Saturday, June 29

Laurel Lake

Recently I had the opportunity to mountain bike at Laurel Lake.  More specifically I rode the Sheltowee Trace south from KY 192 to the south end of Holly Bay Campground and closed the loop on paved 1193.  I rode 8 miles total, and more than half was on really nice singletrack.

The trail was in really good condition despite recent rains further north.  It was obvious it had rained the night before, but I have no idea how much recent precip they'd gotten in that area.  I took a big chance dragging my MTB all that way.  But what the heck, I was in the neighborhood!



I would classify the trail as generally easy.  For the most part it contours a few dozen feet above the lake pool.  From 192 there is a decent loss of elevation.  It's not terribly technical, but could be a moderate climb back out.  A few of the coves/hollers involved a short descent followed by a short climb.  

There was very little in the way of surprises.  At the end of my ride I encountered a faux rock garden.  What I mean is that I rode over a single rock obstacle (bumpity-bump) pedaled a few dozen strokes and then over another obstacle (bumpity-bump) and so forth.  There were some straightforward bridges, a few flat rock stream crossings, and two log obstacles with obvious detours.  It's apparent that this section of trail gets some mountain biker love.

As typical, as I started down the trail I was beset with trials and tribulations.  I put my contact lenses in after reaching the trailhead, but they wouldn't focus.  While riding the first section along 192 I couldn't see anything but a green and brown blur.  Therefore I didn't see the bug that was flying straight toward my gullet.  My coughing fit combined with near blindness should have caused a catastrophic crash, but I guess my recent experience with sensory deprived mountain biking has broadened my skillz base.

Just before crossing the paved road (Cox?) I managed to get my eyes aligned and the bug washed down where my body could begin converting it to pedaling energy.  That's when the fun really began.


By the time I reached the campground and felt the need to slow in case a kid, or dog, or kid with dog, or drunken fisherman/camper were to dart in front of me.  There were some blind curves along the campground. And by then I felt like I'd been going for a long time.  There was internal pressure to turn back toward the car.  No, I didn't bother to check the time, I just felt it was time.  When I returned to the car I discovered I'd not been out as long as I'd thought.  It seemed like more than an hour, but it was just shy.

It was a good ride.  It's too bad it's so far from my house, or alternately, that I live so far away.  I want to get back down there and explore more of the Sheltowee Trace and other MTBing opportunities in the more southerly portions of the state.

Friday, June 28

There Is No New Black

The other day I saw a post on the Book of Face for “Kentucky’s Ride to the Summit,” a road bike ride in October to the summit of the state high point: Black Mountain.  It’s only $30 to register, but I also know I can just go ride Black Mountain on my own.

Ride...Black Mountain.

Of course, Dear Readers, you know what this means.  That’s right: scheme.

I, now, do not only want to ride my bike to the highest point of my home state, but I want to ride my bike to the highest point of my home state FROM MY HOME!  

Incorporating a couple of other ride opportunities I’d like to do in the future and abiding by my “always travel a new road when possible” philosophy on life means 300 miles round trip.  The shortest possible out and back route would be about 245 miles.  I think it’s worth the extra 55 miles to pick up a traverse mouth-to-source of the Redbird River and a crossing of Pine Mountain via the Little Shepherd Trail.  The return trip home would be shorter than the trip down to the top of the state though.  

While I think this would be a fantastic Leadville training opportunity (Miles! Miles! Miles!) I won’t have the vacation time until well after Leadville to take an extra two days to combine with a weekend and have the appropriate amount of time.  

When I did my Guanella Pass tour in 2011 my family was in Kentucky (ironically) and I was alone in Colorado.  I had the time; I had the opportunity.  How could I pass up that chance?  And it was a phenomenal trip.  In three days I rode 106 miles and gained a gazillion feet and managed to travel from my house to the summit of a 13er utilizing human power alone.

So Kentucky’s Black Mountain is no 13er…I get that.  But it’s the fact that I’m shooting for the highest point I can get to—a bona fide mountain—that’s relevant.  At some point in my life I’d also like to ride a few other summits in the east.  Spruce Knob, Mount Mitchell, Mount Washington, and a few other lesser summits, plus a few summits that could be ridden near and hiked to their pinnacles…are all on my life list.


