Monday, August 29, 2011

Arabia Mountain

A month or so back, while riding the Arabia Mountain Trail, the girls, their friend Madison and I discovered the Davidson-Arabia Mountain Nature Preserve and Atlanta Wild Animal Rescue Effort. We had other plans that day but we vowed to return and take a tour of the animal rescue center and explore the hiking trails. Today the four of us did just that.

Most animals that come through the rescue center are rehabilitated and released back into the wild after they're given some tests. The few that fail end up being permanent residents and become part of the tour. Unfortunately we didn't get to see all of the animals at the rescue center. It was just my luck. Most of them were out at a fair or something at Haynes Creek, but the ones that were there were still pretty interesting.

They had a red tailed hawk that survived a shattered pelvis but now lacks the strength to grab its prey.

 Red Tailed Hawk

They also had a bobcat that was as tame as a house cat and a bard owl with an eye infection. As it turned out, we'd actually seen the rest of the animals the last time except for a skunk. Apparently it's safe to let a skunk just run around, they stamp their feet and give you plenty of warning before they're going to spray. Who knew?

Last time, we'd seen an really sweet little opossum which, as it turned out, had died the day before. It made the lady giving us the tour noticeably sad to talk about it and we felt lucky to have seen it the last time.

They let us fill our camelbacks in their bathroom and we got to see tiny baby squirrels of various ages while we did. They get a lot of squirrels and rabbits. Cats catch young ones and don't know what to do with them. Apparently cat saliva can contain Pasteurella bacteria and small escaped prey can die from it within a few days. I had cats all my life and worked at a pet store for years in high school but I never learned that. You learn something new every day.

After the animal shelter, we went walking around on the mountains.

The main trail went directly up Bradley Mountain and was marked by cairns so it was pretty easy to follow.


We passed an old quarry almost immediately.

 Bradley Mountain Quarry

On Bradley Mountain, there were occasional signs of old quarry activity but by and large the landscape was natural.

 Exposed Granite

Lichen and vegetation grew abundantly in every little dry pool or slightly shaded area.


This weird little short red stuff called diamorpha grows all over. It's rare in the southeast but you wouldn't know that from seeing it there.

Our plan was to follow a trail around Bradley and Arabia Mountains to get a sense of the scale of the place and then decide if we should go across the street to the Davidson side or not. The trail around the side wasn't all that easy to make out. There were no cairns marking it. We could kind of tell where to go for a while because the lichen was slightly more worn in some spots but we were further down on the mountain than the map made it look like we should be.

There were a couple of interesting sights along the trail...

Some big rocks to climb on.

 Girls on Big Rock

A lake.


But mostly just lots of gnarly terrain, unusual in Georgia.

 Bradley Mountainside

It was impressively hot. I could tell but I've gotten really acclimated to it these past few weeks. The girls kept commenting on it though.

Drink, drink.

Arabia Mountain was very different from Bradley.

 Arabia Mountain

Most of the mountain had been quarried. It looked like it may even have been 6 or 8 feet taller at some point.

There were piles of gravel and huge blocks of stone littered everywhere. Several times we came to the edge of a cliff and had to find a way up or down. It was wild. Not the kind of thing you'd generally get to see outside of an active quarry.

We even discovered a granite vault.

 Granite Vault

I thought it would be an oven inside but instead it was cool.

The map showed the trail entering the woods near the north end of the property. We searched and searched, triangulated and searched some more. Eventually we followed what had clearly once been a trail, but didn't look like it got much use these days. I was confident we weren't where we were supposed to be but we should eventually cross it. Eventually we crossed a much more well defined trail but even it didn't appear to go exactly the right way.

On my own, I'd have explored around until I sorted it all out but Isabel was getting sick at her stomach for many of the same reasons I'd been sick racing yesterday. It was disappointing but we decided to head back.

We climbed Arabia Mountain and followed the ridge line back.

There were cacti all over up there.


At the gap between Arabia and Bradley, Madison started to feel sick and light headed. "Do we have to climb all the way up there?"

 Bradley Mountain

It was odd. She'd been strong all day. Her pulse was weak. She hadn't been drinking.

Easy enough to fix. Ten minutes later she was doing a lot better.

We picked up the cairn-marked trail at the top and followed it back to the car - almost back to the car. We actually stopped for a picnic near the lot.


Sweet tarts, slim jims, twizzlers and water. Mmmmm.

I'd figured we'd be out for a few hours longer than we were, so we had plenty of the day left. Stonecrest Mall was on the way out and I had a car full of girls so we went shopping. Yes, I took the girls shopping, willingly. We followed it up with some Doc Chey's but they put bok choy in my noodles even after I told them not to!

The girls impressed me too. When Maddie's over they usually fight for attention but they didn't do much of that today. They interrupted each other sometimes but there wasn't even much of that.

We didn't accomplish our mission but we'll come back in the fall and try again. I think it'll be easier when it's less than a million degrees out.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Tribble Mill 6 Hour

This morning I got up early for the Chainbuster 6 Hour at Tribble Mill. Not as early as last weekend, but early enough. I'd been up kind of late the night before, reading, of all things. I paid $1.50 for the collected works of Jules Verne last year and every single one of them is good! "Michael Strogoff, The Courier of the Czar" had my attention last night until the wee hours. I just couldn't put it down. I'm still going with the theory that Thursday night's sleep is more operative though, and I did sleep well Thursday night.

While running around in Dahlonega getting things ready for the Fool's Gold, I got rear-ended and my Outback is now in the shop. In the mean time I've got this little rental Corrolla. I have to cram bike in the trunk, but it's getting the job done, so I'm not complaining.

 Junk in the Trunk

I grabbed some breakfast at Waffle House.


Two orders scrambled well, dry toast, hold the grits.

Even with the Waffle House stop, I got to Tribble Mill with plenty of time to register and set up. It wasn't a perfect set up though. I didn't realize how short I was on on Clif Blocks until last night and with no Clif-Block-source available prior to the race, I went with Zingers instead.

 Ride Fuel

They work well as pre-ride fuel, perhaps they would work all right during the ride as well.

Running around in the pits I ran into a million friends. Too many to name them all. One specific guy though, that I never expected to see, was Mark Donaghy, up from Florida. He rides mountain bikes but he's mainly a triathlete. I met him at last year's TNGA. It was so random, but great to see and talk to him again. He was riding with a 6-hour team. It later occurred to me that he must have come up to spend a few days riding, not just for the one race, but I kept forgetting to ask him about it.

I ended up pitting with Eddie and Nam...

 Topeak Zone

I will assert once again, that if I take a photo of you, there is a 50/50 chance that your face will be totally obscured in the photo.

