Wednesday, December 29, 2010

White Oak Canyon (Virginia)

For our friend Catherine's birthday she decided to take us all on a day hike to White Oak Canyon. It was my first time there and it's definitely a new favorite.

James and I had just finished our drive from Christmas in Alabama when we rendezvous-ed with the caravan near Charlottesville. It had been a long 24 hours up to that point for James and I, but we were excited for the hike and pushed on through the lack of sleep.

The hike was phenomenal. Beautiful views of semi-frozen waterfalls and clear sights across the Shenandoah Mountains. The air was brisk, but far from uncomfortable with the bright sun shining on our backs.

Our group of over ten hikers split off into segments as we explored the area. We even came upon a group of ice climbers just beside the trail.

When we returned back to the parking area, Catherine's mom lit the candles on her homemade cake and we celebrated her birthday before heading homeward. When James and I reached Richmond it marked the 36-hour mark. With only a handful of hours of sleep between the two of us, we crashed at our respective homes as soon as humanly possible.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Spy Rock (Virginia)

Weekday trips are tough to pull off. For this most recent trip Jeremy, Ellis, John, Tim, and Brian headed out on Monday morning. The rest of our crew, Peter and myself, set out early Tuesday morning - 3am to be exact.

When Peter and I arrived the sky was still pitch dark. We made our way up the snowy fire road to the trailhead (which we missed by 100 yards at first), and up to the summit at Spy Rock. When we reached the top the sun was just peeking through the trees and we could see the single tent housing our five friends. They were packed tight, bracing against the bitter cold.

We decided to sneak up on them and play with them in their sleepy state-of-mind. After that we worked on re-establishing their fire from the previous night. The wind was unrelenting and their previous fire was not large enough to counteract the cold air - evidenced by the iceblock of beef stew sitting upon the dead fire.

After a few minutes we had a respectable blaze and we began thawing out the stew. Eventually our shivering buds left the tent to assemble around the fire and share stories of the previous day at camp. We finished the stew and decided to explore the rock, climbing up ice and stone to the top. Tim had "drunkenly discovered" a slide on his way down from the rock, so we played on that for a bit before packing up camp and heading back to the cars.

One stop at Boylan Heights for a delicious burger (I chose the Varsity burger) and a brew, followed by a quick jaunt back to Richmond wrapped up our daytrip.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Southern Traverse (Virginia)

Possibly one of the ONLY times we've had TOO MANY PEOPLE for the bus! For this trip we had to slip three people in an extra car in order to carry ten bikes and the six OTHER people in the bus.

This trip was definitely a mountain bike ride, but two of my friends, Elizabeth and Jeremy, came along for the ride so that they could do a road ride while we were off in the woods.

After dropping off Jeremy and Elizabeth, we headed to the trailhead for the Southern Traverse Ride. There we met a group of over twenty riders to begin our ride.

The Southern Traverse seems to be a bit more about "the climb" than the descent, which is perfect for a winter training ride. It keeps the wind speed down and body temperature up, especially during the slow-speed and extremely technical ascent.

Our ride was a certified epic, ending only minutes before nightfall. Most of us were completely spent after the ride, especially Jeremy and Elizabeth, whose ride ended HOURS before we were back in Bridgewater to pick them up - whooops!

While we were sweating it out in the mountains, Jeremy and Elizabeth explored the Natural Chimneys and did some unguided cave exploration.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Windrock (Tennessee)

Our trip to Windrock was a real eye opener. The trails there are phenomenal! Largely natural terrain with an extremely high level of risk and technicality. It's as if the trail builders tied trail between the gnarliest rock piles they could find as they scouted out the path for their trails. They're really impressive and definitely some trails that will leave riders challenged for years.

The weekend marked the end-of-season for this system of shuttle-accessed trails. There were two trucks pulling trailers filled with riders all weekend long. The trails are located on the Coal Creek OHV Park in Oliver Springs, TN. The company allows access for a small fee and offers trails for ATV's and large trucks. The mountain bike trails were available after local riders approached Coal Creek about building on their property. It's a lucky relationship that worked out for both parties.

On Saturday night we even got to watch a Mud Bog at the park.

The only bummer of the trip was my wreck on Sunday afternoon. We were lucky that it happened on literally the last run of our trip, however, since it taco-ed my front wheel and left me unable to ride anymore. Other than that mishap, the trip was great and I think everyone on the trip would be glad to revisit the park next summer.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Blue Mountain (Pennsylvania)

The final stop of the Gravity East Series was well-picked. Honestly one of the most enjoyable courses (and parks) of the summer. The weather was especially friendly too, raining the week before and stopping for two days of pure sunshine.

