Tuesday, September 2

The Shenandoah Mountain 100: 2014

Spoiler alert:  I'll save all (most?) of the excuses for tomorrow to keep the tale as short as possible.

This is a story of boy meets girl, boy gets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl back, boy finds out girl is actually a boy, boy decides to stick it out because he doesn't see a better option available...

Boy #1 in our sad love story.
That's the kind of thing that was going through my head as I descended down Dowell's Draft.

I wake up to the sound of the gong at 5:00AM.  By "wake up," I mean that I realize the gong means I can end this period of laying on top of a sleeping bag covered in sweat and humidity and start drinking coffee and eating Pop Tarts.  I can tell instantly that I did not balance out the beer to Gatorade ratio to match my pre-ride efforts and moments of being awake yesterday.  I hear Bono cranking out "Wide Awake" over the PA... yes, I was.  Most of the night, thank you.

The coffee and Pop Tarts do their thing, and I line up for yet another Shenandoah Mountain 100 in the 8+ hour corral, based on my 9:07 from last year and my potential to actually break nine hours this year if something miraculously makes me feel awesome.

We go off after the usual amount of line-up banter and shit talking.  Five hundred riders (or is it six?) making a break for the bottle neck of twisty rutted driveway to the open road in the predawn light.  The only part of the race that makes me nervous.  A rider goes down to my right, shutting a third of the available width of the road down.  Sucks for him and those right behind him.  We hit the pavement and I know what to do... lose as little ground as possible before we get to the first trail.

As always, the lead group of "haves" get away.  Riders come by in ones and tens.  Watts goes by me.  Meh.  Why is he faster than my on the road?  Right before the left turn off the main road and onto a side road, the tandem team goes powerhousing by.  Un unh.  That will not do.  I decide I will turn myself inside out to stay ahead of them before getting to the first trail, lest I get behind the unwieldy beast when things get tight.

I put my head down and motor on.  Taking some risks in the loose corners and hammering up the punchy bits, the entire time feeling chased by the ghost of tandem past.  I can feel the sweat already dripping down my nose and a cramp coming on in my right calf.  Hmmmm...

I make it into the first trail with a decent group.  A bit too much brake on the descents from the leader of our pack, but it allows me to back off on the ups and just coast back into place on the downs.  And then the break is over.  The right turn and the slight gravel road down.

About the time that the sweat was dripping and the calf was cramping, I knew that I wasn't going to be able to "race."   Ninety-three miles to go on this bike ride, and there was no way I was quitting just because I couldn't be competitive.  With the thrill of racing gone, I was hoping to spend the next nine to ten hours in my own dark place, alone... nothing but my iPod Shuffle and me.  The plan falls apart as soon as six other single speeders coast up to me... and then leave me behind.  Chris, Scott, Bob, Wilson, Boyes... my memory is as fuzzy as Chris's quick iPhone snap.

I bridge back up to them in time to make the Conga Line Climb #1 in good company.  We commentate and gesticulate up the face of climb number one that I forgot leads to the other climb number two.  We hit the first chunky descent spread out evenly like so much chunky peanut butter on stale bread.

This is when I realize that my hasty fix to a problem that I had the day before that was caused by grabbing a bike that had sat still for three to four weeks without being ridden had made some things better while others much worse.  My reach was waaaaaaaaaay off on my brake levers.  I can barely hold on and slow down.  My forearms are screaming.  I'm gonna have to stop at Aid 2 and beg for a 2mm allen or spend the day in absolute agony.

I see Chris standing in the corner of a loose part of the descent.  I ask if he's okay... it looks like he's addressing a bike issue and not recovery from a very nasty crash that really just happened.  He says he's fine.  I finish the descent as he catches up.  The pain in my arms is surprisingly incredible... so happy that I didn't take five minutes to check the work I had done the night before.

Things will get even more blurry from here.

Friday, August 29

To call me lazy does less to define me and more to define the word lazy

Well, shit turds and whatnot.  The Shenandoah Mountain 100 is this weekend.  This will be my 8.57th time doing it since 2006.  Yes, I shoulda just finished back in 2012 so I would just be one more away from that 10th time which is rumored to be rewarded with five minutes in a private room behind the curtain with promoter Chris Scott...

Damn.  Just seemed like a better option at the time.

I swear it was raining cats, dogs and all manner of fluffy domesticated mammals.

Once again, I gather and sort and think and ponder and wonder and throw things.

You'd think I would know what I was doing by now.

I don't.

Will my time spent in Colorado and Utah benefit me or did all the soakings in various breweries and establishments combined with the eating of an occasional 2,500 calorie meal in conjunction with sleeping sporadically in beds, hammocks and backseats take me to an even lower level than I was before I left?

I haven't really "raced" my bike cycle since the Trans-Sylvania Epic.

Sure, there was the Pisgah Enduro and Tour de Burg, but those were only races in the sense that there was a start, a finish, and other people interested in the thrill of competition and getting from one point to another with much haste and elbows.  Myself?  I was little more than a warm body moving about lethargically in the woods.  Nothing more.  Everything less.  The fire in my belly.  Do I feel it right now or is that the nachos I ate last week that still haven't found their way out?

