Wednesday, December 28, 2011

An open letter to Andy

I had a very enthusiastic comment from an Andy yesterday. Which was odd. I thought my last post was about as bland and noncontroversial as a post can get.

Anyway, from the man himself:

"The industry will be better off when it rids itself of whiny, self entitled little bitches like yourself, who think that because you ride a bicycle fast, people buy bikes and parts because of you. Sorry to burst your bubble. Maybe it would mean better wages for "real" shop rats if there were no more Montana Millers. I think it would." 

Andy's comment was silly enough to warrant a response.

"The industry will be better off when it rids itself"

I guess in Andy's mind the bike industry is like a big dog that needs to scooter poop around the living room and leave racers stuck to the carpet. Then the industry will get up and shake itself, finally free of those parasitic, itchy racer dingle-berries.

"whiny little bitches like yourself"

Valid. I wear small t-shirts, and I do some complaining. I whine about running into deers and breaking cars, I whine about race courses with too much gravel, I whine about people who whine too much, and I whine about Ohio. I'm not sorry about it.

"self entitled"

My friends let me sleep on their floors, give me rides to races, and occasionally feed me. Some companies have given me deals on stuff. Niner has helped me with frames, Ergon with grips, and Twin Six with metal shirts. The guys at Industry 9 have been so supportive that they get their own sentence. I'm lucky enough to work for people that are happy to see me race, and always give me time off.

But I've never demanded anything (other than a good scooter-poop on a friend's carpet from time to time.)

Sponsorships are voluntary. I'm really grateful that people feel like I'm worth it.

"who think that because you ride a bicycle fast, people buy bikes and parts because of you"

If bikes and parts 'run real good' (as they say on the craigslists), I write and talk about them. Nobody buys stuff because I ride a bicycle fast (on good days). But they might consider my experience when they're buying something. Riding a bunch and racing every weekend gives my content some credibility.

I found out about I9 wheels from reading Dicky's blog, tried a dropper post because Harlan told me to, and bought my first One9 because Dejay and Fuzzy had a funny beards. Sponsorships in action.

Or, I actually do sell the stuff I race on:

"Maybe it would mean better wages for real shop rats if there were no more Montana Millers. I think it would."

I can't help it. I need to steal from the authentic shop rats to support my lavish lifestyle.

That's right. I have a pine tree. And a platform. I though it might be excessive to level my platform with some rocks, but then I was like, 'Screw it, I'm one of the Montana Millers. I can afford to do whatever I want while the rest of the Montana Millers are out robbing dinner tables and shutting off people's heat. I'm gonna go get some rocks.' And I did.

I rent the dirt under my tent to real shop rats after I take their wages.

Next post I'll be back to ruining the bike industry with my not-so-widely-read blogging.

There's a sweet new gnar shredding machine to talk about:

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Unlike a pig, the Little Ball of Hate will put lipstick and a thong on himself.
It takes a special person to be the fastest XC racer in Ohio.  

Anyway, a few important announcements:

-I'll be at Breck Epic, and I'll be writing things about Breck Epic. You should be there too. There might be lipstick and thongs (I'm trying to get the Little Ball of Hate to register.)

-I'm not riding for Speedgoat anymore. Those guys were great, but I really need somebody local as shop support. So Cycle Symphony in Adamsburg, Pa. is going to help me handle the big scary industry types

If you're in the Pittsburgh area, it's definitely worth stopping in the shop. Rob has some really cool high-end stuff in there, and he's just a few minutes off the turnpike. I saw a Niner RDO for the first time in person when I was in there. It was pretty, but it didn't taste as good as I thought it would.

Grant Mathews, if you're reading, I'm sorry I licked your new bike.   

-After licking Grant's bike, I picked up the primary race machine for 2012:
How much more black this could be?  

-The guys at Industry 9 fixed my wheels again. And they sent me a t-shirt. They're so nice.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Hast thou seen the white whale? Hast thou seen the white whale?

No? Great. Me either.

I took my final whaling test yesterday, so I’m done with class for a month. Yay.

On Friday night, after I finished filling my truck tires with a bike pump (150 pumps per tire,) I decided to drive four hours to my least favorite place in the world.

Unexpectedly, Ohio didn’t make me want to kill myself this time. The sun was out all weekend. It was cold, so the dirt was frozen solid.

I rode Vulture’s Knob, then Mohican, then Vultures Knob again.
The first rides were perfect. The third, not so much. I waited until 2:00, and by that time the trail was thawed. Vulture’s Knob is shit if there’s any wetness in the dirt.

The clay is simultaneously slipper than a marble floor covered in fish, and sticks to a bike better than concrete mixed with marshmallow fluff.

Still, not a bad last weekend in the Sausage State. I won’t be back there much since my reason to visit is 
going to New Zealand next semester. Wish I could visit that place every couple weeks. I’d love to meet the hobbits. 

Monday, December 12, 2011

Punk Bike Enduro 2011

I need to post about crushing Old Man Shogren's gearing record in the Dirty Dozen, but first I'm talking about Punk Bike.

Otherwise know as The Day Don Powers was too Drunk to Walk Uphill.

Or downhill:

When I got into my truck Sunday morning, I had three voice-mails from 1:30 am.

"Gruhha you douche bag we're gonna make sure you don't win anything tomorrow" said a someone with a West Virginian accent. I could hear Rich Dillen's maniacal elf cackle in the background. Bunch of cool guys.

I got to the rugby field 30 minutes late, but since it was Punk Bike, I was still 30 minutes early. I pulled on my banana suit and started making cruising around the parking lot.

Cinder Bloch Lochner was already pretty loose, and he had a backpack full of fireworks. Good combination. Dicky was making his debut as a Team 7-Up rider, and this guy's impersonation of a teen pop star wasn't scary at all:

Nice bike tinsel.

We started the derby. I ran into Dicky's back wheel and fell over. Chris Beech was crushing everything with his monkey paw. Then he was shoved by some angry hipster on the sideline.

He was depressed by his defeat for the rest of the day:

Poor sad Beer Monkey.

I missed the start of the next few stages, and won nothing. Cinder Bloch, still feeling loose, sprinted around me and crashed into a mud puddle. His denim short shorts filled with smelly dirt.

Jordan told me that he could unhinge his jaw and ride with a beer can in his mouth. Then he told me the story again. And again. Apparently he has no short term memory when he's drunk.

Then he noticed some mud in his dreadlocks. Somebody asked if he washes them, and he sighed.

"Man, it's sooo hard being punk and dirty all the time," he said.

There was a hill climb. I didn't want to go fast, but I did want to beat Dicky, so I kept reaching over and pulling his brake levers. The little elf man kept falling back then trying to sprint around me. We got into the woods, and he found a punk.

Angry that he had a punk and I didn't, I stepped on his bike, and refused to move until about a dozen people had passed us.

Then we found some mud, which smelled like a stew horse manure and everything in the world that has ever died. So Erika and Kelsi wrastled in it:

*the wrastlin wasn't filmed. shame.

After that, Cinder Bloch Lochner had to poop. He crawled over a hillside at the quarry, and settled down. I gave him time to get comfortable, then kept over the edge of the quarry with a firecracker. I lit the fuse, lobbed it, and ran.

It landed next to his foot and started blowing up.

"Ah! Man that's fucked up," he yelled. We were cracking up, then someone came over and scolded us for giving their dog a mental breakdown. So we put the bottle rockets and other explosives away.

Meanwhile, Andy Forron was making rounds with a mason jar of whiskey, which he bought from a guy in WV who was deer hunting on a porch with a cat in his lap.

And the speakers in Andy's backpack continued to play Scraper Bike. That song is at its best played on loop for six hours.

Then we rode through some more mud. Only one person had to get a helicopter ride to the hospital. Good day.

Monday, November 21, 2011

dirty rags and SSSRWC

Fine news this morning. I got a package from Dirt Rag full of shirts, socks, and stickers. I can't decide what to wear first.

