Friday, November 27, 2009

What a fine Thanksgiving!

Here a little photo dump of Thanksgiving and the day after...

Beth making her (now) famous Mac & Cheese

I was in charge of sausage balls, and they were yummy!

Someone had to taste test the Mac & Cheese!!

Is there something on my face?

The enormous spread of comfort food!

The desert table

Beth was allowed to sit at the adult table.

We took a nice stroll through the park to work off some calories

Zero taking in the sights

The dogs lead the way

Zero has a new girlfriend, but she's shy.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

What are you thankful for?

I'm thankful for an amazing family and the ability to ride my bike!  This week I'm back in Yorktown, Va visiting my parents and grandparents and old neighbors. I brought along my bike for the first time so I've been out exploring the old neighborhood. I went out for a dreary rainy ride on Tuesday and really enjoyed being out in the drizzly rain. No where really to go but I rode around and went by many old houses of highschool friends.

I got out this afternoon around noon and rode down to our local marina and around more of the old neighborhood. There are tons of new houses and entirely new developments since I was last out and about here. I lived here from 1989-1996 when I graduated highschool so it's been a while since I've been around the backroads here. Unfortunately lots of the roads are short and end in cul-de-sacs so I did a lot of turning around. I enjoyed being out though and moving the legs. It's kind of an odd feeling to be home for Thanksgiving, be eating with no regrets and yet also be out exercising.

Here is a map of my ride today, lots of turns but got in 12.5 miles with the sun shining.

View Larger Map

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Giving back & getting more than you bargained for

My friend Mathew Portell has started an amazing non-profit called Ride for Reading that helps give books to underprivileged children in Nashville. As a teacher he saw first hand how many children do not have any access to books what so ever. (In low income areas, the ratio of books to children is 1 book for every 300 kids. ) Mathew has used his love for cycling to tap into the great community of riders we have here in Nashville for support. He has sponsored races and held book drives and has worked super hard for the past year developing Ride for Reading.

When he announced on NMB that he was organizing another delivery of books to a local school via bicycle I jumped! I had missed the first delivery so I was super excited to be able to make this one. We met up at Fairytales book store which is a local drop off spot for Ride for Reading. Seven riders came out to help deliver the books so we all packed our backbacks, messenger bags and even a bob trailer and got suited up to ride the 10 miles from Riverside Drive in East Nashville over to Bransford ave to the International Newcomer Academy.

The weather could not of been better for a ride. We headed off around 9am and it was sunny and in low 50s. We winded our way through East Nashville down Shelby Street towards Titan Stadium and the Shelby St Pedestrian bridge. We even had the legendary Jam Danver with us to document the ride! We totally had the star treatment. It was like the paparazzi were following us, hanging out of car windows to snap pics of our caravan of book deliverers. After riding over the river we slowly went up hill on Demonbruen and worked our way over to 8th Ave taking a route very akin to the "Old Greg safe route" that annoys some "gotta get somewhere" cyclists. We kept to the lesser traveled streets and rolled down Gail Ave to get to the intersection of 8th Ave and Bransford.

At this point we realized that the bob trailer had thrown a bolt and wouldn't stay properly connected. (hmm I've seen this movie before!) We scoured the Walgreen parking lot assuming we must of just lost the bolt in the last few yards. Finally we had to admit defeat and had Mathew's lovely wife come pick up the bob trailer in her Jeep and follow us the rest of the way (all of about 300 yards) to the school.

When we arrived the entire school was outside waiting for us! Again, total star treatment. We rolled by, slapping the kids hands like we'd all just finished the Tour de France. We brought the bikes in to show the kids and quickly got our loot of books set out in their lunch room. The teachers were going to bring the kids about 4 at a time to each pick out any 2 books they wanted. This was where the day really got good. Sure we all love riding our bikes, but we were not all ready for what we were about to experience. Watching kids eye's light up when you tell them they can have any book they want, and not just one. These kids are all refugees seeking assylum here in the US, many from war stricken areas like Africa so they don't all speak english. Mathew has the gift of communication and they were all excited to get some new books. Each of them would come up to us and thank us on their way back to their classroom. It was an emotional experience and helped put a lot of life into perspective. M worries seem so trivial after hearing what these kids have been through and to see their outlook on life.

Simply amazing.

I am so glad I was able to participate in this great event and support a great cause like Ride for Reading. There are more ways to support people than just opening up your wallet. I know it would not have been anywhere near as rewarding if I had just gave $20 to Mathew and sat at home and watched TV while he delivered the books he's been collecting. I'm looking forward to helping more in the future!

(You can view all the pictures from the day here: )

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Do I still have kidneys?

I bet you thought this post would be about drinking, you can get some kidney destroying (or stealing) stories over on Dan's blog who just recently came back from New Orleans.

