Riding This Week


Chainbuster MTB Racing Series - Georgia's friendliest MTB racing. 6 & 9 Hour Endurance racing for solo or teams.

Dirty Spokes - Duathlon and Trail running series. Love these guys. First class events.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Christmas and the Next Bike

Christmas at my house is so much fun. I have two girls, 8 and 12 years old. They are what I like to call "low maintenance" because at this age they can actually do things on their own. With the proper inspection of course. What I mean is you can tell them to unload the dish washer, go take showers, brush your teeth, and get your clothes out for tomorrow and it actually gets done...most of the time. Which is still a far cry from having to change a diaper or keeping their fingers off the stove.
My wife Lisa may have a slightly less exuberant opinion of the girls direction following skills and I can understand that since she's with them all day, every day. But I'll probably never be as happy with things as I am right now. They try to please us. They are excited about EVERYTHING! They have great attitudes and don't really care where we go or what we do as long as Mommy and Daddy are happy.

This can't last.

I know that my status as the Greatest Dad in the World may be in jeopardy once the teenager lurking inside them comes to the natural understanding that they are in fact smarter than we are. It's coming...I can feel it.

But for now I'm loving life with the kids. We celebrated Jesus' Birthday with family and friends for three days straight. There's bad food everywhere in my house. Candy, cookies, cake, buttery salt filled leftovers all call to me when I walk through the kitchen. My system is totally confused. Normally I eat as healthy as someone like me can find. Wheat beagles, peanut butter, fruits and veggies. My only vice is the cookies at Subway. 3 for $1.00 I mean come on people. Speaking of Subway I've been really enjoying the new Fruit and Yogurt Parfait. You can get that with the meal instead of chips. Comes with a granola packet too! But then I blow it all by getting a cookie. Fresh baked cookies! I'm so weak.

The Gift

I received many great gifts this Christmas but the very best one came from my wonderful wife. She gave me a National Championship Jersey signed by my favorite rider George Hincapie. The story of this gift actually began back in September. I was trying to organize the Lt. Governor's Century and sent an email to the folks at Hincapie Sportswear asking for their help. They responded by sending me the jersey. When it arrived I was so very conflicted in my soul. Not only is it what it is, but it was even in my size. Say that ten times.

Me in my "Signed" George Hincapie USA Champion Jersey
I displayed it in my basement until the Century Ride where I reluctantly added it to all the cool silent auction memorabilia. During the day I was out supporting the riders and I asked Lisa to bid on it for me. When I finally returned, everything was gone and they were cleaning up. I asked about it and she told me it sold to someone with more money than us. Oh well. It went for a great cause.
Little did I know there was a conspiracy a foot. She did a great job of lying to me. And don't think that fact hasn't been on my mind just a little bit. A lie that it seems my own children were aware of because they all stopped their own Christmas joy to watch me unwrap it. I reacted perfectly by jumping around in the living room and then wearing it all morning. I tried to wear it to bed but Lisa wouldn't let me.

A gift from Jessica Pattillo

So by now you must be wondering about the title of this post. "Next Bike?" Well I've been working on my next project bike for a year now and I think it may be close to happening. Simply put it's a Ritchey BreakAway Cross bike. You see I have a dream. My dream is to travel all over the world and ride in the coolest places. I want to do Gran Fondo's and see the Tour of California. I want to go to Europe and climb Mont Ventoux. And on the less dreamy side I want a bike to take to the beach and race local cyclocross.

After many hours of research I settled on the Ritchey BreakAway design. It's a proven design that actually provides a great ride. At first I wanted the Titanium version. But then Ritchey released his new line of BAB's and I decided the new steel would work just fine.
The Next Bike
My process began with the purchase of a used Giant CX bike from Habersham Bicycles. The goal was to use all the parts from this bike to build up the frame from Ritchey. Originally I wanted the Ti frame so the black stem, seat post, and other stuff would work just fine. Then they came out with this beautiful white bike. Being steel made it considerably cheaper although a little more than a pound heavier. After many sleepless nights I decided that for its intended use this bike would be just fine. But to me one of the reasons this bike is so nice is because of the "wet white" finish and matching wet white stem and seat post. So I worked on selling and buying the correct accessories. Keep in mind that all of this has taken 12 months to make happen. Chad's next bike is not in the budget. I sold, bartered, and traded many things to make this happen including the original Giant frame. Now here's what I have:

What's not in the picture are the wheels. I have the original set of Giant CX wheels with Small Block 8 tires and for road trips I have a set of Ksyrium SL's. But I'm sure my Zipp 404's will look especially nice on this bike should I choose to run them. Now all I need is the frame.

What is a Ritchey BreakAway Frame?

Dinning on the West Coast
A few years ago I took my wife to California with me. We stayed with my aunt who lives in near San Jose. This was during the Tour of California and obviously that was what I wanted to see.
It's a great story for another day but the thing I want to tell you is this. I shipped my bike out there and it cost me a fortune. I wished I could have figured out how to pack it up so tight it would fit in a standard sized suit case and fly without extra charges. I'm dreaming again right?

Ritchey Ti BreakAway Bike
There are several other choices for doing the same thing. The next best thing to what Ritchey offers is to add S&S couplings to a bike you already have. This requires that your bike have a perfectly round top tube and down tube. I actually met a guy on this years Six Gap ride on Hog Pen with a coupling bike. Works great. But he had an old Ti frame and paid $1,000 to add the couplings.

Is the Ritchey dependable as a race/century/everyday riding bike? I asked the same question and after a lot of reading reviews I've decided it must be. BAB's have a tremendous following. Here's the newest review I found online:

I have just finished an Ironman on my Ritchey Ti Break-Away Frame! Thought I'd share my experiences. Beforehand I was weighing up the options - Ti Time Trial Frame requiring full bike box, or Ritchey Break-Away Frame, with road bike geometry but able to be packed into a suitcase. Two factors swung it. The first was the journey - car, bus, plane, bus, car, ferry, car arrive at race site. Hmmm, no brainer there. The Ritchey bike bag was going to be a lot easier than manhandling a bike box everywhere.

