Saturday, September 29, 2007

Ahhh the good 'ol days...

Days away from October
(this marks the first blog on www.jasonberry.com (coming soon) and the last blog for 24 Solo)

September came and went all too fast. My favorite month of the year started with the SM100 and will finish with my 20 Year high school reunion.
20 years? What the hell happened? This sort of thing always causes one to reflect so I'll briefly share a bit of my past since you might find it humorous. Cast your mind:


1987 (Pittsford, NY) was a time when it was considered funny to mock other ethnicities and Terrorism was a joke. Click on the photo to read the caption. Can't pull that crap these days...

I can't possibly make this stuff up. Oh how the times have changed.


1985, 10th grade. Lower right.
In an environment where everyone is scrambling for an identity, it's really no wonder I was mocked in those impressionable years of high school. The rich kids in my class spent their summers on the "Mustangs Travel Team" picking up soccer tips in Europe and subsequently played Varsity. Even tho I played soccer since I was 5 years old, I couldn't make it off the bench in JV. Pittsford Sutherland was always a contender for State Champions and only the best made the team. There wasn't a volleyball team (our lunchtime pressure release) so my sports career ended here. While the cool guys who did make it to Varsity soccer were smoking dope and popping ecstasy, Dave and I made the misatke of a lifetime thinking our ticket onto the Popular Train would be breakdancing.

This is from my locker - can you say "Identity Crisis"??? The ticket stub was my first concert - the Swatch Watch Fresh Festival in Niagara Falls. I got crushed against the stage so one of the Fat Boys pulled me aside and let me stand next to Run DMC. It was a big moment for me.

We were labeled "Breakers" and not in a nice way. One night Dave was determined to master the head-spin and after hours of practicing, woke up the next day completely immobile. He couldn't get out of bed for the next 48 hours. How can a couple of white kids, in Upstate New York, surrounded by farms, think breakdancing would do anything for their social life? Our reputation was set in concrete the night we took the stage after the cheerleaders in the big high school dance show (which was an evening event - so parents came too, packed auditorium, humiliation factor high). I don't think Sutherland was ready for 4 white kids bringing that much 'culture' into their hallowed halls (refer back to school newspaper above). Granted, this was 10th grade and truth be told we could dance well. We even went downtown to break with the brothers and got props. But for the love - Mom and Dad should have stepped in and told us to take the path of drugs.

From left to right - Steve Donnaly: Now owns an auto-body repair business, Dave Jewett: 2x World Champion Lumberjack with new kidney, Jason Berry: could not look more gay, Chris Wojiechowski: Advertising Executive


1986, 11th grade
In were rugby shirts with big white collars and anything with stripes. I got my left ear pierced. Still didn't work, now I was a "Gay Breaker". While any guy with an ounce of athletic ability and half-baked brain was earning points with the ladies by competing on the Downhill Ski Team, I was hiding away in art class painting lamborghini's... This is what watching too much Miami Vice gets you...

It is NOT surprising that I was a virgin until my 20's. If I had only stuck with this one sport I kinda dabbled in...

But no, instead I viewed the bike as a way to get around town (and in this photo, a way to get to Canandaigua Lake to renegade camp on some unsuspecting person's land and enjoy time away from high school and my job at Service Merchandise).


1987, Senior with bad mullet
I'm about to graduate and am looking forward to art college in Columbus Ohio which clearly showed my limited exposure to anything outside of Rochester. I had heard Columbus was a testing ground for Mall stores. That's about it. There was some big college there with a popular football team but I wasn't into football and that college was NOT Columbus College of Art & Design. Ohhh no. CCAD was a gritty little school in the ghetto struggling to make a name for its self against the industry giants like Rhode Island School of Design (my number one choice - and while I was accepted there was no way this kid could afford the $22,000 per year to attend). Since I had won a scholarship to CCAD the choice was made for me. So no cool name to tell people when they asked "what college are you going to?" and no cool girlfriend to bid adieu. No awards, newspaper clippings or big victories. I guess this was meant for later in life. And I guess this is why I took pleasure in saying 'goodbye Sutherland' in our front-page yearbook photo...

A closer look:


Luckily things finally got on track many years later. Since the last update I returned home to attend a fundraiser for Dave - it was days after the event while fishing with Dave, I realized I had not taken a single photo so I shot the only evidence of the event - a brand on my leg stating "Do It For Jewett".


Seconds later Dave hooked a sweet bass.


Dave is doing well - new kidney seems to be slow but getting up to speed.

