Monday, April 30, 2012

Michaux Maximus Race Report (2012)

"Are those painted on?"

"They've gotta be."

Cinder Bloch and I are eating fine meat burgers at Shipwreck in Shippensburg. The waitress is wearing the tightest pair of black tights I've ever seen. Ever curve of her vagina is clearly visible. Now she's bending over a table, taking orders from a family with a bunch of little kids. Can't believe that's legal. This place is awesome.

"So should we camp, or stay with JPok? He said that there's one bed, and no floor space, but we could probably make it work," Cinder Bloch says.

"There's no way I'm sleeping in a crusty one-bed motel room with JPok. Let's take our chances camping. Maybe it won't rain," I say.

We finish our meat burgers, then wait for the waitress to take our money. And wait. And wait. So much for setting up tents in the daylight. Finally pay our bills, drive out of the town, out of the ticky-tacky development, and into the big empty forest. Motor around on dark back roads for a while, and thanks to Cinder Bloch's magic phone, we don't get lost.

There's fire at the edge of the big big grassy parking lot. An electric hoola-hoop is flashing around in the dark.

We walk over to the fire. Topher is wiggling around with one of the hoola-hoops. His Osama beard is dancing under his chin.

"Get it up on your belly! Use it like a shelf!" somebody yells. A blonde girl is giving him instructions. The hoola-hoop passes to another crusty stoned dude. She yells at him for his incorrect hooping technique. Buck is talking about his moon mat. It's made out of sheets of leftover ear plug material.

"No! You're doing it all wrong!" the girl yells at somebody else. Cool. That's enough of that. I walk into the dark field. Lay down in my tent.

I wake up. Hit the glow button on my watch. 2:30. Dammit. I'm freezing. I wrap my pillow around my face and slide deeper into the sleeping bag.

Crawl out of the tent at seven. Pretty chilly, but the sun is out and it's starting to look like a good day. I eat a couple pickles, then smear peanut butter on an expired pop-tart.

By start time, it's beautiful. Perfect blue sky, and warm enough to ditch my arm warmers. This is gonna be sweet. We line up on the gravel road. The Open Men's class is released. The single speeders shuffle forward. This is a long race, don't burn up in the first few miles like last year.

Go. A guy in a skid lid and Dickies shorts gets out front. That's fine. I sit on Skid Lid's wheel. We make a right turn. The single track is coming up. I spin fast and shoot around Skid Lid, slid into the turn and start climbing the first hill.

The double track is covered in sharp rock. It looks like somebody shattered a huge limestone window and scattered the pieces through the woods.

Pass some of the guys in Open. Riding well, just stay smooth. I hit a short steep piece of trail. There's some grinding, and a guy on a single speed shoots around me. Fine fine. Just stay with him. He's going hard over the rocks, and climbing well. We cruise through some tight single track that's barely wide enough for my handle bars. Mountain laurel scrapes at my face.

We start a descent. There's some rattling. Then a thud. I look down. Shit. Bottle ejected again. I stop, grab the bottle, and bend my cage back. The guy is gone. Gotta chase him down now. I get a few glimpses of him  through the trees. Then we hit a gravel road. I pedal hard. Almost got him.

Swing around a gate on the road, and scrape into a stick. I take another pedal stroke, and lunge towards my stem. Chain dropped. Goddammit. I get the chain back on. The guy is way up the climb now. Settle into this climb, and go get him. You're fine.

I start cruising up the hill. I feel strong. I pass a couple guys, then a couple more, then the guy on the single. Sweet. Keep it rolling.

The climb goes on forever. Up and up and up. Finally hit the top, then start winding through some super rocky single track. I'm riding smooth, and I think I'm opening up the gap a little. I don't see or hear anyone around me. Just rocks and red arrows on the trees.

I pick my way down one of the descents. Big rock drop after rock drop. You have the lead, just ride smart. No reason to risk a flat.

Through a switchback section. They're 180 degrees, with a big rock drop in the middle, and barely long enough to get a bike turned around. Back up to the top of the ridge, over some huge boulders. I dab a foot, stop, then clip back in. I'm half way through a pedal stroke, and flying over the bars. Shit. My front tire was butted right up against a little stump. I push my bike off me, then roll over in the soft dirt.