The second was the terrain, a tough mountain course on the beautiful Italian island of Elba. A time trial bike was not going to help much. But this was a fast, technical course involving complex multiple hair pin bend descents - could I trust the frame joints with a 88kg rider on board racing as hard as my incompetence as a triathlete would allow? Of course the only way was a test. So the week before I completed in a sprint distance triathlon on a hilly course that concluded with a fast, steep descent with two 90 degree turns, one on top of the other. It handled like a dream - smooth and creamy. And so I wended my way to Italy from the UK to start my 8th Ironman.

The Ritchey bike was quite simply an absolute delight to ride. I chucked it as hard as my nerves would allow into each and every bend. Each corner providing ever more reassurance of the competence of this frame. Now I like descending, I like descending a lot. In fact, I take it as a personal affront if anyone should even think of passing me on the way down (different story on the way up). I had immense pleasure reeling in other cyclists astride their full carbon race weapons - especially, as I was riding a folding bike.

So, what lessons have I learned? The joints are super strong and reliable. They can cope comfortably with heavy riders hammering the hell out of themselves. The Ti-Carbon Frame is the armchair of cycling - it's very, very comfortable, a touch whippier than a full aluminum frame but all the better for it. And yes, the bag is just outside airline luggage specifications - but after half a dozen flights - no one has challenged me yet. So, if you're sitting there thinking, "would I ride this bike when I am not traveling?"  The answer is yes. I've just sold my other road frame, because owning a Ritchey frame means it's now redundant. I'm just plucking up courage to explain to my wife why I need to replace my single speed frame with a Ritchey Break-Away single speed frame.....wish me luck!"

Best wishes
Dom Irvine

So, I've pre-ordered a New Ritchey Steel BreakAway bike and I can't wait. They say it will be shipped in January but I doubt it. My goal was to race the Southern Cross race in Dahlonega in February on it but I'm not so sure now.
Southern Cross Race in Dahlonega, GA

I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas with your family!

Join us for a GAP’s ride from Turners Corner General Store this Saturday Morning Dec. 31st at 8:00AM. There are already around 15 riders coming including Joe Elam, Stephen Sisk, David Latty, Dustin Mealor and the newest of newbies Trent Smith. This will be a NO DROP RIDE. We’re just heading out for 35 miles in the mountains. If you ever thought of riding up there this is the time. We believe it should take no more than about 3 hours so that puts most of us back at the house before lunch. Bring a friend! Pass this email along to anyone you think may be interested.

Also, if anyone would like to be our SAG Driver I’d appreciate it. It’s always great to have a vehicle close by to take pictures and help out.

Address: 13870 Hwy 19 N., Cleveland, GA 30528

If you need anything (gloves, warmers, ect) let me know. I look forward to seeing all of you there.
BTW: I have some left over goodie bags from the Lt. Governor’s Century I’ll be bringing for everyone.

Have a great weekend and thanks for reading!


Saturday, December 17, 2011

Baxter's 1000

Thursday evening my wife sprung it on me. I knew it was coming. After spending the entire spendable Saturday prior to this one riding my bike in Athens I was completely out of brownie points and excuses. So when she asked me to spend this Saturday watching our kids and the Pattillo children while they go shopping all day I quickly said, "Of course! I'd love to!" Not really a lie at all because I love them so much but I said it with a little more passion because, as they say, I may be dumb but I'm not stupid.

The question quickly became, "What am I going to do with these four kids all day?" My Facebooking friends at Baxter's Multisport posted the answer on Friday. They were helping the Marines Toys for Tots charity by having the 1st Annual Baxter's 1000. From 7AM till 7PM you can show up, donate, and then run as many miles as you like in order to help meet the 1000 mile goal. And you get a super cool Christmas sweatshirt! I'll show it to you later.
Molly runs for Toys for Tots.

My plan? Take them there and make them run until they cry. Then whatever else we do for the rest of the day will be just fine with them.


You don't think I'm capable of such diabolical forethought? Well here's a little inside information for you people; that's what I do. I make a plan. If I have no plan I'm not happy. Spontaneous is not in my vocabulary. Also I'm a little, shall we say, surly. I'll make a quintessential crabby old man when I grow up. And on top of that I subscribe to the old school way of treating kids. You see when I was growing up and we went somewhere without enough beds the kids slept on the floor. My birthday party took place at my house and not every person who came got a gift. We got 1 hour of TV and then had to play outside with our imaginations. Consequently I'm not a coddler. In the real world there are winners and losers. My kids will learn that good things come to those who work hard. So on this day, before we move on to "make it up as you go" type of fun, we're going to run for charity.

Now before you go calling DEFAX on me it wasn't bad at all. They had a great time. The trick to teaching them lessons isn't in making them do something they don't want to do. It's letting them embarrass themselves by complaining and then rubbing their noses in it once it's over. To that end, I didn't tell them they could walk a puppy while they run. I didn't tell them there were free donuts and hot chocolate inside Baxter's. I didn't tell them that they would get award certificates and be treated like angels for participating. Instead I let it all play out. I challenged them to help me run 5 miles and that's all I said.

Erin Grace Pattillo walking the dog.
I think the puppies made the whole running thing fun. Well... obviously it did. EG and Ellie had a dog the whole time. Thomas was too focused on the task at hand to want a dog tripping him up. Molly (my oldest) was focused too. She and I plan on competing together in a Dirty Spokes Duathlon at Fort Yargo in a few months so she was thinking about that.

