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Blog / News


Shannon Williams

Hey everybody! Please take note of our new Winter Hours. We'll go back to regular hours...well, when it doesn't feel like winter anymore. Some time in March. YAY MARCH!!

Monday: CLOSED
Tuesday: 10-6
Wednesday: 10-6
Thursday: 10-6
Friday: 10-6
Saturday: 10-5
Sunday: CLOSED



Shannon Williams



Today (12/21) 10-6

Friday(12/22) 10-6

Saturday(12/23) 10-3

Sunday(12/24) CLOSED

Monday(12/25) CLOSED

Tuesday(12/26) CLOSED

Wednesday(12/27) CLOSED




Shannon Williams



We will be CLOSED Thursday, Friday, and Saturday to celebrate Thanksgiving. We have a lot to be thankful for! We'll be back at it Monday morning, getting ready for whatever holiday comes next. 4th of July, maybe.



MTB State Champs

Shannon Williams

Last Sunday I headed out to Montgomery Bell for the State Championship mountain bike race. I've only ever done a handful of mountain bike races, but I'd been riding the trails a bit over the summer. I wanted to do the State race for a few reasons. First, I wanted a really really hard day in the saddle as a training day for cyclocross. Second, I wanted to see the gap between and actual, good mountain bike racers. Third, I just like to race bikes and the environment at mountain bike races is by far the best among all the disciplines that I've tried.


All of those reasons made sense to me at the time I decided to race and when I registered. But, as I was driving out to the race, it was obvious to me that I was in way over my head-I had never raced this race distance or against folks this fast(amazingly, in a mountain bike race they just let you do whatever race you want, with the exception of the pro race). Usually I just calm myself by thinking, "How bad could it be?". On the road, the worst case scenario is usually just getting dropped and dealing with the attendant embarrassment. On the trail, I was very aware of the possibility of my day ending in the hospital. So I decided that was goal number one: Finish the race in one piece. No hospital for me. How's that for goal setting?


I got to the trail and set about getting ready to race, and I took note of all the things I didn't know: How do people warm up-on the trail or on the road? I know mountain bike races start hard, but folks seemed pretty relaxed about warming up. How do people get calories in? Or hydration? Montgomery bell is a pretty technical trail; it didn't seem to me like there were many opportunities to take even one hand off the bars. I decided I'd do a fairly hard warm-upand just hope to figure out the food/water situation as I went.


The time came to line up, and that part was pretty straightforward-there were only six guys in the race. We started, and I went into the woods in fourth spot.


I realized immediately that I was in trouble. The first part of the trail after entering the woods is by far the most benign of the whole course: lots of turns, but flat and fast. I was trying to hold on to the first three guys, who were wheel to wheel. But I was losing ground at every opportunity-braking into turns, losing momentum on any rock or root that presented itself. And, even worse, I realized that I was holding up the two guys behind me. this part of the trail was narrow, so, not only could they not get around me, but they were being forced to do what I was doing: come to almost a complete stop at every bend in the trail and then sprint to catch back on.


After ten or fifteen minutes of that stop/sprint/repeat, I realized that there was no way I could keep it up-it was going to be a long race, and I just couldn't waste that much energy. I eased up and tried to smooth out my effort, albeit at a slower pace. One of the guys behind me came by the second the trail widened out. He instantly disappeared up the trail in search of the front group of three. The last person behind me was James Buckingham, whom I know from racing on the road. He said he was content just to hang back and ride easy, but even he was forced to come by after I bobbled one of the more technical sections and was forced to dismount.


So, halfway through the first lap, I was rattled and in last place. I had 2.5 laps left, and that seemed like a lot. This suddenly seemed like a terrible idea. But I reminded myself that this was exactly what I signed up for. I decided that I would try to just ride steady-the goal was lap times that were within a minute of each other. Maybe, if I got lucky, one of the other guys would get tired and I wouldn't finish last.


That's what happened. In the back half of the first lap and the beginning of the second, I started to see James again. I'd get close on the climbs, we'd ride together for a while, and then on anything even moderately technical he'd ride away again. I started to get a bit more comfortable, though. Halfway through the second lap, we caught and passed the fourth place rider-it looked like he had worn himself out chasing the front three. Shortly after, James seemed a bit out of gas and let me by at the bottom of one of the climbs.


As I went through the start/finish to start the third lap, I felt pretty good. My first two laps weren't fast, but they were at least consistent. And, at least for the moment, I wasn't in last place. I was pretty happy as I headed back out into the woods and on to the trail.


That didn't last long. Ten minutes into the third lap I ran out of energy almost entirely and seemingly all at once. My back was killing me, and my hands, after two hours of death-gripping the bars , started to cramp. I didn't even know that hands could cramp like that-I'd never had that happen to me before. For most of that last lap, I was just trying to survive-it became so difficult to concentrate that I was sure I was going to ride right off the side of the trail. Luckily I held it together and got across the line in one piece, but it wasn't pretty.


I was pretty wrecked. My back was tweaked for a day or two, my legs were destroyed and I basically slept for the next three days. But I was so glad I went. I was so impressed that the guys in front of me could actually race-not just ride but race-that course for three laps. And I was astounded that folks could come in from out of town, having never seen that trail at all, and get out on it and go fast. The whole day was a trip outside my comfort zone, a very painful trip, but I'm glad I went. I don't know if I'll ever be able to develop skills like all of the fast folks that I saw and raced against. But I know I can improve, and I'm excited to try.


And I didn't end up in the hospital, which is nice.





Shannon Williams

Last week we had a new customer-Jonathan-in the shop who was looking for a new bike. A specific bike.


When anyone comes in the shop looking for a new bike, we usually have a conversation about what the bike is going to be used for-the purpose of it. Obviously, this helps us figure out which bike is right for the person in question. Every so often, though, there's a story behind the bike; a reason why the person is buying a bike at all, or why they're buying this particular bike. We've had several folks come in and tell us that the bike they're looking for is either a reward for having lost a tremendous amount of weight or a tool to help them move in that direction. We always feel lucky to be involved in those stories.


Jonathan's story was different. He's been sick.


Last December, he was diagnosed with a rare and particularly awful form of cancer. The diagnosis was severe enough that, initially, he assumed that he wouldn't see that Christmas. That he wouldn't see his first grandchild be born. He was sure that his life was over. As if that weren't bad enough, there was a good chance that even if he lived, he'd lose part of his vision and even possibly one of his eyes.


Luckily, he pulled through(more on that later), and, as you might have guessed, the bike was a part of his celebration of finishing his last round of chemotherapy and radiation. The story was amazing-every part of it was hard to believe-but a couple of parts of it stuck with me.


