Wednesday, July 31

I Hart Steep Hills!

I'm into recycling

After three attempts on Hart's Orchard hill it seemed like I had a long way to go before I could ride it in a single effort.  My best performance was with only one stop on my first try, but I'd not been able to pull that off in two subsequent tries.

Then I got a new cassette with a 34 tooth cog versus the 32 tooth cog I'd been running all along.  Those magic two teeth...

Yesterday morning Mark and I were on dawn patrol.  We rode out to Slade and back.  It was much easier to pace with him geared as opposed to single-speeding it.  That was 28 miles of good riding.

Then I went to Veterans at lunch and pulled off three PRs and a couple second best times.  I felt like I was flying.  On one section I was going down a fast flowy hill and it literally felt like I was floating a few inches above the ground.  I ticked off 6.4 more miles there.

Tonight I got home and did my pre-Leadville mowing and weed eating (I have a very comprehensive training plan) finishing up around 7pm.  The kids had fixed supper.  As I sat with them eating I hatched a scheme...

"Okay, you guys sit tight, watch TV, I'm going to go ride Hart's Orchard."

"Okay Dad!" They chorused.

I grabbed my helmet and my iStrava and took off at a moderate pace.  The top of Hart's is only 3 miles from my front door.  I wouldn't be gone long.

Big guys like us have to take it slow.

The first time I attempted the steepest hill in my holler I think I pretty much assumed it was in the bag.  How could I not be able to ride it?  I'm the Dave Weins, the Lance Armstrong, the Levi Leipheimer, the Matthew Lee, the Eddy Merchkyx of Hatton Creek.  I'm the best cyclist in a five mile radius of my house.  Hands down.  Well, that's not really been confirmed, but in my mind its true.  

Actually, in my mind the radius goes out to like 12 miles (sorry Jeff!).  In reality I'm not sure where we'd draw the line.

Anyway, on that first attempt I did hit the bottom of the climb with an energetic pace.  Andas much as I'm paid to admit itJeff's right, you have to pace yourself slow on something so steep when you’re fatter than average.  Getting a good run at it won't benefit you one micron.  Any momentum you build up is lost long before you need it.  Better yet to approach the base in a state of near meditation.  You should be breathing solidly, keeping a firm, but reserved cadence, and have your mind cleared of all extraneous non-cycling, non-sound bite-esque mantras.

Right away Hart's is steep.  It's in your face like a wall of death metal music.  But quieter and more serene.  It's loose after a few dozen yards and steeper.  It was low down where I hoped that my super-low gearing wouldn't cause spontaneous wheelie-ing or a catastrophic loss-of-traction event.

There is a reprieve after that, but it’s hardly worth mentioning, except that’s where I’ve hit my mental/physical barrier every time.  The grade lessens.  It doesn’t get flat.  It doesn’t really let up; only in a technical sense.  But again, that “easy” section has thwarted me three times. Each time my lower back muscles would begin to smolder after the loose crux at the bottom, and then just below the near vertical section the fire would intensify and I’d drop the cussed foot.

Last night I started up slowly but with intent.  I assumed because I had a belly full of dinner I would fail.  Extra weight, the feeling of fullness…disastrous!  But it was never a problem.  Maybe the extra fuel made a difference.  Maybe the 34 miles I’d ridden earlier in the day had me limbered up.  Maybe I was inspired by only being 10 days out from Leadville.

Or maybe it was those two extra teeth.
I climbed the crux with only a small fire in my lower back.  It never neared critical and I kept right on pedaling.  At one point I remember thinking that it was in the bag unless I broke traction somewhere.  My body wasn’t going to hold me back with the current gear ratios.  I slowed my mind a bit, eased back on the anticipation of success, and I focused on perfect tire placement, even pedal strokes, and holding my line.

I crossed to the outside of the last righthand curve.  I momentarily worried about oncoming cars, but then I shoved that thought out of my mind.  I was there!  I was going to finish and no SOV was going to stop me.  I’d roll right over it.

The last few yards are impossibly steep.  You can see the edge of the pavement above.  You can almost reach the lip by standing on tiptoes.  It gets steep enough that years ago in a 1972 Chevy Silverado I broke traction with my front tires on the blacktop and couldn’t make it.  I had to back down a third of the way until I could turn the truck around and drive out.  I pushed The One on, ever so slowly, balancing the power I felt in my legs with the patience I knew I needed to apply to keep the wheels turning true.
There was a slip—a skipped heartbeat—and I eased off again.  Just a few more pedal strokes…

And then I was over the crux.  I kept pedaling along the pavement until I reached the true apex of the climb a few hundred yards further, but once I was off the gravel I was golden.  I’d climbed Hart’s Orchard hill. It’s no Powerline or Columbine, but it’s possibly the hardest road climb in the county.  There are two others that are potentially harder, and Pot Holler used to be insanely steeper and more technical until the Forest Service destroyed it for no good reason, but it’s a climb that would be hard to exceed on a public road whether paved or not.

I’d given up on the idea of riding it before Leadville, but for whatever reason the stars aligned yesterday and it fell unexpectedly.  Maybe it was a two tooth fluke, but I think I’ve really just been working harder to have the stems to do it.  I wish I had time for Cobhill before Friday.  Alas…


Something occurred to me this morning as I was driving in to work.  A couple of weeks ago I finally got up the gumption to ask for a new office chair.  When I started nearly eight months ago I got a conglomeration of old office furniture including a wretched chair.

The only way I could sit in it was slumped.  And my back was JUBAR all the time.  By the time I would get in the car to drive home I couldn't even sit up straight in the car and at home I was a blubbering wreck of knotted up backpain.