Thursday, June 27

I Got Nuthin'

...except to update that Mike Hall is within a day (at his current pace) of finishing the 2013 Tour Divide and setting a new record.

Oh, and I'm missing Colorado today...

A lot...

Wednesday, June 26

The Leadville Saga: Roadie-O Training

With The One down with mechanical issues I can’t train off-road.  Thank the Maker!  I’m resigned to plying the Dogrunner against asphalt.  It’ll have to do for now.  
That’s okay, because I haven’t been riding many stout hills of late, and I knew that was a factor even before Saturday’s ordeal.  I’ve mistaken daydreaming about rides for actually getting out and training, and my pretend athleticism is catching up with me.  Can’t let this frightening trend continue!
The upside to this is that I can get more miles in, and more big climbs, on the road bike than I seem to be able to manage on the mountain bike.  This doesn’t scare me like you might think it would.  There just isn’t enough technical climbing on the course at Leadville for me to worry about it.  St. Kevin’s is straightforward.  Sugarloaf Pass is straightforward.  The bulk of Columbine Mine is straightforward, and the steep loose stuff at the top isn’t rideable for mere mortals like me anyway.  Same goes for the worst of Powerline inbound.  
I just need to be able to maintain the effort for the time needed to get over the obstacles.  Leadville is less a mountain biking problem and more just a stick-to-it-ness problem.  You could look at it as a long moderate mountain bike ride between hard hikes.  I can hike with the best of them.  That’s one thing I’m pretty darn good at.  I can eat up the miles on foot like nobody else.  I can do it all day.  I’ve never DNFed a hike because I was too tired.  And, true to form, I am more apt to bite off more than I can chew than not, even on a hike.
Like I’ve been saying: core, cardio, and general conditioning. Those are key for me at this point. And I realize I need to keep my bike legs.  I can’t let that focus fall off, but I also don’t need to refine my singletrack skillz any more at this point.  I’m as good as I need to be for the task at hand…in 40 some odd days.
Yesterday morning I rolled the sporty sport bike out to the road in the predawn air.  It was wonderfully free of capsaicin.  I tapped my Strava app on, eased a leg over the top tube in my just-woke-up stupor and pushed off into the light fog.  I had the Laser and the Landing Beacon going for safety, a Styrofoam bowl on my head for the appearance of safety, and it didn’t take long before I was up to cruising speed.
I didn’t slow at the bottom of my road as I turned onto the main road.  I could see far off into the lessening darkness and in the morning silence I was certain I had the road to myself for the time being.  By the time I slammed into Clay City I’d only been passed by a couple of cars.
I turned onto Pompeii Road toward the place where I lived as a kid.  I kept my speed over 20mph, and managed a new PR on the short, steep climb to the fork in the road.  I sped on, a whisper in the dawn, over Beech Fork and onto Maple Street.  On the west end Maple is hardly a street, but more of an empty, straight country road.  Across the river bottoms I flew, taking in the non-toxic, non-fiery morning air and the growing glow of the sunrise off to my left.
I shot past Red River Ranch and into the neighborhood where my maternal grandparents lived until I was a teenager.  Past sleeping houses I enjoyed an empty road, the road of my apocalyptic fantasies, no cars, nothing but me and my bike.  Then I rode on to Halls Lane past the high school where I steeped my angst and tempered my anti-socialism before turning back onto the main road again where I picked up another PR and maintained my KOM.  Yes, I’m a Strava dork even before the sun comes up.
When I reached my driveway I had only been gone 32 minutes and had covered 10 miles.  I had fully intended to be gone an hour and have to rush to get ready for work, but I’d ridden much faster than I’d expected.  Maybe next time I’ll choose a longer route.  Maybe the time after that I’ll ride even faster.

Tuesday, June 25

The Long Dark Tea Time of My Afternoon

I started out productive.  Well, no, I didn’t actually.  I tried to start out productive.  After lunch.  Maybe.

