January 28, 2015

A Week of Random Things

Filed under: MMA,non-bike,Training — Andrea @ 8:49 am

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.


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:




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:



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”

January 21, 2015

Syllamo Work/Ride

Filed under: Trail Riding,Trails,Training — Andrea @ 8:54 am

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.




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).


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.




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-


…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.


That evening, the sunset was as beautiful as ever.

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I also finished the puzzle I’d started last time


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.


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…


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:


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.

January 15, 2015

New(ish) Car Time

Filed under: Commuting,non-bike,Training — Andrea @ 7:07 am

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.


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.

January 9, 2015

Training Camp 2014(5) #3

Filed under: Trail Riding,Trails,Training — Andrea @ 9:16 am

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.




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.

January 5, 2015

On Syllamo and Logging

Filed under: Trails — Andrea @ 9:21 am

I’m skipping a post here. My final two days of riding weren’t exactly what I wanted due to the heavy rains, and the result was some gorgeous photos and some impromptu trail work to remove some fallen trees off of a couple of the short sections of yellow trail.


There’s something that’s bothered the hell out of me since I made my plea to help the Syllamo trails more than a year ago. On the “great” end, local support has grown, and we now have a Friends of the Syllamo Trail IMBA chapter. However, on the “really shitty” end, noone is acknowledging that the biggest factor in our fight against the overgrowth that plagues the system is logging. If you read any newspaper article or other publication about the cool things going on to help the trail, the blame is placed on a wind storm and an ice storm. No mention is ever made of the fact that those things were cleaned up pretty quickly, or the fact that mother nature’s tree/branch removal tended towards already weakened/sick trees.

Logging has taken a much greater toll on the trails than anything nature-borne (save for maybe the hogs, but that’s a different issue). The impacts are both acute and chronic- initially, when an area is cleared, the overgrowth goes haywire with thorns and all other types of brush. Also, the loggers knock down and leave for dead what looks like as many trees as they remove. Chronically, the pine that they plant back in place of the hardwood is weaker and doesn’t have as solid of a canopy, so basically they’re creating a section of trail that will ALWAYS be a high maintenance area.

I’m not going to go full-on treehugger and say STOP ALL LOGGING. Humans are rampant consumers of trees. I understand that those have to come from somewhere. It’s a necessary evil (think of that next time you wipe your ass with virgin hardwood). It also supports jobs in the local economy. I get it. However, the US Forest service funded and built a trail system that they’re seemingly content to systematically destroy one timber sale at a time.

I was hoping that, since we’ve got such a strong group of trail supporters now, that we could do something to avoid removing trees from just the trail sections of the National Forest. Relatively speaking, it is a small corner of the available area of timber. However, the Friends of the Syllamo Trails group is not willing to address this issue:


I’m really disappointed, sad, and a whole other range of emotions. On one hand, the group is an excellent conglomeration of local and regional people that’s already done and will continue to do great things for the trail system. On the other hand, they’re going to ignore the giant, hulking elephant in the Forest Service boardroom… the one that’s going out to football-field sections of trail and permanently destroying what’s there. It’s not like we don’t have a voice in this. Take a look at what the Pisgah-area trail advocates are up to: Please Comment on Timber Production, etc. in Pisgah National Forest (PS- please click and send that email if you like riding at Pisgah).

I’m not sure what to do next. I wholly support the work of the F.O.S.T. group, and I’ll continue supporting them and their efforts however I can. But, as long as we purposefully ignore the biggest thing that’s harming the trail system, the problems it has now will only get more widespread as more timber is cut.


January 3, 2015

2014(5) Training Camp #2

Filed under: Trail Riding,Trails,Training — Andrea @ 9:44 am

While I was out having a double-rainbow moment in the woods on Monday, Matt was on his way to the cabin. As I mentioned previously, it’s been really cold. So, Tuesday morning, we passed the 20-something morning hours by going to the Sylamore shooting range that’s just north of the trail system. Matt brought his .22 rifle, and I brought my 12 gauge shotgun (A.K.A. the “cabin security system” because it’s next to the bed any time I’m over here).