I haven't had a chance to try on the jersey, but the Viking Cat assures me that the club-cut gives him plenty of mobility:

The stickers said "Ride a fucking bike" and "One less car, bitch." I found the first too forceful, and the second too pretentious. So I made some alterations.

The command became a statement of fact:

And the imperious statement became a reason for my girlfriend to slap me in the mouth:

That's what she gets for leaving her bike with me.

All of this stickiness is in preparation for the Single Speed Stage Race World Championships at Breck Epic, which I'm covering for the magazine. Eight people from the Pgh/ WV are already signed up. And there's always room for one more car in the caravan. Sign up is here.

For some stupid reason, MikeMac is considering having a fixed gear class. And on the facebook page, he's offering a jersey to anyone who can think of something more horrible than doing the race fixed. I think I'm in the lead so far:

If you have something worse than a bath in whale semen, by all means, take that free jersey from me. Then go see a psychiatrist.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Deer, meat cabrio

I creamed one of the bastards on Sunday night.

I rolled over the top of Three-Mile Hill outside of Donegal. It was a clear night. I was squinting to figure out if I could see Pittsburgh.

I was in the left lane. A big buck hopped over the jersey barrier and landed in front of me. He lifted off to jump again, and I hit him at 50 mpg.

My first thought was fuck me, this is going to be expensive.

The poor beast didn't die. When I walked back up to look at him, he was still trying to get up and run away. Both back legs were broken. And judging by the antler puncture in my fender, his neck was probably broken too.

A guy stopped and mentioned that we should call the state police to put the deer out of it's misery. As soon as he finished his sentence, a Ford pickup pulled onto the shoulder.

The driver got out with a handgun, walked over to the deer, and shot it in the head. It twitched around for a few seconds before it went stiff.

"Somebody'll pick at up and eat 'em," he said.

The hit did bad things to the tiny gay convertible.

Totally buckled the hood and passenger fender. Fortunately, it looks like the radiator took most of the hit and the rest of the insides weren't hurt. More fortunately, the deer wasn't high enough in the air to go through my canvas top. And now I'm car-less again.

This leads me to my horrible relationship with motor vehicles.

In 2008, the Dirt Mobilis didn't pass smog inspection. It had 245,000 miles, and I didn't want to fix it. So I sold it for a grand.

I didn't have a car all winter, then I bought a lifted SUV because my little economy car polluted too much. Ironic, yes. The government made me do it.

I lovingly named the monster the Grumbler, and it promptly blew boiling antifreeze all over my hands.

I fixed it, then it blew boiling antifreeze all over my hands again.

I fixed it again, and the clutch blew up. I couldn't get under it until the snow melted.

I drove it out West, and it blew boiling antifreeze all over my hands a third time.

I sold the Grumbler last January. I didn't find the Cabrio until March.

I spent one blissful month driving the Cabrio. Then transmission exploded during the Big Gay WV Adventure. It took almost two months to fix.

I drove it out west, and got a flat tire in the the desert in July.

And now I'm stuck again.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Murrysville 'cross

Things I'm bad at:

-keeping track of my mug
-remembering to wash my pants every month

This is me. Stick boy is behind me. He's about to lap me.

Murrysville was my first 'cross race of the season. I had to sprint to hold Stick off. But after that I settled back into my apathetic pace. I tried a lap on Don Power's geared bike, and I think I was slower on that than I am on my brakeless-fixed gear-29er thing.

I just can't take racing 'cross seriously. Doing the same grassy lap over and over and over starts to makes me lose interest.

Mud makes it a little better. At least then I get to throw down sweet skidz in the corners.

But hell, I'll be honest, I didn't used to go to 'cross races to race. I went to be an ass. I miss the donuts:   

The good days of whipped cream bunny tails, puffs of powdered sugar, and donut shaped welts. I miss them.

The only thing as good as donutting a friend in the face while they're on a bike is donutting a friend in the face while they're not on a bike.

But now donuts are banned. And I guess it's better that way. People shouldn't be distracted from the somber business of bicycle racing. It's very important stuff. I mean, I would never throw donuts at a surgeon during open heart surgery, or at a baby that was being baptized, so I don't know why I thought it was ok to throw donuts at racers.

I'm going to do one more 'cross race this season, the Little Washington 'Cross, just so I can put Old Meat Scissors Morrison back in his place.

His place is behind me:

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Super D wrap up

I'm pretty much done with race season, so I took a week off bloggy this thing. But I gotta tie up the loose ends on the Ohiopyle Super D race.

Everybody I talked to on race day had a blast. And Ohiopyle finally has a mountain bike race. Win.

The course was just right for a Month of Mud series race. Not too scary, long enough to avoid pissing off the XC folks, and still a different experience from a regular cross country race. It sounds like it's going to stay in the series.

Unfortunately for me, I flatted on my home course. Even more unfortunately, I lost to Don Powers by two seconds. He'll never let me forget it.

Most of the gnarly boys and girls didn't come out to play. We had about 35 show up for practice the day before. But they thought the course was too much pedaling, so they didn't come back for the race the next day. Understandable I suppose. A 45 minute Super D does have more pedaling than a two minute downhill at Seven Springs.

There were a few people that called it a regular XC race. I don't know about them, but I've never gotten to ride a bus to the top of a mountain in an XC race.

The course ended up being  2,138 feet down and 624 feet up over 9 miles. Here's the gps file. We went from the highest point in the park to the lowest. It was a long and mellow, but it was still a Super D.

That said, there's room for improvement. The long field section sucked. The gravel road section of McCune sucked. The go-arounds on the hard lines weren't long enough, and the hard lines weren't hard enough. And to be honest, Sugarloaf isn't the best downhill in the park. It just happened to flow the best for a race course.

Now that we have the logistics of getting bikes up the mountain, I'm hoping we can do a steeper and more technical race this spring. That would be a course that's 15-20 minutes long, almost entirely downhill, and full of big rocks. But if we want to do that, we (I) need to get cracking on a new trail. The terrain is there, it just needs raked off and mapped out.

And in the far far away future, it looks like Pittsburgh is invading the Breck Epic SS class next year. Oh yes. I pitched the idea of an East Side vs. West Side vs. The Big Belligerent Canadian points competition to MikeMac. It sounds like that's a go. Now I need to figure out a way to get there.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

All you ever wanted to know about the Ohiopyle Super-D

I've felt a like a politician when answering questions about the Super-D. I've been trying to convince two groups of people that the race will be cool: "yes shredder of the gnar, the course will be gnarly enough for you!" and "no xc racer, the course will not be so gnarly that you break your face into a thousand pieces."

So to clear up any uncertainties, here's the straight dope, as it were.

-The course is about 8 miles, with 1700 feet of descending. You will be bussed up to the start.

-Your AM bike will be fine.

-Your XC race bike will be fine (hardtail or full suspension.)

-Your fully rigid single speed will be extremely slow and uncomfortable, but you could pick your way down the course if you were really wanted to.

-You will probably have to walk your unicycle.

-You do not need to wear body armor, nor do you need to wear lycra.

The race can be split into two halves. The trail-loop on top of the mountain, and the downhill section back to town. The finish is in town. Your cheering fans don't have to walk more than two blocks from the ice cream shop. It'll be neat.

The loop up top, McCune trail, is rocky and technical. It's similar to Big Bear, the 7 Springs XC course, Laurel Mountain, or Moraine. It should take 15 to 25 minutes.

The downhill section will be as hard as you make it. Although it's longer, it's no more technical than a hard descent in an XC race in our area. However, unlike an XC race, you can't ride conservatively down the hill and expect to make up time somewhere else.

If you want to win this race, you'll have to ride hard and take lots of chances. There are water bars, big rocks, and all sorts of other things that will make you crash if you're going too fast. I bit it and killed my front wheel while shooting a video of the course, and I know this trail like I know the hair on my big toe.