We ran and walked while listening to Christmas music being blasted out across the field. Once I figured they were tired we headed inside to tally up our totals and get some foodage.

Thomas, Molly, Erin Grace, and Ellie ran 2 miles each.
 Baxter's is a cool place. They have massages and a fruit smoothie bar and triathlon stuff and cycling stuff. Nathan O'Neal was there working on bikes and sporting a really cool Oakley beanie. He's very excited about putting on some races in Gainesville next year. I'm looking forward to that too.

We fled the scene and headed to Gainesville College for some fun. My plan was to let them go where ever they wanted and I would jog behind them. EG is still figuring out how to ride so I knew I could jog and help her get around. We went here and there, stopping to play and then moving on. I was carrying my backpack full of drink and tubes and stuff. Then they decided it would be fun to ride the trail. But not the "normal" way. They wanted to ride it backwards. Somewhere about half way I began to feel 40 years old. The combination of the TforT miles, the back pack, and pushing EG up every hill began to take its toll.

Back in the truck and on the way home we made this little hip hop video. I expect it to go viral pretty soon.

Once back home I turned the kids loose in the back yard and began the recovery process. After a hot shower I was ready to sport the new Baxter's 1000 sweatshirt...from the couch.
Don't you wish your husband was hot like me?
 Anyway...I felt the day was highly successful for many reasons. Not the least of which was to re-build my depleted supply of brownie points. Because I'm going to need them if I want to go do a GAP's ride or WBL on New Years Eve Saturday morning. I was glad to help Baxter's support a great cause as well. And as far as the kids go...they'll probably forget and lessons I taught them by tomorrow.

I have always thought of Christmas time, when it has come round, as a good time; a kind, forgiving, charitable time; the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys.  ~Charles Dickens
Thanks for reading! Have a great Christmas!!!


Saturday, December 10, 2011

Killing the day at the WBL

The Winter Bike League begins every year in December and beckons to all who know about it each Saturday morning thru February. I missed the first one but this weekend I had the time and the OK from my wife to attend. I love going to Athens but man does it blow the whole day. For me it's an hour to get there so counting the ride time I usually don't get home until close to 4PM. It's a treat for many reasons. The ride is as old as I am. It brings out nearly 150 riders, or as the organizer likes to call them "Zealots", each time. There are usually some pro riders and local hero's in attendance. The full list of zealots is HERE.

Baxter's Multisport
The Baxter's guys were lining up early to participate. It was a balmy 37 degrees in downtown Athens, Georgia at 10AM. I parked at The Adsmith, a creative agency owned by my friend Kirk Smith. He's without a doubt a "local". I've joined him several times for the WBL rides and other rides that happen all year long in Athens. There are in fact about 5 bike shops in the Athens area alone. Being the quintessential college town that it is, there's great need for "cheap" transportation. Namely le bicyclette.  Bikes are everywhere in Athens. Although our own brand of cycling is only a small percentage of the population we seem to be accepted more readily ,even on the outskirts of town where the rides usually go, because folks who live anywhere near Athens are used to strange behavior. And though it might seem odd to watch a long line of 150 cyclists weave through the square in your old town, there's a smile and a wave awaiting the zealots as they pass through towns in North Georgia. Well, mostly.

Now I'm not saying that there aren't detractors. Oh no. Many horns get blown. Many dirty carburetors get cleaned out in the passing lanes. Many birds fly and words of wisdom go unheard behind cold glass. It's always funny to me how on a back road to nowhere there's always a reason for a driver to be in a hurry. It's obvious when you look at these people that they aren't late for a board meeting. I think it's just that we're on the road they take every Saturday and we're destroying their routine. But it's only because there are so many of us.

Which brings me to another point. With that many personalities there's bound to be one or two conflicting opinions. There are a lot of decisions to make in a group that size. Stay near the front or hang out in the back? Ride two abreast or do whatever you want to do? To pee or not to pee? There's clothing questions as the day heats up. There's the question of what to eat, how much to drink. Did you bring something? Do you have money to buy something?

Some questions you must ask yourself before you ever leave the station. Am I physically ready to go this fast for this long? What happens if I'm not and get dropped in the middle of banjo country in the dead of winter? It's not as easy as a ride with a few friends. You may have good friends there, but they'll get lost in the sea of cyclists. You might find yourself pedaling along side some roadie who's angry at the world for not providing him with a 100K a year job straight out of college and so he spends his nights in a tent scribbling on cardboard signs with ignorant rhetoric about companies he wish he worked for.

But I digress.

WBL waits for a funeral to pass. No joke.

What's truly great about this ride is that it's massive. It gives the average competitive roadie like me a taste of the big peloton. The presence of the pro riders, the sprints, and even the occasional angry blast from the short of fuse just add to the mystique of the WBL. I like to meet different people and check out new bikes and new gear. There's always someone with the latest cycling fashion and there's always someone riding the oldest bike I've ever seen. You'll think you're tough until a 50 year old man pulls you home on a steel frame bike with down tube shifters.

The one and only store stop.
The weather on this day was bearable but this ride taught me the beauty of vaseline. I'll clarify that statement before anybody gets the wrong idea. Put some on your face and the cold wind won't sting your skin. I like this ride because it makes me nervous and excited at the same time. Kind of like riding in the GAP's.

What Happened
We left from Sunshine Cycles around 10:20AM and quickly snaked our way out of town. I wanted to ride near the front to see what it was like. I enjoyed how much smoother we moved through stop signs and red lights and hard turns. I did see some value in being able to react quicker to pot holes or junk in the road. But to be honest I think I missed out. The people on the front are...intense. They know the benefits of being there and guard their positions. Don't get me wrong I had some good conversations. But I had good friends farther back that I wanted to hang out with. I should've made my only priority being around them and just put up with the yo-yo effect. I won't make that mistake again.

