Santos Vacation 2015

Oh gawd, it’s been forever since I posted something. Partially because of the trip I’m about to write up, and partially because I’ve been busy doing all sorts of random things with dogs and my car, which are both in various states of sickness.

If you’ve been reading along, you saw that I recently had to deal with Turbo, my 13 year old Belgian Malinois, nearly dying from side effects of the onset of heart failure. She’s stable and happy now, but the cost of emergency and follow-up care vaporized the budget I’d set aside in my mind for taking a foul weather-escaping trip to the Santos Trails in Florida. Then, Wednesday night last week, I was at my parents’ house when I mentioned how bad the weather was going to be (again) and, while I was glad Turbo was doing ok, I really needed some long training hours that I just wasn’t going to gut out in the slush here in Memphis.

My mom said she’d like to go to Florida. I took her up on it, and, early Friday morning, we were literally outrunning a sleet storm to get ourselves down to Ocala.

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Saturday, I had to make morning trip to Target to cheaply replace the hydration pack I’d left at home (again).

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Once I hit the trail, I rode out and back along some of the OMBA Epic Ride route. The best maps I’ve been able to find are on this page, though none of them show 100% of what’s there. I stopped along the way to visit folks racing the Santos 12 hour. I was slightly tempted to race, but glad decided to just go out and have fun instead. I found Dicky immediately following his discovery that he and his teammate were in a podium spot and actually had to concentrate on racing.

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I also saw some old school components

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I quickly discovered that the trail was covered in a much-thicker-than-last-year layer of fallen live oak leaves.

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They’re super slick, so the turns were occasionally treacherous. Live oak trees are some of the most beautiful living things on the planet, though, so they’re totally worth the leaf surfing. I sort of hate posting pictures of them, because a camera phone doesn’t come close to capturing their enormity.

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By the time I made it back through the race course area, I was out of water. I stopped and wanted to beg for some in the pits, but everyone was somehow distracted by racing or partying, so I just took this picture and left.

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I made it a point to reserve a nice room with a kitchen so that I could cook healthy meals for my mom and myself. Meal #1 was steak and broccoli (I added some bread toasted with olive oil for a few extra carbs).

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Sunday’s adventure started with a little sightseeing. We drove west a ways and checked out the Gulf of Mexico.

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Since I didn’t want to ride as long that day, I had my mom drop me off at the far west end of the trail system at the Pruitt trailhead. I found out from this scenic spot where the trailhead gets its name:

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I had calculated that my ride would take around 3 hours, so I drew directions on a map for my mom and told her I’d be at the east end of the trail around 3:30. My plan was to have her pick me up at the Greenway Bikes shop. When I arrived, it was exactly 3:30, and I went inside to purchase a beer and sat around enjoying the sun and waiting on my mom.

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My mom proceeded to get very lost while she tried to find the shop. The shop closed at 4, though one of the shop guys stuck around until 4:30 because he was trying to be nice. I shooed him off and found a shady spot. Around 5:something, the shop owner, Dano, pulled up. We chatted some, and he was nice, though, he asked me where I was from and where I was staying and why I was waiting around at least three different times. He offered to split a Victory V12 with me, so I didn’t stress his apparent lack of sobriety too hard.

My mom eventually found the shop. Dano was still there, and, in the course of his repeated asking of where are you from/where are you staying/where are you going to dinner tonight, my mom, being the proper Southern woman that she is, though obviously a little uncomfortable dealing with someone who was less than sober, asked him, “where are you from?” He replied back with a crude answer about his mother’s anatomy… to my sweet, proper, Southern, 70ish year-old mom.

Given the absolute absurdity of the situation, I found it to be pretty hilarious at the time, though, looking back, I somewhat regret not losing my shit with the dude and telling him to apologize for being an ass.

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Needless to say, if you’re at Santos, keep your moms away from Greenway Bikes.

At least the beer was good.

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That night, we had chicken thighs and green beans with a spicy mustard & yogurt sauce (the sauce was my mom’s idea).

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I was stoked that I’d picked up a little vitamin D while I was out.

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My third and final day was the long one. Since I’d stopped for photos and navigation on the previous days, I decided that I’d only stop once an hour for a food break (the Target pack didn’t have hip pockets, so I had to take it off of my back to get to my food). I rode to the far end of the trail system and back- approximately 32 miles out and 23 miles back. I did stop to take a look at this guy along the way:

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I also stopped when I wrecked at mile 52.5 of 54.5. Leaf surfing is only one mph away from leaf teleporting. Back at the trailhead, I ate a snack and cooled off a bit. I still had a good bit of daylight, so I wanted to go back out and ride a lap of the Vortex Loop- the tech loop a couple of miles from the main trailhead.

