Tuesday, May 31, 2011

a final announcement concerning the Pisgah Mountain Stage Race Blog Competition

The blog contest for a free entry to the Pisgah Mountain Stage Race ends tomorrow. I'm currently in third place. This is not good. Only the top two bloggers get to race.

Until a few days ago, I was sitting comfortably in 2nd. Then Team Dickface pulled the old man card. He claimed that since he was old, he was at a severe disadvantage in a facebook-based-contest.

He failed to mention that while he has 786 face friends, I only have 580. I am at a 206 person face disadvantage. Pitty me and not him dammit.

Even now, while I sit inside a house for the first time in a week, making my sad grouper face at my small computer,

Dicky is doing his first stage race of the year and being pleasured by dirty hippies from Ohio:

A vote for Dicky is a vote for devious looking bald men and crusty dread lock nuzzling.

A vote for Cory Rimmer is a vote for Cory Rimmer's blog.

A vote for me is a vote for pitbulls driving boxes:

You decide.

I take that back. Don't decide. Just vote for me. Right here.

I'm only 45 votes down. A comeback can be made, but the contest is over tomorrow. Vote now! And if you have means of broadcasting pleas for votes through facebook or a blog, broadcast away! It's crunch time.

the big mountain fail

It's been hot, humid, and crowded in Ohiopyle for the last three days. People have been yelling for directions to the bathroom, asking how much this is and how much that is, and the little boys on Harley's have been ripping the throttles on their clattery engines. Colleen and I needed to escape other people's vacations for a night.

Since the top of Laurel Mountain is always cool and wonderful, I figured we could just drive up there and camp. It was such a nice night that we wouldn't even need a tent. I planned on riding for a few hours in the morning.

We got to the mountain top and set our thermarests outside the tiny convertible. The temperature was perfect. Then the first buzz. Slap. I smacked a mosquito against the side of my head. Then more came.

I got tired of hitting myself in the head, so I wrapped my jean jacket around my face. The bugs found a way under the jacket. Now I couldn't breathe because my mouth was clogged with denim, and I was still getting bit. After a couple hours we couldn't take anymore buzzing and bitting, so we retreated to the car.

There were mosquitoes in the car.

In the morning the bugs were just as bad. There was no way Colleen could sit around while I rode, so we headed back down the mountain and washed all the just-slept-in-a-car grime off in a stream:

Then we walked down and checked out the water slides:

The DCNR recently smoothed and expanded the trail back to the slides to make it easier for people to deposit their ice tea jugs and dirty ankle socks:

After some extreme gibbon impersonations, we pointed the tiny convertible south again.

We drove up another mountain and ate breakfast at Roaring Run. The bugs were not as ferocious as on Laurel, but they were still too bad for Colleen to sit around while I rode. But I did take advantage of the rare opportunity to use a well-lit-bathroom at Hidden Valley:

I followed some extremely slow driving tourists back into Ohiopyle. Then a wild Grizz appeared:

And disappeared:

Exhausted from the Grizz sighting and the 95 degree heat, I set up my hammock and took a three hour nap.

Once it cooled off, I finally got to ride for a couple hours. I rode in State Game Lands 51, which boarders the state park. It looks like I could link up a single track ride from Ohiopyle, into the game lands, and down White Tail Trail all the way to Quebec Run. That would be very cool.

And I have a final public service announcement about the Pisgah Blog Contest (which ends on Wednesday, and which I am currently losing), but I'll put that in a separate post.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Greenbriar Challenge Marathon 2011 Race Report

I met Jake and Tim on Saturday to head East to Greenbriar State Park in Maryland. It was a ride filled with loud techno, nasty conversations, and bad attempts at drifting a Honda Fit. I don't think I can ever go back to the Denny's in Breezewood. I feel dumber as a result of that car ride. We'll leave it at that.

Jake's friend let us stay in his house, so we had nice couches to sleep on. He wasn't home, and the house was empty except for a fat cat. I scratched cat's tummy. It was swell.

I wake up in the middle of the night and pull some jeans up to my knees. The bottoms of my legs are cold.

