Thursday, August 11

I'm not always grumpy

Just putting it this out there, because it's been playing over and over in my head for awhile now.

It seems prudent that I at least acknowledge how fortunate I feel right now.  Fifty two weeks ago, I was less than a month into healing up from one of the worst wrecks I've ever experienced.  I was still having to strategize my movements to get in and out of bed in the least painful manner possible (a tucked-in fitted sheet can offer up a decent amount of leverage).  There was a constant stream of ibuprofen in my system... except for in the wee hours of the morning when it was noticeably absent.  Commuting and working sucked, and mountain biking was off the table.  I headed off to Breckenridge anyways.  I'd been having The Pie put random amounts pain relieving salves and K Tape on my back as a panacea to unsuccessfully  ward off all the pain that wrapped around half my torso.  I had no business being at the Breck Epic, and my inability to really handle a bike in my compromised condition combined with my fear of falling pretty much put me back on the floor two days in... making my current injury worse and creating a couple new ones to deal with as well.

It took months (5? 6?) to get to the point where I didn't feel the remnants of either wreck in my torso, shoulder, forearm, calf, or foot/ankle, and along the way, I made a decent amount of poor decisions.  It's taken a lot of time to get my nerve back on descents as well, but I'm probably 95% there.

I'm so happy to be riding my bike pain free and living my best life.  I know I come off as a tiny curmudgeon, but it's not beyond me to be thankful for my health and continued ability to do the one thing that brings me so much joy.

So there's that.

The one and only time every year I want to have anything to do with professional healthcare.  Look in most of my orifices, ask me pointless questions, steal some of my blood, and call me later.

Wednesday, August 10

What, me worry?

Breck Epic is next week.

I had "goals."  Not so much as to how the event would go for me, but what I would do in the lead up to aid in my making of not-so-great-but-definitely-a-finish bike race.

1. Lose weight... at a logical, healthy rate.

2. Drink less beer... as part of #1, but also just to do so.

3. Ride nothing but the Vertigo Meatplow V.7 avec le Fox Forque for the purposes of all off road pleasures from June 19th until some time in September.

Well... best intentions and whatnot.

I knew the first two would be a challenge, being that I had my birthday weekend trip, then the decision to attend the Tour de Burg, then my planned attendance of the UCI World Cup Race in Snowshoe.  Those kinda of things tend to come with certain poor lifestyle choices, and then it becomes a revolving door of bad behavior.  I was off to a good start, but each spit was followed by a certain amount of sputter.

I did lose weight.  Not the amount I wanted.  Not even close.  I was on track for a pound a week, but then 3 steps forward would lead to 2.99 back.  Being hungry for a hobby doesn't work for me like it used to. Beer followed suit as well.  Whatever.

I did manage to ride only the Vertigo from June 19th until (aside from TdB)... well, this past weekend.  Although the purpose was to get me back in single speed shape but also the single speed mindset, I'm pretty sure I managed that.  The bike felt all well and good on a 40 mile/5,300 feet day in Wilson Creek a few weeks ago, so as I was staring at all the money hanging on hooks and collecting dust this past Saturday, I decided I needed to love my children all the same.*

As if I meant to do so, somehow I scheduled a dentist appointment and my annual physical in the week leading up to heading to Breck.  I thought I would add to all the anxiety of travel, packing, logistics, and anticipation as I remember just how hard riding two hundred something miles with a billionty feet of climbing at about 10,000 feet of elevation really is.  Too bad I still didn't have an '87 Suzuki Samurai that needed an annual emissions inspection.

You would think I'd be getting better at dealing with this kinda crap since this is the 9th(?) time I've headed out for the Breck Epic.  I blame it on getting old... or the fact that the constantly compounding anal-compulsing issues are increasing at an exponential rather than linear rate.  I don't think I get more nervous about any event more than Breck Epic, which is odd because I've never considered it a race I could be any good at ever since the elevation handed me mine own ass the very first year I participated.  I might try to occasionally make great bike race from time to time, but I'm only at Breck to see if my body can still do these things.

And see frands.

And ride some of the most incredible trails on dog's green earth.

And to spend a lot of time kinda alone on or next to my bike while talking to myself and staring at the sun.

