Backpack Back Care

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Backpack Back Care

 Striking a pose on the Appalachian Trail. 

Striking a pose on the Appalachian Trail. 

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How many of us are plagued by countless hours sitting at a desk hunched over a keyboard dreaming of future weekend adventures? We wire our neuromuscular system for terrible body mechanics and then when it’s time to play nagging low back pain presents itself. Low back pain(LBP) effects more than 3 million people in the US every year. LBP will put a real damper on your plans when standing and walking cause pain. No worries this is usually an easy issue to correct through self care, stretching and strength training.

 

What causes low back pain? Our spines are amazing when we think about it, the amount of work and support that it gives us for all of our activities is incredible. When pain starts to presents itself it is often attributed to hours of bad alignment that our muscular system has been able to compensate for until it reached the tipping point resulting in pain. Stress on the spine should be supported by the musculature of our core but due to either a weak core or an overload to one aspect of our core causing one side of the body to shorten and the other side to become deconditioned and inactive.

 

So how can a backpack help with back care? Stuart McGill believes that by wearing a backpack for as little as 5 minutes on uneven ground  every day with approximately 20lb load can help individuals who are flexion intolerant. Exacerbated by prolonged sitting will make it troublesome when attempting to standing from a chair after long periods of sitting. When the lumbar spine tilts forward it begins to pinch nerves and compress the disk between vertebrae. This may even cause pain or numbness down one leg. By weaning a weighted backpack and walking on a uneven surface the pack pulls the back into a better alignment while also giving a therapeutic  rocking motion side to side which helps to activate the proper muscles that support the spine.

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Dr. McGill states that wearing a weighted backpack is superior to wearing a weighted vest for those experiencing low back pain due to the weight coming from behind instead of the top.

 

 

The same rules apply to wearing a backpack around the park for 5 minutes as when carrying a fully load pack for a multiday hike. R.E.I. recommends that when you place weight in your pack make sure that the bulk of the weight is placed close to your body in the middle of the pack. Having too much weight in the top half of a pack can cause too much stress to the mid back which is less stability on the low back.

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While wearing a weighted pack is great way to help with reducing LBP and realigning the spine, strength training is necessary to make sure that the core musculature of the spine is strong and stable for future adventures. Strength training your core 2-3 days per week will help your endurance so that you can adventure longer, stronger and have better posture while sitting at the desk daydreaming of mountain tops and rapids.

 

 

Try out Dr. McGills’ Big Three back exercises to help stabilize and strengthen your core.

 

X2-3 Sets of the following circuit:

 

15 Curl Ups

20 Alternating Bird Dog

:30 second R&L Side Planks

 

Big Three Back Exercises



 

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Preseason Training for Hiking in Pisgah National Forest

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Preseason Training for Hiking in Pisgah National Forest

 Slate Rock, Pisgah National Forest

Slate Rock, Pisgah National Forest

The holidays are over and winters bitter chill has set in on the mountains of Western North Carolina with today’s high temp of 26F in Asheville. No better way to beat the cold than using this season to get strong for spring and summer adventures in the outdoors. In as little as two days of strength training each week you can increase your strength and work capacity. This is also a great time to work on any weak points or compensation patterns you may have developed due to a previous injury or due to synergistic dominance. Synergistic dominance occurs when inappropriate muscles take over weak or inhibited prime movers. The human body works through the path of least resistance so when a weak muscle needs help it recruits help from other muscles to perform the task at hand. For outdoor athletes a Functional Movement Screening(FMS) can be the most important preseason information to help set up an effective off season strength training program. For anyone living around Asheville you can make an appointment at Specialized Physical Therapy to get a full assessment.

 

Winter time can trap outdoor adventures and turn them into hibernating adventures who will attempt to hit the trails in the spring with little to no prep. If you have been there you know it gets uncomfortable real quick on your first time out of the cave. What happened to the mountain crusher you were at the end of last season? Achy and sore for days post first adventure? What if your first adventure of the year is epic and you don’t have mountains to train on before you arrive at the base camp in a foreign place?

 

A little preseason mobility, strength and conditioning can be the difference between an epic adventure or get humbled by the trail gods. Around here we have Pisgah, while beautiful she is  also tough and unforgiving. Locals know to respect her every time we head out on her trails. For a weekend of hiking or biking in Pisgah National Forest there is a range of different physical requirements depending on the trail or adventure. Traversing up rock slabs, across streams, over down trees, stepping up root covered mountain sides are just some of the obstacles that you might find on a day outing. Looking Glass Rock is a very popular hike for tourist every season. So many times I have encountered day hikers questioning if they would be making it to the summit. Don’t be that tourist. This 6.5 mile out and back hike climbs 1,700’ above the valley below. The view is spectacular but you have to put in work to see what it’s all about.

 

Hikers who are lacking range of motion(ROM) will often start to experience knee pain due to the angle the knee is placed. Local tip: next time before heading out on the trail try stretching your calves one at a time for 5-10s each x3

 

Get strong in the off season and take on the trail with confidence with as little as 2 days per week of basic strength training. Here is an example of a basic total body circuit you can add into your week that would help prepare you for spring.

 

X3

20 Air Squats

:30s Forearm Plank

20 Alternating Lunges

:30s Side Plank(each side)

20 Single Leg Calf Raises(each)

:30s Bicycle Crunches

20 Alternating Single Leg Glute Bridge

:30 Superman Hold

This is a very basic workout that will test out most major strength requirements for a smooth day hike.

 

Don’t forget about training for stamina as well as strength. This doesn’t mean that you need to go and spend hours but in order to increase your stamina you must get a minimum of 3 days per week of 30 min with your heart rate elevated higher than your resting rate. A casual walk for 30 minutes is a great start but it will not increase your aerobic capacity. The best way to increase your stamina is to get a little uncomfortable for short periods followed by recovery periods. Next time your getting your cardio give this a try. :30s @ a higher speed or up a hill/incline then recover for :30s or while walking back down the hill. See if you can make it 10min with short intervals of higher intensity.  

 

Specific training for your favorite outdoor adventure activities is the last step help prepare your body to the stresses that you will put it though. During my years working as a trainer at a corporate gym I would be the guy on the treadmill with the inline set to 10, wearing a 60L pack loaded down with approximately the same weight that I would be toting around on my trek. Adding conditioning workouts like this the closer I got to a big trip helped me show up confident in my body. Specific training for your favorite outdoor adventure activities is the last step help prepare your body to the stresses that you will put it through.  

 Looking Glass Rock, Pisgah National Forest

Looking Glass Rock, Pisgah National Forest

 

Need motivation to get started, pick a goal adventure. This could range from an hour of non-stop walking in a scenic area or taking on that local trail that you have always wanted to summit. For those planning to visit Asheville, NC and check out some of the top local hikes for their view, waterfalls, and historic sites. If your in the Asheville area this could range from walking around the gardens at the Biltmore Estate or summiting Mt. Mitchell, the highest east coast peak. There is a big difference on the demands on the body for taking on various adventures in Western North Carolina. For instance the Mt. Mitchell hike out and back from Black Mountain Campground to the summit of Mt. Mitchell is 11.4 miles. This hike is strenuous and requires some technical hiking over rocks, roots and streams. The hike is stunning but the 3,689 feet of elevation gain makes this a long day hike. This hike could take anywhere from 6-8hr and even longer depending on the fitness level of the hiker. The duration of this hike also requires more snakes and hydration. If you are going during the open season there is a gift shop at the Mt. Mitchell parking lot where you can buys snacks and refill water. For hikers coming to take on Mt. Mitchell in the spring and summer it is wise to bring a rain jacket due to the fast moving storms that time of year.


 

Here is a sample of what one could train for the stamina for a hike like Looking Glass Rock.

 

30min of hill training one day per week either on a stair stepper at the gym or pick your favorite hill and hike repeats on the hill for 30min.

1hr steady cardio one day per week.

1 long day, usually on saturday or sunday. Walk or hike for 2-3 hours at a casual pace, if there are hills where you live utilize them.

 

Add in the strength exercises in on your off days and take one day to rest. Start now and by the time spring is here you will be ready to head to the mountains with confidence.


 

Keep that adventure in mind as you work on your fitness. Spring will be here soon, bring on the adventures!

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Swamps and Single Track, Huracan 300 Recap

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Swamps and Single Track, Huracan 300 Recap

Where I go on a bike is not just a physical journey. What would be a one hour drive has become a 6hr adventure through swamps and mountains. In these moments time stops while I float down a river of altered consciousness before washing up to shore drained, depleted and delusional. It’s in these moments I find what I’m made of. Who am I when no one else is around. How mentally and physically sound are my mind and body? Racing ultras on a mountain bike is a life changing experience. My friend Drew has broken it down that there are 3 types of people show up for such events. 1)Hardcore nut jobs looking to finish the course as fast as possible.(me) Drew recently dubbed me Steven McBad Idea 2) The party pedaler or casual adventurer who is looking to have fun with friends and bike community at a steady pace but take time to enjoy the experience and perhaps a few brews. 3) Bucket list rider, this is the rider who has dreamed of this epic adventure but might not be the most seasoned cyclist. They have went over all of the details with meticulous research and logistical preparation. These riders are often carrying 20lbs of gear that they would only use post nuclear fall out.

 

Though my current status is “hardcore nut job” I have been in the other two roles in some of my previous Ultra riding experiences. In 2015 I road west to east on the Trans America Trail as a bucket list/spiritual journey. Last year(2017) for the Huracan 300 I had a 6in knife strapped to my frame along with a massive canister of grizzly spray. I was there to race but I was also ready for war with the swamp. Since then I have dialed into racer mode carrying only the essentials to keep me alive and to the next town or checkpoint.

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    Huracan 300 (2017)

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    Huracan 300 (2018)

If your interested in hearing about my 2017 Huracan 300 experience check out http://stevenmchone.com/blog/2017/2/8/huracan-300-recap

For 2018 I had decided to go light. I swapped out the suspension for a carbon fork and the 27.5x2.8s for 29x700x50 for a faster roll on the road sections. I only packed a few essential tools, 3 water bottles, some snacks and back up battery. I brought my back pack for my warm layers and rain jacket, next time I think I will try and pack these items on the bike and lose the pack.

This years start was a bit warmer at 50°F and blue skys. The days high will be around 70°F with clouds rolling in over the night switching to rain around 11am the next morning. 

Dale and I had left Asheville, NC around 1pm headed south to pick up Drew on our way to Santos. This is a 9ish hour drive plus a 30min wait in the drive through of Zaxby's during rush hour.  We finally made it to Gainesville Florida to pick up Drew around 9:30pm. We caught up on our most recent adventures, this is when Drew dubbed me "Steven McBad Idea" due to a recent trip I took to Mt. Pisgah for an overnight trip in sub freezing temps. I guess the name fits. A quick stop at a gas station to buy snacks and breakfast then we were headed to Santos. Its starting to become a tradition that I arrive super late for races. Everyone was passing out when we arrived so we hung out a little bit before calling it a night. 

It didn't take long to pass out in the back on my min van. 7am was here and I had to finish up a few last min details before the race started. I replaced my batteries in both my Spot Tracker and my Garmin 300x GPS. Pro tip: always use the lithium batteries, yes they are expensive but they will last 5x as long. I will have these devices on for 24-72hrs non stop and not need to swap out batteries. Batteries, check! Now its off to check in and get any race info. Karlos, the race director keeps the scene upbeat while I sign off on the rules of the race. This years patch is super sweet!

