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Thursday, May 26

Turd in the punch bowl

Well, I'm bound for the Trans-Sylvania Epic this weekend and off the blerhging for a week.  Going up with no expectations, other than to have a blast and see friends and hang out and live "the life."  Some redemption would be okay also.

photo cred: A.E. Landes
'15 sad broke Dick and friends.

Finishing-type redemption.  Last year's race-ending injury had me DNF'ing a stage race for the first time since I started doing them back in '04 with La Ruta.  Super bummed, because I had pretty much decided that TSE was going to be the one that I did every year forever (since I sat out the Breck Epic the year before)... sorta to be that guy who did every one.  I am no longer that guy.  Meh.

This image of Cyndi Lauper was relevant in the first draft of this post, but it doesn't make any sense now... but leaving it in anyways.

Enduro™ changes everything.

As always, it's been a lead-up week of multiple trips to the brocery store (buying beer ahead never works), mowing grass, hours of wandering around my bike room grabbing things and fiddling with stuff, and tweaking two bikes for a week's worth of riding over piles of rocks and good times.  I have a feeling that warrantied at the last minute (thanks Bike Source) will work better than the ones I had that somehow carbonated my mineral oil.

This race.  It's worth all the sweating and thinking and worrying.  It's my favorite week on a bike, every year.  Hands down.  It's how I'd want a vacation planned for me by someone else.

Worth mentioning, last year's TSE was also the last race I ever did BEFORE getting my prescription glasses.  It's been a really great year of seeing things, and of course I'm kicking myself in the ass for not doing it much, much sooner.  Would I have seen whatever the hell it was that I ran into last year and been able to avoid injury?  Mebbe.  Probably.  Dunno.  I certainly had a lot of wrecks in the six to nine months right before I got glasses.  Enough so that I thought I was unlearning how to ride a bike in the woods.  Memorable off-the-bike moments at the Icycle in January, on Bennett Gap in October, Black Mountain in September... so many dumb injuries.  Now I'm back to blaming my lack of skills again.

Boring.  Sorry.  Excite coming soon.  Also, when I get back, I'll have The Pie draw a number/name for the Industry Nine hub raffle to benefit the PA Interscholastic Cycling League.

You've got until June 3rd to donate, and when I get back from PA, we'll do this thing.  Thanks to everyone who has donated thus far and to everyone who jumps in while I'm out making (not-so) great bike race.

Later, maters.

Tuesday, May 24

No, we will fight like lions.

I've got zero regrets from the Pisgah 111k, aside from not grabbing some Coke at Aid Station #3.

photo cred: Icon Media Asheville
What can I say?  I was overwhelmed by the presence of bacon.  Twice my brain just shut off when I saw a pile of it.  I never eat it at home (The Pie/vegetarian doesn't like the smell), so lets just say it's a weakness.


I also have no regrets about not doing the 55.5k the next day.  I was able to walk in my front door at 9:15AM and be in my bath tub drinking coffee before 10:00AM.  Fully cleansed and awake, I was able to get to the task of making my bike ready for the Trans-Sylvania Mountain Bike Epic.  I also enjoyed a sweet, drool-fest nap midday.

Oh yeah, I forgot to mention...

I said I was going to run the plusser tires at the 111k, had second thoughts at work on Thursday, and spent forty minutes swapping everything back to the way it was before I messed with it.  More testing will happen... eventually.  When there's no number plates involved.

Things I needed to do before TSE:

* Figure out what happened with my brake.  Did the two levers/one cup trick.  Bubbles.  Still bubbles.  Where do they come from?

* Bottom bracket.  Time for new bearings.  It's been a year.  Crunchy is no bueno.

* Freehub maintenance.  Enough Pisgah and absent minded creek crossings have passed.  It's too easy to do, so do it.

* Replace the drooper cable.  It was my fault that it was fraying.  The last time I put in a new cable, I had the tension a little off.  I decided to move it, and that second pinch of the set screw?  I could see the damage had been done.  Laziness and cheap-assedness kept me from doing anything about it.  All new now.

Otherwise, I'd say my bike is ready to go for TSE.  My body?  Not so bad right now.  Shoulder is feeling better than... well, not "ever," but better than before October of last year.  My thumb still doesn't bend enough, but it bends more than it did two weeks ago.  My legs aren't terribly sore, my liver is in peak condition, and I feel like all I need to do between now and this weekend is get plenty of rest... something I take great pride in my ability to do at a high level.

