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Tuesday, June 28

I eat free food like there's no tomorrow

Well, the hell with it.  I guess it's time to stop...

I have a suit (for the purposes that I wear for special occasions like funerals, job interviews, inner-reflecting... and for the purposes of this joke.

I'm leaving for The Only Race That Matters™ (not really) this Thursday.  The event used to have what we'll call a "name," but for the sake of its ability to continue in perpetuity, it's as nameless as my nights are sleepless lately.

During this five day, two-wheeled spectacular, there's still a "road day" to contend with.  To be honest, that's still not my bag, baby. 

I've avoided it my last two times up there by volunteering and whatnot, but I mighta got a loaner bike from Putter that's appropriate for 90-100 miles of mixed terrain that was the end result of too many beers and a bad idea that fell outta my mouth at a Bike Source party last Friday.  I've ridden it all of forty miles over the weekend, and although my left knee feels a wee bit twingy for some strange reason, I'm just gonna take it and make a game day decision as to whether or not I'm slumming around and turning pedals for eight hours or slinging pickles and sammies at starving, shirtless athletes.

My participation in this event also muddies a couple other goals I have set for myself in the coming months.  I haven't really shared these goals with the class, as I have a tendency to be even more self-sabotaging once others are aware of my behavior and intent, and we can all share in my disappoint at some time later anyways.

This will (based on past experiences) be fun.

It will be a good use of vacation time.

So looking forward to unplugging.

I like riding bike cycles.

I miss my little frands.

Other reasons.

Viva.

I'll be back sometime next week... I guess?

Somebody remind me to review that Tubolight tire insert when I get back... eventually, because if I'm ever gonna get a flat with it, it will be this week (it made it through TSE BTW).

SPOILER ALERT: It worked much better with both tire beads installed on the rim.

Wednesday, June 22

As much about my birthday as needed

Another birthday weekend come and gone, and another trip up to Charleston, WV.  We like it.  What can I say?

We even talked Bill Nye and his girlfriend June into joining us.

Friday night was the usual free concert across the street from the hotel at the amphitheater on the banks of the Kanawha River.  Live on the Levee always hauls ass, and BYOB concerts come with their own amount of danger.  I was all but done for the night by 9:30PM, but the yutes dragged me out into the night for more delights.

Getting up for a ride in the Kanawha State Forest the next day was not the easiest thing I've done in awhile.

Bill Nye had never been, so I tried to get to a lot of my faves... although the impact of the previous evening mighta kept Wall Fork off the agenda.  

Hadn't been down Teaberry Rock in some time.  Did not disappoint.

There aren't a lot of easy miles in the forest.  For example, we did a .8 mile climb up an old rocky road bed and gained almost 500 feet... just to get to the next climb.  This was my first ride in Kanawha on a geared bike, and it was a much more pleasant than schlepping a one geared bike cycle up all these uber-steep mountain sides.

We got back, cleaned up, taco/burrito at Black Sheep, and then we played 26 holes of janky, community-sourced, sidewalk putt putt golf.  I won, but I think they all threw the game for the birthday man-boy.

And then margaritas and over to the ballpark to watch the Dirty Birds take an exciting win in the first game of the double header... and then they lost the second one.

The Pie snagged herself a picture with the local legend Toast Man.   

Due to a copyright infringement thing, he can't sing Yeah Toast anymore, but he still brings a bunch of toasters and enough extension cords to violate at least seven fire codes.

Speaking of fire...

I don't know how they pull of such a great fireworks display and two ball games for $9, but they do.  That and about ten minutes before last call, someone walked up to us and handed us more beer vouchers than we could shake a stick at.  We did our best to honor their wishes, and The Pie distributed what we couldn't use to the joyous masses.

Sorry not sorry for the lack of images and crazy details, but quite honestly, I was just taking it all in.  "Celebrating" birthdays isn't something I really do much of, so it was enough for me to just be in the moment as much as possible.

Also... probably one of my last rides on a geared bike until after the Breck Epic.  I need to settle into the discomfort and simple joys of one speeding again.

Wednesday, June 15

Trans-Sylvania Epic '22: Post-Dump (and other brain turds)

It's a strange, familiar feeling when I make that left turn off 322 to Sand Mountain Road.  It has felt like going home ever since my second Trans-Sylvania Epic.  Park the car, pick a bunk, make my bed, toss my food and beer in the fridge... ahhhhhhhhh.

How many years have I been out on the course mumbling to myself that this is my last TSE ever?

Probably most of them.

How many times have I meant it?  Mebbe once. 

But I changed my mind.  Obvs.