Two races that will be taking on the route on a tandem have brought coffee and doughnuts for the other races. I snagged two before heading back to the mini for one more run down of my set up. I saw a few familiar faces from other races and even a few AVL riders. The pre race nerves are almost non existent for this race. Im enjoying taking in the scene and catching up with friends before go time. Drew, Dale and I headed over to the start for the pre race talk given by Karlos. You know the one: have fun, be safe, watch out for one another. We all lined up and even though Karlos had instructed us to take a chill mass rolling start for the first 10mile stretch of road I knew that would change quickly. Scoping out the set ups on the front of the pack it looked like there were several people there that would be shooting to go the distance without sleeping. Everyone has a plan till they find themselves exhausted in a swamp in the dark. 

The roll out broke the group out into a few clusters of rides which would continue to reduce down to a group of 6 of us after the first section of single track where I lost one of my three water bottles. Cranking along and trading pulls until we reached Ocala National Forest where we would remain on sand forest service roads for around 60 miles. The route takes the riders to the entrance of a Navy bomb testing site. This is the last time I would see a few of the top riders as they turned right I looked down and my GPS route showed to go left. I decided to stick to my route so I turned off, this is when I started to realize that there were going to be times where the route and my arrow wouldn't be perfectly lined up but that didn't mean I was off track. After assessing the route I took back off with two other riders who had caught up while I was pulled over. There was another group of about 6-8 riders that also caught up with us. This group was a lively crew listening to music and cracking jokes. I was enjoying being with a crew of fellow crazies but if I was going to race the way I wanted I needed to break pack. I shot ahead and got into my rhythm. That was the last time I saw most of them for the rest of the race. 

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U.S. Navy Bombing Range

I was carrying just enough water to get me to the first control stop on the route. Since I had lost a bottle earlier I was already having to ration out my supply. I was trucking along solo then it hit me, I think I passed up the first resupply spot. Go back 4mi and snag more water or keep rationing out my remaining water until the next town 60 miles away. Steven McBad Idea here, I decided to keep going and hope for a water source along the route. First pump I found was great. Not so lucky the next time I made it to a water source. The water reeked of sulphur. I dropped a few electrolye tabs in, in hopes of killing the rotten egg taste. This being the only water I now had I held out as long as I could before taking a swig. I instantly spit it out. I needed to get to a town. This put me in a depleted state way too early in the race. By the time I made it past the water crossing and into Apopka I was fading fast. Dashing off route to find supplies after finding out the Circle K gas station(check point 2) was closed down. Something about not paying taxes I think. By the time I made it to Walgreens Im sure I was visibly shaking due to my dehydration and low blood sugar. With my arms full of snacks and drinks I stood in line while two employees continued to carry on their conversation while occasionally looking my direction. I kept myself composed for several minutes as the mindless conversation droned on and I continued to try not and drop everything I was hold. I imagined smashing everything in the floor and losing my shit but I needed to just get my supplies. Finally another associate came up front to ring me up while the other two continued to occupy space. Then cashier asked me what I was up to. Not in the mood for chit chat due to my furious hanger rage that had built up. Must FEED!!! I took my goodies out side and sat on the side walk tearing through calories and replenishing my fluids. Then sun was fading fast as I headed out of town towards Apopka Lake.

                                            Hangry Face at Check Point 2 in Apopka.

                                           Hangry Face at Check Point 2 in Apopka.

There was a reroute on this section that I butchered but riding it in reverse. I was cranking away through the darkness when I looked up to see three other racers headlights headed my direction. "Your going back wards!" They shouted as they roll past. No way! I double and triple checked...they were right. Damn. I turned around and hit the gas. There went the gap between me and the front of the pack and knew it. I quickly caught up the the pack and road with them for a few miles but I decided I needed to race on at my own pace so I kicked it up and that was the last I saw them. I don't they any of them were riding through the night. Ugh the short climbs over the mini mountain range were getting to me. I needed more fuel and caffeine. Up a steep climb then down the other side all the way into Clermont. I stopped by check point 3 for a quick pic at Epic Cycles before riding through town. There were a few gas stations just off route but I went with my gut and just kept cranking until I found a Circle K that was on route. I got several warning of how dangerous it was to be doing what I was doing as I sat outside destroying a foot long Italian sub.

                             Epic Cycles, Claremont Florida, Check Point 3 around 9pm. 

                            Epic Cycles, Claremont Florida, Check Point 3 around 9pm. 

Back on the grind and feeling relatively good considering I had now been cranking on the bike for just over 13 hours. I would remain in the Green Swamp Wilderness Preserve for the next 80miles. This section was remote and soggy. Several roads had knee to thigh high water for 30ft sections. most of these I was able to navigate by traversing the banks of the swamp but other offered no other option that going through. Keep in mind this is gator country and a few hours earlier when I was riding on levies through Lake Apopka constantly hearing gators splashing into the water as I rode by. I turned on my light to high beam hoping to see through the water. It an eerie feeling but you get use to it. The last sketch water section was a tunnel under an over pass with low ceilings and the ground under a foot or more of water. After the water hazards the sand got mushy and unrideable for some long slogging. I started coming in and out of dreams while riding. At one point I thought I saw a row of school buses in the forest of the swamp so I decided it was time for a nap. There was a big tree and soft sand just off the road where I set my alarm for 30min and laid down and took a quick recharge session. Its amazing how refreshing 30min can be after pedaling for 20 hours. I continued to crank on to Ridge Manor where I made an agreement with myself that I would take one more 30min nap before sunrise. I scoped out the Circle K truck stop/gas station and decided to just lean my bike up against a phone pole and lay down in the grass. I woke up as the sun was rising. It was breakfast time and Circle K didn't disappoint with their sausage and egg biscuits. Its amazing how nice a warm meal can be during one of these races.  A Starbucks double shot expresso in a can and I was feeling freshish. With the sun now up it was much easier to stay awake. 

      Room with a view, watching the sunrise from the Circle K Gas Station in Ridge Manor.

     Room with a view, watching the sunrise from the Circle K Gas Station in Ridge Manor.

After a few miles of road and paved greenway I found myself entering Croom Wildlife Management Area. This 50mile stretch had a 30mile chunk of single track twisting and turning that seemed to be getting me nowhere. I enjoyed the single track but due to my fatigue I was ready to get back on something that required less skill. By the time I came out of Croom I felt another drop in my power out put. I needed more fuel. Its funny how long miles can seem when you start to bonk. After each turn I kept imagining the glorious Lake Lyndsey Mall just up ahead. By the time I reached check point 4 I was ready for one of their famous sandwiches. I ordered a half cuban sandwich, in retrospect I would have ordered a whole sandwich and taken the second half to go. Ah such an amazing treat! The folks at the market are super caring for the racers and seem to understand where we are mentally when we arrive. 

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Check Point 4, Lake Lyndsey Mall 26th hour face. The Cuban was the food highlight of my trip!

Just about 70miles to go to be back at Santos. After putting down some calories I got water bottles filled up and snacks loaded just as the rain started. Being on the road in the rain was my least favorite part of the race. There was no shoulder and visibility was terrible due to the heavy rain fall. I still don't regret not bringing rain paints. Then there came the hike a bike (HAB) section just before the Citrus Wildlife Area where I stopped to check the weather ahead. The rain had been coming down hard and it was had to tell if there would be thunder and lightening in the mix. Either way I didn't have much other option than to keep cranking through the next forest. The single track miles seemed to slow time to a crawl as darkness set in and now I was navigating through fog as well. For a set of fresh legs this would have been a blast but after 300miles I was ready to get to Santos and lay down. The rain had caused to chaffing to occur which made it almost unbearable to sit down for the last 30 miles of single track. It seemed like every time I check my GPS I was still in the same loop. This wasn't the first time I had cursed Karlos during a race but this was the first time I took a short break to yell into the darkness. Damnit Karlos! I would start down a trail then realize I was off route then have to back track. This happened several times due to how close multiple trails were to each other in the Santos trail system. Emerging from the darkness I saw the shelter and picnic tables where this had all started 38hrs prior. I flopped out on one of the tables and shot Dale a text of where to find me. Huracan 300 fin!

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Winter Adventure Introspection

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Winter Adventure Introspection

 Funnel Top Overlook, Blue Ridge Parkway.

Funnel Top Overlook, Blue Ridge Parkway.

“The mountains are calling and I must go.”-John Muir

 

 View of the sunset as I approached Bent Creek Gap

View of the sunset as I approached Bent Creek Gap

I’m cursed with the genes of a rambling mountain man, luckily I live in the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Saturday mornings forecast was calling for snow. The flurries dancing outside of my window made my heart beat just a little faster knowing that I would be setting up camp in the snow later on that night. Looking south from Asheville I could see Mt. Pisgah hidden in a snow cloud off in the distant range. The high temp for the day is 24°F and a low of 14°F. Here is a little mountain tip if your wanting to know what the temp is at a higher elevation. For every 1000 feet there is a drop of 3.5°F. THis is vital information to consider packing for a trip up into the high country. For me this meant that going from Asheville altitude 2,134’ to the ridge just below the Mt. Pisgah summit was at an altitude of 4,957’ a +3,000’ gain in altitude. In order to take on this kind of adventure I needed to take the proper gear to keep me warm and safe at a temperature of abound 0°F not including the wind chill factor which would make if feel much colder.

 

This isn’t a trip that I would recommend a novice adventurer take on and especially not solo. When I take on adventures like this it may seem crazy but it is a very calculated trip. Being 20 miles away from emergency services in an area that is closed off for the season from car access. Other than just bitter cold temps and snow I also have to take in consideration of black ice due to the nature of the variety of precipitation in the last 24hrs it has gone from 50°F rain to 24°F and snow.

 

Clothing: wool socks, Bontrager Old Man Winter(OMW) boots, fleece tights, kit, synthetic long sleeve top, fleece vest, Patagonia down jacket, Patagonia rain jacket, Bontrager RXL gloves, Outdoor Research Meteor Mittens, knit beanie from momma Kilby and a back up polyester beanie.

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Tech gear: crampons, Marmot Tungsten 1 person tent, North Face ultralight zero degree sleeping bag, silk liner, Thermarest sleeping pad, Sea-to-Summit inflatable pillow, MSR pocket rocket, small propane canister, MSR bladder,  and bags by Revelate Designs(triangle, rear, sweet roll, two feed bags.

 

 New fork day! Thanks Eric and Liberty Bikes!

New fork day! Thanks Eric and Liberty Bikes!

Before getting started packing I put the bike on the stand and replaced the bottom bracket which was causing some nasty sounds with each pedal stroke post CFiTT(Cross Florida Individual Time Trial). 300 miles across Florida clogged up the bike with a good bit of sand so I gave the El Mar a little TLC before loading her up. The process of finding all of my gear post move into a new house took about 2hr. This delayed my departure significantly. After looking about for my multi tool with no luck I decided I would just make my route to Pisgah include a stop to one of the local shops Liberty Bikes AVL. It was a little after 3pm before I took off pedaling from my house in East Asheville. Liberty Bikes had been sitting on a carbon fork that I had been keeping my eye on for a while. I made a deal with myself on the ride over that if the fork could be installed in the amount of time it would take for me to go next door and shop for dehydrated meals and snacks at Diamond Brand Outdoors then I would go ahead with the purchase. Eric hooked it up! By the time I made it back to the shop it was time to put the bags back on and head toward Mt. Pisgah.

 

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Winter is a special season for outdoor adventures who choose to head up to the higher elevations. The Blue Ridge Parkway is shut down and no motorist can access the mountains but for a cyclist this is prime time to get to enjoy the parkway without fear. I enjoy using the whole road, stopping to take photos and taking in the stillness. The only downside is the sub freezing temps and high winds.