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We played with the .22 a while. I hit the targets pretty well, but then I got impatient with it and decided to knock the targets down all the way.

The weather generally fluctuated between cold and cloudy and “balmy” 40’s and sunny. We celebrated New Year’s eve with a long-ish ride on the Orange, Blue, and Green trails (highly recommended route if you’re looking for a 3-4 hour adventure). Everything is in fair-to-excellent shape right now with the exception of the long, technical part of the Yellow Trail. The long ride meant that we also celebrated New Year’s on Eastern time.

Matt got into the puzzle game

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There was bound to be rain starting in the afternoon on New Year’s Day, so we got up and on our bikes earlier than we had previously. It was a rare chance to take advantage of extremely light “everyone home in bed” traffic on Highway 9 and ride north from the cabin to explore down some of the gravel roads in that direction. The number of property owners who have gated off the roads that pass through/in front of their property is astounding. I’m relatively certain that about half of them aren’t legitimate owners of the roads, but since no one else really has a reason to use the roads, they get away with it. We also rode down the mountain to the “town” of Sylamore because I wanted to check out a creepy looking boarded up building that I’d noticed from an overlook across the river.

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The rain that came in Thursday afternoon kept going until just a little while ago (it’s Saturday morning).

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Matt left on Friday, and I decided to make it an off day (first one since the 25th). I kicked it off with a trip to WalMart for one more puzzle and a few necessities. The rain was light once I was back and had breakfast, so I decided to take Turbo out for a tree-clearing hike. We cut a couple of trees off the Blue Trail near Highway 5.

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That last one is how I drove home from the trailhead (with the addition of a couple of bungee straps). My dad makes walking sticks, and one of the trees I cut was a small-ish white birch with lots of “walking stick” sized branches. Old Turbo was pretty exhausted after that

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Back at the cabin, I decided I’d patch up the heel-rub holes in my shoe covers. I used a wader repair kit and lots of Aquaseal. I don’t really need waterproofing, but I’m hoping that it will prolong the life of them for the remainder of the winter

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The remainder of the day was reserved for writing a blog post, eating, doing laundry, watching football, and, of course…

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The rain is finally clearing out, so I should be able to get out and ride some forest roads and maybe the red trail this afternoon. The forecast for tomorrow is partly cloudy with a daytime high hovering around 30 degrees. I plan on bundling up and polishing off my training camp with somewhere in the neighborhood of 5-6 hours of riding.

January 2, 2015

2014 Training Camp #1

Filed under: Trails,Training — Andrea @ 4:51 pm

The space from December 24th through January 1st seems like a time when a lot of people and businesses are thrown out of their usual routines and everything is a little turned on its head. So, this year, I decided to run off to the cabin on the 26th to avoid the fluster of the holiday week and get some intense training on the Syllamo Trails and surrounding forest roads.

Before Arkansas, we went to Christmas lunch at my Grandmother’s house in Drew, Mississippi.

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I have several more pictures of the family, but my mom hates pictures of herself, and she’s in most of them.

My cousin Brent, who is closest to my age of all my cousins, bought his five year old daughter one of the greatest presents in the history of “presents for 5 year old girls”…

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She rides it by herself (with the speed governor turned down, of course).

Speaking of presents, Matt put Ronda Rousey on the wall over my workbench. Now I flinch every time I walk through the garage.

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Thursday, Ryan and I left for the cabin. We made it in time to get in a short ride and to start on a stack of puzzles- my new favorite thing to do at the cabin besides ride, eat catfish, and watch procedural crime dramas.

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Saturday morning, we had breakfast at Rainbow cafe in downtown Mountain View.

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Some sort of animal hid its breakfast corn from the deer feeder in the bathroom light cover.

