Training Camp ’09- Day 2

I set out today with the intention to ride a majority of the Syllamo’s Revenge course. I started out by leaving the trailhead and heading up Green Mountain to find Blanchard Road. After taking a couple of wrong turns onto logging roads, I finally got going in the right direction. I wanted to get a feel for the race start, so I actually rode past the yellow trail intersection to the Blanchard campground, turned around, and headed back up the ~3/4 mile climb. This essentially dumps you into the most rocky, technical section of the Jack’s Branch trail. I quickly realized that the ground under the rocks was still wet, which made the rock gardens much more treacherous than usual, because they were either slippery or would shift and slide as I rode over them. The sun-sheltered spots were icy. A couple of times, I fell downhill off of the trail and was only saved by grabbing on to nearby trees.

So, in the interest of NOT falling down a mountain, I changed my plan to ride the remainder of the yellow trail and the red trail. The red trail was full of wildlife- I had a herd of wild hogs run across the trail in front of me, almost ran over a squirrel, scared up a huge gang of turkeys, then finished it all off with some random whitetail deer. The awesome part of the ride is the fact that I felt as strong at mile 30 as I did at mile 3. Looks like this base training stuff is paying off!

Some photos from a scenic spot on the yellow…

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It’s kinda weird to think that exactly a year ago, I was at the Metro training camp learning how to give Coryn Rivera a sprint leadout. Now I’m riding my MTB in preparation to hit the NUE series with guns blazing. I’m not surprised, though.

Training Camp ’09- Day 1

I’ve officially dubbed the next couple of weeks as my own personal Training Camp. The plan is to stay in Mountain View until Friday, then head home and race CX over the weekend, then drive out to North Georgia for some more riding before the SouthernX race on the 9th (and Cross-a-nooga on the 10th). Hopefully the only thing that will be similar to last year’s training camp will be that I come out of it a little tougher ;).

Yesterday, I woke up early and drove from Memphis with the sunrise.

Pit Stop!

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Once I arrived, I loaded a 57 mile gravel grinder route into my new Garmin 705 and headed out. The first 3 miles was downhill, followed by ~7 miles of climbing up hwy14 up to Blanchard Springs.

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I decended to Sylamore Creek, then found my way to Blanchard Road, which went straight up the mountain (20+% grade at some points) to intersect Green Mountain Road. From there, I headed north, planning on turning off onto another forest road a few miles away. However, once I got there, it was not quite what I expected…

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You can’t tell by the photos, but the road bed is really rocky and covered in branches/debris. I figured that it wasn’t a wise adventure to take on alone with winter-limited daylight, so I turned around and headed back down Green Mountain Rd. to hwy 5, then back up the mountain to the cabin. It ended up being 30 miles. A really tough 30 miles. I think that I’ll try that route with my MTB next time.

Today, my plan is to ride most of the Syllamo’s Revenge race course. It may be my last chance to hit the trais before the weather goes foul tomorrow and sends me back to the road.

Turbo Dog

…got a new collar today. (BTW- she’s a Belgian Malinois- not a German Shepard)

I figured I needed to give her something to show my appreciation to her loyal guard-dog service since she will be keeping me company over in Mountain View for the next few days.

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Syllamo Mini-Epic

Yesterday, I finally decided to take on the blue trail (Scrappy Mountain Loop) of the Syllamo system. Most of it, at least- I wanted to ride the Syllamo’s Revenge course route, so I started going counter-clockwise on the orange loop and turned off at the orange/blue trail intersection.

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From there, the gnarliness began- the trail headed (mostly) down, and was generally a bed of rocks ranging in size from golfball to softball. Tough, but nothing the big wheels couldn’t handle. Eventually I came to the 1st of 3 Livingston Creek crossings and 1st of 2 highway 5 crossings.

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From the Highway 5 trailhead on, the trail got technical. It started by climbing up a narrow gravel road- not bad until after a minute, when you see the trail sign telling you to turn left- I looked left and had one of the first “WTF” moments of the day when I couldn’t see a trail- just some rocks. As I would quickly learn, when you can’t tell where the trail is, it’s usually the pile of rocks. That part of the trail was pretty technical. The climbs weren’t too long, but there were a couple of spots that I didn’t even attempt to clear. Nearly two miles later, the trail dumped back out on Highway 5, then crossed Livingston Creek, was flat for a minute, then crossed the creek one last time (the 3rd crossing was the only one that was a bit hairy- the bank was kinda tall on both sides, so I ended up dropping in and taking a small detour through a shallower section).

From there, the trail went up. And up. It didn’t stop going up. For nearly 3 miles, not only did I encounter some of the steepest trail I’ve laid tires on, it was also incredibly rocky. Oh yeah- and did I mention that it just kept going up? It was nuts. It was the type of trail where you’d stall out, get off and walk through the steep rocks that just stalled you out, only to see more of the same just ahead. I’m happy to say that I cleaned some of it.