 

I told Eric that I thought I could make it to the top in 2ish hours. I was a few hours off. It is a solid 4,000’ feet of climbing and due to freezing water and lack of appetite I felt myself slowly draining as the night fall set in but I didn’t want to stop. It was extremely cold and stopping only made it harder to keep pushing. Opening and closing my hands became increasingly difficult the longer I was out there exposed to the elements. My fingers felt like they were covered in shards of glass and my toes...well I hadn’t felt them in a while. Surrounded in darkness the city lights sparkling from the valley below. I could see the lights of Asheville off to my right and Hendersonville to my left and up ahead of me was the blinking red lights on the radio tower that is at the summit of Mt. Pisgah. The pain and fatigue were real. I started to question if I should just call it a night and set up camp at Elk Pasture Gap at the intersection of Hwy 151 and the Blue Ridge Parkway.

 

After a little positive self talk I looked at my pain and remaining miles as a test of will. I know I had all the gear necessary to camp around Mt. Pisgah and I just needed to suck it up for a few more miles. This was also the steepest miles. I pushed on until I reached the Pisgah Inn. I made it! Well mostly. I still needed to decide where to set up camp for the night. Staying down in the tree line would be a must due to the high winds so I made myself at home in the empty campground. 66 empty campsites all to myself. The pain from the cold was now almost unbearable. The clasp and zippers can be very challenging when you can no longer feel your fingers. In times like this it is imperative to stay calm, mind over matter. Frustration and pain will bring panic if I don’t keep myself composed. I’m not dying but I am very uncomfortable in my body. I know my mind doesn’t feel cold but my body is screaming “Steven you're an asshole!”.

 Not a happy camper face. 

Not a happy camper face. 

In my head I talk to my hand to help guide my digits as they set up the tent. The ground is frozen so I use some large rocks to secure the rain fly. Next comes the sleeping pad followed by the sleeping bag and silk liner. I submerged myself into the bag and liner, ahh home for the night. After I regained sensation back in my fingers I broke out the camp stove and dinner. Dehydrated meals are amazing on nights like this. Boil 2 cups of water, pour in pouch, reseal and cuddle the bag for 20 minutes. A hot meal was the pick me up that I needed to get me out of the suffer cave. I forced myself to drink some of the slushie ice water that was in my MSR bladder before settling in for the night. I had some slight cramping when taking my boots off and didn’t want to wake up in the middle of the night locked up. This is one of the only nights that remember that I have gone to sleep wearing gloves.

 

 Didn't want to get out of my down sleeping bag burrito. 

Didn't want to get out of my down sleeping bag burrito. 

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The wind howled all night causing me to have trouble falling asleep. Frozen tree limbs knocking and breaking would wake me but I was warm. At one point I might have been on the verge of sweating. My original intention was to make it up to Pisgah to get some sun set pictures, fail. I had also hoped to get up early and take some shot of the sunrise but I had fallen into my deepest round of sleep of a solid 3 hours before waking up to the sun peaking through the trees. It was too cold to get out of my down cave. After a little check in with my body I decided to take my time and have breakfast before rolling out for pictures. Breakfast was a combo of a granola meal and an oatmeal dehydrated packs. Again I boiled water then poured it into the food pouch. I had combined the pouches into one to consolidate into one big meal. Being out in extreme cold requires more fuel than normal so that the body can maintain warmth. Shivering requires calories. Like unpacking, packing the gear back onto the bike is the most miserable part of the winter bikepacking experience. It was a little easier to pack back up with the food all gone, me wearing all of the layers and only carrying enough water to get me home. I took a quick exploration to the Funnel Top Overlook. So many times I shoot past this overlook due to the volume of tourist gathered in the pull off. It was nice to take in the vast range of mountains that spread all the way to South Carolina in solitude.

 

 Mt. Pisgah overlook on my way back down the mountain in the morning.

Mt. Pisgah overlook on my way back down the mountain in the morning.

The awesomeness was short lived before the cold wind reminded me of the effect of single digit temps on my exposed hands. I started heading back towards the Pisgah Inn when I got caught off guard by a large cat crossing the parkway 50’ ahead then disappear into the rock face on the other side of the road. I later looked up pictures of mountain lions and confirmed what I saw. These big cats are very rare to see in this area. Some say they don’t exist around these parts but I don’t think there would be a large house cat above 5,000’. It is almost all descending back to Asheville which makes the return trip take less than half the amount of time that it took to get up here. This descent in the summer on a road bike I hit speeds around 45-50mph but with snow covered roads and black ice in the tunnels I had to modulate my speed to a speed that I could control if approaching a sketchy section. One short climb was welcomed to help me warm back up before descending off the Parkway via Bent Creek Gap. Pretty sure I was the first to drop in for the day, everyone else is much smarter for staying indoors. It was amazing how much warmer if felt from the loss of elevation and sunshine. A couple short climbs back into civilization where the silence was lost. I pedaled through Carrier Park enjoying the view of the French Broad River to my right. Im now dreaming of coffee and toast. One more climb and I was back home. Time to unthaw until the next adventure.                                                                                                                        


 

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Pisgah Strong

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Pisgah Strong

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Have you ever looked into taking a trip to Pisgah National Forest to shred some knar, summit Mt. Mitchell, or catch an epic sunset on Black Balsam? What are you waiting for? For some the hesitation comes when trying to decide if the trail, mountain or adventure is more than they are physically ready to take on. So why not show up to Pisgah with the confidence to take on the Blue Ridge Mountains. I have spent most of my life living and playing in the mountains of Western North Carolina and I’d love to share what I feel are necessary physical and mental capabilities that would allow individuals to have a enjoyable experience Pisgah instead of getting humbled by her.

 

I took for granted for many years that I was able to run up the local trails with ease until time and bad movement compensations started to catch up with me. First it was achilles tendonitis then runner’s knee, IT-Band syndrome and many other aches and pains that came with the long miles and epic adventures. Pisgah adventures can be very taxing. “My ankles, knees, hips, back, shoulders...hurt” are all too common said by those who visit Pisgah for the first time. It’s not fun to hit your limit too soon on an adventure. Don’t be the tourist that calls it quits just before the summit. Bless ya’ tourist.

 

So what can you do to prep yourself if you’re a flatlander or city slicker to prep yourself for long miles in the mountains? If accessible at your local gym hit up the stair master with whatever backpack you plan on taking on your trip. That’s right, if you’re prepping for a multi day trip pack your 50L pack with roughly the same weight that you will be rocking for the trip. Even if you’re just taking a short hike I recommend hitting the stair stepper with it containing the water and snacks you plan on taking. If you don’t have access to a gym do you have a tall parking deck or building that you could do repeats on the stairs. Maybe there is a hill you know of that you could hit repeats on?

 

All of these concepts apply to mountain biking and bikepacking. Don’t lie to yourself and tell yourself that you will be fine loaded down for the first time when you show up. Train for your adventure! Last spring I took on the Arizona Trail Race 750(AZT750) and quickly realized that I had not trained properly for the AZT. Shit got real. Save yourself from slogging away unprepared and cursing the desert gods.

 Yoga for athletes at Beer City CrossFit

Yoga for athletes at Beer City CrossFit

 

I recommend always combining your training with a mix of mobility with strength and conditioning. For mobility I use yoga asanas(poses) to keep my body balanced. If done right yoga can be a great way to help balance and restore the muscle tissue after intense physical activity. If you live in the Asheville area you’re in luck, we have many great studios such as Asheville Yoga Center (AYC) who offer high quality classes for all levels. Conditioning should be performed 2-3 times per week varying in duration depending on the duration of your adventure. During my peak training seasons I will have 5-6 days of my week designated to conditioning with the other days being recovery days. For a short hike 30-45min of cardio will suffice but overnight, multi day and bigger adventures might consist of more intense training that would require one day of pushing your limits with several high intensity(intervals) for short 3-5min intervals or hill repeats, and two days of long sustained conditioning that may last several hours. On higher intensity days don’t weigh yourself down with gear.

 

 Short hike up to Slate Rock for an epic fall vista or great spot for an overnight adventure.

Short hike up to Slate Rock for an epic fall vista or great spot for an overnight adventure.

Weekends are for the woods. If you are within a reasonable distance away for getting to a forest or park take your training there. Save at minimum one day a week for a long pedal or trek on the trails.

 

To complement the conditioning every adventurer should strength train to increase strength and reduce the risk of an injury. I implement strength training helps correct imbalances and increase muscular endurance. The higher your work capacity the more your can enjoy your adventure with minimal struggle.

 

 Shona somewhere in Montana when we road the Great Continental Divide Bike Route in 2016.

Shona somewhere in Montana when we road the Great Continental Divide Bike Route in 2016.

Why lift heavy things? Lifting heavy loads helps neuromuscular system by preparing the muscle fibers to recruit more fibers faster and more efficiently perform task. If you’re a hiker try adding weighted lunges to your routine:

 

2-3 sets x 20 alternating reps holding 10-30lb Dumbbell in each hand

 

Performing weighted strength training 2-3 times per week will pay off as you feel stronger on the climbs and scrambles. As an ultra mountain bike racer I have to be ready to lift my bike fully loaded over trees and push up mountain sides. Be ready for what nature throws your way. When you’re out in Pisgah you will quickly understand what it means to “pay to play”. If you want to ride down the ridges of Pisgah you better be ready to do some hiking first. Some of the classics like Black Mtn Trail, Farlow, Bennett and Pilot will not only test your bike handling skills but also your HAB(hike a bike) skills.

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Feeling Alive

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Feeling Alive

It’s 11:30ish, I’m laying on the ground taking in the stars as tears stream down my face. This is what it feels like for me to feel fully alive. For the last 63 hrs I have pushed my mind and body to its limits. It's amazing how much pain the human body can endure and still keep going. I have just finished the Trans North Georgia Mountain Bike Race(TNGA) from the South Carolina/Georgia border to the Georgia/Alabama border. Riding 360 miles ascending 40,000 feet of elevation as the route winds through the mountains of Northern Georgia.

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My friend Dale and I have arrived at the starting line at 7:30am where there were over 75 riders had come together to head out on this wild race. This style race is a self supported race meaning that there are no checkpoints, aid stations, or any coordinated outside support. We will all be carrying whatever shelter, food and water that we need to safely get us to Alabama. One of the only requirements is that every racer carries a Spot Tracker which is basically an S.O.S beacon and tracking device. The race can be tracked on www.trackleaders.com/tnga17  so that spectators can follow the racers progress.

 

The pre-race scene was a mob of riders, all there to take on the adventure in their own way. Some of the riders are there to go hard and race, some are there to party, and the rest are there just to see if they can make it all the way to Alabama. Dale and I got offered beers when we got out of the van by one of the racers peddling towards us with a box of can PBR. I was there to give it my all so I declined so that I could keep hydrated before the day warmed up to the low 90’s. One of the biggest fears with pushing hard in such long races is the evil “C” word(cramps). As Honcho and Koz the race directors gave their pre-race talk reiterating the rules of the race I kept getting distracted by a strange hum noise that took me way too long to realized it was coming from a drone overhead. This year is the biggest turnout for the race so the directors have decided to hire a documentary film company to make a documentary of this years race. I began to see the crew making their way through the crowd with cameras and microphones.

