Friday, September 11, 2009

Am I Specialized?

retired specialized pro carbons
my first pair of pro carbons -- about to be retired and replaced with an identical pair.

This story may be familiar to my regular readers or anyone who read my first Spokes column back in May, but I'm retelling it here and now for the benefit of the folks organizing the Specialized Trail Crew 2010. They're looking for riders and I think i might be what they're looking for.

If you're looking for a list of bullet points here goes:
  • I think the best way to spend the day before labor day is riding 100 miles in the woods with several hundred of your closest friends
  • I love doing big backcountry rides and races
  • I've been blogging since you had to explain what a blog was and I think i'm pretty good at telling a good story
  • I'm a photographer and also a writer
  • I have my own beer on tap in my house and I like to bring it along with me
  • I'm 34 and live just outside Washington, DC with my wife and 1 year old son.
  • I've love my stumpy 120 (and my epic and tri-cross)
  • I love the shoes and gloves and helmets too
  • other places to find me online: twitter, facebook, flickr
  • somewhere out there, there's some really embarrassing video of me doing a slow-speed endo right in front of ned overend on a ride at the IMBA summit
But here's what the story that i think you really want to hear...

Back in the year 2000 or so I was just out of college, overweight, and out of shape but something grabbed me one day and made me pick up a copy of a local mountain bike trail guide in the book store and see if my little brother wanted to go mountain biking.

I dusted off the bike I'd used (rarely) to get around campus and the second I put knobby tire to singletrack I was hooked. Mountain biking was like nothing else I'd ever done before. Rides went from monthly to weekly to daily in no time flat. The old bike was replaced within weeks and before too long I was heavily involved with the local trails advocacy group, MORE.

The next winter I tore my ACL in a skiing fall, but mountain biking helped me come back stronger than ever. Afternoon rides turned into all day backcountry epics and weekend trips into the George Washington National Forest. Before too long i was racing, joining a local team and then I signed up for the Shenandoah Mountain 100.

It was the 100 that was to become the real turning point for me. That first year I trained seriously for the first time and finished the race, but as the very last finisher in just over 15 hours 10 minutes. The race hurt, badly, but it was the best day of my life so far and the next year I trained harder, rode more and went back down to Stokesville to try it again. The second time I finished (this time on an S-Works Epic that i still have and love) in 10 hours 50 minutes, a single year improvement that I don't think has been matched by anyone before or since.

I didn't realize it at the time, but mountain biking had profoundly changed my life. Over those first two years of racing the 100 i'd lost over 50 pounds, but more than that I'd made great friendships and found the self confidence that I'd always been lacking. I didn't just mountain bike, I was a Mountain Biker. At the end of that year I met the girl I've since gone on to marry and I'm not sure that would have happened if it wasn't for what mountain biking had done for me.

But that's in the past, what's going on now. I started blogging back in the run up to my first 100 and haven't stopped since. The subjects have varied a bit over time but there's been lots of riding, some politics, and recently quite a bit of photography.

A couple years ago, a few of us from the DCMTB mountain bike team decided to take a stab at the Granny Gear 24-Hour national point series, so in 2007 we traveled across the country to race in California, Vermont, Missouri, and locally at the 24 Hours of Big Bear in West Vriginia. We had some stiff competition and the series came down to the wire, but we did win the Expert title in the series along with 2 class and 1 overall win at the races.

A year ago my wife and I started a new adventure with the birth of our son. Now i'm trying to figure out how to balance riding and family. The riding has been a little thinner in the past year but i still jump on every chance to ride, especially on dirt, and now I'm looking forward to next year and trying to pick some new challenges...

Back in June of this year I organized a fundraising team through the Team IMBA program. We raced the Massenhutten Hoo-Ha, and three of us managed to raise $1500 for IMBA and $4600 for MORE that's going to be dedicated to The Fountainhead Project, and effort to make the trails at a Fountainhead Regional Park in Virginia a model of challenging and technical environmentally sustainable trail.

I need to get back to the 100 for my 4th attempt at that (10 hours?) and there's the Transylvannian Epic, a brand new 7 day stage race in Pennsylvannia, that looks like an interesting challenge. I'd like to get out to Fruita and Moab, my last attempt at which was cut short my a broken collarbone a week before the trip.

But mostly, I just want to ride. To take those extra hours that crop up in the day and get out into the woods, to recharge and feel totally and completely alive.

thanksgiving day 2007 at avalon


sreichgott said...

Amazing stuff. And glad to know you for it. Hey, without mountain biking it sounds like we never would have met...

Crazy life. I like it.

JB said...

Good stuff, Joe.

Josh said...

Nice one. We should all ride bikes, drink beer, and take pictures sometime. I've still got a Surly 1x1 in my office waiting to be built up.

Matt Donahue said...

Great account of things Joe. I remember meeting you, possibly for the second time, at Aid Station 4 on my first attempt at the SM 100. I'm glad you were there supporting the race and the racers. Moreover I'm glad that we've become great friends! Cheers to our MTB adventures and many more to come.