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Monday, August 19

Breck Epic '19: Stage One

I hate traveling. Love being places. Hate getting there.

There is close to zero stoke until I am on the ground, on site, bike and bags in hand.

Then I can start to sink into a sense of relief.

photo cred: Chris M
I got my shit properly dialed about a half hour after getting to Breckenridge.  Grocery shopping done an hour later, which consisted of buying what looked good at the time and a couple twelve packs to get me through (most of) the week.

Racer meeting, see a few old friends, back to the condo, settle in for the first night of restless sleep.

Wake up.  Eat breakfast, coffee, morning constitutionals... grab our bikes to head out the door... Chris has a flat.

Which means "we have a flat."

This is duo racing in its purest form.

There had been some debate regarding the potential weather, what to wear, what to carry, what to stash in the aid bags.  Between the wardrobe hemming and hawing and the last minute addition of sealant and air, we were just a little late (meaning not super early) to the start line.  We're hundreds of riders back from the front when we arrive.  Where we belong or not, we'll know soon enough.

Start with a paved climb, and Chris and I weave our way up through the pack.  We get a little stymied (as expected) on the first descent, and then things begin to thin out.  We keep a pretty solid pace, and as we get closer to the first aid station, the rain begins.  I stop on a long gravel descent, pull out my Shakedry jacket... and quickly figure out that I shoved my pullover hooded coat in my pocket, the much easier on/off full-zip stashed in an (some?) aid bag ahead.  Chris flies by me as I take off my helmet and don my GORE.

We're at the aid station together, and we take the time to kinda check in on each other.  We both seem in fair spirits despite the continuing drizzle... but from there, we quietly fall apart in our own separate, particular... ummm... idioms.

The rain slows down... I take the jacket off.  Chris is still just vested... fully damp.

Doesn't matter.  The rain starts back up again as we climb up Little French Gulch and the temps drop and the jacket goes back on and the hope fades away.

The quiet sadness notches back up considerably.

Mebbe we shoulda been talking about it.  Personally, it might have helped to know that I wasn't alone.  My feet and hands are going uncomfortably numb.  The shivers are starting to take over.  On top of all that, my drooper post is becoming sentient, deciding when it wants to stay up and when it just floats between drooped and high post.  I'm a shit show of large proportions going up and especially coming down.

It began to feel like it was never gonna end.

But then it did.

Fake rage.

We rode quietly back to the condo, disrobing on the landing between the second and third floor to minimize contamination of our living quarters.

The day was a success, in terms of our ability to stick together and ride through adversity.  It was also a bit of a fail, as our self-care was at a sad minimum, under-dressed and nowhere close to properly fed and hydrated for most of the day.  Personally, I drank about a half a bottle and ate a couple gummy things over the almost four and a half hours on the course.

Oh, and somehow we ended up taking the second step on the Duo Men 100+ podium for the day.  Six minutes back from first, two ahead of third, and out of a total of six teams.

Ummmm... okay?

Thursday, August 8

Familiarity breeds contempt

I got all packed up for the Breck Epic on Tuesday night, minus a handful of last minute things to add a false sense of urgency later.  To say this was my most laissez faire pack job for a stage race would be an understatement.  I'm just grabbing things and thinking, "This will do," and then tossing them in the duffel bag.

Hello, there, old top... I mean Breck Epic.

I started with the squeezy leg bags and then just went about packing around them.  I thought about leaving them behind, but even assuming that Elevated Legs might show up with a slew of meat stick squeezers for the racers to use, I don't wanna walk all the way over to the big tent.  I wanna be able to watch shitty yet still rewatchable movies on cable while eating some simple-to-prepare meal and drinking a beer whilst getting my squeeze on.  They went in the bag first, then tools and a few spare parts (I don't wanna go looking for valve stems or brake pads in the middle of prime time down time), followed by shoes (two pair), and then... stuff that I just started grabbing.  Some gloves, these socks... enough cut-off shorts to get through a week of lounging about, etc.

