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…

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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…

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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.

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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

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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

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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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Outdoors, Inc. Cyclocross Race

After my exciting start to the weekend in Arkansas, I drove back to Memphis Saturday afternoon so I could race Sunday morning. As usual, the weather for the Outdoors CX race was amazing (I’m sure it’s seen some bad weather in the past, but it hasn’t at least as long as I’ve been racing it). It was upper 50s and sunny, with a little north wind.

With the UCI-level race in Louisville the same weekend, the Outdoors race has taken a hit on people coming from Nashville to Memphis. However, we still get a few TBRA points chasers as well as a lot of locals and some people from Arkansas. Two other women lined up with me at the start. In the past, the ladies have started behind all of the B race- including the “B” masters men, who are generally on the slow side. While no one has ever given me a hard time about passing, it’s still a good number of people to work through. This year, Joe Royer (Outdoors, Inc. owner/Race Director) was kind enough to slot us in behind the Cat 4/5  and Singlespeed men and ahead of the Beginner Masters men (makes sense- our race is a TBRA points race, and the masters group isn’t). He also gave us the benefit of a mass start instead of leaving time gaps.

When the race started, it was a hammerfest. Guys who know they’ve got no chance in holding their ridiculous initial pace go all out like it’s a single lap race. I hammered my way through the scrum and took to picking them off as they blew up. I ended up catching a guy who I didn’t know. He was on a slightly dated bike and wearing an orange Trek jersey (seen in both photos, below). He stuck on my wheel for a lap, then I backed off a tiny bit and stuck on his wheel a lap. With the wind out of the north, the headwind was worst in the heaviest of the grass. So, after resting on his wheel for a lap, I attacked soon after we went back through that section.

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I got away well, but could tell he was trying to fight back, so I had to keep the hammer down as best I could for the last couple of laps. It worked out, and I finished first woman and somewhere around 5th or 6th overall. If I’d wanted a better overall finish, it would have taken a much better warmup and start than what I did (my only self-criticism for the day).

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Joe has always been a big supporter of women’s racing, and, along those lines, no matter the size of the women’s field, it’s always an equal payout race. In addition to that, I won a slick Deuter hydration pack:

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(All photos stolen directly from the Outdoors, Inc. Facebook Page)

As strong as I’m feeling, I can tell I might be on a little bit of a plateau. It’s working for me right now, but my post-season break after the State Championship in December is looking like a good time to kick back and let myself get slower for a minute before I start prepping hard for next season.

 

Syllamo- Help is on the Way

As I mentioned previously, Friday was the day for a meeting between a few of us from the Syllamo Trail Cleaners group (Wes, Denny, Frank, and myself), the regional rep from IMBA (Steve Schneider), and the Natural Resources Specialist from the USFS (Jay Swafford). (Essentially, the Syllamo Trails are in such a state of overgrowth and disrepair that they’re in danger of having their IMBA “Epic” status revoked.) My original plan was to have everything packed and ready to leave super early on Friday morning and arrive in Mountain View by 10am, but I ended up going over Thursday night instead.

I took Indy with me, and he found the drive over to be pretty exhausting…

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The last 25 miles of Hwy 14 into Mountain View are nerve-wrecking at night, but my efforts were rewarded with a gorgeous river-fog sunrise

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Friday morning, I laid around drinking coffee and playing Battle Friends at Sea (a mildly entertaining iPhone version of Battleship) until it was time to go to the USFS office in town (with a quick stop at WalMart along the way). Once the meeting started, things got a little tense pretty quickly. I learned a lot, and, if you’re wondering, here’s a quick summary and take-away from the 2 hours we spent talking about funding, logging, and preservation..

