Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Nine Circles of Hill and Creek to Peak

On Saturday, six of us gathered at the base of the Laurel Mountain for a mini stage race. We had three climbing stages, a few descents, and some rock gardens mapped out.

Despite its soft feminine lines and tiny engine, Don's hatchback Miatta made an excellent camera holder: 

Aaron wrote more about the day, so I'll write less.

In short:
Stick caught a stick in the eye and blinked out one contact which left him "feeling like acid." He refused to pick up the bandanna I found on the road and use it as an eye patch.

Aaron lodged a stick in his front wheel and launched himself over the bars.

John (on one of his first big mountain bike rides) walked most of the Wolf Rocks loop and couldn't believe that the three-mile field of rocks was a trail.

Rob won the coasting race because he's heavier than the rest of us.

Don sprinted down the trail at the start of Wolf Rocks, then abruptly stopped and rolled off into the weeds. His bike continued rolling and a large downed tree rustled. He had sprinted into a very supple branch, and taken it in the chest. We pointed and laughed. He would have done the same for us.

And after I ran out of food two hours in, by hour five I was reduced to foraging for apples in the forest:

(judging by the stares, no one else has ever seen food outside of a grocery store.)

But I did win the super spiffy cogs and hot-glue trophy:

This is quite possibly the most flattering photo ever taken of me. At least I stopped spooning peanut butter out of that big jar.

We ended up with 58 miles, six hours, and 6,000 feet of climbing. Perfect warm-up for the last WVMBA race of the season.

After I got home from the mountain, I sat on the couch and watched Die Hard until 10:30. Before the movie was over I decided to go rebuild my seized pedal so that I could pedal during the big race the next day. I assume Bruce Willis recovered the gold and blew up all the dump trucks.

By 11:30 the pedal was all fixed up and ready to go. I gathered the rest of my stuff, took off my underpants, and went to bed right before midnight.

Rob Loehr, Morgan Miller, and I were all tied going into the last race. I had to win if I wanted to take the series.

Woke up the next day at 4:45. A little groggy from my sub-five hour sleep. I put the fluorescent death machine of doom on the back of the grumbler, and started the four and a half hour drive to Eleanor, WV.

I get all my shit together a couple minutes before the start of the race, then head over to the start.

We sprint away down I gravel road. I tuck in behind the lead train of Gunnar, Steve, and Jeremy Rowand. Gunnar sets the pace and we start to pull away from the rest of the pack. The trail gets super twisty down by the stream and we keep pushing through the trees.

Jeremy gives me a push on the next gravel road, then lets me pass on the next climb. Gunnar and Steve have opened up a little gap. I start chasing.

I put a little bit of time into them on the climbs, but they punch it anytime there's room to shift up. We're into the second half of the lap and the trail is getting a little more technical. Back's sore from all the rock gardens yesterday, but otherwise I feel good.

Gunnar and Steve are a little out of sight now. I start down a steep dirt road. It gets steeper. There's a rut almost three feet deep running down the middle. The dirt is loose and I can't slow down. Shit.

I'm on the left side of the road, and the huge ditch makes a left and cuts off my entire side of the road. Shit shit. I skidding my back wheel but I keep speeding up. Oh hell. This is gonna hurt. I can't stop or turn. I tap my front brake.

"Fucking ass!" I slam into the ditch. I'm disconnected from my bike and rolling head first down the rut. I feel my helmet slam into a rock. Then my shoulder and hip. Helmet again. The rough dirt finally stops me. I lay stunned in the hole for a few seconds. A little dust cloud floats up. Jeremy rolls by. "Dude are you ok?"

"Yeah, yeah I'm great. Dammit. Ow." I say. Everything hurts.

"You sure? Ok, well don't forget your watter bottles." he says. I see both bottles sitting at the bottom of the rut. Somehow I dropped my chain.

I pick up the bottles and put the chain back on. Joey Riddle rolls past me.

I coast down the rest of the hill and try to get myself together. I'm still first in SS, I can't slow down now. I finish the rest of the lap.

Nobody has seen Rob or Morgan yet, so I figure I'm still ok. Marc Glass catches me on the gravel, and we ride together for a while.

