Tag mtn biking

the annual birthday adventure

bday ride

In my ongoing quest to have an adventurous birthday (last year’s was spent on the Appalachian Trail), I decided to head to the mountains of north Georgia for some two-wheeled fun on the Pinhoti Trail. I recruited my friend Zeke – now retired, so he didn’t have to worry about playing hookie for a mid-week escape. Back when I was training for the Leadville 100, we used to have regular epic rides. I could *almost* keep up with him then; I admit I was a bit worried to embark on a day-long ride when my longest one in the past… year or so?.. was only 3 hrs. Fingers crossed my running legs had enough endurance for the day.

overlook at bear creek

We met at Mulberry Gap down in Ellijay. If you haven’t been here yet, DROP EVERYTHING and go NOW! This really is the sweetest place around. While it’s called a mountain bike getaway, it really is the perfect escape for anyone loving mountain trails (over 80 miles are accessible within minutes!). They have several bunkhouses & campsites, along with hot showers (& a hot tub), rec room w/wifi, bike wash & stand, and home cooked meals that are supposed to be fantastic. (Need to plan a weekend here!)

Pinhoti 3

Pinhoti 3

A quick recap of our ride – I had Zeke write down the trails, as I have only ridden them once years ago and can’t keep them straight! From the MG, we had a quick warmup on the gravel road, then another long climb up Pinhoti 2.  I like cilmbing, so I was immediately happy. Then we took FS90 up to the Overlook (a beautiful day!), then on to the Bear Creek downhill. The upper portion has just enough tight, steep switchbacks to keep you humble, followed by the most amazing section of flowy ups and downs that I was in a constant state of permagrin. The foliage was nearly fluorescent, with blooms everywhere and full happy creeks. (The only time I wasn’t happy was when the hornets were doing loops around me. Thankfully they got the memo it was my birthday, so none stung me, but wow did I get uptight.) Then we hit P1 and back down P2 to the main road. We waffled a bit, but threw in P3 at the end for bonus points. I will freely admit that it was here that I finally found The Wall.  My engine was done.

zeke and i

zeke & i

In all, we had about 4.5 hrs in the saddle (with some scenic breaks), 23.5 miles of riding, and 3,700′ of climbing. This equates to approximately 1.5 years of reverse aging. I have to throw out props to Zeke, who continues to amaze and inspire me. 30 years my elder, I was eating his dust the entire time.

the dirty du

blankets duathlon

This past weekend, I took a break from my normal trail running events to interject some multisport fun into the mix. The Blankets Dirty Duathlon is put on by regional standout athlete Lisa Randall. If you know her as a racer, you know that she’ll put on nothing less than a top notch event. This year (I believe the 3rd for this event) was no exception.

Since I lived in Atlanta for 8 years, I used to ride these trails a lot. Just when I’d get the hang of one trail, SORBA-Woodstock would add a new ones to keep things challenging. Let’s just say they’ve been quite busy the last few years; there were many new-to-me sections!

Last time I was here (in 2009), it seemed like every time I turned around I ran into an old friend. This year, only a handful (likely due to an unfortunate conflict with the Blue Ridge AR). In fact, besides one speedy biker friend (who insisted she’d finish nowhere near me), I had no idea who my competition would be. This was going to be interesting.

4 waves of competitors went off before the last one – where all the solo and team females were. Fortunately, the time inbetween allowed folks to spread out to minimize any traffic jams. Assuming that most of the women were local and knew these trails like the back of their hand, I was hoping to have a faster run split to gain precious minutes needed on the bike. Once we were deep in the trails, it was hard to keep track of who was where, as the coed teams started before us. After a 5 mile run at what I think was a pretty decent pace, we were back at the transition area to get on our bikes. I was able to beat at least 3 of the girls ahead of me out of the TA, and was full steam ahead.

van michael trail

© Kyle Roe

By now, the temperatures had climbed higher than we’ve had this year, and the humidity was at least 115%. Sweat was everywhere, mixing with bits of mud and dust. I had my Ultimate Directions Wink on, filled with nuun – and I was drinking every bit I could, but that was just not enough today. Towards the end of the Van Michael trail, there was a log/rock obstacle to power over. I hit it just wrong enough that it tweaked my calf, locking it up in one ginormous charlie horse. Yeowsers! While I was working it out, the fast girls that hadn’t slipped by me already did so now. Oh well…

I grabbed another Gu (Cherry Lime Roctane – yum!) and a long drink, and set off to tackle the Dwellings loop. There was still a lot of riding to do (we also hit part of the South Loop – the advanced rocky trail), so I rode hard where I could, and played it conservative & smart where I needed to, knowing the slightest wrong movement could send my calf spasming again.