 

Being new to the mountain bike racing I still get nervous and a little intimidated. I tend to underestimate where i’ll be in the pack once the race starts but I made my way to the front of the pack at the starting line. This is the moment that it gets really exciting. The energy is high, then we take off cranking along forest service roads into the mountains. It didn’t take long before the first 10 riders had broken off from the rest of the pack. The roads were dry and loose which had me getting a little loose at high speeds. John, a fellow racer and I got caught up in conversation about riding bikes that we missed the first turn off, this would be one of many missed turns of my race. I had dropped off the lead group now by a few miles but I was able to get back in the top 10 shortly after.

 

My legs were feeling fresh and the climbs felt good the first 50ish miles but as the day got hot and humid my energy began to drop. First place to stop to replenish supplies was Top of Georgia Hostel. They had PB&J’s, sodas, bananas, and a assortment of candy for sell. I ate one PB&J’ & banana and bought one of each to go. During this break I got to say hey to the Singletrack Samurai who was on the route at a fast touring pace. I ate quick as there began to be a gathering of racers who had caught up. After dropping from the gap I road a section of ATV roads that set the tone of what most of the route would be like. Georgia has a really awesome remote series of ATV roads and trails that snake through the valleys and over ridgelines. This section hugged the Tallulah River which had some amazing waterfalls and swimming holes. The road climbed high into the mountains to descend a very wild, rocky overgrown ridgeline that I had trouble holding back and not sending it too hard.

 

Once out of the woods there was a sign a few miles down the road for Woodies Bike Shop and something told me that I would regret not stopping by. I continued into Helen to the first gas station I came to. By now I had eaten all of my snacks and was starving. I quickly loaded up on potato chips, beef jerky, chocolate milk, cola, and arizona tea, this was dinner. As I’m finishing up dinner another rider rolled up. Chris tells me about what I missed out by skipping Woodys. Apparently there was bacon and eggs for riders while you got you chain cleaned and lubed. Next year i’ll be stopping for sure. Chris and I chatted for a few while I made my second purchase of various bars and snacks. We are loading up for the next 12 hours or so before we reach the next resupply. I rolled out before Chris but it wasn’t long before had had caught up with me. Chris was riding a rigid SS Surley Karate Monkey. We talked along the climb about the route, Chris was a veteran of the TNGA and was well versed with the water locations and possible places to take a short nap later. We rode together for a while until I had pulled a bit away on one of the steeper climbs(thanks to my gears!) but unfortunately I missed a turnoff at the top of Wolfpen Gap. After speeding down the mountain for about 15min I lit up the screen on my GPS as it was now dark and realized my mistake. I wasn’t stoked about having to climb back up what was a rad downhill was a shit climb back up that took me over an hour. I got back on route and climbed up and decided on the climb that I would take a short nap sooner than later. I road up on a small shelter to post up in for 2:30 in the bivy. It was hard to sleep during this time due to the local country boys out racing their pickup trucks.

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After my nap another rider was rolling up as I was rolling out so Bobby and I chatted and road for a few hours through the darkness together. We bumped into Chris who was just packing up from his nap and Bobby not having slept yet decided this was the place for it. Chris and I headed out to take on the Aska Trails, a fun section of trail but I took two wrong turns adding to my milage and energy output. Every time I would separate and go ahead of Chris I seemed to take a wrong turn and we would link back up. Around 10am we rolled up to a convenience store that had started opening up on Sundays for the racers. John had arrived just before us and almost ready to head back out. This spot was so clutch! There were no more resources until Mulberry Gap. The climb to Potato Patch was long and grueling but there was the sweet reward of dropping Bear Creek to the Pinhoti Trails which we would be off and on for the next 100 miles. This section had a ton of fast buffed single track roller coaster rides that became exhausting but still a blast. By the time I made it to the Mulberry Gap Mountain Bike Retreat it felt heavy and hard to keep pushing up the climbs. I had to dismount and walk the driveway up to the dining hall at the retreat which even with fresh legs that hill is a grind. I arrived shortly after Chris and he was already tearing into his burrito. I walked in and immediately laid in the floor with my legs elevated on a picnic table. I placed an order for a sandwich to eat there and a burrito to go as I continued to lay there. I ate, took an hour nap then it was go time again. Chris and I took off towards Pinhoti 4 which would be our last big climb of the route. I loved this section flying down the mountain on ATV roads in the dark on super steep grades and fun berms to huck off of. Only negative part of this section was the giant bee that stung me while stopping for a snack. Once out of the woods we rolled over to a few gas stations that were all closed. Luckily there was a water spigot on the side of one of the buildings that was functional. The next 20 miles was almost all flat and paved which was a nice break on my saddle sores. Though this section was a nice break on the body the monotony of a flat paved road in the dark made Chris and I start to get drowsy. We agreed to take a 30min nap in Dalton then grab food before taking on The Snake. Unfortunately the dark side of a furniture building that we had chosen to take the nap was next to a house with a loud guard dog. The dog went nuts for the whole 30min we were resting. Next stop was Waffel House to put down some calories so I we ride through the night. This turned out to be an epic night down steep technical descents and exposed rock. I surfed Snake Creek as the sun came up. My legs were starting to feel the effects of the rugged single track so took a quick 30min nap on the side of the trail with my legs elevated up the bank. I figured that if I overslept i’d still get woken up by the next rider. The nap helped out and I was able to pick my pace back up on the climbs.

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Coming out of the woods I stopped and talked to a few guys who had camped on the mountain the night before. They hooked me up with water while I explained to them what the crazy people on bikes were doing that had road past their campsite late the previous night. Like many people today these guys were headed to view the eclipse somewhere in Tennessee along it's path.

 

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Back into the woods,  flowing single track that I chose to start hiking anytime that it seemed too strenuous. At this point in the race I had decided that I would be walking anything steep or with technical climbing. I continued to flow along the trail when I came through a tight section that brought me to a slow stop. I began to fall down the hill so I stuck my right leg out to prevent rolling down an embankment. My knee twisted then buckled. Not knowing how bad my knee might be injured I took a few steps and it seemed to want to give out at times. There was still 100 miles to go in the race and I was in the middle of nowhere. My only option was to keep going and hope that things didn't get worse. The next +50 miles became just as much a mental battle as a physical one.

 

I made it back out of the woods but the single track had me feeling the effects of all of the hike-a-bike sections that I had just completed. The saddle sores from the soggy shammie had gone from excruciating pain to me surrendering to the saddle, I no longer cared to stand up to avoid bouncing on the saddle. I had now started to curse the climbs and the route. I had been without water for about an hour when I came across a dribble of a creek at seemed more like a mosquito sanctuary than a suitable water supply source. I filled up and purified to my best ability. After all in this scenario a bad source was better than nothing. Then the trail gave me a curved ball. I had been closely watching my GPS to stay on route but the route seemed to disappear and the GPS was going up a ridge that I couldn't find any signs of a trail head. There was a big dirt embankment with trash strewn around it and high brush with no visible tracks. I sat down, rehydrated, had a snack before heading over the dirt mound and plowing through the brush. This was the route and it was more like bushwhacking than mountain biking. I was now stuck in the suck. It was time to embrace the suck and dig deep. The overgrown ridge might have been enjoyable with fresh legs but at this point I just wanted to get out of the woods. I remember being grumpy but still finding the vistas beautiful. As I went around a gate I felt several stings in my right wrist. The bees had gotten me again.

 

Coming out of the woods onto a US-27 I continued across the road back onto gravel heading towards another section of the Pinhoti. Just a little ways up the gravel road I leaned my bike against a tree and then I laid down on the ground with my water and snacks. I was almost completely out of both and after looking at the maps realized I was a ways from any water source or supplies. Part of me wanted to head back down to US-27 and take it to the nearest town and not finish. I had hit a big wall and my mind and body didn’t want to continue on. 300 miles down and only 60 miles to go yet I still had to keep on truckin and push up the mountain. The last ridge was several miles of rolling ridgeline before dropping back out of the forest for the last big descent.

 

For some reason I had made up a story in my head that once I was out of the woods that I only had 15-20 miles left but when I looked about my tracker it was real that I still had 40-50 miles left. I had been without water for over an hour and had started to get a little delusional. I lucked out and came by a church that had a spigot so I filled up my bottle once and immediately chugged it, filled up again and I was back on my mission to complete the route.

 

The sun was setting as I rolled down dirt paths roads, more dirt and then more roads taking me into the town of Cave Spring just before dark. I snagged a coke and two gatorades then continued. Just around the block there were two trail angels handing out more gatorade. As I started back out an older gentleman who looked to be in late 60’s or early 70’s pulled up next to me in his pickup truck. He seemed very excited to see meet a TNGA racer. He told me that he had been following us on the tracker and had came to take my picture. I took just a moment for the photo op and then I was back on my mission. My ride had once again faded back into darkness then one more unexpected section of the Pinhoti Trail took me into the woods where I got off trail and found myself lost and disoriented. My mind wanted to freak out but I kept my composure and followed my GPS back to the road. I took my time on my next attempt through this section of trail but it all seemed to be a blur in the darkness. Looking for small makers on the trees to stayed on the route until I was dumped back onto and dirt road. Just a few more miles and rolling hills and I would be at the Georgia/Alabama border. This section of hills would have been laughable with fresh legs but taking all of my remaining effort to climb them with some intensity. Now all that was left was a paved greenway that was part of the Trail of Tears to complete my journey. Just up ahead I could head see Dale and the mini van as he started cheering me on. One more mile and the adventure would be over. I cranked on with new energy and the excitement of completing the TNGA. After passing through the archway that marked the state line I laid down next to my bike and gazed at the stars. I took this time to talk to dad who was out there somewhere.

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Tears streaming down my face as emotions took over from all that I had gone through in the last 63 hours, 360 miles and 40,000 feet of climbing. Northern Georgia you are beautiful and wild, thank you for making me feel so alive.



 

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4 Limbs of Fitness

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4 Limbs of Fitness

Pranayama - Breath

Dharana - Single Point Focus

Asana - Physical Preparation

Samadhi - Highest Level of Fitness

 

In the fast pace E-era the overload of information can make it difficult to establish a streamline plan to reach your fitness goals. One approach I will take with clients is what I call The 4 Limbs of Fitness plan. The foundation of yoga is based off of the 8 Limbs of Yoga which are a philosophical guidelines to living a positive life of health and service. I have taken 4 of the limbs to help individuals and groups to obtain their fitness goals. The 4 limbs that I have most often use when coaching clients towards a physical fitness goals are Pranayama, Dharana, Asana and Samadhi.

 

It all starts with a breath. Every lift, every run, every pedal and assent begins with a breath. I believe that by establishing a base with Pranayama will allow you to properly engage your core and bring focus to the breath. Weather your looking to add an extra 10lbs for a new PR or decrease your 5k time tuning into your breath will help achieve your goals. When I am cranking my bike up the side of a mountain I try and bring my awareness to my breath. If I cannot take a deep inhale through my nose and exhale out of my mouth then I am pushing too hard and I need to reconnect to my breath. Having mindfulness of how you are breathing can also help bring focus to the moment. If you find your mind wandering come back to the breath.

 

After the breath is established then Dharana must be strengthened. Dharana is the mental focus allows individuals to eliminate outside distractions. Be in the moment, finding the perfect line down a mountain takes a great deal of concentration. Dharana is focusing on a single point. If you have ever been trail running you have probably had one of those falls that happened just as your mind started to drift off then WHAM! Try to stay in the moment. Next time you find yourself daydreaming during your fitness routine see if you can bring your attention to a single point of focus. Focus on the current rep, step, jump, huck and be in the moment.

 

Asanas are the physical practice that is implemented to strengthen and balance the body. Treat. Strength and conditioning of the body will allow you to enjoy the adventures that your body takes on. I found that the physical practice is what makes the quality of my experience. Have you ever decided to take on a new activity that seemed like a great idea until you realized that your body was unable to handle the about of fitness that is required? Asana will help strengthen the body so that when presented with physical challenges you are able to tackle the mountain.