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While I was trying to figure out where the loop started, I met Tim, the owner of Spokes mobile bike shop. We chatted a bunch and he showed me a lap of the trail. I like the bermy fast stuff that makes up 98% of the trails at Santos, but the Vortex loop feels a little like Arkansas. Tim and I made a hot lap and headed back to the main trailhead. I ended up with nearly 6 hours of riding for the day… a great way to finish off the 3-day vacation.

Outside of Florida, the South wasn’t doing so well.

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I wished that we could have stayed there way longer. The sun and opportinity to train hard on fun trails temporarily hoisted me up from my baseline of mild depression, so it was a mental vacation as much as it was a physical one.

The weather in Memphis is still pretty terrible (as it is most places that aren’t Florida). I’ve only ridden once since I came back, though I’ll probably hit the trainer this morning before going to an inversion workshop at Pike Yoga.

The light at the end of my cold, dark tunnel?

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We’d originally discussed my Colorado sabbatical beginning the first week of April. However, Jon Davis (owner of 92Fifty), scheduled the 92Fifty Moab camp for March 26th-29th, and he wants me there A)because they need a mechanic to work on participant bikes, and B)it will give me a chance to meet and bond with the people who come to the shop most often.

That’s not to say it won’t be cold when we return to the mountains after camp, but the sun is bright there, so I don’t think it will be too bad.

Adventuring in the Covington Pike Bottoms

The weather in Memphis has been totally normal this week… that is to say, we rode in short sleeves on Saturday, and on Monday, we awoke to piles of sleet on the ground.

Sticking with our theme of being bored with the same trails (and knowing that since the weather was great on Saturday that those same trails would be packed), Matt and I struck out to explore what local cyclists call the “Epic” trails. More often, they’re referred to as the Covington Pike Bottoms, and they’re equally as popular for ATV pilots as our usual Shelby Farms trails are for runners, hikers, and cyclists. It’s basically a bunch of tracks through the woods along the south side of the Wolf River (and, as you venture westward, crossing to the north and continuing on towards the Mississippi). They stay incredibly muddy year round because of the ATV traffic, though when it hasn’t rained for a couple of weeks, you can pick your way around the bogs and have a pretty nice adventure.

As of Saturday, it was very slow going- the ratio of good riding to “picking around wheel-deep mudholes” was about equal. A summer drought is normally your best chance for a higher ratio of riding-to-bogging. We still had a good out and back adventure, though… occasionally stopping to watch ATV drivers and whatnot.

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On the way back, we were stopped at a neighborhood trail entrance by the Memphis Police. More accurately, two cops were arresting ATV drivers as they emerged from the woods and into a neighborhood where the residents were fed up with loud, somewhat drunken jackasses going 50mph up the street and slinging mud all over the place. One cop told us to get on someplace else because they were going to go in and get more people out. We found a suitable detour, though, and stopped to make friends with people we met along the trail back to where we’d started.

As is customary for all weekend blog posts, we met with friends to watch the UFC Fight Night at El Toro Loco. Matt made a matching shirt buddy while Torian and I made fun of individuals who exemplified our respective racial stereotypes.

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Sunday the weather transitioned from nice to arctic-ish. People battened down the hatches in preparation for a winter storm that would eventually dump several inches of sleet across Tennessee. We took an evening adventure to WalMart and speculated a purchase of a fatbike, but decided against it. It was an entertaining trip, nonetheless.

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Screw the milk, bread, and batteries…

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The storm system didn’t disappoint, if it was buckets of sleet you were dreaming about.

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I was happy to have a chance to test out my all wheel drive vehicle

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High quality entertainment right there.

I was tempted a couple of times to go ride, but ended up deciding against it because A) in order to not get hit by a stupid driver, you’d need to drive to a trail to ride, and B) it’s solid ice… not snow. It’d be like riding on a rutted hockey rink. I’ll stick to trainer rides and donut-ing my car in parking lots.

Rides and Dog-Kid Problems

The thought of leaving a “new” trail unexplored was too much to bear, so on Wednesday, Matt and I met John on the Wolf River Trail and adventured our way back out to find the end of the Nutbush Highway (see previous posts). After some sidewalk riding and light bushwhacking, we did, indeed reach our goal.

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(If you don’t recognize it, that’s the bridge that I was monkey-ing around on in my last post).

It seems as though the Nutbush Highway ends at JFK Park, though we didn’t fully explore all corners of possible exits because John needed to get going. One more trip may be in order. The woods along the Wolf River get severely squished near the next main road to the west, so it’s highly likely that we found what’s at least very close to the end.

