Clingman’s Dome
Apr 2014 08

After the past few winters being somewhat mild, this winter season has been just the opposite. So heading south for a warmer climate and good challenging climb sounded like just the spring break 2014 ticket. After completing Assault on Mt. Mitchell last year, and deciding to go back this year with several friends joining me, I knew we needed to climb more in our training than I did a year ago, therefore riding up Hwy 441 from Gatlinburg, TN to the highest point in the Smoky mountains seemed like a “no-brainer.” The plan was to head to the smokies after work on Friday and settle into a mountain cottage in the Village of Cobbly Nob for the weekend. First thing Saturday morning, we would roll out and head southwest about 12 miles into downtown Gatlinburg, then turn east and head toward Cherokee, NC.

The 4 man group consisted of Linn Laborda, Jim Simes, Tim Stout (Renaissance Man), and Kevin Pearl (Masher). We met up at Linn’s cabin near the exit of the village, talked briefly about our route, plans, the weather, and just general catching up on lost time as we have not all ridden together lately (especially Jim being from South Carolina). Linn had driven up the mountain on Friday to Newfound Gap overlook, about 7 miles short of the summit, and warned there was some snow and ice slush still along the road’s edge nearer the top and also that there was some fog which typically means less than pleasant weather. The collective consensus was that none of us cared to ride in a cold rain but the game plan was to ride to the top, then turn around, descend and ride back to the cabins, about a 70-80 mile round trip adventure. Linn’s friend, Dee, not wanting to be bored in a cabin alone all day, agreed to leave about an hour or so after us and offer SAG along the climb and be the photographer at the top. This gesture turned out to be a saving grace (maybe life saving).

The first section into Gatlinburg was fun, mostly flat with a few small climbs and descents, a pretty fast pace at this point. Not a ton of traffic on the roads yet, thankfully, until we made it to the downtown strip where it was already bumper-to-bumper at 10am. The air was somewhat humid but cool with temps in the mid 50s, sky was overcast and mostly cloudy with some spots of sunshine, we passed the Sugarlands visitor center and headed toward the sign that read “Clingman’s Dome 20″ and the climbing began.

In the first couple miles, the group separated a little, and I eventually found myself up front. After having some shin-splints along with nagging knee and back issues this past winter, this would be my first real test on how I’ve recovered from these few injuries, and in the early going I felt fine, finding myself settle into a nice climbing rhythm. About five miles into the climb, the humidity turned to actual moisture. Wetness on my clothes, wet roads, falling in drizzle form at this time. I pulled off on an access road to Chimneys overlook and moments later, Linn pulled in. We ate a quick snack, took in some fluids, and chatted briefly while Jim also caught up. I recall saying “this descent may not be too fun on a slick wet road.” Knowing Tim would climb a little slower than us, but with no quit in him, we headed on, so not to get stiff. The route appeared to be pretty as it winded up the mountain, but by this time it was nearly impossible to get a great view of the scenery because we had pulled into that fog Linn mentioned of, and the drizzle had increased to full on rain, but still it was not slowing us down any. Normally, Jim would have left us out of sight early in the climb, but having dealt with some health issues this winter, he was not in regular form yet, and Linn and I rode off from him again.

Shortly after, Dee in the SAG wagon rolled up to us and stopped ahead. Linn and I both agreed we were feeling good and would continue. She checked on Jim and Tim also, and leapfrogged us by a couple miles. Again, we rolled on, still in fresh form, but the temp seemed to be dropping somewhat as I felt a little chill and could see my breath. And the fog seemed to get thicker and heavier. We decided to pull off briefly the next time we saw her stopped for us and by this time, my legs still felt fine but my lower back was feeling a little sore, maybe from carrying extra weight that I’m not accustomed to as I was wearing a 2 litre hydration pack and had a light jacket and head cover stowed in a pocket on it (also maybe a life saver later on). A brief refuel, and we were back on the road.