They were doing the race because otherwise they'd have ended up sitting around the house, maybe getting out on the road for an hour, getting tired of the heat, going back home and sitting around the house some more, tempted by the glorious beer surrounding them.

I was still feeling the Fool's Gold, still feeling sick from some weird cold my family had all week and I was short on both sleep and mid-week miles. It was necessary to assess the situation with a little warm up so I spun a couple of laps around the paved trail and some of the park roads.

Down by the lake, there were geese all over the place.


Geese are proud and petulant. "We do not move for you." I had to creep by to keep from running them over.

The warm up revealed what I thought it would. I felt OK. Not great. The first lap would hurt but then it ought to be all right. If I was still feeling it at the end of the first lap, it would be a long day.

The pre-race meeting was held on time and Kenny gave us the run-down.


I did a last minute check. It looked like everything was good to go.

 Ready to Go

I say "looked" ready because at a glance everything looked fine, and I kept telling myself that, but deep down I knew better. My bike's nickname is The Rolling Junk Show and it was living right up to that name today. The spring in the right pedal has so much play in it that my foot regularly pops out at inopportune times. I even have new pedals, but I keep failing to change them and keep validating it by telling myself I'm just getting as many miles as possible out of these. That seat is the old seat from my road bike from last year that I replaced with an Aspide. I'd chucked it on the floor of the garage and just discovered it again this past Wednesday. My real seat got busted at the end of the Fool's Gold and I'd replaced it last night with the old junker. Rolling Junk Show.

We lined up in a field and then stood there for like 10 minutes. It started getting hot but it was nothing compared to the furnace I'd been exposed to in Dallas. I could hack it. We were lined up between to stakes that had to be 100 yards apart so the field was a million bikes wide but only 5 or 6 deep. I'd bet from the side we looked a bit like a medieval army lined up on the battlefield. Kenny wisely got about 100 yards away before calling the start. It seemed a little strange at first but later I realized that if he'd been closer he might not have had time to get out of the way.

Lap 1 was pretty standard. It was a little fast and tough on the lungs but I felt OK. Not strong but OK.

The trail attacked me almost immediately though. I picked up a stick in my rear derailleur. Fortunately it was barely in there and I was able to reach back with my foot and deftly lift it out of the way.

After the initial climb there were miles of twisty singletrack. There were a few climbs but nothing serious. There was however, no possibility of passing anyone for miles and miles. The trail was so narrow and we were going so fast, it just wasn't a possibility. I think I lucked out and got around one guy but that was it. Mark Johnson got past me. I had trouble on one climb and Eric Watson got ahead of me there. I was pretty sure I couldn't catch Mark but I had hopes of catching Eric.

My foot kept popping out of the pedal and I thought it was going to be a major problem but my brain adjusted somehow and after the first 5 or 6 times in a row it rarely happened again.

Stuck in traffic, I just spun out the lap, keeping Eric in sight but never gaining on him.

In the pits I ate some salt capsules but I was still feeling full from breakfast and I still had half a bottle left so I passed on the Zingers and didn't tank up.

At the start of lap 2, Watson was 2 riders ahead of me coming out of the pits. I spent the entire lap trying to get around the rider in front of me but he was just moving too fast.

Sometimes he'd get ahead, I'd close it down, start looking for a place to pass and then trail would attack me. The first time I got a stick in my front derailleur of all places and had to stop to dislodge it.

The next time I took the right hand line out of the creek crossing and lo, a downed tree lay directly ahead at neck height. I had to duck as hard as possible, sliding back off the seat in the process and racking my dudes so badly that both of my legs went completely numb like they were asleep. The pain was bearable. The worst part was having to just sit and wait for my legs to respond to my brain again.

To add insult to injury, someone had run through one of the course marking ribbons and I took a wrong turn for about 200 yards before realizing that the trail there didn't look like it had been ridden for weeks.

Watson was long gone. I'd lost the progress I'd made on other riders. Such is bike racing.

My stomach hurt. I didn't feel like I could possibly swallow the salt capsules so I didn't even try. I did manage to force down half a Zinger though. My bottles had been sitting in direct sun and the contents were scalding. Odd that I've never had that happen before. It was manageable. Onward.

All I remember of lap 3 is that I still felt as good as on Lap 2, I sparred with a guy on a green bike the whole time and my rear derailleur was acting up so I ended up fiddling with the adjuster for most of the lap until I finally got it working again. The cable might be fraying.

Rolling Junk Show.

I felt full enough to leave the Zingers alone but I felt like I could choke down some salt so I choked down some salt with a scalding blast from another hot water bottle.

On lap 4 I finally started getting tired. The trail was becoming very anonymous. I recognized the climbs but the flats and downhills almost all looked the same. I tried to get some recovery but it wasn't easy. I spent most of that lap alone.

Tim had apparently showed up to say hi and took this photo near the end of the lap.

 Tim's Photo of Me

It's funny though. I remember somebody taking the photo because I was kind-of licking my lips and thought that it would end up looking goofy. I didn't recognize Tim though, and ironically he didn't recognize me either. He was just taking photos of everyone coming through. He only realized later when he looked back through them.

Back at the pits I was incredibly sick at my stomach. It was impossible to swallow anything solid.

My heart sunk when I saw 3:34 on the clock. I usually get in 5 laps in these things. I was looking forward to only having one more but it looked like there would be two.

On the upside, I'd run into Mark Donaghy and ridden with him for the last mile or so and for some odd reason Marc Hirsch had showed up and I saw him passing through the pits.

On the downside, I'd inadvertently left the bottle I grabbed closed all day and in the heat, the sugar in the gatorade had fermented somewhat. It had become... Gatorwine.

Lap 5 was the worst of all time. I talked to Mark at the beginning but after getting past him, I mostly rode alone. A few riders passed me but that was all. Everything hurt. I struggled on every climb. The feeling was familiar. I'd decoded it last week at Blankets. I needed a large dose of clean cool water.

Did they even have water in the neutral support area? I wasn't sure. Hopefully they would.

Hey, wait. My camelback... I'd packed my gear into my camelback the night before just to make it easier to carry and earlier that day I'd realized it was still full of water when I'd dropped it into my chair, the bite valve had gotten stuck open and everything got soaked. Yes. I had water of my own, and the camelback was under my chair so it would have stayed cool. I drank and drank.

It calmed my stomach a bit and I was able to eat.

On the way out I saw Hirsch at the transition area, a-jawin' with Eddie.

On lap 6, Eirc Watson passed me immediately. I assumed he was lapping me. David Sagat passed a few second later and he was, in fact, lapping me.

About 5 minutes in I started feeling great. The water had done the trick. I wished I'd realized that after lap 4 instead of 5. I managed to catch and drop a few guys I'd been flip-flopping with all day. My lap time was over 5 minutes faster than the previous lap but it wasn't nearly enough to leave me with time for another lap.