The leaves are down and the trail will be wet, so even if you're the Supreme God Of Descending, it's going to be hairy going down the mountain at speed. If you go slow, it won't be so bad.

There are three optional sections on the course. The first is a ramp that launches you down a steep grassy hill. It's about 4 feet off the ground at the end, and you can be in the air for a long time if you hit it fast. The second is a drop into some pointy rocks. The third is a rocky chute (which I crashed in. there's a good line, and a line that makes you crash.)

Each obstacle has a go around, and taking the easy lines will add up to a four minute penalty for the whole course.

You can't do a 'cross dismount then jump down an obstacle it. We'll have to figure out a time penalty for anybody who does that. 'Cross racing types should understand a rule like that. After all, you can't win the Dirty Dozen by running up a hill. You gotta ride it.

If you've never ridden off a ramp before, don't pick the day of the race to try it. If you do, you'll probably hurt yourself. If you're a DH racer and used to hucking off garage roofs, you may be disappointed to learn that these obstacles aren't big enough to break both your legs and compress your spine. It ain't Crankworx. 

An XC race bike will probably be about the same speed as a 5 or 6" AM bike.

If Cyclocross is a race where roadies and XC guys can compete with each other, then a Super-D is one where XC racers and DH racers can race against each other.

If you race XC, you'll be challenged by going all out on the downhill. If you race DH, you'll be challenged by pinning it and pedaling hard for 40 minutes. Either way, you'll have a good time. Racing mountain bikes is fun.

And if you want to make a weekend out of it, there's a 'cross race Saturday, and a DH race later on Sunday afternoon. Both are about 30 minutes from Ohiopyle. There are a ton of camping spots around town, and good food and beer at the Falls City Pub.

We're running shuttles from the Wilderness Voyageurs store on Saturday. $10 for three rides to the top of the mountain.

Practicing is a good idea. You don't want this to happen to you:
The thwacking sound is my freshly rebuilt wheel hitting my fork. I guess I'm going to have to bother the nice fellas at Industry 9 to fix it again.

Here's the race website:

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Ohiopyle Super-D

I'm going to get to that last Pisgah post, but first I've gotta put up the Go Pro Bro video of the Ohiopyle Super-D course. The race is this Sunday, and we're doing practice runs on Saturday with shuttle rides to the top of the mountain. Registration is at the Wilderness Voyageurs store.

Here's the second half of the course, with an excellent demonstration of the wrong line through the final rock garden.
More info on the race here.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Pisgah Stage Race 2011: Stage 4

We're cruising up a double track climb. I'm sitting on Adam Craig's wheel. The rest of the pack is out of sight. This is super cool. I wonder how long I can stay with these dudes.

I roll over a rock. Thunk. The back end of my bike squirms around. Flat. Dammit. I jump off and shake the tire around a few times. Well, I guess that's the end of my glorious chase.

The air is hissing out of a sidewall. I can't get the Stans to seal it, so I pull off the tube I have strapped to my bike. It's a cross tube. Crap. This probably won't end well. I hit it with the CO2. Most of the field has passes me.

The tube blows up, but doesn't seat the tire. I work my hands around the bead, popping it on as I go. More time wasted. I finally get the thing back on my bike and start riding again. I re-pass a bunch of people. Everybody is mighty nice about letting me by.

Then we turn onto the Black Mountain descent that we finish on everyday. But this time we have to go up it. I jump off my bike and alternate between running and hiking.

20 minutes later I'm still pushing. I catch up to Cinder Bloch Lochner. He has two sets of flat repair stuff (good idea in Pig Saw,) and gives me his extra. I express my eternal gratitude as we hike together for a while. He says that Jason, who's currently first in SS, is only a minute up. I trudge away and try to catch him.

Another 20 minutes, and I reach something that looks like the top of a hill. I jump back on, turn right, and start riding down the trail. Laurel bushes scratch my arms and smack my face.

The trail gets steeper and steeper. I'm going faster and faster. Root drop coming up. Going way too fast. I drop over it and lock up the back wheel get slowed down before the next one. Pine needles spray up from my back tire. Hell this is steep. I drop over more roots, then the trail flows into a level section.

It pitches back up. Off my bike and start hiking again. The trail keeps shooting up and down for miles.

I'm 1:40 in, and I haven't even hit the first aid station at mile 9. This is ridiculously slow. It'll be a ten hour day  at this pace. I start another long downhill. Then I hit some wooden steps. Photographer to the left, another to the right. I've gotta be close to the aid.

Another big section of steps. There's the food tent. I come to a stop and ask the guys to pump up my back tire. It's already down to 18 psi.

Down more rocky single track, across a wooden cable bridge, then up a steep climb. Man my legs are burning from all that walking. I start the Squirrel Gap section. It seems a little easier to ride up than it was to ride down, but maybe that's because my seatpost isn't broken.

I start catching people. I'm making good time up this thing. I see Melanie McQuaid and the Birdman spinning up the hill. I pass a guy with a banjo.

"Hey, start playing that damn thing. Up?" I say.

He points to the right. "Yep. Up brother, always up," he says, then starts plucking.

I swing up the hill behind the Birdman. Jason is just a few feet in front of us. We speed up a little to catch him. I run around Jason then start moving faster up the hill. "I hate you," he yells.

The Birdman passes me again, then we start a gravely climb. I sit on his wheel. I hit a little stick. Thunk. The back end of my bike squirms around.

"Fuck my nuts. You've gotta be kidding me," I say. Flat again. I jump off and start installing the tube Cinder Bloch gave me. Melanie, Jason, and Morgan Olsson pass me again. Well that's discouraging. I hit it with a CO2, but the tire is still soft.

I ride it gingerly down the hill to Aid 2. I grab my food from my drop and set it on the table. I ask the guys to pump it up again, and we check for a sidewall cut. Can't find anything. I sprint away from the station.

I'm a few minutes down the road. I reach in my back pocket. I forgot my food. Son of a bitch. I can't do the rest of this stage without food. I turn around and sprint back to the Aid.

Food safely stored in my pockets, I set off again. I'm pretty bummed at this point. I ride more single track, a long gravel descent, then start the climb up Black Mountain. The climb is long and slow. Tom Waits' voice work it's way into my head. Miserys the river of the world. Everybody row. Row everybody row. 

Everybody row. I'm so tired. Row. Everybody row. Everybody row. Miserys the river of the world. Damn this is a terrible song to have stuck in my head.

I finally see the fire pit at the trail intersection. Right turn, a little more hiking, then the Black Mountain descent. I'm almost too exhausted to enjoy the downhill. My arms shake and start to cramp. Root drop, water bar, root drop, wall ride, smooth fast section. I roll dejectedly across the finish line. That was such a hard day. 

Watch more video of Pisgah Mountain Bike Stage Race 2011 on

Watch more video of Pisgah Mountain Bike Stage Race 2011 on

Monday, October 3, 2011

The End of Pigsaw

That was a great week. I'm not into cliche recaps, so until I finish my more detailed bloggerly duties I'll leave it at this: The Pisgah Stage Race was the best riding I've ever done. Better than Colorado in some ways. Fucking super cool. So cool that I might move to that little part of the world some day. 

The week ended up costing me about $150. We split Grandmas's House 7 ways, ate shitty Mexican food all week, and packed into a tiny TDI to carpool down there. That's a cheap week. Even if I would have had to pay the entry fee, it wouldn't have been that bad. And a stage race is so much more fun than a season full of 100 milers. If you're into this mountain biking thing, you should try stage racing. It's rad.  

Anyway, I'll have the Stage 4 and 5 reports up this week. 

Here are the ones I have done so far:

Pisgah Stage Race 2011: Stage 3

“Dude, Garth do you know that Jeramiah’s bullfrog calls you Man-woman?” I say. I’m delighted with the information I’ve just received.

