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.

Friday, June 28, 2013

2013 12 Hours of Zombie Apocalypse

Note the message on my number plate.
Some friends of mine like to talk about being struck down by the "cycling gods" on certain days or events. It's our version of karma. Although I don't believe in karma or luck or any other superstitions it's fun to banter back and forth about the rotten things that go wrong in cycling and mountain biking. My recent posts about the Fort Yargo 6 Hr mountain bike mud bowl and the glorious Gran Fondo New York that could have been are supreme examples of cycling god smite.
But not this post. This race follows the path laid out the weekend before by the Jackson Brevet. It happened in perfect weather and with the best of friends. It was yet another great time on a bike.

The 12 Hours of Zombie Apocalypse is the brain child race of Chainbuster Racing's Kenny Griffin. Backed by his sponsor and friends at Nite Rider lighting systems he put on a night race from 9PM Saturday night until 9AM Sunday morning. Just shy of crazy. And to make it that much more fun he called it the Zombie Apocalypse and had a zombie contest and a zombie zone on the course so the undead could spook the riders. My girls loved it!

They were also upset that I didn't bring our tent so they could spend all night being crazy. We'll do that next year for sure. Kenny also had a food truck there from Smiley's serving great food for dinner and breakfast. Add to all that the fact that the moon was full and the closest it would be to the earth all year and you've got the potential for fun that can not be beat!

Randy Hemphill still having fun at 2AM.
Racing on my team of four were David Shabat, Randy Hemphill and Trent Smith. These guys were pumped and ready for action. At least three of us knew exactly what we were in for because we'd done the 24 Hours of Georgia together. Randy was happily ignorant about what 3AM in a mountain bike race means on the miserablility scale.

Our tactics were simple; have fun and don't leave your team mate looking for you in transition. We do well if we eliminate the simple things that cost valuable seconds. Randy was all about being focused and having fun. I like him.

The Start was AWESOME!

I've started many mountain bike races. I've felt the butterflies of nervousness, the excited adrenaline, the focused determination and once I even puked. I don't get nervous anymore, just focused determination but this start was all together different. At this starting line I felt like a super hero! I could hear my family and my team mates yelling my name! Once we turned our lights on we became rock stars! We launched from the smoke at the starting horn to the cheers of the crowd. It was awesome! Looking at the pictures I can see why folks were so excited.

The photos were taken by H&H Multimedia. Great job!

I rode away from the start with a small group of guys but we were all chasing some 95 pound kid I've never seen before. He took off like a rocket but I wasn't about to chase him because he started looking back. Looking back is a tell. It tells me you're tired. But tired or not he hammered far enough away that when we finally made the single track I couldn't see him anymore. I moved past the two guys in front of me and ended up dropping them. So I was alone and chasing the kid. Right up until I crashed. On the first downhill section at the power lines I came into the turn back into the woods too hot and slid down. It would've been ok accept that my chain was off and twisted. By the time I got it back on I'd been passed by 5 people. And evidently a link was twisted badly enough that with each pedal stroke it would catch on the cog above. It created a skip in my pedal stroke that would've really angered a lesser man. All I could do was finish as fast as possible.

I came through the transition area second and handed off to Randy. The girls were over at the Zombie Zone which is where the zombies gathered until midnight to stagger toward the racers as they pass. They were having a blast. I ate and drank and filmed the transition of Randy to David.

I want to say a special thank you to Todd Fisher. He didn't come to race, he actually came to support Dustin Mealor's solo effort with all his tools and a bike stand and positive energy. They set up a tent right next to us and Todd handed Dustin bottles all night.
When I returned from my first lap I started telling the tale and Todd grabbed my bike when he heard about the chain. Before I knew it he had removed the bad link and put it back together. After that I didn't have another problem shifting or pedaling all night. Many thanks Todd!!