The first was his description of a few rides with friends. This was in May, and Jonathan had just learned that, after the first round of surgeries to remove tumors, the cancer was back. After having gotten that news, I imagine it would have been tempting to just curl up in a ball and succumb to grief or self-pity. But, for whatever reason, Jonathan decided to head out on the road and meet up with some friends. He said that ride saved him. That ride and the few that followed were the therapy he needed; a reminder of one of the things he loved most in life, and what he had to live for. He said that he'll be eternally grateful for those rides-rides that were just normal, weekday morning spins. 


The second thing that he said was on a larger scale. He said that, after receiving his diagnosis, for a couple of days he prepared to die. He thought about how to tell his family, and started making arrangements. But, on that third day, he woke up and said, "Hang on a second. For the first 25 years of my life, I didn't take care of myself very well-I was the first one to the party and the last one to leave. But for the last thirty, I've been living well. I've been eating organically, running and riding my bike, and living in a very healthy way. I've been making deposits in the bank, so to speak. Now I'm ready to make a withdrawal".


And, as it turned out, those deposits mattered. When Jonathan's doctors found out the kind of shape he kept himself in, they were heartened. They decided that they could give him an especially aggressive form of chemotherapy, coupled with radiation- because they knew his body could handle it.


There was something else. On that third day after his diagnosis, Jonathan thought about all the running and riding he had done-all the marathons and centuries. Countless miles over thirty years. He realized that all of that training would stand him in good stead for what he was up against-and not just in a purely physical way. He had built a reserve ofresistance;  he was well used to tolerating discomfort.  "I was prepared to suffer", he said. "It seemed like all of it was just preparation for this moment. I was ready to dig deep". So he did. He dug deep into that reserve. And that's how he came to be in the shop. Alive and well, finished with chemotherapy, walking around and looking for a bike.


I've been thinking about his story since the moment he told it. To change his mindset from preparing to die to preparing to suffer...I can't help but think that that made a difference, somehow. And, luckily for Jonathan, suffering was a place he was used to.


If you're reading this, you probably have something in common with Jonathan. You spend the time out on the road, or the trails, or the pool. You do it because you love it, because it fulfills you in a very certain way. But you can also take heart in the knowledge that if you're ever faced with some larger challenge or trial, some life-sized obstacle, you've been unknowingly preparing for it. Like Jonathan was, you'll be ready to suffer. You'll be ready to dig deep.



Holiday Hours

Shannon Williams



Hey everybody! We'll be open on Monday July 3rd from 11-3, and closed on Tuesday July 4th, celebrating the birth of this great nation of ours/shooting off tons and tons of fireworks.


HAPPY 4th!!


Shannon Williams

MARATHON HOURS: Since you basically can't get to us while the marathon is happening, we're going to open a little late. 11-5 tomorrow, 4/29. GOOD LUCK, RUNNERS!!

BLOG: Tips/Tricks

Shannon Williams

We had a chilly ride Saturday morning. It was one of those days where the temperature wasn'ttoo bad, but the wind chill was-it was in the mid-20's. As I was getting dressed, I was thankful that we haven't had too many cold weather riding days this winter-it's either been a pocket of unseasonably warm temperatures or too cold and wet to ride(or too cold and wet for me to ride. Other people are tougher).


As usual on days that are on the colder side of what I'm willing to ride in, I thought about which "tricks" I've picked up over the years that I wanted to use. Saturday was a medium trick day; I used some but not all. If the weather is going to be in the 20's or below for the whole ride, I pull out all the stops and use every trick I know. I thought I'd share a few of them, so that maybe some folks out there can avoid some of the more awful experiences that I've had.


But let's start at the beginning. Generally speaking, riding in the cold is about protection from the wind and creating a small environment that you can warm up with body heat as you ride. You want to protect your core and your extremities(hands/feet/head). The biggest mistake that people make, in my opinion, is looking for one jacket, thermal jersey, glove, or shoe cover that is their 'cold weather riding garment'. The problem is that those garments may work for 30 degree days, but they'll be no fun at all for 45 degree days(or days that start at 30 and end 45 degrees). I think it makes much more sense to start with a wind protecting garment, and then vary what you put underneath it according to the day. If the garment can be adjusted mid-ride( e.g. a wind vest that can be unzipped from the bottom), all the better. For instance, on a really cold day, I very rarely wear one pair of gloves. I have a nice pair of gloves that have a Gore-tex shell that keeps the wind out. I bought them big, so that if it's really cold I can wear a thin pair of gloves underneath-or two pairs(my hands get really cold). The same goes for keeping the core warm: I'd much rather have the aforementioned wind vest with three different base layers than one massive thermal jacket.


On to the tricks. I'll start at the head and work down.


-HAT: You don't need some massive hat under your helmet-as we all know, your head generates a lot of heat. Something that's thick enough for insulation is fine. The most important thing is that it covers as much of your ears as possible. If your ear lobes are exposed, put a bit of vaseline on them.


-FACE: You need to protect that beautiful moneymaker of yours. Apply some lotion beforehand. It will provide a thin layer on your skin to keep warmth in, and you won't get quite as windburned.  And invest in a gaitor-it will keep your neck warm, and you can pull it up over your nose when the wind gets really bad. When you do that, you get the added benefit of directing warm air down to your core. Also-if you use a little scented lip balm before you head out, it smells great when you cover your face(don't worry, tough guy-nobody will know but you).


-CORE: I already mentioned the vest. It matters. Also, when it's very cold and going to stay that way for the whole ride, my absolute best friend is my windshirt(a baselayer with a windblock layer on the front). It's a life saver. I've had it for ten years. I love that thing so much I buy it Christmas presents.


-HANDS: See above for gloves/layering, but also on the really cold days, you can get a couple of the little chemical hand warmers and put them under your jersey at your wrist. It warms up the blood as it flows you your hand and it's glorious. I've always been suspicious of those little things-how are they so warm? They're like little nuclear reactors. But I happily trust my hands to those little Chernobyls if it means they'll stay warm.


-UMMMM...NOT SURE WHAT TO CALL THIS AREA...PRIVATES? JUNK?: Let's just call it "Area that we least want to have frostbite on". I'm not a big believer in thermal tights, but we'll get to that later. Regardless, if it's really cold, few garments have enough wind protection for the babymaking parts. So...I know this is going to sound ridiculous, but a piece of plastic will do the trick. I use a plastic grocery bag. BONUS: If you don't believe me, start the ride without it, and then realize that you should have believed me, you can almost always find a similar piece of plastic(think newspaper wrapping). NOTE:  I think this should be obvious, but I have no way of knowing if this is gender-specificadvice; I've only ever had the parts that I have. So for all the ladies out there...your results may vary?