A few hours later we make breakfast and drive to the race. The parking lot is already starting to fill up at 8:30. I register, say "what's crackin home dizzle?" to some people, and hit the lavatories a bunch. Then it's time to line up.

I stand on the front line across from Jeff Schalk and Chris Beck. The marathon race is 3.5 hours plus a lap. Laps are a hair over five miles long. There's no way I can try to take an early lead in this race. Schalk and Beck will crush me as soon as I get a little tired. I'll just try to follow them.

Ryan Post gives us a ten-second warning. He's wearing a very official USAC polo shirt and is doing a very good job of acting like a grumpy official person. "Go." he says without much enthusiasm.

We ride up through the field and I settle in behind Beck. This is way slower than I'm used to starting. Up the first little climb it feels like we're just cruising. Down a fast descent with some water bars to jump, then into the technical rock garden.

Schalk and Beck are chatting to each other about spouses, the Translvania Epic, mowing the lawn, and the best way to scrub a sauce pan. I'm really surprised they aren't going faster. I look behind me. Nobody is in sight. I guess this is as fast as they need to go. I'll just stay back here so that I don't look like a threat.

We hit the big climb. I have to work pretty hard to keep turning over my gear. The fast guys are just sitting in the saddle and spinning up the hill. We rip down another fast descent then start a shorter technical climb. Schalk and Beck pull away from me as I'm trying to pick my way through the rocks. Perfect. Now I look less threatening than a pekingese in a rain coat.

There's one more descent with tight turns, mud, and slippery rocks. I ride back out into the field and down around the start finish area. Schalk and Beck are just a few seconds ahead, but I really have no business trying to chase them this early in the race. I'm going to wear down and crack at some point, they aren't.

I try to conserve some energy. At least I know the course now. Short climb, water-bar descent, rock garden, long climb, ripping descent, rock garden climb, mud. I start running into lap traffic from the Cat 3 races.

Back through to start lap three. I rip the first descent and the rock garden then start the long climb. There's a Team CF kit up there. Surely that isn't Beck. I stand and grind up the hill and pass the guy. CF kit, riding a Specialized, lanky dude wearing a helmet. Was that Beck? Maybe he got a flat.

Two more laps. I roll around to start lap five. Tim is yelling, "Beck flatted! He's in the pit right now!" So that wasn't him on the third lap. But now he actually does have a flat. Wild. I roll past the pit, and there he is. I start the first climb. Wonder how long it'll take him to catch me.

It takes half a lap. He rolls up behind me on the long climb. I feel pretty good, but I don't think I can stay ahead for two or three more laps. I introduce myself and try to look like I know what I'm doing on a bike.

We ride together for two laps, then I bobble on the rock garden on lap seven. Beck goes around and rides away. It's getting close to the 1:00 cut off time, and I'm really starting to hurt on the big climb. Pushing a single speed up that thing seven times is definitely taking it's toll. I so hope that I miss the cut off. I don't want to do an eighth lap.

I keep checking my watch. 12:56. 1 km till the finish. Hell. I'm going to make the cut off. 12:58. 100 feet to the finish. I have to go back out. Shit.

I'm really cracked at this point. I grind up the first climb, and have to hike the big hill. With 2km left in the lap, a guy in a yellow jersey comes ripping around me. I don't have the gas left to chase him. Damn. There goes third.

I finally roll across the line. 4th place out of 43 guys on geared bikes. I'm happy with that.

I looked at the lap times after the race, and I got slower by one minute every lap. 26, 27, 28, and so on all the way to 33 minutes for my 8th lap. The Mighty Schalk on the other hand was like a windup clock with a lubrication problem, his laps were never more than 30 seconds apart. He was all 26's. I assume Beck would have been the same without the flat. It was really cool to be able to ride with those guys, but I think I'm going to have to try to find a geared squishy bike so that I can actually race them.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

9 Hours of Cranky Monkey 2011 Race Report - Attack of the Crusty Seamen

After disappointingly small spinach bowl at Bob Evan's in Lavale, Maryland Don Powers and I drove the Hatchback Miatta into the Rocky Gap State Park. We registered our duo-team, "XXC Mag Presents the Crusty Seamen" (it's only funny because we're not sailors,) and set up camp.