We raced past midnight and bounced between 2nd and 3rd. Then at one point we actually moved into 1st place. We thought our averages and our strategy would win the day... or night... as it were. I went to the timing table to inquire about our competition and here's what I learned. The team in 1st was a father, a son, an uncle and a friend. So they thought. The only thing they knew for sure was the father/son part. The son was their ringer. He's the kid I chased at the start. Probably weighs less than 100 pounds and is fast as lighting. They would put this kid out there for two laps at a time and then each of them would do one. So the kid would put them back into 1st every time he went out. His name was Jake Morman. They were very smart to work him the way they did.

Around 3:00AM things began to deteriorate. Our bodies were starting to get tired and our minds played tricks on us. The best quotes came from David. He was convinced of the presence of Unicorns. If you hear him saying weird things in the videos don't worry... it all makes sense to him.

I realized then that we had been violating one of our rules, have fun, by worrying over the opportunity to get 1st. I expressed my desire to stop talking strategy and start talking nonsense and pick on each other. The guys were all about it and so in the waning hours before daylight we settled into a campfire and friends sort of mood.

Finally the dawn. The morning always brings a sense of relief and anticipation. All the family members who slept in tents and campers started coming out to see how the race was going. And to get something for breakfast from the Smiley's truck. There was a heavy dew on everything that wasn't directly under a tent. The air was heavy with humidity but the temperature was nice and 60 degrees.

This video shows "the kid" waiting next to David. He's going to leave and do two laps before turning it over to a team mate for one final lap. At this point our only hope was if they had a mechanical. So we just rode hard and hoped for the worst... for them.

It all came down to the final lap I would be making. We already knew that I couldn't possibly make up the minutes we were down but there was always the possibility of a mechanical or crash on their part so I got jacked up for one more round of mash hysteria.
Before I went to transition I ate two mustard packs (for cramping) and a double caffeine gel. It would be daylight the whole time so I didn't need lights. Trent came flying in and off I went to see what the cycling gods had in store.
The course was much different in the daylight. You could see the lines you should take. You could negotiate the bridges better and avoid the poop mud. It was my best lap of the race. I beat their guy by 2 minutes but that didn't put a dent in their overall lead. That kid single handedly whipped our tails.

A fine 2nd Place in the 12 Hours of Zombie Apocalypse!
 After the fun of the awards we packed up and went our separate ways. David and I went to Cracker Barrel for some "mama's" and coffee. We talked about the race and our great families and how stinking tired we were. We enjoyed the stares from folks looking at our freaky Zombie shirts. People listened intently as we answered our waitresses questions about what we'd been doing. Both of us knew that in the days after this we'd look back on the 12 Hours of Zombie Apocalypse and be grateful for the fun and competition provided by mountain bike racing. We both agreed that Chainbuster Racing must do this race again next year. Can you hear me Kenny!


Now I give you the short and sweet tale of woe from Dustin Mealor who despite being as under trained as I've ever seen him in recent years signed up for the Solo Expert Category. Hmm. Whatever dude. Dustin lasted half the night. His tale begins now:

It's interesting to notice things in races.  I can honestly say that I had no idea how bad I would perform this weekend due to just not being mentally ready to race all night.  Had this race been a day-time affair I honestly can't say things would have turned out differently, but I was shocked at my inability to soldier on like the "me" of the past.  I ate poop mud hard on the first lap.  It was one of those slower crashes, which always seem to be the worse.  I tried to go up and over a rock formation and caught the lip just right.  Threw me up and over the bars and flat on my face, which had the blow lessened by my hand which I, in a newbie-like fashion, reached out to stop my fall.  After that the rest of my lap was fine.

The second lap I ended up behind the dude that went to the hospital.  Seriously, this dude passes me at the top of the climb and I think to myself "man I hope this guy is a fast downhill".  Not that I'm a bomber on the descents, but I can hold my own (thanks to the teachings of Craig Tinsley).  No sooner do I think this to myself than crashes in spectacular fashion and I end up ditching via a slide to not bulldog his face with my front tire.  In a not-so-me fashion I ditch my bike and run over to him to make sure he's fine.  I stayed with him for probably 2-3 minutes until he convinced me to get back on the bike and go.  I found out later that he went to the hospital with a separated shoulder.