Views from the ride back…

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Matt and I dropped John off at his car and continued riding. The magic of the day continued when I found that my sample-size 4-pack of Gu Chomps was a 7-pack (I’d already eaten one when I realized my long-ride miracle and took the photo)

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The goal of the day was to go longer than 4 hours, but be home by 5:30. Our adventure took us towards Grey’s Creek. The trail out that way in in great shape right now.

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We ended up with a little over 5 hours, and celebrated with a trip to the Chinese Buffet. They’ve got a “Mongolian BBQ” station where you can get vegetables and meat cooked together while you wait, so it’s pretty great.

Then, things took an unexpected turn…

We came home and let the dogs out like normal. After they came back in, I immediately noticed that Turbo, my 13-year-old Belgian Malinois, was breathing funny and looked a little freaked out. My dog-mom intuition said that this was bad… real bad. Within a few minutes, we were at a nearby emergency/overnight clinic.

Turbo’s heart rate was in the 220-240bpm range (normal for a stressed out dog at the vet is around 140), an arrhythmia caused by a gross enlargement of the heart muscle. Also, the portion of her right lung that was weakened by her previous bout with pneumonia was collapsed. There was a very real chance that if they didn’t get her heart rate down and stable that she’d go into cardiac arrest. It was bad enough that the vet gave me the advanced directive paperwork to sign…that was tough.

The treatment plan was to stabilize and monitor her overnight so that the underlying cause of her issues could be determined. There are effective drug treatments for some dogs with heart disease. There are also some things that could have been going on- like a tumor, that aren’t treatable. We wouldn’t know until an ultrasound the next day.

I spent the next 18 hours or so periodically crying, hoping for the best, and preparing for the worst.

I finally heard back from the vet around 2:30pm yesterday, and he said that she was suffering from cardiac myopathy that was causing a cascade of things, one of them being the arrhythmia. The cause is generally unknown (“being old” is basically what it comes down to). The good part- as an otherwise healthy dog, she was a very good candidate for drug therapy, and, though this is eventually going to get worse and untreatable, until then, she’ll have a good quality of life. According to Dr. Abernathy, “If I didn’t have a stethoscope, I’d have no idea that she’s as sick as she is.”

I’m really happy that Turbo gets to stick around a little longer.

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She almost immediately expressed her happiness with being back home by tearing in to a bag of oatmeal from the pantry while I was in the garage.

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The overnight vet bills mean that I’m going to have to cancel my “Eff this weather, I’m going to Florida” trip that I was tentatively planning according to the forecast for next week:

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I’m pretty OK with that, though.

 

 

Urban Adventures- The Nutbush Highway

To be totally cliche, but since my last post, I’ve felt like an enormous weight has lifted off of me, both physically and mentally.

Just so I could slip MMA into another weekend post, I decided to go down to Southaven on Saturday morning to a half-day Jiu Jitsu seminar. It was highly informative. I learned some very useful techniques, though I was slightly disappointed that there was no rolling (think “live practice”) afterwards. I was hoping for it mostly because one of the women there was a blue belt who looked to be in my weight class (me, being a white belt in the 140-45 range). No idea what I’m talking about? Click here: Jiu Jitsu Ranking

I didn’t think I’d feel like riding after the seminar, so I woke up early and did Tabata intervals on the trainer before I left. That was a first… probably not a last. Some of you may be thinking, “WTF are you doing with all this intensity in the Winter?” It initially started as just grasping at straws to maintain some sort of fitness while the trails were wet and I didn’t feel like I could tolerate road riding as I have in the past. That still holds somewhat true, though a much more important purpose is layered on top- I need to get my FTP up to prepare for the initial throes of altitude acclimatization come end of March. I don’t think that I’ll be short on long base mile rides once I’m at 92Fifty, so I’m not too concerned with loading up on those for now.

That doesn’t mean I’m not up for long adventures if the opportunity arises. Sunday, Matt and I decided to continue our exploration of what I’ve dubbed “The Nutbush Highway.” Other than exploring new stuff in the middle of Memphis, there’s not much story to tell, so I just took photos.

On the way out:

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At the western “end” of our adventure, we found a dilapidated bridge and a parallel 4-wheeler track through the creek that you could see continuing on in the woods ahead. However, the creek wasn’t really cross-able (it’s an inner-city drainage… you DON’T wade in that), so we just played around on the bridge before turning back.