As a most excellent bonus to the trip, Rachel and I visited Dave Laverdure, one of my very best friends. Dave moved to Philadelphia years ago and it's a rare pleasure to spend some time with him.

After a night at Dave's, Rachel and I drove the extra hour and a half to Blue Mountain, just in time for a full day of practice. The course was fun and fast, a deceivingly steep course that left the rider at least "touching" the brakes for nearly the entire track. What I liked most about the trails at Blue Mountain was their resemblance to good XC trails, with a more natural, singletrack style. The course was littered with technical rock gardens too, but had a definite "line" through every section.

After Saturday's practice Rachel and I explored Jim Thorpe, PA. The town was alive with activity. Bands on every block and people everywhere. We also took a drive to Lehigh Gorge State Park before the sun set.

On race day the course had dried a bit more and seemed even more enjoyable. I had a great run with little error and a smile on my face the whole way - good enough for 3rd that day and 1st for the season in CAT2. It's been a long summer with a load of races (and highway hours), but it's taught me a lot about the layout of the east coast. I've decided to take a step back from racing next season and focus more on riding, visiting many of these GES stops again to explore THE REST of what each mountain has to offer.

Sunday, September 19, 2010


Oh sunny California - how I miss thee.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Whiteface 5K (Lake Placid, NY)

The seventh stop of the Gravity East Series took us to upstate New York. This time we had six people on the bus along for the trip.

The drive to Lake Placid began on Thursday night at 7:30pm and lasted 13 hours until we finally arrived at the Whiteface parking lot at 8:30am the next day. We set up camp and decided to lounge in the bus to catch up on lost sleep when we received our first surprise - no camping at the park! We got in a few hours of rest and then decided to explore the area while inquiring about possible camping locations. Luckily we found a relatively cheap spot only a minute away from Whiteface. Upon exploring the area, we discovered an amazing view just behind our campsite too.

Saturday's practice was warm and sunny. The course was extremely fun with tons of technicality in the upper sections leading to fast, rooty chutes near the bottom of the mountain. Overall, it was about a ten minute lap which left your hands begging for relief. Four runs were all that my forearms could handle.

That night we headed to the town of Lake Placid to grab some drinks at the Great Adirondack Brewing Company. We also drove around to check out Mirror Lake and Lake Placid. Back at the campsite we started a fire and shared stories before heading off to sleep.

On Sunday we packed up the campsite and headed to Whiteface for the race. Rain began as I rode the Gondola to the top, but made a departure a few minutes before my start time. The course was largely unchanged except for on fireroad section that seemed to have been raked out before the race, I went down once there as my tires lost traction on the high-speed corner and again in the rooty chutes of the lower section. Even with those two bobbles, I snuck away with 2nd place in CAT2. We quickly packed up the bus and got on the road as soon as possible, skipping the podium in order to get home before Monday morning. The drive back was almost straight through, cutting the 13 hour drive by 2 hours. All totaled, we put in over 1,300 miles in the 3-day trip.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Shenandoah 100

Every year I make myself do at least one cross-country race. My favorite race, and by far the toughest, is the Shenandoah 100.

It's a punishing race, with over 12,000 feet of climbing. Finishing was my main goal and luckily I was able to stave off the cramps and fatigue in order to finish all 100 miles in just over 12 hours. Our two other riders, Chad and Joe, smoked my time by HOURS. Joe turned in a remarkable time of 8:24, a personal best and good enough to place 43rd in over 650 riders!

The camping aspect of the 100 is always a highlight too. Everyone there is relaxed and ready to chill. The camping site features an observatory too, so we can stargaze each night. We parked RIGHT next to it.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Blacksburg, VA / Snowshoe, WV

With only a week to go before the Shenandoah 100 it's time I ditched the gravity bike and got on my XC ride. Well, sorta...

On Friday night Joey, Taylor, and I drove to David Verde's house in Blacksburg, VA. The next morning we woke to pancakes and gnar-e-o's! On the schedule for that day was shuttle runs on Brush Mountain. We took turns driving shuttle and cruising down the sweet singletrack. Taylor was on a borrowed Anthem X1 (for the first mtb trip of his life) but kept up with us just fine. We got three or four runs each and capped off the day with a trail that led straight to the VT Freeride Farm. There we spent the remainder of the day making trips down their newly built dual-slalom course.