me, Leah, Aimee

Luckily I had no other incidents along the way and was able to finish strong and with a smile. In the end, I was 7th overall and 2nd in my age group, sharing the podium with my old friend Aimee (remember the one that said she’d finish nowhere near me? Yeah, she was nipping my tail!), and new friend Leah – hope to ride/run with both of you in the future! Checking out the overall results was quite interesting: 5 of the 6 women ahead of me were in the 40-49 & 50-59 age groups. Hot damn! Talk about strong!! Hoping that means my best years are still to come! :)

Big thanks goes out to Lisa and her husband Chris for organizing another fantastic event. The sponsor support they get is incredible – $75 Van Michael giftcards  were given to the first 60 women that registered (a posh salon in the Atl area – guess I’ll be making another trip down!), and a Cannondale 29er was raffled off, generously donated by Outspokin’ Bikes. Mountain Goat Adventures has several other events coming up this year – definitelyl check them out!

ESNP aka Enterprise South aka the VW trails…


I had a rare Monday off work (and didn’t fill up the entire day catching up with cleaning & freelance work), so I used this opportunity (and sunshine!) to check out the new trails at ESNP. These trails have been in the works a long time, with the local chapter of SORBA contributing an insane number of hours to get them in tip top shape. Even after the mountain bike trails were completed, Hamilton County still had “other stuff” to finish up before the official grand opening in mid-December.

Once inside the park, you’re greeted with a maze of roads to navigate. Note to mtn bikers: take the first right onto the one-way gravel road to access the main trailhead parking. A few things I noticed about the trails in general: What they lack in technical root and rock sections (nothing out here resembles Mega-Watt!), they make up for with hardly any flat sections and lots of twists, turns, and opportunities for catching some air. The SORBA folks even set up several log balance beams (and I’ve heard they have a few other things up their sleeve for future skills-building fun).

There’s about 10 miles of singletrack available to mountain bikers right now. At an easy-moderate pace, I was out there for 1h20m, so while not a place for epic long rides, it’s a great place for a 1-2 hr ride. I think riding everything in the opposite direction would give you an entirely different experience. One note: because the trails are bi-directional, you definitely need to keep a heads-up for oncoming traffic. It’s easy to pick up a bit of speed, but with all the turns, the last thing you want is to have a header with someone. (esp when the sun is low and blinding, like this afternoon!) Might be nice to have alternating directions, like Blanket’s Creek.

After my ride, I went for a run, exploring both the pedestrian trails and non-vehical paved roads (friendly for road bikes too). I found these trails to be a bit soft and cushy for running on – lots of mulch, etc, piled up. It’s also quite hard to figure your way around the place. Definitely don’t leave home without a map! Hopefully future signage will include some maps and you-are-here markers to help you get back to your car.

One thing I am disappointed in is the outer loop being closed to bikes. While the surface quality isn’t exactly road bike material, the big climbs were calling my name. Would be fantastic if they opened it up to bikes sometimes!

Final kudos go to the variety of terrain included in the park, and its accessibility to all levels, from kids on training wheels to handicapped individuals. It’s a true family-oriented place and yet another reason why Chattanooga outdoors rocks!

new england autumn


Well, the tail end of it at least. Despite Delta’s best efforts to delay my visit (& subsequent return), I caught a few late leaves while exploring some great trails.

The pic above is from the Mattabesett Trail (I think). It is a 50-mile section of the newly-formed 800+ mile long New England Trail (part of which is also known as the CT Blue Blazes Trail.) I didn’t have much time to explore (Anders was on a road ride), but what I saw, I liked! After an initial steep rocky ascent, it evened out a bit to some very runnable, beautiful singletrack. I can’t wait to explore this trail system more in the future!

We also had a few spins around Tyler Mill, both on foot and wheels. I’d really love to get out here on a “modern day mtn bike”, as the beast I’m borrowing must weight at least 10 lbs more than my Lynskey, and the front suspension has long ago stopped working. But, 2 rough wheels are better than none, and it was definitely fun to be out there. I’m not sure what I’d compare these trails to in the southeast – not as groomed, lots of trails crisscrossing, with everything from dirt road to big drops, creek crossings and more. Definitely easy to get lost out here!

Can’t leave out our other favorite place to stop – Gouveia Vineyards. Unfortunately they were sold out of their Cabernet Franc, but we indulged in some other deliciousness.

Anyways, the next trip should coincide with some white stuff on the ground – really hoping to check out this place!

Wine for the Climb

SORBA Chattanooga is hosting this event to raise money for new trails at Raccoon that will run from the base of the mountain to the top. Whether you’re a biker, runner, or other type of trail lover, come enjoy the evening … (or make a separate donation to SORBA!) We need to raise $75k!