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Getting up there was a bit of a climb. Getting down was a little more intimidating

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I made it, though

 

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We took side roads back to the more familiar Wolf River Trails, where we found that someone had cut roots out of all two of the “technical” sections of trail (photo credit, Jim Morgan).

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It’s probably the same jackass that thinks that “fixing” a mudhole means that you pile arm-sized sticks into the middle of it. Facepalm x Infinity

With a quick excursion east towards Grey’s Creek, our ride ended up at about 4 hours long (not including the bridge-playground stop). With the weather being as nice as it’s going to be this afternoon, it looks like we should at least be able to match that again today.

 

 

Big Changes Ahead, Big Adventures to Follow

I know a few of you are getting tired of the somewhat monotonous posting here. That’s gonna change real soon.

 

 

I’ll start by hopping in my way-back machine and taking you to the time I spent hanging out at 92Fifty Cyclery while I was in Colorado the weeks before Vapor Trail.  Here’s a link to the blog category that covers the whole trip (and more): OutWest Trip It’s in reverse chronological order, so if you’re really bored at work right now, scroll back to the #1 post about the road trip out and start reading until I’m back home. The 2nd to last rant-y one is highly relevant, too, so at least read that one.

While I was at 92Fifty, I did a fair amount of riding with Jonathan Davis (the owner of both 92Fifty and Elevated Legs) and the (former) mechanic Kyle Taylor. On one ride, we got to the top of a climb (more accurately, they got to the top and were waiting for me… because, “altitude”), and before we hit the dropper switches and bombed down the other side, Jon asked if I’d be interested in joining the 92Fifty/Elevated Legs Pro Team he was planning for the 2015 season.

Yes. Yes I would.

I was admittedly burnt out on doing the “solo pro” thing. I’ve said it before, and I still stand by it- Finding sponsors can be akin to terrible internet dating. Sure, they seem cool when you first meet them, but then they usually stop calling back and returning emails within a couple of weeks.
That doesn’t go for everyone, of course. Gu Energy Labs was, and still is, a huge supporter of my efforts. Not only do I genuinely love their products, I’ve gone on several adventures (Breck Epic and Dirty Kanza 200, to name a couple) that wouldn’t have happened without their support. Really, all of the sponsors that are listed over on the side of this page have remained an integral part of my racing and training from year-to-year. They’ve all been there for me across all of my adventures.

However, the opportunity to be on the 92Fifty/Elevated Legs Team isn’t one that comes calling on a regular basis. So, I’m there. I’m super there, hella stoked, and wicked excited. I felt really motivated to work hard over the winter so I could come out with guns blazing in 2015.

2015 92Fifty/Elevated Legs Pro Team

Then, I got back to Memphis.

Something happened. People I care about got hit by careless drivers. I almost got hit by careless drivers (several times, the first couple of weeks back). My brain short-circuited, and I started having panic attacks as badly as I’d had them immediately after being hit at Rouge Roubaix way back in 2013.
I got depressed. Not like, “a little down/sad” depressed, but, “I wish that woman had killed me” depressed. At my worst, if it weren’t for finding a daily yoga class to go to in addition to Tuesday and Thursday Jiu Jitsu at the gym, I would have stayed at home on the couch and not eaten,  showered, or interacted with the outside world for days at a time. Like a lot of people suffering through depression, I’ve gone through the exhaustive motions of wearing an “I’m OK” mask that’s mostly hidden how much of a mental train wreck I am on the inside. I’ve gutted out some minimal training, and I’ve found some peace when I go to Syllamo- how I feel once I’m away at the cabin and safe in the mountains is literally the one thing that’s given me the hope that I’m not totally broken.

To say it’s been a rough few months would be a gross understatement.

Then, I was presented with another 92Fifty opportunity. Jon asked me to come out and work/live at the shop this Summer. I was torn… most of what/who I know and love is here. However, so is what’s causing me a lot of pain- if you want to train hard here, you’re going to do much of it on the road. I’ve been mentally and physically unable to go on solo road rides since September (and I’ve ridden on the road exactly twice with a handful of friends during that time). The general “Memphis” attitude towards our trails by some in the riding community (example in the “rant” post in the OutWest link above) as well as the general public’s attitude towards physical activity gets me down, too. I’ve always made a decent go at NOT letting that happen, but it’s worn hard on my already ragged emotions.

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The mountains are calling, and you know the next line of that quote…

I am a realistic person. I know that depression isn’t wholly treated by just changing scenery. I also know that I’m dropping a lot of personal responsibilities I have in being around for Ryan. However, when I start feeling hopeless on a frightening level, the self-preserving need to be selfish and take this chance to experience the mountains and escape the daily marinating in things that trigger my hopeless feelings overrides everything else. I don’t know what will happen after that, but, right now, this is the one thing that makes me feel like I’ve got a chance at feeling like myself again.