I was too lazy to pack my tent, but since we were going to a mountain bike race I assumed there would be trees by the camping area. I brought my hammock and a tarp and left my tent in Ohiopyle.

Then we walked over to the camping area. There were no trees. I watched in dismay as the rest of the Pittsburgh/Morgantown crew set up their sponsor emblazoned homes for the weekend.

The TOP tent:

The double wide Dynamic PT tent:

The Pro bikes tent:

And finally, the Wilderness Voyageurs tent:

I accessed all my other options, but in the end it looked like my only choice was to sleep under a bench all weekend. That homeless guy that used to ride around my hometown with shopping bags would be proud.

We went out for a warm up lap. The course was rad, it flowed well with some tight turns and tricky roots. The whole 8.5 mile loop only took 39 minutes. After the lap Don, Brad and I drove the fer piece to Cumberland to find some food. Don was willing to settle on some Taco Bell ground beef spleen tacos. But Brad and I insisted we push through a crowd of shirtless-teenage-carnival-goers to get real food. Eventually we found a little bar with some decent food where Heffner and Aaron already had a table.

The next morning I wake up with some moisture on my sleeping bag. I crawl out from under my bench. At least I stayed mostly dry. I head over to JR's tent and beg for some food. He gives me a bagel and some peanut butter. I am pleased.

I make some coffee in my French press and groan. It's foggy and cold, with light rain. It's so hard to get excited for a race when it's raining.

It's close to the 11:00 start so I take my bike over to the transition area. I carefully back it into the rack so I can yank it out quickly. We're going to run for about half a mile to split everybody up before the trails. I'm going first, and I'll do two laps before trading off with Don.

We line up, and Aaron and I do some short sprints to warm up. It feels like I'm back in High School Cross Country.

The promoter raises his hand, "5 seconds... Go!" We run. Some little fire plug dude next to me trips on a blade of grass and falls on his face. I don't look back, but I'm certain he's being trampled by 175 pairs of carbon soled shoes. I pull away from the rest of the pack and make it to the bikes ahead of everybody else. I grab my bike.

It dons't move. Shit. Somebody hooked the nose of my saddle onto the rack. I frantically throw five other bike onto the ground. Other guys make it to the transition area and start riding away. When I finally get my bike untangled, I'm back in 15th.

I sprint and pass as many people as I can before we hit the trails. The first few miles of the course are really tight and twisty, and it gets congested. I pass when I can, but the leaders are way gone. Dammit. I wanted to be out front on this first lap. I could kill who ever hooked my bike in the rack like that.

We turn away from the lake and get some room to pass. I rip by everyone I can and start the only longish climb on the course. I see JPok and one of the DCMtb guys ahead in the distance. I crush it up the hill, pass them and keep going. I made up a lot of time and took the lead, and now I'm going to hold it. I go all out on the rocky descent and start the swoopy lake trails again.

I cross the start/finish area and head out for my second lap. JPok trades off with Nate Anon. I stay ahead of him and keep pinning it. I finish the lap in 35:41 with a little bit of a gap on Nate. That lap stands the rest of the day as the fastest lap of the race.

I give the punch card to Don Powers, and he promptly drops his chain. There goes our lead. Doh. I walk over to the tents, put my feet up, and eat some ho hos. A little over an hour later, Don finishes his second lap and I head back out.

I feel good the first lap, but slow down to 39 minutes on the second. I'm feeling a little beat. We're holding onto third, but can't catch up to JPok and Nate or the DC guys. Their lap times are too consistent.

When Don finishes his 6th lap, I go out to finish the race with my 6th and 7th. We're a few minutes behind the other teams, so I just cruise the laps. I roll into the finish a little after 7:00 pm.

We ended up third in Open Duo, which is pretty damn good for a couple of guys on single speeds. Don did 6 laps, and I did 7 which ended up being about 60 miles. Very solid and fun day.