Leadville 100…. I survived!

Yes, I did it!  Report, pics, etc to come soon. 

Here’s a great link to a video & pics of Dave & Lance – when you see these two struggle, you know the climbs are bad!

Amanda and I heading down to the start at 5:45am

Tawnya & I riding the red carpet in together

Me & Tawnya, happy to have made it!

the countdown has arrived

actually it’s been going on a long time. too long. i’m at the point where i’m ancy. over the wait and just ready to be at it. it’s a bit scary to think how much i’ve prepped for this one race. yeah, i’ve done bigger/longer stuff, so 12 hours should be totally doable. but all the unknowns just make the butterflies chase eachother: altitude. weather. the crowd factor (riding the course with 3 people is much different than 700+.)

altitude. during my training trip out here 1 month ago (yeah, that one i took that i never wrote about here – oops. check out pics here.), the altitude had minimal effects on me. no headache, no nausea, no extreme fatigue. not to say it didn’t tire me out some – i certainly felt it, especially on some tougher sections where my exertion level would shoot up. i’ll need to be careful there, as it seemed to kick in my asthma a bit. (my plan is to get off my bike and walk a few sections and save my breath, rather than try to muscle up it, lose all my breath, and be on the side of the trail slumped over trying to find oxygen). 
there’s all kinds of theories on acclimatization. 3-4 weeks minimum. go the day before and surprise your body. day 4 is the worse. do this, that, etc. sure, let’s quit our jobs and just move out a month before so we can be ready. but seeing as how that’s not possible, we just have to make a decision. i flew out to steamboat on the 1st (to see my friends during the relay), where i’ve been doing the taper thing all week around 6800′. i’ll have 7 days at this elevation, then driving up to leadville (10,200′) friday morning. last minute. who knows if this will be the right decision. just gotta go with it and believe you’ll be ok. sure, i felt ok during the training trip, but what works one time won’t necessarily work the next. fingers crossed and i’ll continue to hydrate and rest lots. (so far i’ve been feeling good, although some light arrhythmia today. nerves?)
weather. mother nature is always the big unknown. amanda said they’ve been getting showers every afternoon. sure, no problem. maybe it will even make the ground a bit tackier (the elevation gain/loss on the course didn’t seem to be a problem during the pre-ride, but rather the dryness and looseness of the terrain. quite unlike anything back east!) then today the weather says flash flood warnings out there. oh joy. well, i hope it just gets out of her system and we’re left with dry skies; then i can deal with the temperature change more easily. right now, the highs are in the mid-60s and lows right around 40. sounds nearly perfect! the descent off columbine will be a kicker though – that will be around 6 hrs in, topping out at 12,500′. sleet/snow/hail here are not uncommon. 
crowds: sure, any race gets crowded at the start. but take 700+ people and one nasty climb up st. kevins… and what was a challenging climb before becomes even more so when you can’t pick your line but are left to whatever your are forced to take in front of you. yeah, that’s going to be fun. not. then the start line itself. i’ll want a good starting position so that i’m not stuck too close to the back – when i’m going to be fighting to make the time cutoffs, the pack-of-the-packers are certainly at a disadvantage and i don’t need any wasted minutes. at the same time, since i know i’m not going for the gold buckle, i don’t want to be too close to the front and be “one of them”… you know, those annoyingly slow people ahead of you in races that leave you cursing them as you desperately fight your way around.
so those are my thoughts right now. at least the ones that are clear enough to write down, as a zillion things are flying through my head. i’m tired of thinking about it, of talking about it. (sorry if you’ve tried to chat with me and i’ve been in la la land). now to try and get some quality sleep. 

beware the death cookies

2 thursdays ago i played hookie and met up with some friends to go mountain biking out in tellico plains. zeke and i stopped at a great bakery/coffeeshop downtown (i’m not sure the name of it but i highly recommend!)  then headed to our meeting spot at north river campgrounds, where van and carey were waiting for us. the day began with a 2.5hr climb on forest service roads (with a little paved mixed in). yeah, what a way to warm up! the grade was never that bad, but consistent, climbing from around 1100′ to 5000′. our efforts were rewarded with our arrival at an scenic bald covered with wildflowers. in the distance we could see the cherohala skyway (where i thought i would be today). 

