Off-Season Challenges

Since the weather was terrible over the weekend, and just yesterday I finally ventured out to ride a tiny bit while the sun was out and the temp was >40, I don’t have a bunch to post about. I’ve been running a bit, but I’ve also been going to the Urban Fitness Kickboxing gym two times a week to do a class they call “Body Focus” as well as an MMA class.

The Body Focus class is a resistance training circuit class. It’s generally broken down into a warmup, an upper body circuit, and a lower body (abs/legs) circuit. I like that it’s mostly compound exercises, and that it includes some plyometrics and explosive exercises. I knew my upper body was scrawny, but I feel like a T-rex during the first half of class.



The MMA class is intense. It started with Jujitsu last week and we’re adding in some punching and kicking this week. The harder parts of class are similar in intensity to a 3-minute bike interval, except that it’s full-contact and involves both brute strength and a lot of skill. As an added bonus, I generally leave class with about as many incidental bruises as you would expect from a moderate mountain bike crash.


I can’t help but gravitate towards things that are incredibly challenging.

My challenge now is to take my saw and hack my way down the trail near my house. The baby ice storm that came through resulted in a lot of hanging privet and a couple of downed trees.


The art of being self-supported

Every December, running shops all over Memphis sell out of tights and every other piece of warm clothing as runners freak out at the prospect of the weather possibly being cold for the December race that they signed up for back in the summer. It’s all for a great cause, though- the St. Jude Marathon and Half Marathon.

Unfortunately, this year, the weather wasn’t just “cold.” It was cold and intermittently icy. Volunteers cancelled on the promoters, police and fire officials were busy, and select parts of the course (like the finish line), as well as most of the state of Arkansas were seriously dangerous with ice. So, the race was cancelled.

Immediately, social media was alive with people who “couldn’t” race… as in, “it’s cancelled, so I can’t run my marathon/half marathon today.” Fortunately, a lot of people figured it out:

Some people ran the course anyway: “Unofficial” St. Jude Marathon

Some people rolled their own:


In the meantime, the food that had been allotted for runners was re-distributed to the homeless by a local group:


All in all, the cause was still helped, a lot of people were inspired, and others didn’t go hungry.

However, there were still a handful of people who, at the first mention of cancellation, threw their hands up and resolved themselves to not running. I’m not 100% sure what everyone’s reasons where, but I’d imagine a lot of people couldn’t work out the logistics of how to get what they needed while they were running without the planned aid stations and whatnot. I can’t imagine training hard enough to do a marathon on a given day and then not actually doing it, so, I figured, I’d list a few tips on being self-supported. These are not only for running, but for cycling as well (even more so considering a 3-5 hour bike ride will generally take you further from your starting point than a run of similar duration… half to all-day efforts, not overnight. That’s a whole ‘nother ball-o-wax). It’s all about planning…

-Carry extra: use a pack of some sort to carry larger quantities of water & food. You’ve likely trained enough to know how much you need for a given time/distance/effort, so extrapolate that out to what you should carry to go longer between refills.
– Loops to the car/house/personal aid station of choice: like my Facebook friend above, plan a route that returns you to a place where you can refill, refuel, use the restroom, etc. every now and again. The loops don’t all have to be exactly the same, but that does simplify things.
-Link “aid” spots together: this is my personal favorite for long road rides. I normally use churches (though there’s a volunteer fire dept. on one of my routes as well). They usually have a water hose outside and don’t mind if you use it for bottle refills (sometimes they might even invite you in!) Some people stop at gas stations or convenience stores. I’m not a fan of those, because, as I ride primarily solo, it means I have to both leave my bike unattended and get ogled by men who think that because I’m in spandex, I am asking to be ogled. Additionally, there’s the inconvenience of  keeping up with money,  tromping around on linoleum in cycling shoes, and the limitation of riding in areas populated enough to have convenience stores (the best riding areas are far too remote to support business other than farming). I can carry plenty of food, it’s usually just a question of refilling water.
-Make a drop: Drive to a spot and leave a jug of water (and whatever else you need). Then, drive back to your starting point. I like this one for riding at Syllamo. I’ll hide a jug of water at one of the trailheads that’s about halfway around the loop, then drive to a different trailhead to start.
– Phone a friend: Ok, so this isn’t totally “self” supported, but it IS a way that you could run (or ride) a long way without “official” support. Just plan with someone ahead of time to meet you at a certain time/place with whatever it is you need. Sometimes it’s not the food/water they’ve got that’s what you need… it’s more the friendly face and words of encouragement that keep you moving.