"You better go." he says "Benji is right behind us." I thank him and start moving up the hill. Benji isn't in contention for the series, but man I don't want to lose this race now. I prepare myself to ride the big rutted hill of death again.

A few guys marshaling the course direct me to the left. I recognize where I am. Now there's only like three miles left. The course is way shorter than I thought. I start giving it everything I have. Marc catches back up, and is right on my ass when we hit the grass before the finish line.

We sprint the last 100 yards. We're both going all out. Cross the line. I look over and have him by a half a wheel length.

I grab a bottle of water and start scrubbing out the raw flesh on my arm.

"Man when I saw you in that ditch, I though oh shit. He's dead." Jeremy says.

"It was a nice size grave. You shoulda kicked some dirt on me and left me there." I say

"Yeah, but then I woulda felt bad." he says. 

Monday, September 27, 2010

Mountain bike season is done. Woot woot! Thank god.

I'll miss it in two weeks.

I won the last race of the season in Eleanor, WV.

And with that, won the seven-race WVMBA single speed series.


It was awesome that the top three of us were tied going into the race. I had a great time racing these guys all season, and I'm stoked to keep doing it through the fall on a 'cross bike.

I just wish I wouldn't have been swallowed by a ditch. I took skin off my elbow, left hip, right ass cheek, left shoulder, and right knee. And I put a nice big dent in my helmet.

Race report in a little.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Breck Epic Stage 6

This is a little past being news-worthy, but Mountain Flyer never published my last Breck Blog. So hell, no sense in letting a perfectly fine piece of word slobber go to waste:

We line up for the last time. I start back with Peter Kieller of Misfit Psycles and Dicky. “It’s nice of Montana to start back here with us” Peter says.

The beige police suv rolls away and we follow it up the hill. I stay on the edge of the yellow line to get around people. Start is not neutral. I look down at my speedometer and we’re doing 18mph up the hill. It hurts.

The group splits apart as we go up the switchbacks on the road. I’m sitting on Dejay’s wheel. We go down a little hill and the police suv stops. A group that’s five wide tries to funnel into a tiny section of single track. 

There’s a pile up in front of the woods. Everybody puts a foot down. I see an opening and cut off a section of the trail to get away.

An endless string of riders form on the trail. It’s a long section of smooth switchbacks. A few guys are getting antsy to pass. Dejay yells at me to push people off the hill and get around them (or something to that effect.)

We’re grinding up the hill slowly. It’s hard to ride someone else’s pass on a single speed. “Where’s the fun part? Fucking Mike Mac said today was the fun day.” I yell. Nobody responds. I grumble.

The trail flattens and I get around some people. Dejay and Mike Melley take off. I spin and tuck to try to catch back up to them. We’re winding through the trees. Now it actually is fun.

They keep the gap on me. We turn down a gravel road. At the bottom I lock up my brake to skid around the sharp right. A gradual hill starts. I keep trying to catch Mike and Dejay.

Now it’s not fun anymore. Ze German is beside me. “ZEEEEEEEE!” She’s screaming now “I HATES ZES ROADS! AHHH!” I try to pedal away from her. But she stays with me. Oh well.
I ride through the aid station on top of the hill. It’s too soon to stop. The hill goes down. I turn onto a section of single track and start ripping. The loose chunks of rock fly out from under my wheels and click clack. The Swiss team is stopped with their bikes in the middle of the trail. They see me coming and try to move.

They get the bikes away just in time. I still go off the trail a little to avoid them. Damn it. Who stops in the middle of the trail during a race? I start the flat section of the Gold Dust loop.

It’s sweet. The trail is smooth and banked in all the right places. I ride my bike up on the walls through the turns. I’m moving quick. I catch Mike right before the end.

We try to latch onto some geared riders, but we fail. I see Dejay’s red jersey off in the distance. We start working up the gradual road to catch him.

15 minutes later I catch up to Dejay. We start working together to drop Mike. We fail. Mike catches up. Mike and Dejay start working together to drop me. They succeed.