Almost immediately upon finishing, I ran into Zach and Jessica whom I'd met and shared a tent with at Blankets a few weeks back. I guess this race format agrees with Zach. They must have taken off right away though. I never saw them again. Hirsch was gone too. So was Tim.

I haven't had any cramping problems this year. Today was no different, despite eating less and getting less salt than usual. In the past, I've always battled cramps, and adding salt helped, but not to the extent that I'd hoped. Eventually I figured it must just be muscle fatigue and last winter I made a specific effort to build some strength by lugging around a 12 to 15 pound camelback on every ride. I think it did the trick.

I'd had an upset stomach all day. The combination of illness, heat, sugary food, hot gatorade, gatorwine and exertion conspired to sicken me. But Bill Riddle had me beat hands down. He'd had oranges with breakfast, which he knows make him sick, but he ate them anyway and in lap 4 he began throwing up uncontrollably. Not that "I've worked too hard" reflux, but full on gastro-evacuation. He crawled back in, couldn't hold down gatorade but was eventually able to hold down water. He was just starting to feel better when I talked to him. Tough break. Don't eat oranges Bill.

Another guy I didn't expect to see just happened to pit next to me, as he has, equally accidentally, in the past. Chris Brown!

"Smile Chris!"

 Chris Brown

If I take a photo of you and your face is in it, there's a 50/50 chance you won't be ready and it'll look really amazing.

He had 3 more hours left to ride. No way you're getting me to do that. 6 hours on a 10 mile loop is quite enough for me.

All tolled, I got 8th. Sounds great right? No. That's out of 13. Not terrible though. I was discouraged to find out that Watson had come in 7th. He hadn't lapped me. I'd gotten ahead of him somewhere and he just re-passed me at the start of lap 6. Darn!

Eddie and Nam won their class. I'm not sure about anyone else. Matt and Becky Kicklighter had 3 more hours too but I think they were in first when I left.

Heading into this race, I didn't expect to do well. I was coming back from illness, my bike was becoming junk, I was still feeling the Fool's Gold, and so on. I could say that I did it because I'm committed to the series, which I am, or that I was challenging myself to face adversity, which I was, but while those rationales did factor into the decision I think some odd form of cycling addiction played a larger role. I felt compelled to do it. It's weird. I've got to think about it.

It was a hard day but I got some valuable insight so it was worth doing. A bad day, but the good kind of bad day.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Weekly Beatdown

I'd gotten in a recovery ride the day before but I didn't feel all that recovered yesterday afternoon. In fact, I felt like I needed a nap more than a bike ride. I think it's allergies though, something must be blooming right now.

Just like the day before though, I felt terrible up to the second I started riding, then almost immediately felt great. My legs protested a bit on my warm up loop but got the job done.

I almost missed the ride itself. They rolled out the instant I got to the shop.

At the back, it was really shaky. This ride gets this way near the end of the year. I'm not totally sure why but it does. You have to ride at the front or it'll scare you to death.

It seemed like we rode extra fast. Our average was probably down from usual because we got split by cars once and waited for the rest of the group to catch but I kept thinking "I'd better shift into the big ring before I run out of gears" only to find that I was already in the big ring and running out of gears.

I could feel the lag in my legs but it didn't seem to matter all that much. I could keep up and take my turns and bridge and everything else. Maybe everybody's tired these days.

The ride did beat me down though. I got home, took a shower and fell asleep trying to watch TV with the kids. This morning I was extra tired too. I've got a race this weekend. I hope I can shake this funk between now and then.

Buford Group Ride

This past Tuesday I needed to shake to Fool's Gold out of my legs. I did not feel like doing this but it was important to do so I got out on the road before I changed my mind. As is so often the case with exercise though, I'd felt terrible just before but not 5 minutes into the ride there was nothing I wanted to be doing more in the world.

It was sunny and cool and breezy and traffic was light. Crossing Buford Dam I saw a herd of deer walking into the woods with two fawns lagging behind. I had to sit back and climb the hills but otherwise I was really enjoying the ride.

The train passed by just as I was getting into Buford.

 Train in Buford

I stopped in the historic town square at the First Pentecostal Church to meet up with some folks for a group ride that should start sometime between 6 and 6:30.

 First Pentecostal Church

A few months back I'd run into a guy I knew from racing who told me about the ride and a few weeks ago I tried to meet up with them but I'd gotten the day of the week wrong. It was Tuesday, not Thursday. Fortunately I'd gotten it right this time though and met a small crew at the church at the right time.

I didn't know anybody there except Steve Johnston but everybody was very friendly. Also, I later learned that it was Steve's son Robbie that I'd found out about the ride from. It was funny... I'd known both of them from racing for years, but I didn't know they were related. It's a small world.

We rolled out right at 6:30 and headed north.

 Rolling Out

There's a road out there, Shoreline Road I think... Man! If you're in the area, you need to ride that road. It's super twisty and in the direction we rode, mostly downhill. You really get to lay it over and it's just one turn after another.

Past Shoreline we rolled up through the Lake Lanier Islands.

 Entering The Islands

I'd been out to the gate before but I didn't know you could ride through without paying. Now I know. The roads beyond were quiet. You have to pay to get in with a car and on a weekday evening, there aren't too many people driving around up there.

We rode all the way out to the stables...


...then turned around and headed back. I didn't remember it being much of a downhill on the way in but it turns out that it's mostly a climb on the way out. Or maybe I was still feeling the Fool's Gold.

We regrouped at a church then headed over to Buford Dam Road. The rest of the group split off at the first stop sign but I needed to get back to Cumming to pick up Iz from gym so I said goodbye and kept going.

I thought the last big hill into my neighborhood was going to hurt but I was able to take it easy and it turned out all right. Earlier this year I wouldn't have even been able to take it easy on that hill, so I guess I'm making some kind of progress there.

Great ride, nice people. I'll have to do it again sometime.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Buford Hatchery

The Fools Gold made me sleep well. So well in fact that I had no memory of the 20 minutes or so that led up to falling asleep, including putting the kids to bed. When I woke up I had a slight headache but it disappeared after a few minutes.

It was Sunday morning and the kids and I had all day to do whatever, but there were only 2 things any of us wanted to do.

This was one of them.

 Sophie's Fish

Sophie caught a couple of bluegill. I caught a single catfish, or half a catfish as Isabel described it. I got it out of the water, but it shook itself off of the hook and flopped back in on its own. If I'd been hungry I'd have grabbed it, but as it was I was way too lazy and seeing it headed back toward the water on its own just meant less work for me.

After fishing we headed to Douglasville to spend some time with my brother and his family. His youngest was super excited to see the girls and she jumped up and down on the couch screaming "yay! yay! yay!" when we walked in.