So, there you go. Venture out, get your base miles, run your marathon, and explore some new places.

2014 Sponsors, the first batch…

Stuff is happening, albeit slowly, on the sponsor front. I’m expanding my effort to go local/regional wherever possible (which isn’t always, but more often than not)

First, the renewals-

Gu Energy -Their support last year made a significant impact on my budget/ability to race all over the country. Not only that, but they also make some delicious (and effective) energy products as well. Two words: SALTED CARAMEL. Gawd, and the peppermint stick… it tastes like white chocolate peppermint bark.

Nimblewear Custom Apparel – Based out of Collierville, TN (a suburb of Memphis), the quality of their clothes is excellent- right up there with the top of the line stuff from any other company that makes custom stuff.

ProGold Lubricants – Atlanta, Georgia. Their stuff just works. Also… Who can argue with Bruce Dickman?

Outdoors, Inc. – Local bike shop and outdoor retailer. They’ve been there for the past couple of years, and I love representing them.

Maxxis Tire – Suwanee, GA. I’d never want to go with another manufacturer based on the Ardent alone, but turns out, their other tires are great as well. If you ride road and want a treat, check out the Cormet- freaking butter.

Industry Nine – Asheville, NC. If you’ve never ridden a hub with 120 points of engagement (that’s one “click” every 3 degrees), you’re in for a game-changing experience the first time you ratchet and heave your way through a technical section of trail.

The New Guys-

Cysco Cycles – I like supporting regional/small companies whenever I can, and, if you live in Memphis, these guys over in East Tennessee are close enough to call just that.  They’re making my road bike, and, in the near future, we’ll start hashing out the details on a hardtail mountain frame. Chris and I really click… from our dislike of certain bike parts to our teen-like giggling at the phrase “THAT’S WHAT SHE SAID.”

Urban Fitness Kickboxing – I mentioned starting some Mixed Martial Arts classes, and, John Trent, a local cyclist, owns this gym. If you’re looking to get in better condition from any level- whether it’s off the couch or off the elite MTB circuit, check out what they’ve got to offer (it’s not all fighting). Personally, I’m taking the Body Focus class (circuit-style resistance training) along with the MMA class. The prices are very reasonable compared to other gyms in the area, and class comes with a lot of one-on-one attention. I’m confident that the cross-training is going to help take my next season to another level of awesome.

Of course, all of those renewals are a result of you guys who read/follow along at home, going out and purchasing products from the companies listed here, based on the fact that I told you to do so. I’ve said it before- I don’t have any sponsors here that I wouldn’t recommend if they had nothing to do with me. All of their products/services are solid… a prerequisite to me asking anybody for sponsorship. Hopefully, I’ll have a little more to post about soon. Also, with the finalization of sponsors comes the excitement of a brand new kit design. It’s gonna be Dirty South-a-riffic!

More Thanksgiving at Syllamo

With Ryan out of town at his Brother’s house for Thanksgiving, I wanted to hang around at the cabin for the rest of the weekend. Matt drove over to join me Friday morning. To pass the time before his arrival, I said my goodbyes to the relatives and headed out for a few more hours of trailwork. I’d asked around about the section of the Blue trail on the other side of Green Mtn road from where I’d been working, and no one seemed to know if it were in good shape or not. I knew at least one part of it had the cedar groves clearcut off of it, so it was possible that the trail through what was now a grave yard of cedar mulch and partially ground up cedar logs would be non-existent, much like the section of orange trail that received the same treatment.

Thankfully, it was mostly intact and follow-able. Also thankfully, someone had cut most of that section of trail with a line trimmer of some sort (amazing, because it’s several miles long). I hiked and chopped a few greenbriar patches that’d been missed, but generally didn’t have much work to do, and ended up walking back to the truck on Green Mtn road instead of the trail.