LEGS: Like I said, I don't like thermal tights. If I'm riding a bike, my legs are in motion and keeping themselves warm. I usually go with leg warmers or even knee warmers with some embrocation(warming lotion) on the exposed part of the leg, and generally I'm fine. But I think this is a matter of preference.

FEET: Again, the idea is wind protection. But what we really need to protect are our toes-they're pointed right into the wind. On super super cold days, I take a big thick plastic sandwich bag and put my shoe in the corner. Then I cut off the excess bag around it, leaving only the part of the bag that covers the toe and forefoot. I put a toe cover on top of it to keep it in place, and it makes a very effective wind barrier. Also, I've recently started using the foot warmers that attach to the sock and go inside the shoe. So far, so warm.

GENERAL: After getting dressed on a super cold day, it's a great idea to get your core temperature up before you go outside. Some folks will get fully wrapped up and put the bike on the trainer/rollers and ride for a few minutes. That definitely works-you'll be begging to get outside in the cold after an indoor mile or two. If you don't have time for that, a few pushups does the trick almost as well. Does it feel ridiculous? Of course it does. But then again, if you're dressed to go riding a bike in the middle of winter, you already look ridiculous-so don't worry about it.

Hope some of these help. Good luck out there. See you out on the road.


BLOG: The Raven

Shannon Williams

A few winters ago, I took a trip down to Miami. My parents were living down there for a project my Dad was working on, and I figured it would be a great way to get away from Nashville during the cold gray season and see my folks. I wanted to get some exercise while I was there, so I packed my running shoes. I didn't know any good spots to run, though, so I did some Google searching and came across a group run called the Raven Run. In my experience, group runs-particularly those that make themselves known to the general public- are extremely welcoming and outgoing, so I made a plan to join them at least once. It wasn't hard, since they meet at the same time and place(a lifeguard station on South Beach) every day.


The second or third day I was there I needed to sweat out out all the mojitos, so I went over to join. After getting to the meet-up spot, I figured out that 'Raven' wasn't the name of the run-the Raven was a person. He was the guy that...well, ran the run. And he was late. There were seven or eight other people there, and while we waited, I talked to a few of them, and they told me the story.


The Raven's real name is Robert Kraft, and he's run eight miles every day for 40-some years. All but a handful of his runs have been on Miami Beach(the ones that haven't been on the beach have been when he was in the hospital or when there was a hurricane). When I heard that, it took a moment to soak in. Every day. For 40 years. The same time and place. I couldn't imagine just being at the same place every day for that long, let alone running every day for all those years.


After a few minutes, Raven showed up. He didn't look like your average endurance athlete. He wore all black-when he walked up, he was wearing a black leather jacket-and he had long, slick hair. He looked like someone had taken a guy from a motorcycle gang in the 50's and turned him into a runner. But he definitely looked like a runner; he's the kind of guy that looks 50 but might be 70.


Despite looking a bit intimidating, Raven was an outgoing, friendly host. He seemed to know most of the people on the run, and greeted them by nickname(I figured out that everybody that joins the run gets a nickname). There was a father and daughter there that had only run with the group a couple of times, several years prior, and he remembered them and their nicknames. We all chatted for a bit, then set off at a relaxed pace.


After ten minutes or so, Raven worked his way over to me and introduced himself. We talked for a while, and he asked me where I was from, what kind of runner I was, why I was in Miami; etc. I figured out after a few questions that he was looking for something about me that would stick in his mind so that he could give me a nickname. Finally he asked me what I did for a living. At the time I was working for an investment bank trading stocks. He heard that, paused, stuck a finger in the air, and said, "EQUITY!" I guessed that that was how it worked. I wasn't crazy about the nickname(everybody else had much cooler ones), but I figured there wasn't much I could do about it.


After a while the group started to split up and everyone found their pace with one or two others. I drifted around from one group to another, talking to the other runners and hearing their stories. I finished the run with a father and son from Minneapolis. The son was a cross country runner who was trying to stay in shape while they traveled(he was pretty quickly bored with our pace). Everybody was friendly and unguarded with their stories in the way that so many runners in their element are. It was one of the better runs I've ever been on: beautiful place, easy miles, and a friendly group.


After we finished, we stood around in the late afternoon sun, stretched, and talked some more. I needed to go but didn't want to. It was such a pleasant experience that I'd have gladly stayed for hours, but pretty soon people started to wander off, back to their cars and the rest of their day. I chatted to Raven for a few minutes more and then did the same, reluctantly.


When I got back to my parents' place, I was still thinking about Raven, so I did some research. I found out that he hasn't had an easy life-he's a songwriter and, like so many others, had a bad experience with the Nashville music making machine. He's had some health problems, and no one seemed to know how he made a living. A doctor told him once that he should never run again, ever. That was some time in the 90's.


I thought about that and about him for a long time. I thought about how, in a tempestuous life, running must seem like a sanctuary-the one calm place, the one thing that can be relied upon when everything else offers only disappointment or grief. I've certainly had those moments in my life with the bike-when every other part of life seemed uncertain or just bad, I knew that at a minimum I had a way of clearing my head and drawing comfort from fatigue. I imagine that's what running on the beach has done for Raven over all those years. No matter what's going on in his life, no matter how good or bad things are, he always has that run-whether it's for celebration or solace.  And now, through his dedication, he's built something. People come from all over to run with him. They're inspired by him-to clean up their lives, to run a marathon, or just to run. 


When I think about Raven and that run, I'm glad for the reminder that I'm lucky. I'm lucky to have that way to clear my head, to feel better when life sucks, to spend time with friends, to just get a good night's sleep. I'm aware that not everybody has something like that in their lives. I'm glad that I do. Remembering that helps me get out the door and on the bike on the days when I feel like staying on the couch.


If you're ever in Miami, I'd encourage you to head down to the lifeguard station and run with Raven. Tell him Equity says hello.





BLOG: The Art Of The Deal

Shannon Williams

Yesterday I was listening to a bike racing podcast that discussed, among other things, what they called "breakaway politics" (which, thankfully, has nothing to do with real politics). The discussion was about how riders make deals in breaks to decide the finishing order of the race. 