It’s scary. It’s a little overwhelming. It’s also one of the most exciting things I’ve ever looked forward to experiencing.

 

More Bikes and MMA!

Hey, another weekend of riding bikes and doing MMA stuff! I’m OK with this trend…

Matt and I struck out on a “typical” Wolf River Trail ride from the house on Saturday. The only modification we were going to make was a stop off at the U-Haul just off the north end of the trail in order to pick up the coffee mug I’d accidentally left in there earlier that week while they were installing the hitch receiver on the Impreza. After the pickup, we were going to head back south and follow the usual trails back home.

However, once said mug was tucked into Matt’s Osprey pack and we were re-entering the trail, we discovered a 4-wheeler trail continuing north. Sense of adventure kicked in, and we began following it into the unknown. I don’t think that anyone in the general public knows who owns the woods immediately adjacent to the Wolf River, but given the lack of policing of ATV traffic in the area, I don’t think anyone cares. It’s one of those good/bad things about this city- we get the opportunity to go on these sorts of adventures, which is good and exciting. However, the opportunity exists because no one “cares” about that part of town, and the police in the area are far too busy taking care of the (frequent) “real” crimes in the area to worry about trespassers in the woods.

It’s definitely not a place you’d go alone.

We ventured out as far as we could, given our time constraint. We needed to be back at the house in time to finish prepping for some friends to come over and watch the UFC 183 Pay Per View at the house. We’d talked earlier in the week about meeting at a sports bar, but I’d then decided to say “eff it” and buy the event to avoid the crowds and crappy service. It turned out to be an excellent choice.

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Because, at Buffalo Wild Wings, there’s not enough room to imitate Nick Diaz during round one:IMG_6565

You also don’t have couches, blankets, and a chair that’s usable as workout equipment:

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Sunday morning, I awoke to rain. Steady buckets of rain. For reasons only known within the depths of my brain, I felt like suffering. So, I went out on my cyclocross bike and did a 20 minute power test in the rain.

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The power test was alright. I needed the baseline if I am to start adding in some structure to my workouts. It wasn’t my best by far, but also not my worst February 1st numbers, either. The suffering part? Well, it ended up being too warm to suffer. Other than feeling a bit muggy in my jacket while I was going full-gas, I was pretty comfortable.

Suffering, denied.

Later in the afternoon, Matt and I went to watch Torian (from the previous night’s antics) test for his jiujitsu rank. I’d never watched such a thing, so it was interesting to get a feel for how it works (though, according to John, everyone who is capable of ranking/promoting students is different).

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That night, we hung with much of the same crew for a Superbowl party. Also, I rallied the Impreza through some wet gravel in John’s neighborhood, which, though the game and company were good, may have been slightly more exciting. I can’t decide if I should wash the mud off or not. It kinda looks more natural with the dirt splatters all over the front end/windshield.

A Week of Random Things

First things first… remember back in November when tendinitis put a halt to my winter running aspirations? Well, the patellofemoral pain never fully went away. Luckily, it didn’t really hurt when I rode, so I just kept waiting for it to go all the way away so that I could get back to my usual crosstraining with some weights, plyometrics, and kickboxing. When it wouldn’t leave, I finally went to Campbell Clinic and was put under the care of of PT who found a whole heard of trigger points in my left quadriceps. So, between using an anti-inflammatory cream, a knee brace, some manual therapy (basically the PT uses her thumbs to break the knots apart), dry needling, taping, and the foam roller at home, the trigger points and the pain have subsided drastically. I’ve been instructed to test it out this week with something that’d normally hurt, so I’m going to a kickboxing class this afternoon (includes a little running and some other ballistic-type movement that was keeping me from kickboxing before). Fingers crossed.

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Along the lines of training, nothing of much interest is happening on the bike. It rained some, so I have stayed off the trails, which means I’ve been isolated to short “linking together little bits of gravel” rides or the trainer. If you haven’t followed along on Twitter and Instagram, Roommate/JRA Co-host Matt determined that when you ride the trainer and don’t post a picture on social media that God makes another armadillo. So, if you ride indoors, be sure to post a pic/video with the hashtag #onelessarmadillo.

In random “around my house” news, I installed two new valves and a new faucet in my kitchen last week. The old hot water valve was broken and a little leaky, and I decided I’d go ahead and replace the cold water valve while I was down there with the water turned off.