I realize I've been dopey as of late.  I'm starting to wonder if I'm not addicted to racing to the point that I need it to function.  Something about the desire to compete.  To chase down carrots.  To feel like I'm working towards a goal.  Dunno.  Like MLK said, "I have a goal... to one day, have a goal."

The front tire decision has been plaguing me all week.

Run the fatter (and heavier) Chronicle?  If it's gonna be muddy, then no.  Not enough clearance, Clarence.  Swap over to a new Ikon 2.35 or save the fresh rubber till next year or use the mildly worn-out one?  Go back to the Ardent 2.4 that still has some life left in it?  Do nothing and wish I had?  More my style, but I still have time.

The sad equation of effort VS the amount of fucks that I might have that could be given.

That's some easy, third grade type math that suits my knowledge base.  Logically, with last year's 9:07:33 result on a slightly longer than any previous year's course, I should be aiming at sub-nine hours. 


I think a better goal(s) would be to dip out early on Saturday night, secure coffee on Sunday morning, be more vocal if some "athlete" holds up a conga line on the first bit of single track, and eat more pizza at aid five.  I think those are more reasonable, much less lofty goals I can get my head around.

That, and try not to leave any bodily fluids in The Pisgah Tavern/The Hub sprinter van, as I promised that it would return in one piece, or at the very least, as few clean but ready to assemble pieces as possible.

Go me.

I can't wait.  The dysfunctional family reunion of the East Coast endurance racing awaits.  Even creepy Uncle Watts is coming.


Everything went downhill after that.


Thursday, August 28

2014 Westward Ho Before Bros Mancation: Days Seven and Eight

I woke up wanting to go all "axe murderer" on the too-old-to-be-sorority-girls that made too much noise the night before, but the need to find my misplaced That Butt Stuff took precedence.   We had to hurry up...

so we could get to the shuttle on time to wait for it to show up.

When the van showed up (and the man driving it, who seemed highly qualified to hold the keys), we loaded our bikes and headed to the La Sal Mountains to get our Whole Enchilada on.

On the way, I realized my bottle of CarboRocket Half Evil had leaked all over my lower back and the ass of my bibs while leaning against the post waiting for the shuttle.  I was wet and smelly.  There was no room to maneuver in the very back seat of the van, as I was squished against the wall by Bill Nye and the two German fräuleins he was chatting up.  I sat there, moist and miserable, my skinny ass on the lumpy edge of the seat, desperate to get out.  At least I wasn't up front with Wirun wondering if he was going to vomit on me.

The push up to the top of Burro Pass was as hard as would be expected.  I picked up some local flora and fauna... that must be shared because Matt McFee loves pictures of flowers.

Once at the top, we hit the East Coast style gnar.  Wet roots and rocks and a quick moment with Bill Nye touching the floor.  Back up and moving and trying to find a happy place in the shuttle group that would end our horrible, flow-busting game of leap frog.

And then we popped out into a Colorado State Weed grove.

Bill Nye, showing us the number of wrecks he had on the Burro Pass portion of The Whole Enchilada.  That number would be "1."

Beth Roberts, local Moab honch and former Pisgah Princess, came by us and said "hi."  She also said JHK, Heather Irmiger and a posse of pros getting ready for the weekend's Big Mountain Enduro™ were coming behind her.  Great.  I need a dose of skill shaming.

The Enduro™ folk came around us as we waited our turn to enter Hazard County.  We dove in, I had to address a low air issue in my rear tire, Bill Nye took another unplanned nap or two in the dirt, and then we made it to Upper and Lower Porcupine.

Bill Nye made an attempt at The Notch...

Which was more than either Wirun or I did.  Then we continued onward.

Sometimes you get the shot, sometimes you get another shot.

Bill Nye... does not know how to use a diving board.

But continues to utilize his new bike to expand his skill set.

More scenery passed by in our peripherals that if you really wanted to see what it looked like, you could use the google...

and on down to my favorite sections of Porcupine Rim.

If you like scenery, here's some mud that I thought was pretty neat.

I asked Wirun if that wasn't the coolest mud he'd ever seen.


"What do you mean by that?"

"I've seen better.  Sorry my bubble is bigger than yours."

Wednesday, August 27

2014 Westward Ho Before Bros Mancation: Days Five and Six

The original Durango plan was for a Kennebec shuttle run with Hermosa Tours.  Matt McFee said he had something better for us.  Scoopage from the Siesta Motel at 7:45.

Some breakfast burritos and bagel sammiches later, we're in the big van headed up the road to the top of Hermosa Creek.  On the way up, Matt told us about the lighter side of giving tours and providing shuttle services, permitting... the kinda stuff I like to know about, if just so I can keep some slight ethereal connection to some part of "the industry."  Upon our arrival, we left that van and headed up the road in another, yet slightly more burly, van up to the start of Blackhawk Pass.