It can be a touchy subject, because to an outside observer, it can look like cheating or race-fixing. And in some instances it is-there are some famous examples of obvious cheating, like Alexander Vinokourov paying Alexandre Kolobnev $100,000 Euros not to contest the sprint at the one-day classic Liege-Bastogne-Liege. Or Lance Armstrong paying other riders, notably Roberto Gaggioli, to let him win the third leg of the Thrift Drug Triple Crown(there was a million dollar prize for winning all three races, and Armstrong had won the first two). Any time money changes hands, sports fans get edgy, and for good reason. It seems shady-those two examples are definitely shady. But there are instances where the line is blurred, even in a case of professionals paying other professionals to do something in a race. For instance, there are situations in stage races where one team has a rider in contention for the overall, but the team is too tired to ride the front and control the race. Another team might have no contender for the overall win. It's not unheard of for the team with the contender to offer the latter team money to ride the front for them. That way the team without a contender gets some TV time for their sponsor, and the riders get some extra income. If you're ever watching a stage race and you can't figure out why a particular team is chasing a break, odds are that a deal has been made.


Deals happen all the time in amateur races as well, but usually the motivation is completely different. In most cases, a deal is struck so that all riders involved assure themselves of the best result possible. For example, this year at one of the Music City Crits I made a massive error in judgment and got myself into a two man break with Brendan Housler. Brendan is incredibly strong; it was all I could do at the beginning to pull through and get back on his wheel after my turn in the wind. After our break was established, Brendan was pulling for two and three laps at a time. I'd come through when I could, but I was at my limit and wasn't helping much.

After a while, I could tell that Brendan had figured out that I was of no use and had started to think about getting rid of me. He'd come through just a bit harder and jump out of the corners much faster than before. If he kept it up, I'd be dropped. So I made a deal. I told him that he didn't need to drop me-that I wouldn't contest the sprint at the end of the race. It was the best outcome for both of us: Brendan was going to win either way, and I got to hang around for second. This is the most common type of agreement that's made-the rider that can't pull through or do his or her fair share agrees not to contest the finish. There are many variations on the theme but the basics are the same.



Deals come in all shapes and sizes, and they depend on the circumstances of the race, the composition of the break, and the relative strength of the riders in it. In 2005 or 2006I got up the road in a crit in Brentwood with two other guys-Steve from Chattanooga and my teammate Jason Tatum. Initially, Steve was willing to help out because he wanted the break to succeed. After it was established, though, he didn't like his chances against two teammates(which is pretty common-he figured that we'd take turns attacking him at the end and he'd finish third). He offered to keep working in the break, but only if we agreed to let him finish second. I would have been fine with that, but Tatum didn't like it-he went to the front and pulled so hard that Steve was just hanging on and realized he didn't have a lot of leverage. Finally, we came to an agreement: Tatum would ease up a bit and Steve would finish third but would get to win all the primes.


Deals don't have to be for the win. In 2008 or 2009 I was in McMinnville, Tn racing the old Highland Rim road race course. It was a hard 110 mile race, and after about 85 miles the break had long since gone and everybody was tired. We were just cruising along until someone pointed out that there were two money spots left: the money was fifteen deep and there were 13 in the break. As you might expect, suddenly everybody wasn't so tired. The attacks started and went on for another few miles. I got lucky and followed Jon Hart on the last one, and we got clear. I was tired and Jon and I are friends, so a few miles from the finish, I asked him if he was in contention for the omnium(the overall weekend competition). He said yes, so I suggested that we just ride steady all the way in and he could finish before me. That way we didn't have to risk getting caught from behind by slowing down and playing cat and mouse at the end, he'd get the extra few omnium points, and I didn't have to sprint. The difference in prize money was maybe five bucks between 14th and 15th place, anyway.


Some guys are more creative than others when it some to making deals. I lived in Austin for a while and had a teammate, Cord Offerman, who was exceptional. One weekend there was a stage race in New Braunfels-two road races and an afternoon time trial. We won the first stage, which was great, but our teammate that won wasn't a great time triallist. We were concerned that we wouldn't be able to defend his lead if he lost time in the second stage tt. He did, but Cord was great against the watch and he won the tt. We had won two stages, but with two different guys, so going unto the second road race there were several racers and teams that were in contention for the overall win.


Cord figured it out before we even left the parking lot. He found a guy that he knew-Wally Groda-who was super strong but who wasn't in contention for the overall win. He talked to Wally before the race, and then told the rest of the guys on our team to just keep things together for the first half of the race.


It wasn't easy; most of the other teams knew that if they got up the road early they could pick up enough time to win the weekend, so there were plenty of determined attacks by strong guys. We managed to keep things under wraps for a while, but after an hour or so of chasing or pulling back attacks, I was done. I was drifting back towards the back on the side of the bunch, totally spent,  when Wally came flying by. Cord was on his wheel, screaming at him to go. They'd been sitting at the back, conserving energy, while everyone else was wearing themselves(and me) out. Once they got a gap, they worked together better than they would have otherwise. They didn't need to save any energy for the end; they just needed to get to the finish line as quickly as possible. They stayed away and picked up a couple of minutes.  Wally won the stage and Cord won the stage race. Perfect deal.


It probably seems odd looking in from the outside, but the intra-race mental maneuvering is one of the things that I love about the sport. I like that you don't just have to be fast-or even just fast and smart. You need to be able to think and make good decisions when you're absolutely redlined. It's one of the things that make our sport unique.





Shannon Williams



-We'll be open 10-2 on NYE(stop by for an early beverage if you're so inclined!)

-Closed New Year's Day(1/1/17)

-Closed Monday(1/2/17)

-Open regular hours(10-6) Tuesday(1/3/17)



BLOG: Bitter And Sweet

Shannon Williams

It took a long while to arrive, but it looks like winter is finally here.


It arrived in a hurry; we didn't have the progression of lower temperatures that we typically get throughout the fall. We went from 70 degree rides to 30 degree rides. It was certainly a bit of a shock to the system for me. Somehow, every winter I have to re-remember my clothing choices for certain temperatures(I usually have it perfectly dialed by mid-March, just in time for nice weather).


Anyway, we went out for our first legitimate 30 degree ride last week. I was reminded of two things. The first is that it's easy for me to see how people just never get in the habit of riding in the winter. It's very easy to just put off that first cold weather ride and ride the trainer. Or...have another cup of coffee and pick up a book and a second helping of breakfast. Soon enough, it's been a couple of weeks or a month, the holidays have come and gone, and riding becomes a new year's resolution instead of something that you've been doing every day. After you get out that first day, though, you remember that it's really not that bad. Clothing is really good these days. You can stay warm at lower temps and for a lot longer than used to be possible.  And...there's definitely something to riding in winter. Being out on the quiet cold roads feels a bit more like an adventure. You feel like you've really done something when you're finished. But you have to get out that first time.


The second thing I remembered...well, this is going to sound weird, I know. But it has to do with a line from a Tom Cruise movie(it feels weird just typing that).