I got a new office chair last week and ever since my back pain has steadily diminished.  I would venture to say that the improved back strength had something to do with my successful ascent of Hart's.

Tuesday, July 30

The Leadville Saga: More Purple Than You

One of the really cool things about getting into the Leadville 100 through the Alpine Odyssey qualifier (there are SOOOOO many!) is that I get to start in a different corral than last year.  Purple!

Last year my corral color was something like translucent gray.  I was in the dogpen in the back with all the other first year riffraff.  But since I’m an early riser (or non-sleeper) I secured myself a spot near the front of the white corral, and once I was (literally) frozen in place it seemed as if I was in the geographic middle of the pack.  That meant there were as many people to pass as that could possibly pass me.  I think it meant that.

From my position at the front of the white corral I could almost see the Technicolor array of cyclists between me and the starting line.  This year I fully expect to be blinded by the rainbow of Skittles…er, colors whirling around me as I go screaming (in a slow moving pack) out of Leadville.

Now, before you go throwing undergarments at my blog remember: purple is not gold.  This is a tricky concept to master, but once you do you will see that while I do get some color in my life this year at Leadville, I still won’t be blowing the alpenglow off the mountains as I get pushed along in front of the peloton.

Here is where purple falls within the Leadville MTB Trail 100 corral hierarchy:

You see Purple is after Gold, Silver (makes sense), Red (Really?!), and Green.  C’mon…Purple after Green?  What kind of circus are they running there in Leadville?  Both are secondary colors along with orange (in its rightful place after purple!), but clearly those of us that find ourselves in the Purple Corral on August 10 have far less to prove than those of the Green ilk.  They should be located in their proper place: behind Purple.

Clearly we in the Purple order have earned the right not to get mixed up in the dogfight that is the rear of the field.  I experienced this first hand approaching St. Kevin’s last year.  I was riding along at my predetermined, non-explosive, conservative-in-the-beginning-rocket-fast-after-Columbine pace when a bunch of flip-flop wearin’, pudgy-esque, wobbly-wheeled, cracker-chewin’, Midwest-born-and-bred, soon-to-be-inebriated-on-thin-air suck-a-doodles came barreling through the undergrowth to get around the clustershag that is the St. Kevin’s ascent at any point after a Tour de France cyclist goes through.

I mean, I…wedeserve better.  It’s bad enough that some of them get ahead of us, but then they’ve used the port-a-johns and sweated all over the seats by the time we get there.  They shed water bottles like a redneck slinging Bud cans off an ATV and endanger life and limb.  And they all look so desperate, as if this race means everything to them.  But they’re so White. And Orange.  And Blue.  And Grrreen! I can’t stand the thought of those Greenies in front of me on the course! 

It’s good to be closer to the front.  You don’t have to dodge those that have flatted out on Powerline (55 PSI baby!).  You don’t have to elbow so many people out of the way at the Aid Stations.  You can breathe fresh (not mountain biker-fouled) air.  The photographers get better photos of you because they’re not so tired from hitting the shutter again, and again, and again, and again for thousands of other racers before you even get there. 

I mean, how can you be expected to break 9 hours when you’ve got so many useless mountain bikers in your way?  I think I might request that next year I get to ride the course the week before the full race.  I just want my swag bag, my official time, photos of me coming across the red carpet (we can photoshop in the crowds, any old event photos will do), and my shiny buckle.  I’m gonna call Ken and see what he can do.

Also, do you see down at the bottom of the image above where it says “no passing?”  Remember that.  It’s not a race Jeff!

Well, it is a race.  Shut up.

Monday, July 29

Grimacing Skywalker

Big Purple Guy

I had appointment the other day with my old dentist from before the move out to Colorado.  For a dentist he's pretty hilarious.

He asked me if I grind my teeth and I said "sort of."  He asked me to show him so I gave him my best crooked jaw-clench.

"Well don't do that," he implored. "If you clench your jaw try to do it straight."

"That's my 'this is gonna hurt' grimace," I replied. 

"Grimace?  Like the big purple guy from McDonalds?"

"Like 'I'm going to hit that tree' (when I'm riding my mountain bike) grimace," I insisted (I even speak parenthetically).

Grimacing AND Photobombed!
"Well try to clench your jaw straight," he said.

So in a future post I'll offer a cost-benefit analysis: is it better to dedicate attention to clenching your jaw in a dentist approved manner and risk losing your entire dental componentry to an oak, it better to just let your jaw clench naturally while giving your full attention to the trail at hand and dealing with some light dental work as a result?

I'll have my entire Pavement's Edge journalistic staff (and probably most of the legal staff as well and maybe the cleaning crew) putting all their energy into this matter.  Night and day they'll be racing toward trees with varying jaw-clench configurations for your enjoyment.

Jeffing Awesome

It was a big trail building weekend.  The Mozhican Clan MTB Amusement Park and Flea Market has a complete loop now.  I can't take all the credit, but without my entertainment abilities Jeff wouldn't have gotten anything done on Saturday.

Found this little guy in the path of Jeff's MTB Superhighway.
After a quick environmental assessment I informed Jeff he would have
to move his trail into another drainage. Being a militant fungitarian
Jeff just plucked it up and ate it. 
Actually Jeff and his family have been working on this trail for some time.  The kids and I put in a few hours a few months ago.  And because my son insists I never blog about him (he doesn't pay for the slot) let me add that on that first day we worked on the Mozhican trail system Boone fell off a boulder and nearly killed himself.

They kept chugging away at the trail and a few others helped along the way.  Last weekend I went back and Jeff and I put in another couple hours and finished the western side with a couple hundred feet of trail.  Then the Mozhican crew went into overtime foregoing food, sleep, and proper hygiene (well, Jeff anyway) to continue the trail down the eastern side of the ridge to within a couple hunnert yards of the existing valley trail.