 

Finally comes Samadhi. Some would translate this to Nirvana but they are different. Nirvana is a spiritual place while Samadhi takes the individual to the highest state of self. Being the most fit and balanced you can be makes the impossible possible. For me Samadhi comes when i’m in the zone in a race. I have trained hard and prepared mentally and physically to have this pay off. Reaching the top of the mountain or the end of a hard  race you have arrived. Take in these moment when you feel on top of the world.

 

Next time you are working out, running, hiking, biking or shredding see if you can implement one of the four limbs of yoga. Pranayama, Dharana, Asana and Samadhi are tools to help you be the most fit version of you. Remember it all starts with the breath. Take a deep breath, find your single point focus, train hard and live life as your highest self. The light in me honors the light in you, Namaste.  

 

 

 

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Do it For the Adventure

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Do it For the Adventure

 Country side outside of Blacksburg, VA. 

Country side outside of Blacksburg, VA. 

What I call fun often gets referred to as crazy. I ride my mountain bike hundreds of miles into remote areas with all of the supplies that I need to survive sometimes for multiple days without resupply.  These self supported missions take me deep into remote places it would take weeks to navigate by foot but by bike I can cover 200 miles in 24hrs. Sometimes I ride into the night and if the moon is right I ride through to the sunrise. It isn't always blue sky's, sunny and warm with a slight tailwind. The fact is sometimes when i'm fully immersed into an adventure it becomes very uncomfortable. Pain is real but it is of the body not the mind. At some point I know that my butt will be screaming from the long hours in the saddle. It could be freezing or a heatwave and there is no way to travel light and still be %100 comfortable in extreme circumstances. The pictures often tell the story of the reward but not the work that was put in for the pay off of watching the sun rise from a cliff deep in the forest. 

 Joe and I cranking along the New River.  

Joe and I cranking along the New River.  

I feel like my life's mission is to help anyone who is willing to get a little uncomfortable. Getting out of our comfort zone is our body's way of letting us know that we are taking it to a new place. The first time I hit a new bench mark it means that I have given my body a stimulus that is greater that it has ever experienced and it will become stronger to adapt to the stress. The first time I road my bike for 100 miles I was destroyed. I remember how sore my triceps were from standing up and cranking as I climbed. The thing that often isn't realized is how these adaptations translate into making the adventures more enjoyable. Last weekend I raced the Allegheny Mountain Loop(AML) a 400 mile mountain bike adventure race tracing the border of VA and WV starting and ending in Blacksburg. 

The Thursday before the race was non stop from 5am to 5pm. I finally rolled out of AVL around 8pm headed to Blacksburg. The route became very foggy can caused the drive to take an hour longer that it should have so I rolled into the Kent Square Parking Garage in Blacksburg close to midnight. I have the Thai Mat rolled out in the back in the mini along with the sleeping bag that i'll be leaving to save space and weight. Time for a quick nap before waking up at 4:30am to pack up the bike and head to breakfast.

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I slept sound but with the anticipation of the grand depart I was more awake and alert than I would normally be at 4:30am. The packing didn't take long before I headed off to Waffle House. I waved to a few other racers that I crossed paths with as I roll through. The Waffle House hit the spot with pre race pancakes, eggs, hash browns and coffee. Its so nice to start a race with a big breakfast. This type of race doesn't route through many areas that offer warm meals. These races are remote. The few gas stations and markets that do exist can be void of anything that fresh so often I have to resort to living off of frozen burritos and snacks until I make it somewhere with more services.

This was the AML was a race I hadn't put in my schedule for the summer but after recovering from AZ I wanted to get some miles in while exploring new areas in the Appalachian Mountains. With no expectation or goals I was just getting to have an adventure. My pace was steady, no redlining on hills or taking any risk on the downhills. I linked up with another rider, Joe. He and I had many a conversation over the 400+ mile race. The common thread to the convos was our stoke level for going on adventures. We exchanged stories for hours as we climbed gravel, push up mountain sides and camped under church awnings. 

 Bridge leading into an old train tunnel on the Greenbrier Rail Trail.  

Bridge leading into an old train tunnel on the Greenbrier Rail Trail.  

I found my happy place again and the reason for my madness. I love living life with adventure which drives my passion for helping others increase their fitness. Increasing your capacity for work loads mean that yes you will have to push yourself and become uncomfortable but the pay off is worth the discomfort.  

 59hrs later Joe and I finish where we started. A little delusional but stoked to have completed the AML! 

59hrs later Joe and I finish where we started. A little delusional but stoked to have completed the AML! 

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Show up  to know- Day 1 AZT

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Show up to know- Day 1 AZT

Sometimes no matter how many people I talk to or how much research i've done before an adventure I still don't quit know what I've gotten myself into until it begins. The AZTR was an adventure that I had been doing research, prepping and training for for months. I got on the plane feeling like I was ready to take on the trail ahead of me but that all changed the night before the race at the Mexico border. 

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This east coast mountain man wasn't use to the terrain and harsh demands of the Arizona desert. I had trained hard and been meticulous with what I though was the right set up and strategy to do well in the AZTR750. I arrived in Tucson with my game face on and ready to start crushing some miles. After catching a ride to Sierra Vista I dropped into M&M Cycling where Mike, Martin & Stephen helped me get my bike dialed in for the race. Im so appreciative for these guys helping me keep my mind at ease and helping me get my bike dialed in the day before the race.

Day 1

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I got dropped off at the border the night before the race just before sundown in an field of tall desert grass and the border fence in the background. Surrounded by 10,000 foot mountains the border fence seemed like a technicality that wasn't nearly as sufficient an obstacle as Miller Peak and the Canelos. The night was filled with excitement from new riders and stories from the veterans. There was a fun mix of locals, internationals and first time adventurers. Congregating in small circles conversations broke into rider introductions and resumes. Finally the big question was thrown out...How many days are ya'll shooting for. There was a pause, then I spoke out with the words that would haunt me "7 days". One of the veteran riders quickly asked me if I knew what I was getting myself into. I came to AZ to try and win and give the race my best which up until this moment I truly believed that if I gave it my best 7 days was possible. After a little more banter with the fellow riders and a hop over the border fence to take a quick trip to Mexico to unload some water before heading off to sleep. More riders continued to flow in throughout the night waking me for short moments but being on east coast time falling back asleep was no problem.

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The morning of the race I had sat my alarm for 6am but my internal clock had me wide awake at 5am. I laid there watching more racers show up as I had breakfast and hydrated in my tent. I was the only one sleeping in a tent which made reality start to set in that I might not be set up proper for the task at hand. It was unbelievable how light and efficient some of the riders were packed. I thought to myself that there is no way they have what they need. The variation of bikes was all over the board from single speed full rigid bikes to full suspension geared bikes. As we got set for the mass start I fumbled with my GPS which I have still to master. 2 minutes! Then we were off! I wanted to pace off of the first of the pack so I caught up to the lead group. We cut through thick loose dirt roads for the first few miles.

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Around 5 miles me not being use to the desert dirt I came around a switch back and got my first wreck of the race out of the way. I quickly hopped up and repositioned my handle bars and took off riding hoping no one saw that. I had blood streaming down my left shin and my right shoulder as I road past the crowd of supports wielding cowbells at the Parker Canyon Lake parking area. The next 35 miles were a big eye opener for what was to come. The Canelos showed me what this race was all about. Push up a canyon, descend down the other side. The AZT was rough, rugged and steep trail walled with varieties of cactus. The Canelos made me realize that I should have either been on a bigger tire of a full suspension bike if I wanted to push a fast pace and survive the descents. I had gone through all but one bottle of water and had to ration it for the last 10 miles as my mouth remained dry and craving hydration. My poor food choice was 5 PB bagel sandwiches which due to the heat and dry mouth were almost impossible to choke down. 

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I pushed on thinking that this has to be the worst and that if I get through this I can recover in the next town. Patagonia was an oasis when I finally made it out of the Canelos. My thoughts had already started going to a bad place when I slow rolled into town to find many of the racers rehydrating in the shade of the local market. I topped off all of my water and scarfed down as many calories as I could. One by one everyone rolled out, even races that had gotten to town after me. The next 15 miles would be paved road and dirt roads which gave me a little more time to recover and absorb everything that I and just consumed. A few miles before the route would turn back into AZT single track trail my GPS started to glitch then it completely shut down. I had a back up GPS App(Gaia) on my phone that I would use for the rest of the race but this meant that I had to constantly take my phone out and make sure I was on route which was very time and battery consuming. I missed a turn and after 2miles of descending down ATV roads I check my phone to realize that I had missed the turn. I lost it for a bit in that desert. Annoyed, tired and beaten up I had to pushed back out to get back on trail. Luckily there was some trial magic a few miles away that offered a cold beer and laughs to rebound my spirits. Just a bit further was the next water source where I met a veteran racer who was having a meal and refilling his water. We talked for a bit and he kept it real for me. The worst wasn't over. The first 65 miles were just a glimpse of what the rest of the race would look like. He told me of some of the down hill that I had coming up that would take longer to get down than to get up. We chatted for a bit longer and I decide to see what I had left in the tank for the first day. 

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Nightfall had set in and I continued to crank out miles which after a long climb mellowed out to a series of rolling tall grass high deserts with fast swooping single track. This section was my favorite of the ride. The moon was almost full and made the grass turn to silver waves as I sped through. With the cool air and being fueled up I kept cranking through the night. I was now even passing some of the leaders who had stopped to get some rest, most of them had done so at cattle gates so that they would be woken up when another rider came through. Well played! I then found amusement in the headlights that were emerging through out the mountain side from riders get up to try and track down the rider who had just passed them, me. My right knee had started giving me some pain so I stuck to a deal that I had made with myself and set my sleeping bag and pad to take a few hours rest before taking back off. One by one the riders that I had passed would catch up and repass me as I rested. 

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Trust Your Legs

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My nerves the last 24hrs have been more intense than anything I've felt since the 24 hours leading up to the Marshall ride I took with Shona last spring. 

Shona and I took off to Marshall on a ride that on any other day would be just a relaxing pedal along the French Broad River. This ride had been how she and I got to know each other as we merged from ridding buddies to partners. This time I'm not only carrying snacks in my jersey but also concealing the ring that I will offer as I take a knee on the Marshall bridge.

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Now as I sit on the plane headed to AZ my nerves are high and reminded of that ride to Marshall and how blessed I am to have found Shona. Her love and support had helped me bounce back from lows and keeping me humble during the highs.

The AZTR750 has many twist this year due to fires and snow. The race forum has been full of anticipation as the race day has drawn near. What will I encounter as I give the race my all peddling through the night, through snow, over mountains and across the Grand Canyon. Adding to the emotions leading up to the race, last week on March 31, 2017 the ultraendurance mountain bike world was crushed with the news of Mike Hall's death during the Indian Pacific Wheel Race. Mike was one of the greatest figures in adventure bike racing. Mike has inspired me and many others to dream big and go for it. Along with many others I'll take on my races this summer riding for Mike starting with the AZTR750.

“Trust your legs”- Mike Hall

Check me out as I race 750miles across Arizona and through the Grand Canyon at:

http://trackleaders.com/aztr17f.php

Big thanks to the crew at Liberty Bikes and Find Your Line Bikes for helping me keep out on the trails as the long miles of training I have broken most everything on my bike.

Thanks for my family and friends who have given me their love and support despite the fact of how crazy my adventures maybe.

