Saturday, May 29, 2010

Bike Rodeo and Spencer Tour de Lake Report '10

I left Ohiopyle last Friday afternoon with a Grumbler full of kids' bikes from my fine place of employment (1 Grumbler full = 6 kids' bikes + 1 29er) and headed for Eryn's place in Penn Hills. All the wee person bikes were for the first big Velomuse Junior Development event.

After more than an hour of driving, none of the little hunks of steel had fallen off my rack. I was glad:

That evening we watched Klunkerz, and I fell alseep in a chair (the movie was alright, but my tiredness outweighed my interest.)

The next morning we went to the Venture Outdoors festival, unloaded the kids bikes, and sat under a bridge while it poured. There where hundreds of people running and riding bikes around the city in yellow t-shirts, grimacing and getting soaked. Most of them looked like they were busting into a trot for the first time in years. Apparently, there was a diamond ring hidden somewhere and whoever found it first got to keep it. I don't quite understand why people place so much value on a little stone, but it was good to see so many people storming the city on bikes.

I was worried that the day was going to be a total wash but, once the sun came out, we had at least 30 or 40 kids go through the obstacles:

Eryn did a nice writeup, so I won't repeat her, but the event went really well once the sun came out.

At 4, I started to rush to get everything packed up so that I could get to Rob's place for the long drive to Spencer.

When we got back to Eryn's house, it started to pour again while I struggled to unhook the cam straps that were holding the wooden obstacles to my roof. Once the things were offloaded, I headed back to the parkway. It was raining so hard that the streets at the bottom of Penn Hills were under almost two feet of murky water.

At the casa de Rob, I backed down his ridiculously steep driveway, got a little too close to the wall, and heard a loud crunch. I'd backed into one of Chrissy's potted plants, killing the little guy. Oops.

We loaded the Jetta up and started the four-hour drive down to Spencer, only stopping once at the Kroger so that Chrissy could buy a basil plant, and I could stock up on a dozen pack of pepperoni rolls. I happily munched on roni rolls and chex mix for the rest of the drive.

It was almost midnight when we finally got to Charles Fork Lake so I strung my hammock to some trees next to a stream and went to sleep (after rolling out of the stupid thing twice.)

In the morning I ate some cereal, stretched, walked around, and waited for it to be noon. Pretty soon cars carrying bikes were trickling into the park and the sun started to get hot. I rode up the steep pavement climb off the start to check out the course. Predictably, the trails were covered in slippery mud.

When noon finally happened, everybody gathered at the bottom of the hill to listen to a ceremonial pre-race meeting that was delivered in a peanut buttery WV drawl. I couldn't remember a word of what was said once I got on the start line except for "First lap low, second lap high." And I didn't know what the hell that meant.

A few minutes later, we sprinted off the line and up to the top of the big hill. Benji and John Martin got the hole shot into the single track and I entered third. The first section of trail was steep and muddy switchbacks, and Benji hit a root and had to dismount. I got around him then waited until we hit the wet fire road to pass John.

Andy Weidrick and I started riding away from the rest of the pack and took turns leading. (By took turns I mean that one of us would crash or screw up and the other one would go around to the front.) The trail was slippery and covered in roots and the amount of vegetation closing in on the single track was crazy. I was getting slapped in the face by branches constantly and I caught one that gashed my arm open on the inside of my elbow. It started to bleed and got gross and sticky.

I was leading when I looked back and saw that Andy wasn't there anymore. I figured he flatted or had a mechanical so put in a surge to get as far away from him as I could. Hammering down a trail to finish the first lap I passed a volunteer that yelled into his radio "31 hauling ASS!"

The second lap was mean. It was mostly steep fire road. The course rolled up and down with climbs that never seemed to end and, to make things worse, the soil was soft and loamy, covered with leaves. It was so power sucking that I ended up having to jump off and run a lot of the climbs.

I kept trudging along and, before long, I hit the downhill that led back to the top of the dam. After a moment of panic because I thought I was going the wrong way, I got around that last bit of tape and sprinted down the hill to the finish line. I nabbed the overall win and it was a few minutes before the other guys started to trickle in.

To make an awesome bicycle day better, the good folks of Tour de Lake decided to pay me as the overall winner. I was stoked.

And Rob's foot moth was happy to have sugar to eat:

Monday, May 17, 2010

The Wilds '10 Race Report

Remembering my dad's stories of sledding down parking lot snow mounds because Ohio had no hills, I fully expected the OMBC Wilds course to be smooth and flat. It was neither.

