W101 Podium 2014

W101 Podium 2014

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Pain Cave

We all have them.

Some of our pain caves look like this:
Not mine, not at all like mine.

Some of them like this:
We all need workout buddies

Some of them are real caves I reckon, mines a little cave-ish.

But stalagmites or just dust bunnies what I'm continually impressed with this time of year is the fortitude some folks have. The determination to get down into their pain caves and suffer!And suffer HARD!!!

I talk to folks who spend hours at a time in their caves, some of them doing very specific workouts on very specific training plans. I've seen folks already this year have spent three and four hours in the pain cave. Now I like a little pain. I wouldn't race singlespeeds if I didn't, and I like some pain for a long long time. I wouldn't race hundreds of miles on my singlespeed if I didn't. But FOUR HOURS ON A TRAINER! No flipping thanks.

The remarkable thing though is that we as cyclists; more so as people, are capable and willing to put in this kind of time for goals which are months away. Goals which may not even have a tangible date. We spend this time because we hope that come spring we will be fitter. But I think on another level we know that if we learn to train ourselves now we will have something to draw on during the coming season of riding and racing.

I'm a big believer that hard man miles, epic rides, and serious pain can all be drawn on later. It's "fuel in the tank," I've been heard to say. So while you dig deep into yourself looking for fuel for the coming miles and churning away deep in your pain cave let me give you a look into one of the chapters of pain that fuels me from time to time. One of the chronicles that I can pull from and when I'm feeling weak and say: I did that, I finished it and dammit I'm still living to tell about it!

It was 2012, not that long ago really. I had been persuaded to sign up for a first year event called the Bel Monte 50. It was a 50 mile slog through Sherando. 50 miles, 9 thousand feet of climbing. The creators of the event ran it alongside their running race which seemed to me like a terrible idea but I, as an evolved man not merely content to drag my heels through the mud of the earth, entered the 50 mile bike event. So after some average quality Mexican dinner Zach "The Manimal" Morrey headed up into Sherando and pitched our tents. We knew about the 5:30 AM start, we heard there was rain coming, and zach constantly muttered something about a GPX file he had on his Garmin. Since I would be racing my ss, I was more concerned about which Iron Maiden album I would wake up to than any sort of gpanything. As an aside I noticed The Manimal (always capitalized) choosing not to put up his rain fly. I say this because the last thing you ever want to do is tent with a pre-race Manimal. Filing this away I went to bed. dreaming of this little baby:

Until I woke up. 1:30 AM, four hours from race start and that Manimal was furiously trying to put his rain fly up as the deluge commenced. Glad I changed to a slightly easier gear I nodded back to sleep. 5:30 came, the gun sounded. A blue Honda Element rolled in and unloaded a Bishop. A kurland showed, and a few others. Not a deep field, but a strong one. And Francine Rapp. The lone lady to reg, and the lone lady to finish. Unless you count the defeated men who failed, girlies all of them! We started. And I followed Zach's wheel off the gun ads we paced hard out for an early season fifty. Short prologue out and back then right on the parkway for a few miles. Except everybody else was flagged left, Zach and I isn't know it was left until a box truck caught up to us four miles out on the parkway....

That's how you want it to start alright...

We worked until my lonely gear just couldn't take the pace any higher and zach pulled off. Still muttering about a gps. To quote Indigo Montoya: "I don't think that means what you think it means." Pedaling on I caught some dudes, the dudes, the ever present dudes at the back of the pack. Those dudes get it. I caught Francine. And finally, blessed finally! I caught the pack. And the pack surged and slid into the Hell on Earth known as Torrey Ridge on a rainy 38 degree day. But shred on our hero did! I caught up to a Jeremiah Bishop as he slowed to judge a flat rear tire. I'd see him again. I knew it. But I rolled on to a flat of my own! A seal n flate and a prayer to Father Tomac and on that single speed rolled. Down down down, to a frozen ring of...moss and rocks. Yeah, that's the size of it. Moss, rocks, dirt, mud, sweat, swears, blood, bearings, bruises, and Shannon Tevendale at the first aid station. That aid station gave me more fuel for the ride than just a soggy bar and banana, seeing Shannon and saying a few words to another living being was a blessing. I rolled on. I could hear the dragging, the grinding, all exposed surfaces, and many so called "sealed" surfaces, being ground away with that limestone grit dissolved in a slick soup. Mother Nature's Taint Polish I've heard it called. Just gets in everything. The whole bike would be fried if we finished.