The highway included plenty of traffic with us on the climb to the top, but we never had a problem or close call that was uncomfortable. The further up we went, it was clear, the temp was dropping and the weather was changing. We found the patches of snow and ice sludge and had to ride further into the lane in some spots, but still no traffic concerns. As we pulled into the parking lot at Newfound Gap overlook, there were lots of tourists (probably visiting on spring break, like us). This was a pretty cool spot because it was where the Appalachian Trail crossed the highway, and we witnessed a few hikers too. Dee told us that the last time she checked on Tim, he thought he would stop at this point due to the weather. I think at this point we were all a little concerned about how we would get back down because the plan to descend on bikes didn’t seem very safe on these road conditions. So, me and my Marine mentality (accomplish the mission and then figure it out, and the mission at this point was to reach the top), headed back out with Jim and Linn.

Immediately after leaving the overlook, our road turned off to the right with about 7 miles to go to reach Clingman’s Dome, the highest spot in Tennessee, and the second highest elevation east of the Mississippi River in the United States. 95% of the traffic we were sharing the road with continued on toward Cherokee as we continued up. This section felt like the steepest grade thus far on the route and about 3-4 miles up we finally caught a break on the legs as the road flattened out and then tuned down a little. At first it felt good to get some pedaling relief, but then it was clear we had little or no brakes and the bottom fell out of the temperature. After descending nearly a mile or so, scared of running off the side of the mountain, I could barely feel my hands and face at this point. Linn and I came back together shortly after the downhill roll, and we continued to grind again. A few miles later we spotted some caution signs on the road, and around a bend, we pulled into the parking lot at the top. A few minutes later, Jim also showed up and we all looked like hell. It was cold, very cold and windy. I promised them before we started that it would be painful fun, but the view at the top would totally be worth it. That was a lie, the fog was so thick, all we could see was about twenty feet in front of us. It was freezing rain on us and God bless Dee, who was there and took our picture in front of the landmark sign, then turned on Linn’s vehicle with the heat on high and opened the back up so we could stand under the hatch and get a plan to get off this mountain before we became victim to hypothermia.

I pulled out my jacket and hat, threw them on over my rain soaked clothing, and tucked in behind his SUV letting it block the wind and gasping for any heat possible that was blowing out of the vents as my body began to shiver uncontrollably, and all I could think about was we needed to get back down to get Tim out of the weather. Out of nowhere, a cyclist from Cincinnati showed up with his family and they were there to hike the half mile trail around the summit. He spoke to us briefly (probably thinking what dumbasses ride up the mountain in this weather?), then offered to help haul our bikes back down the mountain as he had his bike rack on his car. So we waited on them to return to the parking lot and he loaded Jim’s and my bike up and we headed down to find Tim. Also, by this time, Dee had gotten phone service long enough to get ahold of our wives and ask for assistance getting us and our bikes back to camp. They were graciously on their way. We pulled into the overlook parking lot and were greeted by a kind gentleman known as a “trail angel” (there to aid and assist hikers or anyone in need coming off of the Appalachian Trail) and he told us that he had helped Tim warm up in his truck, then he caught a ride down to the visitor center with a hiker from South Carolina named Phillip. Moments later, our wives showed up and we switched the bikes over to my vehicle and couldn’t thank our gracious Cincy cyclist enough for helping us out.

I think our wives were a little unnerved that we unexpectedly interrupted their spring break relaxation time back at the cottage to drive over an hour away through the ridiculous Gatlinburg traffic to come pick our asses up when we were supposed to be riding back, but when Tim’s wife learned he had taken a ride down the mountain with a complete stranger, they realized we were in serious trouble without their and everyone else’s help. We were so gracious to all that helped us get back to warmth and safety, and a cold beer in the hot tub back at our cabin never tasted and felt so good. Conversation in the jacuzzi informed me of how Tim got tired of waiting on us to rescue him, and set out back on his bike to finish the ride up Clingman’s Dome access road, only to turn back around at the spot where it flattened out (2 miles from the summit) because of his brakes not working and he thought he would be safer to get back down and search for help, or in his words, “lay down in the middle of the road and hope somebody picked him up!”  We were very close to having a serious issue. The thermometer on Linn’s dashboard read 40 degrees at the summit, but with the wind chill, and wetness from freezing rain made it feel well below freezing temps. I drove back up to the overlook the next day with my family and the sky was clear, the sun was out, but the upper elevation was now covered with about six inches of fresh snow. That was indication of the storm that we rode into and with a little luck and help from fine folks just paying it forward, we were able to conquer the challenge, even though we had to alter our plans a little. This day, the views were exactly what I had hoped to see on my bike one day prior and it was evident we would have to come back and do it again, when we could witness the heavenly views and enjoy the 20 mile descent back to town. All the guys agree and are excited and looking forward to it. I’m sure there will be others join us next time too.

