was the first to make it across. She's been studying explorers in school, so when she set foot on the far bank, she claimed "the new world" for herself. "I claim this new world, all of it, even though I haven't seen any of it yet..." Hilarious.

We milled around over there for a while and killed some more purple.

Found a ton more oranges, or whatever these are.


This time, I took one home and I'm going to cut it in half.

We took a little break where Richland tees into the Chattahoochee.

M'n'M's and Skittles. Healthy.


We didn't really want to have to cross back where we crossed over the first time, it was a long way upstream and we were already pushing daylight.

Another jungle gym. Could we get across?


Apparently so, and much more easily than before.

Up the other side.


Iz nav'ed us through the woods back to Old Island Ford Road and out. By the time we got out, it was officially dark. Earlier than I expected. I'll have to keep an eye on that. The time change is coming soon too.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Big Creek Greenway

Isabel can ride her bike awesome now. I figured she might like to ride somewhere other than the bank parking lot, so we took it to the greenway.

Apparently the greenway has won some awards.


Do they give awards for having coyotes?


For being totally man-made, the greenway is pretty scenic.


Well, almost. The recent rains have more than made up for the drought earlier this year.


I walked with Sophie as she rode with her training wheels.


Iz was on her own. I think the sense of freedom really set it today and she was loving it.


I looked down for a few seconds and Sophie yelled "Whoa, deer!" I looked back up and saw a deer bounding across the trail, through the pond and into the woods only a few feet ahead of Iz. Apparently I only saw the last one. The kids both said there were at least 5 of them. Iz was amazed. We watched them in the woods for a few minutes. They were ambivalent to us. Awesome.

I can't wait until Sophie can ride without her training wheels and we can all ride together.

Silk Sheets

My cousin Beau Landry was in town this past weekend. Technically he's my brother's brother-in-law, but we're both from Louisiana and in Louisiana, every distant family member, even by marriage, that doesn't have an obvious designation like aunt or uncle, is a cousin. So he's my cousin :) He came up for the weekend to visit my brother's family and given that he rides both road and mountain bikes, he brought them with him, and we rode the Silk Sheets.

The Silk Sheets is a hundred miles of smooth rolling pavement on the backroads of quiet Georgia hill country. (we only rode 50)

It was a nice day...


...but a little cold, 42 degrees I think. The first cold ride of the year.







Lots of BOR jerseys in Douglasville. The shop's closed but we still wear the kits.

We parked at a church at the beginning of the route. A really sweet elderly lady came out to let us know that next Saturday there would be an event at the church and we'd have to park somewhere else, but that we were welcome today and every other day. In 40 degree weather, she was wearing house clothes, and walked a long way, taking very short, very labored steps to get to the parking lot. I love meeting people like that. I hope when I'm her age, I'm as sweet as her, and also as hard.

The loop itself was tougher than I remembered. It's like 3 millions hills in a row. I had it, but it wasn't easy. And the cold sucked. I never got warmed up and my lungs hurt. Beau was struggling too. He's strong, but there's a lot of technique to riding rollers, and not too many hills in Louisiana. He did know how to ride a crosswind though, which nobody in Georgia knows how to do.


I had to get to Isabel's gym meet for 2:30, so about 10 miles from the end Jake and I took off ahead. Jake is strong though, and he put the wood to me without even trying. Worse, John and Beau showed up about 10 minutes after us. I could have just cruised in and still made it. Ehh, no pain, no gain. Hopefully I've got my winter lungs now, the Swank's coming up.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Stone Mountain

Sunday was a good day. Waffle House, early church service, took the kids to ride at the bank... But I needed to walk off Saturday's crash. Somehow I convinced Kathryn to join me and the kids for a hike at Stone Mountain.

We grabbed some lunch with the hipsters at the Carroll Street Cafe. We weren't cool enough to eat there, but still, it was really good.

The last time we were at Stone Mountain, we climbed up to the top. Sophie loves climbing on rocks and she wanted to go to the top. But my left thigh and left side were so sore, a climb to the top would have killed me. Today we walked around it.

At first, there was a lot of this...

 Rooty Trail

...followed by a lot of this.

 Cherokee Trail 1

When I left the house, I turned on my GPS to check the batteries, but apparently left it on the entire day and it was almost completely dead when we started walking. When we got around to where the shops were, I ran over and got some new batteries.

Robert E. Lee and Co. The most popular attraction at Stone Mountain.

 Stone Mountain Relief

The story of the carving is actually fairly interesting.

Just past the carving, we found a little nature garden.

 Nature Garden Dedication

The trail was lined with stones bearing the names of the Atlana Pen Women.

 Nature Garden Trail

Sophie thought they were headstones. "I'm walking on dead people."

I didn't see much in the way of a garden, but a large sourwood tree had fallen right into the middle of the clearing and destroyed part of a concrete picnic table.

Toward the back of the garden, you could walk right up to the face of the mountain.

 Kathryn and Sophie Touching the Mountain

 Iz Touching the Mountain

 Stone Mountain Face

Quick pose...