So as I head back for my reunion, wish me luck. It's been a long, hard 20 years of living this shit down.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Almost Forgot

There were many times I thought of my friend Chuck while I was out there. Many times I was asking him to appear and push my ass up the hill. And many times the pain in my legs shifted to the pain of knowing I'd never see him again. Sucks to lose a friend, but hopefully Chuck would have been stoked for me.

On another note, 24 Solo was named an "Official Selection" to the Taos Mt. Film Fest!!!

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Validation, Detours and the start of Gripped

(photos borrowed from friends, www.iplayoutside.com and www.jonathanbruckphotography.com)

8 years ago Ken Bell moved back to Harrisonburg, Va from Arlington where I had met him. He attended college at JMU and wanted to raise his budding family in that college town. Besides the ideal location for his family and business, there was an incredibly strong mountain biking community led by the guys who would eventually open the Shenandoah Bicycle Company. Along with a semi-pro endurance freak named Chris Scott and his fellow riders, the idea for a 100 mile mountain bike race was hatched and brought to fruition. Ken caught wind of this and somehow talked me into competing the second year it was held, September 2nd, 2000. Over the years it's amazing what Ken has talked me into - but I am lucky to have a friend who either believes so strongly in my abilities or simply enjoys watching me tackle all the crazed ideas he comes up with - either is fine by me. The results from that rainy September day can still be found on www.iplayoutside.com but you'll have to scroll down quite a bit to see my name at 144th place. Back then there were less than 200 riders competing but ironically Chris Eatough would beat us all. I had no idea how that race would alter the entire course of my life, let alone destroy my ability to walk, sit or ascend stairs for many days after it. It was the hardest thing I had ever done, physically - and I was hooked. The problem was and still is, I'm no endurance athlete. Hell I wasn't even a good cyclist. I think I had done less than a dozen mt. bike races and refused to own a road bike. I was one clueless kid way out of my league.

Who is this Chris Eatough guy??? 2000 winning time:7:12:00 My time: 12:54:00 sigh.

In 2001 I added a few more days of "training" before the event but fell victim first to a broken chain and then a smashed derailleur. I rigged it with a piece of inner tube and finished with 3 gears and only slightly better than the year before in 133rd place. I think the best part of it was being mentioned in the 2001 race review on www.iplayoutside.com by Meghan Ryan who rode with me for a bit. I was thrilled to be named among such talent ("...Iggy's friend Jason..."). Eatough again had smashed the field of 235 riders including team mate Jeremiah Bishop. Here began a strong desire to fit in with this crowd that so impressed me but clearly it was never going to come from my race results. I was a true wannabe.

E-tough wins again. Winning time:7:29:36

Will I ever break the 12-hour mark? 12:10:19

2002 arrived and after what I then considered "serious training" I figured I was ready to not only break 11 hours but go after the coveted "10 HOUR" mark - this is what separates the boys from the men. The rockstars from the wannabes. Well as lady luck would have it, I ruptured a disc in my neck about 2 weeks before the race in a nasty wakeboarding accident. Ken suggested I shoot the event and "make a little movie" out of it since I couldn't compete. Seemed like a good idea since I had just started filming and editing for ESPN and was trying very hard to cut my teeth in a new career path. From this came the first SM100 movie and Gripped Films was born.

In 2003 I bagged riding competitively (and instead kayaked almost 200 days) and looked forward to making another movie out of the event. This time I had Ken help me with shooting and in January of 2004 we rented the Court Square Theater to show the movie. What a feeling that was.

2 months after that screening my phone rang and it was Ken with yet another challenge for me. "Dude, you should make a movie about Jeremiah and Sue trying to make the Olympic Team. I dare you to do it." I took the dare and made "Off Road To Athens" with Ken's help. The problem with shooting all those mountain bikers in such cool locations was I longed to get back into racing shape however making movies and racing bikes do not go hand in hand. For 2 years I sat out the 100, focusing on the new career detour I was on. In 2006 amidst the making of "24 Solo" I again signed up for the SM100 and came with my gameface on. I was full of inspiration from Chris Eatough and egged on by the massive volley of trash with Jon Posner about how bad I'd spank him at the race since he had never done it before. I was the one who got spanked after suffering through massive mechanical issues with my bike as well as massive cramping issues with my legs. I finished 3 minutes SLOWER than I had back in 2002 and a full 2 hours behind Posner.

2006 gave me 12:13:36 of torture.