I guess this might just have to be something I do until I can't do it anymore.  It's something that I need to undertake so I can know that I can still finish these things.  Sorta like PMBAR.  How many more years do I have left in me?  I guess time will tell.

Also obvs (obvs), doing it on a suspension fork was certainly loads more enjoyable than all my turgid years.  I know when I started doing TSE back in 2010, that's just how I did things.  I managed to eek out two seconds and a third in those early days.  Then I just kept doing what I was doing because that's how I did things.  Less focused on a podium finish and more wanting to know that I could still get a turgid fork across that final finish line at the end of the week.

I'm older and perhaps wiser now.  I'm "racing" more for the experience than I am podium glory.  I'm also realizing that I might have fewer of these events ahead of me than I do behind me, so mebbe it's time to live a little.  I don't have a whole lot left to prove, but I got loads of desire keep the wheels rolling forward.  That said, this:

As they say, "It ain't long, but it sure is skinny."  And yeth, that short front brake line is killing me.  I have a backup that was curled up tight for way too long now hanging in the bike stand with a brick dangling from the end.

I'd recently upgraded my Epic EVO to a Fox DPS rear shock (something I'd been dragging my feet on for more than ten months).  I simply love how Fox suspension feels.  Riding the Vassago with a 140mm Fox 34 fork was overkill 95% of the time at TSE, even with the Fit 4 damper installed.  In the back of my mind, I'd been trying to figure out how to logically build a Vassago Optimus, but when I considered how much money I'd have to dump into a third SS MTB, that would be the stumbling block upon which I... stumbled.  I don't have the heart to decommission the Vertigo Meatplow V.7, so aside from needing boost wheels and a fork... I need everything else.  Well, mebbe I already have a saddle and grips and zip ties.... but that's about it.

I'd been thinking about buying a fork for the Vertigo MP V.7, but since the whole bike is non-boost, I didn't think I'd have any new options.  

Well, that was before I saw someone selling a Step Cast 32 on Facebook claiming it was a 2022 non-boost model.

Da fuq?

Who knew?

Anyhoo, click through the filters on the Fox grassroots site, and lo and behold a Step Cast 32 non-boost exists and is in stock.  Do some looking around for reviews... and then I'm reminded I'd already had the previous version five years ago AND REVIEWED IT.

I guess "whenever" happened, because I sold it... and I now regret that... or at least I would regret it if it wasn't possible to replace it.  I decided to believe my own review and buy a new one.

To keep... until whenever.  Again.

After my birthday weekend that's coming up, I'm gonna try to fall deeply in love with this squish bit (again).  I'm hoping this will be the ticket for Breck Epic and mebbe the Shenandoah Mountain 100k... and who knows what else.  

This will be the third squashing fork on the Vertigo Meatplow V.7 since the 2014 TSE Enduro™ stage.  

The 140/120 Talas didn't last very long at all.  The Rock Shox SID with a brain was more of a brain fart.  I don't wanna say it was terrible, because it was absolutely awful.  The last 32 Step Cast...mebbe I held onto it for a little bit into 2018... and looking at my results blerhg from that year, perhaps I sold it because I only did four races (really?) in 2018.  Did I quit racing or take a semi-hiatus that year, because jeebus, I ended up doing thirteen events in 2019?  I'm sure I saw it collecting dust in the corner of the room and decided it was a pile of money and who's going to be buying non-boost forks in the future?

Oh, yeth.

This guy.

Back to TSE, anyways.

Ask me if it's fun and "something to do" and I'll tell you I don't go back for the cold showers and SpaghettiOs® eating contests. 

I've got other changes going on in my life as well, but for right now, I'm putting my head down and looking forward to going into the weekend by "celebrating" my 53rd birthday in that way that I do.  Low key, bikes, beer... and mebbe a frand or two or three.

Thursday, June 9

Trans-Sylvania Epic '22: Stage 5

Ahhh... bless Stage Five's little heart.  Promoter Ryan has chosen to give us the gift of a short stage to end the week for the past few years.  It's a nice way to take the "pressure" off those of us just looking for a chip shot to the finish line.  Coming in at something close to eighteen miles as opposed to the thirty or so we used to do back in the day, I wasn't even worried about swapping out the well-worn brake pads I probably wasted coming down Tussey Ridge (with so-needs-replaced rotors).