-The trails were built with government funding, but at the time of their construction, no funds were earmarked for continued care.
-Jay, the USFS guy, is doing his job as best he can, as well as the jobs of one or two other people who were fired with downsizing. As a result, he’s not able to put much time in to trying to preserve the trail (though he actually does care about it, unlike the person who had his position previously)
– When an area is set up for logging, there’s a public meeting about it. No one at the USFS had ever mentioned that to any trail advocates, so there has never been anyone around at the meetings to say, “Hey, how about you NOT destroy this mile of trail in the process of logging the rest of the area?”
-Because the government will not fund any sort of paid effort to work on the trails, the group of us that’s been working on the trail are going to set up a 501c3 non-profit organization (comprised of all trail users- not just cyclists) so that we can receive grants, funds from donors, and donors can deduct 100% of their donation amount from their taxes.
-Steve is one of the most dedicated trail advocates I’ve ever met. He’s planning on going to an upcoming Mountain View Chamber of Commerce meeting and giving a presentation about trail tourism. Also, while we cleaned trail/rode on Saturday morning, his wife Margie spent the whole time Downtown talking to local business owners. All of them want to see the growth of trail tourism and understand that the trail needs help for that to happen.

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Afterward, we gathered back at the cabin and hit the trail for a quick look at the orange loop. Steve got to see firsthand the difference between the sections of trail that’d been subjected to logging versus the sections that are still untouched. We also got a look at a new “experimental” cedar glade project that the USFS is trying- they cut down a cedar grove and use a machine to grind/partially grind the logs with the intent that the cedar oils will choke out the invasive grasses. The stupid thing is, where the tree canopy is left in place, THERE ARE NO INVASIVE GRASSES.

This is what it looks like where they’ve ground up cedar groves- the trail is totally gone, and partially ground cedars are everywhere…

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It makes you feel sick to see.

Fortunately, that sort of thing gets Steve (and all of us) more riled up than depressed. That night, Margie cooked a great dinner (and fed Indy lots of vegetables), and, while watching an “epic” sky-on-fire sunset, we all came up with the beginnings of our plans to get the trails back in to “epic” shape.

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Saturday morning, we started with clearing most of the orange trail. I went up Cedar Scrappy with a Silky Katanaboy and cut probably close to 20 low-hanging and fallen branches/trees. In the meantime, Steve did the same on another part of the trail while Wes and Denny were line trimming the open, grown-over area around Old Hwy 5.

This one took about 20 minutes worth of sawing and burro-style hauling:

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Then I got a little distracted and hiked a bit to look for a cave. I didn’t find one, but the rocks were cool:

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We wrapped up the trail work and drove up to the Scrappy Mountain trailhead to ride out to one of the best overlooks of the trail system (Sylamore Creek on the yellow trail). Steve agreed that it was spots like that one that make Syllamo worthy of keeping its “Epic” designation.

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We’re all optimistic. It seems as though there are too many people who care about the trail to let it keep going the way it’s going. We just needed to reach the tipping point where all of us got together and started organizing the supporters who want to see change. IMBA has some great resources, and the community in the Mountain View area doesn’t want to see the loss of a group of tourists & others who come to the area for the trail. We’ve got a long row to hoe, but I’m uncharacteristically hopeful that there will be a big turnaround in the years to come.

 

 

Fall CX Tour- Day 2

I’d like to say that the time change on Saturday night was a relief since it allowed me to sleep an extra hour before the 5am alarm I’d set so that I could make the 2 hour drive to Cullman, AL to race at 9am. However, I instead had time change-related nightmares all night and kept waking up thinking that I was doing something wrong.

Despite that, I was up in enough time to stop for gas and a large coffee and still make it to the park before registration was officially open.

I registered for both the Women’s A Race and the Singlespeed Race. Once the bikes were ready and the numbers were pinned, I went out for a couple of preride laps. After riding around on both my A bike (Cannondale SuperX) and B bike (Scott Addict CX), I decided I’d go with the B bike for the race. The course had a metric crap-ton of 180 degree turns, and the B bike has alloy rims, and the braking power is more predictable than on the carbon rims. I also like the slow-speed handling of the B-bike a little better. Even though it’s about 2 pounds heavier (between frame and wheels), the combination of brakes and handling felt faster for that particular course.

