Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Shenandoah Mountain 100

My motivation to ride on Sunday was oscillating somewhere on the scale of nil to "meh." As the last big race of the season (my "season" anyway), and having watched said season once again go by with yet more lackluster training (speaking of nil), and hence lackluster performance, I was in a "why bother" kind of place.

Of course, you bother, because the SM100 is an amazing, epic race that you'd be a fool to miss. (Which is why I'll undoubtedly be back next year. Even if Dickoid won't.)
But as I felt some pressure to put in at least some semblance of an effort, and as I knew that this effort would hurt... A lot... I was having a hard time finding my mojo.

I was still stoked about the weekend itself, though. Always a party.
Once again, La Dorita was going to accompany me, as she can't seem to get enough of volunteering to cook.
(I'm not kidding.... have you met that girl? She be a cookin fool.)

And a paper gradin fool.
(Incidentally, NC does it's best to ensure that none of its educators be paper stackin' fools...  That's a privilege reserved for the Govenor.
BTW....Fuck that guy.)

Three quarters of this event is the atmosphere. Stokesville Campground is an amazing venue, and now that Shenandoah Mountain Touring is at the helm of the place year round, it's about to get even more kick ass.
That, getting to see all of the awesome (and not so awesome) people, and the unbeatable support and layout make this one for the books.


Lil' Dorrit and I drove up Friday, naturally getting out of town later than intended. The goal (my goal) was to hit the breweries outside of Afton for some dinner and beer.... then find somewhere to camp.
I'd done something similar heading up to the 101. After eating a good, if not pedestrian, meal and sampling a bunch of beers at the Blue Mountain Brewery, (and having my dumbass bro-brah waiter tell me that I couldn't park the AdventureWagen behind the place), I went a little ways down the road, parked at a church and passed out.

Interlude:
I haven't mentioned the AdventureWagen yet. I was going to devote a whole post to it, but honestly... when am I going to do that? Might as well slip it in now.

In May of 2012, I flew down to Birmingham, AL to pick this beast up. My brother, being a Vanagon fanatic, alerted me to it, and I decided what the hell... let's do this. The seller, Andrew, picked me up at the airport. He was probably about 30, with long blond hair, ripped arms, a deep outdoorsy tan, and an easy drawl.   Posterboy for a life of outdoor adventure, pleasure and the pursuit (and attainment) of your girlfriend. He lived in nearby Montevallo, and after heading back there and going over the van and the details of the sale, we shook hands and I drove off.
"Oh.... dude. You probably want to get a new mattress for her. Lots of sex in that thing. Lots of sex, bro."
I did as he suggested.
After a burrito and a beer at a cool little book-shop/cafe, I headed toward Atlanta and me mum's house to break up the trip.
Success. The following morning, I cranked her up and everything was good. I stopped at a bike shop to check it out, headed down the road, and as I began to climb a small hill..... well, you know the rest.
I managed to pull off onto the shoulder, and called both Andrew and my brother to discuss my predicament.
After 60 shit-curdling minutes crawling around underneath, I finally got towed to a place outside of Commerce, GA that luckily enough, specialized in VWs.
"Uh...." I said to the tow-truck driver, as his rig bucked and made crazy grinding noises, "Is your truck alright?"
"Ahhh... she's fine. Been actin a little funny lately. Piece of shit."
As we approached the address, the driver nodded in the direction of a junkyard, "Here's the place."
I looked around. "Umm... are you sure? There's no way this is the....."
Then I saw all of the VW buses parked in various states of disrepair.
"....place..."
As I spoke with the owner, Steve, and we did some diagnostic checks, I saw my tow-truck being towed away. Bad omen?
All I'm going to say about any of my dealings with this shop is that it started fine, and they were more than helpful, trying what they could on the spot, and when that failed and more work was obviously necessary, getting me a ride up to Greenville where Brilabama kindly picked me up. Once the repair work really began, things kind of deteriorated. Let's just leave it at that. A little more time stuck on the side of the road, and some money spent for repairs that were never actually done... and I opted out.
Luckily for me, I was recommended to an individual name Paul Pearce who operates out of Fort Mill, SC and who specializes in Vanagons and who has been nothing short of incredible. I can't recommend him enough.
So, after more than a year, a full engine conversion, (Ford Zetec motor via a company called Bostig), and some kick-ass upgrades, I have a bomb-proof camper van....Bus....



While the hard-top says "Westfalia" on it, technically this is not a Westfalia conversion. Mine is an AdventureWagen, a conversion done by a man named Ed Anderson out of California. Sadly, Ed recently passed away. As my brother put it, "not only do you have a kick ass ride... you now own a piece of history."
It is a unique machine for sure, and I'm beyond stoked about it.