Though we all agreed before the ride that none of us wanted to ride in a cold rain, we were all glad we did the ride. Just another experience we’ll never forget. And the saying goes on … We don’t ride bikes to add days to our life, we ride bikes to add life to our days!

* masher

Feb 2014 08

I’ve thought this many times on various rides, and sometimes on a solo ride, I’ll even talk aloud to myself when I ask “is this heaven?” A great quote from one of my favorite movies “Field Of Dreams,” and I change the answer to reflect my home state instead of Iowa … “no, it’s Kentucky.” Yet once again, I pondered that very curious question on a recent road ride to start the month of February … could this be heaven.

 

I believe it could be. Heaven on earth, that is. Sometimes, we get so caught up in our very busy everyday lives with all the ripping and running we do, and working, and social media, and so on and so forth, that we completely forget to get outside, unplug from electronics, and be mentally and physically active in mother nature. I’ll say this, and yes I’m prejudice as a Christian and road cyclist: “There’s no better way to experience the 3-D art canvas that God has provided of everyday nature of heaven on earth, than allowing all of your senses to experience it from the seat of a bicycle!”

 

And on the the subject of God, just for a brief moment … for those that don’t believe, there sure are a lot of churches, big and small, scattered all over His countryside, even out in the middle of nowhere, where I love to ride my bike the most. And the oldest, smallest ones out on the paths less traveled are simply Angelic looking and provide a very inviting feeling.

 

Back to heaven on earth on a bike. After completing my ride on Feb. 1, I couldn’t help but reflect on the awesome beauty that I was so fortunate to witness that day. I posted on twitter, “it’s impossible to explain how beautiful our world is from the seat of a bicycle. You can only experience it in real life.” This is so true. You could maybe take a stroll in a convertible car and get close, I’m sure hiking is a similar feeling, but there’s simply no way possible to tell someone or watch it on tv and them get the full feeling of the experience. I’ll try to explain anyways. Just some of the things I was able to see on that and many other rides: a young deer eating along the road, and upon seeing me, showing fear and turning a white tail towards me as she rapidly hopped away to a safer distance; a great blue heron resting along a creek side, as still as a rock on the bank, and they always make me think about my dad who has a special connection with the beautiful birds; the wonderful formations of ice along massively tall rock cliff walls along a winding pleasant grade climb out of the Kentucky River valley; the roaring sound, the salty smell, the beautiful vision of the creek as it crashes over the dam at Weisenberger Mill on the Scott/Woodford county line; the feel of a vicious dog’s breath and the sound of his ferocious bark very near my feet as my heart races when I begin to push the  pedals as hard as possible and shout out to “get back!”; the view of an antique plank wood covered bridge and the graffiti that shows its age; the massive amounts of ice formed in the Elkhorn Creek along Peaks Mill road in the popular section for canoeing, kayaking, rafting, and fishing; the sight of a squirrel quickly scampering across the rope hand rail of a rickety old falling apart swinging bridge that was once the sidewalk that led from a road side parking spot across a frozen creek bed to the front door of a cottage style farm house; and many, many more breathtaking moments that can only be fully experienced, in my opinion, in real life … from the seat of a bicycle.

 

So what are you waiting for? Don’t believe in heaven on earth? Give it a try, I dare you. And I make this promise: you won’t regret it. Get on a bike and ride. Ask me for a guided tour of this beautiful world that exists everyday, but we are too plugged in to realize. I’d love for you to join me.