East side near the top

Horseshoe Bend on Saturday

This thing is also fantastic for hauling bodies deep into the forest for burying
Saturday Jeff and I worked on the last switchback on that side and between Saturday and Sunday when the Tomahawk and the Librarian Formerly Known As Single Speed ("Mark, why are you still here?") showed up to help the trail connection was made.  With the three of them exerting themselves and me adding my monologue of historical tidbits, sage cycling opinions, daft humor, and a little bit of comedic insults we managed to bring the trail all the way down to close the big loop.

I tell you all this, Dear Readers, not to make you jealous (because I know you are) or to invite you to come play on the trail (because you'd never find it and become lost in the wilds of Powell and/or Estill Counties), or to brag.  Well, maybe to brag.

No, my purpose is to share with you that it is possible to build a scale model replica of Veterans Park using all volunteer labor and create a sustainable and enjoyable trail.  Didn't I mention that?  Jeff's all time favorite mountain biking area is Veterans Park in Lexington.  He's said if he could only ride one place for the rest of his life it would be VP.  Frankly, I don't see what he sees in the place, but I guess all that wood glue has affected his reasoning abilities.

Descending the grapevine bend
(Notice the advanced two finger grip)

Ascending the grapevine bend

Slavedriver Jeff showing Mark how he should be doing it

Escaping the Peanut Gallery

Climbing the grapevine bend

Finally getting the horseshoe bend clean
(helmets are not allowed on Sundays)
Skywalker No More!

While us manly men were subduing nature the ladies were out slaying Sky Bridge Hill.  Yes, my hard-lady wife rode Sky Bridge Hill; all 10% average grade of it.  Truly Sky Bridge is THE area testpiece rite-of-passage cycling objective.  There are harder climbs, there are longer climbs, but Sky Bridge Hill is the gem.  It's in the Red River Gorge on the Red River Gorge Scenic Byway.  The rides to it and from it are enjoyable.  It's in a beautiful area.  And it's no giveaway.  

What's even cooler than that is on the way back to Jeff and Casey's house where I was meeting her after the ride she rode High Rock from South Fork without stopping for the first time.  Mandy's definitely busted through that psychological barrier.  The hills don't just get easier, but once you've overcome the intimidation of the steepness it becomes easier to walk on the rice paper without crinkling.

You gotta celebrate with a novelty tee
News From The Red River Valley

It was a pretty good weekend for cycling in Powell County.  Sunday morning the kids and I saw a lone cyclist topping Furnace Mountain.  Had no idea who he was.  Later we saw a neighbor (possibly a neighbor triathlete) riding her road bike.  Then as we were headed up to work on trails I saw a pickup out front of the local Mexican restaurant with two mountain bikes on a hitch rack.  One was a newer version of my bike.

Things are looking up.

Friday, July 26

Post Haste Last Post Retro-Announcement

First off, the previous post on Tuesday was my last ever post here on the Pavement’s Edge.  I agree with Jeff, there’s little I could do to top that one.  I let it sink in for a few days hoping I could come up with something better, but I just couldn’t.  Therefore, without further ado, I present to you the last ever From the Pavement’s Edge blog post: LEFTPEBP

Life is good.  The One is ambulatory again.  I’ve been in high stress mode, though the stealth version, for some time now.

It all started after the Mohican 100 when I realized my bike was a year and a half old with literally thousands of miles of climbing and hard riding hauling my sub-clyde butt around.  I realized this because when I tried to tune the bike I couldn’t get the rear derailer to perform.  Once I got to looking closely at the cassette and chain I realized they were both trashed.  JUBAR.

It took a little while, but I finally put on a new cassette and chain.  I'm guessing the bike magic I was afflicted with only worked in Colorado.  When we lived there I maintained out fleet of bikes and never paid anyone for maintenance or repairs unless it was something I just didn't have the tools for.  Since we've returned to Kentucky I've not been able to do so much as check the PSI in a tire without causing structural damage to the frame of the bike I'm working on and any within spitting distance.

I rode Harts Orchard with Tom and Jeff a while back just after I'd put on the new chain and mix tape.  I knew I'd not shortened the chain enough, but I went ahead and rode that day because it was such a short ride.  While tooling around waiting at the top my chain slipped.  I couldn't figure out what was wrong at the time, but I'm sure you can guess. 

I shortened the Shimano chain and utilized a power link because I'd already used the reinforced pin that came with the chain and didn't have another.  In the process I somehow broke my chain tool without realizing it.  The bike hung on my stand for a few days until I needed to go do some blog research with Mark at the library.  I rolled the mountain bike out of the Bike Cave, threw a leg over the top tube, and stamped down on the pedal.  It was a terrible sound.

I ended up driving to the cussed library and wallowed in my own self-pity over my ineptitude at maintaining a simple drive-train.  I had a few discussions with Tom and Jeff with no real conclusive theories on what was wrong.  I couldn’t imagine one little power link would cause such hideous slippage.  And looking at the chainrings I didn’t think they looked too bad.  The cassette teeth were actually flattened and the faces flared.  The chainrings looked pretty good by comparison.

That was Tuesday.  The bike hung impotently in my basement until last night.  I’d had a day, and came home to curl up in a fetal position on the bed and suck my thumb.  After a few minutes I remembered that if I didn’t sort out what was wrong with the bike, like RIGHT THEN, I’d probably not be able to ride it over the weekend leaving only next Monday through Thursday to figure it out.  If I didn’t get the bike sorted out by Thursday I’d probably just as well take a week off to go to Florida and play backgammon in some retirement community as go to Leadville and try to ride my crippled mountain bike.