And to get outta Charlotte at a time of year when I think my brain is in danger of being properly baked, even if it's only a week of relief.  How many 90° days in a row are we at right now?

Anyways, doesn't sound like a bunch of shit that I should be all anxious about, do it?

* Speaking of all my children (and also anal compulsing), I was going to bring my Vassago Meatplow V.9 to Breck.  That was my motivation to swap the Grip 2 damper to a Fit 4.  Then again, I also daydreamed about spinning up the false flats at Breck that have me walking alongside Eaglers astride my Epic EVO (even though I know my legs have no idea how to do that).  Then I was able to get my hands on a Stepcast 32 (non-boost) for my Vertigo, but then that created a problem... a "problem" in as much as I make things a problem.

I've gotten used to my other two mountain bike type cycles having all the Mr Fix It stuff attached to them in some manner or another.  I enjoyed zero jersey pockets full of things at the Trans-Sylvania Epic 100%.  So what do?

Hate on the Big S all you want (and shoving tools in all your holes), but the poorly named Conceal Carry tool has all the minimal tools a single speeder would want, including a chain tool and spare links that I've literally never needed since I started SS'iing in late 2003.  I don't have room in my frame for a Topeak Ninja tool, and I think strapping a mini-tool into a strap with a tube slows down the kinda quick fixes you carry a tool to do.

My Dynaplug tool fits nicely under my Breck required Super 8 strap (gotta keep a vest/jacket/arm warmers/tiny hat handy), and it's one of two plugger do-dads I carry... because I wanna cover all my bases.  

Speaking of...

Tucked in right next to it are my spare plugs shoved inside a shortened, de-inked Bic pen.

Now obvs, I'm not being anti-Tülbag.  I mean, I sorta invented it.

If I don't carry it, I won't have some other things I carry, like a tire boot, Gorilla tape wrapped around a rectangle piece of Maxxis plastic, a piece of paper clip (to pick dirt outta things like loose cleat bolts), or a $20 bill for an emergency burrito.  

I might figure that shit out between now and then.  Mebbe.

Who knows?  Who even knows who would know?

Thursday, August 4

Veni, vidi... that's all. That's it.

Yeth, I went back up to the UCI World Cup mountain bike race in Snowshoe for the 3.5th (or 3.5rd?) time.  I'll do my best to keep my jaded fingers from the keyboard right now... mostly.  My best not being the absolute best of all humankind obvs.

The "been there, done that" part of me was reluctant to go, but Dr Mike had not seen the glory, so a trip was in order to aid in the completion of his life experience.  I'm pretty sure I've lamented the current condition of the XC trails that I used to have the highest regard for... although I'm sure my memberberries are tinged with a little Glory Days music inspired by early '90s trips from (then) dismal Ohio and those gawdawful 24 hour race experiences in the early aughts.  That said, you either suck it up and ride the dilapidated XC trails or try to find some time to get to something far off the mountain property around the not-so-packed but mid-day timed events you actually drove six hours to witness.

So... you're not really here to ride as much as not ride... if you can handle that.  I couldn't, so I brought a bike because "fitness."

But that's not "the why" you would go to a UCI World Cup race.

I do come up here to see people.  Ones that I know.  Ones that I meet.  One's who have an athleticism I admire.  It's also not very difficult to get wrapped up in some very emotional finishes, especially in epic conditions.

Not my photo, obvs because I viewed a lot of the race from here once the rain started really coming down:

Dr Mike got lucky, because when they canceled his original reservation, they upgraded him to this balcony facing the finish line and pretty much directly above the Red Bull TV tent.  Wasn't too hard to watch the live feed video and pop our heads out like meerkats when the XCO leaders rode by.  

There might be giants.

These events are in absolutely no order whatsoever, but the morning after watching the Short Track (with two American 1st place finishers), I was able to shake off the the beer and get out for a ride...

But not much on the trails because they're not even close to dry when it's "dry" in Snowshoe, WV.  My "garvel" ride was only "garvel" in name because there are stones the size of loaves of bread, water bars like we used to have in the '90s, entirely washed-out sections, a river crossing, and pitches that you're not getting up (or probably down) without four wheel drive.  But it was exercise and the only reason I brought a bike along begin with.  My ride was not without some anxiety being that I underestimated the distance (I didn't look), the elevation profile (also didn't look), or have any idea how long it would take... but I did need to be back at a specific time.  Whatever.  Failing to plan it planning to be a fail.