After we swarmed a store and cleaned them out of Snickers Bars we headed for the first and only Sprint of the day. I was feeling really good so I asked Robert "Young Punk" Loomis if he wanted a lead out for the sprint. He wasn't too sure about it at first. I told him all he had to do was stay on my wheel until I pulled off. Easy. As we got within a few miles of the sprint I moved up to the front. Robert soon joined me and we waited for the whistle. People were getting a little antsy in the peloton. The yellow line rule was in affect. Our Captain for the day "Yo Simpson" gave instructions; "Go down the hill and the sprint line is at the top, at the first driveway!" Remember now, Robert and I have never been here. We have no idea where we are or how big the hill is that he's talking about. Once the whistle blew the sprint was on. I at least new we had a half mile to go so I didn't just take off. I fell in behind a line of about four guys. We hammered our way over the top and headed down the hill. The guys on front new better than to stay there and started slowing and asked others to pull through. I moved on up and we flew down the hill. I could see the top and it was a long way. I decided to start my sprint on the down and fly up the first part to maybe sling shot Robert off the front. I thought if he could get a small gap there would be no draft for our competition and it would simply be a matter of muscle and heart. It all went as planned. Robert held them off to the top and the driveway. We felt victorious! Then we learned of the crash...
Elbow of Sean Philyaw.
There was a huge pile up at some point after the whistle. As I hear it someone touched a rear wheel and started a massive chain reaction. I really hate it for my good friend Sean who broke his elbow. Really stinks Sean!

So the sprint was cancelled. We weren't sure that was the sprint line anyway so I guess it's ok. What it did do was give us something cool to build on for next season. Robert is STRONG, Robert is POWERFUL.

We finished the ride by following some local guys who knew the way home. We didn't know about the crash until we got back and waited on the others to arrive.
I hung out at Sunshine for a while but then had to leave and go shopping for my parents Christmas gifts. It's always cool riding back into Athens and through downtown. I love downtown Athens. It's torture though to smell and see all the food being served on the patios. I didn't even have time to grab a burger or a slice of pizza. Sigh.

Sean Philyaw has a great story that I'm sure is shared by many. I love sharing stuff like this so here goes:

In Sept. 2007, my physician diagnosed me with pre-hypertension and unhealthy cholesterol.  Wake up call!   I thought, "my big butt needs to be around later to be a father to and have fun with my sons".  So I began going to the YMCA.  I  played sports throughout high school and college, but working out in a gym was unfamiliar territory to me.  I did some weight training and the usual cardio machines that you find there, but I was not seeing the results I wanted.  Two years later (Summer 2009), I dug out my old Litespeed, installed new tires and began riding again.  I say "again" because I purchased the bike in 2005, rode it half a dozen times and then it began to collect dust.

Cycling for cardio had not crossed my mind up to this point, but I had befriended an old friend of Kelly's (Richard Scoggins) at the Y.  He was 72 years old at the time and in great shape.  I asked him what he did for cardio and he said, "I riiiiiiide my biiiiike, in a Gentlemanly drawl that only Richard can produce.  Grogan can come close though.  :-)

Richard kept prodding me to put new tires on the bike and ride it, so I did.  Just having a riding partner made all the difference in the world and this time around, cycling stuck.  Richard kept telling me about this guy named Kelly Parham that rode a bike across America.   I thought, what kind of nut job does that?  Then I met Kelly in the Winter of 2010 and the nut job mystery was explained.  At that point, cycling went in a whole new direction.  I had someone take me under their wing and make fun of me.  It really helped me to progress as a cyclist.  Who was there my first time in the GAPS?  Kelly was, and he made fun of me and my flailing legs.  Near the top of Neels, I was dead tired and lost all control of my pedaling form.  Kelly says to me, "You look like a rodeo cowboy, but keep at it and that will change".  Kelly was, and still is, always encouraging and a ball buster in the same breath.  Telling me and countless others that we are good cyclists, strong as a mules and "Keep at it y
ou turds or I will kick your tails".  One day, maybe when Kelly is 65, I'll finally be able to beat him and his big motor up Neels.  ;-)        Out of curiosity, how many people has Kelly helped and gotten into the cycling scene over the years?  Dozens?  Hundreds?  Who knows for sure, but I'm certainly grateful for it. 

Seeing is believing:  The attached "before" photo is from Christmas 2007 and I had been going to the YMCA for three months prior.   Pretty scary and funny looking too.  Easy with the snickers and jeers please.   The attached "after" photo is from the Summer of 2011.

I'm still a work in progress, but aren't we all to some extent?  Life throws things at you.  Ups and downs, high and lows, tofu and cheeseburgers.  You deal with it and move on.  Just like the 70 miles of rolling hills that lie ahead, you take it one climb at a time.


-Sean Philyaw

Well, that's all I've got for this episode. Keep spinning and taking good care of your families!

Merry Christmas!!


Sunday, December 4, 2011

Hangin' at the Horse Shoe Drop

I'm sitting here watching "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town" with my girls.  They've never seen it. At 9 and 12 years old they have a ton of Christmas programming to choose from. Animation has come a long way since I was warped by this one and the Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer one too.
I've always found them to be a little creepy. Sorry if this offends any of you. Some of my worst childhood nightmares came from trying to cross over the snow covered mountain and getting caught by the "Winter Warlock" or running from the "Abominable Snow Man" in my dreams. As their father it's my job to protect their innocence for as long as humanly possible so I've avoided these movies. But now I see that I've been too harsh. They keep laughing at it. I guess it's so old and jittery that they find it funny. Like a puppet show. I should have known since they can't sit still and watch my old Muppet Show DVD with me for long. They should be just fine sleeping tonight. I hope I will.