I'll spare the specifics, mostly because I blocked them from my memory. But I remember climbing, finding Jeremiah up ahead, passing him in what appeared to be as dark a place as I was. I didn't glory in it, I couldn't. There was no glory that day. Survival, that's what we were racing. I remember a long rutted climb after a descent I couldn't enjoy because of the metal on metal of brake pad piston on rotor. I remember not seeing a sole for twenty miles. I remember stopping to pee off a rock because it was the right thing to do. It was the only way I could exert any control over the situation. Also because I am a man, and that's what we do. Just saying.

Finally the fire road topped out, and I was sent down again. In the endless series of ups and downs this had become I didn't care, I didn't feel. It was a matter of rolling that gear home. Blessed home. Territories and sights I knew started to come into sight. I began to see in the distance Wintergreen mountain. Huge and stunning. And dreadful. It's hard in my car but on an over geared single speed with brakes rubbing and bottom bracket disintegrating?! Naw man, naw. But this had to be done. So I did it. I remember passing a floundering bobbing Alex Kurland. I remember every switchback. And yet I don't. I remember an overwhelming sense of discomfort, and an anticipation of relief which was nigh on religious. But that purgatory had to be climbed first. I'm a little glad I was fully distanced from anything GPX, because baby it wouldn't be pretty.

And I made it. I crossed the finish line. Third on the day it turned out but blissfully not giving a damn. There were showers, and food, and beer. Not enough of any of them. But any would do

So that's my pain cave. That's the place I look back to on the Death Climb. That's the place I look back to at a cold and wet Dark Mountain at 3:30AM. That's the place which inspires me.

All of this to say that these caves have their place but their real place is to show us and remind us that we can do literally anything. If we can spend an hour on the bike every day, if we can ride a hundred miles in the rain, if we can sweat and bleed and cover our top tubes in snot day after day we can do anything! Here's to finding a deeper, darker, harder cave this winter. Winter miles equal summer smiles boys and girls. Now get in yer hole!

P.S. Wanna see the "results?" Read it and weep

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Good Gifts: Post Holiday/Anniversary Reminiscing….

I have been regularly riding mountain bikes now for about two years. As a matter of fact, I just celebrated the two year anniversary of my dirt shredding and general adventure- seeking- cycling- endeavors. Happy anniversary to me! Hold on. I guess it should really be “happy anniversary to us. This journey that I have experienced has not been traveled alone (thank goodness!). In many ways it has been a community experience and a community adventure. This trip has not been for the faint of heart or the weak minded. Trust me, riding a bike over hill and dale does not always (or ever, if we’re being honest) come naturally for me. Getting to the place I am now (which again, is not saying much) has taken patience, determination, lots of encouragement and many (MANY) hours of slow, painful, hike-a-bikes. Most importantly though, this effort has taken a tough, forgiving, kind and generous companion.
(If you’re not the sappy-loveydovey-blog-reading type, you should probably skip this post in its entirety and just wait for Gordon to take away my contributor’s rights so you won’t have to read any more of my ramblings.)
I found her exactly two years ago waiting for a new home and loving mother who would afford many hours of attention and exercise. She came nameless. Without a story. We were perfect for each other and I adopted, called her “Olive” and without having any idea of the things to come, we set out on our lives together, me being completely illiterate about mountain biking and her being the seasoned and protective companion to my blissful ignorance.  

Olive and I at our first real race in 2013
In case anyone was wondering, mountain biking is hard! It is particularly hard having had no experience on two wheels in the forest ever before. I would just like to say though, that our initial trip into the unknown was epic. Approximately halfway through the ride we came to a very large creek (sometimes called a raging river for the sake of the story) and halfway through, I dutifully stopped (otherwise known as- fell over) and christened (through complete submersion) my sweet Olive (and myself) in the mud and silt and water. It was cold and I was horrified and embarrassed at my incompetence, but, that initial journey has somehow, some way propelled me to where I find myself today.

