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Thursday, February 20

Shart tarck is ded, long live shart tarck

I can't believe it's over.  Again.

photo cred: Supercycling
This was the strangest of years. We usually have to contend with some kinda weather. The conditions were pretty darn near perfect every weekend. I never cleaned my bike the whole time, which is unheard of. I'd planned on swapping my almost worn out (but not quite) chain, replacing brake pads and overhauling some moving bits when it was all said and done, but now?

Nope.

It is now time to get the ridiculous 16 tooth cog off the bike, as well as the not ready for prime time but totally shart tarck appropriate rubber meats.

What's on my radar now?

Other than avoiding every bit of news regarding whatever new e-bike is being released, I'm looking forward to The Whole Enchilada (rescheduled) coming up in one month.  Four weeks between now and then for me to either build and capitalize on shart tarck fitness or let it waste away.  Hard to get overly stoked about extra bike time this morning, what with days like today just happening here:

I'm aware that others are dealing with shit weather.  I swear, you get my sympathy.  I just have a strong desire to get out on some local dirt this weekend and not find myself on yet another greenway ramble.  I live a half mile from one of the areas best trail systems in Charlotte... and I can't honestly remember the last time I got to ride any of it.

Despite all the whining, this is my favorite time of the year.  The weather starts getting more favorable, the days get longer, the opportunities to hang out with my extended bike family get closer, the amount of time I spend trying to figure out what to wear to work decreases, and I shed me reclusive tendencies faster than an e-mountain bike rider loses their soul.

Obviously (or not), I kid.  So many people have such a strong stance on e-bikes (mountain not functional work horses) one way or the other, and I'm just a kid standing in the corner with my finger in my nose.  While I know that it's not something the current me wants in my life, I can see why some love them as much as others hate them.  Who gets to determine when in the timeline of mountain bikes going from rigid single speed beach cruisers to the where-we-are-now just when they became motorcycles?  In our current political climate, I really hate slippery slope arguments, but I don't think there's any denying that there are some blurred lines in the debate of how much "e" is too much "e" for our trails and our future trail access.

So I cling to my single speed(s) and hope for the best.  My fifty years on this planet have taught me that the world is just one constant stream of putrid vomit straight out of Pandora's box, and it ain't never gonna stop... so in the words of the great one..
or not. I'd like to think Ronnie believes in choice.

Tuesday, February 18

Winter Shart Tarck 2020.5

I don't exactly know how the top three in the overall are gonna shake out. At the previous four races, Christian, Chase, and Jason have left me far in their dust after just a few laps. Pretty sure Charles has a death grip on fourth overall. Me and Jamie will get to enjoy a "heated" battle for fifth.

I go over to warm up on the long, empty stretch of road behind the park. Over and over in my head, I'm telling myself that I need to hold Jamie's wheel for the first four laps and then dump all reserves into an effort to establish a gap. Then hold it. For four more laps.

That's all. Just beat a guy who's about twenty years younger than me that's bested me three outta the last four races. NBD.

Line up at the start... look around. Another big single speed field, but... no Jamie? I don't see him anywhere. Hooray and also poop.

Hooray because all I have to do is finish and mebbe keep no more than five people between Colin and I. So "try," but sorta. I guess "pride" is a thing.  So also poop.

photo cred: Mills
Start and hammer and into the woods in sixth just behind Nick.  Colin right on my wheel.

Outta the woods and Colin comes ripping by me. I mean ripping.  Chris and Charles (I think?) as well.

Dammit.

"Pride only hurts, it never helps." ~ Marsellus Wallace

So mebbe it's time to hurt a little?

photo cred: Mills
I get around Nick but Colin has already put a silly amount of distance between us. I can't believe how quickly the gap grew.  Not insurmountable, but he's not making it easy on me either.

He holds the gap for two laps, but then I see that he's slowing on the climbs a tick. I almost lose my front wheel in some stupid pea gravel corner and remember that not only do I need to not wreck myself out for the sake of an overall finish, I don't really wanna be a shart tarck statistic. Every year, there's always a few people who sustain decent injuries on this silly little one mile loop. Shitty way to start a "season."

I catch on to Colin with four laps to go. Draft... and then push my chips to the center of the table. I get a gap. It looks sustainable.

See Lee out there with his camera set up in an early corner. I go past him... and I realize he's hoping to get a decent photo of someone(s) mebbe hitting the tiny hip jump outta the berm. Sorry, Lee. It's a little risky to push it too hard, what with the random loose over hard conditions. I try better next lap?

I did, but only slightly better tho.

photo cred: Lee
Yeeting myself into a modest and also failed attempt to do anything but case this tiny jump.

photo cred: Lee
SHOW ME YOUR WAR FACE, COLIN!
Finish up, keeping the gap behind me alive but never able to close down on Charles and Chris. Again. Not that it woulda mattered anyhoo.