The women’s race started just behind the two groups of Master’s Men. I’ve always hated that, because it means that I’ll be passing the tail of the master’s group within the first half of the course. Usually, they’re very courteous, and, realizing that they’re not in contention for a podium spot in their own race, will give a little space for the women’s race to come through. That wasn’t the case on Sunday, though. I caught the last place guy during a series of about 10 turns up/down/back/forth on a hill early in the course. The other women were only  a turn or two back from me, and, even though I told him repeatedly that I needed to get by because of our race, he wouldn’t budge. So, I took an opportunity to pass when he swung extra wide/slow going into a 180. I dove inside, and, as I passed him, he accelerated and ran into me shoulder to shoulder (more like ribs to shoulder… he was a big man). He ran into the course tape, also, and yelled, “next time you do that, I’m going to knock you over.” I said something back to him along the lines of, “I’m leading my race, and you’re in LAST PLACE.” Then, I dropped him and didn’t look back.

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(After my race was over, I told the guys in change at the finish line about the incident, and let them know that if he put a finger on me, I was calling the police)

I went as fast as I could without totally draining my tank for the singlespeed race immediately after the first one. All the while, spectators were yelling at the men to not let me catch them. Sure, they make a nice carrot to motivate you to keep pace, but honestly, I’m not out there to catch guys who I’m not technically racing. I’m out there to win the women’s race, and I was happy to be successful in that.

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The singlespeed race lined up soon after the women’s race. It was the first time in a long time that I raced the newly-rebuilt CrossCheck. First lap impression? Id forgotten how much toe overlap that thing has. When we were given the signal to go, I could tell in the first few turns that I was going to get out-handled big time if I didn’t pull my head outta my backside and stay off the brakes a little more. Dealing with toe overlap is a combination of ratchet-pedaling, timing, and ignoring the noise your foot makes on your tire in less severe instances.

From the gun, two guys took off ahead of me. I let them go, and entered the techy 10-turn section with them a few seconds up, and a group of guys on my wheel. Somewhere on that lap, I think a couple passed me, but I ended up reeling them back in on the second lap. With two to go (we raced 4 laps), one of the guys who’d taken off initially looked like he imploded and was going backwards. I made the move to catch him, and was probably within about 15 seconds or so, but he composed himself and pulled away on the last lap.

Side note- unfortunately, during the SS race, I heard people using the “C” word*. STOP USING THAT WORD. IT’S DEMEANING AND DISRESPECTFUL TO WOMEN WHO WORK REALLY HARD TO BE REALLY FAST.

So, I stuck a solid 3rd place singlespeed. Looking back at the lap times, I went anywhere from 30 seconds to 1 minute faster per lap during that race. It boiled down to a combination of less braking, harder hammering, and being “in” the field of competitors rather than ahead of it.

The riding over the weekend has me re-visiting my thoughts on brakes. For wide-open, fast courses (like CrossVegas or the Outdoors, Inc. race this upcoming Sunday, a good set of cantilever brakes (like the Shorty Ultimates) on carbon rims feels totally fine. However, I definitely felt faster on the narrow/tech sections when using those same brakes on alloy rims. I’m not one to avoid changing my point of view on bike technology, and, I can now see the draw to using disc brakes with carbon rims as opposed to cantilevers. I am going to try a set of TRP CX 8.4 V-Brakes. They’ll be in today, and I’ve got an interval workout tomorrow, so I’ll report back soon.

The next few days should bring a little excitement- tomorrow after I interval and go to a Structural Integration session, I’m going to pack up and drive to Mountain View. Friday morning, I’ll be meeting up with some of the other Syllamo advocates as well as with an IMBA rep and a USFS rep. We’re going to talk about what can be done to A)keep the trail more clear of overgrowth and deadfall, and B)Stop the logging of the trail area (logging both damages the tread AND takes away the shade that prevents summer overgrowth). I’m sure I’ll get in a couple of nice rides on Friday afternoon and Saturday morning as well.