But I did get to enjoy some wide roads on the way there (quite novel for me as a hill dweller):

And although I was tempted to listen to this sign and pick up some calorie dense pickles for the race, somehow I stayed my wallet hand and kept moving:

After driving back the long dirt road to the start area, I was surprised by the number of people that were already there.

One team had an expansive setup that made the back of the Grumbler seem small and dirty in comparison (actually the back of the Grumbler seems small and dirty all the time.)

But I bet they didn't have one of these in their big fancy tent:

"Mwahaha. Send thar oral surgeon for me overbite"

I squandered most of my warm up time letting Aaron use my multi tool to fix his new bike, because roadies are too cool to carry tools. And apparently, they can only fix things with their heads upside down, closest to the up their ass position:

We headed back to the start line, and listened to the pre-race talk up while I apparently checked out my gloved fingernails (or gestured that a big a plate of spaghetti was magnifico):

And in a few more minutes, we saddled up and started the race. Prolouge is only a half mile long, all on gravel, all down hill. It ends with a sharp left turn into rocky and tight single track. There's no room to pass. I get into the woods about seven riders back and the front three guys immediately start to get away. Ben Ort has the twisty course nailed.

I'm trying to get around people, but the course is too full of roots, and the trail is only a few inches wide. The trees are close on all sides. I finally pick two or three off in a section of pines, but the top five guys are already out of sight.

Fifteen minutes in, I try to take a drink but I hit another section of roots and need both hands on the bars. I let my bottle dangle from my teeth. I drop it. Crap. Now I only have half a bottle of iced tea left.

I keep smashing along for the rest of the lap; there are no points on the course to rest. It's twisty and bumpy the whole time. For the first time I think I might be running a little too big of a gear. There are so many hard stops and punchy accelerations.

Half a lap in, I start to hit traffic. First the ladies, then the sport class. I have to get around them, but the course is still too tight to pass. It gets hard to keep any momentum. The field section comes up, but even it is too bumpy to get a rest.

I stop at the end of the first 14-mile lap to fill my bottle. I should have stashed a spare somewhere else.

I head back out and feel like I'm moving a little faster. I pass an expert or two. I'm a little smoother now that I know what's coming up on the course. Pre-riding this thing would have been huge. I finish out the lap without much incidence and sprint up the hill to finish.

1st SS, 4th or 5th overall. My lower back is killing me.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

a new team

I've been really happy to race for Probikes this past year. They've been able to help me out with a lot of things, and the guys in the Monroeville shop have always been swell.

That being said, this whole time, I've been riding equipment that I purchased from the fine folks at Speedgoat. They have a huge selection of stuff, are always able to get parts out really fast, and quite frankly, they're more geographically convenient for me. 

So, henceforth, I shall be riding to battle clad in the black and orange:
(no miniature viking lions were harmed.) 

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

the almost summertime

With the coming of the toasty months, I've stopped working at my old coffee shop job:

(the view from the control center. this is where we pretend to be happy that you want a 1/2 caf, 2% milk, sugar free syrup, no foam, 126 degree cup of liquid cake.)

I'll probably be back at the Bean next fall when collegio starts again, but even if I'm not, my legacy lives on:

The Cancer Buddy was both a convenient way to prop the back door open during smoke breaks, and a cheerfully grim reminder of the ultimate fate of the smokers on staff. Unfortunately, some fool left it in the door overnight, leaving the store unlocked. The management was not pleased. So we were forced to go back to the inconvenient and decidedly neutral "aluminum stick."

But at least shirtless exaggerated wink girl will live on behind the register:

As much fun as I had at that place, I can't argue with being employed here

I roll out of bed every morning with the not actually pink sun

Work in the store next to the railroad tracks

Or sit on the rocks with a camera and wait for the rafts to roll past

Go ride

Then sleep and do it all over again.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

"Hey this telephone pole don't look too good. The bottoms all rotted out."
"Ehh. It's over a busy intersection, so lets just ratchet strap it to the light post. A ratchet straps at least as strong as a new pole right?"

I like how you fix things Greensburg. Quality work.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Mountwood race report (10')

We took off in the Grumbler for the rainy, three hour drive to Mountwood, and Don bitched about the lack of lumbar support the whole way. I actually thought my seats were rather comfy.

