Monday, September 22, 2014

Prologue - Pisgah Stage

Adventure Awaits


There is always something appealing to me about a road trip. I think a lot of people also share in the same need for setting out on some type of adventure.So it begins as my latest adventure unfolds with the start of my 4th Pisgah Stage Race.

I've been completely consumed (obsessed even) with getting my gear and bikes ready for this event. Some of the tasks are routine maintenance that I've put off too long, and others are just part of prepping for a race. Re-tensioning wheels, truing rims, fixing those nagging cable problems, replacing wheels bearings I found were bad, and … well the list goes on.

There are also some nonstandard items such as testing and setting up one of my race bikes as a Franken bike. 650b in the rear, and I grafted a 29er front end on for Pisgah. It actually works pretty darn well, much better than the whole 26er with a 650b front wheel escapade I tried for a couple of years. Oh yeah, that's 27.5 in street terms...God bless Pacenti!

There were other experiments as well, such as inverting my front shifter to the right side so I can have my precious dropper post switch on the left. Other things were ghetto rigged as well. No integrated down tube protector on my Turner... Pisgah's got some big ass loose rocks, and I felt it would be pure neglect if I did not develop some solution. I fabricated one out of some vinyl floor baseboard material using a cardboard pattern of the down-tube shape I prototyped.

I spent some hours organizing my ramshackle assortment of bike tools into a respectable mechanics kit and also organized the cleaning tub and spare parts bin for two bikes and five days of stage acing. Like most bike racers, I'm my own mechanic, medic, and coach.

What about 5 days of race kit, spare shoes, spare gloves, did I pack those extra cleats? What about spare tires, do I have enough tubes, was my saddle this high last race? Crap that cable is frayed… oh these pedals need grease… now I’m trimming the steer tube that I’ve been putting off… Uh oh, that rear tires got a sketchy looking sidewall scuff…does that brake need bleeding, Arrggggghhhhh!!!!!!!!

Countless hour prepping and stressing so I can get it to all go smoothly, at least that's the plan. We'll see.

So finally, Fri night before I leave, the car is all packed, and I'm finally ready! I'm so relieved to have the last week and a half of prepping done.

I watch Ace Ventura Pet Detective, drink beer, laugh my ass off, and sleep soundly knowing the adventure starts in 6 hours...

Ramble On

5:00 am and it's time to get up, eat breakfast, feed the bottomless beasts I call cats, and bug out! The light from the sunrise bathes Richmond and I watch the skyline of my hometown fade in the rear view mirror.

The road trip is special because it's a transition to the non-normal, the new and uncertain adventure. Even though events are well planned, you never know what will happen. It’s different every time, both in the good and the not so awesome. World class stage racing like the PMBSR is cool because, you will make new friends, from all over the USA and the World. You will also find unexpected challenges and often transcendence.

Early into the drive, the old playlist I dug up has me going sentimental. I burned this one in 2011 when I was travelling back and forth to Huntington WV while my wife was teaching at Marshall University.

I learned that year of travelling 6 hours one way, back and forth from Richmond to Huntington every other weekend, what this saying really means: "You don't really know where you’re from, till you leave it all behind." You see, there was a very real possibility I would have been moving there and leaving RVA and everything I know behind. Those long drives in the middle of the night made me realize how much I love my home town, how much I love my wife, how much the everyday means... and how easy it is to get bogged down in the familiar grind we all get accustomed too and forget how good we have it.

I seek adventure to escape the mundane and be in transition. Transition creates an instability that's exciting, dangerous, and a valuable counterpoint. Transition helps highlight the good in the cyclical every day and provides an opportunity we all have to transition and explore our world.

Mo Bikes, Mo Problems
After arriving in Brevard and getting my campsite established, I head over to Dupont to spin the legs out and identify any bike set up issues. The 1st loop I make of burnt mountain left me feeling a little insecure of my set up. I try different settings, realize it's probably me to some extent, try both of my bike out, and ultimately discover my head game was a big part of it.

Having two different bikes to ride can be very handy, but it can also mess with you if they are not identical. Riding downhill fast in Pisgah will often have you riding close to the intersection of control and not control. That’s when subtle differences in how different bikes handle really become noticeable.

It’s the People you meet on the Way

While getting my whips dialed at Dupont, I passed a group of guys a few times on the climbs and the descents. We traded places, and I zoomed by a couple of guys as they let me by or were waiting for one of their riding buddies to catch up. I was focused on how my bike was riding and did slow down to chat. Sorry guys, I was on my own little mission.

As I cleaned up at the car, the three riders rolled up and were parked right next to me. We said hi to each other, and then chatted a bit about the ride. They were a cool bunch of guys from Grenville SC. They offered me a beer and we exchanged bike stories and descriptions of riding in our home towns.

I was really glad to have stopped focusing so much on my own ride and have the chance to relax. That’s the thing about riding mountains bikes. You are almost always guaranteed to meet some really cool and friendly people in just about any corner of the world where there is mountain biking.

Local Flavor

The next day I spent some time pre-riding / hiking a trail that turns into a huge ravine. I figured out a line for the last 1/3 or the section, but determined first 2/3 are basically not to be ridden, at least not by me. Later I found out this part of the course had been changed and would not be included. Oh well, I was satisfied that I figured out the line I did anyway.

Afterwards I traveled over to Asheville for the best Shrimp and Grits to be had in the south at Sunny Point Café. Mmmmmm….so good.

Next up was a stop at the local bike shops. Sycamore Cycles always has the gear I need. Then I went over to The Hub and caught up with some folks I’ve met before down here over a nice cold beer.

Home away from Home

I checked into the house we have rented out for the week and got settled in. The décor is an "eclectic mix… leaving no culture unmolested" (thanks for the awesome quote Brad!).  

It’s also a great place to stage from for the race.

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