Downhill spectating was as good as it gets and only slightly bettered with the heckle stop on the climb back up to finish my beer(s) and to pleasure the lift riders and stumble-walkers with my kazoo rendition of Final Countdown avec Jimbo from Stan's.

I wanted to get into a hot tub after finishing the hike up, but the low key HandUp party adjacent to the Volcom shenanigan-a-thon was beckoning.

Me being caught being the worser (but not worst) version of me:

All told, I spent about the same about of time in the hot tub as I did standing next to the course.  I had a great time, and as expected, suffered the anticipated setback regarding my goals over the last two months.  I also lost my favorite tiny hat and the captured bead in my earring that's been in my man-made earhole since 1998.

I said this will be the last time I head to WV for such silliness, but if you know me, you know me.

*cue something less insurrection'ish than Proud to be an American*

Tuesday, July 26

I did a thing I said I do

Okay... okay...

I did say remind me to "review" the Tubolight EVO SL tire insert I put in my rear tire back in... holy shit, May.  At least I can say my review will be relatively thorough.

Check out that packaging!
Advertised at 58 grams VS my previous CushCore XC's 150 grams...

Close enough.

Installation went as expected.  Watch an install video before ordering in anticipation of its arrival.  Forget 90% of what I saw as soon as I open the bag.  Take an educated stab at it, watch the video again, and voila.

Photo from my pre-voila moment.

I chose to dump sealant directly into the tire as I always do.  They suggest that anyways.

"At first installation, we suggest not to put sealant from the valve."

Honestly, I'm dumbfounded as to how it would get into the area at the tread and sidewall (where flat's happen) if you shot it heroine-style into your vein... I mean valve.  Then again, how am I gonna know what happens inside my tire?  Does the light stay on in the fridge if a tree falls in the forest?

Notice the odd shape of this insert that certainly differentiates it from just about every other tire insert out there.  Here's their science and/or marketing spiel:

"The air channel between insert and rim acts like a valve. During a shock, part of air molecules inside the tire move from the outer portion of the insert into the channel, causing a difference in pressure. As the insert is very tight on the rim, those molecules gets trapped and take a fraction of time longer to re-establish even pressure between the outer and inner portion.

That means, in the real world, rolling resistance and tire rebound are reduced. These two features combined give what every rider is looking for: EFFICIENCY."

It doesn't come with a special tire insert-specific valve, and I'm guessing it doesn't need it.  I've installed it with two different types of normal'ish valves (Industry nine and Mynesweeper) and had zero issues.

Enough of that, right?  How did it go?

I've ridden Trans-Sylvania Epic, five days of "East Coast Rocks," and three days of the Tour de Burg.  That's about 270 miles give or take (I did some walking next to my bike and carrying it). I've suffered at least three flats at the former and two at the latter in the past, so I'd say they're pretty good testing grounds.  Throw in mebbe some other ride or two that wasn't Gram'able or worthy of bloggage.  Zero flats... but also zero bear attacks, so credit either the Tubolight or the Springfield Bear Patrol.

I rode at each event as I tend to do on my 140mm forked hard tail with an insert in the rear tire, like a bag of hammers doing a choreographed dance with a sack of anvils.  With the CushCore installed, I would experience the once every other ride ♫DONG♫ noise that would tighten my sphincter as I continued down the trail wondering if I'd either flatted the tire, cracked a rim, or both.  

Member?  I member.  

That was a tire not equipped with an insert on a non-Industry Nine rim FYI.

Eight days of what I would consider some pretty rough riding on demanding trails, and I never heard the ♫DONG♫.  Not once.  I'm running the same pressure I always do with an insert on a tire with similar width as I'm accustomed to riding.  Lemme repeat that.  I never heard the tire bottom out once.

Referring back to the information on their site:

"Studying how pinch flats occur and how tire inserts interact with the tire and the rim, we moved material right where it needs to be, over and outside of the rim bead. The portion over the rim bead is increased by 30% to 60% depending on rim width, and together with an harder compound, rim hits are drastically reduced."  

How 'bout that?