Back to "the story"

So.... after some pretty decent beers and food at The Devil's Backbone Brewery, it was now time to find a place to park the van and go to sleep.
I realize that I might be a little anomalous. As I've mentioned before, I don't really sweat certain aspects of travel too much. I've surfed enough couches and tent-crashed in enough fields (and yards) to feel relatively comfortable with certain lodgings. While Dorothy would have no problem walking around NYC at midnight, the idea of sleeping in the unlit parking lot of a rural church had her on edge. (ok...Full disclosure: she was flipping  the fuck out. (And that was before I even told her about the adjacent graveyard.))
So... we slept in glorious AC that night at a Holiday Inn Express. I'm not complaining.
After some breakfast at the Little Grill in Harrisonburg, we headed on to Stokesville to stake out some level ground.
From the outside looking in, I was pretty into Harrisonburg. In the very brief time I spent there, I saw more cyclists in an hour that I do weekly in the 'Boro, ate at a rad breakfast joint that by rights should have existed here 10 years ago (but still doesn't), passed by a huge farmers market that kicked G'boro's ass, and saw beautiful fully-sleeved women out running (what?! That's a big deal.)
After finding a spot and splashing around in the swimming hole under the bridge, I pulled on my new DJ Clever kit and went out for a shakedown ride, meeting up with Pete, Ernesto and Dwayne. Pete and I have jockeyed back and forth at Cohutta for the past two years, and I spent most of the 101 (fruitlessly) chasing Ernesto.

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D-wayne and Pete... also known as "Sir Dude."



Ernesto. It's all about the beard.

After another dip in the river, and greeting the incoming Greensboro folks, I headed up to eat and Dar headed up to her cooking post.
Stephen and Simon

Sauer-puss

I was maybe 3 in to my own stash when they finally tapped some kegs. Then I don't remember.
The Wilcox

It was good to see David Wilcox again. One of the nicest dudes I've ever met. He'd stayed with me a couple of winters ago for one of the NCCX races. I'd just been given P90X and this was literally my first week. As we tried to do the YogaX dvd, we kept exchanging incredulous looks as we both shook like leafs and fell over repeatedly. WTF?! Why is this so hard?!

Don't make me assume my ultimate form.

I did learn that Thom Pahsons actually does make a living doing Dirtwire. Glad to hear it.

No brownies left? No worries. Garth brought some.

I admit that we turned in pretty early that night, managing to avoid the petri-dish known as FlaBongo. I was wiped out.

The next morning, after making some decent coffee and eating half a bagel (mistake number 542) I lined up in the 8 hour slot along with Pete.
And we were off.

How'd I feel? Not great.
After the 101, I'd gotten wicked sick and had to go on antibiotics to clear up some kind of lung-infection. I was also told by the doctor that I had chronic-asthmatic-bronchitis. Huh? I mean....I was an asthmatic kid, but I'd always blamed that on my chain-smoking children-of-the -50's parents. For the first time in 10 years, I had to get an albuterol inhaler. Wonder if I should have used it.
I felt decent at the start and tried to take it somewhat easy on the first climb. The problem was that every pace I tried felt hard. So finally I just looked at my heart-rate monitor and tried to peg a random number for a while.
I was wearing the HR monitor for two reasons. One... as a watch to track my time. That way I'd actually know if I was anywhere close to hitting a certain time and I could ride accordingly (it only works if you start it on time... which I didn't) and two... as a gauge for my effort. At various times I would look down and realize that I was dragging ass in an "easy" zone and bump it up. At a point, none of that mattered, as my body just wouldn't respond and my heartrate kept getting lower and lower on each climb.
That means something, I'm pretty sure, and I don't think it's good.

Ding Ding.
Hiking my bike up a steep but rideable section of trail, I turned to see who was harassing me.
Ah.
Dicky.
Smiling.
"I thought you were way up there" I said.
He said something back, which I didn't hear over my labored mouthbreathing.... I called him a few affectionate names, all of them beginning with an Eff....and then he was gone... chicken walking (or rabbit walking, as I called it) away from me up the rest of the hill and disappearing on the descent. If there were a perfect place to pass me, that's it, as neither of those things are my strong suit.
(My strong suit, as it happens, is coming unhinged, mentally and physically. Reckon I should own that shit.)


The weather didn't quite turn out to be quite as nice as anticipated. And while it wasn't as bad as last year, after a mid-day rain, roots turned slick and the meadows turned sticky. I lost my nerve on one techy downhill and crept down. And I walked more than one section of uphill simply because I was too tired to fight the slop.

Between aid stations 4 and 5 is a section of gravel road called the "death climb." Honestly, the death climb is pretty weak. The meadows following the death climb, however, suck balls. If I could feel good even once during this section, then it would be a very different race. As it is, I always fall apart somewhere up the second rise. Catching up to a rider in front, we approached a switchback that I knew had to be the end of the climbing. It wasn't.
"Fuck!!!" the rider shouted, echoing exactly what I was thinking.

And next thing I knew, I was approaching the campground. My timer said 8:53. Holy shit, I might break 9 hours!
As a rolled through the finish, I saw 9:21.
Oh.
Damn.
Yeah... I guess that's what happens when you don't hit start on the timer until 20 minutes into the race.

photo cred: Thom Parsons


Thom Parsons was waiting at the finish. Damn... he must have smoked me. He was all clean and everything. Turns out he took a ride back to camp along with Ramponi.
What follows is my first Dirtwire TV interview evah. And you can see why.



I ate some food, got harassed by Dan Rapp for my kit ("When are you going to lose the pink, man?"), cleaned up in the river, got an awesome massage.... then joined Dicky on the Watts Deep Podium. (That's 10 deep by the way.)

photo cred: Thom Parsons

I stayed as long as I could, but as Darfy had to be back in the Boro early the next morning, we took off before FlaBongo came out.

At which point I realized that Rich has a physique identical to Maximus Thor.
Or to Milo Dixon, Age 8.
photo cred: Thom Parsons


Praise be to Cthulhu.

photo cred: Thom Parsons






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