I wore my finest Canadian Tuxedo on the podium:

After the awards, there was much merrymaking around the campfire. Sadly, Brad was forced to delete all the pictures. I finally crawled back under my bench at 4:00 am. We woke up at 7:00 and went back to Bob Evan's where Darnell, Sandy, or Beatrice served us breakfast, then drove back to Ohiopyle. I made it to work 15 minutes early. Perfect weekend.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

a reba re-build

I tore apart my fork yesterday, and I fully planned on documenting the whole thing and doing a how-to. Which would have consisted of things like this:

Turn shiny clicking device to the left. 

Hit un-clicking part of shiny clicking device with large hammer.

After taking the first few pictures, I realized that this would make for a blog post that was not only boring, but also very super extremely redundant. Because all the pictures of hammers hitting things on expensive forks are already in the tech manual.

But one thing the manual didn't make clear was the amount of oil that was supposed to go into the damper side of the fork. One chart said 133ml, and another said 110ml. Since I couldn't remember what I used last time I rebuilt the thing, I just went with the higher number. If anybody knows the real number, let me know.

After improperly disposing of my milky white fork oil in the trash can, my co-worker Big Trav sauntered into the shop.

I asked him if he had seen my sunglasses. He replied that he had seen a pair of female frames on the shelf yesterday, and promptly thrown them in the trash. Mother fucker.

So I dug.

And sure enough, under the pile of plastic, tubes, zip ties, and old suspension oil, were my way too expensive to be thrown in the garbage sunglasses.

This isn't the first time Big Trav has tried to kill these things. A few weeks ago he put them on a rack with some cheap Pepper's sunglasses in the store, apparently hoping that somebody would score a pair of Smiths for $19.99.

I'll never understand the way his mind works.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

who's drivin the bus?

When I saw a big black school bus pull in front of the store carrying a black Jeep in the back, my first thought was, "Holy shit, Barrett bought a big black school bus that can carry a Jeep."

And that was exactly the case. He swung open the door and started yelling and whooping about how red neck his new bus was.

Apparently the guy who had it before was into rock crawling Jeeps, so he converted the bus to carry his stuff. The inside is set up like a camper with AC, a bed, fridge, and sink. It's damn cool.

Ramps down, and a car can drive right up into the back:

Barrett said he's was sick of paying rent, and doesn't know where he wants to live full time, so he's just going to park the bus for a while. Which is probably good, because he doesn't seem too sure if he can legally drive it.

And he only paid $4,000 for the thing. That's less than I have in the tiny convertible. I could have been a vehicle owner, home owner, and school bus owner. Blast.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Wisp XC Challenge Race Report ('10)

Cleats clack as we clip in and sprint off the start line. We're already at the top of Wisp Resort, so after a quick left turn on a dirt road, we start bombing down the mountain.

Travis Saler gets out in front and starts cranking down a loose and rock section of double track. We hit the first single track and I'm in second. I stay a few feet behind him on the rocky single track. I check behind me. We have a pretty decent lead. I can't see anybody back there.

This is perfect. If I can just hold this pace, I might finally be able to beat the Pflug. Travis is starting to pull away, but that's fine. I hit the first gravel and spin fast. This is where the Pflug is going to be faster than me. He's a monster on the gravel. I gotta go.

More single track, then I start the long gravel climb back to the top of the mountain. I'm feeling pretty good as I cross the start finish. One eight mile lap down, two to go.

I rip back down the mountain and hit the single track. I roll around a tight switch back and look down the trail. Balls. There he is.

The Pflug is coming. Shit on my face. I expected this to happen.

Almost every time I race the Plug, I go out hard and put a little time into him off the start. I'm beginning to think that this does nothing but anger him. It's kind of like slapping a bear with a bag of hot dogs, then climbing up a little tree. You might get away for a few minutes, but eventually the bear is going to get pissed and rip down the tree, break your legs, crush you, eat your hot dogs, and poop out the plastic bag they were wrapped in.

And so on the next gravel climb, the Pflug catches me. I stay with him for a while, then my legs don't want to pedal that hard anymore. I cross the line and start the last lap. I'm pretty well crushed. The Pflug spins really fast across the slight downslope, then he's gone.