“Yeah man, I let it go the first couple times, but now it’s pissing me off. I mean really? Man-woman? Just because I have long hair? I can’t stand close minded people man,” says Garth. He flicks a dred out of his face.

We’re in the field waiting to start Stage 3. It’s only 25 miles today, so it’s going to be a fast. Just like an XC race. I walk over to the Izzy’s coffee truck and get a free cup. This a rad setup. The guy has a generator and an espresso machine. And it’s free. Very nice.

Almost time to go. I line up next to the Birdman and Cinder Bloch Lochner. Todd gives us three seconds, then we hit it. Garth takes a flyer down the gravel road and tries to catch up with the lead car. Everybody else holds a steadier pace.

Garth jumps off his bike in the middle of the road. He pushes down on a flat rear tire with his thumb. The whole pack starts laughing as we surround and pass him. The Pflug decides to take advantage of Garth’s misfortune and sprints away.

It only takes us a couple minutes to catch him. It’s hard to make an attack stick with dudes like Jeramiah, Sam, and Adam leading the pack.

We turn into the singletrack and start a steep climb. I make some passes and get up with the lead four pro guys and the Elite Elderly Leader Andy Johnson. I’m feeling pretty excellent. I’ve gotta go for a good overall finish today.

The singletrack opens back up into some flatter smooth stuff. I stick on Andy’s wheel. I almost feel bad that I can’t help pull, but that’s the way of the parasitic single speeder. I tuck and spin.

I head into the first downhill, and my arms give out. My hands and wrists are completely destroyed from the last two stages. I fumble down the water bars and loose rocks un-gracefully. Hopefully my upper body will warm up and start working.

I let Andy set the pace up the next climb. I might not be able to hold onto my bars, my legs feel great. We turn back down a hill, and he tells me to take the lead.

I spin out to get up to speed and start flowing down the trail. It’s smooth and super fast. Big mounds to pump over, nice burms in the corners, and tacky dirt.

I hit the bottom and spin. I don’t see anybody behind me. Up a little gravel climb, then down more sweet flowing trails. I’m sitting in 5th overall right now. I need to hold this pace.

Another downhill. I ride over some big rocks, then stop at the top of a drop. The trail is a five-foot deep drainage ditch that’s full of big rocks. If there’s a line down this thing, I’m not seeing it. I jump off my bike and start running down the hill.

Somebody yells to me. I look left. Husky Thom Parsons. With the big Cycling Dirt camera.

“You fucker! Put that camera away while I’m walking,” I yell. Then I see a grandmotherly looking woman standing next to him. Whoops. Should have watched that language.

I jump back on my bike and pedal across a long section of flat gravel. I’m spun out and afraid that somebody is going to catch me. I finally make a turn onto a pavement and start heading back up the mountain.

Through Aid Station 2 and onto a single track climb. My eyes are popping out of my head like a Boston Terrier's. The trail gets too steep to ride, so I start running. Then it turns downhill. I jump back on my bike, but the dirt pitches right back up in a few feet. Dammit. It keeps undulating, 100 feet up, 50 feet down, over and over.

I see Andy spinning up the climb a few feet back when I’m off hiking. Crap. I need to move faster. I’m desperate to get to the descent.

After another couple hiking sections, I hit the top and start bombing back down. I’m not holding anything back. I rip down the loose rocks, then the trail levels out again. Another climb. Shit. This is going to kill me.

I pin it up the hill. I’m getting dizzy but I can’t slow down. I finally see the last turn. I shred the smooth single track down hill, and spin the flat section across the bottom. I can see the finish. One hard turn and a 100 yards on gravel, and I’m there.

I hear a deraliur clanking behind me. That has to be Andy. I make the turn, hit the gravel and sprint.
I cross the line. Andy is less than a bike length back.

Hot damn. I got it. 5th overall behind Koerber, Bishop, Craig, and Edsall. That’s a solid day. My legs start to lock up. I might die tomorrow.

Videos by Huskey Thom:    

Watch more video of Pisgah Mountain Bike Stage Race 2011 on

Watch more video of Pisgah Mountain Bike Stage Race 2011 on

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Pisgah Stage Race 2011: Stage 2

There's a little kid with a frog backpack crawling around next to the podiums. Bishop picks him up. That must be Jeremiah's kid. Jeremiah's bullfrog.

"Hey Birdman, look, it's Jeremiah's bullfrog," I say. The Birdman starts laughing. Then he stops. A chipmunk freezes next to his foot and looks up pleadingly. He lashes out with his talon, spears the chipmunk, and snaps it's neck with his beak. Then he continues laughing. I stare at him.

The next morning is foggy. We ride over to the start and load our bikes on to a truck. There are two trolleys parked in the gravel. That's our ride to the start line.

We load up on the trolley. The lady on the speaker system is giving us a tour of Brevard. Five minutes into the ride I feel like my bladder is going to explode. The woman is talking about white squirrels and paper mills, and I really want to listen, but I can't think of anything other than peeing on the floor.

30 minutes later we stop in the forest. I sprint off the trolley and hide behind a tree. We wait a while for the second truck load of bikes, then ride up to a field to start the stage.

We pile our bikes in the grass and line up for a LeMan's start. The Pflug starts sneaking forward. I yell at him. Todd raises the starter gun and starts counting down. Somebody moves, then we all start sprinting. Todd points the gun at the guy who started running and fires. We're half way to the bikes by the time he gets the shot off.

I jump on my bike and get behind Garth. We shoot down the gravel road and ford a wide stream. There's a short section of pace-lining, and I get dropped. I start the nine mile climb. I can see the groups splitting up ahead. The pro men are gone and the elite elderly men aren't far behind.

The road keeps winding and winding around the ridge. Up higher and higher. I'm sitting and spinning up the mountain. It's not a bad grade. Steep enough to be interesting, but not too hard to ride. I fill a bottle at the first aid.

Almost an hour into the stage I hit the top of the climb. I start ripping down Farlow Gap. It's fast at first, lots of roots, a couple sharp corners. I think they said we would have to walk this, but it doesn't seem too bad.

Then I see the man in the white squirrel suit. He yells some squirrelly cheer and shakes his nut staff.

The trail drops straight down. This is bad. There are huge sharp rocks everywhere, and they're shifting around under my wheels. There's one chick walking her bike on the left and a dude walking down the right. I've gotta plow right through the middle of this thing or I'm gonna die.

I get my ass as far back as I can and drop over rock after rock. This is terrifying. I'm going too fast to pick out any sort of line. Then the rock garden ends. I made it. My leg starts twitching.

Then there's a huge root drop. A slab with a big drop off the end. More root chutes. Both legs are twitching now. This is the sketchiest thing I've ever ridden. If I think about it, I'm going to drop right over that hill side and break myself. I start singing a Kesha song out loud. I hope nobody can hear me over all the noise my bike is making.

I come to the top of a huge steep staircase thing. That's my limit. I'm walking this part. I scramble down it and hike over a stream. Thom Parsons heckles me from a rock. The single track turns back up hill. That was the coolest and most horrifying descent I've ever ridden. Goddamn that was rad. I love this place.

I ride down a super fast root covered hill that goes forever, then into Aid 2. Grab some bottles and head back out. I start another gravel climb. This is probably going to be long.

There's a white land cruiser at the bottom of a little gap in the trees. There are no skid-marks on the road, and the car doesn't look crushed. That's weird. How'd such a nice Land Cruiser get way down below this road?

I finish the climb. That was excessively long. My legs are feeling a little beat. Down some gravel, up some pavement, up some more gravel, and into Aid 3.

Turn onto some single track. I ride it for a while, then it pitches straight up. Looks like I'm taking my bike for another walk. I push up through the rocks. My freewheel clicks loudly. Left onto Black Mountain trail. I know we finish on Black Mountain, but I'm sure there's going to be a lot of walking between here and there.