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Saturday, I kept having an odd pain on the upper left-middle area of my back and a corresponding spot in my ribs on the front of my torso. It nagged at me all morning before I realized it was shingles. I had a full-blown case back at Breck Epic a couple of years ago, and they still periodically hurt from time to time. This was aching bad enough that I was worried that it was going to go full bore. Luckily, the pain subsided in a couple of days.

That day, it had rained, so we stuck to forest roads. I wanted to try and ride to the Sugarloaf Mountain Lookout (upper right corner of the map), but the “back way” in that didn’t involve riding a large stretch of Highway 5 was gated off with “private property” signs.

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Sunday night, we went to Tommy’s Famous Pizza with my dad.

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When the sky is clear, one of my favorite things to do is sit on the porch and have a glass of wine while the sun sets. It’s a nice opportunity to reflect and enjoy the mountains.

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It’s cold out right now (daytime highs have been in the 35-40 range with 70-90% humidity). I didn’t take riding photos while we were out because stopping is a surefire way to get chilled with a quickness. Since a lot of you don’t ride these trails all the time, it’s probably not really interesting for me to list a bunch of trail names (if you’re interested in routes, you can look at my Strava account). This is also a relatively “serious” time for training. Less sightseeing, more steadiness.

…and, more puzzles.

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Here’s my one ride pic:

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Monday, Ryan left with my dad. I took it as a recovery day and rode at a leisurely pace on the blue and green trails. The sun was out for the first time in a few days, and it was a balmy 44 degrees. I can’t really put in to words how I feel alone in the woods. It’s like my safe place where no one can get me… sort of like the feeling you get when someone really big and strong gives you a large and gentle hug.

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December 23, 2014

Cresting the Hump

Filed under: MMA,non-bike,Training — Andrea @ 9:29 am

Sorry for the lack of posts lately, but I’m trying to maintain a balance of “awesome stuff” and “everyday life is a struggle.” It’s been a quiet handful of days since my last Arkansas adventure. Mostly because the weather has been cloudy and a consistent 40 something and either drizzling or 70-80% humidity. Also, the level of crazy expressed by drivers with the advent of the holiday season has reached a fever pitch. I can’t fully comprehend why people do this in the name of what’s supposed to be a religious holiday. Seriously… all the obligations, putting themselves in debt, under stress, and into fits of shopping and road rage, and seemingly losing sight of what it is they’re supposed to be celebrating in the first place. It’s nuttier than the amazing fruitcakes I baked last week.

Stevil Kinevil says it best in his recent post on All Hail the Black Market

Now that the “struggle” part is out of the way, on to the good stuff- I found some sanity in a new yoga studio that opened back just before Thanksgiving. Pike Yoga is just about perfect- a 10 minute drive from my house, and classes that work well with both my daily schedule and my training schedule (not everything is “level 8 kick-your-butt-vinyasa”). I’ve been going to yoga on most weekdays since they opened, and it’s definitely made a difference in both my physical and mental health.

I’ve also been having a great time learning the gi in jiu jitsu class. I’ve had a bunch of people ask if I want to fight again, and the answer is a definite yes. The biggest setback I’ve had in getting back to training is the nagging patellar tendinitis in my left knee brought on by my failed attempt at off-season running. It keeps rearing its ugly head every time I jump or bounce on my left leg… a movement that’s very necessary for right-leg kicking and any sort of plyometric conditioning.

The combination of yoga, jiujitsu, and getting in rides when I can is keeping me sane until I can get over the December 25th mountain and make it to the cabin, where I plan on cocooning myself in miles of rocks and woods and emerging a badass, fitter, tougher, and more skilled butterfly on the other side. I’ll probably go for a road ride with The Matts (McCulley and Robbins) tomorrow. It’ll be my 3rd one since having repeated scary driver run-ins just after my trip to Colorado in the summer (those basically brought back the post car-hit panic attacks that had become very few and far between). It makes a huge difference that I’ve got some good friends and a bike that I can’t help but fall in love with a little more every time I ride it.