The rest of the race was just weird.  It's weird in that I was on the bike and I was racing, but I made so many small mistakes everything just seemed to run together.  I know better than to take breaks in these races.  In the expert class every lap and every minute matters.  Yet, I seemed to stop almost every lap to grab bottles that I had not laid out for myself and food that I just had piled up and not planned well.  I really thank Todd Fisher for being there and supporting me, but this race just didn't happen for me.  I never could quite get into a groove.  After five laps I just got tired of being on the bike.  I think at that point I just mentally said "forget this" and gave up.  Really not my style, but if you're not feeling it you're not feeling it.  Next year will be different...

Dustin Mealor

So there you have it. Another great adventure with friends and family. The next few months will be primarily road racing so not as much fun. But we'll do our best and not take ourselves too seriously. It is just a hobby after all.

Can't wait to see you all out there!!

Chad Hayes

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

2013 Jackson County Brevet

This is a wonderfully supported ride! I did it for the first time last year and loved it! In 2012 I had a great group of friends with me and we had fun watching over a guy named Mike who was doing 100 miles for the first time. This year we had two guys with us who were both exceeding their self imposed limits, Alex Fuentes and Randy Hemphill.

Now to be fair I don't think Randy had too much of a problem because the weekend before this he won the first triathlon he's ever entered. He smiled and seemed happy the whole morning. I've raced with Randy and I've seen what he's capable of so I wasn't worried about him. Alex on the other hand just started cycling this year on a hand me down Litespeed from his father in law. A very nice bike for a starter. Beats my first bike a Cannondale R400 aluminum frame of pain.
Before this ride Alex had maxed out at 52 miles for his longest ride ever. I thought this would be a long painful grind for him that may require a helping hand from a friend. What actually happened was much more ego friendly. He should be very proud of his effort.

Registration was a breeze and I was back at the car getting ready when Stephen Sisk rode up grinning. It struck me then how asleep I still was and how infectious a smile can be. When I smiled back there was instant excitement in the air. I jumped out of the morning funk and into the day I'd been trying all week to make it in to. The brevet! But it's really not a brevet?! It's a century ride, people! Marketing genius though! And I was about to have another great story to tell about something other than pain and suffering! So who cares... it's a Jackson County Brevet!

The list of shiny happy people at the start with me are as follows: Stephen Sisk, Mike Withrow,  David Latty, David Shabat, Kim Turpin, Alex Fuentes, Brad Donaldson, Tim Evans, Gene Whitmire, and Randy Hemphill.
Lt. Governor Casey Cagle hung out and acted like he was with us. But he wasn't. He rode with the dignitary's in the lead out group for approximately 2 miles and then bid us farewell. I'm sure he had more important things to do that day but it was 65 degrees and the promise of partly cloudy?! If your cycling heart doesn't ache to be with us on a day like that then I say you're not really a cyclist. You may just play one on TV.  But I know Casey, he's a friend, and if he could have joined us he would have.
The dignitaries prepare to lead us out.
The announcements were the usual tear jerking stories of triumph and fortitude. The organizer Robert Wilhiet started this ride to fund research of Aplastic Anemia. His wife was stricken with it years ago and he's been on a mission ever since. This ride happens to be the largest fund raiser for the disease in the nation! It all just fuels the fire for the ride.

They start the riders in sections. If your average ride is 20+ mph you go in the first group. 2nd group is 16-19 mph average. 3rd group is below 16. They gap you by about a minute or two. We had police at every major intersection for the first 30 miles and some volunteer motorcycle gangs were babysitting us the entire ride.