Tuesday night I texted Jeff:

If you can tear yourself away from making cabinets for thirty seconds I’m having a mountain biking crisis!

Days and weeks and hours later he called and we discussed it.  We couldn’t talk through it though.  I know he was having a hard time understanding me around my thumb.

Last night I dragged myself out of bed, dried off my thumb, and hauled the irksome machine out into the daylight.  I’d had an epiphany at work yesterday so I tried my theory out.  It was conclusive.

I’d been starting out in my overused middle chainring.  The chain slipped and rag-a-jagged with any pressure.  Last night I shifted into my big chainring and one of my middle cogs and gentle pedaled away from the Bikeport.  No slippage.  I stood up on the pedals and cranked up the hill of my yard.  No slippage.  Okay.  I repeated the whole scenario in my small chainring with the exact same results.  Conclusion?  My middle chainring was JUBAR.

I called Jeff.  I didn’t want to offer him the chance to sabotage me so close to Leadville, but when he offed to look at the bike I literally threw it on the car and raced away to his survival cabin in the styx (like the band). 

We (Jeff) pulled the crank, and, finding no maggots, filed out the teeth on the middle ring slightly, cleaned out the sanitary sewer that was my BB shell and slammed it all back together.

“I’d try that before buying a new chainring.  Chainring.”  He said.  I pedaled slowly around his driveway, and there was no violent slippage.  I tried pedaling up his driveway but it wasn’t very steep.

“Do you want to try it out on the trail?” He asked.

Blam! I was at the first switchback before the “L” had completely rolled off his tongue. 

I was at the second switchback when I realized I had not brought my phone nor fired up Strava.

I let out a Michael Kelso bark but kept pedaling.  I knew Jeff would be sucking my wheel if I didn’t keep pounding on that middle chainring.  There was no pressure to be KOM on Jeff’s personal trail because I had no GPS enabled device with which to assert my mountain biking dominance.  That will come later.  I mean, I will preserve the sanctity of Jeff’s Strava Wilderness by always leaving the Strava enabled devices in the car.

The test ride was short, but it gave me confidence that Jeff’s chainsaw sharpening technique worked.  I’m gonna put The One through its paces over the weekend.  As for today…

It’s been a pretty good day.  Dawn patrol ride with the Crash Test Librarian, I crushed three PRs at Veteran’s today (didn’t forget to Strava that!), got a new back-friendly office chair free of charge (well, I do have to show up for work every day to have access to it), had some positive reinforcement at work not related to my seating arrangements, am married to the Best. Wife. Ever., and was informed by said BWE that we now have 4G at our house.  I’ll be able to upload Strava immediately after finishing a ride as opposed to waiting until I’m near the Clark County line to see my KOMs.

What can I say?  It must be Apocalypse Eve.  I’m down with that.  More time to ride my mountain bike and fewer closed trails…

So, despite my Did Not Strava at the Mozhican Clan MTB Park Trails and Such it has been a pretty good diurnal anomaly.  

Of course the obvious question now is: if you ride a mountain bike in the woods and don't remember to Strava it did you really ride the bike?


Tuesday, July 23

Crash Test Librarian

In a small town the cycling culture can be downright cannibalistic.  Take, for example, the case of Mark; Jeff is trying to kill him.  I met him first.  We were at Joe’s 70th birthday party and Joe introduced Mandy and I to Mark and his girlfriend.  He’s working as director of the local public library and he rides.  Then I saw Joe introducing the Mozhican and his family to Mark.  

Everything would have been fine except Mark rides fixed and has a normal job much like me; very much unlike Jeff.  Jeff’s main occupation in life is to try and kill me.  I’m not sure where the money comes from, but he’s so darn good at it that I know someone must be paying him.  I just haven’t been able to follow the dinero to its source yet. His cover is cabinet-making, but as I alluded to in previous posts he doesn’t seem to be too interested in making cabinets.  He seems more interested in trying to grind me into oblivion on the bike, or, short of that, beat me senseless with trail tools. So far he’s been unsuccessful.  I think.

The evidence is in the texts.  I’ve forwarded my entire text chain (and Mark’s broken bike chain*) on to the proper authorities at Interpol (someone as sinister as Jeff must be an international threat) but here is a brief sample of the random terror I live with each day..,


I have internet at the house!  Pavement’s Edge here I come!


Are you threatening to hack me?


Maybe manually while trail building.

Anyway, I am not trying to murder Mark.  I’m just trying to challenge him with some area climbing testpieces until he can find a suitable geared bike.  I figure anyone that only owns a fixed gear road bike, especially in an area characterized by rural roads with steep climbs, must be a masochist.  He wants to ride steep hills.  And if he doesn’t like the routes I pick he can always fake a chain break.  Ohhhhh

Recently Jeff invited Mark up to “see his trails” and ended up giving him the grand tour of the property, even showing him his “arches.”  Likely story.  Jeff inadvertently admitted how he tried to kill Mark (and poor Tom in the process) by putting him on an unfamiliar bike with a freewheel and pushing him down his trail over some insane hills.  Mark nearly didn’t not survive.  

Then a couple of days later I got this text:
Yeah, Mark’s my new best friend not yours.  You can read all about our adventures Sunday on his blog

I was…speechless.

It’s really sad when someone has to concoct such wild stories to get attention.  Jeff has sunken…sank…sinked…SUNK really low with this escapade.

That’s okay, while Jeff is layed up in bed getting his beauty sleep Mark and I have been going out and riding our bikes on the roads!  Jeff’s full wussedness is coming to light with his attempts to shanghai another cyclist.  I’m still fuzzy on his motives.