That night we headed to our favorite camping spot near Slatyfork, West VA. Here's the view from my hammock:

The next morning we split into two groups. We met Jarrod and Joe at the summit so they joined Joey and David for lift-accessed riding at Snowshoe while Taylor and I headed out for a XC loop around the mountain. The ride was great despite missing one of the turnoffs and instead completing the loop on fireroad. My favorite trail of the day was 600 steps. It's a medium pace with lots of fun technical features to snake through. The coolest obstacles of all were the tree stumps cut six to seven inches from the ground. They've been in the trail for so long that moss has covered them, along with most of the trail, which gives the illusion that they're simply part of the ground. Another fun spot was the tree-laden mud pit we found:

We also found a cool Jeep Wagoneer built as a "troop carrier" for Snowshoe's Dining staff:

Once our loop was over, Taylor and I lumbered over to the store to replenish our bodies with some much needed carbohydrates - pizza! Soon after that Joey and David arrived back at the Jeep. We said goodbye to our Blacksburg guide, David, and headed back for home.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Dirty Bird (Boone, NC)

Finally the bus was up and running again this weekend. It was a good thing too, with ten people coming on this trip to North Carolina.

The event this time was the Dirty Bird DH Race near Boone, NC. It's the first time I've been to this event and I was thoroughly impressed with the great job all of the organizers/riders did this weekend. It was a grassroots race on a former ski resort called Hawksnest. The resort remains in business because of their zipline in summer months and tubing park in the winter. The ski lifts, however, are not in use anymore, so the organizers of the event provided shuttles for the riders all weekend long. It was obvious to see that the event was made possible by a lot of personal sacrifice and effort. The trails were cut by hand and even the trail builders are not allowed to ride the course much other than during scheduled events.

This year they cut two brand new trails for the race. One was designated for the Pro class and the other for Intro/Amateur. I signed up for Pro since I figured that course would be more fun. It was short and sweet - featuring two rock gardens, some very slippery roots, a fast section of slalom-style berms, and three mandatory jumps (two step-downs and a double). The amateur course was no joke either, but the Pro side seemed like a bit more fun.

We met Greg Wittwer's brother, James, at the event since he attends Appalachian State University and had a great time hanging out with him at our campsite. Nat and Sean (and I) knew another friend in the area, Katie (aka Squirrel), and she drove to the event to hang out and show Nat and Sean around downtown Boone.

The rain moved in on Saturday afternoon and we hid in the bus until it passed. After that we headed to Boone to eat and buy more supplies (beer & food). We returned to the resort, started a campfire, and relaxed a bit before heading to bed. The next morning we walked to course to inspect its condition and then I got in a couple practice runs before the race began. My race run went well, with no real slip ups despite the muddy conditions. The main rock garden was the favorite spot to spectate, and our group got to see some dicey runs on the slick and bumpy section.

After the race we packed up the bus and headed for a local swimming spot that Katie knew of. It was an excellent way to cap off the weekend and the drive afterwards felt effortless, especially when compared to last week's drive to Vermont.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Killington (Vermont)

For a weekend trip, Vermont is a LONG drive! 25 hours behind the wheel over the course of three days - yikes! Who cares though, it was worth it.

The course at Killington was long too - a 2.2 mile downhill run that traversed the mountain, linking wooded sections with fire road sprints. The wooded areas were extremely technical - slippery roots leading into loose rock gardens and soft, loamy soil. The pros found multiple sneak lines, often straightening two or three turns, allowing them to cut directly through the slowest portions of the track.

Even with these shortcuts, the fastest time of the day was 6:01:12, posted by Geritt Beytagh - minutes longer than any of the other five courses thus far. My run went well, good enough for 1st place in CAT2, but nearly a minute slower than the pros at 6:58:28. I was exhausted by the time I passed the finish line and amazed that the pros could shed so much time on the course. It's one of the most impressive aspects of racing, seeing the fastest riders achieve what seems to be simply impossible.

After awards we said goodbye to the friends we'd met over the weekend and buckled up for another long drive home, just under 12 hours, stopping only a handful of times during the 500-plus mile trek. There are only two more races left in the GES, the next of which will be even lengthier than Killington as we head for the endurance downhill of the Whiteface 5K.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Sherando Lake (Virginia)

With only one month left to prepare for the Shenandoah 100 it's high time we got on some cross-country bikes. The closest, and most grueling ride is the Sherando Lake loop. The last time we were here was a shuttle trip. We made three or four trips DOWN the trail, but never once had to face the dreaded switchbacks of Sherando's climb. This time we began the ride with the ascent, which is a grueling ordeal that leaves you with a wonderful feeling of accomplishment once atop the ridgeline.

The descent is great too - roughly seven miles of singletrack and rock gardens which spit you out at the upper lake at Sherando. The great part of this trip was that we rejoined the rest of our group at the lower lake and got to take a quick dip in the water once our ride was over.

During the drive back we visited a peach farm and stocked up with ripe peaches, which we've been eating for the past few days.