I took an early lunch because I was up at 5am to ride my bike.  It wasn’t even 11:00am when I attacked my food.  By noon I felt like I had entered an eternal hell of cubicle-dom.  I tapped away at my keyboard…composing blog posts.  Every so often I would chuck in a line or two toward progress on the document I was supposed to be working on.

Snatch up smarty phone.  No new texts.


Check email.  Then second email account.  Then the Book of Face.  Then my blog to see if anyone else had commented or there were any new posts in my blog feed.


And then for five minutes I was productive.

Then I got a text.  Whoo-hoo!  Human interaction!  Text back, wait for response, respond to response.  Check email.  Then second email account.  Then the Book of Face.  Then my blog…

Tappity…tappity…tap.  Tap.

Compulsive unscheduled scan of the Book of Face.  Oh!  Haven’t checked the Tour Divide leaderboard today!  Mike Hall is in New Mexico!  WOW!!!  A cycling video, some photos, a run on twitter, and a little wistful daydreaming later and I’m back to work.


Ooh!  New text!

Forensics are back from the bear spray incident last night.  The boy ain’t talking.  He’s going to be a hard nut to crack.

What was I doing?  Oh, I gotta pee anyway.

Now I’m back.  Tappity?  What am I tappitying? Oh yeah!

Tappity, tap, tap. Tappity, tap, tap.  Tappity.  Tappity.

“Tappity” is a funny word.  Try saying it to yourself out of context.  Don’t you just want to smack yourself?

Book of Face, emailemail, blog, twitter, TD leaderboard: all are still there, holding their places in cyberspace.

Snatch up smarty phone.  Nuthin’!

Tappity.  [Look around…no one’s around] BookofFacetwitteremailemailblogleaderboardbackto tappity tap tap.  Tappity tap tap.  Tappity.

Whew!  Hope no one checks my internet usage for today!

Tappity.  Tap-pity.  Tap pity.  Pity tap.  Pity party.  Tappity pity party.


Book of Face…NO! No Book of Face until work is DONE!!!

I know! I’ll compose a completely meaningless blog post about how boring my afternoon is!  Maybe I should find some bear spray to play with…

Tap-p-ity.  Ta-pp-ity.  T-appity.  Tapp-ity.  Tapp-it-y.



Man, I’m hungry.  If I had money on me I’d go to Chipotle.  Chi-pot-lay.  Chip Otley.  Chih-poh-tul.

No new texts.  Mike Hall.  Tappity.  Book of Face.  Chipotle.  

Back to work…

The Leadville Saga: Burning Lungs; Or, What to Do When Your Nephew Sprays Bear Spray in the House

Did I give away the punch line?  Please note: I love my nephew, and think the world of him, but I’m going to say mean things about him now. 

Last night my nephewbecause he was boredpilfered through my camping gear, found the bear spray, and then sprayed it in the confines of the Bike Cave (read: my basement workshop).  Then he and my youngest heathen came upstairs and pretended like nothing had happened.  (On a semi-related note: my niece, sister of our Mighty Bear Slayer, posted her phone number on facebook last night with the message: “Someone text me…bord”)

And they'd have gotten away with it, except the geothermal unit picked up a whole bunch of particulate capsaicin and distributed it evenly through the house. Well, maybe not so evenly.