It was a sick ride up to the old mine.  Two point turns in the switchbacks, looking straight down the mountain out the side windows, chunky nasties that required all the four wheel drive.  WIRUN LOVED IT!!!

At the top (somewhere up above 11,000 feet), we were dropped off and heading up some more.  Wirun almost needed to stop and lighten his load, but he kept down his breakfast like a champ...

and soldiered on.

photo cred: Matt McFee 
Up and up.  The scenery... was okay.

photo cred: Matt McFee
There were some definite Breck Epic'esque moments on the climb.  Hike-a-bike and big mountain views.

But eventually, we reached the pass and our ultimate goal.  We met a couple thru-hikers up there, and they offered us "some Irish."  I thought it looked like pee in a plastic bottle, but it turned out to be whiskey.

And then down... like really far down.  We started above the treeline... not my favorite place to be, what with my acute and irrational acrophobia.  Eventually, we were zipping through the trees and in my East Coast comfort zone.

photo cred: Matt McFee
Riding in and amongst Colorado's State Weed.

Such a sweet (and sometimes insanely fast downhill) followed by a chocolate milk creek crossing and we were back at van one... which was nicely stocked with Ska Brewing liquids.

photo cred: Matt McFee
After a few happy cans, it was back to the Siesta Motel, coffee (I needed to rally), then to Ska Brewing for their TWO FOR ONE TUESDAYS... and then Matt said we couldn't leave town without going to the El Rancho Tavern.

Somewhere over the course of our time spent with Matt, he told us that Moab was experiencing unseasonably cool temps for the next few days.  Moab was in our original plan, scrapped for no plan, and then forgotten in the Crested Butte plan.  Now it's back in.  The Whole Enchilada will be had.

A late and somewhat painful night was had with much laughter and penis jokes.

Tuesday, August 26

2014 Westward Ho Before Bros Mancation: Days Three and Four

Woke up at the Simple Lodge and Hostel bright and early for the shuttle up to Monarch Crest.  Today, our crew of four was to be joined by George (formerly of Bike 29. currently of Niner Bikes, someday POTUS) and his friend Lee.  We all hopped on the shuttle and listened to the smooth sounds of Seal's Kiss from a Rose.

We assembled our group and headed up from the parking lot to more pedally-type climbing... because... we were on the MC Escher shuttle route.

Eventually, the shuttle paid off in braappage...

and views.

My bike leaning against a mountain.

And somewhere after that, things fell apart.  Flats.  The Chad was having issues with a slow leak that then morphed into a full flat.

I took mushroom photos for Eric "PMBAR Honcho" Wever whilst waiting.

And then Lee told us a story that started with "mushrooms" and "tugging," and then I got lost in my mind for awhile.

Monday, August 25

2014 Westward Ho Before Bros Mancation: Days One and Two

Let's skip past the part where I'm sitting in the Denver airport wondering where everybody is because of a few confusing emails...

Wirun scooped me, back to Chad's house to get Ryan and we're on our way towards Breckenridge maybe two hours or so later than planned.

Where I spent a fair amount of my vacation time... navigating, eating Peanut M&M's, drinking, logistificating and drooling on myself.

We stopped in Frisco to hit the Peaks Trail to Breck and back.  Not much of an epic, but fresh off a plane (and for them, a 24 hour car ride) and headed to 10,000+ feet, not a bad way to wet the finger... which I was informed is not actually the correct phrase.

Prep time for the Shirtless Club for Men at some random parking lot in Frisco.

Peaks Trail is pretty mellow (for Breck), but given our late start and gray skies, it was the best bet.

Bill Nye aboard his new Devinci something or other...

And Wirun on (and sometimes off) his Spot Honey Badger SS.

Great to see that in the high country, they must offer free poop bag removal... as long as it's in a green bag.  KEEP BRECK GREEN!!!

Waiting for Bill Nye and Wirun, I decided to start my series of "My Bike Leaning Against Things" photos.

It's the new wildflower.

Set  up for a sweet shot on Bill Nye only to be thwarted by oncoming traffic... it would become a theme.

Wirun, like 1,000 times more better at timing than Bill Nye.

This Mancation brought to you by Faster Mustache, Swiftwick, Thomson, Enduro™, Industry Nine and Pro Gold...

unless you are Wirun and run a belt drive which means you look down on people who use lubricants on a daily basis.

After making a fast break for the parking lot once we heard thunder in the distance...

it was time to get cleaned up river style for the Breck Epic Stage 7 after party in Breckenridge.

Mike McCormack (BE promoter) had given us what some would call "loose permission" to stay out near the hockey rink for the night with the other tent campers... except that when we got there, everyone had buggered off to the awards, and apparently nobody tent camps the Breck Epic anymore.  We bought a twelve pack so as to not fall too far behind the rest of the pack and set up our hobo camp in the woods behind the arena.

Bill Nye kept us entertained whilst we played catch up, bending discarded tent stakes with the power of his mind.