Thanks to the Beer City CrossFit fam for allowing me to take off and chase my dreams. 

Looking forward to having brews and sharing stories with all of you when I return.

#rideformike

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Beer City Guide to Staying Lean and Enjoying Craft Brews

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Beer City Guide to Staying Lean and Enjoying Craft Brews

One of my favorite treats post ride or run is an Asheville local brew but how will this effect my waistline this summer. Going out and enjoying outdoor recreation activities is a great way to burn calories while enjoying natures playground. Pay to play is the motto in these mountain so how much activity is needed to balance the calories in vs. out equation so that you don't start tacking on unwanted pounds. 

Lets start off with some basic calculations of how many calories are burned while strolling through the woods or shredding the knar. Here is the average break down of calories per hour burned for the following activities:

  •        Mountain Biking = 525cal per hr
  •        Road Biking = 650cal per hr
  •        Kayaking = 450cal per hr
  •        Trail Running = 650cal per hr
  •        Hiking = 500cal per hr
  •        Climbing = 450cal per hr ascending, 250cal per hr decending
  •        Floating the French Broad = 50cal per hr

These numbers are based off of moderate intensity of a 180lb male. Individuals weighing less than 150lbs will burn roughly 50cal per hour less per hour and individuals weighing 200lbs will burn roughly 50cal per hour more.

So how do these numbers stack up with the calorie amounts in some of Asheville's favorite recovery brews. Since most breweries wont have a nutrition label on there bottle and if your properly recovering your drinking your favorite recovery beverage from the tap. The chart below can be used to calculate the amount of calories in your local brew even if all you know is the ABV(Alcohol By Volume). Also keep in mind that the standard pint is a 16oz pour. 

The following are a few examples of how this chart can convert some of the classic Asheville brews to calories per serving.

  •       Golem = 330 cal per 13oz serving
  •       Iron Rail = 280 cal per pint, 210 cal per 12 oz can
  •       Pisgah Pale Ale = 200 cal per pint, 150 cal per 12oz can
  •       Chocolatized = 480 cal per pint
  •       Catawba PB&J = 230 cal per pint, 175 cal per 12oz can
  •       Perfect Day IPA = 260 cal per pint, 195 cal per 12oz can
  •       Shiva = 240 cal per pint, 180 cal per 12oz can
  •       Highland Black Mocha Stout = 200 cal per pint
  •       Pernicious = 290 cal per pint

These are a few popular post ride personal favorites of mine. This chart make it easy to convert your favorites to calories so that you can be informed with your recovery selection. 

So what does this mean when it comes back to thinking about taking in more calories that have been burned during and hour of recreation. One example would be if you got a one hour mountain bike ride in at Bent Creek  you could have two pints of Iron Rail at the Wedge and still have the equation balanced. On the other side if you go out for a one hour hike in Pisgah and decide to drop by Pisgah Brewing for a pint you could have 2 pints of Pisgah Pale Ale or one pint of Chocolatized.

Hopefully this chart will help y'all stay lean while enjoying the best brews and mountain adventure that Western North Carolina has to offer. Also make sure you also hydrate with at least 16oz of H2O with every pint. Be kind to your body an it will be kind to you when you are out playing in Pisgah. 

Drink responsibly and keep playing!

 

 

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Top 5 Strength and Stability Exercises for Hikers and Backpackers

Spring time is hear and it's time to start lacing up the trail shoes and heading to the mountains. If you have taken the winter off from hiking no worries but if you want to step out on the trails ready to take on whats ahead add these 5 exercise into your routine. By adding strength and stability exercises into your regiment you can take on the technical trails and the steep ascents with confidence. Whether your taking on the AT or going for your backyard hike in Bent Creek these exercises will help increase your trail fun.

Foot Circles, by adding clockwise and counterclockwise foot rotations along with dorsiflextion(bending the foot up) and plantarflexion(flexing the foot down) 20 repetitions of each is a great way to warm up the ankles before starting the hike. This also builds strength and stamina in the small stabilizing muscles of the ankle. For those who are prone to roll their ankle this is a great exercise to keep the ankle strong to meet the demands of the unstable surfaces on the hike.

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Calf Raises, to strengthen the ankle by hanging your heels drop off of a step then press through the ball mound of the feet as you lift your heels. I have found that throwing calf raises into my workout has kept me from cramping and having stiff ankles when the miles get long.

 

Lunges, these will help produce the power to climb up rocky technical terrain and when the mountain side starts to feel like going up a wall. I have my clients all work on basic movement patterns to help with body awareness in unstable environments. Incorporate front lunges, reverse lunges, side lunges to practice strength and stability in multiple planes.

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Side Planks, core strength helps to keep the body stable and aligned which helps from having poor trail posture. For the backpackers or daypackers this will help prevent over straining the spine under the weight of the pack. There are many variations of side planks, my recommendation is to start with the knee down and arm strait. Work on building up to 30sec on each side for 2-3 sets each workout.

 

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Flutter Kicks, laying on your back legs about12 inches off of the floor, hands under hips, lower back flat then begin to alternate small kicks. These are typically counted in a four count where four kicks equals 1 rep. Flutter kicks are a great core strengthening exercise specifically targeting the hip flexor muscles.

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2 X PER WEEK, 2-3 SETS

20 Foot circles each direction & front to back

20 Calf Raises

20 Front lunges, reverse lunges, side lunges

30 Second side planks

20(4 count) Flutter kicks

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Dialing In

Since the Huracan 300 I have peaked out on training miles and have started dialing in for Arizona. The miles have started to reduce to allow my body to heal up from a long intense training cycle which included interval training 2x per week, one pace day, 2x long moderate paced days and one day of free ride play time on the mountains. I have been riding 6 days a week for the last 6 months building my endurance capacity for the adventures I have ahead.

The up and coming weeks I will be working on honing in on specific skills that I will need to have dialed in before showing up for the Arizona Trail Race. For the Arizona Trail Race I will have to be able to ride 750+ miles from Mexico to Utah via the Arizona Trail. I will not only have to ride, and push at times, my bike to edge of the Grand Canyon, but will also have to disassemble, strap it to my back and hike 24 miles across. I will be taking my bike for a hike once a week every week for the next 3 weeks leading up to the race. In this final phase of training all of my rides will be fully loaded(45lbs) including snacks and water.

I have also felt the need to increase my wilderness skills and have taken the Wilderness First Responder course which gave me a lot of practical wilderness medicine that I should be mindful of. There is a ton that can go wrong in the back country but knowing what to watch out for is half the battle. Arizona is very different than the Appalachian Mountains. This course had me replaying a few of my past close calls on adventures and making me rethink the way I might handle various scenarios. I have a plan for a plan but its like Tyson said "Everyone has a plan 'till they get punched in the mouth" My goal is to keep going once the AZT has given me a good chin check.


Big thanks to all of the folk who are helping me along my journey: Liberty Bikes Crew(Drew, Eric, Nate and rest of the staff who keep me out on the trails, Find Your Line Bikes(Shawn, Randy, Nate), Jeff Daniels, my wife Shona, Beer City CrossFit fam, and the rest of my AVL fam who keep me motivated to take on big adventures.

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Huracan 300 Recap

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Huracan 300 Recap

 Photo by: Drew Cistola, Me having a moment with El Mar before the race.

Photo by: Drew Cistola, Me having a moment with El Mar before the race.

Shona and I pull up to the Santos Campground with Drew around 8pm to find several of the racers having brews with the race director Karlos Bernart. Karlos was sitting at a fold out table at had a spread of waivers, and whiskey. Karlos and the rest of the group gave us some playful banter to make sure we knew what we would be in for in the morning. Jimmy #partyonwheels was the instigator of drinks and stories of the race from previous years. The scene was a compilation of cycling adventurers. Some race veterans who were recanting of past years on the “pain train” and others(Shona, Drew, and myself) who were trying to get as much info about the ride as possible before heading out in the morning. After a few big fish stories we headed to get some rest with our minds flooded with so many stories of what this adventure was soon to bring.

 8am Grand Depart in Santos, FL

8am Grand Depart in Santos, FL

 

6am and it’s about to get real. Santos Campground is now bustling with adventure cyclist giving their bike set ups one more inspection before the grand depart. I had bought the GPS that I would be using for the race 2 days prior so I asked decided to ask a fellow racer who had the same GPS if he could double check my device to make sure I had set up the route proper. Drew smiled and said that the scene looked like what he had expected. There were some racers, some enthusiast and some party peddlers. I had made the final gear decision that I would not be bringing camping gear on this adventure to prevent me from over resting. This rest is a test of what I’m made of so it was time to see what I have in the tank. I eyed some of the racers at the starting line and quickly realized that I was carrying excessive weight. Not knowing what I would be encountering along with Karlos description of what to expect on the Huracan 300 website I had a large knife and grizzly spray. I was ready for war with the swamp!

 Lake Lindsey Mall, thanks for the subs!

Lake Lindsey Mall, thanks for the subs!

The race was on! I took off with the lead crew staying on the tire of riders who seemed to know the route well so I didn’t have to waste time stopping and looking down at my GPS to find my way through the swamp. 30min into the race I received a text from Shona letting me know that my Spot Tracker was showing me in Asheville still. I pulled up to some other riders and got assistance to get my Spot working properly then it was go time again. The extra weight on El Monster was apparent as I was pedaling harder than riders who were less conditioned. The crew of 3 riders that I linked up with had road the race several times in the past and seemed to have a good strategy to pace themselves and decide if they were going to sleep later. I knew that I wouldn’t be riding the whole race with this group but they were very informative and kept me at a good pace to the first checkpoint at Lake Lindsey Mall. This checkpoint was a small deli market where riders poured in for sandwiches and snacks. Peter and Dave(two riders I had been pacing with) pointed to a crew of four that had just pulled up and informed me that they were last year’s winning pack. I quickly packed my supplies up and hopped on the bike to make sure I set off ahead of the lead pack. About an hour later the lead pack of Peter, Andy, Shane and Rachel caught up to me in a section of swamp where we all found ourselves searching for the right trail to stay on route. Once we found the right way out I linked up with the team of 4 for the rest of the race. This crew was a team of adventure racers who were dialed in with ultra light riding set ups and a solid plan of how to take the race on. We formed a peloton on the roads to increase speed and efficiency.

 This is the 7/11 were we were told we were loitering and needed to leave. Thanks for keeping it classy Clermont!

This is the 7/11 were we were told we were loitering and needed to leave. Thanks for keeping it classy Clermont!

 

The race as a blur off swamps that reminded me of Jurassic Park, tarmac(paved road sections) and white sand roads which were nearly impossible to pedal. The rest of the checkpoints were 7/11 gas stations, one of them actually told us that we were loitering and needed to leave as we were sprawled out refueling on doughnuts, subs, gatorade and other delicacies that one should only eat while racing a 340 mi mountain bike race. We linked up with Colt another racer who had been ahead of us but when we caught up to him at the 7/11 in Clermont he was over riding solo. Colt had been riding solo for hours and was board and was delighted to join us. Looking like a train cutting through the swamp we swooped through single track. I love central FL, the good ole country folk remind me of home. Around 3am we came across 2 guys hanging out on their 4 wheelers on a section of white sand roads. An old blue monster truck soon joined them. By 6:30am we were all delirious and nodding off while riding. Shane made the call to stop next to Apopka Lake for a 5min power nap. Yes it was literally 5min. The morning air was cold and humid which made out core body temperatures drop so that when we got up our shivering kept us awake. This was the toughest time from me of the race. My mind and body were almost done and all I wanted to do is tell them to go on and I would lay down on the side of the road for an hour. I’m so grateful to have linked up with this crew. Their positivity and teamwork was so inspiring. One of the things that I love is that we are all the same, wild animals traveling in a pack.