Time to stand and hammer up the crux.

December 16, 2014

Solo Syllamo Weekend

Filed under: Trail Riding,Trails,Training — Andrea @ 8:49 am

I made a mid-week decision to go for a solo trip to Syllamo over the weekend. Before I left town, I had some stuff to do…


That’s an DNA kit. The whole site makes me cringe a little with its subscription-ness, but the “spit in a cup and we’ll tell you about your ancestors” part is wholly fascinating to me. So, I’m anxiously waiting on that to process.

Thursday, I explored some horse trails. Along the way, I saw (literally) a ton of deer as well as a turkey and an owl. I also found large quantities of mud in a couple of spots.




Given the large quantity of mud I had to clean off/out of my bike on top of an already busy Friday, I didn’t get out of town until around 4pm. Apparently, there’s a never-ending Friday night congestion of U.S. Highway 64 between all the small towns across Arkansas. Who knew? There’s a more northern route that’s a few minutes shorter, but I’ve always felt a bit of an adventure connection to 64 since it’s been a part of many of my travels to races and whatnot in both directions across the country.

Anyway, Turbo and I made it in enough time to make dinner and start a new puzzle.



(OK, so the second photo is from the morning, as evidenced by my coffee, but that’s all I’d finished the night before)

This winter, I’m embracing the “just get out and ride” method of free-forming my base miles. I’m also embracing some interesting ride food, like rum-soaked fruitcake:


I came up with a route that I dubbed the “Baby Epic,” because in the future, I’ll add more singletrack to the eastern side of it. If you take a look at the map:, you’ll see that, following Branscum Rd. (which is actually a pretty rough/steep horse trail), I used a combination of Green Mountain Road, the last 4 miles of the Red Trail, and the last short/tech section of the Orange trail to return to where I started. Next time, the plan is to add the Blue trail from the 2nd trailhead to the Orange, and, as a final “Big Epic,” add the long/hard section of the Yellow on top of that. That’s bound to be an all-day ride for sure.

Along the way, I did some futzing with my suspension as well as making a stop to take photos from the little side trail to a waterfall at the bottom of Branscum “Road.”




That last one is from underneath the waterfall overhang. You can see the water coming down from the upper right side of the photo. It is gorgeous out there, and the trails are generally in great shape. After my journey, I arrived back to the parking lot and saw another Shelby County vehicle parked next to mine. The occupants (including Fullface Kenny) had left some dust art for me.


I unscrewed their gas cap.


Ginger Ale and recovery candy.

Back at the cabin, I snacked, cleaned up, and worked on my puzzle some more. After a trip to WalMart for provisions, I came back and made a kickass dinner and watched the ever-present A&E Criminal Minds procedural crime drama marathon.


Sunday was a day for survival and not photos. I rode from the 2nd Green Mountain Road trailhead without much of a plan other than “explore side roads.” Turns out, most side roads just lead you to logged-off meadows. My legs were thrashed from the day before, so it was a 2.5 hour exercise in keeping the pedals moving and trying to enjoy the scenery and little bit of excitement that comes with exploration… all the while, trying to ignore the fact that my legs were still back at the cabin drinking coffee and working on a puzzle.

Driving home from the cabin depresses me. Aside from the lack of multiple cute animals, it’s like my safe, cozy fortress of solitude where I can go and ride some of the most difficult terrain available then relax in the peace and quiet of the Ozarks. It’s one of those things where the whole way back, I’m already planning the next trip in my head.