Stage Four: Bald Eagle (18 miles, 2,000+ feet of climbing)

Right off the line and I'm in great company with Dan (third place SS) and in a group of people faster than my normal companions.  Dan kinda gaps me in the chunk gnar up Summit Trail and at some point (dammit) Young Worboy gets by me... again.  I'm just going to assume at the age of twenty, recovery isn't even a thing you have to think about.  I member at that age I could play tackle football, racquetball, lift weights, run, ride, wrestle, drink, and dance seven days a week, and my body felt absolutely nothing more than the occasional hangover.  At fifty plus?  Everyday is a baby step closer to ded.

photo cred: Bruce Buckley
I come up behind Libby and she's descending cautiously.  Unbeknownst to me, she went down and got broke off.  Dammit, Libby.  Sorry.

I get over to the Enduro™ side of things, and I'd totally forgotten just how steep and gnarly this is.  I member riding most of the steeps on my rigid bike... or do I?  I come up on SS GC leader Thad, and he's walking down...

I give him a quizzical look.

"I suck."

I think that's what he said.

He had a dejected appearance.  Did he break his bike (like he did last year on stage one)?  If so, did I just move into third overall?

Dammit.  I've just been given a reason to "try."  That's the thing about stage racing.  Anything can happen at any time that can change everything.  I spin my dick off on Decker Valley Rd, make the left turn to do the heinous climb back up Old 322, drool streaming down from my chin.  I'm mebbe a half mile up before I look over my shoulder and see a corn-fed figure in a leader's jersey behind me, standing up and making ground.

Dammit again.

Just like that, I went from an imaginary third overall back to fourth and not "trying" as Thad mashes potatoes past me.

Ryan did his best to pay tribute to the TSEs of old and routed us all over the Boy Scout Camp for a couple miles of meandering loam so desperately and constantly close to the finish line (as a crow flies).  I end up fifth... again... virtual but not really sixth in 50+... again...

To finish the week fourth place SS, seventh 50+ (but not really)... again.

But content to finish my tenth TSE in eleven outings, and honored to enter the newly formed TSE 500+ mile club. 
Obvs with the first few years being seven days and with some stouter mileage back in the day, I'm more like in the very exclusive 1,500+ mile club, but who's counting?

So that makes TSE year number 10.6.  Now what?

Tuesday, June 7

Trans-Sylvania Epic '22: Stage 4

Stage Four: Tussey Ridge (36 miles, 3,200+ feet of climbing)

To be honest, at this point, I can't remember which night DirtWireTV Thom showed up at Upper Eagle as we were about to go to bed or Buck showed up with the trail marking crew when we were about to go to bed or...

I think there was one night that we went to bed at a reasonable hour though.  Pretty sure it was not the night before Tussey Ridge.  They'd been forecasting rain for Stage Four all week, and it didn't seem like it was going to disappoint.  Like any good boy scout, I put on my liquid umbrella the night before.

Wow... did my legs hurt when I woke up.  Did I mention that I went back to my standard TSE gear of 32 X 19 after Stage Two was over?  Did I mention that I've been wondering if 53 year old me should be pushing the same gear that 41 year old me thought was a good idea?  Did I mention that I tried to separate what I was doing out here from my "ego" after the second day because it's all about fun at this point? 

Well, consider it all mentioned now.

At least it wasn't raining at the start.  Nobody likes to stand around while cats and dogs bounce off their helmets.  

This start never goes well for me.  There's so much gradual pavement and garvel that I just can't help but fall back in the field pretty much as far back as I'll ever see all week.

So by the time we get to the loop around Colyer Lake, I'll need to pack my patience.  They said there would be new bridges where we had backups at two creek crossings last year.  I swear they said that.  

But then I found myself standing behind Dan on a narrow path walled in by waist high weeds.  I couldn't even see the front of the line.

"I bet there's no bridge," I mutter to Dan.

"THERE'S MORE THAN ONE WAY TO CROSS THE CREEK," I yell pointlessly at the backs of so many helmets.

The line doesn't move.

Screw this.

I jump into the weeds and start going around the line of people.  Dan follows, dare I say semi-reluctantly.  I don't think we're breaking any rules... I mean ethically there might be a problem, but anything enforceable?

We get to the crossing and see that everyone is waiting their turn to cross over some stepping stones at... a... very... gingerly... pace.  ZOMG.

I look down to the right of the stones and it looks like it could be anywhere between two to three and a half feet deep or mebbe over my head.  Well, after going around all these people, it would be the asshole thing to do to NOT do exactly what you were screaming about thirty seconds ago...

So I jump in.  Not bad.  Balls deep mebbe.  Dan follows.  Mike Worboy give us a stiff arm as we try to get by him and his dry feet and a "hey, hey, hey," but whatever.  I got shit to do before the rain starts affecting my day (and vision).