2007 was going to be my year. 24 Solo was wrapped up and I had no new projects gobbling my time. I dedicated myself to the bike and applied all the little bits of information I gleaned from the best mountain bikers in the US. I was logging more miles each week than I ever thought I could, riding centuries on the weekends, racing during the week and constantly in the back of my mind was the fear it wasn't enough. I knew that with such effort - I would either have a breakthrough day at the race or vow never to do it again. The thought of another 12 hour day - which is quite painful when you're cramping violently 3 hours in - kept me dedicated.

Race Day. September 4, 2007. Time to rise...
After a solid year of worrying, cursing, training, stewing and stressing it was here.
Waking up might be the hardest part of the day. 4:30am I laid in my tent knowing it was about to begin and my heart rate was already racing. 5:00am Chris Scott makes the rounds banging the same gong each rider gets to smack at race's end. Then the morons who think it's funny to play obnoxious death-metal at dawn fired up their amps and assaulted the campgrounds. Not far from kindergarten potty-humor are these idiots who help ruin the mood by adding violent tension to the already tense air. Like I needed that. I cooked up some eggs and pounded a mug of coffee. Before I knew it I was rolling up to the start line, nervous as hell.

Local legend and Sm100 veteran Paul Buschi greeted me on the front of a line 50 riders wide and 400 deep. He gave me a great compliment of, "You look fit, REALLY fit!" This reminded me that yea, I put my time in this year. I'm ready for this thing. Minutes before the start now. Heart rate thumping. Chris Eatough rolls up and squeezes in beside me. Like last year I smile big - good to have a friend there even if only for a few seconds. No sign of Floyd but I knew he was there somewhere. Deep breath. "2 Minutes!" Deeper breath. If you don't race it's hard to know what those 2 minutes feel like. Your mind goes a million miles an hour as you sit there trying to ready yourself. Waiting. All those hours and days and weeks of training. Wating. I shake Chris's hand, wish him well. Waiting. Will it go well? Will I have good legs today? Will I bonk and cramp? Will I crash? Will the bike hold up? Waiting.... "GO!!!!!!!!"

And we're off. I concentrated fully on navigating the sandy and gravely fire road out of the campground terrified I might crash and be run over by the heard so tightly packed in every direction. This is the definition of sketchy. Once we hit pavement I sighed with a smile. Goal #1 achieved. That's when I noticed how fast we were going. It's like vertigo - those around you are barely moving but when you look to the sides you're barreling down the road at 25mph. The race leaders were already out of the saddle sprinting ahead. Huh? In a 100 mile race? That's what you call the "Floyd Factor". Everyone wanted to show him what they could do. Not this camper.

There's roughly 6 mountains you climb in the race. Half way up the first climb I was hurting last year from having tried to hang at the front of the pack. This year I kept to my game plan of slow & steady. Poz pinched my ass as he rode by snickering. I let him go and didn't even think twice, except that he pinched my ass. What's that about? I steadily pedaled past points on the climb where had I dismounted and walked in every previous race. I could feel the bike going up with less effort than normal. I was even stronger on the downhills, glazing over rock gardens and around trees.

Poz was on fire as well, just ahead of me on the first road section leading a paceline in full timetrial position.

I came through a minute later, following suit.

The second mountain is the toughest climb of the day but I was ready this year. What I wasn't ready for was the #2 numberplate walking his bike down the trail towards me. It was Chris, looking more pissed than I had ever seen him. "My rear wheel locked up! The freewheel or axel is broken! There's nothing I can do!" I was floored, Mr. No-Mechanicals in 5 years was out of the race he was favored to win. Just like that. I felt bad but not bad enough to offer my back wheel (which Poz had done, good man). Nope, this kid had too many personal demons he had to put to rest. Onward and upward we climbed 2,000ft to the top of that unforgiving mountain and then bombed down it, full throttle. Goal #2 was achieved when I passed the rock garden that claimed my chain and derailleur last year. I briefly saw a body sprawled out in the weeds, full starfish facing up. I yelled "You ok?!?" No answer should have stopped me but I kept on with a twinge of guilt. I later found out it took medics 8 hours to get the guy down. I still don't know what happened but I'll think of that for a long time. What should I have done with a freight train of racers nipping at my heels the entire way down the mountain? Tough call.

Speaking of crashes, Poz had a good one on the headwall of Dowells Draft.

This shot below was taken before his crash, lends insight as to how it might have happened...

Ken saw this and said, "No wonder you crashed POZ, jeez, it was a race not a jib ride!" Poz answered, "Dude, sometimes you can't help it. It was that kind of day!"