 Picture by: Drew Cistola, thanks Karlos for bush whacking a path for us

Picture by: Drew Cistola, thanks Karlos for bush whacking a path for us

 

24 hours into the race we stopped for breakfast at a Publix. My breakfast included: 1 cup of chile, 2 doughnuts, coffee, banana, potato chips, gatorade. Under normal circumstances this combo would be a very bad idea before hopping on a bike but this was far from a normal ride as we have put in around 240 miles and burned around 14,000 calories. Because of the volume of stress on our bodies during the race we have to take in about 2,500 calories every rest stop(every 5-6 hours) and eat around 250 per hour in between stops in order to keep the calories in vs. calories burned equation equal. My preferred snack bars currently are Larabars. There is a variety of flavors and I’m able to get them down still even when i’m feeling nauseous. I’m also still a fan of Honey Buns but in moderation, I ate three during the race. The other reason for my random assortment of foods is to make sure that I’m not only getting lots of calories but i also need sodium and other electrolytes to make sure I don’t dehydrate. Potato chips are a go to for me to keep my sodium high and bananas for potassium. I also make sure to buy 2 Gatorades every stop. I chug one and take the second one as a chaser for water when water starts getting less appealing.

 

We finally got to the infamous water crossing at Rock Springs  Run. Due to a drought the past yeah the river that has been talked about being chest to chin high in now less than waist deep but more like high thigh. The majority of the the rest of the ride was chill rolling through more slamp, sand and road. We rolled back to the the Santos Bike Shop as a crew of 6(Shane, Peter, Andy, Rachel, Colt and I) 34 hrs and 340 miles later. I could stop pedaling! Shona rolled over to meet us and treat us with brews that she had in her triangle. The pain train has pulled into the station!

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Huracan 300 aka "Pain Train"

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Twenty-four hours from now I will be deep in the central Florida swamps riding the "pain train." The Huracan 300 is around 330miles of single track, roads and double track navigating through swamps and past gators. The nerves have been building over the past week as I get inside my head a little too much. My strategy is to not take any camping gear and ride through the night with a 90 minute power nap around half way. The biggest challenge, besides peddling 330 miles, is to keep my mind calm and not listening to the thoughts of doubt. I'm fully accepting that at some point I will probably be in the a swamp and trying to control my mind from the fear of all of the unknowns in the darkness. The river crossings are on my mind and I'm hoping not to cross them solo but if I do, I hope to be brave enough to take the first step in. A river with gators in the middle of the night is not what this country boy is use to but this is what makes this race such an epic adventure. 

 

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Ill be riding my steel frame Salsa El Mariachi with Revolate bags. The following is what I will be showing up with at the starting line:

 Now that's a knife! 

Now that's a knife! 

14 Laura bars, 5 gels, electrolyte fizz tabs, 16oz Gatorade, 2 L camelback, shammy, jersey, arm sleeves, tights, 2 pairs of socks, hooded puffy jacket, Bear Grylls knife, bear spray, Garmin etrex 30x, iPhone, dynamo USB charger from Sinewave, charging cables, back up battery, 4aa batteries,  2 spare tubes, patch kit, multi tool, lube, space blanket, chain break, 2 quick links, two head lights, head lamp. 

The goal is to stop a little as possible but to listen to my body so that I don't push too hard early on. Nutrient timing will be the key factor of my performance. I must make sure to take in adequate water especially since it will be much warmer(high 80F, low 50F) than I'm use to in Asheville(high 40, low 18). I will be grabbing two 16oz Gatorades ever 60ish miles. For food I plan to have a bar or a gel every hour. I'll be packing 2 almond butter and blueberry jam sandwiches on fancy raisin bread from O.W.L Bakery. For meals I plan on snagging something to go from gas startion. Hoping for some hot a pizza or frozen burrito. There will probably be a few honey buns, bags of chips and an occasional brew as well. 

 

Much gratitude for the Beer City CrossFit fam who keep me inspired to go big. Liberty Bikes & Find Your Line for helping keep El Monster(my adventure bike) rolling smooth. Thanks friends and family. Thanks Shona for being awesome(Shona is currently driving while I write this)!

 

You can follow my spot tracker with 5min updates starting at 8am Saturday February 4th.  

http://trackleaders.com/huracan17

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Roads, Gravel, Rails

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Roads, Gravel, Rails

Some adventures seem to take forever to get rolling and this was one of those. Most of my friends who have had adventures with me know that it is always a good idea to keep a head lamp or flashlight handy when starting off. I seem to have the ability to have everything dialed in and still need to go through more details before beginning which often gives a late start after the sun has set. We had decided to start our adventure at the Boojum Brewing Company in down town Waynesville but unfortunately they were undergoing a remodel. After a few bobbles with getting the bikes and gear dialed in we almost made it out of town before I realized that I had left my gloves back at Mini.

We were off on another adventure this time from Waynesville to Hot Springs but due to our late start we would be spending tonight at the closest possible camp site. It was almost 8pm already and as Dale, Shona and I cruised out of Waynesville the local country boys hooped and hollered and even through out some firecrackers at us. Part of me got annoyed with the antics but as former country boy who once would have done the same i just smiled and kept pedaling. The first gas station we came across was at the junction we were taking away from civilization. The parking lot was packed with pick up trucks and locals gathering all giving us the look like the aliens had just landed. Since we didn't get to snag any brews from Boojum I grabbed Shona and I a can of New Belgium for the campsite later.

The new few hours were a long slog up a windy mountain road in the dark. I remember looking up and thinking to myself "I hope that twinkle way off in the distance is a star and not someones porch light. It was definitely someones lite and there were also a the soothing sounds of hunting dogs loosing their minds as we slowly pedaled by. Luckily all of the dogs were all confined but it didn't seem to make any of us feel at ease as they ran next to us howling in the dark. Once we reached the Smoky Mountain National Forest there were no more houses and no more dogs. Just a few miles left of gravel climbing before the long decent in to Cataloochee were we would set up camp for the night. Since everything is closed for the season we took advantage of the vacant group camping site which had several great spots for tents and bear boxes to store our food for the night. We cracked open our beer and sealed day one with a cheers. Dale had grabbed the wrong can at the gas station and this night he would be drinking a Bahama Mama.

 Padres Vietnam hat. It now travels with me on all of my adventures. Semper Fi.

Padres Vietnam hat. It now travels with me on all of my adventures. Semper Fi.

Today is Padres birthday. Its almost been a year since he as passed but he continues to live on with me and he will be with me for every mile and every adventure. Im glad we chose this route for his birthday because of his love of the Cataloochee area. Love you Padre. Today we will be putting in around 45mi as we transition from the Smokies to Pisgah and even some of the Cherokee. It is an overcast morning that we will be vigil of today in anticipation of the rain that has been forecast. Everyones energy seems to have been restored after a proper rest last night as we grind gravel over mountains and crossing under Interstate 40 to continue our adventure into Harmon's Den where we would climb along side Cold Springs until the road ended into Max Patch. Fun fact: Harmon's Den was named after an old mountain man name Harmon who went up in the mountain to life in a rock cave. 

We managed to make it up and over Max Patch without getting we but then as we were approaching the last 10ish miles of the day the rain came. It poured on us the rest of our ride into Hot Springs where were we rolled strait to the Spring Creek Tavern. After 7 hrs of eating bars and gels it was time for a good warm meal and another round of brews. Next stop before camp was to grab a few supplies from Bluff Mountain Outfitters where we discovered that they have an awesome propane heater that we swarmed around to help our still unthawed hands and feet. It was hard to leave the heat but at least the rain had stopped as we headed to check in for a camp site and Shona reserved a hot tub for later that night. The camp ground was a quarter of the way full most of which were rafters and kayakers. I needed to add some more miles in for my training so Dale and I unloaded the bikes, set up camp, then took back off towards Paint Rock in the dark. The mostly flat rolling pedal to the trail head flew by but as we started to climb Dales legs were starting to get to their max pedaling potential for the day. Pedaling turned to pushing the rest of the way up the mountain before turning around and flying down the mountain.  The climb is always worth the down hill in WNC.

Shona was hanging out at the Iron Horse Station when we got back to town. Adventures learn where to charge their device, warm up and if lucky have a brew all in one place. There was live acoustic guitar being played by a fellow in the front of the restaurant while we took a few min to rehydrate and warm up. This is the moment that it hit me how much I was anticipating my sleeping bag. Once I laid down there was no moving me so Shona took off the the hot tub solo as dale and I passed out in our tents. 

The original plan was to do an out and back from Waynesville-Hot Springs-Waynesville but we decided to finish the ride back to Asheville then shuttle to pick up the Mini in Waynesville. I wanted to take up the Hot Springs to Asheville route with a till twist. Our route back would include some single track down the Stackhouse Trail then a ride on the rail road(yes its and active rail) then gravel grind back to pavement into Marshall where we stopped for a quick break to check out Mad Co Brewing. Looking forward to coming back here in the summer for a mid ride brew and hang on the patio.  20 more rolling miles along the French Broad River brought us home after our 130 mile adventure. 

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Dale Trails

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Dale Trails

 The gas station we all camped at in Lima MT the first night we all met.

The gas station we all camped at in Lima MT the first night we all met.


 

It's had been a heck of a day battling head wind in the flathead of Montana as shona and I made a  100mi push for Lima, MT. As we rolled into town we scanned around for a local dinner. Lima was a small cowboy town that consisted of a dinner, a bar with a self serve grill and a gas station. We were starving and too exhausted to want to cook or choke down another PB & nutella tortilla. We sat ourselves and began chugging root beer as fast as the waitress could refill our cups. Root beer after a long day of riding is a personal fav way to heal myself from a long day of suffering on the trail. Two more Divide riders also came to check out the dinner. One sat himself a few tables away and the other was Dale. Dale, Jason and soon to join the dinner was Josh. These 3 were Marines riding for Team Semper Fi to raise awareness for injured and disabled combat veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

 

Dale ended up joining Shona, myself and a former Navy Seal when the other two Marines had ended their tour in WY. The 4 of us traveled together across the Continental Divide down to the Mexico border along the Great Continental Divide Mountain Bike Route(GCDMBR). We all had our tough days but those were the days that made us mentally tougher and our legs stronger.

 

The Divide changed all of us along our journey. Dale became a pedaling machine! Pedaling gave Dale a levelheadedness that he had not had in a long time. Pedaling was his happy place where all that mattered is the moment and the current adventure. Bikepacking gave Dale a mission every day. Despite the bumps and bruises that accompanied Dale’s crash course in mountain biking as he took on 2,700mi and 200,000 feet of climbing across 5 states. Some days we got stuck in lightning storms and some days there were wrecks but every time I check in with Dale to make sure he wanted to continue. His perseverance and determination inspired us all.

 Rick, Dale and Shona somewhere in MT.

Rick, Dale and Shona somewhere in MT.

 

“If I have to crawl to Mexico to finish I will.” - Dale

 

Since the divide Dale returned to WI and we returned back to AVL. Shona and I got back to our life of fitness and mini adventures whenever we could. Dale road as much as he could until the harsh winter in WI started limiting his biking times. We received a call from Dale asking if he could come visit to escape the weather and get some adventure riding in down our way which Shona and I were stoked to have Dale as our guest.