Round Mountain mank.

Since bringing Olive home with me, she has been unbreakable. Through hundred mile mud fests, rough, backcountry, bike-eating ridgelines, technical and exhausting climbs and descents, and crazy cross mania, Olive has persevered and only ever reprimanded me with a handful of flats (most of which I deserved) and a couple of busted chains. While I jokingly refer to her as a “precious angel” she is anything but delicate or sensitive. She is a work horse that happily shows up to the job every day ready to put up with the hardships of bearing my novice leadership and wild roaming. In a strange way, I find myself wishing to be more like her as I write this. Faithful. Generous without reason. Trustworthy despite tough conditions. Tireless in the pursuit of good things even though surrounded by barriers. Forgiving. Unshakable when faced with shitty situations. Slow to anger. A companion.  A good friend. Unbreakable. 
Cumberland Gap, Tenn.
In two years, Olive and I have done a lot. Things I never dreamed I would do. Things I never thought I was capable of doing. I have found such a sweet community through that little bike. Communities like the illusive and yet wildly distinct Moonstompers of SWVA, the Blue Ridge Cyclery family, lifelong friends in the Blacksburg area who include the “Bears”, Adam Walker (who dragged me through more than his fair share of my hike-a-bike experiences), Chris and Mary Dobroth, AJ Kray, Wyatt Lifsey, Caitlin Rivers, and many more. Most importantly, Olive helped me find my partner who just happens to be the primary author of this blog, Gordon W. Wadsworth. I will forever be grateful and so tremendously thankful to her for that. So much has changed and improved in my life because of a bike that by all accounts is too old, too small, too heavy and too outdated to do the things we’ve done together. Despite this, I adore her and Olive has continued to be a giver of good gifts. She is my most treasured material possession and I am so stoked for another year of growing in this awesome community with this special little bike. And maybe (if I can ever motivate to spend more than 15 minutes on the trainer), sometime in the coming season, we’ll get to stand on a couple more mountain tops, a couple more ridge lines, a couple more hike-a-bikes, a couple more podiums together in celebration of the good gifts we’ve received and the good gift we are able to reciprocate. 
Here's to good views, good rides, good people and good bikes in the coming year!

Raaaad faith in humanity

I love base mile rides most of the time. In the early portion of the season you're still channeling those awesome late season and winter rides where you got nowhere to be, nothing to be doing, just riding for the ride. And if the weather cooperates; which it hasn't in Roanoke lately, you can have some seriously RAD rides.

I spent a few hours on the new Stache SS with one of my all time favorite riding goons: Brian "Ansel Twaine Buck Man" Marshal. Brian and I hooted and hollered through mostly legal trails around the Roanoke Volcano Lair known as Mill Mtn. I dont know that there is a Secret Volcano Lair under that star, but I suspect there is...why else would there be a star. I also dont know that there isnt a secret volcano lair under there, which is as good as.  If I could only ever ride Mill mtn and the surrounding trails I would be a happy little bicycler. Its some excellent quality stuff. Its an incredible shame some of those "surrounding" trails arent bicycle legal yet. Ive heard theyre rad.

Regarding those trails theres been a lot of issues opening them because of their proximity to Parkway boundaries. Theres also been a ton of down trees and brush that has caused those "legal" trail users to divert and make their own paths through, over, around, or even tunnel into the volcano lair in order to circumvent the downage. I dig that The Man (read: park ranger) wants those trails to be maintained, I understand that, but the reality is those bad boys would be buffer, clearer, safer, and sounder if only for some fat tire access. Proof:

@emyhairfield likes this twice
Talk about some faith in humanity right there. Our friendly neighborhood bicyclists got out there and cleared trails they cant enjoy. #thatsabitofalright. Also note conspicuously that Buck Man is walking those trails, not riding them...conspicuously. I think he may also have seen a bird or something in the distance, coulda been a lady Buck Man.