Flowing down a smoother section of trail. Making good time. I've got this. I'm finally gonna have a good race in Michaux. I roll over a rock. There's hissing.

Stan's is spraying all over the trail. Fuck no. I get off my bike, and shake the tire. Not sealing. I look at it closer. Just a little puncture. I spin the wheel. And an inch-long sidewall cut. Fucking shit. Another sidewall cut. That's the third time this month.

It's fine. Don't panic. Just get it fixed. I undo my stuff strap. JPok rides past towing a single speeder. I get the tube in. The single speeder I was chasing before rides past. Screw in the CO2. Two more guys and TJ on a single speed rip past. I put a Cliff Bar wrapper against the cut, blow up the tube, put the wheel on, set my bike down, and take a pee break.

You've got some work to do, but you can still win this. I get back on my bike and start hammering. I catch TJ at a stream crossing. Then ride a hill that the a few other guys are walking. Keep it going. I'm winding through a pine section, roots going every direction. I see JPok and the other guy up ahead. It looks like I'm closing the gap.

Out onto a steep 4x4 road. JPok is farther up, but I can see the other single speed. Get him on the hill. I spin up until I'm right on his wheel, then give it everything to accelerate past. It hurts, but I keep it going until I have a big gap. Gunnar and the Pflug always drop me like that.

The gaps open. Awesome. It worked. I keep going hard through the single track. I see JPok up ahead occasionally. I stop at the third aid.

"How far to the finish?" I say.

"2.5 miles," he says. He's filling one of my bottles.

"That's it? Just 2.5 miles?" I grab the bottle. This thing's almost over. I grind up the last climb, turn onto another road. There's the finish. Damn. Already. I sprint down the road, and under some red streamers.

"Where's the finish?" I yell to some spectators. They point back to the streamers. That was supposed to be a turn. You dumbass. I sprint back, make the turn, and cross the line.

Won it. I'm stoked. It wasn't a perfect race, but I kept it together.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Moving Dirt in Ohiopyle

Original post over on the work blog.

We've been discussing doing some trail work for a few years. Yesterday we finally got started.

The Lytle connector is a piece of trail that goes up from Lytle Road to Presley Ridge Trail. Clearing it off has been on Ohiopyle State Park's to-do list for a while, and the trail director told us that if we got it done she would be happy to consider approving some new single track in the park.

 Lytle is on the opposite ridge from Sugarloaf Knob. The tire lever is pointing to the start of the trail. After work we headed up the mountain. There were seven people, three chainsaws, two dogs, and one rake. Next time we might bring more rakes and less saws. We tried to double our body count, but the rest of the company was already busy:

  They were having a vigorous debate about which piece of furniture in the house needed to be burned next. It's a rough life.

The trail used to be an old logging tramway, but over the years it's narrowed down to about three feet wide. It's steep and should make a fun descent. We chainsawed all the big trees out of the bottom section, then got creative near the top.

The top of the ridge is full of big boulders and natural features.

It has the potential to be a really awesome piece of singletrack:

By the time it got dark, we had about three miles of rideable trail done. It was a solid start.

Our ultimate goal is to make Ohiopyle into a mountain biking destination. We have the elevation, we have the terrain, we have the post ride beer spot, and now we have the blessing of the state park.

It's a good time to be a mountain biker in the Pyle. We're going to make Wednesday evening trail work a regular thing, so if you want to come out and help, get in touch with me through the comments or email.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Mountwood WVMBA #1 (2012)

I'm sitting in fifth, drafting behind the lead guys on the gravel. We're two miles in and about to hit the single track. I slingshot around the back four guys and get on Tim de le Garcon's wheel right as we go into the woods. Perfect. I've never had a better start. Now I just need to stick up here for a while. We already have a 30 second gap on the field.

"Hey, Montana, you lost a bottle," says whoever was right behind me.

"Damn, where at?" I say.

"Back at that little log bridge,"

Man. I should go back. I remember how bad Garcon looked last year when he finished with one bottle. He was hardly moving when I passed him. It's just as hot this year. Better go back. I slide off the trail and start running backwards.