The day went on, sometimes very slowly and sometimes faster than I wanted (the downhills always end too quickly). I passed the places that held onto me last year and made mental note. These strongholds of negative memories and bad juju were one by one being put to rest. Equalized. Made good again. For a brief second I heard my name yelled - Kenny and his son had climbed to the top of the Dowells Draft descent and cheered as I roared past - how cool is that? I was amazed at the racers in front of me who were not so daring on the downhills who quickly pulled aside when I would approach behind them. That is the kind of person who does this race, courteous and encouraging. Of particular note was a single speeder named Keith Ridenour who I traded spots with all day. He'd grind past me on the climbs but graciously let me pass on the descents, often times cheering me on. So many times these folks would repass me on the climbs and we'd chat. It renews my faith in humans to have this alternating respect on the trails. It's good stuff.

Goal #3 was to arrive at checkpoint 3 with a smile.

Got that in the bag. I heard Poz had crashed and was beat up but pressing on just a few minutes ahead of me. I gulped a pbj and rolled out just in time to see Floyd blasting by having finished the Brailey's lollypop loop. He was less than an hour in front of me after 5 hours of racing - not bad! I churned out the next mountain, danced down the ripping descent and rolled into checkpoint 4, still smiling. Then came the death-climb...

Checkpoint 5, ok I wasn't smiling and wanted to puke my lungs up. But that's ok, everyone feels like that at 5 since we've just climbed for 20 miles. I was in a bit of a daze getting some food in my gullet when my riding buddy Shawn pulled in with heat and told me we were gonna rock the rest of the course. This fired me up and we charged up the rest of the mountain (3 more miles of false summits and discouraging headwalls). We reached the top of the 7 mile downhill and I found my smile again. Shawn led it out until I took the lead for some of the fastest, most intense and even dangerously entrancing downhill riding I've ever done. No, I mean it. Re-read that. I can't emphasize enough how amazing that felt. Runners talk about feeling "high" after a marathon or a few hours of running. This was hour 8 and I was euphoric to the point of not wanting to touch the brakes. Had Shawn not come around me on a short climb to retake the lead I might have drifted right off that mountain. Riding ahead of me, a bit more conservatively, he kept me from complete intoxication and certain carnage.

We rolled into checkpoint 6 and Shawn grabbed the Pedialite Dori had for me (key element in my success, that stuff rocks - thanks 'Lil D!). He realized it was mine, reluctantly gave it over and asked for a coke. The volunteers at this race are the greatest people on earth. They got Shawn and I cokes in hand without my feet even touching the ground. Now that is service. One more mountain to climb and even tho Shawn dropped me like a hot potato I came into the finish with that familiar smile and a wheelie to boot. I have left the wannabe title behind and even tho Poz nipped me by 10 minutes I cut over 2 hours off my best time.

9:48:52 - Validation at last.


I think the "P.O.Z. Speed Chops" helped me ride faster. It's science. I'm thanking Shawn for keeping me in check on that descent.

I've read a bunch of people's writeups from this day and all are worth the time. I hope you feel the same about reading mine. Big thanks to the kick-ass group of people I ride with for all your encouragement this past year. Thanks also to Chris Scott for hosting what continues to be the greatest race I've ever attended, thanks to Floyd for not being so proud as he can't return to his roots for a sound ass-whooping (not only did he get 3rd but told me later, "That was HARD AS HELL!"). Thanks also to the encouraging, friendly and courteous racers who make this the best 10 hours on a bike - people like Paul Buschi, Thomas Jenkins, Joel Gwadz, Jon Posner, Jens Nielsen, Sue Haywood who broke her own Women's Course Record with a mind-boggling 8:11:10 and Wayne Stone who commiserated with me on the hour-long climb up Hankey Mt. and TJ who gave me props for my films on the way to CP5. Lastly, thanks to you for reading about this journey. I'm going to revamp my personal website soon and will continue the adventure there since 24-solo is winding down and these posts have less and less to do with that film. Check www.jasonberry.com in the near future. In the mean time check www.mountaintouring.com for more info on this race.

Until next week...

Friday, August 31, 2007

The Lowdown

I'll have to make this a little more brief than I had hoped since I'm in the midst of packing for the big race this weekend. Hang onto your seat - this will move qiucker than the Tower of Terror.