Stay with me. The movie is Vanilla Sky, and the line was a bit of a throwaway. At one point early in the movie, Jason Lee's character is trying to make the point to Tom Cruise's character that Tom Cruise can't appreciate how good his life is because his life is all so good. He says, "The sweet's not as sweet without the bitter". I have no idea why anything from that movie stuck with me(although, in my defense, I have to say that that is one of the better Tom Cruise movies), but it did and I like it.


For instance, if you've never been really really hungry, food can only ever taste so good. You can't appreciate it as much as a person who has starved. That's, of course, an extreme example, but there are smaller ones as well. I was recently talking to an old friend who went on a vacation to Boston, and he mentioned that the best part of the trip was just sitting on a friend's porch, reading and enjoying a quiet morning. Now...if his whole life was reading on a porch, he'd probably go insane. But against the relief of his crazy, busy, loud life, those moments of quiet and calm were wonderful. They were, well, sweet.


Another great example of sweet/bitter is riding in the cold.  You want your couch to feel like absolute heaven? Go ride in the cold for five hours. You will come home and THANK HEAVEN for the warm room where your couch lives. You will appreciate that couch and the pillow that's going under your feet like no one has ever appreciated furniture before. Normal things that you have in your house every day suddenly seem amazing because you did something kinda hard. You added some bitter to your life, so now the sweet is much sweeter.



I used to go to an open water swimming club in northern California. I would say that I belonged or that I was a member, but the truth is that I was a total tourist-I could barely make myself get in the (very cold)water at all, much less do any real swimming. Every day was a battle-I'd sit on a bench in the locker room for an embarrassingly long time, trying to come up with excuses not to go in. More often than not, what got me in the water was the thought of the shower afterwards. They had this amazing shower room-the water was scalding hot and the water pressure was unbelievable. It made suffering in the super cold water worthwhile.


One day I was talking to one of the actual members and I mentioned how much I loved the showers. He chuckled and said, "Those are just normal showers, man. They just seem great because anything would seem great after being in that cold-ass water".


It's a pretty neat trick, if you think about it. Making the simple things in life seem extraordinary.


Have a great winter. Add some bitter to your life-you won't regret it.





BLOG: Running

Shannon Williams

It's fun to work at a bike shop while the Tour is happening. We watch the end of the stage live, then re-run it for the rest of the day. People stop by to watch(or try not to, so they can catch it on their DVR at home in the evening). It gives us something to talk about other than the heat. It's always fun to be around cyclists during the race, but it seems like this year's edition has been something special-there have been so many stages with unexpected results that no one seems to know what's going to happen next.


Even in that context, The stage to Ventoux stands out. I've been watching the Tour for a long time, and I've never seen anything on the scale of what happened there-any rider, let alone the race leader, pitching his bike and running up a mountain, is something none of us will soon forget.


Oddly, I have seen something similar. It was in a race in Louisville in 2007 or 2008(slightly smaller than the Tour; you probably didn't watch it on TV). For a few years, Louisville was putting on a great little downtown crit. The course was technical and fun, the fields were good, and there were solid payouts, even in the lower categories. Our team always seemed to do well there, so we usually made the trip.


I was a Cat 3 that year, and I went to the race with my two teammates, Nathan and Ben. The race started out fast with plenty of attacking, but eventually Nathan got up the road with four or five other guys.  There was some chasing for five or six laps afterward, but once the break got established the race calmed down considerably. As we started to get towards the end of the race, the break has enough of a gap that Ben and I started thinking about a result in the field sprint. It would be tricky; there were two corners in the last 150 meters, so, barring anything extraordinary, the one who put his wheel into the first of those two corners in first position would likely win.


Barring anything extraordinary.


The last three laps were extremely aggressive-especially since the break was gone. I remember wondering if all of these guys knew that we were racing for sixth. Regardless, it was fast, until, inexplicably, with a half lap to go, there was a lull. I have no idea why-maybe everyone was just tired, or maybe just worried about how to play those last two turns. But, as the group sat up, Ben just kept pedaling. It was a perfect move at the perfect time. He looked back, saw that he had a gap, and drilled it. I moved to the back, thinking we had the field sprint sewn up and not wanting to potentially screw anything up for Ben.


As I got close to the finish, I heard the unfortunately familiar sound of a crash-like a shopping cart being dragged across the pavement on its side. There had been a stack-up in the last corner.  I was far enough back that I was able to ease up and roll through slowly and take a peek at the aftermath. Several guys on the floor, most already getting up and checking out their bikes and their skin. I was glad that no one seemed to be seriously hurt.


And then I saw Ben's bike. But no Ben. And as I made the turn towards the finish, I saw Paramedics rushing to what looked like another crash at the finish line.


I heard the story later from Nathan, who had been able to finish and loop back to the line to see the field sprint. He told me that Ben had come to the last couple of corners with about a three second gap. Plenty of time, especially since the last turn was inside 100 meters from the line. But Ben had taken that last one too hot and had washed out. Nathan said that Ben stood up, looked at his bike, and then left it in the middle ofthe road and started running towards the line.


Ben grew up playing soccer; even with bike shoes on, he's pretty fast. He made it to within about 20 meters from the line. Behind him, everybody in the field was probably a bit surprised to find a bike-shaped land mine in the middle of the last corner. Some guys crashed into it, but some made it through. One of them was Chris Stoll, another Nashville guy who is a good sprinter. Chris, having made it through the mess, opened his sprint.


Chris sprints with his head down. If he had looked up, he would probably have been surprised to see Ben in front of him, running towards the line without his bike. But he didn't. He plowed into Ben at full speed. Neither of them saw it coming. I talked to three different people who happened to see it, and all three used the same word: sickening.


The impact was enough to crack Chris' skull. He was off the bike for a long time. He started showing up for races again only a few years ago. Ben got off relatively easy with a bunch of broken ribs and a broken shoulder. Nathan said that when he saw the crash, he was sure that one of them was dead. He said he'd never seen anything like it and hoped he never see anything like it again. I talked to Jeff Hopkins, an Australian pro who had shown up to register and just happened to be standing at the finish line. Jeff's been racing bikes since he was nine or ten and has seen pretty much every kind of crash that can happen on a bicycle. He said that was the all-time worst.


I don't know if the two of them have ever had the chance to connect and talk about that race. But I know that I think about it all the time, and I know that the people who saw it will always remember it.


So, of course, last week when I saw the Tour stage to Ventoux last week, that's what I was thinking of.


There are lots of rules in bike racing. For my money, two of the most important are keep your head up and don't set off running without your bike.


Even if your name is Chris Froome.



BLOG: First Timer

Shannon Williams

Saturday was the Harpeth Bike Club's Harpeth River Ride. As you probably know, it's a massive local event. Usually, at least a thousand people show up to ride. For a while, the Bike Club was getting celebrity guest riders to show up and ride, and during those years-the ride was HUGE. Thousands and thousands of riders showed up in the hopes of riding next to Lance or Chris Horner or Levi Leipheimer.