I arrived back at the cabin when Matt was still unloading the car. We ate leftover turkey sandwiches and went out for a ride on the orange trail. Oof… If your first ride back from a week off the bike is singlespeeding up the climbs and rocks at Syllamo, it’s gonna hurt a little. We generally took it easy, though, and stopped to pay a visit to Mariah Haney off of Old Hwy 5…


My rock mojo was definitely off it’s game. Matt, who was riding rigid, felt the same way, though it didn’t stop him from doing his usual thing…

Since I’m not really “training” right now, we decided Saturday morning to go to downtown Mountain View for breakfast and Small Business Saturday shopping, then ride just after lunchtime. I bought a leather cowboy hat, and Matt did his usual thing (again)…


That afternoon, we rode a lap of the Blue Trail, because I wanted to enjoy all the chopping and cutting I’d done the days before. Just a couple of miles from the car, a black lab came bounding out of the woods and joined us. He was sleek but still dopey, and seemed to be having a great time just hanging out in the woods doing dog stuff. We were then faced with a dilemma- we’d parked at the Highway 5 trailhead, which sits (as the name suggests) right off of Hwy 5. People drive like maniacs down that stretch of road, and the dog, who I’d immediately started calling “Buddy,” was wandering around the parking lot looking like he’d dart across the road at any time. So, we decided to try and find his owners by loading him up and taking him up Green Mountain Road, where there was at least one residence in addition to a large deer camp. Buddy knew the command “load up” and thoroughly enjoyed the trip…


We first talked to John, the guy who lives almost at the bottom of Green Mountain road. It wasn’t his dog, but he graciously offered to take the dog and call around/place an ad in the paper once we’d confirmed that it didn’t belong to the deer hunters up the hill. As we were headed that way, a truckload of them was coming down the mountain, and, while they did confirm that Buddy was a “mighty fine looking dog,” it was not a dog that belonged to anyone up there. We turned back and dropped him off at John’s place, where he immediately started playing and wrestling around with John’s dog.

We’d later find out from the guys who were out riding earlier, that the dog had run with them for 16 miles, and that the owner had approached them at their camp early that evening (probably about the time we were dropping him off) asking if they’d seen him. The next day, she’d left a note at their camp that she’d found him, but didn’t say where. The dog’s name? Wait for it…..


That night, we went to Tommy’s Famous Pizza. Definitely the best restaurant in Mountain View.

Sunday morning, we were going to avoid some of the trail leafy-ness by riding a little gravel out of Blanchard Springs. However, we got distracted by an old forest road, and started riding/hike-a-biking to see where it went (see note on the log in the bottom right corner).


It took us to Highway 14, so we rode the pavement back into the park and explored some other roads/closed roads/former homesteads in the area. It ended up being a pretty laid back day, and, after a couple of hours, we returned to the cabin to do the laundry list of Gerald’s Cabin Chores before making the drive back to Memphis.


Probably one of the more laid back weekends at Syllamo I’ve ever done. Though, it was highly enjoyable to lose the seriousness for a second and check out what else is around other than just the usual trails. I’m hoping for more of the same when Ryan and I go back weekend after this one (which is, coincidentally, the weekend we were going to go to Chattanooga for the TN State Championship CX Race). This break is taking knocking the edge off of my usual stress level, which is much more fun than vying for a state championship.

Thanksgiving at Syllamo 2013

I’m trying to take a break from everything right now, including any pressure I put on myself to keep a group of about 200 of you updated on my day-to-day life. So, after my previous post, I didn’t bother posting anything else, and the computer didn’t go with me to Arkansas for our family get-together and the hanging around in the woods that followed. I hope you can all appreciate that.

As I kick off my “unstructured training” phase, my plans include kickboxing and Mixed Martial Arts. It’s something I’ve always been interested in, so why not give it a go now? Sometime in the near future, I’m gonna take a horseback riding lesson, too. I even found my old hunt cap in my parent’s attic. Though, according to my BFF Megan, those are totally out of use now (mine doesn’t fit without extra hair, anyway).


