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

 

 

 

 

Sep 2014 05

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On a miserably humid and very hot August 23 Saturday, a small group of our friends joined Masher on an endurance ride to remember. The group of guys, John, Adam, Patrick and Kevin, met up in Lexington at 5:30 am to depart and carpool to southeastern Kentucky for a RAM Cycling Strava club ride in the Appalachian mountains starting in the town of Cumberland in Harlan County. Rolling down Interstate-75 south, then across some rural mountain roads we arrived at the starting point around 9 am and got kitted up, then headed out in search of some climbing agony.

 

Leaving Cumberland, we headed toward Harlan on an old highway and found our first climb of the day around mile 13 on the Little Shepherd Trail. This road ranks near the top of the beauty category of roads I’ve climbed and was the perfect warm up hill to start the day. It is a 3.5 mile climb with an average grade of 7% and on a very rural road with many switchbacks and much of the pavement was rough and numerous spots with moss, plus the tree cover prevented the sun from drying it which proved to make it a sketchy descent down the other side. As the descent leveled out, we rode into our first rest stop of the day on this unsupported century ride. A brief stop at Turner’s Grocery in Big Laurel, KY for refueling and we headed back up the hill,  in route to the next climb which led us past a local rock quarry and then onto the back entrance to Kingdome Come State Park.

 

This grueling challenge tested all of us deeply and put some hurt on the legs that would be lasting throughout the rest of the ride. Another nearly 3 miles of up pavement with an average grade at 9% and brief sections hitting 20+%, led us to a beautiful view at a mountain top overlook in the state park where we regrouped before descending the very steep front entrance to the park. This brought us back to our starting point in Cumberland and we stopped at the vehicles for another brief rest and refueling stop. The next climb would be the one that lured us to this area to begin with, as we headed toward crossing Black Mountain, the highest point in Kentucky. Riding quickly through the coal mining towns of Benham and Lynch (the base town), we began climbing with about a 5 mile warm up at a low grade, then with the final 5.5 miles at 6% to the top. I settled into a slow pace and slowly watched John and Adam disappear from sight as the hurt began to set in. My lack of more frequent climbing lately and the heat and humidity were beginning to lower my motivation, but about halfway up I remembered that I set a goal for this Strava segment and decided it was time to try a push and see if I could sustain. Sure enough, I found the energy and strength to continue the push and soon I could again see Adam. I passed him with about a mile to summit and kept grinding to the top where John had probably just woke up from a nap (joking, kinda).

 

Patrick had warned us at the bottom not to wait on him as his legs were hurting enough that he planned to turn around at the top. I wasn’t about to quit this good ole fashion ass kicking that Adam planned and routed out for us, but if anyone else had suggested it, I would have turned around at any point past this. So the three of us crossed the mountain and descended the other side into Virginia and stopped at the base town of Inman, VA for another rest and refuel stop. We then rode into Big Stone Gap and found another real test climb up to a state prison that was straight up for nearly 2 miles at almost 9% grade. We turned around at the top and headed back to Inman for one last stop to top off on water and roll out knowing there was only one climb left: the grueling ascent back across Black Mountain.

 

I was thinking on the way down Black Mountain earlier, it was pretty steep and a little longer than the Kentucky side and I knew it was gonna suck having to come back up it, but I got motivated knowing this was the last climb of the day. I again settled into a nice slow pace rhythm and just kept grinding until I crossed the state line again after climbing nearly 7 miles around 6.5%. This time John had headed on down to the finish and Adam waited for me to summit, then we descended and rolled back to the parking spot together. With almost 97 miles on my odometer, I was perfectly comfortable with stopping, however Adam insisted on riding another 3 miles to get his century. He later thanked us for joining him on his birthday and making it a memorable one. Wow! What I sick way to spend a birthday, I thought, but in reality, it seems just like something I would plan too. I’m glad I got to share the day with you on your bday Adam, and despite the soreness I felt on the ride, I’m very glad I decided to do it with all of you guys.

