Ouachita Challenge Weekend

Wow, am I behind. Take a few days out of the normal workweek and head out on a four day, 2000 mile road trip and suddenly I'm behind.

Oh...after being along the Mississippi River...I'll never complain about how flat it is here (or try not to).

Danielle has my favorite shot from the weekend on her blog. On the drive down we found not one, but TWO pink elephants! What is not visible in that pic is the SECOND pink elephant with horn rims on.

After a stop to eat some great Mexican we continued the drive.

Saturday we knew we were getting close when we came by this stop.The trees were just starting to bud. The rocks are just a hint of what was to come later in the weekend.

We had a super nice pre-ride, did the main gravel hill to the single track. Stopped for a couple of photos along the way. Here are my travelmates, I'm stylin' the new Founders jersey.

The town that this race starts from has a population of just over 200. The graduating classes number about a dozen. The race that these folks put on though is incredible.
Here's the landmark at the final turn just before the finish.

Race day: just below freezing, a hint of frost. Got in a chilly warmup and then we lined up. Rob Pennell (Badger Cycles) stoped by to wish us well. Fun to meet a number of people who I'd only talked to by phone or read their posts on the mtbr 29er forum.

The sun was out and warmed the day nicely. It eventually hit 60. A very fast neutral roll out got us to the gravel road, folks jockeying for position. After a brief wait we were off. Sprinting on the gravel two track. This road climbed for quite awhile and eventually we got to the singletrack. The trail was sweet. I was feeling really good. The density of the monster rocks increased until at some points I was almost bouncing my way through them. Occassionaly they would bring me to a complete stop. On and off the bike a bit doing some running too.

There was a gal from Texas that I was trading places with, she finished fourth. Danielle had a stellar race and had a solid finish for second.

I’ve been racing a lot of years. Finished races with a separated shoulder, cracked ribs, etc. but I’ve never had a DNF. I now have my first one. I’m still not clear what happened to my rear der. but after fishing that woody vine out of a cage that was pointing toward the sky, it wouldn’t shift right. I'd also knocked my wheel out of true. The rubbing rear wheel I could deal with but the inability to get out of the four largest cogs was a problem. The chain skipped gears when in the 4th or 5th cog. I could use 6-7-8...nice tall gears for the more LEVEL portions of the course but certainly not what I needed to get up the remaining mountains.

Repeated dismounts to physically move my chain from the larger cogs back to the middle got old quick. There didn’t seem to be a reasonable or realistic way to continue that for another 35 miles. I stopped and disassembled things, looked them over. Put it all back together. Continued on the trail. Same problems.

Well...it was a good race while it lasted. So with a heavy heart I abandoned the Ouachita Challenge. I’d already gotten through the worst of the rock gardens and was looking forward to the Womble trail. It will have to wait for another time.

Trying to remember to only use a limited set of gears in the rear and the middle or large front ring I found my way to the cut off to start my return to the school in Oden. I got my head back on straight, thought about all the good things from this trip and put in a few climbing efforts on the return ride. I soaked up the views of the mountains, the greening under story of the woods and the sunshine.

By the time I had to sprint from an unchained dog I was back ‘on game’ Was focused on the positive. Disappointed I couldn’t finish? For sure. Angry? No. Guess those years of experience helped me refocus and make the best of things. We had a great pre-ride on Saturday, I got to do part of the trail. Had a good time.

The riding there is unlike anything I’ve ever encountered. The rocks of the Michaux State Forest are probably the closest but the density, size and sharp edges of the Ozark rocks is something.

The climbing was epic and the Badger was an awesome bike to ride at OC. The big wheels: awesome! I just may have to make a return trip.

You can read a bit more at the Founder's team site


Riding Trails

YES! The weather has been super and Yankee was in shape to ride Sunday. Met Danielle and Toni (read recipe for suffering) to do a few laps. It was great to be out there. Sunny but it stayed right around 32-33 with windchill tossed in.
Rode the Badger. Wow. Four hours and my hands/wrists/back did NOT hurt. This is a first. Great fit on this bike. Its making the trip to Ouachita. The bike rides and handles superbly.

Here's a pic of Danielle doing a trackstand during our ride. It was the only time all day I was ahead of her. Okay, so it was after she had stopped and then soon after she came off the bike too. I think Toni had already blown by.


Cross Training

Today was going to be a nice long road ride. I got sidetracked early this morning. We'd had some serious wind a few weeks back and a tree had come down on our fence. So we went out to repair that. Next thing I know we're tackling a bunch of tree removal, trimming, pruning, hauling. Six hours later I limped into the house, barely able to grasp the door knob. It was great to have this all done but not quite the planned training for today.

The pick axe got pretty heavy before I finished. A small sampling of today's effort is shown here for your entertainment.

Hope I get recovered for a mtn. bike epic Sunday...a real trail ride! Yup! Going to actually ride on a trail before Ouachita. I can't believe that is a week from now.


Epic Outing

After another fast work-filled week I got out on the 29er for a nice ride yesterday. Sunny and warm with a fierce headwind. Still, great to be riding outside and the sun was a treat.

Today I met up with Danielle and then we later hooked up with Scott and Toni (this kid is an amazing rider, it's like she isn't working hard at all). Epic ride for me for sure, hardest/longest ride of the year. The sun shone again today and the temps were even in the 50s. The rain kindly blew through during the night leaving us sunny and dry.

Had to laugh, the first hour was a gasping near speechless outing. Turns out Danielle thought I was setting the pace and I thought she was. So we ending up riding real steady that first hour. Glad it was on the flat White Pine trail. From there it was out to the rolling back roads of Ada.

This is how things looked a lot today. Most likely Danielle had likely dropped back with me, quite kind. She's good about that (thanks). It certainly kept me motivated to ride hard to hang on as well as the need to catch up after many of the endless succession of hills. Loved it. At one point I was sucking in so much air that Danielle thought a dog was barking. Nope, just me trying to breath. But all in all it was a great ride and we did pretty much hang together.

One of the downhills had us working like we were on the flats, cross tires and a bit of wind can do that. It all was just great today, the sun and biking outside can make a great day.

Weather forecast has winter returning after a Monday of super high winds. The soaked ground and those winds will probably have me doing some cross training cleaning up downed trees before the week is out.

Two weeks till Ouachita!


Sweet Sun

Hike today. Scenery is awesome. 45 degrees quickly becomes 70-80. Loving life, it is great to be outside in the sun. Sleeping nine hours every night is a new thing too. Sweet.

Lots of great eating. All in all a great way to spend the week.


Riding with Susan

Got together with a friend who lives out here for a ride. Great day, great time.

Susan is a Brevet rider. This was her rest day....I still got in a nice long ride.


Climbing into the cold

Wednesday I decided to ride up Mt. Lemmon. The weather forecast seemed reasonable enough. In the end I turned back at the ranger station around 8,000 feet. The temps were below 50, it was windy and the rain seemed determined to stay. I put on everything I had packed and headed down. After five minutes around 25mph I could no longer feel my fingers and the toes were heading the same way...numb. Hard to brake when you can't feel the levers. The roads, having been dry for 191 rainless days, were getting slick. I continued down for a few more minutes, my shivers caused the bike to shimmy. A quick calculation left me with the realization it was going to be another hour of this to reach the bottom. Hypothermia was within reach. I decided to see if I could hitch a ride to the canyon floor. Hard to pass up a 20 mile descent but better to ride another day. A super nice couple on vacation from NJ gave me a lift down.

The pic is from the way up just as the first sprinkles started.