The trail drops down and I can ride again. Another sweet downhill. Roots and big ruts all over the place. This is great. I plop down a stair case at the end and rip down some smooth single track. Back onto gravel, more fast descending, then I turn onto a climb. I recognize this from our pre-ride on Monday. Sweet. This is it. Last climb before the descent to the finish.

It takes forever. I really want this thing to end. Finally it does, and stop to lower my non-dropper post. I shred the grar all the way down Black Mountain and cross the finish line. That was a really long stage.

There's only a few guys back so far. So that probably put me in the top ten. Nice. And tomorrow we get to sleep in, then do a short 25 mile stage. Extra nice.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Pisgah Stage Race 2011: Stage 1

"You  nervous Birdman?" I say. We're rolling in a big group on a road behind the pace car.

"No. I'm just going for a ride," says the Birdman.

"Oh fine, gonna play it cool are you? What a cool guy," I say.

We turn onto some gravel and the pace car speeds up. The Pflug shoots out of the pack and goes after the car.  "Oh shit, we gotta try to catch Ger-Bear," I say to Garth Prosser.

"No way I'm doing that man," says Garth. Then he drills it and goes after the Pflug. I say with him for a few seconds, then I need to slow down.

Garth and the Pflug stay ahead for a few minutes, but then they're re-absorbed into the main group. The gravel pitches up a little more, and Jeramiah "Tough as Coffee Nails" Bishop, Sam Korber, and Adam Craig's little posse spins away.

I ride with Pflug and the Birdman most of the way up the hill. The climb is super long, but not too steep. We top out after 45 minutes and swing onto a flat smooth trail. Everybody with gears rips past me. I'm alone, spinning, getting a little lackadaisical.

The meandering descent ends and I cross a bridge. I pop over a little log and make a hard right onto the trail. It shoots straight up the hill. Shit. That was abrupt. I went from comfortable spinning to ripping my back and leg muscles off trying to get up this hill.

The dirt is wet and slick. It's slow. A light fog hangs over the trail. I make a few delicate turns through the mud. The trail narrows down and I start the section that was supposed to be half-track. It's sweet, but there's nothing half about it. It's just some off-camber Appalachian singletrack. Wet roots, rocks trying to buck me off the hillside, and hard corners with streams running down the middle.

I sit down and my seatpost compresses. I didn't hit the drop button. That's not good. I grab the saddle and pull it up. It falls right back down.  Now I'm fucked. My dropper post is permanently dropped. A couple guys pass. I ask them how far it is to the aid.

45 minutes with a 30 minute gravel climb. I'm going to die without a saddle to sit on. Then I remember the duct tape I have wrapped around a CO2. Thank god I followed Pflug's advice to carry tape. I pull the post up and wrap the tape around the thing. It kind of works. I climb up towards the aid. By the time I hit the station the post has compressed a few inches.

We wrap it in more duct tape and zip ties and I set off with my crippled post.

There's some rolling gravel, a single track climb, then I hit Aid 3. I borrow a 5mm and put my seatpost up a few more inches.

"Seven more miles right?" I ask the long haired prospector looking dude that loaned me a tool.

"About that. But you've got a little hike. Nice view at the top though," he says.

Nice. The hike couldn't be that long. I feel like I'm already at the top of the ridge. I start running.

30 minutes later I'm still pushing my bike up the damn hill. I set it on top of a rock, scramble up, and repeat. But when the trees open up, the view is incredible. Blueish green hills and far off rocks. I keep walking.

I finally come to a spot where I can ride my bike again. Then the trail drops straight down the mountain. I pound over water bar after water bar after water bar. The orange dirt is washed out and there's huge holes in between roots. My hands are cramping but the hill keeps going. I slam over more water bars.

I pass a dude next to a dead campfire and the hill pitches back up. I hike up, lower my broken dropper post, and start descending again. More water bars and off-camber roots. I clip a rhododendron and roll forward into the dirt. I get up real quick and keep descending.

The trail smooths out and turns into a series of fast jumps and wall rides. I ride the rest of the hill and cross the finish line. 1st SS by about a half hour. Nice. Now I have to try to fix my stupid dropper post.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

It's time to slay some Pig Saws:

The race is from Tuesday to Saturday, and I'll have blog updates here after every stage. If I don't somebody might make me pay for my entry.


Saturday, September 17, 2011

pig saw

The new issue of XXC Mag is out, complete with the article about the week in Breck with Don Powers and Aaron. Get it here.

In one week from today, we're going to the Pisgah Stage Race. Or Pig Saw, as my dad reads it.


Anyway, after riding the Ohiopyle Super-D course with Dahn Pahrs on Saturday, Rob and I are heading down to Brad the Birdman of Charleston's nest.

We'll leave the Birdman's Sunday morning, and try to win some lunch money at the WVMBA Series Championship. After the race, (hopefully with lunch money in hand), we'll return to the Bird's Nest and eat all his food. I assume there will be worm smoothies.

Then Monday morning, we'll fly out of the Bird's Nest again, and begin the long journey to PIG SAAWWW. Garth Prosser, the Crazy Australian Chick, and the Guy I Don't Know, should all be arriving to Grandma's House in Brevard at the same time as us.

I haven't talked to the Blue Ridge adventure guys yet to see where my blog posts are going to be published. But they'll up after every stage. I'll try to figure out where this week.

And it looks like Cory Rimmer isn't on the blogger page anymore. I'm not sure what happened there. But it makes me the only blogger.

If he's not going to the race, I'm not sure why he went through all the trouble of winning the blog contest. Without him in that contest, Dicky and I would have probably been the ones with free entries. And I would have had the chance to beat up on a short, squeaky, older dude all week. But maybe something came up for the Rimmer that I don't know about.

I wanted to get my bike setup posted on the Blue Ridge Adventures facebook page a few weeks ago, but it still isn't set up. My new 15mm Reba has some play between the stanchions and the lowers already.

I called SRAM yesterday, and they're going to send me a new Reba RLT Ti 120 with a 20mm thru-axle. Score.

That's awesome customer service. They didn't even need to see the old fork to confirm it was broken. I'm pretty sure they would have sent me a new fork if I would have told them that the white wasn't an exact match for my grips.

So the fork will be in on Tuesday, I have to switch the tapered uppers on it to a set with a straight steerer, convert my front hub to 20mm, and then I should be ready to go.

XXC has a sweet preview of the race.

*all plans subject to approval by Brad the Birdman of Charleston

Friday, September 9, 2011

a photo of big trav bending over a hot caddy

Deep sigh. baahhh. Labor Day Weekend is over, and now things start to quiet down in Ohiopyle. Sadly, instead of racing the 24 hours of Seven Springs or Shenandoah 100, I was selling chips and Gatorade all weekend. 

And watching Big Trav try to fix an 85 Cadillac for a family of Dutch people. 

He was convinced that if he repaired their car, they would give him their daughter to be his eternal sex slave. Sounds reasonable. 

Unfortunately, we can't fix busted heater cores on Park View.
But Big Trav sure loved that red leather and coolant smell.

Now that that's out of the way, there are only a couple weeks left until the Great Pisgah Bicycle Extravaganza. There's been a flurry of facespace discussion, and it looks like Rob, Brad the Birdman of Charleston and I are going to be splitting a place called "Grandma's House" with Garth Prosser and his band of misfits. It should make for an epic article for the Dirt Rag

I still need to get a headset that doesn't wobble, but other than that I think I've finalized my bike setup.

Fast knobby tire:

15mm thru axle and 120mm of travel:
Sweeet. I'll test it all out tomorrow at the 9 Circles of Hill, which at the request of Prof. Shelmire has become the 9 Cirlces of Gnarlyness. 

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

getting caught up: black bear, white oak, and the henry clay 30k

WV State Championships Black Bear:

We drive down to Brad the Birdman of Charleston's house on Saturday night. His pitbull attacks us with her cat-like affections and happy butt shaking. We watch Mad Max bounce around on bungee cords while fighting Blaster of Master Blaster in the Thunderdome.