Oh yeah, I forgot that when it's gonna rain, I only put water in one bottle so I can rinse off my glasses if need be.  I didn't do that.  Wonder how that will pan out?

Around Colyer Lake, gravel over to John Wert and the ill-shaped, fuck-face rocks begin.  I always "enjoy " this part of the challenge, the constant struggle to move forward, and this time it's enhanced with the addition of moisture.  I just want to get it over with before any real rain comes, and I'll admit I found great delight in the fact that some of the trail had been heavily reworked, giving an occasional break from the need to focus.  Before I knew it, I was at Three Bridges and then out to Bear Meadows Rd...

And then the bottom fell outta the sky.

Meh.

While I do revel in total shit conditions (I'm fueled by the misery of others, don't you know), I'm not looking forward to doing Tussey Ridge with limited vision.  Mebbe something will reverse my luck, considering that I didn't bring a bottle with water in it to rinse my lenses.

Nope.

I roll through the last aid station with the rain still coming down hard like a hippo jumping out of a lake.  Up into Tussey and mebbe ten minutes in, someone turns the faucet off.  Hmmm...

Now my glasses are schmutzed.  The lack of rain has brought the humidity levels up enough that my glasses fog up if I move them up my nose, and if I'm looking over them, I can only see about seven feet ahead of my front wheel.  Not optimal on Tussey... and every few minutes, the soaked peak on my tiny hat keeps flopping down and taking away that inch a a half window to the world that I'm looking out of.  

Of course that's when the younger Worboy passes me.  Meh.  If I never get this vision thing back, I'm gonna lose a lot of time today.  Had it stopped raining right before the aid station, I coulda rinsed off the lenses with their water, and the hydrophobic coating probably woulda done its job. 

I fumble my way across Tussey, tag my nut on the stem in the process, get to the Enduro™ segment, feel my way down to the bottom, finally get back to the garvel, hike up that never enjoyable Stovefield Trail, more garvel to the long paved climb back to camp...

Slipped back to fifth on the day and "finishing up" to a virtual sixth place in the 50+... so there's that.

Still stuck in fourth place overall in single speed like it's my job or something.

Thursday, June 2

Trans-Sylvania Epic '22: Stages 3 - 3.5

I'd be remiss if I didn't address yinz concerns about my now dead Lasko box fan.  It's pretty important to me as a clothes dryer and also a white noise machine to drown out the tinnitus and also any snoring neighbors while I'm trying to fall asleep.  I was all ready to go and buy a new fan at the State College Fan Outlet Store, but fortunately Upper Eagle had a not so shitty oscillating fan that helped ease my sorrow (and almost kept the snoring from eating away at my will to live).  Before you say it, yeth I know about fan noise apps.  It's not the same.  If you don't get it, you don't get it.  Real fans are my vinyl records.

Stage Three: R. B. Winter (32 miles, 3,000+ feet of climbing)

If you know me (or pretend to), R.B. Winter has not been my friend for a long time.  Sure, I enjoyed the mass start Enduros back in 2010, but since then, it's just not my bag.  I don't know if it's the lack of climbs that are just in my wheelhouse or the fact that I've done it in a turgid state and some of the trails aren't as ridden-in, thus leaving impediments to forward progress under piles of leaves and forest detritus.  Mebbe it's the two hour round trip drive and the fact that I don't wanna get in a car while I'm at TSE.

Nevertheless, it's always scored high with everyone else on the post-race survey, so it's obviously a "me thing."

Neutral roll out to a steep paved climb where I try to make my biscuits before getting dropped on the gravel to the first trail.  
photo cred: Bruce Buckley
The pace is high (for me), and I'm already feeling the previous two days in my leg parts.  Out somewhere around the first aid station and I find myself in the company of the younger Worboy single speeder (the one who in my mind is either 1/3 or 1/4 my age).  He's really giving 'er the stick, but at some point I decide I can't just roll over and play dead.  The Enduro™ (fun) to a trail (not so fun) to a double track that feels like a never-ending rumble strip no matter which track I choose (not fun at all).  It literally feels like I'm sprinting trying to hold 9MPH over the lumps and bumps.  We get to one of the final garvel climbs, and I'm thinking it's time to make my biscuits again... but the second garvel climb that I remember is not there.  We get dumped into the Tram Trail... which in my mind a "tram trail" sounds like it would be an abandoned this:

but it's actually a four mile climb that only gains like 600 feet... but it's entire surface is littered with baby heads, baby torsos, and whole babies... except for the smooth bridges... which are a foot and a half higher than all the baby parts sized rocks.  Almost four miles of sentient trail that actively and exclusively despises humans on bikes.  Don't think that I'm not understanding what "sentient" means.  This trail feels the hate flowing down through the pedals to the frame to where the rubber meets the not-road.  It reacts and responds and adapts and sharpens its loathing for all two-wheeled human existence.