 

Bicycling isn’t my whole life, but it makes my life whole,

KP … masher

 

 

 

 

Feb 2014 01

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Heading into the off season, I was primed, I was pumped to get a little R & R, and begin pushing hard for the next cycling season in hopes of returning to some of my favorite rides and shoot for some PR’s. After deciding to move my daily strength training program into a new gear, I was instantly sidelined with a strained muscle group in my back. This little setback even cost me a couple days off work when I couldn’t be productive. Two weeks later, after being very inactive to heal, I managed to cycle up Black Mountain, the highest point in Kentucky and then I relaunched my off season activities in full force.

 

Near the end of the year, I found my riding time very limited due to weather, work, and family travel, but still managed to keep the indoor movement continued and got a few decent rides in over the holidays with some nice hills and miles. However, it’s been nearly shut down mode since then as far as the road cycling and running goes. The wonderful winter weather has played havoc on my work schedule as well, causing multiple consecutive weeks with hours in the sixties plus. Thankfully, nothing has halted my morning workout ritual, and I know soon enough, the weather has to break and I’ll be chomping at the bit to make up for lost time.

 

The second problematic issue this off season was a nagging shoulder strain, but this time, more likely caused by too much wear and tear at work, rather than another self inflicted injury from training. I fought through it for nearly a week, until I could tell it needed some attention, as it was not going to go away on it’s own. Off to the chiropractor I went, and after one treatment with an adjustment, E-stim and ultrasound therapy, I was on my way to healing recovery. Oh, along with the same advice my lovely nurse wife had given me several days prior: “take some ibuprofen and ice it off and on.”

 

Well, I’m not one to take medicine much, so I chose not to take my wife’s advice until I heard it from the chiropractor also. Little did I know, that I was about to embark on a lengthy relationship with the anti-inflammatory med, but nearly as soon as I regained full motion and strength in my shoulder, I woke up with a nagging leg/ankle/foot pain. “Wow, what’s my problem?” I’m asking myself. “This is the most healthy and fit I’ve been in nearly 6 years, and it seems now as if every other week is bringing on a new injury,” were just some of my thoughts …

 

This time, I immediately went to the ice/ibuprofen/icy-hot muscle rub treatment in hopes to nip it in the bud quick. All the while, I’m suffering both mentally and physically because now I can’t run or ride, inside or out. Wow?! And what makes it even worse is getting on my strava account and being witness to all my friends putting in serious work, and knowing how much catch up work I’ve got ahead of me now, just to get back to even and just to regain the fitness I’m losing. Well, a week later, taking the advice of my wife this time, I decided to go see the doc and figure out how to make this ailment disappear so I can get back on track. This time, I headed to an urgent treatment clinic after work, just to get in and out without missing any work.

 

Upon arrival and checking in at the UTC, I was pleased to see the number on the scales still around 200, even with multiple layers still on from work, then it got interesting in the exam room. The nurse checking my vitals, looked at both of my legs and noticed the problem area to be somewhat reddish in color and swollen. Then she took my pulse multiple times with the finger device and had a puzzling look on her face. She tried it on her finger just to make sure it was working properly, then took it on me again. “Is something wrong?” I ask. “Something’s not right,” she said, then after leaving the room to speak to the doctor, she returned and told me that I needed to go to the ER to get checked for a possible blood clot due to the redness, swelling, and a pulse in the 40s,and they don’t have the equipment there to do the scan. She also offered to call an ambulance for me, and I laughed and declined. So off to the hospital I went, and this time I was accompanied by my wife (who was a little bit in panic mode) and my youngest son. I assured her, I’ve never had any circulation problems, and that I’m too healthy to get sidelined by a serious medical problem all of a sudden.

 

Still calm as I always am, I checked into the ER and within minutes was called back where a very nice RN again checked my legs and vitals, but this time with a non-puzzling look on her face. “I played volleyball in college and my resting pulse was always in the 40s-50s. Most athletes have a lower than normal pulse when resting,” she said with a smile on her face. Shortly after her visit, Doctor Harrison came in and knew exactly what to check for to let me know I am now suffering from shin-splints. Ouch! He had them before and knew the exact foot position that caused the most severe pain, and made a few recommendations to get me back on my training plan, along with a steroid script for five days.