The next morning a silver Audi A4 motor paces us down the road. I get right behind the car to draft. Everytime I get close, the damn driver speeds up. I finally say screw it and drop back. The other single speeders catch me, and we're passed by every class except the ladies.

We hit the gravel climb and I start towing Gunnar back up to the lead group. Near the top of the climb, we make contact with them. I run out of gas, and Gunnar drops me, without even a 'thank you' for that long pull up the hill. I fall back to Don Powers speed. The sky gets angry and slams us with rain and lightening. I hope a tree branch doesn't fall on my head.

An hour later, the sky finally clears. I ride down a few big scary descents and sprint into the finish. First in the single speed class, but not really first single speed. Damn that evil old man Gunnar. I'm not really from West Virginia either, but they give me a big State Champion Mug anyway.

An unknown racer is spotted with markings left by an affectionate female leach. He is teased relentlessly.

White Oak Challenge:

It dumps rain right before the race, but the sun comes out when we stand on the start line. We sprint out on a gravel road and into some slippery single track. I take the lead. Alright, I feel good. I'm going to race well today.

I ride into the start of the one hard rock garden on the course. There's a plant hanging across the trail. I ride through it. It's covered in thorns and almost saws my arm off. "Shit that hurt," I yell. The bend of my elbow is sticky with blood.

The rocks are too slippery to ride, so I jump off and start running.

"Woah woah woah!" yells Gunnar. I think he's still riding, so I move over to let him pass. He runs by me carrying his bike and chuckles. "Heh! I can't believe you let me do that!" Tricky old bastard. I don't see him again for the rest of the day.

The course twists up, down and side to side on the ridge. Most of the trails are smooth and slick from the rain. I drop my chain descending a little hill. Joey Riddle rides past me.

I can't get the chain back on. "You stupid son of a fuck," I say to the bike.

"What did you just call me?" Joey yells back, a little surprised and offended.

"Uh, my bike, I was calling my bike a stupid son of a fuck," I say.

"Try calling it a whore," he says.  

I get the chain back on and finish the race. Third overall, first in the single speed class, but not really first single speed. Damn that evil old man Gunnar.

Henry Clay 30k: 

We start up a road, and I'm dropped again. I make it into the woods something like 10 back. The rest of the start is downhill. The group is moving too fast to attempt a pass, but not fast enough to keep up with Tim de la Garcon. We hit the first little climb, and I swerve around everybody. I see Garcon and the guy in second cresting the top of the hill already. Bummer. They'll be near impossible to catch.

I run up part of the next hill then swoop into some single track. I'm actually riding really well today. I haven't felt this good since the Big Bear Ultra. Since Gunnar is putting on the race, he's not racing today. I finally feel good, and I don't even have a chance to redeem myself by beating the evil old man.

I go back and forth with Steve Rowand all day. He passes me on the wide open big ring sections, and I catch back up when we get back into the woods. Todd Latocha catches me on the last climb up the rail grade, and I pull him up to Steve.

I stay ahead of those two for a while, but eventually they come around me. I spin the last rolling trail into the finish. Fifth overall, first single speed, and really first single speed. Really good race. Everyone else who rolls across the line seems to be in high spirits.

I turn around at the awards so that Gunnar can tuck my prize into the back of my shorts. As I'm walking away, the money falls out of my waist band and scatters all over the ground. People laugh and children cry.

So there. Now I'm blogged up with all those XC races. Sadly, I will not be attending the Shenandoah 100 next weekend. It's just too busy in Ohiopyle land that weekend.

Pisgah Stage Race is coming up really soon (end of September. yikes.). Rob and Brad the Birdman have both signed up, so we'll caravan down and camp together. After the race, I'm writing an article for the Dirt Rag. Hopefully something ridiculous happens so that I have some good material.

And I've been doing some trail work to get things ready for the Ohiopyle Super-D on October 23rd. 1700ish feet of rocky descending in 8 miles. It'll be super sweet. More on that later.

Oh, last order of business. Slag Track tonight!

Frick Park Slag Heaps, 7:00 pm. Bring a gnarly bike. We're doing all the fun stuff tonight.   

Monday, August 15, 2011

Big Bear Ultra 50 Race Report ('11)

My front wheel sinks into a mud hole and I go over the bars. I land on some wet pine needles. Tim de la Garcon fades into the mist with the clanking of his derailluer.

"Oh June-Bugs everywhere! Come on now little boy!" Gunnar shouts in his nasally voice. Damn old bastard. I've gotta loosen up. I can't be crashing on these rocks for the next 45 miles.

I get on Gunnar's wheel and follow him through the endless rock garden. The forest is foggy and quiet.

"Crack rock! Woohoo!" Gunnar yells. He disappears into a handlebar-wide gap between two cliffs. I roll in behind him. There's no light between the rocks. I drop off a little boulder at the end of the cave and land on my front wheel. My suspension compresses with a thud. Dammit fool. That wasn't smooth.

Gunnar is bounding through some wet rocks next to the cave and chattering loudly. I follow him through the rocks, over some huge boulders, and down onto a section of double track. Now I'm feeling good. I attack and pull away from Gunnar on a climb. He catches back up and swerves in front of me before we hit the single track again.

We climb up to the top of the ridge and wind through the pine trees. Back down some rocks, then up again. At the first water stop Gunnar pulls off, I assume to deal with his incontinence. I've gotta hit it while he's wiping his ass. I pedal hard and twist through the pine trees. Across the top of the ridge on a section they use for the 2x12 race, then down onto a trail I've never seen before.

I pop over a log then slide down a wet bank. The mountain laurel closes tightly around the trail. It's scratching at my arms. I grind out of the soft soil and get back onto firmer ground. Out of the woods by the Campground Convenience Store, then into to some winding single track next to the road.

I grab my bottles at the start/finish, then look down the double-track. There are arrows pointing in two directions. "Which way do I go?" I yell up to the tent. No response.

"Which way?" Nothing. Gunnar, Todd, and Mike are crossing the road and coming up to the tent. Damn.

"Hey, which way?" Now the other three are right next to me.

"Oh, go straight," somebody finally says. That's great. Now I have to try to get away from these people again.

"See little boy, I went slow and I knew you would stop. My plan worked perfectly," Gunnar yells.

"Glad I could help. Were you changing your Depends back there?" I say.

"Oh yeah, you know puttin some fresh glue on the dentures," he says.

The four of us ride together for a few miles, then Mike drops off. A minute later, Gunnar vanishes behind me. Todd catches up. "What happened to those two?" I ask.

"Mike flatted, and I think Gunnar dropped his chain," he says. Nice. The old man won't have a chance to catch back up if we hold this pace. Water starts dumping from the sky.

I'm soaked in under 30 seconds. That was abrupt. My gloves squish on the grips and my shoes feel like little sunken boats. We climb over a tree and crash through some more over-grown mountain laurel. Todd pulls ahead of me on a section of flat double-track.

I decide to stop for a pee break. I've been holding it for about 43 miles, and that's long enough. I count the seconds and look behind me, hoping that Gunnar doesn't appear from the woods.

Back on the bike and through some fun single track next to a couple trailers. I know I'm close to the end now. Across the dam, only a mile or so to go. I look back again. No Gunnar. I coast down the last hill and cross the line. No Gunnar. Victory! And third overall. Not a bad day.

Brad the Birdman of Charleston is already changed and standing under the tent. "What happened to you?" I ask.

"Oh my hand hurt, so I quit," he says

"Dude, did you see the guy that got impaled with his brake lever? He had this big hole in his chest and blood everywhere." somebody says.

"Wow, he stuck a brake lever through his chest? That's pretty gnarly. So you quit because your hand hurt a little Brad?" I say.


Don Powers rolls across the line with some blood on his legs. "I crashed 8 times, and I saw this one dude go over the bars and land on his head. He didn't even know where he was. Totally knocked out," he says.