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Random steepness- the trail goes straight over that big rock at the top.

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Yeah… good luck with that…

Eventually I reached the last of the climb- a logging road that pitched up steeply and led back to the trailhead at Green Mountain Road. After the singletrack I’d just been on, a “smooth” piece of “road” ascending at what was likely double digit grades was actually a welcome sight.

Once I was back at the car, I had a snack and headed back out on the yellow trail (Jack’s Branch). The “technical” sections of it were pedestrian compared to what I’d been through in the previous hour, so the main difficulty was the fact that I was in hour 4 of my day, and my legs were feeling it. I made it around, though, for a total of 28 miles- 4hours, 10 minutes of riding, and nearly 5000ft of climbing (according to the Garmin).

I have to say that even though I’ve only been out on the trails a handful of times now, Syllamo is quickly teaching me how to ride my bike. I’m looking forward to Syllamo’s Revenge in May…

Heading back for more

Luckily for me, whatever type of flu bug I’d caught was short-lived. I was able to ride by Saturday and went out for a miserably cold & windy 4 hour ride with a few of the Marx & Bensdorf guys. Johnny Mac gets ride leader of the year props for putting together an outing that included scenes such as these:

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Today, Ryan and I slept in a bit and went for a post-lunch MTB ride around Shelby Farms. The North trail is in phenomenal shape right now! Now it’s time to pack & get the bikes ready to head back to Mountain View in the morning so I can get a few more days of mountain riding in before I come back home for family stuff happening on December 25th. Gonna take a better camera this time- maybe I can get a few trail photos with something other than my camera phone…

Gravel Killer

I realized this morning that I never posted any photos of my latest project bike. I converted my BH Carbon Cross into a winter training bike to take with me over to Mountain View.

Specs:

BH Carbon Cross Frame
SRAM Force right shifter/left brake (previous owner took the shift paddle off of the left side when he converted to single ring)
Dura-ace bar end shifter for FD
SRAM Red FD w/Speen Umlaker top-pull adaptor
Force RD
Ridley Canti Brakes
SRAM SRM crank w/38t small ring
SRAM 1070 11-28 cassette (not in the pic, but it’ll be on there soon)
Schwalbe Marathon Supreme 32c touring tires
Speedplay Zero (or Crank Bros Candy SL for CX) Pedals
Jagwire cable liner & gold cable housing
Deda Gold bartape

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Honeymoon = Over

Literally- yesterday morning, I woke up feeling achy & crappy. This quickly progressed into chills/fever/upset stomach/full-body aches. I laid around the cabin all day in a fevered stupor. We decided to make the trip home… which is on my top 5 list of “worst 3 hour period” of my life ever. The muscle aches were horrible.

This morning, I’m feeling slightly better. The upset stomach seems to be gone, so I was able to eat a little bit and take some asprin, which knocked the fever and aches down a little. Now I’m just stuck in the house. The weather is supposed to be really nice today, which sucks, but I guess I should follow the advice I gave my students all semester to keep myself quarintined until I’ve been without a fever for 24 hours. Blah.

Winter Training Mule- AKA Mountain Road Killer

I’ll be spending a large portion of my Winter Break from work in Mountain View, AR for a solo “training camp” of sorts, and I have been debating what bikes I want to take with me for the adventure. Of course, I’ll bring the MTB along for some Epic-worthy Syllamo Trails rides, but some training on the road will be integral. Problem is, a lot of the non-highway roads in the Stone County area are gravel (I’d wager that MOST of the non-highway roads in the area are gravel!)

This sounds like a job for the cyclocross bike! (Yes, I have been known to take the road bike on occasional gravel road adventures, but I am thinking long distance comfort here).

The only problem is that I really like having my SRM computer. Also, the current gearing on the CX bike is a 40t single ring and 11-26 in the back. Not quite what I want for steep (gravel) mountain roads!

Solution:

  • Move the SRM from my road bike to the cross bike
  • Install a bar-end shifter for the front derailleur (I’ve got an extra SRAM Red one that was supposed to go on the Air9, but that didn’t work out because of chainstay clearance issues)
  • Put a 38t small ring on the SRM (it’s the smallest available for the 130bcd). Yeah, I know it’s just 1 tooth smaller than what I’ve got now, but I figure that every bit helps.
  • Swap the 11-26 for an 11-28
  • Throw in some Schwalbe Marathon Supreme tires (size 700×32) for comfort on both pavement and gravel
  • Tie it all together with sealed cable housing, and you’ve got a machine ready for just about anything the Ozark Roads bring to the ride.

Keep watching…