I ride the rest of the lap in a state of disappointment and digestive discomfort. On the last climb, I hear a nasally voice yell uncle.

Gunnar rides around me. I might let the Pflug beat me, but there is no way in hell I'm going to lose to a man that started racing when bikes had wooden rims and showing a little bit of ankle was considered risqué. I pass him on the next gravel climb, but he sticks right on my wheel.

He goes by me on a grassy section. I draft him on the last section of pavement and wait for a chance to attack. We hit the last little dirt climb and I hit it. I pedal hard and out sprint a man over twice my age. VICTORY!!!

But the Pflug still beat me. Damn that man. I was 2nd in single speed, 4th overall.

However, there is a very simple reason he beat me. After he crossed the line, he went out and did another lap. After I crossed the line, I went and got a shower then ate some cold pizza. But I don't feel bad about it. I was tired and I like pizza.

(photo creds: GWADZILLA's face page. (yes, it is supposed to be in all caps. maybe it's an acronym for something... great wooden armadillo's dandy zebra ickies love lubricious alfalfa.))

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

post michuxly

Yesterday I was still feeling pretty cracked from the race on Sunday. Granted, I didn't do a hundred miler on Saturday in addition to Michaux, but I was still sore.

When I got back on Sunday night, I was sitting down and my arm kept loosing blood flow. I was shaking and hitting it but my hand still wanted to shut down. So I gave up and went to sleep. The next day I was all tingly. Very strange.

Tomi got some pretty nice shots of the race.

There were tiny logs to shred:

Big rocks for people to nose dive off of:

I'm proud to say that I only went over the bars once, and it was slow and controlled. A very graceful crash.

And some bumpy trails:

After the race, there were some trinkets tossed in the air. I fought bitterly for a small red multi-tool. The man with the towel on his head did not.

As hard as that race was for me, I have a ton of respect for the people that were out there for four hours doing the 20 mile, or six hours doing the 40 mile.

I passed a few 20 mile guys before the last climb, and after I had bitched my way up the hill, ridden into the finish, eaten a burger, spilled orange soda on my pants, bitched about my sticky pants, and listened to Harlan talk about becoming a carpenter in his retirement, they were still out on the course. That would be such a tough day. Kudos to those folks for finishing.

And here's the weekly reminder to go vote for me in the Pisgah contest (The thing doesn't end until June, so I'm only going to bother you once a week. Vote so this blog doesn't become super whinny and bitter.)

This Saturday is the Wisp XC Race. It's only 45 minutes from Ohiopyle and JR usually puts on a pretty fun race, so I'm going to head down there.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Michaux Maximus 2011 race report

Best thing about a tent house. It travels well:

Tim de la Garcon picked me up in Ohiopyle after work on Saturday night. We ate some big plates of steak and eggs at Curt's Restaurant, then headed for Michaux.

We got there at midnight after spending a while looking around for the gravel parking lot in the dark. I set up my tent and immediately fell asleep.

The parking lot starts filling up pretty early. I steal some of Tim's hot water and make coffee in my french press. Scott Root is making blueberry pancakes and JPok is complaining about breaking bike parts.

I'm a little nervous. I expect this race to be really hard and full of crazy rocks. Even the parking lot is full of big stones. I haven't ridden any serious rock gardens for a few months.

"Hey, somebody just said Harlans racing single speed today. Have fun with that." Tim says. Not only is Harlan Price a real-deal retired pro, he rides Michaux a lot. I'll have to ride my face off to keep up with him.

I line up on the dirt road next to Harlan and all the other single speeders. There's a lot of fast dudes here, and a lot of guys who know these trails. I complement Topher's magnificent Rasputin beard.

The Open geared men sprint away down the road. We move forward a few feet. "Single Speeders, do not go yet. Two minutes." the organizing man yells. "10..." My legs twitch and I clip one foot in. "5..." I stare down the road. "3,2,1" I clip my left foot in and hit it.