Anyways... not a big fan of the Tram Trail.

But it did make for some good story sharing at the finish line.

Another 4th place finish in the SS class... and once again, had I entered 50+... another 7th place.  Consistency... it's the key to something or other.

I skipped a much-needed massage before supper because we got back so late, and also a post-supper massage because I didn't wanna be marked tardy for the bike games.

I "won" the "still holding my beer" division in the limbo contest.

But unfortunately, despite my best efforts (and airing my 2.8 Rekon down to almost nothing PSI), I lost to someone with a cockpit that makes Nino's look like a hybrid greenway cruiser.

And whilst my track stand cornhole style was at a Wu-Tang level, the Ohio that remains in me was no match for Josh's Ohio everlasting.

Your two-time TSE Cornhole Champ.  .

Wednesday, June 1

Trans-Sylvania Epic '22: Stages 0 - 2

Did my day-before the five stages of racing at the Trans-Sylvania Epic go as planned?  Mostly.  Up at 6:00, AM, out the door an hour later, eight hour drive, start to unpack and settle into Eagle Lodge (for the 11th time)... Josh rolls up twenty minutes later, and the first beer of the week is cracked open, and the best-laid plans of mice and men began to go awry.

Stage One: Poe Paddy (32 miles, 3,000+ feet of climbing)

It's just as I remember it (and also how I don't remember it).  We neutral roll outta camp and the race goes live on the gravel road.  I've always had trust issues with mass starts, and this one reminds me why.  A rider touches wheels with someone who gets a little too friendly with his brakes, and she high-sides and touches the floor pretty hard right in front of me.  Fortunately only one person ends up taking a gravel bath, but hopefully everyone within earshot has learned a valuable lesson.

Shale trail to real trail and over to the first Enduro™ segment of the week.  It becomes immediately apparent that the TSE will be a much more enjoyable experience with 140mm of travel as as opposed to doing it on a turgid fork... again.  I can run into things with reckless abandon... which is nice.

We continue over to the Poe Paddy State Park where we have to dismount and run on pavement because "rules," and I'm very quickly reminded that I'm not a runner.

photo cred: Bruce Buckley
The rest of it goes kinda like I member it.  Grunting up single track with many impediments to forward progress and also many people with cameras to document my inability to climb up a cliff littered in rocks.

photo cred: Bruce Buckley
Keep it going to the finish and somehow end up with the same time I got back in 2021 with the turgid fork, which probably says more about my preparations and fitness than it does about my equipment choices.  "Race-wise," the entire single speed field only started with six riders.  We lost Gordong to the Open class.  Two riders couldn't make it to the event.  From there, it was 2021almost podium guy (DNF'ed a stage) Thad, Joe who beat me last year by 9.5 minutes, his boy Mikey who's not even half my age, venerable veteran Dan, and also just as venerable Scott who finished just behind me last year.  

I ended up fourth on Stage One with my work cut out for me the rest of the week.  Better than being 7th outta 20 in the 50+?  Who can say?

The most devastating part of the entire day would be the loss of my decades old Lasko box fan.

Those of you that have read the blerhg for some time would know how much this fan means to me.  A broken handle replaced with a Race Face crank arm.  The control knob replaced with a crabon fiber XTR brake lever.  Many stickers of note and probably on its third or fourth set of replacement feet.  It's been to at least eight or nine TSEs.  Despite the efforts of Josh and I, it could not be saved.  Being that a motor costs as much as a new fan, it now ded like SS and 26" and high posts.  

Stage Two: Cooper's Gap (35 miles, 4,400+ feet of climbing)

Technically the "Queen Stage," although Tussey Ridge always fills that bill for me.  I broke my unwritten rule of single speed stage racing and swapped my 19 tooth cog out for a 20 tooth hoping it would help out on the technical climbing bits and mebbe the long slog at the end up Stillhouse Hollow. 

photo cred: Bruce Buckley
Apparently this stage runs right up my dissociative amnesia alley, because the memories are spits and sputters if they're anything at all.  I just remember head down suffering, holding on for dear life as I bounced down the descents, and moments of glory and also defeat on Stillhouse.

You'd think I'd remember more about a almost four hour day in the woods, but I don't (except the flashbacks).  I end up fourth (again) in the single speed category and a virtual what coulda been 7th in the 50+ (also again).