The year starts with 6 dark, rainy hours. It’s warm enough that these hours are easy and distance comes with a smile. The second week of the month I am forced to travel to Oklahoma for work. I hate it and miss my bike. I come back depressed and tired to a winter storm that coats everything in ice, temperatures in the teens and twenties, it’s a struggle to ride and even to leave the couch. I rest and relax and come back with a 15 hour week spent exploring Mableton and the West Side of Atlanta. The month wraps up with fast, easy miles on my road bike and fast fast miles on my mountain bike. A well-fitting steel 29er is a great bike. I crash and scrape up my right leg but the injury is minor and doesn’t prevent any riding.
I spend the first two weeks in shorts and a t-shirt. The weather is warm and distance continues to come easy. I’ve been taking creatine and it seems to help recovery. I’m resting and riding well and close out a seventeen hour week, my second in the previous six weeks and only my sixth ever. The month closes out with the Assault on Mt Currahee gravel grinder, I stop to render aid to a racer who crashes in front of me so my race ends there but I continue the route and have a great recreational ride.
Racing season continues as I race Southern Cross and Payne’s Creek. I have a good time at both events and find I really enjoy mountain bike racing. Youtube videos are great skills builder for me as I watch and take notes.
Every weekend is a race. It starts with the Skyway Epic, a caffeine fueled romp around east Alabama. The next week I go to Blankets Creek and have a hard, rough ride. It’s my first race on a new bike and I’m not quite settled in yet. The rest of the month is gravel, I finish in the money at Shake ‘n’ Brake and then suffer immensely at the Big Frog 65. This month exhausts me with all the racing and driving. I rode 44 hours, 20 of which was racing.
I crash hard (mentally) from the prior month. I don’t really notice at the time but I need a mental rest. I barely make it to Fort Yargo but I manage to make the foggy, rain threatened drive and have a great race. Road riding feels extremely boring so I mainly stay in the woods and don’t venture very far. But I start hiking and fall back in love with the National Park behind my apartment. I end up hiking at least an hour a day for months on end. It helps keep me in shape and improve my on the bike posture.
I roar into June with a mixed terrain 109 mile ride. I nail down my bike set-up and have a blast. The next weekend in a monster 151 mile ride that takes me all across West Georgia and East Alabama. I lose my mental focus again and tone down the rest of the month. Taking weekends off to spend time with my family and riding close to home during the week. I try some morning rides and am not really that enamored with them.
A Garmin GPS makes it’s way into my inventory and my distance rides are re-invigorated this month – no more puzzled navigation piecing together mileage markers and road signs in the dark or getting lost due to lack of signs or poor marking. I manage three weekend centuries and then a magical Friday night ride to Dalton, GA. I climb Chillhowee Mountain twice, the gravel side and then the paved side. Next I take on Fort Mountain and find the climb wonderful – steep enough to make it challenge but flat enough to feel good the entire time.
The Silver Comet reappears, I come back after a several month break and find riding it enjoyable and useful as a connector to longer riders and less trafficked roads, as I always have. Distance comes back and I start riding on the west side of Atlanta again as well as doing the Sope Creek/Big Creek double on my gravel bike. I ride around gathering muscadines for my mom to make pies and muffins and start experimenting with a front rack again.
A mixed-terrain century starts this month. I map an enjoyable route and have a blast on the gravel near Cochran Mill. I am invigorated and the next day I follow it up with a 75 mile ride, the highest two day mileage I’ve done yet. I continue my routine of early, long Sunday rides exploring the West and Central parts of Atlanta. Mid-month I participate in a shorted Fools Gold 60 – I have a good ride but have not been maintaining my equipment and have issues descending with a low pressure fork and eating poorly. Still a good experience and a lot of fun. The next week I map a wonderful century near Douglasville. Riding at night for so long and far is invigorating. The month closes out with the Big Ring Challenge, I have some issues with my bike and nutrition directly before the race. I do ok but get crushed by sandbaggers, again.
A fill moon century opens the month as I get more comfortable riding at night in new places. A headlamp makes all the difference when riding at night out in the country, I install one on my helmet and take it on every ride. I race at Allatoona and have a hard, unforgiving ride due to not maintaining my fork pressure and not eating or drinking enough. I feel better once I see the results but overall not a good ride for me. My year is capped by an amazing experience at the Standard Deluxe Dirt Road Century, I race well and finish strong and cherish the experience.
I race Sac o’ Suds do well once again, I have peaked for gravel racing the previous two races. I’m not sure what I did (slept well, ate well and rode hard) but I have been riding strongly on gravel this fall. Otherwise distance comes easy and riding is a joy. I win gloves and a Jagwire cable kit at the Turkey shuffle, pushing and struggling up Windy Gap was fun and frustrating. I try the Sasquatch 125 but quit early. Riding with a social group was fun but I am used to a higher more aggressive pace so I peel off at the lunch stop and after struggling for a few miles into the wind I turn back and head for home.
The Cohutta Death March is an amazing experience. Every time I ride there it changes me, the struggle and challenge crush me and force me to change to survive. I value the character building that comes from riding in the most remote area of the Southeast for 8+ hours at a time. The ride breaks me so much I cannot sleep and jolt from bed the next morning, riding hard for three hours is the only thing I can do and afterwards I crash into a deep sleep for most of the rest of the day. For the first time since January 2013 I take a full 7 days off. I hike I sleep, I read, I play videogames and have a good time in the snow. I come back to three weeks of 15 hours+ and cannot ride anything but longer rides. I have one week where I do three rides of at least 5 hours only. It’s warm and fair and amazing. I use a front rack to carry extra clothes and am equipped with lights and batteries to ride for hours after the sun sets.