Last weekend - drove to Slatey Fork, WVA to do the Wild 100. The gang this year was solid - no less than 4 of us would tackle the 100k or so of self-guided racing through 6 checkpoints in the backcountry. We started worse then ever when Olsen broke his chain about 100 yards from the parking lot. We were passed by every single rider but that was kind of a novelty. Little did we know that woulld be par for the day. After last year's debacle when Olsen and I shared 5 flats, I hoped for some redemption this year but it wasn't to be. I think the other 3 each had at least one flat and Olsen's chain needed love a couple more times. Luckily the weather was perfect, even a slight bit chilly so we soldiered on and made good time when we were not immobile. I was enjoying the fact that we learned from last year's poorly chosen routes through cow pastuers and briars and applied new routes to shave off time this year. I paid close attention to my efforts and eating and felt great all day. Well up until some clown called me a roadie as we pace-lined past him and his slowpoke buddies in baggy shorts. Whatever. We got to the final decent and Chris Brown asked me for a spare tube in case he flatted. I didn't see the wisdom in this request and told him I'd be right there if he did flat and kept riding. He flatted. And I was long gone. Poor bastard had to wait for other riders and ask them for a tube. Then for a pump. What's worse is that Shawn then flatted leaving me to head in for a solo finish. But not before I took a wrong turn about 100 yards before the finish and started climbing again. Those name-calling-clowns somehow passed me before I got turned around and finished in front of me. UUUGGGHHH. Bike racing.

I took a couple days off before heading out with Shawn on a light training ride. It had recently rained and the road was kinda slick in spots. We had just bombed down a hill and around a corner at top speed when the thought of taking it careful entered my mind. I slowed down a little as I headed into the next turn. Before I could tell what hit me I was sliding on my hip with the bike still attached to my feet which were now in the air. I knew that would leave a mark but I wasn't prepared for just how big it would be. Due to the family nature of this blog I'll keep from assaulting your eyes with a shot of my skinless ass but take my word for it - road rash is nasty-mo-nasty. Clothed photo is below...note ugly ensemble of clothing. This is why roadies hate mt. bikers. We have no fashion sense and aren't afraid to bring it to the streets.

This lead to Saturday when Shawn joined my friend Al and I for our last big ride before the SM100. We planned to do 5-6 hours of Gambril, just outside of Frederick, MD. Things were again wet and slippery from a recent rain and the temps were forecast to be the hottest of the summer. Great. 107 with heat index - no really. WHich is like sucking on the tailpipe of a car while riding. It was brutal. 2 climbs up the mountain took us 4 hours and I was hurting. Luckily Al was worse and I graciously offered to follow Al back to the car to make sure he was ok while Shawn went on for another 2 hours of sweat-lodge-cycling. When we got to the car, the stream a few paces away was beckoning. Al and I approached what seemed to be a quaint, innocent little brook with nice, cool water babbling through it. I spyed a refershing looking pool about knee deep and slowly waded in. Suddenly, something wrapped around my leg and I shot out of the water like I'd been electrocuted. In a blazing flash of water, flying flip flops and scales, I shook what appeared to be a snake off my leg. When I landed about 10 feet away I saw a splashing in the water that was very confusing. Amidst Al's laughter I tried to identify what had attacked me. I saw what looked like a fish, then a snake, then a fish. WHen the whitewater settled it was both! I snake had bit the tail of a fish about the same time I entered the water - it must have gone around my leg for the attack and unfortunately included me in the ensuing hoopla. The fish was huge for such a small stream - a solid 7" brook trout. The snake was huge too but that might be my memory short circuited through an electric jolt of fear.

Al busted out his trusty video-phone and recorded this short clip:


I thought for sure it was some sort of man-killing copperhead or watermoccasin but nope, after further research it turned out to be the very timid, very safe Northern Water Snake. Huh. Seems like a lame name for a creature than can drag a trout out of water and eat it whole.



In an effort to remove this day from the books, I rode into work at InnoTech on Monday only to mis-judge a bunnyhop over a curb, thus landing square on it and denting the #@*%# out of a pricey Kysirum (sp?) wheel on my road bike. Expensive commute.

After all this nonsense, I honestly hope I have rid myself of any bad juju before this weekend. I've got everything organized and ready to roll. The photo above represents about half the food I will take in during the 10-? hour race. Floyd Landis will be lining up beside 449 other mt. bikers who hope to finish the grueling 100 miles that will test every nerve and muscle fiber we have. I've done everything I can think of to prepare, now it's just time to let it roll. So this Sunday, if you think of it, send some good vibes my way - I'll surely need it.

Peace-out.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Road Rash, Rims, Fish and Snakes...


I know, a motely crue of words but trust me, this one is gonna be good.
Coming in another day or two...