This Saturday my daughter had a birthday party where she and her friends painted beautiful pictures with real paint on real canvas. I was in charge of doing something with the boy, Thomas Pattillo. So...we went biking!
I asked him where he wanted to go and he said Fort Yargo in Winder. Turns out that's been on his mind for a while. His Dad took him there.

Kelley Edwards and his boys Jared and Cade came with us. We met at 9:30AM and it was a gorgeous day.
Cade, Kelley, Jared Edwards, Thomas Pattillo, Me.
Jared Edwards
Thomas Pattillo
We warmed up on the new beginner loop located behind the tennis courts. Thomas was flying around the course and ended up washing out and getting run over by Jared. Not a very good way to start but ok, as I always say "that was our glitch for this mission". We headed counter clockwise on the trail and I started looking for the signs that pointed to the horse shoe drop. I love that thing. It's a blast. And so of course we somehow missed it. But in the interim we found another one that Kelley dubbed the "Baby" Horse Shoe drop. The kids tried it about three hundred times until each one made it at least once. It was a blast to watch. It's good that I don't have telekinesis because those boys would have made it every time. It was probably just as funny to watch Kelley's body language as he coached his sons through it without helping them. It's also funny to think about the difference between boys and girls. I mean, I'd have been in the ditch ready to push my girls so they wouldn't fall over or crash backwards. With the boys, Kelley and I were content to let them wheelie back on their heads. It reminds me of a Jeff Foxworthy quote:
  • When I was a kid, my parents had a 900-pound television on top of a TV tray. My dad's theory was, "Let him pull it over his head a few times, he'll learn. You wanna put a penny in a light socket? Try that out. OHH! Hurt like hell, didn't it? Don't do that no more."
Cade Edwards
The fun we had there was too much to take so we rode a shortcut back around to try and find the "real" Horse Shoe Drop. It was easy because the YABA folks have the course marked great and there are maps everywhere. We found the Drop and started trying to get the kids to do it. They were having none of it. They didn't mind sliding down on their butts and tearing up clothes but riding it was "too scary". No Evil Knievel's in this bunch I'm afraid. So Kelley and I had some fun and we moved on.

My knowledge of the trail system paid off when we skipped a large section around the lake by riding across a bridge. The boys thought that was really cool. Then Kelley and I decided to ride off in front of them and hide. They came to a cross road and began to panic. We listened to them yell for a while and then let them off the hook. Yet another bit of turmoil we would not have inflicted on the girls.

The road back would soon become hard for our group of young mountain bikers. We stopped at the top of the power line climb and had a snack before the tough section back. They were doing great and having a lot of fun. Ignorance is bliss. Listen carefully at the end of the video as I mention how much longer we have to ride. The silence says it all.

The remainder of the ride was a practice in perseverance. They were running low on energy but kept pushing to get back. I was actually very proud of them. All total we rode 11 miles and spent just under 3 hours out there. Great memories and sore bodies were made. In fact the next day at church the first thing Jared said to me was " I am so sore". They sat around telling "fish stories" about it all day.

Athens, GA - Winter Bike League
This coming Saturday I hope to join my friends and a few hundred others at a Winter Bike League ride in Athens, GA. This winter road bike series is a classic. It's what all other winter bike rides aspire to become. It's got mileage, it's got pro riders, it's got speed, it's got pee breaks and exit routes and sprints. There's even a Mad Chronicler (aka David Crowe) who invents words to describe each ride and it's participants. One visit to the website and you'll see how simple minded I really am as a blogger. One visit to the WBL and you'll see just how out of shape you are. So...I'm gonna go see.

The anti-Tebow bias isn't about football
Before I sign off I want to share a link to an editorial that sums up my feelings not only as it pertains to Tebow and the NFL but as it pertains to all Christian men who are trying to change the male role model in America, not just sports. The article says it all so I won't preach.

Sometimes I blog to promote a renaissance of masculine virtues. I want to bring back a time when men take center stage and strive for perseverance, compassion, family fidelity, community, responsibility and faith in God. Maybe it's a crazy dream. Maybe the world is too big of an influence for the throngs of lethargic men it has created to overcome. But I'd rather be the man with the answer who never shuts up than part of an apethetic silent majority too lazy to get this one life right.

Now it's time for a quote:
The struggle now going on for the world will never be decided by bombs or rockets, by armies or military might. The real crisis we face today is a spiritual one; at root, it is a test of moral will and faith.

Thanks for reading! Have a great weekend and be safe!


Sunday, November 27, 2011

Thanksgiving in Cherokee and Tsali Trails

This weekend my family and I were treated to a cabin in Cherokee, NC with the Pattillo's. I say treated because Jess's Dad Mike Robb reserved it and invited us to go. Of course I was excited because I knew I'd get the chance to ride at the Tsali trails which are only about 15 mins away. More on that later because what I was really looking forward to was the kids enjoying a ride on the Polar Express! You see I happen to be "The Man". That's right, I'm The Man. I booked the Polar Express for all of us.
We left Bryson City on a real train and went to the North Pole, drank hot chocolate, ate cookies and sang carols at the top of our lungs. Santa got on board and gave each child a reindeer bell. Yes...I am The Man.
The conductor came by to punch the kids tickets. The speakers in the train car played the movie music and then read the story as the kids followed along in their books. It was worth every single penny. They haven't stopped talking about it yet.

That was on Saturday night but on Saturday morning I got up early and headed to the legendary Tsali mountain bike trails. It was a chilly 30 degrees when I left the cabin at 7:00AM and by the time I got to the trail is had warmed up significantly to 31 degrees. But I wasn't worried because I had my new LG winter mountain bike shoes.  They've been waiting on a day like this to keep my feet warm and dry. It's funny, I went biking on Thanksgiving morning with the Elam's and Dustin and Todd. The only things that bothered me were my fingers and toes. That lesson helped me decide exactly what to wear for my assault on Tsali. LG head cover, Hincapie winter bibs, sleeveless baselayer, jersey, Hincapie Wintex Jacket, LG insulated gloves and of course the shoes.