Fifth overall for the series, which I'll take.  Five races and four weeks without getting sick, injured, bored, disinterested, or heavily distracted.  That has to be a first.  Only took fifteen years or so.

Monday, February 17

Winter Shart Tarck... pre-rumbles

Another weekend.  Another Saturday of a whole lotta closed trails in the Charlotte area on a Saturday.  What's new?  Of course, shart tarck on Sunday.

Going into the last race, the writing was on the wall.  I was sitting in sixth place in the overall.  The only way to move up is to beat Jamie and tie him point-wise... but winning the last race would be the tie breaker.  All he has to do is beat me, and he stays in fifth.

The plan was to be a good boy on Saturday.

But...

I found out on Thursday that the Bike Source shop party was Saturday night, and that morning?  The Hincapie team was having a yard sale... at a brewery.

Dr Mike and I decided to do what we do.

Greenway ramble.

A mellow pace out to the south end, which will eventually be even more souther... soon?  I hope.  I plan on getting my early morning junk miles going in a month or so.

Back up to the north, cut into a neighborhood, see a group of urban adventure riders up ahead, figure they're going the same place we are... based on nothing.  Roll up to their back wheels at the South Blvd light.  I tell Dr Mike we'll need to get around them on the narrow bike lane on Old Pineville Rd.

We pull up alongside the group, look over...

Of course I see familiar faces.  Jerry, Jack, Togie, Tina and a few others.  Togie ups the pace at the front, and the next thing you know, Dr Mike and I on our impractically geared town bikes are getting worked.  I had no plans to do anything hard today, but here we are.  Sweating, breathing hard... on a group ride by accident?

Finally, they peel away to go their own way.  We go on ours to the Unknown Brewery.  Long sleeve Merino wool base layer for $45?  Yes, please.  Beer?  Also yes, please.

Over to Birdsong for a couple more and then home with almost thirty miles in the legs.  Just enough time left to rest up for the ride over to the party... which is yet another greenway ramble to a neighborhood... stay till about 10:30, which is old man late when "performance" is on the brain.  Nia's awake when I get home, Ramen noodles on the couch and Saturday Night Live until midnight, because how much worse can things get now?

Did I mention that my heat died at the house on Friday and we had a small family matter to contend with just to make things more interesting?

Well, I just did.

Sunday, wake up in a cold house.  Pack the bag one last time for the final shart tarck of 2020.

Wednesday, February 12

Winter Shart Tarck 2020.4

Despite Shart Tarck being short, the entire series is really like an endurance race with a couple hundred minutes of lactic acid heavy effort over a period of five weeks.  Anything can happen either in the few minutes of racing every Sunday or during the 167 hours before you get back to the start line again.  I'd given myself the time last week to look at the points and think about how I could possibly move into the top five overall before it's all said and done.  I'd need to at least keep doing what I'm doing, but I'd need someone else to falter.
I bump into Jamie at the start, the guy who's ten points ahead of me after three races.

"I pretty much need you or Charles to get sick or just stay home for me to move up."

"I was sick last weekend, but I'm feeling better now."

Poop.  He beat me by more than thirty seconds last week... sick.  And I was feeling spunky.

So I lined up Sunday feeling a bit... hopeless?  Dunno.  I know anything "can" happen, but that door swings both ways.

I go off the start with a little less gusto than the last few weeks.  I want to go in the woods behind the "haves" and just in front of the "have nots."  I succeed.

I'm on Colin's wheel and mebbe back in seventh or eighth place.  Considering I've had two 8th place finishes and one 6th, probably where I belong.  I settle into a painful yet lethargic pace. 

photo cred: Supercycling
Show me your war face... your painful yet lethargic war face.

I'm thinking if I continue to helplessly flail about in Colin and Jamie's wake, perhaps it's time to start taking handups mebbe?  I saw red solo cups at the end of extended arms at the top of the climb outta the woods.

But then, I manage to get around Colin, and then... Jamie?  How? Why?  I need to get back into "trying" mode?  I attempt to flip the mental switch.

I see FM teammate Jason at the side of the trail wandering about and not riding his bike to a podium finish like he's supposed to.

"You all right?"

"Dropped my phone!"

Phone?

Jason was kind enough to dramatically recreate the scene of his dropped phone for me after the race.  The tire tracks on the case are real tho.

My brain can't comprehend carrying a phone at the shart tarck, but I really can't process information when my body has shifted all my blood resources to my legs, heart, and lungs.   Jason catches back up to me, and I let him around.

And here's where I continue being stupid.

I've been giving a lot of thought recently to the fact that life would be better if I did some drafting on the gravel and pavement.  Unfortunately, I need someone to be there at the right place at the right time.  If I catch the wheel of a slower lapped rider, that's not the right person to draft.  If I can get on a competitor's wheel, I need to quash my desire to drop them immediately, instead using them to save energy for later.