The ride out of Braselton felt more like a parade as we slowly made our way into the country. Once on the open road Stephen and I hammered out a pretty fast pace to get us off the front and to set a good tempo. It worked! But soon I started looking for some relief. When we looked ready to take a break there was David Latty and Mike Withrow to take our place and push the pace. We worked like that all morning with David Shabat and Randy taking monster pulls as well.
I constantly checked on Alex who was in full survival mode from the start. He did the few things I had been telling him were imperative at your first century; EAT, DRINK, and STAY IN THE DRAFT. He found himself on the front a few times and kept the pace nice and high. He only spoke when spoken to. He was very focused.

I guess I'd have to say that our favorite SAG stop was the 60's style one. They were playing Foghat and dressed like hippies. One guy had a giant afro wig on. It was there that Kim's rear tire blew out. We were almost ready to leave when the shot rang out. David and Randy fixed the flat while Alex and I smoked a doobie. We left that SAG feeling really good.
My second favorite SAG stop was the Wizard of OZ one. They played music from the movie and were all dressed up like Lions and Tigers and Bears...                 Go ahead... you can say it.

I enjoyed the mini Cliff Bars the most. The cookies went down so fast I didn't taste them. The red Poweraid was the best drink. And yes I was kidding about the doobies. I only mention it because I just recently found out why they call themselves the Doobie Brothers.

I fail miserably at trivial persuit.

So we hammered away with fresh food and a smile. Well some of us were smiling. The miles were flying by but I knew the dreaded 80 mile bonk point was looming.
I'd told Alex about it. I told him the best defense is a caffeine gel. I carry two caffeine gels for the last 20 miles of any century I do. No caffeine until then. When I dropped back to check on Alex he had actually listened to me! He really took my advice! A novel concept in today's society. I firmly believe that he made it to the finish, without a single push, because he focused and took advice. And he trained hard. Which helps tremendously.

Our high pace finally broke Kim and others who decided to ease on back. But we were averaging over 19 mph and that simply must be maintained. Unless one of our newbies cried uncle. Which never happened. Alex hung on and finished with us without so much as a whimper.

And then out of nowhere we rode up on Craig Tinsley and Taylor Graham. They had started with the 20+ group and for over 50 miles pushed a ridiculous 23 mph pace. It didn't take long for them to realize... that's no fun! Believe me, I've done it and I choose to enjoy the "ride" and save my suffering for a "race". When we caught up to them they looked beat and awfully glad to see us. At first I couldn't understand how we could have caught them since we took time with Kim's flat. But then Craig told me that they had taken a wrong turn and went off course. Yikes!

With less than 20 miles to go we all shut up and just pedaled. I'm telling you the last 20 miles are the hardest no matter what pace you kept. You just want to be done. You just want to be sitting at the table with some spaghetti and a coke. You just want off that saddle!
The post ride meal was great! You could go with some pizza or spaghetti or both. There were rolls and salad and drinks. We sat and listened to Robert make announcements and give away stuff. It's all kind of foggy but I think both David and Randy got a door prize. Stephen has done every JCB since it started and deserved a door prize. I am writing this blog so I deserved a second helping of spaghetti.

It was another great ride with friends! And we even broke a lot of guys own records by finishing the 100 miles in 5 hours 12 minutes and averaging 19.8 mph. I'm very proud of Alex Fuentes who proved to be up for the challenge and probably hasn't yet fully understood what he did. Nor has his taint.


The Tuesday before the Jackson Brevet I participated in a Memorial Ride for Mike Walker a fellow cyclist who passed away peacefully the Friday before. I didn't know Mike very well. I only had a few casual conversations with him over the years. I only knew him as the older guy who leaves early from the Tuesday Night Throwdown. We catch him somewhere during the ride and as the group passes you can hear each rider saying "Hey Mike! - Hey Mike! - Hey Mike!"
He was a veteran. I didn't know that. He was 66 years old. Didn't know that either. But what took my breath away and what says the most about people of Mike's generation... he was the recipient of 2 Purple Hearts. Let that sink in for a minute and you'll understand why sometimes I could smack myself in the head for not taking more time to get to know people. He was a cool guy and I missed out.