Is he trying to kill Mark so I won’t have anyone else to ride with but Jeff, or is he trying to kill me so Mark doesn’t have anyone else to ride with?  I think Mark and I need to get together and discuss this.
Very much un-like Jeff...

*I really thought I had blogged about Mark and I attempting High Rock via Cow Creek but I have only hinted at it.  A couple of weeks ago we met at 5:15am one morning before work and rode up the Red River Valley to Cow Creek where we headed up.  Mark was on his fixed gear bike and I was on my sporty sport bike.

We easily cleaned the first pitch, but on the second steep section Mark was pedaling along, standing on his pedals, creaking like a gate hinge in a windstorm, and suddenly with a metallic snap I looked up and saw him going head over teakettle into the ditch.  Neither of us had a chain tool and we had no cell service.  We ended up walking back down toward the wider valley until we had sufficient service to call my SAG Angel.

The Leadville Saga: What I Lost

I apologize for my long-winded trip report yesterday.  If you struggled to get through it then you experienced the literary equivalent of a bicycle century ride on a hot and humid July day in Eastern Kentucky.  Hope you stretched afterward.

Almost a year later to the day (off by only one week) I wrestled again with the spectre of Jekyll and Hyde to produce the confidence builder I needed.  Where Rollins beat me back shy of the summit I managed to push through all on Saturday and smote down his ghost.  Oh, I didn't close my loop.  I know that.  I called SAG.  Some might say I failed.  I could say I failed.  If it hadn't been so ridiculously hot (like my Kingston Peak attempt on July 21 last year) I think I'd have ridden a full 200km back to my porch.  I'm sure of it.

The fear is gone.  My doubt is gone.  The only factor left which may cause any hesitation is the unknown effects of altitude when I return to the thin air again in two weeks.  Nothing else will sway me now.  And even the altitude is a known quantity.  I felt fine last year.  I just need to reacclimate as best as I can.  When we lived in Colorado I was typically good up to 12,000' and then it was a crap shoot.  Sometimes I suffered; sometimes I felt glorious.

Saturday was full of sinister and sublime.  I enjoyed the journey.  I enjoyed working through the trials and making more progress toward a retreating goal.  I suffered long.  Unexpected climbs kept hitting me.  I gave up over and over, but I was too committed to be bailed out.  I wrote a huge check knowing the funds were going to come up short.  I just didn't know how short.

Looking back though...if I'd not been worried about getting home to my family in a reasonable amount of time I could have hung out in that Dairy Queen until I was ready to push on all the way home.  Later in the afternoon it would have cooled.  I could have gotten home before dark if I'd napped for an hour in the shade somewhere.

Obviously that kind of effort would not have reflected a Leadville pace, but...I know I'm capable of much more than a mere century.  

Including, and since, Leadville 2012 I have ridden 3 full centuries, 1 metric (the Alpine Odyssey) and 3 heavy metric centuries, and 3 half centuries.  I've ridden only 1,538 total miles this year (since January 1).  

But wait!!!

Prior to the 2012 Running of the Fools I had only ridden 1 full century, 1 metric and 2 heavy metric centuries, and 1 heavy half (almost a metric) century.  While I had countless 9-12 mile rides and lots of 20-30 mile rides last year I've definitely pulled down twice as many bigger rides this past year.

I'm faster now too.  Strava don't lie...except when it collides with space junk.

There is no dread.  I'm thankful now for this upcoming opportunity.  Three years of dreaming, planning, and scheming and that belt buckle is almost mine.

Turbo: Not Quite A Movie Review

There are exactly two things I’d like to say about the new film Turbo:
1) My favorite line was by Whiplash (voiced by Mace Windu himself):  “Your trash talking is unnecessarily complicated!”
I resemble that remark.
2) The Breaking Away reference was appreciated, though some other slight cue that the writers had watched the whole film would have been even more appreciated.
Oh, and the easily digestible but somewhat saccharin mantra of:"No dream is too big, no dreamer is too small" is kinda cool, but it’s not enough to carry the film to the finish line.  DNF man! So three things…

Monday, July 22

The Leadville Saga: Finding Corona in Backwoods Kentucky


"I'll go climb Drip Rock for you," I told Jeff as we parted ways.

When we met on High Rock Road and he said he didn't think he was going to be able to ride at first I thought he was joking.  Originally the plan had been to do a stout Cumberland Plateau century, from the familiar roads of Powell County, across Estill, up Drip Rockand into Jackson County and beyond.

I wussed first, having ran four miles the day before, but Jeff was still game for a jaunt over to climb Drip Rock and/or Barnes Mountain and even the heavy century I'd proposed over Drip Rock to McKee then east to Booneville and finally north to Slade through Beattyville and home...until 5am when I got the following text:

Only 3 1/2 hours sleep. I might have to start later.

We agreed to both head out at 8am, and I decided a century bid was out due to the forecasted heat and rain later in the day.  I was up early, so it occurred to me that I could head out at 7, take the long way to Jeff's, and get in a few extra miles.  Later in the day those "few extra miles" would become heavy in my mind.
I climbed High Rock via Cow Creek—finally getting it clean—and was feeling good.  The irony was not lost on me as I surmounted the short, severe crux and saw the sign for Mountain Rest Cemetery.  My rock climber's morbid sense of humor kicked in for a big smile.

With the Cow Creek climb behind me I made quick work of the last pitch of High Rock and rolled up to Jeff and Casey's front door.  The place was quiet.  I’d inadvertently roused Casey only to discover Jeff had already gone.  We finally deduced he'd gotten ready early and had struck off for Furnace to meet me.  I'd not told him of my plan to ride over High Rock to meet him at his house.
I took off in humid pursuit and met him headed back toward home within a mile.  That's when he told his joke.  But the punch line was that he really wasn't up for a ride.  It was unlike Jeff to turn down a bike ride for beauty sleep, no matter how badly he needed it. 