My biggest concern right now has been my lack of concerns.  I haven't really "trained" much at all this summer, and I'm just operating under the assumption that I "got this."  I made sure to do all the little things I could think of that required minimal effort.  I drank Rocket Red for two weeks straight in the lead up to this weekend.  I trimmed my fingernails and toenails.  I went over my bike, checking things like sealant and brake pads... and made sure to pack extras of both... while also discovering that my big jug of TruckerCo Cream is empty. 

Someone has been doing a shitty job keeping track of inventory here.

I didn't bleed my brakes like I promised myself that I would.

I didn't quite lose those extra pesky pounds that have just been lingering around since... April??

I didn't put a fresh Rekon 2.25 on my rear wheel... but at least I packed it, no?

Hopefully none of these non-preparations will affect the making of great bike race, especially since I'm racing duo with someone I consider "responsible," at least in the realm of people that I would call "my friends."  He's not one to lead me down a dark path (ahem, Watts), but he would allow me to go down it if I so chose, and he would do his best to keep me from wandering too far into the weeds.

Basically, what I'm looking for is a non-harmful, buddy movie experience.  A little more Bob and Doug and a little less Jay and Silent Bob.

Although, I feel like I'd be Bob in one and the not Bob in the other scenario.

Of course, we all know that I'm just doing this whole thing in order to get material for quality blerhg content and maybe some hi-res meme-friendly images, right?

That and a distraction from reality AND also a break from the heat, humidity, Charlotte, work, lawn care... life...

AND the chance to ride my bike in one of the most beautiful places on earth with my little friends.

See you in a week and change.

Monday, August 5

Burrow down in and...

If ever there was a time that I wished my head were in the sand... I mean "clouds," it's now.

Woulda been a good weekend to be unplugged from the world and all up in Breckenridge, focused on nothing but eating, riding, and sleeping... with healthy doses of hanging out with like-minded individuals... at least in the terms that we're all there to ride and have a good time.  I mean, I understand that mountain bikers can still be a diverse group, with "good people" from all sides... but as long as we can just limit ourselves to just being about the bike for a week mebbe?

One good ride before escaping from it all...

Not seen Cathy M, who when she's not taking pictures, she's teaching Togie and I how to ride in Pisgah... and also missing is Kangalangamangus who went off in a "choose your own adventure" manner earlier in the day.

2/3 of my issues (most of which I created) with the Vassago Meatplow V.8 have been resolved.  The ticking noise is still there... quiet on Black Mountain, coming in pianissimo on Buckwheat, and then going full-on fortissimo coming down Bennett.  Enough so that my head almost exploded.  I hate noisy bikes more than paper cuts (not really).  I've got one more thing to rule out before I blame the fork.  I don't wanna have to go there... and I won't.  At least not until I get back from Breckenridge.

So we live in bad times and some good.

This was the most pleasant experience I've ever had sticking my bike into something for travel purposes.  Even I couldn't have screwed this one up, even with a beer always close at hand.  Sorry for the poor quality image, but I was too busy running around high-fiving myself.

I don't think I've ever looked forward to getting away as much as I am right now, despite my lack of feeling very "fit" or "fast."   I can't tell if that's a state of mind, a reflection of my lack of effort towards being an "athlete," being slightly heavier than normal in August, the time when I had to take a step back to recover from an injury, or just occasional rides on a noisy bike eating at my brain part (not to mention, I allowed my tarck bike to make trbl noises for more than two weeks before I finally addressed it).

Mebbe I squeak out one more postive but no more creative post before getting on an airplane this Saturday to make great bike race (stories).

Thursday, August 1

Dogs don't halp

After doing the Breck Epic seven times, you think I'd be more dialed.  Somehow, here I am, amazed that I'll be headed out in just a little over a week.  Things have been somehow slow yet also hectic here on my part.

With the family outta town most of the week, I've been dropping Boppit in the mornings, going to work, picking him up... and then trying to catch up on getting all the neglected bike things back up to 100%, whilst in the back of my brain, I'm thinking about how I should be preparing for Breck.