Then everything goes to hell. I'm sprinting the wrong way down the tight single track, and about 40 people are riding fast the other way. I see my bottle. Some other guy doesn't. He nails it with his front wheel, goes over the bars. There's a big pile up and some yelling.

I'm still running. The bottle is way farther back than I though. I'm about to hit the front of the train. The first riders come through and shoulder me to the side. I knock someone off the trail. Another rider hits me back. I feel like I'm trying to drive the wrong way on an interstate.

Finally get to the bottle. I bend over to pick it up. I'm causing such a mess that Betsy Shogren yells at me. I stumble back onto my bike and start riding.

One hand off the bars, I try to put the bottle in my back pocket. Then I'm rolling headfirst into the dirt. Shit. Clipped a tree. This is going horribly. Betsy yells at me again. First time I've heard her sound annoyed. Weird.

I get back on again. Get it together dumbass. Now you've got some passing to do. About 30 people went around me while I was fumbling with that stupid bottle. Such a mistake. Being thirsty would have been way better.

Start passing. Everybody is spread out, so now I have to get one rider at a time. Sprint coast. Sprint coast. Sprint coast. Going fast then backing off is killing me. Halfway though the lap I finally catch up to Gnarmire.

Then I catch Jake. "Is Don Powers ahead of you?"

"Yeah, he's riding good,"

He's riding good? Fuck me. Why does he have to ride good today? He'll have to stop to throw up soon. Then I'll catch him. I hope. I'm not in a happy place. So pissed at myself for bumbling that start.

I'm going as hard as I can and riding well, but it isn't enough. It takes almost 20 minutes to chase down Joey Riddle from the first time I see him. Back on the gravel road we started on, I can see Nate up in the woods. He's gotta be leading single speed, and a least a few minutes ahead. There just isn't enough race left.

Joey and I go back and forth down the hill a couple times. Then we hit the final section to the finish. I get ready to sprint for it.

30 yards to the finish. I pull along side him and start to go. He slows down. I look over. What the hell is he doing?

"My legs went soft," he says.

Fine by me. I give it one more pedal stroke and coast in ahead of him. Dahn Powers is already standing at the finish.


By the luck of registration, I ended up 2nd SS. Nate won, Dahn was racing Vet on a single speed, and John Proppe was racing expert on a single speed. They were both a few minutes ahead of me. Happily, I won more money than Dahn (4th in Vet).

That's the first time I've gone back for dropped equipment in a race. Won't do it again. I've had near perfect races at Mountwood for the last three years, so I guess I was due to screw up. Still one of my favorite courses though. The folks who work on those trails put some serious time in, and it shows. Everything is perfect flowing bench cut. Fun times. Unless Dahn Pahrs beats you.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Dragon's Tail Race Report (2012)

Last Friday, I spilled suspension oil on my rotor. Then I drove to the Birdman of Charleston's nest.

The next day I cleaned suspension oil off my rotor while his vicious pit bull tried to figure out the best way to eat me.

We met Ted and Mayor McCheese in the Birdman's front yard and packed into Ted's hybrid Highlander to head south-east. Once we got off the interstate in Virginia the roads got twisty, and I got car sick.

While I tried to settle my stomach by burping, we forded a stream in the half-electric SUV, unloaded the bikes, and watched McCheese pick his nose.

Half a mile into our pre-ride, we crossed another stream. When I got to the other side, there was hissing and my leg was being sprayed with Stan's. I checked the tire. There was an inch long sidewall cut. Karma. A couple days earlier, I was made fun of one of my friends when he asked for advice on cut resistant tires 'Pilot error. Rock always wins. Ride around them,' I'd said.

I put a tube in and we continued. The first section of the course was all fast dirt roads. It was a beautiful day, everything was dry, and the air smelled strangely like Colorado. The place was awesome, and I felt horrible. Everybody was going an easy pace and dropping me on the climbs. When we started up the single track to the top of the ridge, I felt like I was going to fall off the side. I was so dizzy and disoriented. I considered turning back, but the other three were already out of sight. So I kept trudging up the hill.