"You crashed 8 times and that guy knocked himself out? Crazy. Brad quit because his hands were sore," I say.

The Birdman glares at me.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Pisgah Preparationing

Now that the Wilderness 101 is done, and the Big Trip West in the Tiny Gay Convertible long completed, the Pisgah Mountain Stage Race is the next big event on my calender.

I've never ridden in Pisgah, so for all I know the place is populated by frogs dancing in cowboy boots.

While this chart doesn't do anything prove or dis-prove the existence of frog people, it does show that Pisgah is the most technical of the three US stage races. If Jeremiah "I'm tough as coffee nails" Bishop's average speed was 11.9 mph, there must be some rocky and rooty shit out there.

RaceDaysMilesElevation GainOverall WinningTimeOverall Winner Avg Speed (mph)Tandem TimeCash PurseSolo Entry Fee
Transylvania Epic723529,860'13:11:5617.916:34:25$10,000$999.99
Breck Epic624037,000'18:16:1213.2N/A$0$995
Pisgah Stage Race519528,000'16:21:3911.9Yeah Right! Not on these trails!$15,000$700

So, in order to prepare myself to race five hard days on a single-speed 29er hardtail, I decided to acquire a geared 26er all-mountain bike.

Enter the Prophet. This thing used to be a rental at WV, but I don't think anyone ever rented it. It was probably too nice to lend to the hyper-destructive Boy Scout groups we get.

When I'm sitting in the un-airconditoned garage at work, my brain isn't functioning at it's highest level, so I think my thought process went something like this:

Pisgah is going to be really technical. 

I bet a full-suspension gnarly bike would be really good for that place. Why are these people looking at me? But I don't have a full suspension gnarly bike.

Maybe I should buy the Prophet since it's full-suspension gnarly bike, and then I should get fast on it. They're still standing there. I'm hungry.  

Once I'm good at riding the full-suspension gnarly bike, those gnarly skills will carry over to my Niner, and I'll be good-er at riding that to. They look impatient. Maybe they want to rent something. I'll speak to them once I'm finished thinking.  

After I'm good at riding the gnarly bike and good-er at riding the hardtail, I'll beat Jeremiah "I'm tough as coffee nails" Bishop and everyone will want to rub my feet. 

And that was it. I had spare money from the Race the Pflug won, and the Prophet was cheap, so I bought it. I wish that it was one of these, but it was available and affordable. Now I own an archaic single pivot beef machine.

So far, it's taught me is that large heavy bikes are not good for short-track racing at the slag heaps.

I brought it to one of our little Tuesday night races, and was easily dispatched by Tim Mold, Don Powers, and Aaron. It was worse than racing 'cross on a fixed gear.

Unfortunately, to someone with a brain as beautiful as Don Power's, gears and suspension = a bike faster than a single speed race bike. I've ridden a few miles on a single speed race bike, and I happen to know that this is not the case. But Don Powers doesn't care. He'll yell about the day he beat me at slag track on Tuesday night for the rest of forever.

But the Prophet has proven one theory that I've had for a while, but have never been able to test: squishy bikes are really fun on chunky descents. I'm really enjoying the workout I get from muscling this thing up a hill, and even more enjoying shredding back down. Now that I know I like squishing bikes, if there were some way for me to rustle up a RIP9, and put a Paul Tensioner on it, I think that would be my ideal bike for racing fun at Pisgah.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Wilderness 101 Race Report 2011

"What's your vegetable today?" Colleen asks. We're sitting in the the middle of a crowded Cracker Barrel. There's a sign for 1% - a Modern Milk on the wall.

"Rice," the waitress says. Some old people are buttering biscuits.

"Rice? Rice is your vegetable?" Colleen says laughing. I put my head down on the wood table. Stop badgering the waitress Colleen. The poor woman doesn't care that rice is a grain.

"Yesm. Rice," she says impatiently.

After we eat, we leave Altoona and finish the drive to Coburn. It's 9:30, so we're some of the last ones into the campground. I pick up my number plate and drive the tiny convertible aimlessly around the packed field looking for the campsite where Don, Aaron, Rob, and Rob's Connecticut friends are set up.

I see a dark figure walking towards the car. "You drove right past us. I was like, what is he doing. Go park over there," Don Powers yells and points.

I swing the tiny convertible onto some grass next to Aaron's Mini Cooper. We grab our tent and bags and follow Don Powers. Everybody is sitting in the dark under an easy-up. I can't make out a single face. There isn't much conversation. I fill my bottles, drop off my drop bags (two bottles, one gel flask, and a cliff bar in each one), and lay down in the tent. The stream and bugs are louder than the 300 people camped in Coburn Park.

I have to piss three times during the night. Damn suggestive stream. I make sure to go next to Aaron's tent.

It's light already. Colleen shakes me. I groan. I hate these early starts. I check my tire and fork pressure. Pull on my riding clothes and head over to the port-a-potties. The line is huge on both sides. I count the people. 15. Dammit. I stand there for almost 20 minutes while people slowly file in to the bathrooms.

It's almost 7. I stand next to Garth Prosser and Matt Ferrari in the big pack. The Land Cruiser pulls away, and the neutral roll out begins. Garth waves to me to follow him up to the front. I look down at his seatpost. He has a little wrinkly guy with an erection zip-tied to it. That's odd.

The Land Cruiser pulls off and the pack turns left across the bridge. The Pflug immediately takes the lead on the climb. Holy shit. He's drilling it already. I jump on his wheel and hang on. We pass all the geared guys and start pulling away from the field. The Pflug is setting the pace at around 18 mph on this steep climb. This is ridiculous.

Four miles later we hit the crest. He hasn't slowed down at all. The gravel road flattens out, and the fast geared guys finally start to come around. The pace ramps up to almost 30. I hang on for a few miles, but then I have to let them go. I can't spin on a flat road like this. It's going to kill me. I drop back to my comfortable 15 mph pace.

The remaining 20 miles to aid station 1 are terrible. I'm by myself almost the entire time, spinning along the gravel roads dejectedly. I can't wait for the climbs to start.

I finally make it to the aid station, grab a couple bottles, and start the second big climb of the day. I'm hoping that I can start catching up to some of the guys that were able to hang in the fast group longer than I could. I hit three bridges, screw up the rock garden, then roll back out onto more gravel.

Through Aid 2. I've only seen a couple other single speeders. I'm not sure what place I'm in now. More gravel and gravel and gravel and gravel. Man I forgot how gravely this race was. They should call this the NUGGET series. National Ultra Gravel Grinding Endurance... but what's the T?

I ride the big climb out of Aid 2. That was long. I start the descent. I pass at least 12 guys that are off to the side of the trail fixing flats. The downhill is sweet. I'm cruising down the bumpy rocks, making a little turn at the bottom, then it's over.

Gravel gravel gravel gravel. The stupid little rocks crunch under my tires. I climb the big hill up to Aid Station 3. That was also long. I grab some gels and bottles from my drop bag. Colleen is under an easy-up tent pouring little cups of Coke and swatting away swarms of wasps. I ask how far ahead the Pflug and Ferrari are. 25 minutes and ten minutes. I have 40 miles to go. Man, it's going to be really hard for me to make up any of that time on all these roads.

I hit a cool section of rocky single track on top of the ridge. It winds around through the trees and over some rocks. I pass people through the rock gardens, then I come up behind a guy that's riding pretty slow. I better get around him before this long downhill starts. There's no place to pass safely unless he lets me.

"Hey man, can I scoot around you?" No response.

"Can I get by?" No response. He's still going really slow.

"Hey, can you let me pass you? We're not even racing. I'm on a single speed and I need to make some time down this hill." No response.

"Dude, can I please get around?"

"What? You want me to stop for you?" he says angrily.