And so it comes that I find myself in no man's land with no hope of a draft.  Looking ahead, I can see that Jason has pulled himself back up into third place... and in doing so, he's giving both Charles and Chris a huge draft to hide in for two (mebbe three) laps.  Summa'bitch.

By the time Jason pulls away (taking Charles with him), I've got two laps to go to catch Chris.  Doing the math in my head and taking into account this is a double points race, catching him might make a difference... or it might not.   Like I said, no blood to my brain right now for maths.  I make up the gap on the longest climb towards the end of the woods section, pop out on the gravel, give it all the gas I got, hoping Chris will lose all hope and give up.

He does not.

He sits on my wheel and enjoys the ride to the pavement.  Meh.

I do some zig zagging to try and keep him off my wheel.  Mebbe we go into the last lap with nobody having the advantage of a recent draft?

Chris pulls away on the down bits, I pull back up on the climb out... and try to hold his wheel.

And fail.  He pulls away and there's little more that I can do other than look over my shoulder to see if I need to protect what I reaped.  Nope.  Sit up, defeated, and also not, but also mebbe.

How did it shake out?

Well, Chris is an interloper, as he missed race #2.  That means that while he would have a hard time ever getting on to the overall top five podium, he can still take points away from people.

And that he did.

Had I beat Chris in this double points race, I woulda jumped into the top five over Jamie by two points.  Now, I sit two points back going into the final race, which means that not only do I have to beat him (again), I need to put one rider between us to not end the series in a tie.  Five weekends, four long weeks, close to two hundred minutes of pointless effort in pursuit of local shart tarck glories.

It's an endurance race for sure.

BTW: I was smart enough to use my squeezy leg bags after the first three races, but I was too lazy to get them out this past Sunday.  I mean, it's only a forty minute race, right?  Wrong.  My calves were soooo sore on Monday, so obvs I'm an idiot.  Lactic acid is lactic acid.  Don't be dumb (like me).  Get it outta your system ASAP.

Unless your name is Chase, Jason, Christian, Charles, Jamie, Chris, or Colin.

Monday, February 10

Winter Shart Tarck... pre-mumbles

More for the lack of opportunity and less bad decision making, I didn't manage to do a whole lot to hamstring my efforts for a Sunday Shart Tarck performance.  It did dawn on me early last week that if I'm no longer doing the traction-challenging A-line climb, there was no reason to keep the big meats on last week, especially when I'm trying to take advantage of the 32 X 16...

So, more of this:

Woah, let me walk things back just a bit.

Member how I mentioned last week that I'd been keeping track of all my miles with the intention being that I'd finally know what kinda miles/time/etc I'm getting in my legs? 

I member.

Well, I stopped doing it two days after that blerhg post.

I was pulling my Wahoo outta my fanny pack and moving it over to my messenger bag for a day of work, once again seeing the 6.4 mile commute on the readout.  It rarely varies much from that number.  Mebbe a 6.5, or a 6.6, mebbe a 6.7... but pretty much the same thing every day.  I will be adding some bonus junk miles once the time change/daylight scenario works to my happies, but even then, tracking will be just about as pointless.  So, I'm a bit bummed about not having some kinda numbers at the end of the year to look at and think on, but that's about it. 

Back to the other stuff.

Wednesday, swap my tires over to the skinny fast meats.  Weather conditions are looking good for Sunday.

Thursday, see the hardest rain in uptown Charlotte that I've ever witnessed.   Windows in the big buildings were vibrating, the visibility was zero, rain not so much "falling" but existing in the air in a swirling stream of hate.  The first time that I've ever looked outside and thought that if I got a run to do, I'd just hold on to it for... as long as it would take to not be dangerous?

Friday... sleet?  Sleet?  Whatever.

Saturday.  At least the weather was supposed to hold off long enough to get a greenway ramble in for some happy outdoor time.

Dr Mike texts me.

"Weather app says snow."

"It's not gonna snow."

*looks out window... it's snowing*

"We won't die."

We ride down to the south end of the greenway, and there's no way you can tell me a tornado did not roll through on Thursday.  A swath of giant trees down smooshing a bunch of giant houses.  Cotton lower garments are not the most brilliant idea, soaking through rather quickly.  Dr Mike takes a fall on the slick mud that randomly covered the greenway in places I've never seen mud before.  North and on to Birdsong Brewing and then back home.

I was right.  We didn't die.  Being outside was better than being inside, but only by a narrow margin.  Also, there was no way this minimal effort could affect my Shart Tarck performance, although Dr Mike took a pretty hard hit to the calf with the rear rack on his hoopty... so if he had a blerhg, he'd have his blerhgable excuse ready.