I decided I wouldn't ride to Drip Rock alone, but as we talked I kinda changed my mind and decided I would go on to Drip Rock.  As we parted ways I let Jeff know I'd dedicate my ascent to him.  So, Jefe Mozhican, while you lazed upon your couch I subdued a moderately mighty dragon for you.

But the story doesn't end at the top of Drip Rock.  As I stormed Ravenna for the second time this summer I decided if I felt good at the top of Drip Rock, and if the weather held out, I would venture on toward McKee.  By deciding to go on past the climb and not return directly home I was setting myself up to depend on a SAG call at some point.  I was creating a situation where I might need to impose on my lovely wife.

After making my way over to 89 via Red Lick Road I rolled up toe to toe with my adversary.  Heat blasted down off the ridge.  I'd been sweating for 39 miles.  Up I went.  Thankfully the road snakes up the western-ish slopes and was still mostly in the shade.  For a mile I climbed easily, thinking if the whole ascent were like the first mile it was in the bag. Another tenth of a mile and I saw the easy part was over. 

I think by then the scheme to ride on to McKee had solidified in my brain, so when I saw half a sign advertising food at Drip Rock I began thinking deeply about food to carry me on:

Gah!  How far?!
I kept on pedaling through the switchbacks, upward and onward, until eventually I reached a point where the road dipped down.  Wha?  Was I at the top?  And then I was gearing up and picking up speed.  The thought of food had distracted me enough that I’d not suffered through the “big climb” of the day. 

Very soon I saw a little country store.  It didn't seem to be a "dwich" and pizza joint, but it would do.  As I dismounted the Dogrunner I noticed the skies were heavy with growing clouds.  The forecast had been for blistering heat until thunderstorms would blow in during the afternoon.  With some simple sugars in my belly (and an ambivalent attitude toward the weather) I continued on deeper into my folly.
Drip Rock P.O.
It was soon after leaving the country store at Drip Rock proper that I found myself committed.  The descent from the ridge past Drip Rock on the Jackson County side is long, steep, and long and steep.  Partway down I knew there was no going back.  In retrospect maybe foregoing the dramatic finality of such thoughts would have been prudent.

At the bottom of an unbelievable descent I discovered another long heartbreaking climb up out of the South Fork of Station Camp Creek.  Other than the road itself there was no sign of human influence on the landscape.  But as I climbed up the wooded slopes of the holler I heard gunshots close by.  Someone was target shooting.  I hoped.

Near the top of that climb my head felt like it was going to burst into flames so I stopped pedaling and walked for a few dozen yards.  There was no good place to stop in the shade and rest so I pushed on.  Looking back on the profiles for the second climb and the prior descent that seemed so bad, the side I actually climbed was twice as long with the same gain.  Back on top of the ridge I cranked back up to cruising speed and urged my sporty sport bike on to McKee.  I figured I could get some real food there and decide on a course of action.  SAG or wag.

I enjoyed another air conditioned descent to where I hoped to pick up Sandlick - Foxtown Road to avoid crossing over another ridge by dropping down a valley to 421 and go into McKee from the west.  Sandlick - Foxtown turned to gravel just after the first curve.  With a sigh I turned around and went back to 89.  I'd be climbing once again to get on to McKee.  I still felt pretty good, and the ridge beyond passed through the National Forest and along the Sheltowee Trace for a short distance.
On the edge of town I saw a picnic shelter at the city park.  I stopped there hoping for water but there was none.  In fact, there was police tape wrapped around the enclosed portion of the shelter and the whole place looked more misused than appreciated.  It was somewhat disheartening that in the middle of summer the city park was scattered with litter and the shelter had no light bulbs in its fixtures.  It's a common misconception in this part of the state that "you can't have anything nice" because of vandals.  The truth is you can only have nice things if you don't abandon them to the vandals.  It made me think of all the trash is seen along the pavement as I crawled up Drip Rock.  In such a beautiful area people had the audacity to drop their kitchen garbage and used mattresses.  I mean…what the heck?!

McKee has the full range of services including a Subway sandwich shop.  I didn't want to go into a store because I didn't have any way to lock up my bike and I didn't want to eat a sub because I didn't want to vomit in the heat 50 miles from home.  So despite needing food and water I stupidly rode on past the aforementioned Subway, an IGA and a Save-a-Lot.  As I rolled out of McKee I believed I had two full water bottles.  I'm not sure where this myth was conceived because when I rolled into McKee I knew I needed to refill my bottles pretty desperately.
McKee, KY