About 50 minutes from the park, I had a debilitating stomach cramp, and realized I needed a bathroom. Immediately. There were signs for "downtown" Salem that showed some forks, a shopping bag, and a hotel, so I figured that such a bustling metropolis would have to have a restroom area.

I pulled off the highway and went down the ramp into town to find one tiny dirt covered gas station and a few demo derby cars. I turned around and decided to hold it.

By the time we arrived to the park, Don was extremely disgruntled. We went over to register, and the cheery girl handing out forms tried to wish him luck, but he just looked away and scowled. She recoiled and rolled her eyes, and I laughed heartily.

I spent the rest of my time before the race attaching my fender with zip ties and wire (I left the mount at home.) Some people (who indecently brought umbrellas, a la Mary Poppins) made fun of my fender because it was "gay." However, they fail to realize that blinking grit out of their eyes every time they hit a mud puddle (or the entire Mountwood course) is far "gayer." And besides, I spray painted my fender purple to match my wheels. It looked too good not to use.

The rain was still coming down heavily, so I hung out in the back of the grumbler for a while and wished it was warmer. Near 12 I decided it was time to warm up. As I rode, my glasses made it seem like I was driving a submarine, so I ditched them and decided to rely on my fender for eye protection.

After the pre-race meeting, we rolled down to the pavement start. I do a couple of sprints to get the legs warmed up, then go over and stand next to Dustin Dorkieka in the steady rain. We're given a few seconds, then the promoter yells and we mash up the hill. The WV nightclub guys take the early lead as usual, but soon we reel them in. I'm surprised at how good I feel since Don, Mahokey, and I did a 43 mile mountain ride the day before.

We turn into the trail, and I make some quick passes to get up with Jeremy Rowand and Jason Cyr. Jason is leading and setting a good pace, and we're pulling away from the rest of the group. I'm glad for the distance I'm putting between me and the other single speeders.

Jeremy yells "Turtle!" and I swerve to avoid a little shelled critter. We hit a little rise and I pass Jeremy. A few seconds later I get around Jason. I'm leading the race now. Holy shit. I've never been in the lead of a mountain bike race. I'll see how long I can keep it up. At the least I should be able to drop the other single speeders.

The course is sloppy, but my Ignitors are predictable and don't pack up, and I'm super comfortable sliding around on my bike. People think I'm nuts for running a 38x20, but I'm able to stay on top of it and carry enough momentum to get over all the hills.

I can't see Jeremy or Jason anymore. The only indication that there are other riders out there is the occasional squeal of wet brakes. I could win this thing. No. Shut up. The race isn't over yet.

There are two turtles screwing each other in the middle of the trail. One is on it's back. "Oh hell man. Do you have to do that right here?" I yell as I ride by and splash some mud on them.

I'm not slowing down at all. The trail is fast and flowing, even with all the mud. I clean a technical rocky climb, and a guy compliments my wheels.

When I reach the dam, I recognize the place as the spot I caught Gerry Pflug last year. He was riding without a seat post, and still dropped me shortly afterwards. This year I'm winning the race. I tell myself to shut up again and sing louder in my head. (weird song to sing when I'm racing? a little.)

The second lap is way muddier than the first. All the sport and beginner riders have gone through and ripped up the soft course. Now I can hardly turn the big gear over. I'm making no progress. I get off and start to run. I'm afraid that one of the geared guys are just going to spin past me. But there is no way I'm going to let myself lose this race now. I've come too far.

The course becomes a little more ridable, and I hop back on my bike and start riding again. I pass a spectator.
"How many miles to go?"

Ok. I've got this. I keep hammering and sliding around the turns. I look down at my watch. It's been about 25 minutes since I passed the spectator. It's gotta be almost over.

Suddenly I exit the woods and hit a road. There's a few guys cheering. I sprint across the grass, then cross a raging brown stream. I almost fall off my bike and into the torrent. I laugh and run through the water. The finish is in sight. I'm going to win this thing.

I almost blow right passt the finishing tent, and lock up my back brake to slide in. I go through.

I won the whole damn race, gears and single speeds be damned. I'm so stoked. Jeremy rolls through a little over a minute later and we congratulate each other.

Results and photos should be up here later today.

Don won the Expert Vet, and was paid $10 more than me for his victory, and I'm sure that Jeremy got a lot more than that for winning Expert. But I won a Surly flask in addition to my pay out (I'll use it for espresso or warm milk.) Such is the nature of single speeding. Wouldn't have it any other way.