We hung out for an hour then went swimming in their neighborhood pool. It started out great but a few minutes later it started thundering and we could see a storm rolling in, crackling just about non-stop. It looked like it might miss us, but when it was within a mile or two, we bailed, just to be safe. We almost got back to his house without getting rained on, but not quite. Ten minutes later it turned into a violent thunderstorm with hail and strong wind and the power even went out. All right, we dodged that bullet.

The kids had schoool the next day so we cut out early. The drive back was tough. There were 2 accidents on 285 and another one on 400. Aside from that though, it was a great, relaxing day.

The Fool's Gold

This past Saturday morning was race day. The previous Saturday was also race day and as it turns out, next Saturday will be too. Where'd all these races come from all of a sudden? I was looking at my calendar actually and I've got some kind of event or other for like the next 7 weeks. I had no idea. They all kind of sneaked up on me.

At any rate, this past Saturday I got up early.

 Flickr - Photo Sharing!

Inhumanly early.

In previous years the Fool's Gold was based out of Camp Wahsega but this year they ran it out of the Montaluce Winery. There are several advantages of the new venue, but one of the disadvantages is that there are no cabins on-site and living in Cumming, there's no way I'm going to pay for a hotel a half hour from my house. So, it was an early morning.

Fortunately I'd thought about that earlier in the week and intentionally slept well Wednesday and Thursday nights. They say the sleep you get 2 nights before an endurance event is more important than the sleep you get the night before. I have observed that before, and figuring I'd be up early for this one, I took no chances.

The Racetrac down the street provided breakfast.


That's two Gatorades and a pack of Zingers.


Speaking of fancy dining though... The check-in for the race was at Le Vigne, the restaurant on the Montaluce property. To get to the check-in table, you had to walk directly through the wine tasting room. The entire restaurant smelled of perfectly cooked steak. It was all I could do to keep my mind on the task at hand. With the volunteer work I ended up doing, I had to walk through 3 different times and it gave me gnawing hunger pangs each time.

The start was nowhere near the restaurant though. There were a couple of cul-de-sacs down one of the roads that led away from it and we all parked around the edge of two of them.

I managed to get a spot directly next to my buddy Tim.


It was still dark when I arrived. It wasn't even "hey look, the sun's coming up soon", it was just night. Dark or not though, I had no time to waste. There were 50 and 100 mile options. The 100 mile riders start at 7:15 and the 50 mile riders start at 7:45. Tim was riding 100 miles. I was riding 50. I tried the 100 three years ago and it was pitiful. I keep saying "next year" but then I keep not doing it. Maybe next year I will, for real this time.

I had to patch my rear tire. When I threw my bike on the rack that morning it was flat. It turned out there was a half-inch long thorn in it like I'd run over a sprig of locust or something. Crazy.

I debated swapping my pedals too. The spring on the right has a lot of play in it and I'd been having trouble with my foot popping out. I even bought a new pair, but I didn't have much trouble marking the course this past Wednesday, so I chanced it and didn't swap them.

I finished breakfast, got dressed and applied the Chamios Butt'r more liberally than usual. In my pockets I had two bottles of Gatorade, three packs of Clif Blocks and a myriad of tools and spare parts. I could refuel at the 3rd rest stop or more often if I needed. The bike felt right. If I was forgetting anything, it wasn't obvious.

The sun had suddenly come up a few minutes earlier and I rode around a bit, half warming up, half hoping to run into some friends.


And there were many...

Charley Rome of Baton Rouge:


He rode in the TNGA last year until an unexpectedly cold night knocked him out. I also got to ride with him up at Clear Springs when I was in Baton Rouge over the Thanksgiving holiday. It's cool, I only know him from those two times but he feels like an old friend. I love that about this community.

And there was a Naked Indian on the grounds...


Karlos Bernart, the Singletrack Samurai of Central Florida, of HuRaCaN 300, CFiTT and Trans Florida fame. He's a TNGA finisher and picked me up when I had to abandon the Huracan after getting my GPS stolen. Like Charley, an old friend that I've really only met like 3 times.

And of course, the ladies..

Becky Kicklighter on the right. She and her husband Matt were both racing. The last time I rode with her socially was on these trails and she broke me off with such authority on No-Tell that it was upsetting. Dr. Michele Zebrowitz on the left.

 Michele and Becky

As long as I've known Michele, she's been injured one way or another. She'd hurt her back a year or two ago, worked really hard to come back from that one, only to get hurt again getting pulled behind a boat in a tube a few months ago, and then after coming back from that, getting cracked up at Sope Creek just a few days ago. I saw her at Reality yesterday and it made me want to cry listening to her talk about it. Stay strong girl. I've been there. This too shall pass.

Somebody took a picture of me. I think it was Charley.


Man, I look kind of goofy in that photo. I hope I don't always look like that.

My buddy Russell was there too, riding with his wife Sunny. He wasn't really racing, just following her to help out if she got into any trouble.

I saw Josh Fix too and barely recognized him with his triumphant stache. He was assured of victory with that stache.

Hirsch, Bruce, Mark D... I saw a million other people too, I can't even remember everyone.

Me and Eddie were talking about it Friday. You meet so many people at these events and you know them from racing and riding together, and you're excited to see them again, and some of them really become good friends, but then when you think about it you really haven't spent all that much time with them and virtually all of it has been on the bike. I guess it's the quality of the time that makes it so endearing. It's unusual though, and I wonder.

The 100 mile warriors lined up.

 100 Milers

Eddie gave them the pre-race run-down and at 7:15 sharp they took off. There was a neutral roll out for the first 3 miles, then at the first turn he let them go.

I lined up with the other 50 mile riders. I hesitate to call us warriors. The 50 is hard, but it's no 100. When the pace car got back, we got the same run-down and took off at 7:45.

We had an allegedly neutral roll out too, and I'm sure it was neutral for the riders at the front, but for me it was just an endless series of bridge moves between big groups of riders.

One thing I love about this route is that you have to be proficient in all disciplines. There is every kind of climbing from gradual pavement to steep, technical singletrack. There is smooth, flowing trail and tight narrow trail and trail where you have to pick your way through rocks and roots. There are long forest road descents and long twisty singletrack descents. There are rollers and punchers. You ride in groups and you ride alone. Everything!

Off the start, there were several miles of road, and knowing what to do on the road made the difference between hitting the first climb comfortably near the front or worn out off the back.

We hit dirt at about mile 4. It's a net climb from there to Cooper Gap Road but every hill is followed by a little descent and it doesn't feel like you're gaining much altitude. You pass Camp Wahsega, a 4-H camp, then further up the road you pass Camp Merrill where the Army builds Rangers, and then the climbing starts for real.