I'm flying with my bike this time...

for purely logistical reasons.

That means cramming fewer goodies in with it, so less space in my luggage for important things, like spare parts and multiple tiny hats.  I so wanna bring my squeezy leg bags, but I doubt there will be room in my one piece of additional luggage.

I'm still leaning towards bringing the Vertigo Meatplow V.7 with me, despite what I said shortly after doing the Pisgah Enduro™ about enjoying the descents.  Partly because that's just how I do what I do, and partly because the Vassago Meatplow V.8 has been less than pleasant to ride lately.

That is my fault.  Pretty much entirely.

I replaced my drooper housing and cable some time back, and afterwards, it was obvious that something was off.  The lever was difficult to push.  I suffered from thumb exhaustion on even short rides, but I refused to take the time to sort it out.

The bike was feeling sluggish.  I couldn't put my finger on that problem.

The headset was ticking.  Tick, tick, tick, tick, tick... and I only threw a half-assed effort at fixing and gave up.

So, these past few nights of living La Vida Bachelor, I've been trying to give it my full ass.

Despite my reluctance to mess with my internal drooper, I went all in on it.  Replaced (with some slight swearing) the housing with Jagwire (I don't know where I got the unbranded housing I was using), and a new Shimano cable, and boom... a prooper drooper.  Function fully restored.

The headset.  Take it apart.   Grease the ever-loving shit outta it.  Everywhere.  No ticking... at least when I test it inside the house.  Mebbe bueno?

The sluggishness?  A while back, I started running a slightly worn chain so I could run 32X20 at the absolute shortest position on my sliders.  As in "slammed."  The chain was a little tight... but things still went in circles.  I assumed the chain would stretch a little more and things would be good eventually.

Mebbe no.

While preparing to just give up and add a link to the chain, I discovered that the wheel was reluctant to spin when I tightened the skewer up good and snug.  That's not how that's supposed to work.

Remove the wheel, pop off the end caps and freehub... meh.  Running my chain super-tight roached the double row bearing in the freehub, entirely my fault.  Fortunately, I was still sitting on one in my drawers, so some swearing pulling... I mean 'bearing pulling,' and then pressing, and lubing, and fixed.

Basically, 87% of the problems I created for myself are now addressed.

So V.8 VS V.7 becomes just one more thing to think about when I go to bed at night with my eyes staring into the darkness and an exhausted dog snoring at my feet who has been very little help around the house all week long.

Monday, July 29

We all die at some point... might as well ride till then

Prolly the tamest La Vida Bachelor weekend ever.  All the time in the world to get into something, but I stuck with bikes and not much else.

A late start on Saturday and I headed out to Lake Norman with the bike I wouldn't wanna take there.  No reason to have a fork with moving parts for the flowing, mostly non-technical trails, but I did have a plan.

Ride all of Lake Norman (@30 miles), and then head over to Cedar Valley Bike Park to check out the new flow lines trails, despite hearing that most of the jumpy bits would be over my head.

I'll be honest.  I'm a bag of shit.  I was less than fifteen minutes into my long drive up I77 when I realized I'd left my Shuffle at home.  Meh.  Hours alone in my own head on trails that sometimes seem as if they're on repeat, especially shortly after I listened to a podcast that Eric PMBAR Honcho Wever recommended to me... about existential crisis and the meaninglessness of life.

Started with Laurel Loop (which has multiple extensions coming off from it)... got bored way too quickly.  The two or three small things I need to address on the Vassago Meatplow V.8... their nuisance amplified with the company of others or music in my one good ear.  My desire to pump out miles for the sake of miles themselves dwindled.  Get to the first extension... skip it.

Get outta Laurel and head to Monbo and remember why I used to like riding here.  Monbo is a treat.  Plenty of moments approaching or exceeding 20mph.  Hard not to smile a little bit, despite the whole meaninglessness of life.