Tsali Trail Head
All week long I was conflicted. I've been to Tsali only two other times. Each of them on Saturday. That means that according to "the rules" I'm supposed to only ride the trails to the left of the lake. I wanted to ride the right side but that's restricted to horses on Saturday's. Hence my dilemma. So I decided to get there and see who all was there...like a park Ranger. To my delight the only cars anywhere were trucks with no trailers. And nary a Ranger in sight. So I decided to pay my two dollars and ride the trails I wanted to ride.
Tsali Trail System

In my wisdom I figured that if any horse riders showed up they would ride the left loop by the lake first. I have no basis for that but I wanted to ride it first and not run into any horses so I headed in and began riding along the ridge line. What a great view! The leaves are off the trees and you can see just how high up on the mountain side you are. The trail is smooth and rolling and really fun. It didn't take long before I came upon a hunter sitting on the hillside staring across the lake at the other side. My bike is really quiet and the wet trail kept the leaves soggy so I pretty much sneaked up on him. I knew better than to yell "Good Morning" or something so I just rode on by hoping he wouldn't roll off the mountain. I don't know what he did.

After about 15 minutes I decided to make a video of some of the trail. Here it is:

I stopped on one of many Lookout Points to take in the view and eat a Honey Stinger Waffle. It didn't take long before I got cold and needed to keep moving. I shot another video for you guys here:

The trail loops away from the lake and takes you into the forest. As I rode I started feeling guilty about disobeying the rules. I really didn't want to spook a horse or get in somebodies way. Besides that I was hoping to run into some other riders I could talk to. So I decided to take the main trail back to the trail head and ride on the justified side. As I made my way up the mountain that lead back I rode up on another hunter. He was tip toeing down the trail in full camo. We're talking camo baclava, gloves, boots, and even his gun was camouflage. All accept for his neon orange sock hat. I've always wondered about that. Can deer see the sock hat? If so, what's the use in being completely invisible accept for your head. I mean I could see his head glowing through the trees and across the switchbacks. Guess that's why I'm not a hunter. I can only be an expert at one hobby at a time. Anyway I quietly passed him and just put my hand up for a greeting so I wouldn't disturb his sneaky mojo.

Tsali Left Loop

On a Tsali Lookout Point
Once back at the parking lot I saw there were more riders but they were all out on the trails. So I decided to do the Thompson Loop clockwise because it looked like a workout. I had pretty much rode like Alice up to that point. I was right. Lot's of climbing to start and then switchbacks along the lake. I wrapped up a great ride by pushing through at race pace.

By the way, I love my GIANT 29er. It's the perfect bike for all things. Lock it out for speed or run it loose for comfort. It's a sturdy rocket with tubeless tires OR a lazy boy on wheels. A bike for every mood. And don't be scared of tubeless if you haven't tried it. I've had great success running Stan's NoTubes sealant in mine. If you can't take the stress then carry a tube with you. I also removed the outer chain ring and replaced the space with washers. Joe at Habersham Bicycles fixed the shifting and poof, it's a double. I hardly ever use the small ring in the front so I moved the left side shifter over out of the way so I wouldn't accidentally shift small on a rocky downhill. It all worked great all season.

On Sunday morning I decided to go run around Cherokee before breakfast. Well...I got lost. I ended up on the other side of the river from the cabin. I just knew that right around the corner there would be another bridge that would save me but it never came. My knee started hurting and before I got back I was shuffling along like a 90 year old man. I think I ran over 267 miles. I saw every shanty hut and rusty car that Cherokee had to offer. The only other signs of life were the unchained blood hounds kept at bay only by the shear inconceivableness of a grown man shuffling down their road of no return. This, dear friends, is why I like riding a bike.

The jog of death not withstanding I had a great weekend. I didn't eat healthy. I didn't use my brain all that much. I watched a lot of football. Pretty much the typical palmares of the average American male...who is also a cyclist.

I hope you all had a great Thanksgiving! I'll be riding at Yargo on Saturday with Thomas Pattillo and the Edwards boys. Join us if you can! AND Sunday is Family Biking Day! 2:30pm at Gainesville College.

Have a great week!


Sunday, November 20, 2011

2011 Currahee Adventure Duathlon

This race effectively wraps up my season. Before it started I already considered 2011 a year of extreme blessings. That's a feeling I never expected to have. It's been a year I cannot explain. I mean I started the year on the lowest of lows after TJ was killed. My aspirations were gone. I expected nothing. All I wanted was to not let what happened cause me to loose my way. Too many people take a tragedy and turn it into an excuse to be a jerk. I didn't want to become bitter and loose focus on my responsibilities as a husband and father. Which to me is where everything else begins. I mean if you can be your best for your family then everything else like work and friends and even your hobbies will flow in the same direction. That's how this season of competition has been. Flowing in a good direction.

It's amazing how big of a roll your selfishness can play in life. I have always been a competitive person and for years what I wanted was to win by myself. I trained hard and used visions of winning solo to get me through some tough workouts. I flogged myself in races and did well sometimes. But this year...this year I didn't deserve anything great as far as racing goes. At least that's how I felt. I mean I wanted to keep biking and racing if only to stick it to the devil and his plan to make me a jerk. So I decided to continue the biking ministry that TJ was so excited about. I decided to race with friends instead of solo. I decided to have fun no matter what and keep my hobby in it's place. What happened after that has forever changed how I train and race. I've had more fun and won more races than ever, but all on a team. I thank God for my family, my friends, and the blessing of forgiveness. What a year! And what a blueprint for 2012!