I've put in more vertical miles on Cooper Gap Road than any other road or trail and I can usually tell in the first quarter mile if it's going to be a long day or not. I felt great. I was warming up. I was catching and passing riders. Yes! Unless I did something stupid, I would enjoy this race. About 2/3rds of the way up it flattens out a bit before getting substantially steeper. I let about 6 riders go on the flat just to catch them a quarter mile later. Neil Nichols was volunteering at Cooper Gap and he remarked that I was smiling. Ha! I didn't realize, I WAS smiling. That's how good a day it was.

It's a net climb from there to Winding Stair, but again, it's not too steep and there are several descents to break it up. I sparred with a couple of guys all the way across the top but they all stopped at SAG 1. I had 2 bottles with me and was only halfway through one of them. No need to stop.

The descent down Winding Stair was a little extra hairy. Eddie and I'd driven it the day before. There were lots of very high frequency washboards. Not the big, deep kind that yank the bars out of your hands, but the shallow, close-together kind that you can't really tell are there until you try to slow down or turn and realize you're just skipping over the tops of them, barely touching the ground. Eddie had warned everyone at the start about it and I took it a little easy. Even taking it easy though, I managed to pass a dozen or more riders on the way down.

Turner Creek was clean and fast. The trail conditions were perfect. I was able to climb the tough hills on the Moss Branch Connector and up off the dam on Jones Creek and work my way past a dozen more riders before the SAG at the foot of Bull Mountain. I still had one full bottle and plenty of Clif Blocks left. No need to stop at SAG 2.

I got caught and passed for the first time heading around the back of Bull. A rider passed me with authority. He either really knew what he was doing or really didn't. Yes, the climb to Winding Stair is tough, but it's no Bear Hare. "Bows and arrows against the lightning." I didn't even try to chase him down.

Rolling through Booger Holler I had a chance to survey the creek crossing that Eddie and I had worked on the past Thursday. At that point, despite passes from over 100 riders, it didn't look any different from when we'd finished working on it. So far, so good.

At the top of the next hill, there were two gentlemen hanging out in camping chairs, watching the race. At the pace I was going, I had just enough time for a short conversation. It turned out one of them was the landowner who had alerted us that the creek crossing needed work. He was smiling and indicated approval of the work we'd done and I even had enough time to shake his hand as I passed. As I rode away, he mentioned something else, I think about a bear, but I couldn't hear him exactly, my I was sure I heard the word "bear", so I was on the lookout for a bear until I crossed Lance Creek.

Speaking of Bears, Bear Hare was it's typical difficult self. I caught a train of riders just after crossing the creek but they got away from me on the climb up the old roadbed. I passed a bunch of riders on that climb, but it wasn't clear whether they were the splintered remains of that train or just random riders. I was pretty sure that I was riding up into the tail of the 100 milers at that point too, so it could have even been some of them.

The singletrack climb was more difficult than I remembered it being, even after having ridden it a few days earlier. I managed to avoid walking and passed several riders in doing so, but I'd forgotten how steep and sustained it is near the top. I'd been reeling a guy in all way up, only to get within a foot of him, hit that steep stuff and lose all the progress I'd made over the next quarter mile.

The descent down Bull was every bit of what I'd hoped it would be. I call it a descent, but in truth, at first, there are a few short descents, then several long, shallow climbs. I always call those climbs the "fake downhills" because if you ride it in the other direction you don't notice them at all, it just always feel like you're climbing. Eventually, I caught the guy I'd been reeling in and passed several more riders too. Then I hit the actual descent and it was so much fun that I kept forgetting that I was racing.

It's generally wise to recover on the long descents. With the energy it would take to put a minute on another rider going downhill, you could put two on the next climb. I was taking hits and railing into the turns like it was a casual ride though and I kept having to tell myself to relax and take it easy, only to forget again five seconds later.

Somewhere near the bottom, I ran into Rob Toledano and sons. They were making their way up, cheering everyone on and shaking the cowbell. When I first heard them, I thought it was the SAG and that somehow I'd gotten way further down the mountain than I was. When I saw them it all made sense, but for a moment I wondered if I'd blacked out or something and "lost time" and it was really freaky.

I did stop at SAG 3 and ran into some friends, including Michele Z and her busted up shoulder. While tanking up I realized that I needed salt. It's hard to explain how I knew that, but I'll try... When I do 6-hour races, I take salt capsules at the end of every lap. I didn't though until last year. Pre-salt, I used to start feeling a specific kind of tired around lap 3 or 4. Post-salt, I still feel tired, but I don't ever feel that specific kind of tired any more, ever. At the bottom of Bull, I felt that specific kind of tired and I correlated it with salt. A guy gave me a bag of potato chips which I consumed greedily between there and FS83. Within ten minutes that specific feeling had gone and I felt solid again.

I had managed to get some good recovery coming down Bull so I pushed hard over to Jake. Turning onto the connector, a Faster Mustache rider came up behind me. He'd missed the turn. I let him by and later got caught by two more riders who'd done the same.

There was fresh horse sign on Jake. Eddie had notified the various saddle clubs of the event though, and hopefully they'd gotten the word out, but it looked like there were some equestrians on the trail, so I kept an eye out.

I walked across the ford at Jones Creek, and about 2/3rds of the way across, noticed two ladies on horseback just up the creek to the left. I talked to them for a minute or so. They'd ridden way out that morning and they were on their way back when they started seeing all the bikes. It was only two miles to the lot, but with all the traffic, it would take a long time to get there. We were all pretty spread out by then, but still, it wouldn't be more than a few minutes between riders. In the pre-ride meeting, Eddie told everyone that the trails were open to horses and hikers and that the roads were open to vehicles and to yield as you would any other day. He even specifically went over slowing down, announcing yourself as early as possible, talking so the horse knows that you're human, and all of that, so there was a good chance that all went well. Next year though, in addition to notifying the saddle clubs, we should probably put up a "real estate" sign at both lots indicating that there's a bike race going on.

From there to SAG 4 was tremendous fun. I can't say any more than has already been said about the Jake Mountain trails. They're fantastic. I had one full bottle at SAG 4 and I didn't need to stop. The gatorade I'd gotten at SAG 3 was a little weak, but I felt good and it seemed strong enough.

Another rider had been tailing me since crossing the creek earlier. He'd missed the turn onto the Bull/Jake Connector earlier too. He was clearly stronger than me, but I think he'd pretty much abandoned and was just content to ride at that pace. At first, Black Branch seemed much harder than in previous years, but then I realized that I'd ridden more miles before hitting it this year. The rollers at the end were just brutal. I couldn't remember how many there were and it was punishing every time I realized I still had another one to go.