 

What’s next? At this rate, it would probably be safe to assume, the next injury is lingering just around the corner, waiting to bite me. I have learned through this process, how important it is to me to be active, but at the same time, that my body sometimes requires rest for healing. Now, three days into the steroid use for my shin-splints, I’m feeling much better, and excited to get back on the road soon. I will try to push myself to get going asap, but will not push so hard that I don’t get fully healed. I’ve got too big of plans for this cycling season to risk it all by really messing up my fitness. And as far as what injury is next goes, I’m not one to look for bad news, not gonna dwell on negatives. I’m fully confident that I’ll be back in full force at 100% again very soon, and if another injury happens, I’ll deal with it when it does, but I’m not planning for it.

 

So, to all my friends that are out there putting in solid work on your off season fitness while I’m on the sideline somewhat, I commend you for continuing to push yourself to be better. I promise this though, I will be back on your heels soon enough, and looking for the perfect moment to sling shot out of your momentum and again be the pace-setter. You guys know who you are, and you know I’ll be back soon enough!

 

Keeping It Moving Forward …

KP

masher

Jan 2014 25

Team L30

Posted In Blog

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Every new day brings new beginnings. Near the end of December, I was on a training ride with my friend Tim, the Renaissance Man, and we were discussing our great cycling accomplishments of 2013, when it dawned on us he was going to run his total miles for the year over 3,ooo and I would pass 4,000 before the ball dropped in NYC. This was a major accomplishment for both of us, and he ask me what was I to shoot for in 2014? That was a simple answer: no mileage goal, but more of the same … more staying fit and well, both physically and mentally! It kinda felt weird not making “New Year’s resolutions” for the first time in a long time, but rather, personally committing to stay the course that was laid out over the past year. I remain loyal to the idea that I don’t ride to accumulate miles, instead the miles, whether they’re few or many on any given ride, are my healing power. I say “I don’t ride for the miles,” but in fact, the good that comes about for me because of the miles I ride (and now occasionally run) is the beat of my heart, the breath of my lungs, the desire to wake up early each day and be better.

 

I developed my plan to regain fitness last year as I began training for Assault On Mt. Mitchell, which I knew would probably be the toughest ride I ever attempted, but I found the mentality to dig deep and challenge myself from the “lead by example” mentality of my mentor Chris “Big Dog Schmidty” Schmidt. We have come a long way from the first GABRAKY ride together, and when I learned about him completing his first Ironman triathlon in Louisville 2 years ago, I was inspired to push myself to reach my full potential. That’s the basis, the whole philosophy behind L3, which stands for Live, Learn, Lead. To quote Schmidty: ” We hold each other accountable for getting together to train, to race, and especially to have fun. There are others who join in that kind of make up our Team, we try to invite and include anyone who shares our same passion for life that we do. L3 is a philosophy about life. It’s about mental, physical, and spiritual wellness. It’s about being a lifelong learner. Finally, it’s about being a leader and realizing our (and others) full human potential.”

 

During the events that I rode with Schmidty last year, he couldn’t help but notice how much we have in common in our ability to sweat! Near the end of some of our century rides, I would be wearing down and certainly not feeling as fresh as he was, nor as strong as I would earlier in the ride. In early August, we rode the Louisville Ironman course for training and recon, and it was a hot day indeed. At the finish, my jersey appeared to have enough salt on it for several of the big hot pretzels you get at a ballpark, and while I felt spent, he and Toby Young (another Ironman and member of Team L3) went for a run. I know they have developed more endurance from their triathlon training and racing, but they also have a secret weapon in their bag tricks, or water bottles to be more specific. A product call Skratch Labs.

 

Near the end of the season last year, Schmidty sent me an article to read, about proper hydration and electrolyte replenishment. Obviously, a couple of strategies that I could benefit from. Then, as the new year rolled in, he ask me to join his Team L3 as we became officially sponsored by Skratch Labs. I’ve honestly never tried the product, but from what I’ve researched and heard from my very trustworthy mentor, it’s exactly the product I need in my bottles in 2014, and I’m very excited to try it. Who knows, maybe I’ll win some county line sprints and still feel like joining Chris and Toby for a run after a century ride this year!