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I find plumbing to be very much like working on a bike with Campy. No one ever taught me specifically how to do it, but as long as you understand the basic mechanics and you have some decent instructions, it’s easy to figure out. My biggest issue was other residents of the house coming by and futzing with the new faucet parts while I was waist deep under the counter… No, I don’t know where that hose is going to go because A)I’m under the counter and can’t even see what hose you’re talking about, and B) STOP F*&#KING WITH IT.

They got the point pretty quickly, and the new stuff is pretty pimp.

Saturday, at the gym, Eric (Ingram’s Martial Arts) had invited a school from Arkansas to come and train with us. It was tons of fun, and I was thoroughly exhausted when we were finished.

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Bonus pics of Eric’s puppy Rory:

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Saturday night, I helped Matt build a ramp and did my best to relax and recover from the day’s activities:

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Then there was the random impulse buy at Target the other day…

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He’s actually pretty OK with it. I can’t really lead him anywhere, but he seems to cautiously enjoy wandering around the back porch and using the house as a spot to scratch his face.

If I get out and ride some this afternoon, I might post again later this week about these:

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I actually rode them once on the trail last week before the rain came in, but I want to get a little more time on them before I’m like, “OMG THESE ARE THE BEST WHEELS EVER”

Syllamo Work/Ride

I don’t have a receiver hitch on my new car yet, so this weekend’s trip was a test of how well my bike fit inside the Impreza. The dropper seatpost made short work of packing:

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That car is entirely too much fun to drive on mountain roads. Years ago in another life, I used to do my fair share of “unsanctioned competitive driving on public roads.” I sold that car (a Honda DelSol with a few modifications, one of which was nitrous oxide), sometime around 2007, and have been driving less sporty vehicles since then. I’ll admit, the Impreza is re-awakening my deeply repressed speed demons.

I packed and left early enough on Friday that I had time to ride most of the Yellow trail Friday afternoon. I’d heard that the Calico Rock prison inmates had worked out there some, and I wanted to see what all was done (last time I was out, the yellow trail was pretty rough still). I found that they’d worked from the north end of the yellow down the easier sections and about a mile in to the longer, more difficult area to the south of Blanchard road. They are cutting a true corridor. It could potentially change the personality of the Syllamo’s Revenge race in May because they’re opening up room to pass in some areas where there previously wasn’t. It looks pretty extreme right now, but within a year, the dynamic nature of the trail will take over, new rocks will grow from the ground, and singletrack will be very single again.

I had just enough time to stop at the overlook and take a few photos.

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Back at the car, I met some guys who were in town for Saturday’s trailwork day. They were getting an early start with a little afternoon clearing (and post-work beering).

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I made it back to the cabin in time to catch the sunset. I don’t know how many of you have sat and watched a sunset from beginning to end, but I’d highly recommend it. The process I watched from the porch involved the “right at sunset” oranges and yellows which, about 10 minutes after the sun disappeared behind the mountains, would give rise to full on golds and reds, which were eventually swallowed up by blue and gray darkness from the east. All you need is a porch, a glass of wine, and a blanket. Give it a shot.

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Saturday morning, a group of 20ish people gathered at the Scrappy Mountain trailhead. We split into two groups, and mine went out to one of the worst sections of the yellow trail for line trimming and major tread repair in an area that (surprise!) was logged off in the past few years and had since become an ongoing problem with overgrowth and erosion. I ran a line trimmer for the better part of 3 hours while others repaired the singletrack-wide and hub-deep washout that had eaten into the exposed tread. Around noon, we stepped back to admire our work and have a brown-bag lunch (ham on white bread… which, at the time was excellent, but was felt in my insides for the next two days).

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Random tandem, built by Frank at the Carbon Repair Shop.

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After lunch, we worked on maintaining a section of bench trail near the parking lot. It was leafblown, and the rocks that had filled in the “bench” were either raked or cut out. I used something that was basically an axe handle with this sort of head-

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…to cut the worst parts of the collapsed bench. I’d swing and chop while a couple of guys followed me with rakes to even out the surface. Then, I accidentally deleted the good photo of the work we’d done. So, you’ll just have to go ride it yourself and admire the blister I procured in the process.

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That evening, the sunset was as beautiful as ever.

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I also finished the puzzle I’d started last time

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Sunday, I’d planned an epic ride. I started out around 11 at the Green/Orange loop trailhead, and rode the Green Trail, then part of the Orange and Blue down to the Highway 5 trailhead- about 10 miles. Then, I realized, at 1 hour and 22 minutes in to my ride, that the pocket of my pack was open, and that there was no iPhone where there should be one. I resigned myself to either walking or riding at 3-4mph back up the trail I’d just come down in hopes that it’d turn up. Three hours later, I was back at the trailhead parking lot without a phone. There were multiple cars there (the Green Loop’s scenery, shortness, and proximity to the main road make it a popular afternoon hike for locals). I started my backtrack, talking to any hiker or biker I saw along the way. Still, no dice.