I wanted to check out Mr. Bill's "Grocery Gun Shop"
...but didn't?!?
There was an unexpected—but fairly tame—climb out of McKee on 421.  I got so caught up in looking for my turnoff (Soaptown Road) that I passed the very inviting and oddly named Deer View Mart (I thought it was “Beer View Mart” until I was really close).  I didn't know it but the Deer View would be my last chance for food or fluid for a long way.  I knew it was 27 miles from McKee to Booneville on my chosen route, and I had no idea what I'd find in the rolling farmland of Jackson County.
Nothing.  Nothing was exactly what I found.  Oh, it was scenic and quiet.  There was little traffic and the landscape was very picturesque.  With all his beauty sleep Jeff would have made the experience like one of those commercials with Fabio.  "I can't believe it's not buttah."  And he would have enjoyed the pure unadulterated obscurity of it all.  Sorry folks of Jackson County!  To me your home roads are obscure.
Anyway, just before Privet three things happened:  I realized I was completely out of water.  I felt the first hints of cramping in my thighs, and I saw a hand painted sign that read: "Booneville 23."
I knew my suffering was about to begin.  Privet was promising.  On the map it almost looked like a town at a crossroads.  On the ground it was nothing but a cluster of houses and an old stone building that might have been a store back when cars had fins and bikes had fake gas tanks.  I was bone dry, and the day was getting on in its length and heat.  Those heavy clouds I'd seen from Drip Rock never became rain nor did they provide any shade.  And the roads were now all open, with only patches of shade.  I was beginning to think if I didn't find a store soon I was going to have to knock on someone's door and beg water and bananas.
This is all Privet had to offer...
Continuing east from Privet on 1071 (named simply “Grassy”) I discovered a generally downward trending landscape.  There were rollers, but I didn't have to expend as much energy to get over the humps.  My next turn would be onto 30, which looked to be a busier road.  I dreaded getting caught up in fast rural traffic.
It was somewhere around Privet where my rear derailer started pissing me off, too.  It would shift fine into lower gears, but when I tried going into a higher gear it hesitated.  By the time I got to Booneville (spoiler alert!) it was hesitating a loooong time before swinging over.  I could have been making good time over pleasant rollers, but because of the derailer I was losing a lot of momentum at the apexes.
At Sturgeon Creek I crossed into my fourth county for the day: Owsley.  The road paralleled Sturgeon Creek for a short distance and I passed a very picturesque and inviting pool where the stream passed over bare sandstone.  It looked cool, and a dip would have been nice, but I really needed water in my bottles not my bike shorts.
As an update on my progress I texted the following to SAG central:
Dyin’ in the middle of nowhere.  Must.  Reach.  Booneville.
That seemed a bit overly dramatic so I added:  I’m in Owsley County.
Mandy responded a few minutes later:
We can meet you somewhere if you need us to.
In code I responded:
She called me soon after for clarification.  In my defense, all of my good judgment had been sweated out.  We agreed she would come bail me out in Booneville, but she’d been watching her cousin’s little boy and had to find out if they were on their way to come get him before she headed out.  I pushed on weakly toward Booneville.
I’d discovered a shortcut on the map that I’d not seen when planning this big epic swelter tour.  It avoided the point on the map called “Travellers Rest.”  I debated with myself whether or not I should detour or see if there was aid there.
Me: Self, we’ve really !@#$-ed up this time.
Self: This was your brilliant idea, don’t drag me into this.
Me: Hey!  You never said nuthin’!  Why didn’t you pipe up in McKee?  We could’ve had a meatball sub.
Self: [Retch!]
Me: Okay!  Okay!  I won’t talk about food!  It’s a little longer, but there might be…food…and water at Travellers Rest.
Self: Ha! Oh, sure!  With a name like that how could we go wrong?  It’s not like fate would be luring us into some Deliverance kind of situation with the promise of food, water, and rest.  Stranger danger! Stranger danger!
Me: Oh, shut up!
[Long pause]
Self: What were we talking about?
Me: I don’t remember.  But I’m calling it in Booneville.  Done.  Finito.  Kaput.  Done.
Self: You said “done” twice.
Me: Shut up!
I took the shortcut.  Chadwell Road follows a wooded corridor over a slight ridge.  I’m saddened to say I walked the “hill” to the crest.  It felt like Powerline going up, but when I looked back down I couldn’t see a significant grade.
Now, I need to mention that even at this point I still had plenty of strength to turn the pedals.  My main problem was thirst, followed immediately by the potential for cramping if I pushed too hard.  I was trying my best to conserve my energy and minerals (precious bodily fluids) and treading a fine line.
After the apex of Chadwell it was a nice long cruise down to KY 11.  I had to check the map at 11, and I’m glad I did because my inclination was to go right, but actually I needed to go left.  In no time flat I was rolling into Booneville.
I saw a restaurant, but made the same mistake I made in McKee.  The front was not open so I wouldn’t be able to see the bike from inside and I went right on past.  I did stop at the gas station next door and seeing a text from Mandy that she hadn’t left home yet I responded:
I might be able to make it to Beattyville.  9 easy miles from Boone
I could do it.  Booneville was 81 miles into the ride.  Beattyville was another 9-10 if I took Fish Creek Road along the South Fork of the Kentucky.  I remembered it being fairly flat.  I guess it’s been 15 or so years since I visited Booneville though.
There was a water spigot (pronounced “spicket”) outside the convenience store but it was locked.  I went inside and bought a liter of water and a 16 oz Coke.  The thought of food didn’t really appeal to me in an immediate sense.  Hunger was growing, but that long distance gastro-intestinal shut down had settled into my gut.  I was racing the bonk at that point. 
A local guy stood by the door and I asked him if he knew Fish Creek Road.
“Yeah, right up here?” he indicated the road out of town and said he did.
“Do you know if it’s paved all the way to Beattyville?”  Of course I pronounced it “Bate-uh-vull” to avoid owfending the young man.  Perhaps I should have said “blacktopped” instead of “paved.”  He lied to me and said it was.  Now, in his defense, it’s possible that his deep familiarity with the road caused him not to have noticed details like two full miles of unpaved roadway.  And when I asked him if there were any hills on that part of the road he might have been thinking of something other than the two stout little climbs that ended up threatening my successful crossing over to Lee County.  I don’t know, and I don’t hold it against him, but I was mumbling some not-so-nice things as I fought my way on to Three Forks country.
As I walked the last hill before Beattyville I noticed my cyclocomputer.  93 miles.  I was trying to decide if Beattyville was big enough to lap around until I hit 100.  Not for seven miles.  No way.  So when I crossed the Kentucky River for the last time on Saturday I kept on going right through town and I started up the long, long grade out of town north toward Slade.  There was a DQ near the top of the hill.  I wasn’t stopping until I reached it either.
I then did something I almost never do.  While riding I called Mandy and told her I would be waiting for her in the restaurant.  94 miles would be my finish line for the day.  At the time she still hadn’t left home.
There was shade on the far side of the building, and I clipped my helmet strap through the frame to a railing to at least slow down any potential bike thieves that might be roaming Lee County.  I entered into the cool restaurant, ambled up to the counter and then…absolutely did not see anything on the menu that appealed to me.  Ice cream seemed too sweet.  All the cooked food seemed too greasy for the heat. I couldn’t remember how long it had been since I’d actually eaten.  I think I may have finished off the half a Clif Block with my cold water in Booneville, but I couldn’t even choke down the Coke I’d bought.
Her look said: “I’ve asked you once; don’t make me ask you again.”
Oh, the cashier had asked for my order.
There had been something I’d thought of miles ago.*  What was it?  Can’t remember…
“How ‘bout a…”
Bored look?
Smack this crazy man in tight clothes with sweaty, twisty hair?
“…grilled chicken sandwich combo.  Plain.”  I added plain because I wasn’t sure I could handle mayo or tomato. 
I paid and told the girl I was going to run to the restroom.  I splashed cold water on my face repeatedly until I didn’t taste salt anymore.  When I went out my food still wasn’t ready, but an empty cup was.  I dragged it over to the fountain and filled it with Ale-8.  That’s what I really wanted!
Then my food was ready and I carried it carefully to a corner booth where I could keep an eye on my bike and sweat all over the seat.  I just stared at the food.  It was too hot.  My gut was still clenched against any more abuse. 
So I texted Jeff and told him where I was and that I was done at 94.6 miles.  He texted back that was ironic because he’d only ridden 6.  Between the two of us we’d managed a century.
Mandy was on her way.  I finally nibbled away the dwich and fries and sucked down a refill of Ale-8.  I guess I’d been at the DQ for half an hour or so.  The food hadn’t caused any adverse reactions.  My legs felt fine other than the ghosts of cramps that had never really materialized.  I was going to finish.  I was going to bag another century.
I called Mandy and told her I’d be heading her way, to look for me along 11.  From Beattyville to Zachariah 11 has wide shoulders.  I clipped my helmet to my handlebar bag, snugged down my Campy cap, and pedaled slowly across the parking lot and onto the shoulder.  I was going to bag another century.
The remainder of the long pull out of town was moot.  It wasn’t steep and I was closer to the top than the bottom.  Once on the ridge 11 goes away straight and flat toward Slade.  I got up to a respectable cruising speed, knocking along at 17-19 mph for a while.  It was hot.  11 is so wide no shade falls on it anywhere.  Finally I was ticking over 97 miles, 98, 98.2, 98.3, 98.35…
I began to worry that I’d see Mandy before I hit 100 miles.  I was hoping I could make it to Zoe or Zachariah so I could at least say I rode to a place, not just to a number on my odometer.  But I was worrying that I’d see her before 100 and she’d have to turn around and follow me until I ticked the magic number and that would have felt so contrived.