 

I was mentally trying to compare this ride in toughness to Clingmans Dome and Assault on Mt. Mitchell, but it’s too hard to rank them, giving the differences in distance, support, weather, and of course the human element (my training before AOMM was much more rigorous than before this ride, plus I didn’t get the exact rest and fueling pre-ride that I needed to be stronger on this day). I guess if I had to rank them, I’d probably still hold AOMM at the top, followed by Mountains of Pain, then Clingmans Dome (only due to lack of added distance when I’ve ridden it). One thing’s for sure, although I endured some pain on all these challenging climbing rides, as soon as I complete them, I can’t wait to do another one!

 

I have ambitions of assembling a couple of mountain challenge rides next year in both the Appalachians with Black Mountain and the Smokies with Clingmans Dome. Hopefully, I can con a few good friends to join me again and help me make some more great memories on the bike. I’m thankful to have been joined on this one for sure. John is one of those cyclists that guarantees your fitness will improve when you ride with him. Adam is very closely matched with me in ability and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed riding with him on occasion this year. This was only my second ride with Patrick, and he had a gutty performance, I’m very glad he was able to make the summit of the highest point in Ky after the early punishment we suffered climbing.

 

Stay tuned for the next random ride with RAM Cycling! … masher

Sep 2014 12

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I think since I first found my passion in road cycling, I have been somewhat lured to seek out big climbs and ride them. It probably started out as a means to test myself, prove to myself what I am capable of. On numerous climbs, I’ve witnessed riders have to stop and walk, and it’s always a goal of mine to finish on the bike and never walk. As my cycling passion has evolved, I believe I now seek out the beauty that lies along the roadway and especially at the top of long climbs, and I truly have a heightened sense of faith and closeness to God on the long, grueling climbs, but the challenge aspect is probably still the primary purpose for me to find and ride mountains and long, tough hills. I’m the type of person that wants to challenge myself to get better in everything I do, and while it’s pretty cool to do a 50 mile group ride and average 20 mph, I’d rather do a 70-100 mile ride and not care what my average speed is because I climbed 10,000 feet of elevation, or more!

 

Most anyone that has ever accepted an invite to join me on a ride that I pick the route, surely knows they will get to endure some hills. They also know, that my unsupported rides aren’t always planned for the “what if” factor. This makes for great bonding time among cyclists, and allows us to work together to solve problems as they arise, whether it’s a mechanical issue, route problem, weather doesn’t cooperate, or if the ride can’t be completed by one or all. This is the aspect that I am asking for help with as I plan a few RAM Cycling group rides next year in mountainous terrain.

 

My initial plan (and this is very early and bound to change somewhat as I figure out all the details) is to host at least 2, hopefully 3 “Mountain Challenge” rides. These will be century rides with some big climbing involved and I hope to be joined by as many friends of RAM Cycling and personal friends as possible. My plans for the first two will be loops that will ride out from Gatlinburg and cross the Smokies, including a ride up to Clingmans Dome and a route that will start/finish in Harlan, KY and cross the Appalachians via Black Mountain. Yes, since they will be loops, there will be some out and back, which means YES we will come back across the same mountain we climb earlier in the ride. The third location has not been determined yet but my initial thought process is to host one in spring, summer, and fall. There … we’ve all been forewarned. This ride series will test us both mentally and physically. I don’t care if you normally ride with a fast group or a slower pace group, I want you all to know that you are welcome to attempt these rides, since we all climb at our own pace.

 

The “Mountain Challenge Series” is not a race (not officially, but I know there will be some friendly competitiveness) and the best part is, they will be free! Sure, I could find a charity and really organize this thing to the point that it would take some of the fun out of it for me, then we could donate the profits to the charity, but if you really want to donate to a charity, pick one and do it on your own. This is all about the ride. I don’t want anyone to pay for a RAM Cycling ride ever, we want to raise awareness for cycling and more importantly, we want people to find lasting memories from our rides. I think it’s safe to say that so far, any cyclist that has ridden a ride that I planned, can recall a memory from the ride (maybe not a memory of bliss, but a memory of being on the bike with friends, no doubt)!