Then, about a mile and a half in, two ladies were coming towards me while I was walking (with my bike) up a hill, staring at the ground. I asked them if they’d seen a phone, and on of them looked very excited. She asked me to describe it, and, when I told her the case color and that there was a picture of an adorable black and white dog sleeping on the lock screen, she pulled it out of her pack and told me they’d found it right by the parking lot.

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My day was (somewhat) saved. I headed back towards the parking lot. I almost packed up for the day, but then decided to make some happiness watts up Green Mountain Road to check out the parts of the trail we’d fixed the day before. Not exactly the epic I was hoping for, but I was out in the woods for upwards of 5 hours, so there’s that.

Monday morning, I decided I wanted to ride the parts of the trail I’d had to walk the day before. So, I rode the Blue and Orange trails clockwise… in my “expert” opinion, the climb from the Highway 5 Trailhead back up the Blue and then Orange trail is the most difficult climb of the entire system. It’s way harder than the CCW climb up the “staircase” section, because it much steeper and looser. While I was out, I blocked off a go-around on the short but techy “east of Highway 5″ section. There were fresh tire tracks on the right side of that tree. You know who you are…

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I ran out of time to do the whole loop, so I finished up on Green Mountain road. I was trying to get a photo of my shadow. None of them turned out very good, but right after I took this one, a bobcat ran across the road in front of me. It’s probably just out of the left of the frame in this one:

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It’s always a little (or a lot) sad to leave the mountains. However, I had to get back to Memphis so we could record this week’s episode of Just Riding Along. Oh yeah- and my Pillar wheels came in. Unfortunately, I broke another damper in my Rockshox SID RCT3 fork, so the bike that the wheels are going on (the Jet9) is now out of commission. I’m hoping that I can finagle a Pike out of the warranty, because the SID obviously wasn’t made to handle what I’m (or lot of others, apparently) are throwing at it. I also start physical therapy for my knee this week. The patellar tendinitis that struck down my winter running hasn’t fully healed itself, and has kept me from doing anything plyometric- like kickboxing or other cross training. So, I’m hoping to finally get that resolved.

In the next day or two, I’ll have an official team/sponsor announcement. Still working out the final kinks so that I can give you all the info you desire.

New(ish) Car Time

Some people can’t stand to have a routine. I’m not one of those people. When I don’t have some sort of a reoccurring responsibility, I end up drifting and getting nothing done. So, the advent of yoga class at 10(ish) every morning, has been a good thing for me.

Lately, the trails have stayed pretty wet (or frozen, in the case of last week). It’s generally been cold and damp for a while. I’ve been able to ride my road bike with one or two friends over the past couple of months, but I’m basically done riding it alone for the foreseeable future. As a result, my strategy for training is to do intervals on the trainer three days a week and get over to Syllamo for longer/more challenging rides. It’s not ideal, but it’s the best I can make of my current situation.

I did make a break from my routine on Monday. For a while, I’ve wanted a different vehicle. The Element is practical in that it holds lots of stuff and is coated in rubber, but it’s basically a miniature cargo van, and drives accordingly. After perusing current and recent model vehicles with Ryan (he’s still shopping around for something to trade for his 2003 Escape), I came to realize that the trend of making everything larger and fancier (full of electronics and whatnot) really picked up after 2011ish (at least in the cars I’m interested in).

Monday morning, I decided I’d shop around to see what the internet had to offer. I’ve always been drawn to Subarus because of their all wheel drive and their tendency to last FOREVER. However, they’ve followed the pattern of making all the wagons SUV-sized over the most recent models. While I was shopping, I found that City Auto (a high-volume used car lot) had several older Subarus in stock. I was intrigued, and, after exchanging a few texts with Ryan to get a budget, I cleaned out the Element (just in case) and headed out to take a look.

Oh yeah, and it was about 40 and raining outside. Perfect.

When I started talking to a salesperson, he printed out Carfax reports for the cars I was interested in. My first pick was an Outback. However, the report showed that the majority of its 90k-something miles were in Pennsylvania. I immediately ruled that out for fear of salt-related rust and corrosion. The salesman suggested checking out a 2007 Impreza wagon that was on clearance (they actually had 2 of them- an automatic and a manual). It had 86k miles on it (that’s just getting warmed up in Subaru/Honda worlds… the Element turned over 130k the week before) and was slightly less cargo room than what I’d intended, but wasn’t dissimilar to what I had in the Honda Fit back in the day.