In the mean time check out http://www.blueridgeoutdoors.com

Friday, August 17, 2007

King for a Day

It's almost been a year since I did the Shenandoah
Mountain 100. Hard to believe it went buy so quick.
But I anticipated feeling like that since every time I
do this race I feel like I should have put more
training hours in. Not this year. For many months I've
sacrificed any social life or mid-week lolygaging for
training. It's all about cash deposits in the U.S.
Federated Bank of Pain and I've never been so rich.

Picking up again from last week, I've resolved to race
in the name of my friend Chuck. Not so much to
remember him since I'll surely be swearing up a storm
out there and who wants to be thought of during such times -
but to remember what it's like to push past
what you think you can do. Way past. Even tho I had to
miss the Wilderness 101, I came back from New York
City and rocked out over 330 training miles last week,
most of which was off road. The average daytime temps
did not go below 92 so it was honest work, honestly brutal.

The week culminated in the GW National Forest with a
solo ride up Narrowback ridge where I was greeted by a
slumbering bear in a tree. He saw me first and dropped from
his perch with a BOOM and took off through the brush like a
bull in a china shop. This tactic worked well in scaring the S#!T out
of me (I was only about 20 feet away) but I pray he doesn't do
the same thing to escape one of the hundreds of local ding-dong
hunters who, this time of year, love to send a pack of dogs after
Mr. Bear, tree him and then blast his brains out. Boy
I can't think of a better way to feel manly then to
chase a very timid animal thru the woods with a pack
of dogs and then, from at least fifty feet away shoot it dead.
Tracking a buck with a bow and arrow is one thing
but hunting bear with dogs is another. Is that really a fair fight?
Does that exhibit one's hunting skillz? Where is the sport in that?
When you bring the pals over to show them the menacing pose
Mr. taxidermist put Mr. Bear in? Shhhh, don't tell anyone you shot
him down from a cowering, terrified position in a sapling.
I really need to get this out of my system sometime.
I'm considering writing a book or making a film (I can see it now, "TOUGH GUY. NOT.")
about all the yahoo's out there who think they are tough but in truth are
insecure, fearful little men hiding behind their monster trucks and Hummers.
These are usually the idiots who yell at cyclists as they drive by.
Just once I'd love to have one step into the ring with me. Just once...

Breath deep. Where was I?

So after I took the wrong trail 3x, I made it out of
the woods as a triumphant burst of shotgun blasts
bid me adieu. The darkness was growing as I quickly pedaled
past the scores of parked pickups with dogbins (they really are
in the woods training their dogs for bear season) and back to
Todd Lake where I had parked my wimpy 4 cylinder pickup.
Here I scored a nice little camp site and had
dinner. Poor planning found me eating the only quasi-nutritious
food the nearby country store had: graham crackers,
beef jerkey and shot blocks but I was ok with that. They also only had
Bud and Coors in cans (which looked much more
refreshing than bottles) so I opted for the latter. It's been a while since
I've enjoyed a Coors. Cold as it was, it still sucked.
BUT - I felt wonderfully detached from the petty issues I left
in DC. I thought about my buddy Chuck and all the good
times we had. I read my latest issue of VeloNews by
the light of a cheap latern ($4), the night sky was packed with stars
and everything seemed ok for a little bit.

For that one evening, I was King of the World.

The next morning some of the DC gang met me for more
training. Most went off on their own ride but one
buddy, Dave Caz must have been looking for the USFBP
to make a deposit. I dragged him along for 65 miles of
tax-free toil through most of the SM100 course. The
best part about it was ovalizing my granny gear about an
hour into the day's ride(if it's only got 2 bolts holding it on,
consider it useless).

That gave me even more return on my
investment! Now I know that I can do most of the course w/o a
granny - and that might be the mental edge I've needed.
Or not.

So after almost 8 hours of riding goodness, I raced 3 hours home
to sleep for a few hours before heading out to film some
bass fishing for ESPN at 4am. I had sworn never again but
since this tournament was close to home (right on the Po), I figured
what the heck? It wasn't easy to find but luckily I noticed a parade of
bass boats at a gas station and followed them to the launch. I felt ill from
lack of sleep and my legs were twitchy. I was afraid the day would just plain
SUCK. But instead, I lucked out and got paired with a guy
named Grant Goldbeck.

He's the nicest, most polite and down to earth bass fisherman
I've worked with. Figures he's a Northerner - from just outside DC.
We chatted the entire time he fished and luckily for him (and to my complete amazment,
he was catching good bass right off the discharge for a water treatment plant
across from National Airport. I've never seen or would have imagined big largemouth
being pulled from under the flightpath at National but there they were.
He ended up in 12th for the final and that brought home over $12,000.
Not bad compared to cycling!