But me?

I should be ready.

Wednesday, February 5

Winter Shart Tarck 2020.3

I love sleeping in.  When Boppit got down on the floor and started scratching his itch at 4:27 AM with his collar all jingle-jangling, I was all "NOT TODAY."

I got outta bed, grabbed him, put him back at the foot... where he proceeded to lay between my legs hiccuping.

Dammit.

Eventually, he fell asleep, and the house stayed quiet until 9:00 AM.

Buenos.  That's how a shart tarck Sunday needs to happen.

The Pie made me pancakes.  No one's car needed inspected or had mechanical issues.  I didn't go out into the backyard with a shovel in hand and hate in my heart.  The conditions were perfect.

Ride over to the race, feel relaxed... comparatively.  No repeat of the stress from the week before.  Things were looking upwards.  Line up towards the front because why not?  Twenty five single speeders out here today.  Jeebers.

Go for it from the start a little harder than last week, the 32 X 16 really making the difference on the pavement.  So happy I swapped my gear... again.  Go into the first section of woods in the top five or so.  Take the B-line climb option outta the woods, because as Albert Einstein once said (or he didn't), "The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result."  Aside from pride, it makes no sense for someone like me to take the A-line.  I have to rest for a few seconds coming to it, and then gas myself the whole way.  All the bobbles and bad lines add up, even if I do manage to clean the whole thing... on a stupid single speed.  I was 100% blasted all sixteen times I'd done it previously, so mebbe try something new.

And it worked.

Sorta.

I came out of the woods feeling better, hit the gas on the gravel, sprinted up the pavement, and passed Nick, Jason, Jamie and Charles... putting me in virtual third.  That is until I waved everyone by, knowing full well I couldn't keep that effort up in the woods, and I'd just be holding them up.

Doh.  Except Charles.  He got stuck behind me as we got pinched at the entrance to the trail.

Thorry.

photo cred: Lee F
Anyhoo, my body was acting the way it was supposed to, as I was seeing the heart rate numbers I expected.  Except for the couple times I attacked at the bottom of the B-line climb (as opposed to waiting for the gravel), I was super happy with the way things turned out.  I was able to get back around Nick...

photo cred: Lee F
Nick... trying?  Thinking about what to eat for supper?  Dunno.

BTW: I was trying to do the math in my head the whole time.  Did his 30+ year old self staying out till closing time equal my 50+ year old self sitting on the couch watching TV with beer in hand till 11:30?  Dunno.

I ended up in 6th place, up from my standard 8th place of the previous two weeks.  Cracking into the top five in the overall points is gonna require taking it up a notch (or two), or Jamie or Charles missing a race, getting sick, or doing something stupid like blowing themselves out riding in Pisgah on a Saturday.

Who's dumb enough to do that tho? 

Tuesday, February 4

Winter Shart Tarck... pre-dumbles

I had two options for a ride presented to me for Saturday, with my decision pending Friday evening.  I'm glad I have friends who understand me (as much as they can), and my occasional indecisiveness.  It's just hard to know what place my brain is going to be in after a rainy day at work and a commute home is shite conditions.  That and with shart tarck on the brain, what do I really wanna do to myself in the 24 hours before the race?

Bill Nye was up for a greenway ramble... with beer stops... but covering a distance less than what I desired.

Todd invited me on a ride at Uwharrie... in the wet grit... with two fast guys joining us.  One of the guys... notoriously stupid fast.  Mebbe I could hang in Pisgah on extended climbs, but he would beat my dick off on the rolling terrain of URE.  Obviously, I would be the one to blame, because I would bury myself trying to keep up (and failing).

I decided I'd rather be disappointed with overdoing it as opposed to underdoing it, so URE.

Fortunately, the stupid fast guy decided to not join us... and then some folks from points unknown became part of our crew as well. 

The pace was never too aggressive, and that was a great thing because...

dammit.


My heart rate monitor issues I thought I'd sussed out the week before were back.  I ride most of the time without a heart rate monitor, but if I'm trying to keep my efforts outta the red zone, it helps to have an actual red zone in front of you (the LEDs at the top of my Wahoo unit).

The upside of the day... no one wanted to be an overachiever.  We kept the miles reasonable, the pace conversational (most of the time), and the stoke high despite all our asses being soaked and toes froze.  We covered the same amount of miles that I'd done the week before in Pisgah with 33% less elevation gain and 100% less snow and creek crossings.  Bless.

The downside (if it's such a thing) was getting home early enough to kick back, swap gears on my Vertigo Meatplow V.7 (again), stay up late binge-watching Mindhunter, squeezy leg bagging, eating pop corn, and drinking a few beers (admittedly mixing in the occasional La Croix).

Not the ideal lead in to the next day's shart tarck, but definitely not the worst thing I've ever done to myself.