On I pedaled.  At 101.5 I saw my car, and saw it turn into a side road.  Knowing Mandy would be looking I crossed into the drive lane and pumped my two fists skyward as if I were crossing the finish on a decisive Tour stage.  I was done.  Zoe was less than a mile away, but I was good with the effort.  I’d found my Rollins Pass for this year.
Sunday I felt pretty good.  I wasn’t sore.  I only felt tired.  I’ve taken it easy and plan on relaxing for the most part early this week, and working back toward running some as the week rolls on.  I don’t feel like I need any more long rides.  I’m done with riding until August 10.  I’ll be on the bike, but I’ve really done everything I need to do.
The century that I pulled off wasn’t really well executed, but in retrospect it went off without a hitch.  Despite riding for 20 or so miles in 90F degree heat with no water I kept going.  Despite a malfunctioning derailer at mile 70 or so I still finished a hundred.  Despite slacking off on my eating toward the end I had enough energy and spirit to go on.  I know what I’m doing.  I have the experience and the knowledge to mitigate the potential disasters, and truly I have the mental fortitude to keep going when I really want to give up.
But my lesson from Turquoise Lake still seems untested.  I tried to bail; it was just that circumstance didn’t allow immediate SAG support.  Mandy would have been waiting in Booneville if she could have gotten there faster, and I would have bailed at 81 miles instead of 87.  Or 94.6.  Or 98?  No, oddly, my second wind came at 94.6 miles after a good meager bite to eat.  I wasn’t going to settled for less than a full century once I got back on the bike for the final push.  But that resolve came almost at the very end.
It took me just shy of 10 hours to cover the ground.  I was on the bike for about 7 hours and 20 minutes.  According to Strava I climbed 9,000’, but according to MapMyRide it was more like 4,700’.  I’d like to believe I had a near-Leadville experience on a road century, but I think the MMR numbers are closer to the truth.  Still…
There were no less than 7 significant climbs though Drip Rock, at 2.3 miles in length and 670’ in gain, was the biggest.
I found my confidence.  I dug deep and uncovered a treasure of good miles to carry me on toward the red carpet and a belt buckle.

If I had closed the loop and ridden the perfect loop from home it would have looked like THIS.
* As I approached every potential refueling spot I thought I should try and find orange juice and a banana.  I even remember as I pedaled up out of Beattyville toward the DQ thinking they should have both, but when I got to the counter I totally blanked and didn't remember ever having those thoughts.