Today I head to West Va for the Wild 100 and
65-some miles of more training in the guise of a race.
Makes me wonder what Jon Posner is up to. I hear he's been
working at the bike shop a ton. This is good - less riding and more working.
No I won't talk any trash but I'm starting to grin...yes Poz, I'm grinning.

Unfortunately my buddy Dave had to go back to NYC for
a followup visit where they found a sac of fluid pressing
against his new kidney. They rushed him in for emergency
surgery to fix it. Poor bastard has lost over 30lbs since this
started. Say a prayer if you would. He sure could use
it. That or send him a box of twinkies.

Till next week-

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

End of a life

Sometimes writing is a good way for me to deal this crazy life. Guess this is one of those times. It's been a rough couple weeks filled with some great things and some not so great things.

Picking up from last entry, and keeping with the racing, I wrapped up the local Wakefield series in the Masters class with a very close 2nd after having a solid race. I had held first for most of the race and in the last 200 yards, I was trying to get around a guy from the single speed class and he stacked into a tree instead of letting me pass and I got caught up in his bike. My 10 second lead over the next guy evaporated in a flash and I got second for the race and second for the series. Guess that's bike racing.

Next came some solid training rides preparing for the Wilderness 101. I ran down to Harrisonburg to refresh my mind on the first half of the Shenandoah Mountain 100 with Kenny. In typical Gripped fashion, Ken and I were both late and we didn't depart from Stokesville until about 4pm. Not the best idea when looking at a 4-5 hour ride. Did I mention the ominous thunder and darkening skies in the distance? Ken assured me the showers would be "localized" so we set out. The first mountain was easy and fun - which is odd considering at last year's race it was painful and long (never try to keep up with pros). We were starting to climb the second mountain when the localized squalls found us and unleashed some fury from above. We changed our plan and took to the road for the climb up Reddish Knob. This would be an easier climb but would go for about 1000 ft. more than the path but since the paths had turned to streams it made sense. Once at the top we realized how brilliant it was to not bring so much as a pair of arm warmers (I was freezing) but luckily Ken did pack an industrial-sized trash bag. We split it in two and I wrapped it on like a man-bra under my jersey.


I was instantly warmer but we had 6 miles of screaming, technical and slippery downhill ahead of us. We made it back as the darkness settled into the valley then hit up Luigis for some local pizza and brew.

Something must have been jarred loose or open or something as I woke the next day with my elbow resembling a tennis ball. Clearly I had not done a good enough job cleaning out my Michaux 100 memento, or perhaps racing for 7 hours in the dirt and dust with a gaping wound had something to do with it...but I thought for sure the bandaid and superglue was every bit as good as stitches.


Only days away from the Wilderness 101 I immediately hit the Dr's office. They gave me a script for some huge pills that should have done the trick but 2 days later the infection was worse. Here began the daily visit and daily shot in my ass. The notion that racing 100 miles hopped up on anitbiotics with a worsening infection in my arm was a bad idea slowly began to creep into my mind. Good thing I paid the $160 already. I called Poz and asked if he'd like to take my place but earlier that day he crashed hard on a training ride and declared he was out. Even Chris decided to bail due to his own fight with an infection. So that took care of that race. But that was ok since the flip side of doing that race meant having to postpone visiting my buddy Dave in the NYC hospital he'd be in for a week after getting his kidney transplant on Thursday. The date of this transplant wasn't known until after I had signed up for the 101 and I didn't like the idea of not being there soon after Dave's operation but once you get your head wrapped around doing a 100 mile race, you feel the need to see it thru. It's odd how now when I look at it, I should have changed plans the second I knew the date for Dave's operation. Guess it all worked out ok in the end. I got to see Dave and I think he appreciated my effort. His surgery went well for him and his Dad who donated his kidney. Dave even started to smile again!


The last bit of story here is the disrupting news that a friend who had been a huge influence on my life had died last week. I don't know why I feel the need to mention this but as I said earlier, writing sometimes helps a person to deal. Part of me honestly thinks I owe it to Chuck. He earned some praise, some credit for being the person he was.. Even if only on my measly blog. Don't worry, I don't plan to waste these words with typical cliche's or the usual melodrama that accompanies a reflection of a friend after their death. And that's precisely why something should be said.

