Archive for February, 2014

Southern Cross 2014 race report

Posted in ride reports with tags , , , , on February 27, 2014 by 41flyersracing - o'kelley

A couple of months ago I realized I would be out of the country during this year’s Big Frog 65 and wanted a replacement race to do before I left town.  After hearing so many good things about Southern Cross, I hit up Brian Parker and Kyle Butts to see if they’d be interested in making a weekend of it.  After much lollygagging around, we finally all signed up and committed to the sufferfest.  We found a three-bed room at the Amicalola Falls State Park Lodge and all was set for a fun weekend.

We made it out of town on Friday around 4pm and settled in for a long drive to Dawsonville, GA.  I could go on and on with funny Kyle stories about the weekend, but really it just wouldn’t do it justice.  Let’s just say Brian and I had some good laughs.  (The best might have been seeing his hair sticking straight out in all directions when he woke up from a deep coma on Sunday morning).

Saturday morning arrived a little too soon considering it was probably 11pm or later when we made it to the lodge on Friday night.  Luckily we didn’t have to be at the race site until just before 9am so it gave BP and me some time to eat breakfast while Kyle was passed out in bed.  Just finding the race venue via the back roads that we decided to take was quite an adventure….we were certainly in prime crystal meth territory amongst some very shady rednecks.  But all was well once we reached the well-appointed Monteluce Winery.

Since we were just hanging out at my truck not paying attention while Eddie O’Dea gave the race instructions, we had no idea that the women were starting separately (and after) the men.  Since we were the last ones to line up, we naturally were at the back of the pack.  Once the race started, all of the chicks moved to the front and center and effectively blocked us out, leaving us to pick our way through all of the female racers just to get back to the pack of riders that had already taken off.  Me and Brian ended up being the last two male riders to get started.  By the time we caught up to the racers in front of us, there was already a huge bottleneck so it didn’t matter.  And by then the women racers were all over our backs anyway.

The race started with around 0.75 miles of a meandering cyclocross course that was taped off throughout the winery property.  It included a few steep sections with lots of mud, a log crossing, and enough mud and tight turns to keep a lot of the CX riders hopping off their bikes while those of us on mountain bikes did pretty well.  There was even a really steep section that required everyone to do a run-up to the top of the hill before hitting another brief section of taped course and eventually the pavement.

We rode pavement for a few miles until hitting the dirt roads that we would become intimately familiar with for the next 40 or so miles (give or take a brief paved section in between dirt roads).  The climbing began in earnest starting around mile 5 and lasting for 10 miles, going from around 1500’ to 3400’.  Then we have a few brief downhills, some pavement, and then an 8-mile climb.  It was along this 8-mile climb though that we would pass some of the best riverside scenery on the entire course.  Really just some beautiful land back in the forest with a raging creek/river running alongside the trail.

After finally topping out again, a sag stop was in order as I was famished.  I normally don’t get so hungry during a race, but I was starving.  I downed two peanut butter Ritz Bitz crackers, grabbed a gel for the road, and filled up both bottles.  It was all I could do to not stay around eating more.

I thought the next section would be mostly downhill, but there was actually quite a bit of dirt road climbing.  It was also on this section that I stumbled upon Kyle, who had decided at the first sag stop to forego miles 15 through 32 and make it a 35-mile ride for him.  While Brian and I were trying to hustle, Kyle got to enjoy some extended breaks just sitting on rocks enjoying the view.  And probably talking to everybody that rode by.

After the climbing finally relented, there was a nice long downhill on dirt roads, some a little sketchy.  It was on this stretch that I was able to pass quite a few people on CX bikes since they had to be more conservative in the rough areas.  Then the route turned onto pavement and we had what seemed like a million miles of false flats and real climbs before finally seeing Monteluce Winery again.  By now my cyclocomputer had eclipsed 50 miles, so I was getting a little antsy about being done with this race.  I was also starting to cramp up really bad in my legs.

Getting back to the winery, we had a monster run-up to end all run-ups….really steep stuff and very long.  Then backtracking on the cyclocross course, which spurred me to completely stop on several occasions to try to halt my leg cramps, which were now causing my quads and hamstrings to totally lock up.  A beer hand-up at a creek crossing helped get me going for the next few hundred yards, before my legs locked up once more with maybe 0.5 miles to go to the finish.  It was mentally agonizing to have to stop for a total of several minutes while I was already within sight of the finish line….lot of bikers made their way past me on this section while I just stood and stretched.

All in all it was a fun race, and we certainly could not have asked for better weather.  But in the end, my effort was rather poor.  I was struggling on the initial long climbs and could never gain enough gap closure on the flats and downhills to make up for it.  Brian finished around 30 minutes ahead of me, with me last seeing him at mile 10.5 of the race while he was busy climbing faster than I could sustain.

A couple of quick takeaways for me would be that 1) I need to spend more time training on long sustained climbs; and 2) that I need to work on my cadence.  For the first one, I’m not sure where around Birmingham I could find a 10-mile climb, so that might involve spending some Saturdays in northeast Alabama near Mentone.  For my cadence, I am too guilty of always mashing a heavier gear at a slower cadence.  It caught up to me while climbing with Brian, as I finally had to downshift and then just didn’t have enough leg energy left to spin at a higher rate to compensate.  He already has probably a 30-pound weight advantage on me, so those long climbs tend to catch up to me.