But that was enough for me for now. 

It's getting late, in terms of the last time I ate and my evening plans, so I bail and head to CVBP, hoping to hit some fast food on the way there. 

Of course my google routed me through the bumble country north of Charlotte, and this spoiled city person (who grew up in a trailer) had to settle for a gas station purchase of a bag of chips.

But then, CVBP.

Fortunately, they measure stems and not total apples tall.

All I can say is that CVBP is truly a gem.  Everything (except one, mebbe two drops) was rollable.  Obvs, I wasn't capable of gapping the gaps and make the most of it, but still it's dope AF.

That said, I only had time for a couple loops.  I needed to get home, repack, mebbe get a nap, grab the Vertigo Meatplow V.7, and head to the Rampton Lodge in Saluda.  I got it all done, except the nap... still running on the fumes left form the bag of Doritos.

Drive to Saluda, catching up on some of the non-Tour de France podcasts I've missed over the last three weeks.  Get there, fine trout dinner with Kurdt, Gwen, and Phil, washed down with a pre-planned limited amount of beer.

I'm glad I didn't overdo my Saturday ride or evening beers because Kurdt's good idea for a ride was to do a loop with the often overlooked Turkey Pen Trail.

South Mills > Mullinax > Squirrel > Wheelchair Ramp > Black Mountain > Turkey Pen

I didn't feel 100% at the start of the ride, and had to get back into the rigid Pisgah groove.  I fumbled on Squirrel multiple times.  Once I got the Wheelchair Ramp, my legs were back under me, and life was more bueno.  Over Black and then down Turkey Pen.

When I say often overlooked, I mean it.  This trail is so close to all the ones you read about on the internet, but it can only be done out and back (a huge chunk of up and down) or in a rather large loop.  Despite the fact that we were coming down after 2:00PM on a Sunday, Kurdt was out front clearing spider webs. 

Anyhoo, IMHOMO Turkey Pen is one of the best (mostly) descents in Pisgah.  Straight out speed and incredible lines of sight with a dash of technical bits here and there. 

If you don't take the time to throw it in the mix at some point, you're doing Pisgah wrong.  Gather some pals, pack a sammich, and just go do it.

Not sure if that was a good weekend's worth of prep for the Breck Epic in two weeks... where I'll ride much further than I did on Sunday... for six days in a row... at elevation.

Whatever.  I rode Turkey Pen and I can confidently say, you did not.

Wednesday, July 24

Life's Little Mysteries

Tuesday morning, mebbe around 7:45AM.  Fifteen minutes before I need to start getting dressed and gathering the things I need to go to work.  I let my mind wander to Breck Epic...

When should I pack my bike in my new travel bag?  What am I gonna need?

The bag didn't show up with dummy axles.  Supposedly, it doesn't need them.  I've got a cardboard 142x12 hollow bit... mebbe if I use some axle adapter bits and pieces from the Topeak Prepstand X?

Where are my bolt-on axles

Dammit.  I don't even need them.  I think I do tho... mebbe not now, but in a couple weeks?

The hunt begins.

I look in the logical places.  The drawer in the pegboard/credenza where things like that should be.  The tiny wooden box that used to hold my dad's soldering shit, now my Industry Nine small parts container.  Random small boxes in the deep, dark recesses.  Start looking in the illogical places.  The hanging file folders where I keep maps, manuals... foot warmers?   The tube pile.  The box in the laundry room full of parts that I'll probably never need but mebbe?

Dammit.  8:00 AM.

I've all but given up,  and as I start tidying up some of the stuff that got tossed aside in the maelstrom, I see a dirty Mason jar hidden behind the various lubrication products I've assembled over the past three decades.

What in the actual fuck?

I don't remember ever sticking that jar back there or what logic I thought there was in sticking thru-axles back in and amongst the bicycling related liquids and semi-liquids.

Anyways, 8:02AM and I'm able to get back to preparing for my day with a sense of calm knowing that I found the two things I might not necessarily need to pack my bike but absolutely did need to retain my sanity.