after some refueling, we backtracked briefly before hitting some singletrack. now this isn’t the groomed flowy stuff i’ve been riding as of late; it was rough, overgrown, barely used, raw stuff. it reminded me of trails we’d hit on remote adventure races.. the road much less traveled. then throw in the rocks/boulders, and it became very pisgah-esque. that’s where the “death cookies” (named by carey) entered the picture. we’d be riding along, then the randomly placed loose rock would jump in front of your wheel and just stop it. as long as you could see around the overgrown brush, you could navigate around these suckers, but every once in awhile they could catch you by surprise. luckily, no unplanned dismounts!
the ride was awesome – quite nice to escape to some place new & explore without much of a plan. looking forward to the next mid-week rendezvous soon i hope!

bald river falls

carey & van

zeke & carey

kimsey mtn loop

after living up here for nearly 2 years, i finally connected with zeke for a ride. i originally met him many moons ago at a race somewhere – adventure race or mtn bike race, i can’t remember which. after our first meeting, i ran into him again and again, always greeted with a big hug & smile. it was good running into him at the cohutta race, to reconnect and plan.
hiwassee river
our plan today was to ride about 5 hrs in cherokee national forest. finally, i’d be riding much of the adventure24 race course i sent many folks out on. we parked at gee creek campground, right off the hiwassee river. two of zeke’s riding buddies also joined us (chris & jason). i tend to get a bit nervous riding with people i don’t know –  hoping that i don’t hold them up too much. luckily jason & zeke were tapering for the mohican 100 next weekend (so their taper made for a solid ride for me :)
i really should have busted out the camera earlier, as there could have been some great shots. to start, we had a choice of 3 routes to get us to the apalachia powerhouse bridge: a road that would take us 5 miles out of the way; an overgrown rutted out road with “puddles like la ruta”; or a train track. the latter won out. it wasn’t a long section, but time passed so slowly when i was on there. train tracks are anything but smooth! most of the time it was just bumpy, but when the tracks spanned a bridge over a feeder creek, the gravel inbetween the trestles had washed out a bit causing an awful jarring. add to that trying to keep your ears alert for any oncoming trains and panic nearly sets in – yes, NOT the time to stop for a kodak moment! thankfully none decided to ruin our parade. the moment we could get off the tracks we did. phew! nice way to get the heart rate up quick! (needless to say, on the way back, i chose the ruta road. it wasn’t all that bad… i did have to portage the creek which came up to my hips, but after 4.5 hrs of riding it was rather refreshing.)
our course was a lollipop. once we crossed the bridge (seen below), zeke led us on a great loop that i will have to check out on some maps for future rides (i remember FSR 66, 80, 68…. and a sign for lost creek campground). there were 2 pretty significant climbs, lots of rollers, and gorgeous scenery everywhere. we passed a few creeks that got chris and jason excited as they belong to the crazy cult of creekboaters (honestly, that seems like a death wish….) 
in all, i had a great ride. zeke commented on my solid climbing skills; i interjected with “but my descending leaves much to be desired”. “you took the words right out of my mouth.” of course i did. how many times have i heard this? well, at least i’m aware of my problems and maybe one day i can overcome them. (definitely one day!!) luckily i didn’t keep them waiting too long – it gave them a good excuse to find some shade and wipe the sweat off. today was by far the hottest day of the year – i felt like my face was dripping off sometimes. i easily drained my 100oz bladder, and had only a few sips left in my bottle. 
we finished up with a quick dip in the river too cool off – the water was freezing so i didn’t stay in for long. refueling at the ocoee gondolier completed the days adventure.
some totals:
4:38 ride time
54 miles
elevation gain in dispute…. zeke thinks it’s around 5500′; my watch showed 3500′. but i haven’t calibrated in a long time and i’m not sure how this affects tracking…  regardless, a solid effort!

zeke & jason

Cohutta 65

one of the key races i was using as a benchmark for leadville was the cohutta 65. (once upon a time i was thinking i would do the 100 mile option, but that 6 wk break off my feet earlier this year had me rethink that plan…)  