I grab the center section of my bars, tuck down, and sprint out at about 24mph. I look back after the first turn, and the pack is already out of sight. Sweet. Now I have to see how long I can stay away.

I start passing open racers on the first climb. The trail is wide and covered in rocks, but there's nothing especially difficult yet. The first descent is super steep and loose. I get my weight back and go down the hill with some cation. There's no point in crashing this early.

On to some flowing trails. (Flowing by Michaux standards. They're still covered in glacial deposits.) I hop over a log and pedal fast. I'm feeling frisky.

I climb to the top of the ridge. We hit a huge boulder field. I try to follow one of the local guys over the van sized rocks, but I'm having some trouble lunging up them with my big gear. I run some parts and ride others. Maintain forward motion.

"Garcon! What are you doing?" I yell. Tim is walking down the trail towards me.

"I crushed my ankle. I'm done. I can't ride my bike," he says.

I wish him luck and ride away. I ride through the first aid station without stopping and keep hammering down the rocky trails. We're about two hours in, and I'm starting to feel good. My legs are working well, and I'm starting to feel like I'm riding smoothly.

I pass one of the geared guys I'm riding with on a downhill. We rip around some turns and roll all the way to the bottom of the mountain. Cross a stream, then start back up the other side. The hill is a little too steep to ride, so I hop off and hike up it.

Two hours and 45 minutes in to the race. I look behind me. Harlan is crushing up the hill. I wondered when he was going to catch me.

"I wondered when you were going to catch me man," I say.

We ride together at a comfortable pace and take turns leading. Harlan is riding a rigid bike, but he's still so smooth going downhill. He he just floats and dips over all the rocks and roots. The guy is really really good at riding a bike.

At the second aid station, we stop and I grab some gels and fill my bottles. About 20 minutes after the aid station I start having serious stomach issues. Harlan pulls away from me. I'm having trouble turning the pedals over. I was feeling so good a few minutes ago. This sucks. I feel like throwing up.

"Coming around Montana," somebody says. I move over. Garcon passes me. It doesn't register for a second.

"How the hell did you get up here? I thought you destroyed your ankle," I say.

"I waited for it to swell up, then I got back on my bike. It hurts really bad," he says. That's great. He's passing me with a swollen ankle, and I'm whining about a tummy ache. I'm such a little princess.

Unfortunately, being annoyed with myself doesn't fix the digestive issues. I need to eat something, but the thought of gel is making me sick. I need solid food. The last aid station should be coming up, but it's all the way at the top of the ridge.

It's the longest climb of my life. I'm barely moving, and I'm starting to get a painful twinge in my legs. I finally top out and roll over to the aid. I stuff some banana's, snickers, and honey stinger bars into my mouth. Ten miles to go.

I leave the aid right in front of another single speeder. He passes me in a few minutes on the bumpy road. I can't stay with him.

Down into the woods and on to some damp trails. The trail twists along the whole way to the bottom of the mountain. It's not damp anymore. There are huge mud bogs, deep puddles, and streams. I stand up and pedal hard to get up a hill.

My legs lock up. I yell into the woods. It feels like someone has driven a steel rod through both of my legs. I hobble off my bike and try to walk up the hill. They won't bend. This is terrible. Keep moving keep moving. I punch my quads and try to get something moving.

JPok spins up the hill and orders me to move. I hobble off the trail. He bitches about breaking his pedal.

I get back on my bike and my legs start to loosen up a little. There's a stream flowing down the climb. I walk slowly through the mud. I expect a single speeder to pass me.

The hill goes on forever. I keep trudging along next to my bike. It starts to rain. The water running over my feet is light brown. I want this race to be over so bad. I don't know why I do this to myself.

I finally hit the top of the ridge. I get on my bike and ride out onto a gravel road. The road goes down hill and into the finish chute. I roll into the white tent and people are yelling. I'm so glad that's over.

Other than the last river climb/hike, the course was awesome. Lots of turns, logs, and rocks. I really enjoyed it until my legs stopped bending. 3rd was a respectable finish in that SS field, but I want to do better. I'll be back in Michaux for the Dark Hollow.