The Map

Currahee Mountain is the historic location of the World War II training camp our military used in the 1940's. It's now part of a Georgia Wildlife Management Reserve that offers some great mountain bike and equestrian trials. For years now there's been an Adventure Duathlon there that's put on to benefit FCA. I've entered it many times with many friends. It's always a challenge for me because there's so much trail running. And I don't run. But I often read about cyclist's having a problem with bone density because of the low impact sport we choose so I try and use this event to motivate me to run. But I don't run. It hurts. My legs are so sore right now that I have to back down stairs because walking down them normally is killing me. And do you know why...because I don't run!

Running. I don't like running.
A month ago I mixed running into my workouts. As I stood at the starting line for the 2011 CAD I somehow new it wouldn't be enough. My team mates were Craig Tinsley and Boston Marathoner David Shabat. The only thing I new for sure was that Craig and I would be chasing David for three hours. And I was right. I also thought I was prepared for it but here's the thing; My treadmill doesn't help me practice running "down hill". You use completely different muscles running down hill. It became painfully obvious as the race wore on that my life was headed...down hill.
Craig Tinsley.
David Shabat likes to run.

Here's how an adventure duathlon works. Every team is given a card with 12 boxes drawn on it. This is called your "passport". The object of the race is to find the whole punchers hanging from orange banners in different locations in the Reserve. And yes the punchers punch different numbers. In order to find them you need a map. You can get the map only after running down a dirt road to volunteers who sign your passport and then running back to the start/finish to receive your map and get on your bike. The map also tells you which trails you can ride your bike and which trails you must run. Once we got our hands on the map we had to make decisions on which punches to go get and in what order. I took responsibility for planning our route...it's another "C" personality thing. We gave David the passport. We sort of knew he'd be first to most of the punch flags.

David and I were talking at the start. We agreed to take it easy and try to ramp up to a good strong pace. Then the gun went off and CRAIG went crazy! He took off like a mad man and left us no choice but to chase him down. He told us he wanted to start with a lead and try to hold it. He inspired David who shifted gears and left us both gasping for oxygen. By the time we made it back to get the map Craig and I were maxed out. And we'd only been running for about 15 minutes. It's sad really.

Of course one of the punches we needed is always located at the top of Currahee Mountain. This year the map said we could ride it. Hallelujah!  Here's how the Currahee climb went.

Once we rode back from the top of the Currahee there was a lot more trail running to do. My team mates had chosen to change shoes between each discipline so that gave me some time to solidify my plan for getting us back to the finish faster than anyone else. This is where knowing the trails became invaluable.

Eat, Drink, and keep moving. Our recipe for success.
Special Tests - Here's the reason it's called an Adventure Duathlon. You may run or ride up to the next punch flag but before you can punch your passport you may have to complete a test.

I'm handing the camera to Clint so he can film our finish.
I remember one time a couple of years ago we had to get a car tire somehow over the top of a telephone pole. This year it wasn't all that difficult. Just a board walk and some pull-ups.
Solo Racers doing the repel off the mountain.
Our last hour of racing was perfect for me. After the last run we had a large amount of biking to do in order to get all the way out to the last punch. It was a tough, steep road with lots of big gravel covered by leaves. I fully expected a special test at the punch location but to my delight there wasn't one. There was however another team there. They were all staring at their passport. As we rode away I heard David expressing his condolences, they had missed punch #7. We tore out for the finish, they headed back to get their missing punch. I felt bad for them...sort of. Here's The FINISH!

At the finish we were not sure if another team had beaten us. We stayed in "race mode" for the final ascension over the military net. Once we finished and celebrated a little I began to smell a sweet aroma. A fine southern delicacy was being cooked for us by the FCA volunteers. It's the one thing every man craves. Hamburgers! I had two. There were some nice baked goodies for desert too. We changed clothes and ate burgers while watching the other teams come in and try to get over the net. Great fun!

1st Place Team - Craig Tinsley, David Shabat, Chad Hayes

Special thanks to Clint Sanders for organizing another fine back woods adventure. Visit Sanders Drugs in Toccoa, GA where they have a ton of endurance fuels, bars, mixes, and supplies for we who feel the need to punish ourselves in events like this one. 

Also thank you to Rob Attaway for taking some great pictures of us. He's a great guy with a big heart!

Have a very happy Thanksgiving everyone! This weekend I'm heading to Tsali mountain bike trails with my family and the Pattillo's. See ya real soon!


Monday, November 14, 2011

A Brutal Surprise at Oak Park, AL

So here's the thing about mountain bike racing in a place you've never been. It's nerve wracking. But just like anything in life there's pressure put on you and pressure you put on yourself. I tend to put pressure on myself and probably always will until I'm just too old to have a chance at winning. And on top of that I choose really fast team mates who put additional pressure on me. What am I thinking!

Race#1 Heritage Park in February 2011
Here's what I was thinking at the beginning of the year about the Chainbuster 6hr Mountain Bike Race Series; Have fun, be competitive, don't make racing an endurance mtb race a new miserable experience. The best way to do all of those things was to NOT RACE SOLO! I did it the year before and was miserable (which obviously breaks rule number three). So this year it was important to find a team mate who shared my vision of how to race a mountain bike. David Shabat was willing and very excited. All year we've raced together. He trained hard and got better as the year went on. I'm really proud of what he accomplished this year as far as mountain bike skills go. We managed several podium places and scored enough points during the season to take 1st Place for the entire 6 race series. That's something neither of us thought was possible back in February when we started. To be completely honest the door was opened for our overall victory by two things; the rules and the absence. Let's start with the latter of the two.
All year long we've been chasing the "Gutbusters" Bill Lanzilotta and Alex Hagiano, and Team "Engine" Matt Hammond and Dave Chen. We've never beaten them. They are faster than we are and it's a fact. When they showed up we knew we were in for a long hard day. We might be ahead one hour and behind the next. The key to winning the overall as it turns out has a lot to do with showing up. Dave and Matt missed a race earlier in the year and the Gutbuster's didn't come to the last race in Alabama (a double points race). This becomes important later on in the story.
The rules. Let me see if I can sum it up for you. The key sentence in the rules is: At the end of the series if you have raced a minimum of 5 out of 6 races to qualify for the series we will then drop your worst scored race. The key point here is that the dropping of the worst score is mandatory. A team cannot decide to keep that lowest score. So I'll just let you do the math and look at the results. I say all this not because I think we shouldn't have won the overall. We earned it. We worked our tails off all year. But I have to recognize the fact that those guys ride like lightning. And it paid off with 1st place finishes in several races including Matt and Dave taking the top spot in our final race. However, they didn't show up at Tribble Mill and then had to drop their lowest finish. Hence we win by being the most consistent for 6 races. And the Gutbuster's? They just flat blew it by not showing up at the last "double points" race. So, the reality is that we are not the fastest riders...just the most consistent. Which according to Chainbuster Racing is exactly what the points system is designed to do. Reward the most consistent team or solo riders.