The first time I did the HRR was in 2003(or maybe it was 2004. Either way, it was a long time ago). I had never ridden 100 miles on a bike, and I was pretty sure I didn't want to try-especially in June when it was a billion degrees. But I had a buddy that was kind of a mentor on the bike at the time, and he encouraged me to go out and try. He was persistent enough that I relented and signed up. After all of his cajoling, I expectedhim to give me enough advice/coaching to get me through. Here's what I got:


"The Gran Fondo race team will be there, and they'll be at the front going fast. Hang with that group as long as you can, and then settle in."


Settle in. I remember thinking, 'What the hell does settle in mean? You don't settle in on a bike-you settle in on a couch. Or nice cool movie theater. Or a nice warm cabin in the middle of winter.'


But I had committed, so I went. As it turns out, I had a long time to figure out the settling in. The Gran Fondo team was definitely there, and definitely fast. I think I may have lasted ten miles in that front group. After that, there was an, ahem, gravity event, and I was on my own. The front group crested the hill and cruised out of sight. I was on my own with 90 miles to ride. If I had had the slightest idea where I was, I'd have just gone directly home. Or to my car. Or to a friend's house. Or friend's car. Anything. But I didn't, so I just kept going, fueled by the idea of seeing my buddy who had gotten me into this and punching him in the mouth.


Five or six miles later, groups started to pass me(If I had been a bit more experienced, I'd have sat up to wait for them as soon as I got dropped from the front). The first few were still too quick, but after a while I caught on to a group of five guys that were moving well, but at a pace that was sustainable for me. I stuck with them and pulled through and did my share. After a while I started to enjoy myself. And I realized a few things about long rides. One-that the group is important. When we'd hit a hill, we'd slow down to wait for the guy that had been a freight train in the flat sections. The guys that led us up the hills took shorter turns on the flats. We'd wait for each other at the aid stations, because we knew that we were not only faster together, but that the group was our best chance of covering the distance at all. Two-if you're in a bad spot, just wait a bit. Over 100 miles, there are sections like chapters in a book. That day, we started cool, had several sections of baking hot, and got rained on. We rode up short steep hills, over long flat sections and slow rollers. It took a while for this to sink in, but once it did I started to try to savor the pleasant sections and just get through the tougher ones in the hopes that the next would be better.


As the miles went on, we lost a couple of guys and added one. A very long time later, we finished as a group of five. I was overjoyed and in need of a nap and a pizza. I shook hands with the guys I had ridden with and thanked them. Looking back, it's a bit embarrassing-it was definitely a bigger deal for me than it was for them. To me, it felt like some sort of small graduation ceremony-we had been through this difficult thing together, and then it was time to go and get on with our lives. To them, it was the thing they did that one Saturday before they went home and mowed the yard.


I still see guys from that group around on the bike from time to time.  One of them became a friend and teammate a few years later.


I still have no idea what 'settling in' means. Maybe I'll do the Harpeth next year and try to figure it out.




Music City Crits #2

Shannon Williams

sic City Crits #2

Patrick Harkins

Today 1:31 PMYou

A couple of weeks ago we lined up for the second round of the Wednesday Night Crits. We weren't sure we were going to get to race, as there had been thunder and lightning in the area all afternoon. But the skies cleared a few minutes before our race was supposed to start. The course was wet, but I didn't anticipate that being an issue-we've been rotating different iterations of the course at the fairgrounds, and we'd be racing on the "kidney bean", which used mostly the outer oval with two benign turns into and out of the infield.


Every once in a while, it's possible to get a small advantage in a race before it even starts. If you can figure out what everyone is assuming is going to happen, sometimes you can use it to your advantage. I started thinking about it a while back at the old Highland Rim road race. The race as a 55 mile loop with a long climb 12 miles in. After the climb, there were 40 flat miles on the top of the plateau, then a descent to the finish. In the lower categories, there was usually a split on the climb, but on the plateau a motivated chase group would bring back the climbers. So everyone just started to assume that that's how the race would play out...until one year, when several strong guys in the chase group, assuming that the race would come back together, sat in, saving their energy for the inevitable catch and the racing afterwards.


Except the inevitable catch didn't happen. Without the missing horsepower, the chase group never got back and the win came from the smaller front group. After I saw that, I tried to look for similar situations in races: where everyone just assumes that the race will play out a certain way, there's usually opportunity.


The second Wednesday Nighter seemed like such a situation. The IAM racing team, to that point in the season, had been absolutely dominant. This year they've built a team that not only has most of the strongest guys but that also races well together. In the first Wednesday night race, they had taken all three spots on the podium. I heard somebody say that it would be a victory for the rest of us to prevent a podium sweep for the rest of the season; they're that good. certainly made sense that everyone would be watching the guys on that team, particularly Patrick Walle, who is super strong and having a great year. I got to the race late, but as we were warming up I told my teammate Jason Tatum that, especially early in the race, with everyone watching Walle and IAM, we might get a bit of a long leash. When everybody's watching one guy, sometimes there is opportunity for someone else.


We rolled out and on the first lap it looked like there wouldn't be a chance to test my theory-Patrick Walle attacked as soon as we got out of the infield. Everyone was watching him, though, so there was a quick scramble to get to his wheel. He looked back, saw the field lined out behind him and kept the throttle twisted. That first lap was blazing fast. As we came through the start/finish, I was certain that when he swung off one of his teammates would attack.


Luckily for me, I was correct and in the right spot to go with it when it happened. Walle's teammate accelerated at the start of lap two and John Carr and Tim Henry jumped on. I tagged on the back and hung on. When I looked back a few seconds later, we had a big gap.


Good news/bad news. The good news was that this little move looked like it could stick-it was the right combination of jerseys and we got organized quickly. The bad news was that I was in trouble. I had loaned my bike to a customer earlier that day and hadn't had time to measure my saddle height after I got it back; it was way too high. Secondly, even in the benign corners of the course, I was losing my back wheel(and sometimes my front). It was incredibly slick. Carr, who was in front of me in the rotation, wasn't having any troubles, so I just assumed I was doing something wrong(I later found out he was running 75 psi in his tires, which made me feel better). I was wasting energy out of both corners getting back to Carr's wheel; at the speed we were going that was going to add up quickly and get me dropped.


Luckily, after three laps up the road, we came through the start/finish and were told to stop. The course was so slick that there were crashes all over the place. The officials decided to change the course to the oval. And, in order to have the officials on the side of the course where they could see our race numbers, they needed to change the direction of the race as well.