Coming off the last little bit of singletrack, I felt something weird going on with my butt. At first I thought the inner padding of my chamois had folded up under itself like the one in my other bib had done last week, but no, that wasn't it. What the heck? Oh. Great. I'd broken my left seat rail. The entire left side was dangling down flimsily. Hah!

It was opportune though, all I had left was gravel roads and pavement, and as it turned out, I could set it back in place and it would kind of stay as long as I didn't gerch around on the saddle too much. So I rode all the way back in like that. Every minute or two the broken rail would slip and I'd have to set it back in place and hope for the best.

The guy that had been following me took off as soon as we hit the gravel road and I never saw him again. I did catch sight of one rider on the road but I couldn't make any time on him.

Back on the Montaluce property, there was one last obstacle. The crushing final hill.

 Crushing Final Hill

It might not look too bad in the photo, which I took from my car later, but in real life it was annihilating. I shifted through every gear, and eventually just had to sit back and torque it in full granny. One last little jab.

And then it was over.

 Finish Line

It took me 4:54 or something like that. I'm not sure of the exact minute. It was good for 40th place out of 127 I think.

(Update: 4:56, 29th out of 158 in my class:

I was talking to some endurance horsemen at the Dry Creek grand opening a month or two back. They have 25, 50 and 100 mile races that they do, with SAG stops like ours, but they also have Vet Checks at each stop and even at the finish. At each Vet Check the horse must be "fit to continue." If you finish and your horse has a limp, you get disqualified. I guess the idea is that it's one thing to push yourself past your limits but it's quite another to push an animal, who might not otherwise consent, beyond its limits. At the time, we joked about how much that would change my strategy if I had to race like that. I'm almost never fit to continue at the end of a race. Last weekend at Blankets that was definitely the case, but not upon finishing the Fool's Gold. I'd run myself out of energy, but I hadn't worn any part of my body out. I couldn't have just ridden another 50, but if I'd metered out my effort, eaten differently, maybe only carried one full bottle at a time... it's not inconceivable. Maybe next year...

There was a hose, and I showered off. And there was also a pool.

 The Pool

Even knowing that there was a pool, it seemed unbelievable at the time. How could there be a pool? There was.

Marc Hirsch and Dave Greenwell were already swimming around. I didn't see anyone else that I recognized at first. Nice job crushing me guys, especially on my home course.

I drank 3 cokes, ate lasagna and a brownie and convinced Eddie to loan me 10 bucks for a massage. Then I went swimming.

There were a bunch of dogs running around including Porter, the most well behaved dog in all of North Georgia...


...and Porter's brother Jackson, the craziest dog in all of North Georgia.

The weather had been perfect all day, perhaps a little hot, but nothing out of the ordinary. Then suddenly a dark cloud materialized, devastated us with big fat rain for about 30 minutes and then disappeared as quickly as it had come. Within the hour it was dry again and they did the awards.

Not long after, the 100 milers started coming in. I hung around, waiting for Tim and Charley. A lot of the 50 milers were still out on the course too, including Karlos. When I realized he hadn't come in yet, I started to worry. By rights, he should have beaten me. He said he was going to ride it at a fast touring pace, but still. I kept checking in, but he never showed up. He wasn't on the drop list either. Hmmm.

I had an hour and a half or so before Tim or Charley were set to arrive so I drove out to see how our little creek crossing project had fared.

This was the creek on the previous Wednesday, in dry conditions.

 Kendall Creek

Here it is again the evening before the race. (From the other direction)

 The Next Day

It had rained once since working on it. Somebody had driven across it and it looked like a couple of bikes had ridden across it too, displacing a bit of straw. It looked identical to that during the race, before the rain.

And here it is post-race. (From the same direction as that first shot)

 Creek Close East

It looks like somebody drove across it again and you can see where the bikes crossed in the middle. However, that's after 350 riders passed through it, 50 or so twice and over 200 passes either during or after heavy rain. Where we placed rock there was no discernible impact, though we would have had to gravel it more heavily and further up the bank to prevent all rutting. Our main objective was to mitigate sedimentation of the creek below the road. Without the rock, water flowing across the ruts would have contributed sediment for days. Post race, the water flowing across and out below the road was clear and the rock even appears to isolate it from the ruts. I wouldn't expect there to be a sedimentation problem, but time will tell.

I'd give it a B. It's infinitely better than it was, but it can still be improved.

It apparently made the riders happy too. Before the race, I heard a guy mentioning to his friend that it had been fixed. They'd apparently pre-ridden a while back and then one of them again the previous day. Two different riders thanked me after the race. Independent of the environmental impact, it's just a pain to ride through a bog like it was. There's no good line, it slows you down terribly, covers you in mud, gets all over your chain... No good.

On the way back from my little recon, I passed Tim on the road back into the winery.

 Tim Finishing

Charley wasn't super far behind him. Still no Karlos though. Tim thought he'd seen him at SAG 4 but wasn't sure. When one group of volunteers came back from SAG 4 they said that a few riders had stopped there to wait for a ride back but didn't know any by name.

Eventually I had to get going. Since Wednesday I'd been up there doing some thing or other and had missed dinner and putting the kids to bed at home. I literally hadn't seen my kids awake in days. Tim and Dave Greenwell and the rest of the GATR crew were about to leave anyway and they wanted to hit El Jinete in Dawsonville. I tried to get Charley to come with us, but a half hour later he was still in his kit and it didn't look like he planned on moving a muscle for at least another half hour. I know that feeling. I'll be in Baton Rouge later this year though, so I should get another chance to hang with him soon.

I finally managed to get Karlos on his phone too. He'd just suffered and cramped and with locked up legs at 8 miles from the end he just couldn't go on. He'd stopped at SAG 4 and was just waiting for them to pack up and bring him back. He had a crew with him too, they were waiting and they had to go back to Helen that night. If he can make it, I should see Karlos at the TNGA. If I can make it, I'll see him at the CFiTT, so again, I should get a chance to hang with him soon.

Friends accounted for, I bailed to El Jinete and had the most impossibly hot Chile Colorado of all time. I don't think it actually counts as "Colorado" because it was made with pork and the sauce was basically just crushed up Jalapeno - no hint of red. It was really good but I couldn't finish it.

When I got home, the kids were still up and we watched the Saints play the Texans. I have no memory of the game ending or putting the kids to bed or even lying down myself. I just woke up the next morning on the couch, fully dressed, with a mild headache when Sophie came downstairs to eat some breakfast.

Yeah, it must have been a good party.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Kendall Creek

I mentioned Kendall Creek in my last post - the one muddy spot on the entire Fool's Gold route. We'd been asked to do something about it prior to the race, but the trail and creek are both on National Forest land so it's got to go by the book or everybody goes to federal prison.

I'm kidding about the federal prison part but I did have to get approval before doing anything.