Despite my rampant full-body soreness, Wednesday morning, I packed up and left with my parents to go to the cabin in Mountain View. I didn’t take a bike- just my Silky saw and stuff to hike/clean trails (Matt would drive over Friday with the bikes and whatnot). My dad (I have a pic of my mom sleeping in the truck, too, but she’d disown me for posting it):


Once we were settled in the cabin and I made the obligatory trip to WalMart for groceries, I put the turkey in to brine (my mom also got an early start on the gravy) and took my dad’s truck (a Chevy Avalanche) to the mountain to get started on the section of the Blue trail that climbs from Livingston Creek up Scrappy Mountain. Having a 4wd truck with heavy duty suspension allows you to park much closer to where you want to work than the Element. I saved myself about half an hour of walking (15 minutes each way) by venturing down a logging road to get to the trail:


I worked on about a mile of trail for the next 2 hours. The recent logging in the area had left a lot of trees that eventually fell over the trail, along with the expected thorny overgrowth. At the time, they’d also re-routed the trail away from the part that was logged, but then didn’t fix it once they were done, so if you were heading up the mountain, it was easy to miss the original trail to the left and take the much less interesting/fun reroute (if you were going down, it wasn’t a problem, because you never ran into an obvious trail marker pointing you in the wrong direction). I cut lots of deadfall to that spot, then cleaned the turn/flipped the trail marker to get you going the correct way at the turn that’d been logged



…if you notice in that photo, the arrow on the trail marker now points left. It was pointing right, and the turn to the original trail to the left was brushy and hard to see. So I flipped the arrow, blocked the logging re-route, and made the original trail easy to follow.

That evening, my aunt (on the right), uncle, and grandmother (middle) arrived, and we went out to eat catfish.


Thanksgiving morning, I went back to the same spot and gave a similar treatment to the next section of trail from the turn to the Stairway. At the stairway, I cleaned out a bunch of leaves that were settling/composting in every nook & cranny. It was difficult without a rake, but allows everyone to see just how cool the Stairway is when it’s not covered up in leaves.


Once I was done with that section, it was time to go back and eat turkey, then come back and finish the section from Livingston Creek to the stairway. That part was mostly chopping greenbriers and bamboo. Sucky fact of the day- the section of blue trail between the two Livingston Creek crossings is marked for logging. They’ve already driven a heavy truck a few times through the crossing closest to the highway and rutted the creek bed out.

As soon as I got back to the cabin, I ate the desert I’d skipped earlier (blackberry crumble). Manual labor makes everything taste better. We wrapped up the evening dozing off to the Egg Bowl on TV.


I got a good night’s sleep so I could do it again (then ride) the next day when Matt arrived. I’ll save that for the next post. ‘Til then, here’s the theme song of the week:



Cedarglades CX and beyond

Last I posted (at least, the last serious post), I mentioned that I thought I was suffering from a little burnout. Turns out, I was right. It only took a cold, windy, mud slog of a cyclocross race to make me admit it.

Ryan and I planned to race both the cyclocross race on Saturday afternoon, then the cross country race Sunday morning. The weather looked like it was going to be terrible- wet and cold on Saturday, then frigid overnight, with temps dropping into the mid twenties. However, the forecast was the same for Memphis, and, with my being somewhat bored with training, I figured that racing in bad weather beat the hell out of staying home and training in it.

Saturday morning, we Poolboy Matt and Ryan crammed 7 bikes into and onto the Element (4 CX bikes and 3 MTBs… I didn’t know if I’d want to race SS or FS), then piled luggage into the remaining room in the back, and we headed off to Hot Springs. It was intermittently misty with temps in the low 40s, and I fought Element-tossing gusts of cross wind for most of the trip across Arkansas.