I'm a fan.  I still have the CushCore... hanging in my tire humidor... waiting for who knows what or why.  This barely weighs enough to notice it, versus the CC which I can really feel on the climbs.  That said, I'm not putting either on my Epic EVO, because it has 116mm of tire-saving monkey motion.  I'm also not putting one on my Vertigo Meatplow V.7, mostly because I'm cheap, and also because I'm going to be riding with 75% more finesse on a bike with 0-100mm of front travel.

One more thing.  Don't confuse Tubolight with the company that makes the garbage orange tubes that weight weenies like to carry (but don't like to use because they're usually pre-flatted when you actually need them).  If you're into online reviews, there's not a lot out there to read about the Tubolight inserts (they have a range of products), so the website is just about all you get.  Well, that and the reassurance that some big teams with some HUGE names use their stuff.

I did do a tire swap after TSE from an Apsen 2.4 to a Forekaster 2.35.  Said tire swap did come with an all new learning curve of how to remove the tire from the rim with the insert installed.  At first, I was ready to light everything on fire, stomp on the ashes, sweep them up, throw them into stagnant puddle, sop the puddle up with a greasy towel, and then light that on fire.  After fifteen minutes of anger and reddened fingers, I realized how I could leverage my weight against the tire and break the bead... and I hope I don't forget that if I ever get a flat which needs more than a plug to fix...

Which has only happened once since I started using plugs?!?!

And zero flats since I started riding with any kinda tire liner in the rear?!?

Ain't it a great time to be alive?

I know I haven't dug it out in awhile, but here you go.  I'm going to give the Tubolight EVO SL tire insert my...


Why semi?  I guess without the addition of a cool ano'ed valve stem, no flat-brimmer is checking out my green bit and asking me, "bro, you got CushCore?"  Ummmm... I guess just like any tire insert, if you get a really bad flat (like a torn sidewall), you're going to have to figure out how to carry your misshapen pool noodle outta the woods.  That said (like I said), I've had zero flats while running an insert, so knock on woody.

What are you waiting for?  


Thursday, July 21

Moving along

Like I said, doing the The Only Race That Matters™ (not really) didn't really line up with a couple goals that I set for myself (which I'm still not ready to share with the class).  It was an anticipated setback in one arena, but by only participating as an interloping poacher, I'm pretty sure I negated the adverse effects in the other.

It did halp me get back into the world of being a "single speeder" again.  I'd been doing so much switch-hitting between many gears and just one (at a time) that while I'd gained a little bit of skill in spinning the shifties, I'd lost a tick of my SS natural state that I used to take for granted.  The first day at the Tour de B**g, I didn't feel my stand up sticks were working for me.  By the last day, it all sorta felt normal, and the hike-a-bike sections on the last day reminded me that my legs do that too.  Important to remember since I'll be walking all over the mountains surrounding the Breckenridge area in less than a month. 

That's what this is all about... at least right now.  I've even swapped The Fastest Bike in the World over from 48X19 to 48X17 for commuting and workings.  I'm still an advocate for the shorter gearing in the CLT for acceleration, slowing down, and any actual maximum speed you can get around here, but the taller gear will get me standing more, so halpful?  Mebbe?

The plan now is to ride all the mountain bike cycling rides from now until the Shenandoah Mountain 100 (K sport class) on this:

Which isn't always gonna be for the best.  I'm supposed to "play" bikes for a frands berfday this weekend... at Rocky Branch... which is jumpy and playful more than XC and endurance'ish.  Then the next week is the Snowshoe World Cup... which means all there is to ride is the forgotten (shite) XC trails that are all janky and better suited to any other bike I have, and I'll have to get up and out early with a foggy brain to do any riding at all.  Then there's just one weekend to go before leaving for Breck.

Ob-la-di, I guess.

Speaking of guessing, over/under on whether or not this 2.6 Minion DHF is gonna fit in my non-boost 32 Stepcast? 

Ima gonna find out because I gotta know before I leave for Breck.  I'll take all the tire I can get so mebbe I can stay on the trail this time.  This past week marks the one year out from my summer injury number one on Palisade Plunge, and I'm looking forward to getting past the one year since my Breck Wreck™ in a few weeks.  Those were some dark dicky moments.