I watch Mike and Dejay get smaller up the hill. My ass muscles are burning from peddling in the saddle. I grab a bottle at the aid station and go down the first hill we climbed up.
I tuck down. My calves are cramping from being in the tuck. The road is just mellow enough that I should still pedal occasionally. Mike has a flat. “Need anything?” I yell. I’m already past him when he yells “I’m good” down the road.

The Swiss dudes sprint past me right before a section of single track. They slow way down, then move over to let me pass. A few more sections of fun and buff single track. The last trail is rocky, but I can hear the speaker system. There’s some reggae playing. I make a few tight corners, then almost ride over the edge of a little bridge before crossing the finish.

It was a fast stage. Hugs and high fives all around.
The single speeders get drunk and loud at the awards ceremony. Peter gets extremely loud. It’s hilarious.

We get our “Bad Motherfucker” belt buckles. Thom Parsons sits on some guy’s award and destroys it. Some guy is not happy.

Mike Mac lovingly tells Thom, Doug Jenne and I that we were absolute dicks. I think it was directed mostly at Thom.    

Monday, September 20, 2010

It's finally come and it's very sparkley ('10 Peanut Butter Festival)

Behold the Shimmering Golden Peanut of Victory!

I headed to the New Bethlehem Peanut Butter Festival on Saturday hoping to meet my arch blog rivule on the field of battle.

Colleen and I leave the house a little late. Half way down 66 we hit a road block. An old man directs us to the left. After driving a few miles down the road, we come to an unmarked intersection. Nuts. Not again.

I turn around and roll down my window next to the old guy. "Is there a way back to 66?" I say.

"Oh yes yes. Just go up'n over that mountain on the gravel road by Hall Nursery, then come down on Pritz." he says. Wonderful. Up a gravel road and over the mountain. I'm so glad we left late.

We follow his directions, and 20 minutes later we're back on 66, two miles down the road from where we got off.

We pull in the parking lot in New Bethlehem at 10:10. Race starts in 20 minutes. The race director is almost done with the pre-race meeting. I run over to register, then fill some bottles and pull on my kit. Aaron rides over to the Grumbler and tells me that my rivule isn't here. Damn it.

Everybody is ready to go when I get to the start line, so I stand on the side walk next to the front row.

"Bwoot!" an air horn blows and we take off. I spin down the paved road and get in front. That lasts about 25 seconds. Everyone rips by me in their big ring. A few single speeders rip by me in smaller gears.

I feel like I'm gonna throw up. I drank two cups of coffee this morning, but no water. I suck down half a bottle to try to settle my stomach.

We roll through a slate dump. I re-pass everybody but two guys. Up and over all the steep piles of slate. I still  feel like puking. But unlike Don Powers, I keep it down.

I roll down a field and onto a gravel road. I catch the other two guys and take the lead. Martin Flinn stays right behind me. The rest of the field falls away.

We hit some single track that looks like it's loose fresh-cut stuff. It's really slow going. I have to dismount and run up most of the hills.

Martin passes me on a steep climb. I stick on his wheel for a while, then pass him back.

I hit it on a gravel road and try to get away. He drops his chain, and I put some time in. The rest of the course is flatish gravel and paved roads, and I'm terrified that he's going to shoot by me in the big ring. I keep looking back. The gap stays pretty constant.

We ride through a tunnel that has a stream running through it. Martin is right there. Some locals are cheering as I splash out of the stream and start up the steep hill. They cheer louder for Martin.

I run up the hill and put a little time into him. I try to open the gap more, but he refuses to be dropped. We go behind a baseball field, then hit a paved road in town. Finish has to be close. I put my head down and sprint.

I go past a big crowd of people. They yell and clap. I roll back into the parking lot. Shit. This isn't right.

I ride around the block and back to the crowd of people. Dammit. Where the hell is the finish?

"Where's the finish?" I yell.

The crowd points up the hill "Oh.. Sorry." they say. I ride up the hill and roll over the line. Martin is already there.

After a few seconds of deliberation, the promoter decides to deduct a couple minutes from my time and move me back into first. The last turn was not marked, and for some reason the people at the bottom of the hill didn't see any reason to point me in the right direction. Martin is a good sport about it, and I'm awarded the tallest peanut trophy.