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December 10, 2014

Shimano M200 Initial Review

Filed under: Product Reviews — Andrea @ 7:27 am

Before I get to the shoes- in case you live under the proverbial rock, you need to know that Matt, Kenny (former co-worker and still one of the best mechanics in Memphis), and myself record a podcast every Monday night for Mountain Bike Radio. It’s been going on for just over two years now, and, I’m happy to report, that the Just Riding Along show is has grown to be of the more popular ones on MBR. If you’re a podcast-listening person, I’d highly recommend downloading it (there are several different ways listed on the page if you click the JRA link above), or you can listen straight from the website itself.

Disclaimer- we just recently switched from a live Blogtalkradio recording to a pre-recorded then uploaded show, so the sound quality on the older episodes isn’t the best. They’re worth listening to, though, because you’ll learn about important things like the McNugget currency exchange as well as our special relationship with the armadillo. Once you’ve listened to them all, check out the t-shirt you can pre-order right now on the Mountain Bike Radio Store page. There’s also a post on the Mountain Bike Radio Facebook page to determine if interest warrants the printing of Just Riding Along mugs. The logo is pretty sweet, though I’m a little biased since I came up with the basic idea while trying to entertain my mind on the long and hilly drive to the USARA Nationals a while back. Some time and a million revisions later, the good folks at S2N Design here in Memphis put my idea into action:


Anyway… enough about that. In Monday’s post, I mentioned that I’d post later this week about the Shimano M200 shoe. I’ve had 3 rides on them now, and I am already a big fan. I’ve been riding in the Mavic Fury, and it is a really nice shoe (aside from the fact that it’s a shoe retailing for over $300 and it comes with the most pitiful excuse for an insole I’ve ever experienced. I have a nice set of Fizik insoles, though, so it works out). The M200 retails at $180 (full disclosure- I bought these, so I have no obligation to say anything nice about them)

I was attracted to the M200 because I do, on someone regular occasions, need to get off my bike and walk to navigate something extremely steep and/or very rocky. The Mavic shoes weren’t totally terrible for that- unlike a LOT of XC shoes out there, the soles have a really grippy rubber lugged sole. I commend Mavic for that because it means they aren’t super light. However, the lugs aren’t just there for show like they are on something like a SIDI (the smallest/most useless/plastic-y lugs I’ve ever seen). In my search for something both stiff and walkable, I’d also tried the Pearl Izumi X-Project, which made my feet really angry because the fit was just… weird. I wasn’t alone in that, either. Both Ryan and Matt had similar experiences.

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So, when I saw the M200, I was mad stoked (bro), because I know that Shimano shoes generally fit my foot well. I was also intrigued by the extra cleat adjustment area. I generally wear my cleats as far back as a shoe will allow, and, while I ended up starting out by setting them up very close to what I’m used to, the extra space is there if I want to try working the cleat back further. They come with a set of red plastic spacers that install into the cleat area to take up space you aren’t using for cleat adjustment.

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The closure system is pretty cool, too. I like my shoes to be as loose as possible across the top of the foot (don’t ask… my feet are temperamental to pressure), and having loose-ish velcro straps on top of my feet becomes a tripping hazard. I wear the pull-cord on the M200s just how it is in the photos, and everything is cozy and covered. The extra side coverage is nice in that sense, because it not only gives ankle protection (obviously), but it somewhat distributes the pressure from tightening the top strap up enough to compensate for how loose I wear the bottom.


On top of the cool, unique stuff I’ve pictured here, as far as I can tell, they pedal like a cross country shoe, and indeed, they are easier to walk in than a cross country shoe due to both some built in flex (which Shimano calls the “Torbal” sole) as well as the additional rubber. The extras make them approximately 30g heavier per shoe than the Fury (I’m not a weight weenie when it comes to contact points, so I’m really just putting that in there for you weirdos who are). Icing on the shoe cake- The insoles are also not just a “here’s some foam to cover the cleat holes” afterthought like the Mavics.

The only downfall to these is how much Matt makes fun of how they look. He called them “storm trooper boots,” which is really a knock on how much he doesn’t know about Star Wars.


I’m hoping to get to Arkansas this weekend and really put them to the test.

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