We were at Cearglades Park pretty early, so I ate a sandwich and hid inside the car until it was time to get moving. Ryan went out and checked the course, which was a wide, vast expanse of lots of heavy-grass power sections punctuated with technical, off-camber turns- it had all the elements of a great CX course, including one set of fast barriers, a steep, off-camber, slightly intimidating downhill, as well as a steep, slightly loose run-up with a log at the top. With all the rain the past 24 hours, it was also totally saturated. I’d normally thrive in that sort of thing, so I wasn’t too worried about it. I kitted up and went out to pre-ride, and, like Ryan had reported, it was tough. The ground was like pudding under a mat of grass. Luckily, I was in the first race of the day, so we had the benefit of being on course before the grass was totally churned into the underlying mud.

I didn’t warm up very well, so when the race started, I didn’t exactly go for the holeshot. Only one other woman was racing (Heather Ladd) and she wasn’t gunning for it, either. I ramped up to my usual hammer pace within the first couple of minutes and started working my way away from her and through the field of cat 4 and Master’s guys as they bogged down and blew up in the mud. In the first couple of laps, I was as far up as 2nd place overall with first in sight, but I was not enjoying any of it. I wanted to stop the entire time, and, literally, the only thing that kept me from DNFing was the thought of a decent payout check at the end.

Photos stolen directly from the Arkansas Outside folks:



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Side note- as tiny as the women’s fields are in Arkansas, their CX series as a whole has done a great job of making the races equal payout for top 3 women’s places. I really appreciate them sticking with it, and, though it’s slow going, it’s a great, respectful step towards encouraging more women to race cyclocross.

I was having a bad time. On cold, wet, muddy, hard courses, it’s impossible to fake it. Time to bail on the remainder of the 2013 season so I’ll be ready to train my ass off for 2014. I know it’s time because I’m totally OK with NOT competing in the state championship CX race in order to take said break.

After I changed and unthawed my toes, I swapped the Limus/Reynolds wheels onto Ryan’s bike and found some hot chocolate to mix my whiskey into before going to the pit to watch/heckle Ryan during the open race.




With our cross-country plans dashed by my implosion, we met some Memphis friends at a Hot Springs local brewery for dinner and drinks. Hot Springs is weird and beautiful, in a brewery-in-a-bathhouse sort of way.



What’s next? Lots of doing activities that aren’t cycling for a hot minute. What am I doing? That’ll be my next blog entry. I guarantee it’ll be more interesting than the XC Skiing photos that all the Colorado pros are posting right now.

I got beef, too.

I’m low on blog material right now, so I thought I’d piggyback off of what Dicky posted this morning. (you should definitely read that first)

I’ve got problems with downhill racing.

Let me start by saying, I really like downhill racing. I mean, once I did a Super D on a ski hill, and I did pretty OK at the TransSylvania Enduro race-within-a-race. If I didn’t live in Memphis, I’d totally try a REAL downhill race. I wouldn’t get too serious about it, though, because who wants to ride a bike ONLY going downhill? I like to pedal uphill at least a few times on all of my bike rides. Only riding down the hill is kinda a waste of my time.

Unfortunately, downhill has a history of being a super “bro” sport. It attracts a bunch of off-season snowboarder bros along with guys who are more interested in monster energy drinks and scoring with snowbunnies. Because it’s a totally different attitude than what I’m comfortable with, it’s evolved the sport into something that isn’t attractive to a toned cross-country/endurance racer like myself. Come on- smoking a bowl on the lift before your run is a natural part of the sport. Ugh.

This is what I’d rather see:
Hard core XC and Endurance racers don’t need lift service. That’s for people who don’t train. Get on your downhill bike and pedal up that hill. Also, lose all those pads. That stuff is heavy, and it’ll make you overheat when you’re climbing.

But what about how hard those bikes are to pedal? I mean, they bob up and down and have all that travel, and ski hills are really big. I don’t want to break every bone in my body when I crash, either, so I NEED those pads.

So? Man up, BRO.

If this sport had been started by the type of bike racer I like, it would be soooo much better because it would have evolved with equipment and people that could handle pedaling their big hit bike up a hill. In fact, the bikes would have been better built for that purpose in the first place. They’d have less travel and steeper headtube angles so they would be better going up and down. They would have never been overbuilt and kitted out with giant rotors and other silly stuff that just slows you down. They’d be a lot like those “enduro” bikes that are flooding the market right now.