 

The day after Dale arrived we started getting rides in and planning for our first bikepacking adventure. I have been wanting to explore the TN/NC border around Hot Springs NC. Saturday came and Dale loaded the mountain bikes in the Mini and headed out. We arrived in Hot Springs around 1pm and headed to Bluff Mountain Outfitters(a local hiker/backpacker stop along the AT). I snagged a French Broad and Nolichucky Rivers National Forest Map and struck up a conversation with one of the staff inquiring about some of the detail about the route we would be taking over the weekend. Wayne gave us the downlow about some of the trails along our route to help us avoid sections that wouldn’t be very well suited for for bikepacking.

 

 Dale ascending a section of the Paint Rock Trail.

Dale ascending a section of the Paint Rock Trail.

We took off out of Hot Springs headed for the Paint Rock trails to start our trip. It is 65 degrees F and misting rain, this is unseasonably warm for the mountains of Western North Carolina in January but Dale and I will take it. As we crest the ridge about Paint Rock it hits me that I’m on trails and mountain tops that I have never explored which brought a big smile to my face. Dale laughs as a start howling but there is something about mountain tops and ridge lines that make me spontaneously turn into a wolf. “Hoooooowwwwwlllllll”.

 

We start our descend down flowy single track parting golden hay and the remains of last Fall’s blanket. I’m so stoked! I ride hundreds of miles a week which makes the usual trails start to get old but to be riding something new has my stoke meter at a 10! Crusin down the mountain I look off to my right and through the trees is a vista of a horseshoe in the Nolichucky. Dale and I had to get a short break to take it in before dropping some more challenging single track that dropped us off next to the river we had been staring down at for miles.

 

The next section of our route was smooth gravel grinding along the Nolichucky followed by a narrow section of road that continued along the river until we arrived in Del Rio. Del Rio is a small no red light town across the river consisting of a grill/convenience store, post office and a bar. Dale and I dropped in the store to re-up on water and snag a couple of gatorade’s and potato chips before we made the last push of the day. The locals having dinner in the store were very friendly and curious of the details of what Dale and I were up to. They gave us the usual looks like we were crazy but with smiles that said they admired our adventure. We had limited daylight so we took off for the hills up the backside of Max Patch. The windy paved road into the darkness of the forest we continued to climb until we reached Round Mountain State Park after 35 miles and 5,000 feet of climbing we would set up camp for the night. I’m a big fan of state parks when they are closed for the off season so we got a free night and the whole park to ourselves. Raymen noodles and stories reminiscing of the previous summer’s adventure occupied the air as we set up our shelters and sleeping systems. Bikepacking sure does make you appreciate the simple things like a warm meal and a warm dry sleeping bag.

 Dale at Wolf Creek Falls

Dale at Wolf Creek Falls


The next morning I brewed coffee to accompany our granola melody. The woods were wrapped in thick fog as we set off down the road back toward Hot Springs. Today is mostly a rolling gravel grind with a nice section of downhill to start our day. About half way we made a short detour to Wolf Creek Falls which was well worth the extra mile. I’m looking forward to revisiting this fall in the summer for a swim! We rolled into Hot Springs around noon catching the last of the morning fog that hovered over town. Adventure complete! We dropped back by Bluff Mountain Outfitters to let the guys know we made it back from our adventure before grabbing lunch at Iron Horse Station to seal the trip. It was great to be back on the trail with Dale again and looking forward to more bikepacking trips as a prep for my upcoming race season.

 Dale snagging a pick of Downtown Hot Springs 

Dale snagging a pick of Downtown Hot Springs 

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Snow Hike-a-Bike Adventure

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Snow Hike-a-Bike Adventure

 Curtis Creek Road

Curtis Creek Road

As the mini(my mini van) slides down the driveway in the snow I began to question if I should continue to set off on this adventure. My friends Thomas and Christian were meeting me around the Curtis Creek Camp but due to my late start It is now 8pm and dumping down snow. My original thought was that by heading East I would move out of the worst of the storm but I soon found myself cautiously driving down I-40 at 25 mph and realizing that I wouldn't be making it down the mountain. I called Shona(my wife) to talk out strategy as I approached the Black Mountain Exit. My options 1) take the next exit and attempt to make it home, 2) park in the Ingles parking lot and spend the night in the mini, 3) park at Ingles and begin my adventure. Option 3 it was. I suited up, clicked on my lights and began my journey through downtown Black Mountain to Mill Creek.

 Downtown Old Fort, NC where I stopped to call Shona to let her know I was still alive.

Downtown Old Fort, NC where I stopped to call Shona to let her know I was still alive.

 

I passed several people who had abandoned their vehicle on the side of the road and were now walking towards town. I also pass a fellow mountain goat who gave me a shout out as he continued his run through the snow. Descending Mill Creek was a blur of snow flying at my face that reminded me of the Millennium Falcon jumping to warp speed. I reached the town of Old Fort where I decided to stop and give Shona a call to let her know I made it down the mountain. She seemed a bit nervous when we last spoke. I continued to head toward Curtis Creek where I would be the only person still out in the storm. Thomas's car was parked at the gate as I passed by his now snow covered tracks. The snow was now about 6 inches deep and still pouring down. Luckily the Curtis Creek Campground has a lot up map posted on the grounds. After quickly looking the map over to find Snooks Nose trail I continued up the road. The “you are here” arrow was grossly misplaced which lead me to search for a trail for several miles that I had already passed. I finally turned around and returned to the map in the campground to find out that I was 50 feet from the trail. Snooks Nose was steep and covered with a heavy blanket of snow and fallen trees. Pushing up the trail for half a mile I found Thomas in his tent with his husky Gypsy and Christian in his bivy. I called out to make sure it was them and made my way down to set up camp. They laughed as they heard the endeavor that I had taken on to arrive by 1am to set up in my bivy. The bivy wasn't the most glamorous way to camp in the current condition. It was a bit of a challenge to get out of my wet gear and tucked into the bivy. My 15 degree bag, silk liner, 2 down jackets and my fleece vest wrapped around my legs were all necessary to provide warmth and safety under the conditions.

 

I woke up reluctant to begin the process of getting out of the bivy and back into the cold. The temperature was in the single digits and my hands definitely felt it as I repacked my gear. We all continued to joke about how ridiculous it was to be out here as we prepped for what would be a long day in the cold. Thomas, Gypsy and Christian would be hiking around 3 miles up 3000 feet of elevation gain to reach the parkway. The plan was to meet them at Green Knob and then try to camp in the fire tower just a little higher up. They had brought their skis so that they could then free ride the fresh powder back down the following day. My route up which was the route they would be taking down was 12 miles long and a 3000 foot descent. We set off our separate ways to take on our respective adventures. Due to the depth of the snow my bike ride became a hike a bike for 7miles up Curtis Creek Road to the Blue Ridge Parkway. Fortunately the park ranger for Mt. Mitchell State Park had plowed off this section of the parkway and I was able to start pedaling again. 5 more miles of climbing with an occasional section of snow to reach Green Knob Overlook elevation 4760. The parking area at the overlook was still covered in snow and no sign of Thomas, Gypsy or Christian. I decided to make use of this time to hand my damp bivy, sleeping bag and jackets on the overlook sign to air out as I waited for the others to crest the tail. Over an hour had gone by and they had still not made it to the overlook. It seemed odd that it had now been 6 hours since I had seen them last and they still had not completed their 3 mile trek. I made the call to give them until 4:30pm to reach the overlook before I would head to Old Toll trail in order to get inside of the tree line before night fall when the temps would fall well below 0. At 4:30 I laid out sticks in the snow to spell out “Old Toll” to let them know where I had gone when they arrived, then I took off again.

 

I reached the trailhead for Old Toll around 5:30pm where again I would be hiking my bike through now knee deep snow. This adventure was a training ride for me so instead of setting up camp at 6pm to stay inside of my bivy for 14hrs when it would be warm and safe enough to set out the following morning I decided to push to make it back to Black Mountain to finish the adventure a day early. It was a beautiful sunset as I hiked for the next 3 hours with an occasional section that was rideable. Finally I reached Appalachian way, a road that snaked its way down the mountain into Montreat College. When I finally reached Ingles the areas of my body that weren’t numb felt like they were in contact with broken glass. I packed the bike back in the mini and grab some food and hydration essentials to meal down on as I sat in the mini waiting for the windows and my body to unthaw before heading home.

 Sunset from Old Toll Road.

Sunset from Old Toll Road.

 

The following day I sent a message out to Thomas inquiring who had been the big spoon the night before. After a quick conversation with Thomas I found out how they had had one of the coldest nights of their lives at around -15 degrees F. Often the best ending to a long night of suffering in the cold is a good laugh.

 

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No Mountain too High

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No Mountain too High

2017 is here and as I meditate on what adventures I want to take on in the up coming year I find myself dealing with the fear of falling short of reaching the top of the mountain. I'm writing this post to let everyone know that I know what it is like to fear not being smart enough, tough enough or physically able to take on bigger adventures. 

My definition of fear is "the untold story". In 2017 I will be attempting to complete the Arizona Trail Race(AZT750), a 750 mile mountain bike race across Arizona spanning from the Mexico border to the Utah border. This race is unsanctioned and unsupported with a fun twist... the Grand Canyon. Not only will i have to navigate through the high desert but once I reach the South Rim of the canyon I will have to disassemble my bike, strap it to my backpack and proceed to hike 21 miles to cross the Grand Canyon to reach the North Rim where I will reassemble my bike to finish the race.

The AZT750 will be the first of 2 and possibly 3 ultra mountain bike races that I will be taking on this year including the Continental Divide Race and possibly the Colorado Trail Race to achieve the coveted Triple Crown of ultra endurance mountain bike racing. But with going big I'm confronted with my fears of failure and inadequacies. On the outside I may appear to be fearless but on the inside I'm fighting the battle of not being able to take on the mountains I have before me. The one thing I know is that if I let the fear of failure stop me from taking on these adventures ill never make it. My days are filled with research, logistics, physical and mental preparation. This year I will turn down many events with friends and family in order to reach my goals. 

There is no mountain too high! To everyone who sees me over the next year know that while you maybe seeing me take on epic adventures that I have dedicated my life to pushing through the pain and fears that come along with the journey. To anyone who has started this year off wanting to make a big positive change in your life I know your fears and I want you all to know that you can achieve your goals with hard work and dedication. This might mean not going out and partying on Friday night so that you can get up and train on Saturday. This might mean that you get a case of the F**k Its and your mind tells you whats the point with dieting, exercise, or whatever it may take to reach your goals. If you give up you will never see the top of the mountain and know what it is like to feel on top of the world. 

2017 GO BIG and NFQ!

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New Classes @Beer City Crossfit

Stoked to be back at Beer City Crossfit where I have joined the coaching staff. Starting in September, along with coaching, I will be offering two new classes and one hour of sports massage each week.  

 Lower body mobility series of stretches for increased hip mobility.  

Lower body mobility series of stretches for increased hip mobility.  

Saturday mornings I will be holding open office hour from 8am-9am for anyone who wants to drop by for 15min max of assisted stretching or sports/Thai massage pre workout, run, bike ride or any other fun fitness activity you have planned. 

 Vriksasana(tree pose)

Vriksasana(tree pose)

Saturday afternoons I will be offering Yoga for Athletes. Each class will encorporate strength, mobility, core and conditioning through a flow style series of postures and breath work. 

 Iso-bridge to help engage the muscles in the posterior chain. 

Iso-bridge to help engage the muscles in the posterior chain. 

October 15 I will be holding an hour and a half workshop going over some of the some of the most common low back issues associated with lifting. The class offers a series of stretch, strengthening and stabilizing exercises to help balance and support the hips and spine. 

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