Don't forget, in less than a couple weeks, the Industry Nine hub raffle to benefit the PA Interscholastic Cycling League will be over.  You can still get in and have a chance to win a set of hubs, so show some support with your doll hairs soon or miss out.  I've already met my goal, but I'm an overachiever when it comes to asking people to help people other than myself.

Monday, May 23

Tell us we will die like dogs: The 2016 Pisgah 111K

Quick prelude.  Off work at 2:00PM.  Drive in constant rain the whole way there.  Check in at registration next to Wadsworthless and see that he's only 28 years old.  I have multiple items of clothing that are older than he is.  Realizing I'll probably never podium against the likes of Bob Moss, Scott Rusinko, Watts and Wadsworthless (considering my current fitness level and my only two goals being to finish and not get hurt), I ask Yuri if I can switch to 40+.

"No."

"Maybe."

I'm not sure if he swaps me, but it doesn't really matter.  40+ is always pretty hotly contested anyways.  I usually race my age group (or some non-SS class) at least once every year, so why not?  Would just be nice to have no idea how I'm doing in the standings all day, so I can just focus on being safe'ish. 

Head over to the Ohio People house.  They haven't checked in with registration yet.  Hop back in the car and head back to the venue.  See Yuri and ask him if he switched me or if would be willing to.

"No."

"Maybe."

Back to the Ohio people house.  Jimmy the Gimp makes me a steak the size of my forearm.  I eat it and wonder what's going to push that through my system by morning.  They tell me there's a garden out back, and I can pick my own salad if I want to.  I do.  Then I hope.

I sleep on the couch... mostly sleep.  Wake up coughing, once with tears running down my face.  Allergies.  Joy.  

Wake up at 5:00AM, eat my cookies, drink my coffee... nothing.  There's a steak stuck in my butt.  At least the rain stopped tho.

Drive over to the venue, park next to Watts, we seriously contemplate racing on the tandem he just happened to have brought with him.  It's not set up toobless, so a wheel swap would be in order... meaning a cassette as well.  180mm rotors?  Another swap?  Fuck it.  Let's just ride our own bikes.  Mebbe next year.

I ask Yuri one more time if he'll swap me to the 40+ class.

"Maybe."

"Okay."

Now my chances for a podium are just as unlikely as before, but I won't feel the pull to chase down every idiot I see on a single speed (we're all idiots).

The coffee never took effect, so I went to the starting line still "steaked-up."  It tasted so good tho...

Five minutes before the start, I realize I never put on that stupid heart rate monitor thing.  Was hoping it would tell me to not blow myself up too early.  Oh well.  The race starts, and one minute in, I'm pretty sure I'm maxed out.  Tons of people roll by me on the "neutral start," but once we start up Clawhammer, I make my way back into a happy place.  Over the top and then the long, gentle descent down the Wheelchair Ramp.  I get out of the way for people when I need to.  I'm recovering and waiting, occasionally spinning the pedals for no good reason at all.

I notice my rear brake is behaving badly.  I'm more than a little bummed because the rear pads are new, while the front ones are... old?  Yeth, very old.  So much for nursing that front brake trying to eek out what's left of the pads over 70 wet miles and relying mostly on the rear.  I bled my brakes more than a month ago, and they were fine at PMBAR.  Now the lever goes to the bar on the first squeeze, better on the second try, solid on the third pull.  I'm going to have to really prepare when I need to slow down...

Speaking of which, the descents on Squirrel and Cantrell are most interesting... at least while I figuring out my new braking system.  I can't quit the race because the Ohio People have a horrid looking skirt that the person who finishes last must wear.  I've been told I'm one of them.  No quitting, no shame skirt for me.

Roll into Aid Station #1.  Tom Van Damage tells me Watts is just ahead.  I mention my brake and he tells me Watts had the same complaint.  Cool.  My misery loves his company.  Grab a cup of Peanut M&M's and shove them in my jersey pocket.  Down to Bradley Creek, pass a single speeder, let him know I'm not in his class, and leave him.  Up 5015, see another single speeder.  Pass him.  Same deal.  Not in your class.