 Stone Mountain Face


We crossed the train tracks right as the train was coming by.

 Choo Choo

And stopped for a break at the old mill chute.

 Mill Chute

There's a little bit of water you have to cross to get to where we stopped. Iz just walked through it. Me and Kathryn stepped on some rocks. Sophie's legs were like 1 inch too short to step across the rocks, so she bent down and did this crazy stretch to get across them, but still couldn't reach. I've seen her do it before, but Kathryn hadn't. Very entertaining.

We saw some kind of cool bird flitting around, too. I need to learn more about birds.

The "old mill" itself.


And the covered bridge.

 Covered Bridge

The trail skirted Stone Mountain Lake for a while. And by skirted, I mean it literally ran inches from the edge of the lake. There were places even where they had to reroute uphill a bit because the lake had reclaimed part of the trail, and another section near an inlet where they'd had to build a walkway with chunks of granite.

We crossed the dam dividing Stone Mountain and Venable Lakes and saw a Blue Heron standing at mouth of the spillway. It looked so big in real life for how tiny it looks in the picture.

 Blue Heron

Looking out across Venable Lake I could see how much further we had to go. I was so sore. It looked like forever. But we were moving at a good pace. Not too fast, not too slow. We'd make it.

Sophie was getting bored. "Why do we even walk in the woods like this? It's so boring." But a few minutes later we got a good view of the mountain and Iz said "It's like Stone Mountain is a painting!" There you go. That's why. Or at least part of it.

About halfway around that lake, we stopped again for a break at a little trickle of waterfall. Upstream there was a large rock face, with water steadily running over it, but not very much water. I can't imagine how that little bit of water could have cleared out all that soil, but I guess it did.

We showed Iz how to operate the camera on my phone.

 Me and Kathryn On the Falls

And back on the trail...

 Cherokee Trail 4

Howell Lake had been all but drained.

 Howell Lake

And there was some little rock wall out in the middle of nowhere next to the trail...

 Girls on the Rock Wall

...and a chimney.


Soon, the trail started up the side of Stone Mountain.

 Cherokee Trail 5

It got rockier and rockier until we were on the stone face itself.

 Stone Mountain

Sophie got her wish. For the last mile or so, we climbed sideways over the west ridge.

 Stone Mountain

Iz noticed that you could even see Atlanta.

 The ATL

In places, trickles of water ran down the face, making it extremely slippery. Kathryn even slid down into some brush trying to follow a line that Iz and Sophie were light enough to walk, but we weren't. There were a few spots where if you slipped, you could slide a long way before tumbling down solid granite. It was a little nerve wracking.

Up and over.

It was getting dark when we got back to the car. Kathryn walks faster when it's getting dark :) I had to get her to slow down a couple of times. Ugh.

I think it did me some good. All night I had a fever, and even had the shakes for a while, but today I feel pretty good. No stiffness, not much pain. The bruises are starting to show up though. They ought to look pretty cool in a couple of days.

Habersham Bank

The girls are really loving their bikes these days.

 The Gerch

 The Iz

Isabel is finding out how fast she can go.

 Iz Ripping It

She also learned how to ride standing up, and sort-of with one hand. I hope to get her out on the greenway next week. We'll see.

Sophie tried again without her training wheels, but it didn't work out. Maybe next time.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Unicoi 6 Hour

Today was the Dirty Spokes 6 hour at Unicoi State Park.

 Unicoi Sigh

Unicoi was the last race in the series, and it wasn't inconceivable that I could snag 5th place overall.

Upon setting foot on pit row, I was greeted by Tim, the race director, by name. Tim is a great race director, and just a great guy in general. It's the little things, like knowing a 10th place sport rider by name, and taking the time to say hi. But, it's also the big things, like getting results up quickly, responding to issues, and generally running a good show, and series.

I set my chair down next to the Addictive Cycles tent and got all my stuff ready. New to my goodie bag: salt and power bars. The salt staved off the cramps at the FM24 and with all of the climbing at Unicoi, I'd probably need protein, not just carbs.

 My Stuff

Lots of friends were hanging around. The TNGA Crew:

 YMHA Crew

The Middle South Georgia Boys:

 Middle Georgia Boys

(I kept calling them the Middle Georgia Boys, but their team is South Georgia Racing and they're from Albany, except Clark, who now lives near Helen)



This race marks Jason Milliron's return after a devastating non-bike-related injury earlier this year.

There were a also dozen other folks I failed to photo including Mike Reardon who I haven't seen in years, and Simon, Scottish John, Matt and Michelle of FM24 fame. Matt and Michelle were doing the 12 hour coed thing.

I took a quick spin around the park to warm up.

Smith Creek:

 Smith creek 1

 Smith creek 2

Apparently a really good trout stream. Some fishermen were out there before the race, hauling em in.

Unicoi Lake...

 Unicoi Lake

...and the dam that produces it.

 Unicoi Lake Dam

Unicoi Lodge.