That was weird. I've never seen a situation where the race was stopped and the course and direction were changed before resuming. While the changes were being made we all laughed about how crazy it was-and I let some air out of my tires, found a multitool, and lowered my saddle about an inch. Whatever happened after that, at least I'd be comfortable and safer.


We lined up again, and the officials let the guys that had been in the break start first. It was an odd situation, taking that head start, knowing that the group was just sitting back, ready to start chasing. I figured that on the faster course we wouldn't stand a chance. But we found our rhythm quickly, and after a few laps it was clear that we'd stay away.


Again, good news/bad news. It was great to be in the break, but Jason Chatham and Tim Henry, aside from both being excellent sprinters, are both experienced and smart. My only real chance would be a situation where they both hesitated. I knew Carr would attack early(I've been racing against John for ten years), so I hoped that if John's move didn't work, maybe my counter would. If we were just the right distance from the finish, neither Henry nor Chatham would want to close the gap, knowing it would rob them of energy for the sprint.


No such luck. Carr attacked right as we got the bell for the last lap and didn't quite get the gap he needed(it's hard to accelerate with 75 psi in your tires), and by the time his effort was over, we were setting up for the sprint. Chatham won handily, Henry was second, and I was third.


As we rolled around, cooling down, we all laughed and talked about how weird the night had been. Tim Henry commented that, while Chatham had won, at least his teammates hadn't taken the other spots on the box. It was definitely one to remember.


I'm guessing next week will be a little less crazy, but you never know.




BLOG: Tuesdays And Wednesdays

Shannon Williams

Last week the Wednesday night race at the fairgrounds was cancelled due to rain. Since Shannon and I work on Saturdays, Wednesdays are one of the few opportunities we have to race, so we were extra disappointed. But it got me thinking about the evolution of midweek rides and races in Nashville.


Back in the early 2000's, the hard weekday ride was the Tuesday Night Night Sprint Loop. That was before my time here, so I never got to do it. But my understanding of it was that it was basically lead-out practice; there was a set loop with set sprint lines and (I think) designated sprinters. Everyone else would wind up the pace leading up to the sprint lines, and the sprinters would punch it out. My assumption has been that the ride was set up as a team training ride for the Backyard Burgers team, led by Todd Nordmeyer. Aside from being probably the most dominant bike racer ever to pin on a number in Tennessee, Todd was great at setting up hard, training-targeted rides.


The problem with that ride, as I understand it, was that it got popular. More folks started showing up, it got a bit less disciplined and a lot bigger.  Thirty people trying to be involved in a lead out is difficult, full stop. But if that leadout is taking place on an open road with cars, dogs; etc, it can be a recipe for disaster. And there were a few disasters. After some bad crashes, It was decided that The Sprint Loop needed to end.


So somebody(again, probably Todd) came up with the idea of the Hammer Ride. The Hammer Ride was on Wednesday Nights, starting in May. It started at Percy Warner Park and went on a forty mile loop out to the Trace, with five or six stretches of race simulation zones. Everybody knew where they were, and in those parts of the ride the effort was full gas-even faster than race pace, in some instances, since they were so short and everybody knew that there would be a short regroup at the end.


I first heard about the Hammer Ride in 2004. Tim Hall started a website called that had information on races, rides and everything else that had to do with bikes in Nashville. The description of the ride said "Cat 3 and above", so I steered way clear. But in 2005 I had been riding a bit more and was feeling brave, so I went out for the Hammer Ride even though I was only a Cat 4. It was great training: I could just barely hang in the group sometimes if I rode intelligently, but if I stuck my nose in the wind, even for a few moments, I was done. I was hooked; I started looking forward to Wednesday nights, measuring any small improvements by how far into the ride I could last. I figured out who the stronger riders were and which wheels were the right ones to follow. I felt like I was racing even though I wasn't.


Later that summer, Tim announced on the website that he was going to put on an actual race series on a few Wednesday nights. He'd secured a criterium course at the Titans' stadium, and there would be prizes for every race, plus an overall competition for the series. I hadn't done much crit racing at that point, but I was psyched to try it.


Compared to what it became and to what we have now, that first year was...well, small. There was an A(Cat 1/2/3) race andB(Cat 4/5 and Women) race, and I think the total number of racers combined was about twenty. I raced the B race and then stuck around for the A race. There were a handful of pros living in town at the time, and they all showed up. I was shocked at how fast they went around the course-they went around corners so fast that I closed my eyes the first few laps, certain they were going to crash.


By the end of the summer, more people were showing up to race. Someone scored a small PA system and there was music. A few folks even came out just to hang out and enjoy some free entertainment. The little series was a success, and Tim said that he'd try to do more next year. He did, and the series got bigger and bigger. By 2010, there were more categories and many more racers-every Wednesday there would be at least 100 people showing up to race. And the scene was fantastic-there was an announcer with a legit sound system and dozens of people came out to watch. It was a fun little party in the middle of a parking lot. Wednesday nights were something to look forward to; I tried to never miss one. The races got big and fast and the competition for the overall series was aggressive. Every year there would be a big season-end party after the last race. Regardless of when it happened, that party always felt like the end of summer.


In 2012 Tim moved to North Carolina for a job, but he had his summers free(he's a collegiate cycling coach) so he could still come back to Nashville to run the series. Unfortunately, after 2013 the parking lot of the stadium was no longer available-they needed the space for State employees. I just assumed that we'd go back to the Hammer Loop on Wednesday nights. It was funny; as much as I'd loved those Wednesday night loops starting in the park, the thought of not having the crits was depressing.


Luckily for me and everyone else, Michael Edens stepped in and found a solution. He talked to the people at the fairgrounds, and now we have our Wednesday night races there. The fairgrounds is a great venue for spectating and the less technical, more wide open course has invited more beginner racers. Michael started a new series there in 2014 and it's grown every year. This year Michael went to visit the Driveway Series in Austin(the biggest midweek series in the country, at least that I know of) and brought back some ideas to make Wednesday nights even bigger and better. He's done a tremendous job.


We're lucky to have had so much fun midweek riding and racing in Nashville for such a long time. If you've gotten to enjoy any of it, maybe say thanks to Todd or Tim or Michael if you see them around town.


We'll see you out there on Wednesday. Hope it doesn't rain.



BLOG: Twilight

Shannon Williams

The Athens Twilight criterium was weekend before last. If you have raced a bike in the southeast, you were probably aware of it.


Twilight looms large on the racing calendar-for good reason. It's arguably the fastest and most dangerous crit of the year-and it's definitely the race that draws the most spectators. It takes place right in the middle of downtown Athens, Georgia, and thousands of students from the University come out to watch(mostly because of the crashes). It's one of the few races of the year where most guys(non-pro's, at least) are just shooting to finish.