Up to Aid Station #2.  They have bacon.  I am filled with joy.  Two handfuls in the mouth and one up the leg of my shorts.  Onward to North Mills.  Up Wash Creek Road with a single speeder and then leave him behind.  Start to catch another one, but he punches it before I can tell him not to worry about me.  Down Spencer and my rear brake is acting more like a brake.  Over to Fletcher and down, and my brake is now only needing double pumped occasionally.  My bike is healing itself... although my drooper isn't being as droopy as it should be.  Maybe I shoulda replaced that frayed cable as opposed to seeing how much longer it would last.

Probably had at least four more droops in it.

Down at the bottom of the world, I know the long climb out of the hole to the top of Laurel Mountain is ahead.  Not bragging, but I designed this course for Eric all those years ago not really thinking about how backloaded it is with absolute horror.  The hardest climb, followed by the most difficult descent down Pilot Rock, and then hike-a-bike over Black Mountain for the full, mind-blowing drop from the top.  I really start to loathe me (more than normal).

I catch the single speeder who alluded me earlier on the way up 1206.  I let him know that I'm in the 40+, and he lets me know that Watts is just ahead.  My misery companion.  I chase up to the top yelling "WATTS!" occasionally.  Nothing.  Dick.

Back at the Aid Station #2 which is now #3 coming this way.  Same bacon treatment.  A banana to eat on the way up shoved in my pocket.  My mind is showing signs of wear.  I wreck three times while climbing.  I guess that can happen.  I need caffeine... like the stuff that woulda been in the Coke at the last Aid Station.  Meh.  Finally at the top, I realize I'm in no place mentally to descend Pilot Rock.  I dig in my pockets and pull out all my emergency gels.  Not one of them has caffeine.   Who's in charge of me?  I descend with a fuzzy head and quickly come to terms with the fact that one of my favorite rigid fork descents in Pisgah has really morphed over the last decade and change.  It's now tops on my most-hated list.  Fuck me, I'm a pile of shit.

Done with that and still clinging to some fantasy of finishing safely, I get to the final Aid Station.  I grab a tiny Coke.  I chase it with a much tastier 12oz beverage.  I feel like a god.

I run down the two geared riders who left me at the aid station while I was beveraging.  I pass them and fly up the hike-a-bike, fueled with my new favorite last leg nutrition.  I get another geared rider on the way up.  I can't see them behind me when I top out, but all three of them had caught and passed me on Pilot Rock.  Forgetting my commitment to myself to not do anything stupid that might end up injuring me in a way that could mess up my Trans-Sylvnia Epic next week, I let it go.

Because... ego.

Except for one horrifically exciting, last minute roll-in (that ended up being not very rollable at all) that caused me to have to drop it at the last minute causing an entire quad cramp, I escape unscathed and cross the finish line having never been caught.

Shortly after I finish, they post the results.  I got 3rd place 40+... or not.  Captain Morgan is listed as Open Men, so I let him know that they gave me his spot.  He went over and got it fixed, bumping me to where I deserved to be, 4th place.  For those that want to know, I woulda been fifth place single speed, so nothing really mattered... aside from the fact that I never felt like I was "racing" anyone all day long.

From there, the evening was a haze of beer, steak butt, watching everyone finish, taking the podium (as a shirtless Captain Morgan, since he went home too early), fireworks, very little sleep, and then a brisk awakening at 6:50AM to make the drive home and start getting ready for TSE.

Thursday, May 19

Why not?

I decided I can't go into the Pisgah 111k with a racer's mentality.  If I blow up, I've done myself zero good.  It took over a week for me to really feel 100% after PMBAR (my allergies not really helping), so I'm more than likely settling for just one "race" this weekend.  I really need as much of Sunday as possible to get ready for the Trans-Sylvania Epic and also take care of life stuff AND spend time with the family (yuck, I know).

remember to insert winky face emoji here later

I just don't want to spend every last minute after work five days straight getting ready for TSE... while swimming in the cloud of exhaustion.  So, sorry 55k, meet the chopping block (although I'm bringing two kits just in case I decide I'm that stupid).

SRSLY.  If you look, there's two days of dumb racing stuff there.  I'm ready (as far as stuff goes).

So, forgoing the notion of "racing" the 111k and instead riding it, why wouldn't I go ahead and give the 27.5+ thing another go?