Colleen and I head to Wooster, and then to West Branch State Park the next morning. She races sport, and finishes 35 miles of twisty single track in about five hours. I lounge around the start line all day. My penalty is having to answer the question "Hey, why aren't you racing?" 35 separate times. I'm delighted to answer that I'm too burned out to do any more long races.

After falling off a few bridges, endoing into some rock gardens, and causing at least one multi-rider crash, she toughs it out and takes 1st in the imaginary women's SS category. I think she secretly hates me for getting her into mountain biking.


I'm feeling much less shitty now. The last XC race of the season is this Sunday. Three of us are tied going into the West Virgina Series Final. Sunday's winner will win the SS series. I better get myself ready to rip.

Then it's 'cross season. Yay!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Terror of Teaberry 2010

"You will see God between aid station two and three."

"Will God be holding a pickle?"

"Yes, a kosher dill."

Don, Aaron and I pile into the white Hatchback Miata. The car's tiny engine whines as Don Powers puts an angry foot to the floor. Gas mileage drops under 14 mpg. The All Knowing Grumbler laughs an oily laugh from its parking space in Donagal.

We arrive at our cheap hotel room and watch them Duke boys get Boss Hog's money back from the Texas swindlers. I spend $3.00 trying to get a $.75 Reese's cup out of a ancient vending machine. Apparently in the 80's vending machines used an "18" button instead of "1... 8."

In the morning we head to Michaux. When we pull into the parking lot next to Rob and Chrissy, the place is covered in cold fog. Visibility is under a hundred feet. Seeing Rob's new VW GTI Don says "Look, Rob has a hatchback Miatta to!"

"Nah, Volkswagens are cool." I say.

"Fuck you." he says.

Some guy parks in the puddle next to us. He jumps out of his car and gives me an enthusiastic high five. I have no idea who he is, but I'm happy to get the hand slap.

We pile our bikes on the road and line up for a Le Mans start.

photos by Tomi
We're off. I get in front after a few feet, and win the race back to the bikes.

Unfortunately, my bike is boxed in by three other people (I'm looking at you Rob Spreng.) I'm 3rd into the single track. Running starts are awesome. Easiest hole shot I've ever had.

I ride alone up some damp double track, then hit the first rock gardens of the day. I'm terrible. I can't ride the wet rocks today. Not good.

I stop to let some air out of my tires. That helps a little. Buck and company pass me. I hang on their wheel for ten miles. That helps a lot. We wind through some loamy forest, and I try to roll over some of the big boulders on the trail. I slip off every time. After endoing into a log, I decide to take the cheater line when I can.

We hit the first aid station. I feel like nuts. Everybody stops, but I skip the aid. I try to drop them on the big gravel climb. I slowly reel in a geared guy. At least I can kinda climb.

Back into the single track. It's twisty and starting to get more technical. My fender falls off. I try jamming it in my pocket, but it woln't go. It falls out of my hand but I can't waste any more time. I'm in first at this point. Buck yells something from behind me. I try to go a little faster.

I'm slowing down. It's raining softly. I haven't ridden rocks in almost two months and it shows. Buck catches up to me and I stop to let him pass. He's crushing it. The boulders are almost 10 feet high now and theres no way around them. I slide down a few and manage not to die, but I figure it's only a matter of time before I smash my face into something.

I start hiking a lot. Topher and I few other guys go by. The boulder field is another 7 miles long. This is wonderful I think. Thanks Don and Aaron. I'm so glad you assholes convinced me to do this. Shoulda stayed on the couch.

It's 12:40 when I finally get to aid two. 24 miles in and I've been out here for 3:30. Man this is slow going.

I'm cracked now. I don't have enough energy to ride through the rock gardens or up the hills. I walk almost everything that's not smooth and flat. Rob yells something. I look down and see him on the switchback bellow me. Damn it. Figured that was going to happen.

I get a little burst of speed. Its lasts about 30 seconds. Rob passes me. "How much farther?" I ask.

"Oh like 8 miles" he says.