 

 

*chicked

Fall CX Tour- day 1

Over the last week, the planets aligned for me to leave town for the weekend and race cyclocross on both Saturday and Sunday. Saturday was Keep Calm and Race Cross- the race for which I’d built up the World Sickest Crosscheck. Then, on Sunday, there was a race in North Alabama where I was to meet up with someone from that area to sell Ryan’s Felt Solo mountain bike.

My plans were nearly foiled when I had a random bout of tendinitis in my left Pes anserinus. It literally started hurting when I stood up from my desk and walked across the house sometime Thursday afternoon. After a day of ibuprofen and kinesiotape on Friday, I decided I’d go race anyway since it wasn’t pedaling that’d made it hurt in the first place. So, Saturday morning, I left before Sunrise to head to Nashville.

Nashville racing is fun, because there’s a generous handful of fast women out there (8 of us in the W1/2/3 race- “large” by Tennessee standards). The course was very technical with only a couple of extended “power” sections. There was also a beer tent full of hecklers and a steep/off-camber spot with more hecklers and a doughnut hole/feather boa handup.

Tons of fun from the start- I got the holeshot and started up the switchbacked hill where the beer tent was. I didn’t get in the most thorough warm-up, so I didn’t go to plaid straight from the gun. At the top of the hill, a small group of us had strung everyone else out across the course. I zoomed down the sweeping turns on the other side and over to the steep/off-camber spot. Once I was clear of it and heading up the pavement/grass to the next techy section, I looked back, and everyone was gone.

I cleared the run-up and, as I was re-mounting, heard the run-up hecklers yelling for the next woman behind me. Still a close race- I was starting to get my legs going and kept the hammer down. Soon after that spot, there was a fast downhill section and a super tricky turn. I came into it way too hot and, as I grabbed my brakes a little too hard, I caused the front one to shudder, which made me lose front tire traction and bite the dirt HARD. I think my bike came out from under me almost endo-style, because even though it was a left-hand turn, I banged my right elbow and shin and twisted my right shifter around a little. Luckily, the bike and I were serviceable enough to keep racing. I wasn’t the only one to hit the dirt there- Jess Owings, who was nice enough to let me crash at her place that night- went down hard on her left shoulder, causing her to DNF the race.

The last part of the course allowed for a clear view of who was behind you. When I looked back at that point, there wasn’t anyone close. I put it in cruise control. I tend to not take chances as much once I’m out in front. I did, however, have a run-in with a thorn bush on the next to last lap- there was a small turtle flipped over near the apex of a fast right-hand sweeper. I looked down at it and made an effort to not run it over, and by the time I looked up, I was headed into the bushes. They were, by far, some of the most vicious thorn bushes I’ve ever encountered, and I ended up with blood and plant parts stuck over the entire left side of my body as well as in my chin. Wildly distracted, I dismounted at the steep part I’d been riding easily on every lap and ran up the hill, brushing thorns out of my arms, legs, and face.

It slowed me down enough that Kat Williams started to close down the gap on me. I got my isht together and picked the pace back up before the last lap, where I ended up with a beer handup, feather boa, and somehow managed to stay almost a minute ahead of her. FTW!

After the adrenaline and ibuprofen wore off, my sore knee was still tweaked-feeling, so I decided to bail on the singlespeed race. Instead, I headed to the beer tent to heckle. The guy who later won the singlespeed race (tragically hip, in the background of the photo) convinced me to do the 2 lap open race. Going from beer:30 back to racing isn’t really my thing, but it was a good time, nonetheless.