while not the full monty, the 65, just shy of 11k of elevation gain, was still going to be a respectable day. the rain overnight and during the first hour of the race added another twist to the day. luckily it wasn’t that cold (although there was a bit of snow here on monday!)
we started at the ocoee whitewater center at 7:15am with a light drizzle. after a quick 3 miles down hwy 64 (a nice climb to break up the field of 160+ riders in this distance), we turned into the brush creek singletrack trails. i actually haven’t ridden this section before and i’d imagine it would be quite nice and flowy if it wasn’t for the thick, slick mud everywhere. after some speedier guys passed me, i settled into a nice pace, yo-yo’ing with a few guys for the next 2 hrs. all was going well until i wiped out hard on a bridge. we had lots of short wooden bridges going over creeks & such and i really did try to take them easy; i’m not exactly sure what happened here, but next thing i know i lay my bike out and we’re sliding across the bridge… i see a pole and think “this will not be good if my body slams into this”. luckily my bike hit it first – but that just meant i hit my bike… groin into the handlebars and stem. yeowsers. i layed there a minute taking some deep breaths (people making sure i was ok), but when i saw a girl pass, i was back on my feet.  time to go!
i was a bit slow for a bit, trying to get my balance again. things hurt for sure. i was a bit slower than anticipated getting back to the WWC; now time for some tanasi trail action… by the time i was up bear paw, i was able to pass the girls that had passed me when i was down. once i hit the forest service roads, i was back in my element. it did seem to go on forever – funny how things didn’t look that familiar even though i’ve ridden here several times this year. i was alone for a long time here, just doing my thing and riding hard. 2 voices were constantly in my head – matt’s voice saying “attack the hills” and jeramie saying (in response to me wondering how he thought i’d do) “well, depends on what cathi shows up”.  early on it was “cathi that crashed hard and was in pain”. but now it was “cathi that was on a mission”. i wasn’t there to just ride; i wanted to race.
finally the turn from 221 to 62 (the “big frog loop”) came, along with the aid station with our drop bags and the smiling & energetic ken radley (always good to see a familiar face on a grueling course!) i actually didn’t need anything in my bag – i had been filling up with heed at some earlier stops and did so again here (i actually like the light taste of the stuff – i do get tired of the gatorade/powerade sweetness, which was what i had stashed…). some quick lube on the chain and i was off again – i has seen a pink jersey when i pulled in and really wanted to reel in that potential girl. which i did soon enough – along with 2 others on this section. that was energizing! i hooked up with a few guys that had a solid pace and good conversations for a bit. i suck at remembering names sometimes… there was the singlespeeder from atl that knew some of the addictive crew… and a bike zoo guy from knox with cool checkered arm warmers… 
once back on 221, i just kept on… my legs were feeling fabulous, although the shoulder/neck pain i get sometimes was now setting in  - at least that made me forget about my pelvis. the big neverending climb came and went without problem – with the leaders of the 100 mile passing me here – damn they looked fresh! 
finally the last aid station before the final singletrack section. hooray! they didn’t have any heed, so i just kept the 1 full bottle i had, figuring it would be enough for the last 12 miles or so. about 10 minutes in, i started hearing some noise from my bike… not the hiss of flat tires (like last weekend), but something else. then without warning, chain suck. aaah, so that is the sound of a bone dry chain that doesn’t want to move. what sucked even more was the fact i didn’t have any lube on me. every 5-10 minutes my bike would seize. sometimes i could get through it, but half the time i was going up a hill or over some rocks/roots, so it royally f’d me up. for once i was totally thankful for every descent i could find – if i didn’t pedal, i didn’t have problems. i passed lots of people sidelined with mechanicals (including a friend with a snapped derailleur), but no one with lube. so basically this last section (which initially i was worried about, not knowing how tired i’d be going through it, then was excited about because i was feeling great), ended up sucking royally, taking at least 30 min longer than it should have. 
thunder rock express could not come soon enough. i got through that easily and was thankful for the fsr at the end – that signalled about a mile of road to the finish. liz & evan were right there waiting for me – i tried to look fast for him :)  (erick was with ethan, who was napping).
it was definitely cool to have my little nephews up from orlando so they could see aunt cathi ride bikes (inspire them young!) after some wrinkles getting results posted, i ended up 5th in the women’s 65, with a time of 7:32:06. (this would have been 56 out of 100 total riders in this distance – always like to see how i compare to the guys ;). while i’m definitely happy with this, 4th place was only 32 min ahead, so it could have been an interesting finish without the mechanicals.

me + my # 1 fan evan

desperate for drink

ahhh, hydrated & happy (i swear this isn’t a coke commercial)

ken helping me out with a post-race s

So now… the next day… 
I am definitely happy with my race – my body felt great (except for the crash of course) and I was happy with how my legs responded. my nutrition and hydration was on. what to change? well, carry lube!! other than that, just continue on with matt’s plans, whatever they may be. (it’s working so far!) i did see an old friend, zeke, at the race and i hope to catch some long rides and leadville knowledge from him in the future. i am a bit sore – that great post-long-workout soreness where you know you did something good… but then my left knee that i landed on is aching good (the cuts aren’t too bad), along with my neck (and not the part that was sore during the race – maybe i hit that when i fell too?? hmmm)

I’ll be interested to see how this experience relates to Leadville. I’ll have 4.5 more hrs to tackle 35 more miles and 3000’ more elevation gain. Altitude will be the determining factor I think, as my fitness track seems to be right on.