And for all the haters in da club, I have passed the one year mark of owning a full suspension geared bike.

Sure it's been hanging on the wall in The Pie RN's office since June 19th, but I don't think anyone who had a bet in the Dead Pool made out very well.  

Pretty sure this makes her look more "adventurous" on her Zoom calls.

I'm very much looking forward to some lazy, squishy riding this fall, especially with that 2.6 tire up front.  I've had my eye on it for months and was finally able to get my hands on one.  It's gonna be a great off-"seasons."

So who's got the bets outside the first year window?

*  PS: It do.

Tuesday, July 12

The Only Race That Matters™ (not really): Part Three

After spending much of the previous day unhydrating my body and brain, I was up and checking my grundle at 6:00AM.  I saw no reason to not give this day a go.  Everything was kinda Shake and Baked, crispy on the outside, tender on the inside... but close enough for gub'ment work.

This stage was the one that had me most excite.  "Super tech rock" in an area that I'm familiar with in terms of terrain but not my exact (or even close) place on the face of the earth.  Tough riding, loads of walking and some kind of descending down something.

I was sure to apply liberal amounts of Tony's Secret Salve to my rearward exposure, and I doused my frontal properties in Reuben's Dick Juice.  The baggies were left back at Carp's house this time.  I was fully kitted and ready to get pitted.

It's a long gravel slog to the start of the first timed section.  Others are remarking at my awkward position on my saddle, sometimes sitting on the nose, sometimes more of a woman wearing a petticoat riding a horse kinda thing.  Anything to keep the still raw parts from bearing all my weight. We stop at a random place in the road, and Carp shouts out the directions...

"Up just a bit, grab a right, take a left when you hit a T... follow orange... and a runner will be doing sweep.  If he passes you, you're off the back."

Something like that.  Yeth, this trail will be technical enough that a RUNNER will be doing sweep duties.  I can't wait.

I make a couple moves on the double track to get around people Eagle'ing their way up the hill.  I won't be able to hold these places later, but 32X20 only goes so slow.  We get into the real "super rock tech," and it becomes a battle of if/when to remount the bike and how far will it have to be rideable to be worth the effort.  I get in with a merry group of folks, and I just watch where I put my feet parts while occasionally looking at my Wahoo data acquisition device to see how close I'm getting to the T, hoping that a left turn will mean more down than up and also sideways.  We get to the T, and I tell Churtle it's definitely left because I can remember two things at a time.  Down to the bottom and it's time for sandos.

At the next timed segment, we're heading right out of a parking lot into some double/single track.  It's deceptively swoopy, and it feels like a dream... until it's a nightmare.  My Wahoo data acquisition device tells the tale with squiggly dashes and tight curves.  We're heading up to a ridge... and the swoops and whoops are replaced with walking over loose rocks and hot sun roasting my depleted body.  At least shuffling keeps most of my chafed parts free from saddle contact.  Once up on the ridge, it becomes the usual battle of on and off the bike and sometimes carrying it on my back to climb up the boulders.  

It's at this point that I really wonder what makes a human want to do this voluntarily.

The trail finally turns down, and it's honestly the best descent of the whole week (so far).  Fast, loose, tight, wide open... raw... obviously why a human would suffer as we did to get where we are... until some rando insect decided to starting lighting up my lower left rib cage, and I'm trying to go down the mountain one-handed whilst repeatedly punching myself (and hopefully the bug). 

Pop out at the bottom, safe and sound.  Sandos.  Always sandos.

We've got a l-o-n-g climb to a short final timed segment, and I'm the only one on a single speed (other than Scottie riding sweep).  Once things start really turning up, I find myself alone and off the front.  I'm pounding the PP (Party Pace), but what are my options?  At least getting to the timed DH section first will get me back to the car (and mebbe beer?) first as well.  1,100 feet up and 500 down, and fortunately the timing folks had a beer to spare.

That evening was perhaps the most subdued ever after the penultimate stage.  Fewer beers consumed, a night out to eat, tired and weary faces.  The day had taken its toll.