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By that time, the cops said we should leave the park…

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I followed Jess and her husband Mike to a killer burger joint, where I called-off the beer drinking for the afternoon/evening and had a delicious house-made mint soda instead. Then we headed back to their place to chill and watch some football. Perfect finish to a great day of racing and hanging out with friends…

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The Bigger Picture

I’ve come to the realization that, outside of my 10-20 hours of training per week, communicating with/promoting sponsors/potential sponsors, and taking care of an occasionally vigorous schedule of domestic duties that include (but aren’t limited to) cooking, cleaning, and wrenching on bikes, I’ve got enough spare time that I can use it to try and make a difference somewhere important to my community.

As most of you have noticed, I’ve somewhat recently started getting in to more trail work. It’s a product of always wanting to do trail work combined with finally having someone to do it with. Nothing against the local group that typically plans/executes work days (they did a huge work day last weekend and cleared a couple of miles worth of corridor), but they’re usually working on Saturday mornings, which is when I’m usually racing or training.

To expand on that, I’ve joined the review team that’s being formed to plan the rebuilding of the abused/worn out Tour de Wolf trail in Shelby Farms park near my house. The trail was once the site of a huge, national-level mountain bike race back in the late 90’s/early 2000s. Now, it’s the trail that everyone in the city of Memphis rides/walks/runs. It’s extremely high-volume, and, in many areas, the trail is not built in a way that is resilient to either the weather and/or the volume of use. So, later this month, I’m going to the first of the meetings to make plans for restoring the trail.

Also in my plans is a similar call to action for the Syllamo trails. While they may be nearly 4 hours away from Memphis, the Syllamo trails (an IMBA-designated “epic” trail) are where I’ve effectively learned how to ride technical terrain. Unfortunately, given its remote location and the continuing encroachment of logging operations, the small, dedicated group of us who have been trying to do trail maintenance are grossly overfaced. Not only are there the usual needs of maintaining 50+ miles of trail corridor, the loggers are destroying parts of the trail by clear-cutting them, running over trail tread with heavy equipment, and leaving logging debris down the length of the trail area they clear. Even when the debris is cleared and the trail re-established, the logged-off areas become an impassable jungle in the spring/summer.

About two weeks ago, it was reported that they clear-cut part of one of my favorite sections of trail. I’ve spent hours- literally- riding that one section, because it’s incredibly difficult, but it’s totally clean-able. I was somewhat devastated. Then, I decided to stop being devastated and start trying to fight back. I talked to the others about what we could do for help and, last Sunday morning, while I was sitting in the woods waiting for the High School race to start, sent an email plea to IMBA about our need for assistance.

They were very quick to respond (one of the guys in the Trail Cleaners group had recently met/told the new regional IMBA guy about the problems of the trail), and after a lot of group emails and whatnot, a few of us are meeting with the Steve, the regional IMBA director, and Jay, the Sylamore Ranger District Natural Resources Specialist at the USFS office a week from today.

I’m not writing this post to brag and say, “HEY EVERYONE LOOK AT ALL THIS STUFF I’M DOING.” I’m writing it more to profess my commitment to acting rather than just talking. Anyone can sit around and complain or be upset and hope that someone else does something to change it. I know, because I’ve done it myself. It’s easier than action. Way easier. However, taking action yourself rather than waiting for someone else to do it is the fastest route to change.

Fall Photo Tour- Downtown and Back

This fall, since I’m not vying for a cyclocross world championship, my coach has me taking a different approach to training with long “fun” rides… the first of which was Tuesday this week. I decided to ride the 3 greenlines in town  with a stop downtown at Mud Island to take a picture or two of the Mississippi River.

It started with the Shelby Farms Greenline…

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Which was fun, because at 10am on a weekday, there’s almost no one out there.