 

Here’s the part I really need help with: Support! I’m very confident that I can plan the route, the dates, and communicate all the details to all that decide to join me, but I know my weakness and it’s providing proper SAG service. I would like to find a few sponsors, such as a bike shop that would be willing to send someone on the rides to help with potential bike issues, a store that could donate water and/or snacks for the ride, or any business that could donate money for purchasing the water and ride fuel snacks. I think it would also be cool to have a cycling kit made up for the riders that can complete all of the rides in the series. Obviously, we would do all we can to promote and patronize any business that would be willing to lend a hand of support and help make these ride more enjoyable for us! I won’t attempt to make a promise that your support for these events will increase your profits greatly, but I will guarantee that we will put your company logo as a supporter on our website and I will sing your praises on our social media outlets, and of course we will include your logo on the cycling kit if we decide to have one designed and made.

 

Please consider letting us know if you or anyone you know can help make the “Mountain Challenge Series” more enjoyable by your support and more importantly, please consider joining us on one or all of the rides in the series. We will still plan and host our shorter local group rides on occasion as we have done throughout this year, the series is just our way of saying “sometimes you gotta go big, or don’t go at all!” Stay tuned for more details to be published as they become available. I look forward to riding with all my friends at next year’s RAM Cycling Mountain Challenge Series …

masher

 

 

 

Oct 2014 01

Oktoberfest

October 18 at 9:00 AM – Meeting at Masher’s House. 

All RAM Strava, Facebook, Twitter members/followers and/or friends are invited to attend! Route is from Gtown to Versailles to Millville (SAG stop) to Midway to Gtown. The ride is group style at avg pace 17-18 with regrouping as needed. Total distance is planned at 56 miles.

As promised at 4th of July, Masher will be giving away 2 VIP Maker’s Mark bottles to the winners of a friendly sprint/climbing competition. To be eligible for winning, you should be registered on Strava.

Please RSVP here or on our Strava Club Page. Strava Page also has the planned route.

Jan 2016 04

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I’m very excited to release my 2016 cycling schedule and I have included my personal goals for each event! As anyone can clearly see, I fully intend to make up for some lost time from 2015, and will be happy to have any of my cycling friends join me on any of these rides. A common theme with this schedule and my goals can be summed up with one word: challenging!

 

April

Event: Mountain Recon at Mt. Mitchell and Clingmans Dome

Goal: climbing training and route reconnaissance

Event: Masher’s Hilly Hundred 2016

Goal: climbing training/ AOMM prep

 

May

Event: Assault on Mt. Mitchell

Goal: Reach the 102 mile summit in under 7 hours

 

June

Event: Cherohala Challenge

Goal: Rank in top 25 on the strava long climb segment

 

July

Event: RAIN Ride

Goal: finish! 160 miles, one way, one day … Nuff said!

 

August

Event: Madara’s Mountians of Pain

Goal: KOM the Black Mtn strava segment climbing KY to VA

 

September

Event: Churchill to Keeneland (RAM Fondo)

Goal: Ride my first century at an avg pace of 20+ mph

 

October

Event: Oktoberfest

Goal: have fun with friends!

 

If it seems as though I’m “dangling a carrot in front of a rabbit,” that’s exactly what I intend to do! I am realistic and the 2015 season was a friendly reminder that sometimes other priorities get in the way of my cycling plans, which is why I strategically placed one event in each month, therefor if I happen to have a schedule conflict, I still have 3 weekends each month to find a replacement event. A couple of the rides I’ve listed, have been on my mind since I first heard about them and I’m ready to experience some new venues. A few of the others are some of my favorites from the past. I also have a few challenging fitness goals I plan to achieve including: riding 4000+ total miles, running 200+ miles, dropping (and keeping) my weight below 200! Be sure to track me along the year to see how the rides go and hopefully my 2016 recap will be very entertaining!

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