Here are some quotes about Mike from some people who didn't miss out:

As cyclists we're an interesting bunch. We whine about getting dropped, brag sometimes about dropping others and complain about not having people to ride with. I'm humbled by Mike Walker. He showed up every Tuesday and left early because he knew he wasn't fast enough to hang. He NEVER once complained about this. I would often come up on him out on rides because he rode a lot. I'd always make it a point to slow down and chat with him because he was just a cool guy to talk to. He always was in a good mood and just loved being on his bike. I think we should all strive to be like Mike. Tuesday a few of us are planning on riding the upper short loop at a no drop regardless of who's there pace in honor of Mike. See you there!
- Dustin Mealor

This morning there will be a memorial service for a good friend and fellow cyclist, Mike Walker.  I told some of the guys we ride with once there was nobody I respected more on the Tuesday Night Ride than Mike.  He shows up rides his bike, always smiles, never complains no matter what.  He just loved to ride that bike.  I saw him riding last Tuesday I threw up my hand and he did the same as he pedaled out of town.  I have been off the bike for awhile and I have just started to ride a little again, I was looking forward to getting into good enough shape to ride with Mike on Tuesdays.  That was kind of the plan.  I will think about Mike when I ride now, put my head down, tough it out when it gets hard, and "Ride at MY Pace".  Just like Mike.  And Mike, I know where you are now and the group ride will be just a little better because you are there.
- Danny Short

In just a few hours, we will gather to say goodbye to my Uncle Mike. No one I've loved has ever died suddenly, so I am still trying to wrap my brain around the fact that he is gone.

"Mikey," as many of us called him, was proactive when it came to his health and well-being. He loved to exercise. He watched what he ate. He was the most disciplined person I have ever known and the youngest 66-year-old you can imagine. I exercise regularly, but my motivation is to keep my butt from creeping down the back of my thighs whereas Mikey truly enjoyed the process. He was an avid cyclist. Loved snow skiing. He swam. He lifted weights. He'd been a dedicated runner.

Mikey didn't have children, but he had us -- nieces, nephews, family, lots of friends and a wife who was his partner in life, business, and without a doubt his best friend. No one will miss him more than her.

My sister and I gathered photographs to best represent Mike's life at his memorial service. Through these photos, one thing is evident: Mike's was a life well-lived.

A smiling, innocent boy with a skinned chin in a black-and-white school picture... A tan, lean young man with haunted eyes earning two Purple Hearts in Vietnam.... Marrying his best girl.... Working.... Going to college.... Traveling the world.... Pursuing his passion for aviation.... Always working, reading, learning, and moving forward.... A quiet man.... An honest man.... A better man would be hard to find.

I never heard him say an unkind word about anyone -- never knew him to judge. (I'd like to know how he managed that because personally, I've never had that kind of restraint.) Mike never treated me like a kid. He talked to me like I was his equal and always seemed amazed by my accomplishments, no matter how small. That's a big deal to a kid and something I've treasured as an adult.

1947 - 2013

One of the things that I am most proud of is being able to make Mike laugh. Where he was a quiet, reserved and classy guy, I'm pretty sure I was born without that filter most people have that keeps them from saying exactly what they think. I think he and I appreciated each others differences.

As disciplined as Mike was, he did allow himself a couple of indulgences -- fine, red wine and excellent Scotch. Several years ago, I asked him to teach me to drink Scotch. I joked that if I learned to drink it then he and I would have something to do when I visited him in the nursing home one day. He obliged and shared his finest (and Mike had the good stuff) Scotch whiskey with me. I tried, but I never learned to fully appreciate this particular spirit.

But, I can tell you one thing in absolute certainty. At some point today, I will pour myself a couple of fingers of excellent Scotch and toast one of the finest men I have ever known. Cheers, Uncle Mike! You will be missed.

- Kris (Mike's Niece)

Thanks for reading! Stay safe!

Chad Hayes