Now, the rule at our house is "if it ain't yours, don't touch it!"  My kids don't follow that rule.  I don't know why I'd expect that someone else's kid would follow that rule either.  Generally my niece and nephew are good kids and don’t look to make trouble, it just seems to follow them around like a bad smell. Or a cloud of flaming hot bear spray.  
And that’s the thing…when my throat started tingling like I’d gotten just two nettle barbs stuck on my tonsils I didn’t smell anything.  But I knew something was wrong.  When Bean and Mr. Boredy McBored-Pants started coughing almost simultaneously in harmony with my own hacking I suspected it was something environmental.  I didn’t realize it was also something developmentalKids being kids I expected nothing less, and once the story came out I was not surprised.  In my nephew’s defense…sometimes he can act like an idiot.  But then again, don’t we all?  
As my own discomfort increased I began looking for the environmental stressor.  I didn’t realize that he and his accomplice were in the room with me as I wandered around the kitchen looking for some kind of…leak?  We don’t have gas, or any kind of gaseous canisters.  The worst things we have in the house are some different types of paint and solvents.  But those typically have a smell if they leak.  Oh, and we have bear deterrent.
I got a glass of water, as did the two little habaneros sitting at the kitchen table.  The three of us kept coughing and I grew more and more convinced that there was something rotten in Demark and possibly something toxic in our house.  It was still subtle, and when I went out on the porch and came back in to see if there was a difference in internal and external air quality I really couldn’t tell.  There was a not-so-subtle clue when Ty said (while drinking water): “Man, my lips are burning!”  But when I went into the basement I knew something was terribly wrong.  I stormed back upstairs and as I was bent over wretching uncontrollably in the kitchen I groaned: “Turn off the air, and open all the windows!”
I managed to drag myself through the house flinging open windows as Mandy opened doors and windows in the living room.  I was certain then we needed to get everyone out of the house and was turning to tell my wife just that very thing when the littlest one said: “Ty sprayed the bear spray.”
It was an instant emotional relief, if not a physical one, to know there wasn’t some deadly toxin killing all of us.  It would have been an even bigger emotional release to have fed Ty to a bear.  He came running in blubbering: “I didn’t know what it was; I thought it was like the dog spray; I didn’t know it would do that; I…”
“You know better!” I told him firmly, and stormed out of the room with a much better understanding of what we needed to do.  It only took a few seconds for me to calm down and begin chuckling at the whole situation.  But I was still mad.  Both kids had been given the “don’t ever touch the bear spray, it could kill you” spiel that all parents and uncles give the kids of the house.  Right?  But no, really, I’ve given all the kids that spiel.  I’ve even given my kids a demonstration of how it works with the accidental benefit of a practical demonstration of how uncomfortable it can be to spray yourself with the stuff.  Yeah, I can attest to the fact that even with the wind at your back you can get enough capsaicin in your respiratory system to cause more than mild discomfort.  
Ty came in apologizing, crying (from fear, shame, or burning hot pepper I’m not sure), and begging for me to take him home.
Haha… No way! You sit right down there and enjoy the fruits of your labor!” I told him.  There was no way he was getting out of that house that easily. I gave him the lecture.  I may have exaggerated when I told him he could have killed Lily, but it does say right on the can not to use it on humans or small animals.  Beanie qualifies as both.
I knew I hadn’t left the can out where the kids could just randomly pick it up.  I keep it buried in the camping gear, both to deter just this sort of thing, and so that in case it ever leaked it might be absorbed before getting into our air supply.  I didn’t realize it would have an agent of transport with opposable thumbs.  
I went downstairs to try and visit the scene of the crime, but when I got into the workshop I was overwhelmed by a cloud of capsaicin.  I say cloud…it might have been only a spritz of napalm.  I’m not sure how I managed to get back up the stairs without vomiting up my lungs.
I remember seeing photos of my dad's army basic training where they took all the recruits into a building, gassed them, made them take off their mask, and then took lots of photos of them as they streamed from the building in exquisite agony.  I think I now have a slight taste of what that must be like. 
Finally (after only a few minutes) we decided it was best if we got the kids out of the house.  Mandy called her mom and then took them over so they could sleep there.  While she was gone I put a fan in the kitchen window near the most offensive basement vent hoping to force as much of the fiery material into the undeserving night air as possible.
Thankfully our old bedroom vents are closed off and the air in there was clear.  This morning I went down into the Bike Cave and there wasn’t a hint of fire in the air.  It must have all finally settled.  There really can’t be much in the air.  If he’d sprayed a good solid shot of the stuff I think it would have:  a) cleared out the house instantly, and b) put both kids in the hospital, and c) required the services of a professional to scrub the HVAC.
As it is, I’m not sure we’re done with this little episode.  Mandy asked if we should scrub down the basement and I told her I think it’s all going to settle and we’ll just have little eye-burning surprises from time to time as we routinely stir up dust or swipe sweat from our eyes.  It’s probably not worth the effort of giving the house a good sterilization, but we need to remember what happened when, in six months, someone starts screaming because they feel like they have fire ants in their eyes. I’m being dramatic, but I don’t really have any idea how long capsaicin remains active when in the open air.
The good thing is that our resident asthmatic wasn’t affected at all, and by morning the house seemed to be more habitable than at 10 o’clock last night. The latest update is that Lily won’t go near the basement, Ty won’t talk to anyone, and Boone and Mandy are just ducky.
Here’s the kicker: my luck is that I'll get sprayed by my own bear spray multiple times in my life and then mauled to death by a bear someday with no spray in reach; or, at best, the can will be empty.
It's possible that I can use this as an advantage in my training for the lung burning that will occur on August 10th.  I'll get back to you on that...
If only I knew...I'd have left him in that hole.