I then cut through some sketchy neighborhoods to Overton Park, where I rode on a lot of the trails, though I have no idea which ones, because it’s a relatively small area, they all look the same, and there are next to no markings out there. They’re very suited to a cyclocross bike, though, so it was a good time. (Click HERE for an Overton Park map)

I stopped and refilled my bottles, then found my way out to the Vollentine-Evergreen Greenline…

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…also deserted at that time of day.

Once I was at the end of that, it was mostly bike lane until I reached Downtown and crossed the bridge to Mud Island, where I rolled around like a tourist and took some photos before crossing back over and riding down Main Street.

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We got trolleys and shit.

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There’s no way out of the south side of Downtown that isn’t through a ghetto. That doesn’t mean it isn’t a good ride…

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I rode back on a slightly southern route through the University of Memphis and up Shady Grove road to the Germantown Greenline. I was hungry by then, so no stopping to take photos.

It looks like there’s going to be some killer cyclocross racing this weekend in Nashville. I plan on making a road trip out of it and race the Keep Calm race on Saturday, spend the night in Nashville, then a Bamacross race on Sunday. It’ll be a nice break from the Memphis cyclocross frustrations. Also, I’ll get to race the singlespeed CX bike for the first time since I re-built it.

I am excite. Now, it’s time to get out and do some soggy intervals.

 

Crossroads Clash CX #2 and Something Much Bigger

Disclaimer- I don’t want to sound like I’m slamming on the guys who are sacrificing their Saturday morning to put on a race for the cycling community. This event was more of a culmination of my overall frustration at the general attitude of 90% of Memphis Cyclists that cyclocross is just some silly obstacle course that doesn’t really matter. There’s a USA Cycling rule book with course guidelines. There’s a USA Cycling official at the race. There are a few very experienced, very accomplished cyclocross racers in town who would be happy to help create a great cyclocross course. With the exception of the Outdoors Inc cyclocross race in a couple of weeks, none of those resources are being implemented by the people putting on any of the races in Memphis (not just the guys running this race).

Saturday’s course was frustrating because some parts of the course were just dangerous. The worst was a loose-over hard sharp gravel downhill sweeper into an amphitheater. It was badly washed out, bumpy, and edgy with deep grass hiding more piles of loose gravel and holes near the bottom. I was at a loss- there was also broken glass and other spots on course rooty enough that I would’t have been surprised to see at least one broken handlebar or cracked rim at any point during the races. Most of the guys I talked to gave me the, “you’re a pro mountain biker, why are you so worried?” line. Ya know, maybe that means I value the well-being of myself and my equipment more than others…

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Maybe I just want to see cyclocross- a sport which I love very much- taken a little more seriously.

Luckily for everyone, Matt showed up with a shovel and rake. He was able to at least knock the sharp edges off of the washouts and make one slightly less sketchy line through it. Despite my frustrations, I raced hard and got in some good training. I’ve been working hard on my pacing this season, and this time, I kept all of my lap times within 10 seconds of each other.

Moving on to something much better, and much more important…

I was considering the possibility of driving to Little Rock after the race on Saturday to race a night race and a Sunday morning race. However, I decided I wanted to stick around for something 100x more rewarding than any personal pursuit of training or racing- the Tennessee High School Cycling League mountain bike race at Herb Parson’s Lake.

A while back, Chad Terry (owner of Bike World, purveyor of Nimblewear USA, and coach of the Collierville HS MTB Team) contacted me about getting help with volunteer collecting for the upcoming race. I posted here and everywhere else on the internet and contacted Gu about getting some volunteer schwag to encourage locals to help out.

Matt and I drove out to the trail yesterday morning and worked as course marshals during the girls’ race.

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When I saw the girl leading the varsity race pass by, it made me teary-eyed.

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…as did watching many of the other racers. I can’t express how happy/warm/fuzzy it makes me to see young women racing their hearts out. It was just such a wonderful experience to help support people who are encouraging more kids to get out in the woods and compete. If you ever get a chance to even just watch a high school event in your area, I’d highly recommend it. Though, it’s even more fun if you get involved.