I was pleasantly surprised this morning by a call from Dave Kuykendall of USFS fame. He had pursued my request for approval to build a bridge or otherwise mitigate the situation and was getting back to me, with plenty of time to execute. I didn't get approval to build a bridge, but I didn't expect to. I was however, approved to stabilize the crossing with rock and gravel, lay down matting if I had it and use hay to mitigate the impact of the work. If there happened to be an old culvert there, I could just dig it out too.

I grabbed some hay, or technically wheat straw, at Home Depot on the way out of town and met Eddie in Dahlonega. He'd camped up there last night, but forgot to bring a lighter or any other means with which to start a fire. Poor guy. Camping with no fire doesn't count as recreation, it's just having to sleep out in the woods.

We drove to the spot, put down two bales of hay across the outlet of the stream and assessed the situation.

If there was an old culvert there, it was well hidden. Digging it out didn't look feasible, and with my luck, I'd dig for an hour and it just wouldn't be there.


We checked to see how deep the mud was. It was about 4 inches in the middle, a little shallower upstream and a little deeper downstream. Underneath though, was a solid, gravelly roadbed. The mud was just sitting on top of it. Further examination revealed why.

At the edge of the road on the downstream side there was a dense tangle of branches and logs damming the flow. Water hits the dam, pools up and drops its load. My guess is that the road had gotten rutted out in either direction, rain began washing more and more sediment down into the creek and somebody piled up the branches and logs to keep it off the property below. Clear water began trickling through the dam but a bog built up on the road and even about 10 feet back up into the woods above it. The bog is now gravid and every disturbance sends mud downstream.

It's a classic problem of standing water. One of the first trail-maintenance rules I ever learned: eliminate standing water.

Ideally, now that the road has been regraded, I'd think that the built up mud should be disposed of, the dam should be opened up, the water should be allowed to run across (or under) the road unimpeded so it can't leave anything behind and the road should be sufficiently hardened to keep the water from taking any of it away too. A culvert would accomplish this, but so would sufficient rock and gravel armoring. More importantly though, the road to either side needs to be stabilized permanently. It's been regraded, but that'll only last so long, given it's location.

I was reticent to take the dam apart. It's right at the edge of the road, I wasn't sure precisely where the forest boundary was and the landowner wasn't present. Certainly, there would be an onslaught if we took it down, and even if it was temporary, it's that kind of thing that we were looking to prevent.

We did, however, dig up the liquid mud that was covering the road.

 Clearing the old mud

We distributed it over the neighboring slope uphill of the road where there was plenty of debris between it and the creek, then we covered it and mixed in leaves and debris.

Eventually we had an evenly solid surface and our footprints were shallow anywhere we'd step.

Next, we headed back toward Lance Creek to gather up some rock. We tried to gather rock evenly along the length of the road. We took a little from the creek, on the inside of the bend, and a little more from the old campsites, but mostly we climbed up over the ledge on the edge of the road and gathered it from the open woods beyond. We didn't take any out of the road itself. That would be robbing Peter to pay Paul.

 Hauling Rock

My little Outback did all right hauling all that rock. I was singing My Posse's on Broadway the whole time: " muffler is dragging, my suspension's getting weak..." but in actuality there were no such problems. It's not like having a pickup, but it met our needs.

We placed the rock along the route we'd seen the water follow earlier. It was like putting together a jigsaw puzzle in the dark. At the head end you could see the rocks, but downstream they were under water. This is good though, we needed to preserve the slope of the creek.

We built a path about 2 feet wide, gathered more rock and expanded it to about 4 feet. There was almost nowhere in the puddle that we could walk without walking on rock.

But we weren't done, the entrance and exit needed to be armored too. We gathered gravel from the pile at Moss Branch. Again, I was surprised by how well the Outback handled the load.

I did manage to get stuck though, turning around. It was embarrassing. I got hung up backing over a log. Fortunately it was short work to get free and with my weird differential, I didn't even spin a tire.

We filled until we could walk from solid ground to solid rock without leaving footprints. I even drove back and forth across it.

It might be good to put down more gravel, but I didn't want to take too much and we can always add more later.

I learned today - a bale of straw costs $3 and a ton of gravel costs $50. I would never have guessed either cost that little. I was thinking more like $15 for straw and hundreds for gravel. Shows what I know. I've shoveled a lot of things but I've never had to buy much of what I was shoveling.

To finish, we covered all wet soil with hay and placed the two remaining bales on the downstream side. Ideally they should be further downstream but I didn't want to leave them on private land without permission.

 The Finished Product

All that took about 7 hours.

Not having taken down the dam, I'm still concerned that we'll have a puddle going forward and mud will eventually build up on top of the rock and gravel, but riders shouldn't leave ruts across the creek this weekend and we can talk about taking down the dam in the future. I'm also a little worried about the straw running down and clogging things up if it rains, but I've seen straw used this way, so I assume it will be OK. Worst case I can go back and rake it up later. My only other concern is that hay bales or not, the work we did will likely cause some amount of sedimentation and there's no good way to discern work-related impact from race-related impact until next year, assuming we don't do any more last minute work then too. "Worry's been on my mind since the day I was born."

We drove back to Montaluce to meet Nam. She'd been waiting for FedEx to deliver the Fool's Gold T-Shirts all day and just arrived. Somebody had to sign for them and they wouldn't let her just go pick them up. Ha.

They had work to do and I had to wash my truck so I headed home. I ended up spending like 8 dollars to wash and vacuum it and it's still dirty, just less so.

I hope everything works out with the creek. I've seen lots of seemingly well executed endeavours fail and plenty that looked ridiculous work out just fine. Which will this be? All that's left to do is wait and watch.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Marking the Fool's Gold

This morning I met The E at Montaluce to mark the Fool's Gold route for the race this Saturday. Or, I should say I intended to meet him there. On the way out of town I gave him a call and it turned out he was actually in Cumming at the time, so I ended up meeting him here and we wagon-trained up there together.

It was good that I did because the Montaluce property is vast and he stopped at a spot I'd never seen before: the pool.

 Monteluce Pool

The pool is out in the middle of nowhere, all by itself. I believe that the property around it is all for sale though. One day there may be a neighborhood there and then it will be their pool. For now though, it's a good place to start the race.

The Grounds Manager (Matt I think) met us and he and Eddie discussed a bunch of details that I only vaguely understood. Eddie's buddy Brian showed up a while later on a motorcycle. He was set to mark the FS roads. I would mark Jones Creek, Bare Hare and Bull. Eddie would mark Jake, Black Branch and Turner Creek.


I parked at the old game check station lot, with its single stalk of corn...

 Game Check Corn

...and its single apple tree.