So Ansel "Buck Man" Twain and I trucked on, faith in humanity restored! Then we found a bottle of Strawberry skank hooch with a squirrel tail sticking out of it on the side of the road, and we didnt know what that meant for our new found faith. We discovered the merits of aerodynamics
Hes probably just trying to get closer to his stem so he can stare more closely.
We did a little "freestyling"

The most remarkable part of our ride however was a Schofield sighting. I didnt get it on film, but i saw it!! and  strava'd it. meaning it happened. All in it was one of those great early season rides where the pace was high enough for long enough to get real benefit from it but the mood was equally high. In the many hundos to come in 2014 thats even more important. You can bury yourself in hard man miles and not have the stuff to push to the next level come when it matters because youve burned some mental matches early on in the year. You gotta have those rides that restore your faith in humanity. You gotta have those rides where you loosen up. Its about the ride man!!

Wednesday, January 1, 2014


Ill tell you one thing that keeps me racing. Community. Im AMAZED by this community of cyclists here in VA.

 Im amazed by Travis Metro Solo Williams. Hes always pumped to be there, living the moment, living the singlespeed, cyclocross, 90 proof, thighs out skys out, vegan-brownie-eatin-just-because-he-can DREAM!!

 Im amazed by my man Kev-o Horvath. By the beard of Zeus hes always game. 6 hours of singlespeed partner, cyclo-cross before it was cool, family man, manly man and always a smiling face and a chilled beverage.

 Im amazed by the Blue Ridge Cyclery Family and specifically the Tevendales. Ive never felt more welcomed by any group than the CRC/ BRC family of riders and racers. Ive never met even half of them in person but ill be danged if they arent the most stoked and stokeworthy crowd around. Always willing to lend a hand, a wrench, a bottle, a brew, a pair of only mildly moist bibs and base layer, a wheel, or even a dab of the chamois creme. You name it. This crowd has been an amazing racing family. In addition Im always stoked to see a Tevendale come across my news feed, my phone screen, or stepping out of the house as I pull in to impromptu cruise some Teventrails. That ever growing family of Men, women, dogs, fish, and miniature shredders makes me feel the love.

I'm amazed by my partner and friend, Emily. She is courageous, passionate, fearless, not afraid to show a little emotion from time to time, thoroughly convicted, and most of all incredibly sweet and caring. She enriches my life every day.

 Im amazed by the cast of characters who make this scene always moving, shaking, and yes rallying: Steven Cook, The Ramsey family, Rich Morrison, Daniel Ortiz (bless his little heart), the junior athletes who are rapidly coming up behind me, and so SO many more. Really, I mean you.

 But lately I have been amazed by this guy:

Scott, Scud, friend. Literally a friend to everyone he met, and any he didn't. He enriched everything he was exposed to. Or rather everything that was exposed to him. I knew him for only a few years; a little before I started racing for BRC, but grew to love the man with every encounter. He was an angel of the aid station, a killer in the kitchen, and quite simply a champion. Scud spoke to you with his full energy. Like suddenly the world had slowed down and it was about the two of you and what was happening there, then. He put that much passion and devotion into caring for those around him.At the end of the day there just arent enough words for him. Not enough superlatives. The man just lived it.

I'm not a type A person when it comes to race prep but I don't like to put myself at a negative advantage either, so I usually like to get a good nights rest and do all the right things before a big event. But at this years Shenandoah Mountain 100 I found myself staying up late chatting with Scud, still dirty from cooking and aromatically between dish soap bubbles and the bubbles off of a few brews. He had so much enthusiasm for that place, that scene, the people of the cycling world. I genuinely believe Scott got it. He knew that cycling is a way to change the world. Not just the fit legs and lungs, but recognizing challenges, setting goals, and reaching beyond yourself to better yourself, and those around you. Scud got that, and he carried it with him everywhere he went.

I saw Scud a few days before his accident. He met Emily then too. I am so glad we had that opportunity in the dead of night. Soaking wet from 8 hours of rain and racing we chatted under the stars. He showed me a video of his granddaughter on her bike, she had won a junior race that summer and he couldn't be more proud. But I knew it wasn't the win alone he was proud of. He was proud that she had found a spark. A spark of passion, excitement, love for a challenge and an unbridled love of life. She found her Scud. I'll carry that night with me for a long time. Forever I hope. Because it reminds me what we ride for, what we live for, what Scud lived for. And it reminds me how absolutely amazing this community of people I love is. Thanks scud,

Here's to chasing your wheel. Heres to finding our Scud, the Scud you gave us all.