Look, if you made the courses more like a cross country course and less like a downhill course, then a full on downhill bike wouldn’t be necessary, and you could ride a “normal” bike that doesn’t bob around so much when you pedal. Take out those huge drops and all that man-made stuff. What’s the point of that stuff, anyway? With less of that, you won’t need as much body armor, either.

Sure, I’ve never REALLY done a downhill race except for once in Arkansas, but it’s because of that whole “bro” mentality that’s caused the sport to be something I don’t really have an interest in but feel like complaining about anyway. Those guys should take a hint from me and start training harder so they can do something other than coast down some berms wearing all that stupid gear.

Riding downhill in a competitive manner is super fun, but if I’m going to do it, it needs to be totally different.


If you’re totally confused right now, go back & read the first link like I told you. If you’re pissed off, then relax. It’s just a joke.

Fall Cleaning

I’m not sure if I’m trying to distract myself from an impending feeling of overwhelming burnout or if I’m just “nesting” for the winter, but lately, I’ve been scrubbing the house down, one room at a time. It started with the bedroom- I uncluttered every corner, picked up no fewer than 100 safety pins off of the floor and any other horizontal surface in the room (any of you who race road and/or CX know what I’m taking about), dusted all of the furniture with Pledge, picked out a bundle of t-shirts for the grease rag bin, and bagged up (for Goodwill) all of the sweaters and work clothes that I’d accumulated during my few years teaching at U of M.

I can’t tell you how much I despise sweaters. I hate them more than I hate low-tpi tires and the section of I-55 between Memphis and Jackson. They make me feel instantly round and dumpy, no matter how well they fit. My shoulders get claustrophobic in anything that isn’t 4-way stretch, too.  It felt good shove them all in a bag, and it felt even better to have the extra hangers for my skinsuits and long sleeve cycling jerseys (I’ve taken to a policy of not buying any more clothes hangers. If there aren’t enough, it’s time to get rid of some stuff.)

I digress.

My cleaning moved on to the half bathroom, which I refer to as the “cat room,” because it’s where the litterbox lives and the cats eat. It gets a daily sprinkling of litter and cat food crumbs, so I scrubbed the floor, baseboards, cabinets, toilet, and counter tops. A few days later (prompted by Marley the Terrier head-butting a full cup of coffee off of my computer desk), I gave the same treatment to the computer room. I realized in cleaning the wood floors that they’re in desperate need for some sort of extra care above and beyond cleaning, so I’m going to look at Whole Foods today for a floor polish that isn’t toxic to small animals. Because let’s face it…


Yeah, Indy scarfed down a half of a baby bok choy. He’s just f*cking adorable.

Once I find a suitable polish, I’m moving on to the kitchen and living room.

The impending feeling of doom/burnout is a real possibility. I haven’t taken a real off-season break in I don’t know how long. It may have been as long ago as the time following 2012 CX Worlds. I’m not sure. I’ve had a few “couple of weeks easy” times, but no times when it’s just been, “GTFO and do something other than ride your bike.”  I’ve basically done it to myself by getting nutso and telling my coach something along the lines of, “I’M SO FIT NOW, I DON’T WANT TO STOP AND LOSE IT!!!” So now I find myself dreaming of the end of my CX season in ~3 weeks when I go to Chattanooga for the State Championship race. Post-season activities will include at least 1 horseback riding lesson, finding a cave, and fishing. I don’t even know if the fish bite in the winter, but I’ll probably go fishing anyway.

For now, I’m just doing what I need to to stay where I am. My fitness is actually pretty boss right now. As long as I maintain it between now and then, I’ll be satisfied with however I finish at the State Championship race, and I’ll promptly run off into the Ozarks once I’m home and re-packed. ‘Til then…



Fall Non-Adventure Riding

Last I posted, I was about to tackle Fall Adventure Ride #3. However, Thursday morning rolled around, and I wasn’t feeling it. So, I took the dogs for a long walk at the dog park instead.


Walking the three of them at the same time isn’t too bad- Indy likes to gallop next to Marley the whole time. Or, at least until he gets tired and has to trot. So, the most difficult part of the leash circus is actually timing the walk so that we’re near the car when Old Man Indy starts to lag behind. I made some phone video of “excited Indy gallop” versus “tired Indy trot” and uploaded it to Instagram.