 Game Check Apples

I shook the apple tree but nothing fell. There were some big ones high up that looked reasonably ripe but I guess they weren't ready yet. There was a small one on the ground and I was sure it would taste bad but I tasted it anyway. Yep. Bad. It was sweet and sour like a Granny Smith but then also alkaline like an underripe persimmon. Actually nothing edible is as alkaline as an underripe persimmon so the comparison doesn't seem fair, but you might get the idea. If you don't, then go find an underripe persimmon and bite into it, hopefully while someone else is watching you, for their amusement.

Enough screwing around with apples though, I had a job to do.

And I did it...


Ribbons all over.

Go this way.

Having to stop all the time, I was moving slow and I got a chance to see how some of the older trail work we've done is holding up. Up on Jones Creek Ridge, it was about 50/50. We'd cleared a bunch of turnouts at the beginning of last winter. About half of them are starting to need a touch-up. One person could knock them all out.

All in all the trail looked nice though. Even the trail leading up from the dam was 100% ridable. This is it, looking back down.

 Trail Up From Dam

If that doesn't look great then you don't remember it from years past.

The weather was delicious. I don't know how cool it was. It was probably hotter but I'd have guessed 70's. It was breezy too.

Man! Where'd this good weather come from?

I tied a ribbon to a short little sumac tree with fruit that looked just right.


It was just right. Perfectly sour. I love sumac but it's hard to lick and ride at the same time and you can't just put the whole sprig in your mouth without having to spit little bits of it out all the time. The ultimate conflict!

Around the back of Bull Mountain I passed Kendall Creek, the one muddy spot on the whole route.

 Kendall Creek

On August first I got an email claiming that after the race each year, this creek dumps silt into the property below for days. I can imagine that last year it might have. The landowner was really nice about it, but asked that we do something before the race. I was out of town until last Wednesday, but I took a hard look at it last Sunday. There are several potential solutions: a bridge, a culvert, rock armoring, massive regrading, rerouting the trail... All require plans and assessments and approvals from engineers or other experts certified in the district. All would take months to approve and execute. None are made easier by the 3-foot-below-grade, 10 foot wide, fall line trail or the fact that it has to be accessible by motor vehicles. The trail's been regraded since last year though and if the rain risk is too high this year, the race will be diverted to a contingency route consisting of pavement and major forest roads, so it shouldn't be all that bad even if I can't do anything. Also, there's apparently already a plan to do some kind of reroute on that trail. Still, I've been navigating the red tape and will continue to do so beyond the race. We'll see how it goes. Red tape is hell, but this litigious world just keeps demanding more.

While standing there, a deer jumped up, ran 20 feet and stopped to examine me. I guess I didn't look too threatening. It was a young buck.

 Young Buck

It never ran away, just stood there staring.

The Bear Hare roadbed is looking a lot less like a roadbed these days. There are long sections of singletrack forming.

 Bear Hare Roadbed

In another year it'll be like the grasstrack on Pinhoti 2.

I stopped to tie a ribbon and noticed a dozen blank rounds scattered at my feet.

 Blank Rounds

The Rangers from Camp Merrill use these and I've seen them all over the former Blue Ridge WMA but never around Bull or Jake. I guess they get around. They police their brass but these rounds were unspent. It sounds silly but for a while I imagined how they might have gotten there. Maybe they fell out of some guy's pocket, leaning over to tie his shoe in the middle of the night, or maybe some other way, or maybe some other way...

I recognized the symptoms. I was low on blood sugar. My brain was starting to do its "I'm low on blood sugar" thing. I had about 10 Clif Blocks in my pack and I ate three. That ought to do it. Your brain runs on pure sugar, so keep it fueled or it will wander off without you.

The Bear Hare singletrack was in great shape.

 Bare Hare Trail

There's no excuse but laziness if you have to walk it this Saturday.

The last time I was up on Bull I double-flatted, so I made really, really sure not to flat today.

Last week some folks mentioned a semi-dangerous jump on Bull. It's actually an ancient, worn down set of Kelly Humps, somewhat hidden around a corner. At regular ride pace, they're no big deal. You roll into them, realize what's up and maybe even have to stop, but at race pace, who knows, especially if the rider's an out-of-towner.

I blocked the dangerous line.

 Blocking the Old Kelly Humps

The other line is cool, especially if you're already on the brakes, which presumably you will be after seeing that brush.

Eddie's going back tomorrow to replace the ribbon with Caution Tape. We'll unblock it after the race.

I ran into 2 guys riding up Bull just above the Y. Other than Eddie I hadn't seen anyone else all day. That made sense though, it was Wednesday. I kept forgetting that all day. "Funny thing about being unemployed, the weekends don't mean so much." Technically I'm self-employed, but it's funnier the other way.

After marking the 83 Bypass, I ran into this snapping turtle on FS28.

 Snapping Turtle

My brother had one when he was a kid that wasn't much smaller. He named it Montgomery. That's the perfect name for a pet snapping turtle. If you find a turtle and put it in a fish tank and it turns out to be a snapping turtle, name it Montgomery.

Eddie had parked near the Bull/Jake Connector so I took his car back toward the Game Check to meet him.

 Eddies Truck

He'd been there already though and I ran into him about 300 yards up the road, time-trialing toward me like it was race-day or something.

We couldn't call it a day though. I'd taken a stack of arrows with me to put up but I'd also managed to grab the one stapler that was jammed. I'd spent 30 minutes sitting on the side of Jones Creek Ridge trying to unjam it earlier. It always seemed like I was just about to get it but in the end it was hopeless.

Yay. Stapler.


We headed back and marked the foot of Bull, the intersections on FS83, FS77A and the Bare Hare roadbed. Now we were done.

Except not quite...

It was still light outside and there was time for some last-minute trail work.

 Last Minute Trail Work

The Moss Branch Trail leading up to Jones Creek needs some major work, but it's low-impact on the watershed and low-priority overall. Riding it earlier though, we'd both seen some opportunities to fix a couple of spots close to the road where it's in the worst shape, so we went out a did a little of that. Without two young children and a soccer ball, we had to wing it, but worst case, we at least succeeded in marking some spots for future work.

As all rides must end in a swim this summer, we swam in the Etowah.

 Creek Swim

It was dark and freezing. It's always freezing, but without the oppressive heat in the air, it wasn't that refreshing kind of freezing. Just regular freezing.

I'd apparently taken my camp towel out of my camelback when prepping for the Blanket's 6 Hour last weekend so I had to borrow one from The E. Again, without the oppressive heat in the air we had to actually dry ourselves off.

We drove into Dahlonega for some dinner at El Jimador. I had the Mole Poblano.

Eddie said: "I'll have a Dos Equis."

 Dos X's

And that's what they brought him.

"I don't always drink beer, but when I do, I prefer a gallon of Dos Equis."

Stay thirsty my friends.