I also probably should have eaten more, though with the weather being cool it wasn’t really as much of a factor as it would have been had I been sweating more.  During the race, which for me was over 4.5 hours long, I only consumed two bottles of Gatorade mix, 2 bottles of Powerbar drink mix, three gels, and those two Ritz Bitz crackers.  Definitely not close to enough calories to begin to replenish, so I was probably losing a lot of energy during those times I was so hungry.

Some pics are below, though I didn’t take any during the race.  Strava data can be found here.

brian's bike on the rack, now to get kyle's

brian’s bike on the rack, now to get kyle’s

brian suited up and ready

brian suited up and ready

kyle gearing up

kyle gearing up

i wouldn't be smiling much longer

i wouldn’t be smiling much longer

just a little salt in my hair from sweating....good thing it was cool weather

just a little salt in my hair from sweating….good thing it was cool weather

sunset from amicalola falls state park lodge

sunset from amicalola falls state park lodge

loaded up and on the road home

loaded up and on the road home

ride report – February 16th

Posted in ride reports, Uncategorized with tags , , , on February 18, 2014 by 41flyersracing - o'kelley

Was able to duck out for a decent ride on Sunday…..my usual startup going up Double Oak Way and onto the ridgeline above Mt Laurel.  My plan was to ride the doubletrack trail all the way to Hwy 25, and then back on Hwy 41.  However, upon reaching the second powerline crossing, where land ownership transitions from EBSCO to a portion of land leased through the Alabama Forestry something or another, I heard some gunshot.  Not just a random shot or two, but around 20 rounds released in rapid succession….like maybe 15 seconds.  Definitely a semi automatic.  Then a few more rounds were released, and I could tell it was likely within 100 yards of where I was.  There was a giant boulder ridge up the hill above me, and I suspect someone was taking target practice on the opposite side.

Looking at the map, I can’t find any dirt roads or trails to support the location I believe it occurred, but I have seen some trucks on the nearby trail and it would not surprise me if a four-wheeler was able to get to that spot rather easily.

So, based on the gunfire and the fact that I was about to enter property that had plenty of No Trespassing signs posted on the trees, I decided to cut my ride short and head back the way I came.

Some random pics below.  Strava data can be found here.  18.7 miles and 1863 feet of climbing.  Very likely my last decent ride before this weekend’s Southern Cross.  I can’t say I’m happy with the mileage training I’ve done in 2014, but at least I’ve been able to ride a few times.  If Southern Cross were 25 miles and not 50 then I know I’d have no problem.

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February 1st Ride Report – exploring with BP

Posted in ride reports with tags , , , , on February 5, 2014 by 41flyersracing - o'kelley

Last Friday I put out some text messages to Brian, Travis, Chad, Kyle, and David to let them know it was time for a ride in the woods above Mt Laurel.  All but Brian had to decline, so the two of us found ourselves in the midst of a fun ride.

I was able to duck out before BP, so I did some hill repeats and general base mile riding along the ridge until such time that he could meet me up there….probably got in 9 or so miles before he arrived.  Once he got to the top of the ridge, we headed across the paved Double Oak Way ridgeline road and then onto the doubletrack that leads to the powerline crossings closest to Hwy 41 (as opposed to the crossings closer to Hwy 43).  By the time we reached the first powerline crossing I didn’t have a ton of time left before I needed to return home, so going all the way to Hwy 25 and then back to Mt Laurel via Hwy 41 was out of the question.  But, I recalled seeing a trail spur a few times in the past and had always wondered where it led.

Not being a solo rider this time, and therefore a little more willing to do some backwoods trail exploring, I was able to locate the trail in question and off we went.  The first section was pretty rocky, but certainly rideable.  In fact, if the leaf cover had been lighter (like in the Spring or Summer), the baby-head rocks would have been more visible and easier to navigate.  Then the trail somewhat leveled out and became some really sweet, smooth singletrack, eventually backtracking below the powerlines 140 feet below where we first crossed them.

After some good smooth riding, we started hitting a few sections that were quite steep and rocky, forcing us to hike-a-bike a few short distances.  Had there not been so much leaf cover making the trail too slippery for braking, most of those sections would have been rideable.  Eventually we hit a fork in the trail and opted to head left, hoping this would take us in the direction of Stonegate Farms (we had been tracking our progress on a gps map).  After some more riding, and another decision to make on which trail to take, we ended up at the very last cul de sac in Stonegate Farms.  I had been on a short section of that trail at least six months prior on my CX bike, but on that day I turned around early and had no idea that it could have taken me to the top of the mountain.

Ride stats from Strava can be found here.  Some pics are below.  Around 23 miles and 2200 feet of climbing.

on double oak way

on double oak way

on double oak way

on double oak way

double oak way

double oak way

view towards childersburg

view towards childersburg

view towards childersburg

view towards childersburg

waiting on brian

waiting on brian

brian riding on bob hood branch trail

brian riding on bob hood branch trail

view towards leeds from first powerline crossing

view towards leeds from first powerline crossing

another view from powerline crossing

another view from powerline crossing

sweet singletrack

sweet singletrack

more nice trail

more nice trail

taking a break to study our maps

taking a break to study our maps

more good trail, this time heading somewhere back up the mountain

more good trail, this time heading somewhere back up the mountain

on new trail

on new trail

on new trail

on new trail

view from vantage point on new trail

view from vantage point on new trail

some rather large boulders up there

some rather large boulders up there

on highway 41 heading back home - almost looked like big sky country

on highway 41 heading back home – almost looked like big sky country

enlarged map where we took new trail

enlarged map where we took new trail

overall ride map

overall ride map