Rekon 2.8 front and rear.  First time I've had same-same tires on my bike since I used to run Hutchinson Scorpions on my Dean 26" single speed.  Struggling to get over this disturbing aesthetic.

I figure the gnarlyburger descents down Cantrell, Pilot Rock and Black Mountain as well as the technical bits on Squirrel Gap will serve as a great test for the plussers leading into the TSE.  If they really aren't the bees knees for rigid single speeding in techy terrain, I'll be reminded all day long.  Hopefully with PMBAR on 29" wheels fresh in my brain, the comparison will be worthwhile.

I'm looking forward to spending the day in the woods with friends.  I'm also going to have a chance to hang out with my old Ohio friend, Jimmy the Gimp... seen here with his Kuato in a matchy matchy kit.

He's coming down from the Not-so-great (and not-so-white) White North with a bunch of other people who must not be aware of how hard one hundred and eleven kilometers of Pisgah will really be.  I look forward to hopefully being in front of some of them, so I can greet them at the finish line with a burrito, a beer, and a boisterous guffaw.

Tomorrow morning is going to be all packing the car and cooler, so no blerhg.  Of course, coming back earlier on Sunday will make it more likely that I'll actually have the energy to post up something readable next Monday.

You're welcome (not as much as me tho).

Wednesday, May 18

If I tell ya what I'm doing today, will you shut up and get out of my way

I woulda hoped to have things a little more tightened up before heading into the holy hell that is the last few weeks leading up to the Trans-Sylvania Epic.

Tools and parts are all over the place.  There's not one workable surface in my room.  I'm having second thoughts about writing off the 27.5+ on the rigid Vertigo Meatplow V.7.  Seriously.  Looking ahead to this weekend, whether/weather or not I'll be doing the Pisgah 111k or the 55.5k or neither or both.  Either which way, it will be wet.  Traction will be nonexistent.  Speed less of an important thing coming down the mountain than safety.  I have my concerns.  Even worse, I've got a very limited amount of time to get everything ready to go before heading to Pennsylvania.  Tearing down and rebuilding my bike (or bikes) on top of all that?  Meh.  The potential for worn-out pads, sticky pistons, shot bearings, possibly sticky drooper cable... might make for the first ever case of bike-related arson for insurance purposes.

Then there's the TSE itself (in regards to the 27.5+ topic).  It's a different beast than Pisgah.  Hard to explain it, but it just is.  The roots and rocks are not the same.  Where there are rocks, they are in piles.  The roots, less frequent.  Some of the trails really jam, boogie, twist and turn... traction would be nice here too.

But here's the thing.  I read this article over on Dirt Rag, and this tiny tidbit about the minuses of plus sized tires hit me:

" ...sidewalls can be susceptible to cuts."

Que?

I've had one sidewall cut within a month of riding 27.5+.  Maybe the second sidewall cut I've ever had since going tubeless back in... '01 or '02?  Who can remember?

I decide it was a fluke... the Vortex has plenty of exposed, sharp rocks.  Isolated incident.

Anyways, Chase joins me in jumping on the plusser bandwagon, but he can't get the Maxxis tires in his hands soon enough.   He settles on Schwobbles and ends up with a sidewall cut minutes into his first ride.  I write it off as well, because... Schwobbles.

So with my experience combined with Chase's and validated by the article on Dirt Rag, I have concern.  Being that I'm no longer an "industry" insider douchebag, I don't have direct channels, but I still have the FaceBook social media back door.  I asked Eric for some clarification.

"My own sample size isn't big enough to discuss the prevalence of sidewall cuts." ~ Eric

Which just confuses me more because why is it mentioned in the article?

Dunno.

So here I am, halfway between a tire/wheel swap wondering if I should take the time to remove the Tomahawk 2.3, replace it with a Rekon 2.8, swap wheels and cogs, figure out (again) how to reset my computer to the smaller diameter, move the wheel magnet over... I don't know what else.

Or leave all this shit alone, run what I know/brung, and wait until post-TSE June to do some more riding/evaluating.

But should I bother when an expert as already done this for me?

He never once tested the tires on a climb (I guess all their trails and gravel roads are downhill).  He used a full suspension bike, so does this even apply to someone riding a rigid single speed?    In the end, I just wished I had a cool accent.