 

I look forward to representing Team L3 and Skratch Labs at some awesome and challenging events this season. Some of those include Redbud Ride, Assault On Mt. Mitchell, Horsey Hundred, Tour de Lou, Preservation Pedal, Hub City Tour, GABRAKY, Bluegrass Cycling Club rides, and numerous other cycling events. I also plan to run in a few various 10-K and 5-K road races but have not decided which ones yet, and I am even giving serious consideration to attempting my first triathlon in the Olympic distance at the Buckhead Border Challenge in Louisville. Not to mention, I have sons that tend to sweat like their old man during the heat of summer baseball season, and they’ll be drinking Skratch in the dugout as well. I’m excited to be included in Team L3 and fully intend to continue to stay my course and rise stronger each day.

 

I don’t ride a bike to add days to my life, I ride a bike to add life to my days,

KP

masher

Renaissance Prepares for the Tour of Sufferlandia
Jan 2014 21

The Tour of Sufferlandia starts on Saturday, January 25, 2014.  And I am planning on riding each and every day.  Nine straight days of cycling spins/rides on the trainer in the basement, also known as the suffer chamber. Why would someone subject themselves to this exercise? I guess there are many reasons.

(For more information on the Tour of Sufferlandia go to the following link: http://www.thesufferfest.com/about-sufferfest/tour-of-sufferlandria-2014/ )

 

REASONS TO RIDE

  1. Can I do it? I want to prove to myself it is possible for me to do a challenge that many people start and do not finish. I am also using this “ride” to see if I have the mental toughness to move outside and beat the Assault on Mount Mitchell. So the first reason is to answer the basic question – Can I do it?
  2. It seemed like a good idea at the time. Actually that is the name of Day 2′s ride, also abbreviated ISLAGIATT. When I first read about this event, I was intrigued by the technical setup of SUFFERFEST and Trainer Road (available at Trainerroad.com). So I set up my own suffer chamber and started riding on the trainer. I could tell it was going to be beneficial over the winter. Then I bought a SUFFFERFEST training plan. Then I said, let’s do this this Tour thingy. So now I say ISLAGIATT.
  3. The whole idea of the ToS (Tour of Sufferlandia) is to help raise funds for the Davis Phinney Foundation in its stance for Parkinson’s research. So I have asked my friends and family and business acquaintances to help me raise funds. And if you are reading this, it is not too late. Follow the link below and you can still donate.
    http://www.kintera.org/faf/donorReg/donorPledge.asp?ievent=1085124&supId=395716661&extSiteType=4
  4. I might win a prize IF I finish the ride. As I looked into this event, I was impressed to see how the technology built into the Trainer Road software actually ensures that a participant actually participates. While I am sure the system can be cheated, it is pretty cool that others can see my ride including heart rate, cadence, power, speed, mileage, and time just by hooking the software up to my bluetooth devices and my trainer. So this will verify that I ride what I am suppose to ride and maybe I might win something cool.

So there you have it – my four reasons I am riding the ToS.

I have also been asked to give an overview of the devices and technology I am using. Here is my list:

  1. Litespeed C3 Road Bike – “The Dagger”
  2. Cyclops Mag+ Trainer
  3. Wahoo Fitness Bluetooth Speed and Cadence Sensor
  4. Wahoo Fitness Bluetooth Heart Rate Monitor
  5. Cyclops Stackable Climbing Block
  6. Apple Macbook Pro Retina w/Bluetooth
  7. Trainer Road Software from www.trainerroad.com
  8. Apple TV
  9. 60″ Samsung TV

The Macbook is running Trainer Road software. Using the bluetooth in the laptop, I am able to connect my heart rate monitor and the speed and cadence sensor to the trainer road software. Trainer Road also has the power curve to my trainer – the Cyclops Mag+ (as well as many other trainers). This enables the software to display my real time data stream onto the big screen TV via Apple TV Airplay Display. So I can watch the SUFFERFEST video with my Trainer Road data stream live and suffer at the appropriate pace. Sounds like fun doesn’t it?

Stay tuned for updates as the tour progresses. If you have questions or comments, please let me know. And if you have an extra $10, please consider donating to the Davis Phinney Foundation through my personal fund raising web page. Thanks in advance for your support!

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