Damn it. That could take a long time. I keep trudging along. It starts raining harder.

I roll out on to a road. Another single speeder passes me. I'm barely turning the pedals over. I stop at the last aid station and eat a little snickers bar. "How much farther?" I ask.

"Only like 3 miles." the aid station guy says.

"Oh. Ok. I guess that's not too bad." I say. I'm dazed. Completely exhausted. I pedal up a bumpy road then hit a section of less technical single track. There has to be a final kick in the balls section. But it never comes.

I ride past the Bushwaka. In clean clothes. I'm confused. "What the fuck are you doing back here already?" I yell.

"I flatted." he says

"Lucky." I say.

I finish and pace around the hatchback Miata for 15 minutes trying to figure out how to take my pants off. God never did offer me a pickle.

I take off my shoes and my toe nails are bleeding. I might be back next year. I need to redeem myself and not suck.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The Big Valley Weekend

I raced twice last weekend. That was dumb.

On Thursday night, I picked up my new 'cross frame from Speedgoat, and threw it together with a mix of nice and terrible parts that I had lying around. The drive train was one of the terrible parts. Along with mismatched square taper cranks from the box of misfit parts at work, the only gear I could get good tension with was a 44x16.

44x16 is too big for 'cross

I checked all the parts of my bike to make sure I wouldn't be granted a pride saving mechanical.

I start pumping up my tires again next to the start line. "Hey. Are you ready to go?" Everybody in the field is staring at me. "Uh.. I guess" I say and slowly put down the pump.

Some guy counts down. Everybody sprints away. I don't. Most of the field passes me in the first 20 seconds. My legs are entirely blown. I can't climb up the mellow Ohio grades on the back side of the course.

Half of the course is single track. I pass a few guys without really thinking about it. A few seconds later somebody rams their shoulder into me. "Dude what the hell are you doing?" I yell as we wind through the pines.

"You started it! That's what happens when you get all aggressive in the single track." he replys.

"But I didn't run into you." I say.

"You ran into me!" he says.

"What are you talking about? You were behind me. I can't see behind me." I say. Now I'm confused and annoyed. We ride in silence for a few more seconds, then apologize to each other.

I slow down. My quads and back are burning from accelerating out of all the corners. I spend 45 minutes trying to stay ahead of the guy in the purple Chamois Butter kit. I'm accused of "Bringing that Fabio shit" every lap. When I finish, I feel like dirt. I wasn't last in the A race, but I had to be close.

Colleen and I head back to Wooster. There's piss under the oven. Gluten free cookies in the oven. It smells like piss and cookies in the kitchen.

Sleep. Wake up. Back to Camp Manatoc for the mountain bike race.

Colleen's beginner race is first.

She catches a lot of the guys, comes in 2nd, and has a blast. Decides to race sport next time. Rides a more manly gear than Don Powers. Victory!

I still feel like a dirt pile, but it's my turn to race.

There's a big field and lots of fast dudes.

Everybody passes me in the first 20 seconds.

The course has tons of flat power sections, punchy climbs, and nothing technical. Everything that hurts me. And I already hurt.

I've never hurt this bad during a race. I keep riding. The course is super fast and fun. My legs are killing me.

I crack with 1.5 miles to go. Jake Grantham and a SS guy merrily roll away from me. There's nothing I can do to keep up. The guy in the purple Chamois Butter kit is right behind me.

Finish. 27 miles in 2:10. Man that hurt. I'm 10th overall. Not too bad, but it sure hurt more than usual. I shoulda stayed on the couch for the weekend and eaten pissy cookies. No more races the week after stage races.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Breck Epic 2010

It's done:

That was a great month. Colorado is the shit. Awesome weather (most of the time,) huge trail systems, and tons of people riding bikes.

In Pa. road construction there's "No center line" but in Colorado the "Center line does not exist." Very deep.

Doug is all organizes his stuff like this, and I think it's a great idea. So I'm stealing it.

My stage reports are up on Mountainflyer. They also have some race coverage with less me in it.
Stage 1

Stage 2

Stage 3

Stage 4 and 5

Stage 6


Big full-race report on the Speedgoat News Page.