SouthernX is this weekend!!! It’s back again, and it’s longer and much colder. I’m leaving today so I can make stops along the way & enjoy some local trail riding. Just like last year, I’m heading back to Chattanooga on Sunday to get my *ss kicked by Kim F. at Cross-a-nooga.
Yes, this is a combo post- yesterday I rode, packed, and skeedadled out of Mountain View so I could get back home to Memphis before bedtime, and had a bunch of stuff to do once I got home, so I didn’t feel like updating.
The sunrise/blue moonset was a really nice way to start the day:
The ride was just a simple loop in the National Forest. I started out at Blanchard Springs on my MTB and headed up the mountain to Green Mountain Road. From there, I rode up a while then dropped back in to Gunnar Pool . It’s a gorgeous campground with a small lake, dam, and waterfall, but I didn’t hang around for photos because it was pretty dang cold. You’ll just have to take my word for it ;)
From there, I turned around & climbed back up to Green Mountain, tracked east, then headed south on Sandy Flat, which drops down quickly to a creek crossing then climbs again back to Green Mountain road. The entire loop was less than 30 miles and took about 2.5 hours. Each of the 3 climbs was between 500 and 600 ft of elevation gain, and I rode the rolling sections between climbs at a decent tempo, so I was happy to get back to the decent back to Blanchard.
Once I was back, I figured I’d take some photos of Sylamore Creek…
Today, Ryan and I day-tripped the Columbia #1 cyclocross race. It was cold and reletively uneventful. Kim Bishop showed up and gave me a run for my money. My legs were wondering WTF I was doing. Not only did I put in nearly 20 hours worth of riding/hiking this week (my TSB is -38 right now for all you Training Peaks geeks), I haven’t done any CX-type efforts since the Outdoors race several weeks ago. Needless to say, I wasn’t really thinking about the usual cat 3 boy-beatdown that I liked to administer earlier in the season.
Tomorrow is supposed to be even colder, so we’ll probably venture out to the WRT for a couple of hours on the mountain bikes.
Random thought of the evening: Barleywine tastes like neither barley nor wine. Discuss.
The weather has been as damp as possible without actually raining, so the trails are staying soggy. I loaded a 50ish mile route into my Garmin and headed out on the Gravel Killer.
Everything was good until I got up the longest climb on Roasting Ear Road (no idea why it’s called that!) I heard a dog barking and saw on in a pen. Luckily, my instincts told me not to let my guard down. I picked up my pace immediately before I caught sight of a large, tan pitbull charging out of the yard of the house. CRAP! I floored it and made it past the next house just fast enough for the two large, shaggy dogs to join the chase with the pit. This was the first of seven dog chases.
Here’s a map of my ride- I put a red dot on the approximate places where I encountered loose dogs.
The dogs weren’t the only unpleasent thing on the route. The gravel road south of Highway 66 was freshly graded. In theory, this sounds good, but in actuality, the grading process turns over new rocks and loosens the dirt, so it’s thick to get through and really, really rough. The eastern part of 66 heading in to Mt. View acted like a traffic funnel, too. As I was turning off into downtown Mt. View, a guy in a truck yelled at me and gave me the finger. So much for Southern hospitality! After getting out of Mountain View, the rest of the ride was pretty nice.
Like my other rides this week, I was feeling good even through the last few miles. I’m a little surprised since I haven’t been training quite as much as I wanted to during the fall. Hopefully the “slow start” will mean that I’m not feeling burnt out before the end of the season next year.
Last night, even though the radar showed solid blue for several hours, this is what I woke up to this morning…
I figured I’d take today to head out on the Bald Scrappy Loop (orange trail) and start working on the 4.5 mile section that I adopted (and hike the remaining 3 miles following that). The hardest part of adopting a section of trail is maintaining the corridor- a 3 foot perimeter around the singletrack. It involves cutting any small trees, overhanging branches, and underbrush. It was obvious that most of the trail hadn’t had such care in a while. So, I slowly made my way down the trail with a handsaw, stopping to cut something back or off every 10-50 feet. It took me 4.5 hours (giving me a total hiking time just short of 6 hours).
The inherent nature of trail clearingÃ‚ is both destructive and preservative at the same time. There’s also the beauty and solitude of the woods… it’s very zen-like.
Along the way, I took some photos of the icicles & whatnot…
My favorite part of the trail is the section along the top of Cedar Scrappy Mountain:
I dolled up Turbo’s already fabulous collar so that she’d look a little less like a deer or rhinestone-wearing coyote. She’s a wonderful trail companion- most of the time, she trots along a couple of steps behind me. I enjoy the company…
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…
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.
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.
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.
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…
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.
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.
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.
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?Ã‚ 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.
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…
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:
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…
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.
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
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