Monday, June 24

Not a Movie Review: Epic

Remember last Friday I posted this:
"Tomorrow I'm going to drag the Mozhican on a 55 mile Bataan Death Bike through the nastiest terrain you could ever imagine and I’m gonna come out scratched up, depleted of minerals, tired, hallucinating, and wearing the biggest grin you’ve ever seen.”
Yeah, I made good on that promise.  Yesterday, when I'd recovered enough to assess the damage, I discovered that my bike had a flat, a broken spoke, the brake pads have ground down to metal, the chain is stretched, and my body was pretty wrecked too.

Jeff was up shaving off all his gray hair until 3am on Friday night.  I got the following text at 12:39am Saturday morning:
You may have to ride up to the house and wake me up. I won't be in bed til 2am. You'll have to do all the pulling tomorrow. I just turned 40 and I'm an old man now.
A dawn patrol our ride was not.  More like a late morning patrol.  When I met Jeff near Furnace he said he might only ride until noon.  Since it was nearly 9 that didn't leave much time to cover the miles I had planned.
"Okay, let's go," I said and we pushed off toward the wilds of Estill and Lee Counties.  Wait, we were already in the wilds of Powell County at least.
We traversed Furnace-Pilot Road.  We dropped down into Billey Fork where we spent a good amount of time skirting tank traps and wet limestone.  At one point Jeff walked what looked like a fairly easy section of a hill.  I was perplexed.  Had I found the Mozhican's limits?  Nah!