No, this is just a short post about a great fall bike ride out at Hamilton Creek. A group from NMB talked about meeting up at 12pm and after sleeping in until 9am, I stil had ample time to get the short distance to the trail and yet still enjoy some rest time. I've been busy with projects this past week at the house. Re-purposing an old chest of drawers with a fresh coat of paint and continuing to work on getting some nasty old wallpaper down in our guest room. Beth and I worked late downtown last night doing a craft show in the Arcade so I was looking for a lazy Sunday.

The weather though these past few days has just been heavenly. Highs in the 70s in November with a lovely breeze? I have tried my best to get out and enjoy it when I can so I got off the couch today to meet up and ride some Hammy.

The trail didn't disappoint, but it did beat me up as usual. I rode with the group, about 8 total, up until we crossed over to the advanced side. Group rides are always hard because there is so much stopping and chatting but at the same time they are fun for those same reasons. It's great to be able to take your time and try different trail sections a few times or watch the lines other people take. I enjoyed catching up with Reed and Chris Holland too as I haven't ridden with them much at all in the past year and they used to be regular riding buds.

I got a little ahead of the group and waited for a bit but then realized that I needed to up the pace and get on home. I couldn't afford to spend over 3 hours out in the woods today so I continued on alone. A lot of the tough sections are easier when you hit them at a good speed and riding rigid, you get beat up a lot more when you drudge along really slowly. Being able to ride my pace helped a lot on the back half of the course. Fall is a tough time to ride rigid too. All the leaf cover hides the bumps and forces you to keep a loose overall feel on the bike. Of course this is how you should always ride, but the rocks and roots just seem to hurt more when you can't see them and you're not ready.

The trail has been through a lot of changes lately too. Lots of reroutes have been added in the past year which have added a lot more mileage to the full loop but also seems to have taken some of the elevation out. I'm sure the overall elevation gain is the same but many of the short steep climbs that were always fun challenges were also fall line trail and were eroding badly. Almost all of them have now been replaced with more winding trail and lots of switchbacks. The trail is still fun but it's definitely not that same Hamilton Creek it was 5 years ago when I first rode it. As many things in life, things need to change. I feel fortunate that we have so many trail options here in Nashville and that every trail is so different. There are almost 10 trails that you can drive to in under 1:45 min and each one offers and unique experience.

So yea, Hammy was fun today and I'm beat. Gonna spend some quality time on the couch and then make dinner for Beth. Get out and enjoy this amazing fall weather if you can, it'll be stupid cold soon I'm sure!

Thursday, November 05, 2009


Got out for a couple great fall bike rides the past week or so. I hit up Percy Warner last week to try out my new handlebars and did a loop and enjoyed the amazing colors of the changing leaves. I met up with Adam and Keith this morning for a jaunt around Montgomery Bell. The trail was completely dry but also completely covered in leaves. Surprisingly we only had a couple explorations outside the trail boundaries.

Monty Bell has been my go to trail this year so truthfully it's been getting a bit mundane to ride there. I've been neglecting many of the other great trails we have here like Lock4, Hamilton Creek and Chickasaw but also in my defense, we have had an incredibly wet riding season and Monty Bell has been the only dry play to ride. All that to say that we tried to change it up today and after heading into the trail and immediately taking the less-often rode Blue trail off to the right, we thought we'd try to ride every trail in the "less-often" ridden direction, or backwards. We rode almost the entire blue trail in reverse up til the 4 way Green Downhill entrance and then got the crazy idea to ride the Green Downhill (which it seems most Tennesseans skip nowadays) and then turn right around and ride it backwards (against the rules and almost entirely uphill.) Wow, that was fun in a "I feel very accomplished that I made it up all the climbs" but CRAP that was hard! Keith thinks maybe that's the hardest of the longer climbs out at Monty Bell. Thankfully the trail was totally empty on this fine Thurs morning so we had no downhill traffic to contend with as we rode the wrong direction on the only One Way trail at Monty Bell.

We continued on to ride Blue forwards (breaking our own rule) and connect up with the Yellow trail to ride a good chunk of that backwards. I know that if I were by myself I would not of done this and would of wussed into riding a few miles out to my car and heading home. My fitness isn't where I wish it was and riding to two people in better shape than me is exactly what I need to keep at it and ride longer. Yellow is hard forwards or backwards but we had a great time today riding it. I finally threw in the towel after about 12 miles and Adam wanted to stay somewhat fresh for his upcoming Swank65 race this weekend. We rode the few miles back to the car and called it a day of good hard, slow riding. :) We ended up with around 14 miles at an average of 7.8 mph.