"I want you to move over for a second so that I can pass," you stupid inconsiderate shit (I add the last part in my head.) He doesn't move, and we start the downhill. Now there's no place for him to go. He picks his way down the rocks carefully, I ride his back tire, extremely frustrated, burning my brakes. What a meat head. Why couldn't he have let me go by? I could have ripped down the hill, he could have gone easy, and we both would have been happy.

He finally moves over at the bottom of the hill. I ride 200 feet of trail unimpeded, then I'm back on the gravel. Under the overpass of Aid 4, and up the last big climb of the day. I catch up to another single speeder, and we ride together for a while. National Ultra Gravel Grinder Endurance Tuff Series. Time Trial Series. Trombone Series. I give up.

Down some gravel then on to a bumpy road thing. The road is just steep enough that I'm spun out, but just flat enough that I need to keep pedaling. It's not such a hot piece of trail. Into Aid 5. 12 miles to go.

I ride the a rail trail, climb the last hill, walk most of the silly rock garden on the Fisherman's Trail, then cruise along the other rail trail. Since this is my third 101, I'm entirely prepared for the dark tunnel. I take off my sunglasses. I can almost see through the thing.

I spin the road into Coburn Park and bang the gong. 8:10, 6th single speed. Same place as last year, slightly slower time on the changed course. I feel way too fresh. I walk over to Ferrari and ask him how he did.

"Oh, alright," he says.

"Did you finally beat the Pflug?" I say.

"No, Gerry took it again, how'd you do out there?" he says.

"I didn't blow up, but I went too easy this time. I just can't find that balance," I say.

"You'll have it down in like seven years," he says.

I walk over and lay down in the creek. People start trickling in. First Aaron, then Don Powers, and the Rob. All of the Connecticut guys DNF except for one. It gets dark and Chris Scott is still calling out names as people finish the race. We're sitting under the easy up with some citronella candles.

"At Mohican, this dude hit a chipmunk. It was just laying there on the trial twitching around." Don Powers says, "So I was like, alright, I'm Dahn Pahrs, I'm gonna take em aught. So I do a quick little turn and run it over. Just put it out of it's misery. If I see somebody suffering on the trail, I'm gonna take em aught. Cause I'm Dahn Pahrs. I threw up eight times today."

Monday, July 25, 2011

back in the pyle

Now that I'm back in Ohiopyle, I've resumed my normal patterns of working, eating free meals at Colleen's house, and being pissed off at the screeching train that rumbles by every 45 minutes:

Colorado's mountains were 75 degrees the whole time I was there, so the "heat bubble," or what ever they're calling it now has not been a nice thing to come back to. It's been so hot that I was forced to remove the rain cover from my home and string up an elevated roof for better cooling:

Ahh. Un-conditioned air.

Lazy picture transition:

The Breck 100 went great. Prompted by Don Powers and Aaron, I switched from my usual 38x20 to a 38x25 before the race. Since I was switching gears, I figured I should get smart about the rest of the race.

Racing smart is a new thing for me. My typical strategy in a hundred miler is to race the first 30 miles like I'm going for the overall win in an XC race, then blow up and spend the next 7 hours crying, walking, and wishing that a bear would rip open my stomach and eat my intestines so that I have an excuse to quit.

But this time things were different. I ate protein bars, oranges, and roast beef. I ran an easy gear. I slept a lot in the days leading up to the race. I drank coffee before the third lap. And it all worked.

I could ride every climb, spin at around 10 mph, never blew up, and I finally beat the Pflug. I finished in 6th and had a lot of juice left. Next time I do that race I'll run a 38x24 and go a little harder.

Despite crying about oxygen deprivation all week, Aaron beat Don Powers. And despite winning every pre-ride, Don Powers exploded and almost didn't finish the race.

Or maybe it's because he won ever pre-ride. As we found out one night at dinner, "Dahn Pahrs ain't never read a book! Dahn Pahrs do what Dahn Pahrs does!" (his words, not mine), so he couldn't be expected to understand how his muscle recovery works.

That's the short story. I'm saving the good stuff for Old Melancholy Mahokey of XXC Mag fame. That article should be out in the next issue.

Tomorrow will be the first hopefully weekly edition of the Pittsburgh ShortTrack-ish. It'll be a weekly thing as long as Aaron and I don't screw something up. I'll put up some more details once we get through the first night.

I also need to do a post this week about my preparations for the Pisgah Stage Race. Be sure to look for that write-up about how I've included more fiber in my diet.

And I know I'm thinking really far ahead now, but the Wilderness 101 is this Saturday.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011


I left Breckenridge at 9:30 am mountain time on Sunday, and got back to Greensburg at 4:30 eastern time on Monday. That was a 26 hour drive with about two hours of stopping. One hour to eat, one hour to sleep. Sweet.

Rolling through a construction zone in Chicago at 2:00 on Monday morning, I see an unmarked car pull out of its hiding spot. It puts its flashers on. Shit.

I pull off to the side of the road and roll down the back window. The cop taps on the front passenger window. 

"Roll it down," he says.

"I can't. It's broken," I yell to the open back window.

"Fine. Then open the door," he says. I open it. "I pulled you over because all those bikes are blocking your licence plate. Where are you coming from?" he says.

"Colorado. Breckenridge."

"Breckenridge huh? Step out of the car and come back here." he says. He shines the light on me. He notices my long, and at this point in the drive, fairly dirty hair. "Medicinal Marijuana is pretty big out there isn't it?" he says. "Do you have a licence for that?" Another unmarked car pulls up on the shoulder. 

"No, I don't have a licence for it," I say.

"So are you transporting any back? Did anybody ask you to bring them some back?"

"No, I don't have any."

"Can you certify that you packed everything in that car?" 


"Well, this being Chicagoland, we'd like to search it to make sure you aren't transporting any illegal substances." 

Fantastic. Unpacking my stuffed car is just what I want to do right now. But if I don't let him search, he's going to give me a ticket for my blocked licence plate. 

"Alright, if you really think you need to," I open the trunk. He sifts through some dirt chamois, empty jars of peanut butter, and coffee grounds. He moves around to the front of the car and looks inside the car tire I have on the back seat.

"Why do you have three bikes with you?" the other cop asks, "Are those all your bikes?" he says. First I'm a drug dealer, now I'm a bike thief. 

"Yes, they're all mine." I say. 

"So you were speeding? That's why he pulled you over?" Cop 2 says. And now I was speeding. Jesus. These guys are really fishing for an offence. 

"No, I wasn't speeding." I say. 

"So why do you need three bikes? Are those all yours?" Cop 1 asks. Dammit. This is exasperating. They finally let me go, and I pull off the shoulder, carefully obeying the speed limit. I can't wait to get away from Chicago. 

Later on I stop in an Indiana gas station. A portly trucker wearing a cowboy hat mistakes me for a fellow trucker. 

"Damn company won't pay for my arr conditioning. It's a hundard an eight degrees in the cab," he says.

"It's hot out there. I just came from Nebrasky today. It was a hundard and two degrees outside." I say. I've always wanted to play a trucker. 

"I jus came up from Waco, Texas. I'm hauling a load of potatoes. For Taco Bell and Wendy's. Alls freeze dried." he snorts and blows his nose.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

I've gotten way behind on blogging about this Colorado trip. But I'm still out here, sleeping on Dahn Pahr's and Shelmire's hotel room floor:

I dropped Colleen at Denver International on Tuesday, but from Boulder two weeks ago until then we drove to Kremling, Breckenridge, Avon, Eagle, Rabbit Valley, Fruita, the Grand Junction Sears Auto Center, Meeker, Steamboat Springs, and back to Breck to hike a 14er. We stayed with a few friends, and camped the rest of the time.

Don, Aaron and I have been doing rides in Breck to get ready for the Breck 100 on Saturday. I've got a ton of stories from this trip, but I'm probably not going to get to writing them down until the beginning of next week when I get back to Pennsylvania.

We're about to go hike through the snow on the Wheeler Pass stage of the race, so until I can sit down to write something decent, I'll post some pictures: