Archive for July, 2013

morning mountain beauty

Posted in ride reports, Uncategorized with tags , on July 31, 2013 by 41flyersracing - o'kelley

With all of the “hustle and bustle” that comes with everyday life, especially during the work week, sometimes I forget how pretty our neck of the woods can be.  This picture was taken around 6am this morning while on a ride through Stonegate Farms.  If I didn’t know better, I might have thought I was somewhere in Cashiers NC or the foothills of Tennessee.



latest Double Oak Life magazine article – Skyway Epic and Bamacross

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on July 29, 2013 by 41flyersracing - o'kelley

The August issue just arrived a few days ago in the mail.  Though it got somewhat edited for use, below is what I submitted for those that don’t receive the magazine.

I recently participated in the second annual Skyway Epic mountain bike race in Sylacauga (ride report here), along with around 70 other riders, many from the Shelby County area.  After crashing hard multiple times, getting lost twice (nobody’s fault but my own it turns out), and spending over six hours on my bike I knew I had to find out more about the creation of this race from organizer himself.  Brent Marshall has been organizing Cyclocross races for several years, and last year he established the inaugural Skyway Epic mountain bike race.

#1: Brent, can you briefly explain what exactly the Skyway Epic is, and how you came up with the idea to organize such a race?

The Skyway Epic is a 60-mile mountain bike race, run on a mix of singletrack, 4-wheeler trails, forest service roads, and unimproved jeep trails.  Climbing a total of 6,000 vertical feet, the race starts and ends at the boat launch area of Lake Howard in Sylacauga.

I came up with the idea for the Skyway Epic through my own experience racing similar events around the southeast.  I knew we needed one in Alabama, but the trick was finding an area with the proper terrain and facilities.  We have a lot of purpose-built mountain bike trails being developed and maintained in Alabama, but there is something about the feel of being in the backcountry that is hard to replace.   Luckily I was able to hook up with members of the Cyclists of Greater Sylacauga, or COGS, who have a wealth of knowledge on all the trails and roads in the area.

#2: Are there any plans to continue to alter the route or to add additional mileage for future versions of the Skyway Epic?  And how big would you like to see this race grow in the next five years in terms of racer attendance?

Right now the plan is to alter the route each year to showcase the vast network of trails in the forest, while keeping the mileage below 75.  I would like to cap out at 150 riders within 5 years.

#3: You also organize a race series in the Fall and Winter called Bamacross.  For the uninitiated, can you briefly explain what Cyclocross racing is?

Cyclocross is a short circuit race that typically traverses a mixture of dirt, pavement, grass, and mud, with most courses being around a mile long with lots of tight twists and turns.  There are also “barriers”, which force the racers to dismount quickly, run over the barriers, and then remount to resume riding.  Each course is unique and the racers don’t know exactly what to expect. The short course allows plenty of viewing/cheering/heckling opportunities for the spectators and this element makes up at least 75% of what makes cyclocross so special.  A cyclocross bike can be thought of as modified road bike with knobby tires, though races can easily be run on mountain bikes as well.

The races take place from late September through January, typically at public parks, and are formed into a series in and around the Birmingham metro area.  Racer attendance averages around 100 participants, many of whom live and/or work in the Shelby County and Dunnavant Valley areas.

More information can be found regarding Bamacross and the Skyway Epic at or by joining the Bamacross facebook group.

Brian Parker during the Skyway Epic

Brian Parker during the Skyway Epic

beach ride

Posted in ride reports, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , on July 25, 2013 by 41flyersracing - o'kelley

Recently I spent 11 nights down at Seacrest Beach in Florida on back-to-back extended family vacations (my family and my wife’s family).  While there I was able to get in three rides: one to Panama City Beach and back, one casual ride primarily along the bike paths (with my CX tires installed for durability), and one rain/lightning-shortened road ride to PCB.  I also was able to squeeze in my first two runs after a four-month hiatus….definitely need to run more as my running endurance has shriveled.

Below are some pics from my first ride, which was early in the morning.  Ride was only around 24 miles, but due to the crazy high humidity and the relentless heat I consumed two full water bottles.

While riding across the Philips Inlet from Inlet Beach towards Carillon Beach.

While riding across the Philips Inlet from Inlet Beach towards Carillon Beach.

View from bridge across inlet towards condos.

View from bridge across inlet towards condos.

On the west end of the "strip" in PCB.

On the west end of the “strip” in PCB.


On the “strip”.

More strip.

More strip.

The Palazzo
The Palazzo

The Palazzo condo tower - one of my former projects.

The Palazzo condo tower – one of my former projects.

Looking towards the northeast on my return trip over Philips Inlet.

Looking towards the northeast on my return trip over Philips Inlet.




Chief Ladiga Trail ride

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , on July 5, 2013 by 41flyersracing - o'kelley

Not far from Birmingham exists the state’s longest rails-to-trails project.  A former railroad that has been paved over, the Chief Ladiga Trail stretches from Weaver AL to the state line of Georgia, where it becomes the Silver Comet Trail (which runs to suburban Atlanta).

My wife and I have been talking about taking the kids to the ‘Diga lately, but since our previous two times on it were hit and miss I wanted to give it a test ride first.  The first time we rode it, I think it was before we had kids and we parked at the Weaver trailhead and rode maybe 12 or 13 miles before turning around.  The second time we rode it, we had Joss in tow in my pull-behind trailer and we parked in Piedmont.  That trip, the pavement ended after maybe 7 or 8 miles so we ended up turning around rather than haul Joss over the bumpy gravel for too long.  So, having driven way on up to Piedmont and then only getting in short ride, my impressions weren’t that great.  Still though, I kept hearing people talk about how good their experiences were on Ladiga so for the past few years I’ve been looking for an excuse to get back up there.  Plus, I knew that the entire 33 miles in Alabama have been fully paved, making it doable on a road bike.

I got up early on Saturday and loaded my car with some gels and my kit.  After a little more than an hour of driving I was at the parking lot in Weaver….with a bladder that was about to explode.  So, I hustled to the cinder block restroom bldg and made a beeline for the stall.  By that time, my back end was also about to explode and before I knew it I was hovering over the toilet (I’m a germophode when it comes to toilets at public parks) with stuff coming out of my hose pipe and my tail pipe.  But at least I was able to get fully emptied before hitting the trail.

After about a mile of riding I realized I had forgotten to grab the gels that I brought.  I thought of turning around, but with a 66-mile ride on the agenda I decided not to spend any time backtracking.  I really should have turned around though, as it would come back to haunt me.  I also had forgotten to grab the small change from my car console, and instead only had a $20 bill that I got from an ATM that morning.

The Chief Ladiga Trail consists primarly of doubletrack-width asphalt pavement (maybe 6 to 8 feet wide) that runs between tree canopies for miles after miles.  Very pretty, but also rather monotonous at times.  It runs through the outskirts of Jacksonville AL, including part of the Jacksonville State University.  It also goes through the very small town of Piedmont, where I had hoped to find something to eat and some Gatorade on my return leg.

I kept going through Jacksonville, and stopped to refill one of my water bottles at a trailside visitor’s center in the vicinity of downtown Piedmont.  A large group of cyclists was hanging out here, but it turns out that they were riding the opposite direction.  So, I set out again on my own towards Georgia.  After a few miles I reached the farthest point that Leslie and I had ridden, so I didn’t know what to expect after that.  The last 15 or so miles takes you over several small rivers/creeks and through an open valley near the base of Dugger Mountain, which I believe is Alabama’s second tallest mountain.  Eventually it becomes the Silver Comet Trail as it crosses the Georgia state line, complete with an archway over the trail.

I stopped at the state line, satisfied with having ridden 33 miles so far and feeling good.  However, I was already extremely hungry and went ahead and ate the only Honey Stinger Waffle that I had brought.  This, along with a small pack of Gu Chomps, was the only food I had.  My only other source of calories came from two weakly mixed water bottles with Osmo mix.  So, I was going way into the hole in terms of calories.  I sat there for a few minutes talking to a 30 year old female cyclist and her father from Georgia.  They had apparently parked in a town called Rockmart GA and had ridden to the state line so that they too could do an out-and-back.

After chatting for a few minutes I bid them farewell and headed back towards Piedmont in search of some real food.  Those miles just never seemed to end coming back….the problem with an out-and-back route, especially without someone to talk to, is that unless the scenery is out-of-this-world amazing or the trail is challenging enough to keep your mind occupied, it just gets overwhelmingly boring.  But eventually I made it to semi-civilization (Piedmont) and began riding around downtown in search of something to eat….only to find NOTHING.  I’m sure somewhere exists, but I didn’t see it.  I found some trailside vending machines, but they certainly didn’t take $20 bills nor any credit cards.  I refilled my water bottles at the nearby restroom facility and made my way towards Jacksonville, by now a little concerned about bonking.

Since the trail just skirts the edges of Jacksonville, you don’t come across any stores or restaurants.  But I did remember that there as a welcome center that I saw on the south side of Jacksonville (the side towards Weaver) that had a few cyclists hanging out when I went through the first time.  I figured that there was likely some sort of snack shop inside.  WRONG.  By the time I got there it was all locked up aside from the restrooms, and it was probably not likely that they had anything to eat anyway.  So, I refilled my bottles again (I was drinking a ton of water since it was becoming rather hot and humid).  I sat down at a nearby bench for around five minutes just give my body a break before heading back to my car, which was only around 8 miles away.

Those last 8 miles seemed to go on forever.  Luckily the trail has mile markers, so it made counting down the remaining distance easy to do.  Eventually I got to my car on the verge of bonking and then quickly grabbed a gel for an energy boost.  Of course after sitting in the hot car all day, the gel was nice and hot with the viscocity being close to that of water.  But it did the trick.

After loading up, I treated myself to what hit the spot more than anything I could have imagined – a Cherry Limeade from Sonic.  It was the bomb dot com.   I also bought a cheeseburger and fries, but could only eat around a third of it.

By the time I returned home, I had consumed 10 pounds of liquid that day, along with the Gu Chomps, Honey Stinger Waffle, and some of my Sonic burger and fries.  Yet, I weighed myself and was 4 pounds lighter than I was when I weighed myself upon waking up.  Just goes to show that I am a serious sweater.  One of these days I will do a sweat rate test and truly see how much I lose per hour….it’s got to be significant considering I probably had a total of 11 pounds of liquid and food but still lost 4 pounds.  That represents a 15-pound weight swing after only 4 hours of riding.

All told, I’m really glad I rode the Chief Ladiga Trail that day.  If anything, it was good mindless training….an easy way to bank some miles.  But, if I went back I would definitely prefer to have some company and would also really like to ride into Georgia for a bit.  Maybe even ride all the way to the Atlanta area, get a hotel room, and then ride back the next day.  I opted to do this ride on my cyclocross bike, complete with CX tires.  I had my road wheels/tires in my car, but decided not to use them since I didn’t know how good the pavement was going to be.  As it turns out, I could have easily ridden with road tires, but my CX tires were certainly more comfortable and also provided a very low risk of flatting (which I was wanting to avoid since I was out there by myself with just one spare tube and one CO2 cartridge).

Some random pics are below.


weaver restrooms – site of some bad stuff



it was like this for many miles





jacksonville rest stop






north of piedmont







at the georgia state line


dugger mountain


return trip to jacksonville


the best cherry limeade ever

Tanasi trail ride report

Posted in ride reports with tags , , , , , , on July 3, 2013 by 41flyersracing - o'kelley

Two Sundays ago I had to go up to Cleveland TN in order to be at a meeting early on Monday morning.  With Leslie and the kids out of town, it made for the perfect excuse to take my mountain bike and get in a ride on Sunday afternoon.  I hit the road leaving Birmingham a little later than I planned, and didn’t have my mind made up where exactly I was going to ride until I got to the Chattanooga area.  If rain was looking likely, or if I felt like I would run out of time, my backup plan was to hit up Raccoon Mountain.  If not, I had hoped to make it either to the Tanasi or Chilhowee trails, both near the Ocoee River.  I decided to ride Tanasi since I missed out on getting entry into this year’s Big Frog 65.

I pulled to the parking lot at the Ocoee Whitewater Center and the weather was relatively pleasant and not too hot.  Still very humid, but that’s to be expected in the southeast during the summer.

I started by riding the Brushy Creek trail in the opposite direction from the Big Frog (i.e. I rode it in the direction of upstream on the Ocoee).  Once the trail emptied ended and emptied out at a paved road I turned around and backtracked the way I came.  This proved to be a good warmup of around 4.5 to 5 miles, with plenty of rocky and rooty areas to get the legs fired up.

Then I crossed the suspension bridge and began the long singletrack climb up to the mountain.  I’ve only ridden these trails during Big Frog, and usually am hitting them after I’ve already ridden for well over an hour at race pace.  This time I got to tackle the climbing on fresh legs and it really made a difference.  I passed several other riders on the way up, eventually asking one of them for their advice on which trail routes to take.  My plan was to ride as much of the Big Frog trails as possible, without adding in all of the ridiculously long gravel road climbs that occur during the race.

After getting some directions I continued my way up the mountain.  Honestly, even though I always marvel at how much climbing we do during Big Frog, I was still surprised at how much ascending I was doing on the singletrack on this ride.  My intended finishing trail was the Thunder Rock Express, which is a long and super fun downhill trail that leads back to the highway along the river.  Somehow I missed a turn and ended up on one of the ceaseless gravel roads just climbing and climbing and climbing.  Actually, I was rather enjoying the workout and was wishing we had such good training grounds in Birmingham.

Once at the top of the mountain it started to rain, forcing me to make the decision to head back down to the river side.  I found a gravel road that led downhill and make the correct assumption that it would take me where I needed to go.  After a fast and fun 3-mile downhill run, it dumped me out near the TVA station at the bottom of the Thunder Rock Express trail that I had hoped to ride.  By the time I made it downhill the rain had almost completely stopped.  I was hoping to add some more mileage by riding the highway shoulder out to some additional trails that the Big Frog begins on (some really sweet trails), but with all of the summer whitewater rafting traffic I decided it wasn’t worth the risk of getting run over.  So, I reluctantly called it a day.  But, it was a ton of fun and definitely a trail destination I need to make a point of hitting more often.  All told it was only around 17 miles of muddy trail riding and gravel riding, but with a total elevation gain of over 3300 feet.  I can’t wait to get back up there.