Contrary to the norm, I'm hoping that I can up my saddle time this fall and winter. I've had a lot of distractions and good (and bad) reasons to be off the bike a lot lately & I'm hoping to remedy that. Halloween has come and gone (our first in our new house) and the temperature is continuing to fall. Great time for some long gravel rides, night riding and some fun urban rides. I just need to act on the motivation!

Here are some fun things that kept me off the bike

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

The Crosscheck sees it's first cross race

With it's 2nd birthday coming up in January, my Crosscheck was starting to feel inadequate and slightly ripped off. This is understandable since it was purchased as a road bike/do-all bike/cross bike/gravel grinder bike yet in almost 2 years it had yet to see any cyclocross action. It would patiently hang in the workshop as it's owner would go to cross races and heckle the other racers while enjoying delicious beer. It was starting to become too much for the little bloke so the time had come and the Cross the Way race at the Goat Farm was just the place for it's introduction.

Fate would have it that the race was on Halloween and also the weather conditions were perfect for a cyclocross race; cold, wet and muddy. I showed up early to give myself some time to register and also to practice my dismounts and remounts. I was a cross virgin and didn't want to make a fool of myself (too badly) by tripping up in my bike. Lots of other people took the initiative to come dressed up which was fun. I didn't have a great costume idea and knowing how wet it would most likely be, I opted to just rock the normal Yazoo attire and represent the few of us left racing under Yazoo.

Superhero Graham

I pre-rode the course to get familiar with any crazy stuff which was a great idea but also a bad idea. The course was hard and seemed very long. The grass was high, and almost the entire course was wet. I was even having trouble with traction on the smallest of climbs. I did thankfully get to see the Run Up Of Death, which ended up being harder in the pre-ride than the race since someone took the time to cut in some steps with a shovel right before the race started. By the time I finally made it around the full lap some of my friends had shown up. Thad (dressed as a crazy losing Canadian,) and Mike (my fellow Yazoo supporter), were there to suffer with me along with Jeremy (THE Fondoadie who's beating Thad) and his wife, Jeanie (Cop supporter) and many other of the usual suspects.

Do we get free beer?

I thought I may get a little slack for signing up for the Cat4 race but I figured since it was my first true cross race, that was where I belonged. I felt better when Mike said he was racing Cat4 and not singlespeed but also when I lined up and saw the 26 other guys I was comforted by my choice. Yet I was also thinking, crap, most of these guys mean business. Then we were off and sprinting down the gravel road with no warm-up. It was time to start the 30 minutes of "I think I may throw up" riding. The course had been chewed up a lot since my pre ride an hour earlier and the mud bogs were bigger. I was joking on the line that it would be a 2 lap race and halfway through my first lap I was half hoping for a shorter race and yet still hoping I could squeak out 3 laps. The first half of the course was tough with some soggy false flat sections and two no-so-steep-but-kinda-long climbs. With my heart pumping in my throat and my rear tire barely connecting with anything, I dismounted and tried to run up the climbs. It ended up being more of a fast walk, but I was holding my place. It was the classic dilemma of should I walk or granny gear it up and both were the same speed.

My idea of jumping off the couch to enter my first ever cross race wasn't the best I'd ever had. My body does better with the longer races were I can fall into my pace. This was nothing of that sort. The Run Up Of Death was easier with the steps they cut in and I was getting the hang of jumping back on the saddle without having to stop or jamming up the boys. After a grunt climb we started into the second half of the lap and the part I enjoyed much more. We rode through a barn and into the twisties and then over some barriers. This was where I was able to make a some ground but I couldn't ever catch up with Mike who was 2 guys in front of me. It seemed I was just a head of a racer who was slow to remount so I was able to stay a head of him yet I didn't have any advantage over Mike so I just help my place the race.

The second lap was pretty uneventful and similar to the first lap. I didn't pass anyone and no one passed me. I got the hang of the barriers better but as I rode through the finish line I got the "your done" sign. I was slightly annoyed (at myself) that I only got to ride 2 laps for my $30 but it was a great intro to cyclocross and like many races, hanging out after my race for just as much fun. The race was very well run and they sprung for a keg of Yazoo Dos Perros which made it easy to forget the pain of racing the course. I stuck around and watched all the other races and shot a bunch of photos of the Masters 35+ and the singlespeed race. My trusty Crosscheck performed great for me. My new handlebars that I just got from Harpeth Bicycles were also great. I found them way more comfortable than my old Salsa Bell Lap bars and I had more power while standing, though in the mud I couldn't actually use this new power.

MUD! Many comments were made about Dirt Sweat & Gears, wonder why

I'm looking forward to the next Cross The Way race which is going to be held on the peninsula at Lock4. The Uphill Grind crew know how to plan a great event!!

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