Oak Mountain State Park, Pelham Alabama
The Course

I was prepared for bitter cold that did not happen. When David and I arrived at the park we thought it would be much colder than it was. No wind. No frost. The sun was coming up bright in the sky. It was 39 degrees but warming up quickly. Soon after we set up camp there came the arrival or our friends Dustin Mealor, Trent Smith, and Todd Fisher (Team Spare Parts) and family. These guys were ready to have some fun. Having them there was a great relief. We were in enemy territory and needed some friends.
Team Spare Parts encampment.
I got ready and went out to scout the first few miles of the course. This ended up doing me absolutely no good for two reasons: 1. The start was a 1.5 mile parade lap on paved roads that basically cut off half the section I scouted. 2. The most difficult part of the trail was on the back side of the course about 4 miles in.
You can see in the 2nd video that I went out way too hard. I pulled the lead group up the road and then promptly found a place to crash! This gave me an idea. Slow down a little bit since you don't know the course. Duh!
I tried to chill out and ramp back up slowly. During that process Dustin caught me. He drilled it to catch up with the lead group and soon went on by me. I stayed with him until the time came to not stay with him. That time would be when the trail became something more like a moon crater. Or maybe the "lake" side of a dam. You know the rocks they use to keep the waves from eroding. That's what we rode across for half a mile.
One of many. But not my knee.
Up and down. Around the trees. Every turn was an "endoh" waiting to happen. There were people camped out up there. Waiting to see the carnage. Oh sure they rang cow bells and cheered for you when you made it down the drop offs without losing teeth. They stood ready to help in case you need life flight. But let's be honest. They were NASCAR fans. They were there to see the crashes. Only this part of the trail was a guaranteed crash fest. They didn't need to hope. They just needed to be patient.
Rollers are fun.
And so...I gave them what they wanted. I only crashed 4 times during the race. The first three on the first lap. Twice I washed out in the loose corners. But twice I found the rocky surface of this section too hard to navigate. It hurt my feelings and made me want to curse Alabama. If you can believe it I managed to catch Dustin after that and started talking myself into being happy. I noticed he had his cool video camera on the back of his bike and now I was the star. We were killing it over some big rollers and I just knew I was looking super cool in the video. Right up until I washed out in a corner and slid off the mountain. Nice.
The first lap was over and now I had to deal with the fact that the race wasn't. The course was in a word "brutal".  My mind was swirling with doubt. My legs hurt. I kept drinking and eating. By the time David made it back I was ready to take on Oak Mountain without incident. I wanted to disappoint the NASCAR fans. I wanted some revenge.

After that successful lap I felt much better about the race. I took time while David was on course to look at where we stood. At that time we were in second. I was very surprised. The course was so bad I just knew we were behind a lot of locals who knew how to navigate the bad sections. But there we were, in the mix. As I stood and waited for David to come in Dave Chen (Team Engine) rode in and couldn't find his team mate. He had to go out again for two in a row. I didn't realize this until I caught Dave on the trail. He was suffering but working hard. I passed him on the climb and then managed to complete the rocky section without a problem. Once on the rollers and heading back to the start it started to sink in that we were in the lead. I handed of to David but he had a big problem, a well rested Matt Hammond took over for Team Engine and was flying after him. Matt not only passed my team mate somewhere during that lap but pulled a double. He did two laps and got the second one in with only 4 seconds of time left in the race. Very cool. I told you those guys were fast. Great job Matt!

Oak Mt. Podium
By the time the Series Podium happened it was too dark to take pictures of it. I've got some great audio though with a black picture. If anyone out there has a picture I'd love to get one.

Team Spare Parts fought valiantly and settled for 4th Place by a mere 50 seconds. They were not happy but had a great time none the less. Great job guys!

Todd, Trent, Me
David and I finished up an unbelievable year in great fashion. We celebrated by eating at Cracker Barrel. That's right, Cracker Barrel. I had Mamma's Pancake Breakfast with bacon and extra syrup. David had French Toast. We both drank caffeinated coffee and took a to-go cup for the road. 4 hours to get home. 5 for David.

Another good thing about being in Alabama this weekend was the look on all the Auburn fans faces as the afternoon wore on. We had a radio and listened to the Georgia Bulldogs whoop up on the War Eagles...I meant Tigers. Sorry. It was great to be a Georgia Bulldog!

This coming Saturday I'll be racing the Currahee Adventure Duathlon with David and Craig Tinsley. That should be a great story. Last year I competed with Craig and a team mate at the last minute, David Park. We raced for 5 hours and it came down to the last 3 miles. That's a story for another day but if you ask Craig to tell you about the finish make sure you have some time to kill. It was epic!
Craig Tinsley, Me, David Park at 2010 Currahee Duathlon
Thanks for reading! See you all out there soon!