Athens is big. There are usually 150 starters in the pro race, and there just isn't room enough for all of them on the course. The course is only a kilometer long, and if the whole race is stretched out end to end(which it usually is), the front of the filed is not far behind the back of the field. That situation doesn't last long, as guys fall off the back or crash out. Usually less than half of the starters finish.


Athens is long-it's 80 laps of that kilometer course, so it's almost double the length of any normal local race.


Athens is FAST-the average speed is usually close to 30 mph. For 50 miles.


I went to Athens to race for the first time in 2005 or 2006. I crashed hard in one of the amateur races(not nearly as long or fast and on a different course) early in the day and decided it wasn't for me. Even aside from the crash-which I'll admit scared me-the racing, even in the amateur fields, seemed above my level; it was an eye-opener. So, for the next few years, I just went down to watch and drink beer. It was always a great weekend, but it was a bit odd being at a bike race weekend and not racing.


Early in 2009, my teammate Dave started trying to convince me to go and race Twilight-the night race, which was technically a pro/category 1 race, but Dave had heard that they were letting some category two racers in. I had just upgraded to two late the previous summer, and I knew I had no business lining up for Twilight, but finally I relented, because I wanted to get Dave off my back and because I often make poor decisions.


I had a coach at the time, and when I told him that I was planning to race, he said, "Oh. Yikes. Well, it will be a good test(code for "This is probably a bad idea for you"). The first 5-10 laps are tear-smearing fast. If you can get through those, you might have a chance. Just remember, if you aren't moving up in the field, or if you aren't in the first 50 spots, you probably won't make it. Don't assume that if a gap opens in front of you that someone else will close it-at that speed, even two bike lengths become near impossible to close". After I heard that, I thought about faking an illness and making Dave go by himself. But(and this a great example of bike racer insanity) then I would think, "How bad can it really be? I've done tons of fast crits. Surely I can just survive. Right?" So I went.


The race started at 9 PM, so we had all day to sit around, watch our friends race in the early races, and just be nervous. Luckily, Dave and I handle nerves in different ways. I don't say much and Dave talks a lot. That helped. But not much-I remember sitting in the hotel room pinning on my number and having a hard time because my hands were shaking. I still have that race number.


We got to the course early to try to get a decent start spot-as you might expect, starting position in a race like Athens is absolutely crucial-if you start at the back, your race is almost certainly over before it's even begun. As a result, the first race is to get to the start line-it's the only race I've ever been to where elbows are being used before the race starts.


I got lucky and got a spot in the third row(there were probably 10 rows). Once that was settled, there were probably ten minutes where we just sat there while the announcer did the pre-race announcements, call-ups; etc. I tried to look at something that would calm my nerves...I looked at the guys around me and that didn't help. I could see that everyone was nervous, even scared. Not good. So I looked to my left into the crowd. Drunken frat boys, screaming. Also not helping. So I just looked straight ahead, down the course to turn one. It sounds ridiculous, but I had a moment of feeling a tiny bit of what it must be like to be a professional athlete-literally thousands of spectators, immense noise, everyone looking at us. I decided that, if nothing else, for a moment I'd just take it in in the hopes that I'd remember it. I still can.


The race started, and the first thing I did was miss my pedal clipping in. 50 guys went by in a flash. So much for a good start spot. I sprinted up to speed, my heart rate skyrocketing and my mouth somehow instantly dry. I narrowly avoided the first crash of the night-in turn two of the first lap. I might as well have gone down, because I was going backwards, quickly. Every few seconds, three guys would go by me in a rush to get towards the front. I was braking too much in the poorly lit turns and having to accelerate too hard coming out of them. Three laps in, I was desperate. I remembered the sensation from high school sports-I was rattled-making poor decisions, panicked.


15 laps in, and I was sure that I wasn't going to make it to 20. Every time someone else came by, I was sure there was going to be no one behind me. I was just waiting to hear the sound of the sweep motorcycle, which would mean that my race was about to be over.


I came around turn one and saw a huge pile-up. Bodies and bikes everywhere. I had nowhere to go and barely came to a stop behind it. I put a foot down.


I had a choice. There was no way I was going to catch back on from a full stop. My race would be over. So I just reached down and let the air out of my front tire. I'm not proud of it, but all I was trying to do was finish, and that wasn't happening after coming to a full stop behind a crash. I found a spot on the course where the spectators were only two deep, jumped the barricades, and hustled to the start/finish to take a free lap.


They gave me a neutral front wheel and-this was a true gift-put me back in about 50 spots in front of where I had come out. Somehow, that little respite calmed me down. I felt better. The new wheel squealed when I touched the brakes, and I used it as an alarm-I decided that I wasn't going to hear that noise for the rest of the race. I set a goal of 40 laps. If I made it that far, I'd be happy.


Somehow I found my rhythm, stopped touching my brakes, finally got the corners dialed, and made it to 40. Then 50. Somewhere around 53 laps in, I remembered that I had a bottle of water on my bike. I swear I heard my knuckles crack as I released my death grip on the bars to get my hand on that bottle.


I started thinking about finishing. I tried to only look at the lap counter every five laps. I'd start to feel good, and then the pace would pick up and I'd realize that I had been at my absolute limit, teetering on the precipice of blowing up. I started to hear friends on different parts of the course yelling at me and that helped.


Ten laps to go, and I thought I could make it. It seemed like an eon, but I thought that surely the hardest part was over.


Wrong. Six laps to go, and the leadouts for the sprinters started. It was like someone put 20 fresh guys in at the front. The speed went up in a way that I would have been certain wasn't possible.


Four laps to go, and I was hanging on by my fingernails. Gaps were opening all over the place(mostly in front of me). Three to go, and guys just stopped even trying to close them-I realized that we were close enough to the finish that we'd all be scored, but far enough back that we'd never get back on. So I just did what I could, which wasn't much.


I crossed the finish line at the same time as the winner. Inside of four laps, he had lapped me and all the other hangers-on at the back. I was astonished.


But I had finished. It was over, thank heaven. I rode another lap around the course. I reached out my hand and got what must have been 100 high-fives in a row from spectators. I stopped on the backside and took a beer from someone I didn't know. I opened it and finished the lap while I drank it. I've never been that physically depleted and that happy at the same time. I know it's a silly thing; I didn't win or even come close. All I did was finish, and even that was with a bit of help. It's not something that would ever matter to anyone but me. But it's still by far the best moment I've had on a bike.


If you get the chance to head down to Twilight, go. Whether you race or just spectate, it's a one of a kind event.