Chuck Tanguay didn't die doing what he loved. He blew his head off with a shotgun. But that was what I'd expect from Chuck. No second chance with that one. It was a very sure move. I think I would have put money on a jump from a tall building as his way out of life since he didn't even like guns but I think that decision had more to do with how he felt about himself in those last days. Back in the 90's when I briefly worked for Chuck rebuilding church steeples (www.steeplerestore.com) he said more than once that the best way to exit life would be in a fall. "Think about it, you get a great rush before you smack - one more ride to enjoy before it's over. " This from a guy who 6 months before I met him had fallen off a steep church roof and impacted into the grass just inches from a concrete walkway 46 feet below. Anyone who lives to tell such a tale deserves credit but his tale only grew from there. Chuck was larger than life, a shorter version of Patrick Swaze in Point Break. He was a solid skiier, mountain biker, windsurfer, accomplished mountaineer, class V kayaker with more than one rapid named after one of his multiple first-decents. Rock climbing lead him to a profession of steeplejacking. Self-taught and very successful he would work during the summers and travel all winter chasing adrenaline around the globe. He despised in-active people. He saw the value in working hard and playing hard. He had no patience for the typical overweight and consumption-driven American. He was a very vocal person and found joy in arguing points with anyone who would get in the ring with him. He was a passionate person to say the very least. But this also had a way of working against Chuck. He had sustained a head injury in '85 while skiing which left him chemically imbalanced for life. I don't know much about that injury but I got to see first hand how it plagued him. The medications he required to keep a positive outlook on life made him nausious so he would replace them with adrenaline. This worked for the winters but upon returning from big adventure to a regimented Spring of work, Chuck would enter what I called, "the Dark Place" where logic went out the door and his passion turned into sheer, grinding anger. After a week or two in the Dark Place Chuck would resume his meds and slowly get back on track.

After working for him and feeling the brunt of a visit to the Dark Place I quit and didn't see much of Chuck in the years to come. We would e-mail occasionally and keep each other up to date on our adventures. Me running around Europe filming mt. bikers and Chuck kayaking in South America or New Zealand (his adventures always trumped mine). We last spoke about 3 months ago as I drove home to Rochester. He had moved to a town outside of Boulder, CO and asked when I would be visiting. I was honest when I replied, "... hopefully very soon."

In his final letter to those who touched his life, he listed the places he had been and some of the adventures he had lived, noting that the depression spells were getting longer and more frequent. From his departing note:
"...There has been kayaking in Nepal, New Zealand, South Africa, Ecuador and in every whitewater state in the US. I’ve skied all the west and Canada, leaving very few snowflakes unturned. I’ve sailed the breaks of Maui, Taranaki, West Oz, South Africa, Mexico and the two coasts of the US. I’ve climbed mountains of New Zealand, Canada and the US. And I’ve mountain biked, well, everywhere… I’ve lived in different countries for 13 winters. A lot of this I did after the illness started, as I used to have long periods of health in between the utter earthshaking hell of the depressions. "

Some jackass Doctor had even mentioned institutionalizing him in the not-so-far future. Some souls were never meant to be caged and here I'm sure, is where the line was drawn.

I'm still going thru the typical "anger" and "sorrow" phases. Conversely I also can't help think about how much Chuck influenced me. Here is where this entry connects to 24 Solo. It connects to ORTA, and to anything else I've done since meeting Chuck Tanguay in 1990. He was one of those people who would bring everyone around him up a notch. He would motivate you to question your position, your views, your self. He would never be satisfied with status quo and ridiculed those who were. His logic, while sometimes skewed in it's delivery, was usually undeniable. He made me believe in myself and forced me to face my fears, even when it was he I was afraid of. He was one of the first people I went mt. biking with. He pushed me to risk more and take chances when others would stay behind in doubt, always wondering. He was the first guy to convince me into following him onto the ocean, thru the 8 foot crashing shore break at Cape Hatteras in the winds of an approaching hurricane. We windsurfed waves for 10 miles downwind to the lighthouse and survived, hitch hiking back to our trucks. He knew very few mental boundaries and I was in awe of him for that. In 1994 I had planned to leave my home town, quit my job, leave my girlfriend and drive out West to try something different. Many people scolded such a move but Chuck was all for it. "Follow your heart Jason. Always follow your heart. Even if you go into debt, even if you lose friends - because people flock to a person who is following their heart and everything will eventually fall into place. So go, and don't look back."

Chuck lived his dreams, never wondered "what if" and stuck to his words when he said, "If life isn't an adventure, it's not worth living." He was the stuff legends are made of and I will always think of him when pushing myself or following my heart. As always, thanks for reading.


Chuck Tanguay
1954-2007