For me, that was the final stage.  With no skin in the game (other than the skin I had lost), I decided to head home on Tuesday morning instead of sticking around for the final beat down on some trails I'd ridden numerous times since '06.  I could get home mid-day, save a few doll hairs, and down gear all the things as opposed to pulling into the driveway late at night with barely enough energy left in the tank to unload the car and go to bed.  I was home by 1:00 and had enough time to put all the things in all their places and even prepare certain bikes for their predetermined destinies.   

The only picture I took after road day, Nate's custom steel full-boinger.  I did snap a few pics of my chafed bits before I realized no amount of creative cropping or filters were going to make the images SFW.

Viva Le Tour.

Monday, July 11

The Only Race That Matters™ (not really): Part Two

That night was not the usual evening at Le Tour.  Fewer beers were being consumed than normal.  Bed times came earlier than in year's past.  Lasagna portions were as overwhelming as per the norm tho.

A full belly and a one water to one beer ratio saw me just fat and happy when my head hit the pillow.  That is aside from the small amount of chafing I was experiencing on my mushroom cap.  It was moderately irritating, like a bug bite or a "Scam Likely" phone call.  

You see, I wore SWAT bibs with a pair of baggie shorts, just as I tend to do when I ride bikes with more than 100mm of travel.  You know who else wears baggies at Le Tour?  Just about no one.  It's usually hot and almost always humid.  Had I been a smarter man, I woulda just wore the bike cycling racing panties outfit that I normally wear for "performance" sake.  Had I been a been a slightly smarter-than-a-rock man, I definitely wouldn't have selected the same articles of clothing when they came outta the dryer that morning of the second day.

It was hot (again).  It was humid (again).

We do a long parade loop to start the day so we could see a recently re-worked trail.  Then over to a road climb and the "racing" begins.

I'm already drenched in sweat, and the moderate discomfort from my chafing has gone up a few notches.  Add to that, the problem is spreading to the parts of my butt I believe would be called by someone in the medical field, the "under cheek."  As I climb up the singletrack, I try to reach into my bibs on occasion and reshuffle my deck, but to absolutely no avail.  My junk ends up where it wants to go and continues to excoriate and destroy my fleshy bit.

Some might remember that I really got into endurance racing doing 24/12 hour solo events.  I'm normally pretty good at undercarriage management, but this is a new experience for me.  I've been in these moist chamois moving around for almost nine hours in the past two days.  I'm not happy.

I come down the final descent of the first timed stage and head right back to Boyes's car.  Dive into my messenger bag, find a couple sample packs of chamois lubricants.  I go for the white packet first... and it feels like I just dumped gasoline on my ding dong.  I grab a dirty rag from the back of the car and immediately wipe it all off.  Once things cool down, I open a sample of Chamois Butter, thinking it should be less toxic.  No dice.  More burning.  More sadness.

I either grit my teeth and ride the next 7-10 mile loop and risk doing more damage or pull the plug.  I'm rather fond of my bits, so I take the second option.

I have no regrets. 

What follows for the next twenty or so hours is anything but pleasant.  I want to watch the riders on the final descent, but because I didn't pack any underwear in my go-bag, the only way I can walk around in my jorts is to cup my loins through my pocket while I walk.  Once back at Carp's house, I can finally bathe (ouch), apply some of Tony's Secret Salve, put on my one pair of underwear to reduce motion and friction.  That night, I got some of Reuben's Dick Juice and sprayed all the parts liberally.  To get to sleep, I had to sleep on my side and make a tent over myself with my Sponge Bob comforter.

I'd love to say that some beer took the edge off, but it didn't.

So the next day, despite having access to my borrowed flat bar garvel bike, I opted to not partake in a hundred miles worth of saddle time.  I was bummed, but I was already outta the full-pull after bailing on the final portion of the previous day... so whatever.

I ended up spending the day with Carp and the timing crew, running around (delicately), setting up lunch stops, marking the course, fixing flats, or doing whatever else was asked of me... all while occasionally lubing up my raw uglies whenever I could get a moment. 

That evening, the shower didn't bring me to tears, some of the redness was gone, the scabbing was looking pretty good (as good as a scabbed wiener can look), and my thunder down under was at a low rumble.

I'm seriously hopeful that the next day (the one that when I read about it in the pre-"race" email, I said "I'm in, you son of a bitch"), I'd be back in the saddle... although gently and mindfully back in the saddle.