Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Run-ins with the fuzz, collecting salt stains, and endurance racing

(Heritage Park Trails)

My encounter with the law was on the first day of spring break, which usually alleviates stress, but as I went to the grocery store to pick up a few items for my upcoming trip down south the mood was turned upside down when I saw the flashing lights in my rear view mirror. Of course I am not going to blame myself even though I was speeding, but instead I will point my anger to the man in blue who thought it would be a great idea to set up a speed trap at the bottom of a fairly steep hill at the exact point where the speed limit changes from 45 to 35. While coasting and even hitting the brakes at the 35mph sign, my speedometer read 50. I’m sure the man who pulled me over saw things differently as he saved the world from the likes of one dangerously fast Subaru station wagon.

On to the good stuff. The weather is sloppy, cold, and wet at home and going somewhere warm for a week couldn’t have been a better idea. First stop on the list: Douthat State Park, located off of Rt. 64 in Central, VA. I’ve ridden here before with Aaron on the way to a 12 hour race last year and absolutely loved the place. It’s slightly technical, and has an immense amount of climbing and descending with some very scenic views. The pics below sum the views and trail conditions. After a 4 hour ride here, it doesn’t seem like the week could get much better.

After the ride, I took a straight shot down to stop number 2, Uwharrie National Forest, located East of Charlotte, NC. As soon as I got up in the morning I was greeted by another police officer. My mind was starting to run through some scenarios as I thought, “what could I have possibly done now… speeding again; no, murder; not that I remember, sleeping in the back of my car; I don’t think that’s a crime…” So I calmly went over to see what he had wanted, and it turned out he just wanted to shoot the shit about bikes. I don’t think police officer #2 could have been any more different than police officer #1. That goes to show that stereotyping policemen is not even accurate these days. Anyway, Uwharrie is where I began my XC racing season last year, so I decided to return to try and dig up some fond memories and put in a hard race pace ride and find my competitive edge which has been buried since October. The fast and flowy singletrack that wisked its way through the pine forest of southern NC was just as thrilling as it was last March. After putting in a 2.5 hour effort, I was pretty worked and took the rest of the sunny afternoon to soak up some sun and sear in some tan lines before packing up and heading further south.

(The label on the camp fuel changes color when the can is too hot to handle.... or simply self-ignites.)

My next destination was Croft Natural Area near Spartanburg, SC. This was a completely random choice as I picked up a map and saw that it was a state park and it was on the way to Georgia. I had my uncertainties and my doubts about the place, but figured if worst came to worst, it would be a day of road riding. I strolled into the park after dark and pulled in a couple camping spots away from another car with bikes on it. Being tired, from riding and driving, I set up the air mattress in the back of the truck and started sawing logs at 9:00. After waking up and warming up to some coffee, I went over to converse with my camping neighbors, who were only my second human encounter so far for the week, and find out about the trails. This was a rather lustful experience as my neighbors were two cute girls from Florida who were on spring break doing the same thing that I’ve been doing, but without a 6 hour race as the grand finale. Too bad they were not from PA. Buy anyway, they pointed me to the trailhead and after breakfast, I was off. The park offered 10 miles of singletrack, which had similar flow to Uwharrie, but offered some steep technical chutes that would cause my bike’s suspension to bottom out at the end of each drop. This place, again was a blast to ride at, and after 4 hours, I called it quits, packed up and repeated the process of moving on to another location.

The plan was to next spend a day in Anderson, SC, where I will be going for my final job interview with TTi in two weeks. I wanted to scope out the town and ride around there for a bit and just take it easy. So when I arrived the night before, there was no forest to camp in, so I had to settle for a Wal-Mart parking lot, which was a bit noisier, but served its purpose. After waking up I decided to take a lazier approach and just drive around Anderson. It’s not a very large town, but it’s got everything you need and has a nice appearance to it. I still had the urge to tear into some more dirt, so before lunchtime I finished up the drive to my final destination in GA.

(This is how the temporarily homeless spend their free time alone in a park)

The trails at Heritage Park were outstanding. They consisted of twisty and fast singletrack with some spine jarring root sections, some small drops, and banked turns. The flow of the trails was that smooth it almost felt like riding with a motor. Luckily, I had the time to dial in almost every corner of the park from Wednesday through Friday before the race. So when race day came, the only thing that would change were the conditions as some severe T-storms made their way in Friday night into Saturday.

(The calm before the storm)

The race itself was difficult to plan for due to the severe storms and tornadoes that had taken over the area. However the start gave way to blue skies, but because of the instability in the weather I took off like it was an XC rather than an endurance race. I had the lead from the moment we funneled into the singletrack, and for the first few laps I had to keep the abusive pace as I could see 2nd place, Dan Corum off in the distance. Eventually I lengthened my lead to nearly 20 minutes which opened up enough of a gap in the end to complete an extra lap over the field. Somehow the storms waited until after the race to roll in, never posing a threat to any of the racers. Hopefully this race will be a good indicator for how the rest of the season is going to play out.


Jason said...

Sucks about the Five-oh.
Trails on the other hand look kick ass. I fear my first time on dirt in o8 might be my first race!

Good luck.


cyclocrosser said...

Nice. thats a dream spring break all right.

The Matt Miller Experience said...

just because that post was long doesn't mean it is enough for a whole month. get to work.