I can't imagine taking two sets of wheels to a local trail, figuring out a good place to put STRAVA to good use, doing multiple runs and wheel swaps... and actually caring enough to do all that in the first place.

Oh well.  What to do?

Tic toc.  Tic toc.

Now, do I warm up my allergy excuse or keep my pounding sinuses in my back pocket?

Monday, May 16

Hole.

The Bike Source Fan Jam was a great time (again).   I had all sorts of grown up things to do Saturday morning with The Pie, enough so that I actually took a nap when we got home.  Mostly because... pollen.  My allergies are kicking right now, and sleep is becoming some sort of battleground.

Arising from my nap feeling better but not best, I roll out to ride Park Road Park by myself before the jamming.  I feel like butt, partially because of my sinuses, but mostly because I'm stupid hungry. I stop at 7 Eleven on the way to the shop and have too long of a discussion with the clerk about the fact that I do indeed want the two slices of pizza, do not want the fountain drink that comes with it, do not want the slices of pizza in one box or two but just in some wax paper... and leave with two slices in two boxes that are thrown away a few feet from the door.

Anyways... get to Source, amble around, touch things, chat and out the door to the Backyard Trails with about ten or so Fans.

We have at least two flat clinics, which is nice.  Because... humidity.

Enjoying the moisture and poison ivy and admiring dingle balls on the trail.

photo cred: Bryan D.
Back at the shop, beers... get to hear the full story about the one rider who fell all the way into the stanky creek on our way out (which I forget but Chase will tell me the story again on Sunday).  Finish the keg, head over to Legion Brewing... Donald B with empty keg on an e-bike... because that's why they exist.

At the brewery and hanging out.  A few beers in, word comes through the ether that a smiling face that many people in the endurance mountain bike world consider a friend is no longer with us.  The bottom falls out.  I finish my beer, ride home crying, come in the door with a straight face, tell The Pie what's up, finish with the rest of the crying.  There are things I will never understand.

Sunday.  Follow through with the plan to go to the mountains.  Wake up to my alarm at 6:30AM and consider sending a text out.  Fuck this.

Not one to let people down, I get out of bed.  All I want to do is sleep the day away.

Scoop up Chase, Bill Nye and Wirun as I make my way across town, get to Wilson's Creek, hook up with Pitts, and he takes us to places we've never been before.

An incredible day in the woods with friends.


Visitor Center Tom's chip FTW.

photo cred: Wirun


As pathetic and small as it may sound, and realizing that my family and friends are enough to live for on the daily, coming down a trail like Sinkhole at the end of the day, exhausted and ready to stuff my face with Mexican food, I know that if I can still have the chance to do it again, I want to live.  It beats the other option, hands down.

And to end on the driest of notes, this is how you get that fourth bike and person in a Honda Fit with a three bike hitch mounted rack:

That and playing some Tetris with passengers and their baggage.

Friday, May 13

Plans are for planners

For what it's worth, this weekend...

I'm gonna be at the Bike Source Fan Jam.  Yeth, last time I went to this same event, my bike was taken apart into tiny bits while I was trying to help them get rid of all the extra beer.

but they did give me access to tools so I could rebuild my transportation home, so not so bad.  Like attending a class at United Bicycle Institute... but not.

I'll be bringing a lock this time.  Maybe a knife.

I have some time to kill earlier in the day, so I thought I might ride around and kill my legs ambling about on the Plusser Stickle.  Find something to eat.  Something else to drink.  Something also else to drink.  No good reason.  Just looking for some Zone 1 riding (coasting and skitching off cars).  Just a recovery day, because as I understand it, the only way to have fun in Zone 1 is to ride towards beer.

Sunday, I hope to ride in the mountains.  Maybe too much riding this weekend and not enough not riding, but the sun is shining... so making great hay.  Time to find that fitness I left around here somewhere... before next weekend.  Assuming I do something next weekend.  Which I should.  Do something.

And just a reminder, there's still a few weeks left to get in on the Industry Nine hub raffle to benefit the PA Interscholastic Cycling League.  All the details were/are here (if you want to read them), but you can just go here for the quick synopsis and just DONATE.

I'm beating Justin Lindine in fundraising, but I'd really like to pummel him.  TIA

Because pummeling each other is what charity is about.