They’re all nice and tired once we’re home


I did go out for a long-ish ride on Saturday and did Stank & Back light to meet up with videographer Ryan Goble to do some more shooting for a project he’s working on. The whole ride was pretty low-key except for the “haul ass one more time” parts of the shooting process.

Sunday it poured rain for a while, so Matt and I rode to a nearby city park and scouted out some cyclocross ideas. We also played on the playground.

In more exciting news, the titanium tubes and small parts for my road bike have arrived to Cysco Cycles. It looks like I should be rocking the “TWSS”-stiff beast by sometime in early December. The big one is the downtube… rowr



We’ll talk about it a little bit tonight on Just Riding Along. Which, by the way, is moving from 8pm central time to 7:30. Also, here are two more photos that just don’t fit in, but are worth posting anyway…

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Fall Adventure Ride #2

Yeah, so this happened last week, but I’ve had enough other stuff to post about (along with doing a bunch of traveling & whatnot Thursday-Sunday) that I never had a chance to write about it.

Right now, as I am working to maintain my CX fitness for the State Championship race in about a month (notice I said “maintain” and not “build”), my coach is trying to keep training fun so that I’m less burnt out by the time the race is over and I take a real, extended break. So, I’ve got the following ride description on my Training Peaks calendar: “Go have fun and ride crazy fun shit.. single track/dirt road/pavement/grass/jeep road mostly in Z2,” some of the days include the pre-ride instruction, “It is ok to start hungover today.”

In theory, sounds like a good time. However, this is Memphis. There’s not an obvious 5 hours worth of gravel and adventure right out the front door. What we do have is a large dose of ghetto, a lot of nearby private farmland, and one State Park (Shelby Forest) on the west side of the county. Deer season just opened, also, and large portions of that park are WMA where hunting is allowed on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays. My first ride to Mud Island was nice, but, at 3.5 hours, it was easy to plan. I was stressing on where I was going to go for 5 hours, and I started to curse the City of Memphis. Unlike all of my friends in far off places Out West (or even closer places like Central and NW Arkansas), I wanted to blame my city for my inability to plan 5 hours of adventure ride.

This is going to sound crazy at first, but I reminded myself of something Justin Timberlake (who grew up in Millington, a suburb on the north side of the city) say in an interview a few months ago, and it’s something that I channel every time I start to feel like my location is a holdup to my progress towards cycling greatness:

On Memphis, Timberlake said, “I grew up in a small town, and I definitely felt like I was an individual, always.” He continued, “But the way that you’re brought up in small-ville Mid-South, USA, you’re taught more about how you’re similar to your neighbor.”

“There’s a lot of pride, but there’s also – but don’t take this the wrong way, Memphis – but there’s also a little bit of a defeatist attitude like you feel like you’re not good enough for the big lights, per se.” He added, “The world is becoming more connected, now.”

That interview was on TV in Memphis news at one of the times when I was lusting over how “easy” it’d be to pursue a pro cycling career if I lived someplace “nice.” We don’t have the landscape, the huge community of riders, the Big Name Races and riders… it’s easy to say, “If I didn’t live in Memphis, I’d make it.” When I’m feeling down about it, I play that interview back in my head.

Your city isn’t a excuse, so shut up and make it work.

I devised a creative way to get to the south Shelby Forest WMA (being Tuesday, it wasn’t open to hunting) utilizing Google Maps “Bicycling” function. Turns out, a lot of the bike lanes that have recently been marked in the city go through rough areas. I figured I’d feel them out, and, if it seemed like too much risk, I’d turn around and stick to a more familiar route. I also saw that, in one of said areas, there was a path marked as the Cypress Creek Greenline (I’d later find it to be defunct, grown over, and covered in old tires/trash). I set out with a rough plan and ended up having a good time (as seen on Strava), despite not having the luxury of an expansive wilderness…

Riding through Overton Park:

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Cypress Creek/Frayser:

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Shelby Forest south-end WMA:



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