I didn’t want to admit it, but on the test drive, I fell for the all wheel drive at the first stoplight. Rain doesn’t matter.

So, after a brief and painless haggle, I was happy with what they offered for the Element trade (it was exactly the Blue Book price I’d researched given the high mileage, broken windshield, and lots of dirt and body scratches), and subsequently satisfied with the overall out-of-pocket expense as well (the car, tax, tag, their processing fee, etc). It ended up being right in line with what I’d seen them selling for privately and included a 1 month/1000 mile powertrain warranty, which is slightly more peace of mind with a used car. Knowing an exact budget and having an idea of the private cost of what you’re looking at ahead of time makes asking for exactly what you expect much easier.

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After driving around in an Element for 5ish years, this thing feels like a race car. I’m likely to either get it stuck in mud or get a stern talking-to from a police officer at some point in the near future… especially since I’m heading over to Syllamo tomorrow morning for a big Trail Work day on Saturday.

Training Camp 2014(5) #3

As I mentioned before my post about logging, it rained solidly from Thursday afternoon until Saturday morning. I chose to ride the Red trail because its gravelly surface means it is basically unaffected by any amount of rain. To add difficulty, I wanted to ride from the Blanchard Springs Trailhead, meaning I’d climb a forest road to get up to trail level. However, I arrived at the trailhead to find that the low water crossing to get from the parking area to the trail was flooded.

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Water like that is nothing to mess with. I could probably make it across. I could also get cold, wet, and/or seriously injured trying to make it across and failing. So, I put the bike back in the car and drove around to the usual trailheads on Green Mountain Road. I parked at the 2nd one and rode the couple of miles up to the Red Trail. While I was out, a layer of clouds settled in on the tops of the mountains. Everything looked surreal. These pictures don’t really do it justice.

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The previous rest day made me feel beast-like. I ripped around the red trail faster than I’ve probably ever gone, with the exception of stopping to climb down the mountain a little to look at a waterfall I could hear roaring from the trail.

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Once again, pictures don’t do it justice. It was a maybe 2ftx2ft hole in the side of the mountain with water gushing out like someone had blown up a water main. Springs like that were roaring all over the mountains’ sides. Other than that stop (and the one from trailside in the pics above), I hammered out a lap like nobody’s business. I had that “on top of the pedals” feeling that makes you feel like riding until you can’t pedal any more. However, I’d decided that I wanted to ride long the next day (also, my extra driving to switch trailheads had really eaten into my available daylight).

When I started prepping to ride the next day, I wanted to do my “Baby Epic” loop with some extra trail added. Since there are a couple of Livingston Creek creek crossings, and the temperature was well down into the 20’s, I figured I should check those out before I got started, and, knowing they were likely still going to be high, formulated a “plan B” that would utilize a couple of miles of Highway 5 to avoid the bad spots. I checked the usual crossings, and, sure enough, they were more than I wanted to deal with. Also more than I wanted to deal with? The drivers on Highway 5. In my short stint of driving on it, I was tailgated and aggressively passed for doing (gasp) the speed limit. It was enough to activate my internal panic attack warning and turn me off from riding on it at all that day.

So, with plans A and B somewhat foiled, I figured I’d just start riding from the first trailhead and just make it up as I went along. Unfortunately, everything was still soaked, and every spot where water could run across or down the trail was still flowing. Within 30 minutes of riding, the underside of my bike was covered in ice, and my hydration pack tube was frozen solid. With all of the inadvertent splashing, I was cold and wet, too.

Plan C?

The previous day, I’d crossed a couple of downed trees on the Red and short sections of Yellow trail. So, I decided I’d get my saw and ride around and cut those. The wind was absolutely blasting at that point. I was having a hard time not getting really cold until I reached a section of trail that was sunny and somewhat sheltered.

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It was a slightly disappointing end to my training camp, but I feel it was all-in-all successful. I forgot to mention in my previous post that I cleaned the last mile of the Orange trail two times in a row during my rides with Matt. If you know the Syllamo trails at all, you know where I’m talking about- there’s a “mandatory” hike-a bike up some narrow, steep stepped rocks, and then a hard right turn across a rocky draw followed by the infamous super-tech rock section that leads into a short, hard, loose climb before you reach the trailhead parking lot. In general, I feel like both my fitness and my technical riding skills saw an improvement during my time out there. So, I declare it a success.