It's a Jeff thing, you wouldn't understand...neither do I
We dropped down into Little Sinking and got onto the first blacktop we'd seen in quite a while and settled into a good steady pace.  We were actually on the Sheltowee Trace then.  A short gravel uphill is followed by a dirt descent (with some climbing) down to the mouth of Little Sinking on Big Sinking Creek.
We stopped at the Big Sinking crossing to cool off.  Then we began the gnarly climb out of Big Sinking up New Virginia Road.
"This is my birthday present to you," I told Jeff as we began grinding out of the valley.
What's significant about that particular area is that it's where I first went as an intentional mountain biker back in '05 or '06.  I started near the mouth of Bald Rock Fork to the east and biked downstream along the north side of Big Sinking to the mouth of Little Sinking where I would do a short climb up New Virginia (or climb all the way to the ridgetop and cut down into Town Branch before returning to the loop) and head back east on the good oil road on the south side of the Big Sinking gorge to my starting point.  I enjoyed the loop so much back then that I dragged Dave L out there once.
Anyway, the long grind up New Virginia Road was beastly.  It was hot.  The road was steep and relentless with only meager rests.  It was half a mile of 20% average grade.  We were almost 20 miles into a pretty burly route.  I made it to the top running through all my mental cheerleading routines:
Put your nose down on that handle bar and dig deep!
Why didn't you finish this one dad?
You're better than you think you are...
Two words-- BELT BUCKLE
You can do more than you think you can...
I had a migraine...
You got this!
Throw your leg back over that bike and dig deep!
I can't go on...
Nice legs!
Some of those guys are doing 100 miles.  That's crazy!
I commit!  I won't quit!
C'mon Chainring!
That was Jeff, pedaling away further up the hill.  Up the hill.  Up to Bear Track.  At Bear Track there's a country store.  Country store in Lee County, Kentucky means...Ale-8!
"I can do it!  There's an Ale-8 at the top of this hill!"
On I pedaled.  And then we were on top of the ridge. We rode out to 52 like sick puppies and turned left where the Sheltowee goes right.  Soon... I thought as I glanced right.
At the country store I discovered the new proprietor is semi-family.  We chatted too long as Jeff and I killed our Ale-8s.  We refilled our water from her sink and struck back out into the heat of the afternoon.
"At least there won't be any more big mudholes..." I offered.
Back at New Virginia Jeff asked if we were going to just take 52 down to Fitchburg and then return via Cobhill. 
Jeff never wusses out.  That's my function in our little mountain biking alliance.  I assumed he was offering me the out.
"Or we could ride back through Fixer," I countered.  I knew I had written an awful big check.  I knew my account was going to come up short.  Charge me the $30 bucks and let’s get on with it.
With a wry Mozhican grin Jeff agreed and we were off into the wild green yonder again.
We dropped down into Town Branch, and as promised (veiled in irony) there were mudholes.  That descent still went rocket fast.  Then we were back on Big Sinking and plowing along pretty good until Bald Rock Fork.  That's where I started to slow.  We were climbing upstream.  The hard little hill just past Coalbank made me cry.  Jeff lost me on the short descent.  The steady—but easy—climb up Fixer-Leeco Road battered me down into a bloody mess of meat like the copperhead we saw ground up in the gravel along that section.  Jeff was riding wheelies in the gravel.  
I walked Fixer-Leeco Hill.  It’s 2/3 the elevation gain of New Virginia at the same distance.  8% average…
Bite off too much Chainring?  
It's not worth it if I don't.  
I had fallen back into the same old trap: I stopped eating when the suffering started.  The suffering just got deeper.  On top of the ridge, and back on the black top (Back in black…hit the sack), we picked up the pace a little.  I was trying to decide how I’d get home.  Bail down South Fork and ride flats for quite a ways or take my chances with my wick burning down by heading back over Furnace?  Furnace doesn’t scare me most days.  But at the tail end of an epic mudwaller like Jeff and I had been on it’s endless rollers make me woozy just thinking about them.  And to get to Furnace we’d have to traverse paved Pilot Road all the way to Rogers Chapel.  Like Furnace; all rollers…but bigger.  Shorter wavelengths with bigger troughs.  
And sitting at the head of South Fork Jeff got his revenge.
“Pilot Road’s not that bad.  If you go out South Fork you have to pedal all the flats.  On Pilot there’s only a couple hills.”
I’m familiar with Pilot Road.  I still bought into Jeff’s little white lie.
Maybe because—despite my wussedness—we were having a good conversation, or maybe because I’m a glutton for punishment, or maybe just because I’m sick of the wussedness…I chose Pilot Road toward Furnace.  I knew.  Oh, I knew I wouldn’t ride one pedal stroke past Jeff’s house, but I was determined not to give up by taking the path of least resistance.
Somewhere on the far side of Pilot Road on some infinitesimally small hill, as I was crawling up in my granny gear, and Jeff was almost out of earshot I called:
“You know what you’re doing Jeff? You know?”
He didn’t answer.
“You’re training me to hate Pilot Road!”
I caught a glimpse of a wicked grin cast over his shoulder.
A few minutes later Jeff called out: “This is the last climb.”
You’re lying Jeff, and I know it.  But I knew he was right.  He lingered a bit near the top as I crested at geologic speeds.
“That’s all I got,” I said with finality.
“That’s all you need,” he said and gravity yanked him away and I didn’t see him again until I had pushed my bike up to his picnic table.  I was done.  51 miles over 8 hours.  Ridiculous.  As promisedscratched up, depleted of minerals, tired, hallucinating, and wearing the biggest grin you’ve ever seen.
Why yes, I am down two pounds of raw wussedness
My lovely wife came to my rescue.  In the meantime Jeff’s lovely wife made me a rice and bean burrito and then kept handing me food.  It was all I could do to keep from cramping and spilling the contents all over their kitchen floor. I was cramping in weird places, like, under my armpit.  Casey gave me an emergency banana to chase the burrito.  That helped.  And my wife showed up with a thermos of cold chocolate milk.  Angels!
Man, what an awesome ride!