So, does this explain what happens next?

Out the door, hop on the tarck bike... outta my hood, through the next one, make the leap across the most dangerous road of my commute, one more hood, hop on the light rail path...

And my legs feel really good.  The kinda good you want your legs to feel at the start of a race or a big day in Pisgah.  I open it up, and the energy levels are just there.  My meat sticks are responsive and capable of mashing pedals.

Well.

The problem I start to try and work out in my head is what exactly did I do right to have my legs under me this morning?

Big'ish ride in Pisgah on Saturday followed by no riding on Sunday followed by a slow work day on Monday?

Wearing Swiftwick Sevens instead of Fours like I normally do when I'm heading to my day job?

The end result of experiencing the sheer joy of finding those tiny bike parts that I may or may not need to pack my bike in two(?) weeks?

The current phase of the moon?

Dunno.

Last night, I had nightmares of my backyard washing away and down into the earth.  Dr Strange was there to aid my yard-saving efforts, but he wasn't much help. 

The end.

Monday, July 22

Distracted Blerhging

My body is better. My brain hurts.

I jumped at a chance to go to DuPont this weekend, despite the fact that my bike with the comfort device mounted to the front being temporarily out of commission.  Mebbe not such a bad idea, since I'm starting to lean towards the Vertigo Meatplow V.6 for Breck Epic.  Either because it's just how I do things or because it's just that much easier to get it to the top of the climbs.  Dunno.

Well, for me DuPont is a 32X19 kinda place, but...

I had a 32X18 still on there from all that greenway grinding I was doing while recovering from injury.

AND

If I was gonna take the time to do a cog swap, I'd wanna just toss the 20 on there to be ready for Breck (lazy), but the 20 I'd wanna use it at Bike Source on the Vassago Meatplow V.8.  Instead of doing anything, I did nothing.

The 18 wasn't too bad 95% of the time, but the 5% where it was... it was very.
 

Two things:

1. I found a new max heart rate. 186bpm coming up Cedar Rock. One of the reasons I got the Elemnt Bolt was to find this kinda stuff out.  What is my fifty year old body capable of and how much can I get out of it?

2. I may be getting closer to being "over" having a computer.  Sure, it's neato to find out that a "fun ride" can net 32 miles, almost 4,000 feet of climbing, and keep my heart rate up there in the red for almost 1/3 of the ride.  Knowing all that, I had no problem getting into the squeezy leg bags for 1.5 hours that night and taking the next day off the bike entirely.   Training at my age with plenty of years of "base miles" means intervals and (most importantly) allowing for decent recovery.  I'll call that ride "intervals" and mowing the lawn and spreading mulch on Sunday, "recovery."

That said, I should be smart enough to know that climbing up something like Burnt Mountain or the back of Cedar Rock on a single speed is gonna certainly put me in the red.  If I'm gettin' at it up Jim Branch or the Hickory Mountain Loop, same same.  It's definitely interval quality, but I should really know that already... although I just think I'm having fun or something.

I still haven't used it in a "race" yet tho.  I'm still not really considering Breck Epic a "race," because it's a duo effort.  That means we stick together, so I'll either be playing catch up, waiting, or riding together if possible.  It's not just me and the information robot on my handlebars.  After Breck, I only have one more "race" on my calendar (as of right now), and it's the kinda short Fonta Flora Barn Burner 50k.  Short enough that if I'm not hurting, I'm not going fast enough.  That said, it's in sorta late October.  I won't be in the greatest shape, so "fast enough" to hurt won't be all that fast.

Mebbe once I tire of all this information overload, I'll just sell the Elemnt and go back to using my not-so-smart Cateye that tells me the minimum amount of information I'd ever want; how far to the finish and how long have I been on the bike so I know how much I should have consumed so I don't bonk.

Dammit.

That's a whole lot of me thinking out loud about not really much at all.

Go back to doing whatever it was you were doing before this.