 Unicoi Lodge

After warming up I did some stretching. At least one of my knees usually starts hurting about 3 hours into a ride, under the kneecap, way up inside. Maybe tight muscles hold things in tension when they should be relaxed. Maybe stretching will fix that. Only one way to find out.


Lap 1 was the usual traffic jam. My impression last week was that there weren't any long climbs, only a bunch of steep ones. But, it turns out that after a couple of not-too-long climbs, there are 3 long ones, and the second and third have very steep sections. I sketched on one of them when the guy ahead of me got stalled out, but otherwise I was able to ride them all day.

I'm not a strong climber. Norma and Johnny are, and both passed me on the first lap. Usually they pass me in lap 4 or 5. That's how much climbing there was. 2300 feet per lap, by my calculations.

Lap 2 was just rolling, feeling good.

Before lap 3 I hit the salt and half a power bar, but the twinges started setting in anyway. I probably should have started on the salt earlier. Time for some cramp management. Speaking of cramps, I passed Steve Julain on lap 3. We rode together for a while, but after a mile or so, the cramps started getting to him. He fell back, and every few minutes he'd scream. I felt sorry for him, but his howling was so loud and awesome, I couldn't help laughing. Apparently though, my laughter counted as a withdrawal from the Karma bank. I'd drained that account at the FM24 and only put a few bucks back in at the end. It would seem that I was broke again. Five minutes later I crashed.

Not just any crash. My front wheel washed in some loose dirt at the bottom of a hill and threw me into a stand of young pines. Well, most of them were young, one was like 8 inches in diameter. I slammed my left thigh and ribs into the tree, drug my right knee and shin across my bars, flipped over and came to rest several feet off the ground on a bed of bent-over saplings. It took a while to get out and even longer for the shock to wear off. My left calf cramped so hard I was worried that I might have broken and/or dislocated something. But, no, I was fine. Hurt, yes, but not injured. I could still ride. My bike was virtually untrashed as well. Virtually. I did break one of my seat rails. One of my titanium seat rails. Snapped it right in two. But I could sit on my left butt. I was still in shock, but I actually spoke out loud: "You can manage this. Go." And like magic, one pedal stroke and I snapped out of it. I was back in the race. Only 4 riders has passed me and I knew 2 of them weren't in my class.

At neutral support, Cody from Addictive gave me a new saddle. Again, only a few riders passed me while I pitted. I'd been riding with Milliron most of the day, but he got out ahead of me. I made it my mission to catch him within the lap.

Lap 4, the cramps were gone but I had no power. The salt was working. I think I was still a little shocked. I felt like I had energy but I couldn't apply it to the pedals. I did catch Milliron though.

Lap 5, I had power again, at least as much power as I usually have at that point. Me and J rode together for most of the lap, but I got away from him at the end.

When I came in, I had 45 minutes left, but there's no way I could turn a lap in that time. All done.

I was dazed and cuold not bend over easily. Tim noticed this and took off my RFID tag so I wouldn't have to. The little things. It was funny though, even though he told me what he was doing, I wasn't sure what he was doing until he started to do it. Dazed.

I rode around a bit to cool off my legs and ran into Travis, his girlfriend, and his dog. They'd come by to say hi and spectate a little. A good surprise. I really didn't expect to see him and it was cool to meet his girl.

Time to get clean. I considered bathing in the creek, but seeing as it's such a stellar trout stream, it just didn't seem right. Not that the amount of dirt on me would matter, but maybe I'd start a trend. No, not in the creek. Fortunately there was a spigot at the edge of the field. Ahhh, clean.

I came in 9th. You can see my crash and it's effect, by looking at my lap times. The first 2 were like 57 minutes and 54 minutes and then 1:09, 1:07, 1:04, or something like that. Ugh. And, I came in 6th in the series. Just my luck, missed it by 1. Though actually I don't know if they even went 5 deep.

I ran around saying goodbye to everyone. While hanging out with the Middle Georgia Boys, Vonnie's wife and amazingly cute 3 year old daughter came by. It was cool to meet them too. We laughed about my inability to spell his name correctly after Mt. Mitchell.

The 12 hour riders were still turning laps when I took off.

Even though there are hundreds of people around, racing can be a lonely thing. You ride by them, but you're in your little world and they're in theirs.

 Pit Row

One good thing today... It rained all night and a band of weather was heading our way all day, but it rained itself out before it ever got to us. I kept waiting for the sky to open up, but the most I ever felt was a few drops.

On the down side...

The carnage:

 Slam 2

Can't make it out too well in this pic. It will look a lot more awesome tomorrow. My leg has a similar wound.

The wreckage:


Well, at least now I have an excuse to buy a lighter seat.

Unicoi was the last Dirty Spokes event ever. Next year Chain Busters will be taking over the series. I'll miss Tim, but the guy that runs Chain Busters seems like a good guy too. Either way, I'll be back next year. For now, it'll be winter soon and I'm looking forward to just riding for a while.