As I crested the top, the Birdman was lounging with his magic phone, shooting pictures. I told him to fuck himself.

On the way back to the car, I ran into Chris Scott. He asked if I'd gotten my tire fixed. Nope.

"We have freshies, Stan's, and a compressor back at the start. Just find me tonight or tomorrow," he said. Sweet. I was pumped. Maybe tomorrow would turn out alright after all.

That night, there was a dog who's stomach needed rubbed:

Morning. I almost vomit on the car ride to the start. When I step out of the Highlander, I can barely  stand up straight.

"Well, I'm not sure I'm even going to make it to the first stream crossing," I say to the Birdman.

"Not with that attitude you won't," he says.

"Fuck you," I say. I stumble over to the registration area to find Chris and steal a tire. He's not around, and there's an hour until the start. My tube is being held inside my destroyed tire with dollar bill. This isn't going well. I stand in line for the port-a-potty.

With 20 minutes to go before the start, I find Chris. He gives me a tire, I blow it onto the rim and dump some Stan's in it. I thank him, and he mumbles something unintelligible. I nod and smile. 10 minutes to go. I ride the tire up and down the road. It seems like it's holding air. Sweet. Maybe I'm gonna be able to race.

We roll out for the neutral start, and everybody behind me starts bike racer shit talking (shit talking at mountain bike races is typically polite and un-offensive) my over-sized florescent blue camelbak.

"Look at that thing, are you carrying presents for us?" No.

"That's a big backpack. Har har." Yes.

Or my favorite, "He's going on an adventure!" That was supposed to be an insult. Because people who go on adventures are dumb. And carry big florescent blue camelbaks. Which made me dumb, and going on an adventure. Or something. I didn't really follow him.

"Fuck you guys," I say. 'Fuck you' was the only comeback I could think of all weekend. I know it's not witty, but my girlfriend has been in New Zealand for a long time.

Chris pulls his truck off to the side, and the race starts. The entire field narrows into a paceline behind me. Jeremiah Bishop, Sam Koerber, and Brandon Dragonogulous are there, and for some reason people think it's a good idea to draft a hack on a single speed.

"Why the hell are you people drafting me? Fuck you," I yell. People laugh, then shift up and speed away. That's more like it. At the first stream crossing, I stop to pee. The entire field rumbles past me in a cloud of dust. Pee break was probably a bad choice.

For the first four miles, I feel pretty good. Then I start climbing. The dizziness comes back. I can't ride, I can barely hike, and I'm jamming up people behind me on the narrow single track. I stop every few hundred feet to let someone pass.

After about an hour of walking, I finally get to the top of the ridge. Ok, I'm going to ride down to the aid station, then back to town. There's no way I can climb the ridge again.

When I hit the aid, I stick to my plan. I make it about a half mile down the road. No. You weak bastard. You can't stop. But I feel terrible. I've gotta quit. Nope. You can't do it. Gotta keep going. Dammit. I hate me. I turn around and ride back onto the course.

I'm hiking up the ridge even slower than before. This was a bad choice. I stop every few minutes to regain my balance. I can ride a little, but something isn't right.

A long time later, I get back to the top of the ridge. There's a trail called Turkey that should take me back down the hill and onto the road. I confirm that with a few guys around me, and keep plugging along. A half hour later, I see the turnoff. I take it. I'm 30 miles into a 40 mile race, and I'm bailing. Probably another bad choice.

I make it down to the bottom of the ridge, take a right, and start heading towards Aid 2. 45 minutes later, I'm still heading to Aid 2, and now I'm climbing up to the top of the ridge again. This couldn't be right. Hell. I'll give it 10 more minutes.

10 more minutes, and still climbing. Screw it. I'm going back the way I came. I ride all the way back down the road, through all the streams, and onto the road where the race started. Fortunately, Niner rider Donna Miller was helping out with the race, and heading to town. I caught up with her at a stream crossing, then she let me draft her the whole way back to town. Mighty swell of her.

It took five hours to DNF.

Major bummer. Couldn't have asked for a better day, nicer trails, or a cooler course. I just wasn't all there. But I'm definitely going to try again next year. I want to race that thing when I can actually race.