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Wednesday, January 27

Winter Shart Tarck Series ‘21: Race One

Wake up, coffee, Pop Tart (breakfast of former champions), gather my belongings, try and stretch the old man body parts I made angry by slinging dirt the day before... and notice a strange sense of nervousness?  It’s been a long time since I’ve done a “mass start” event.  Even the Shenandoah Mountain 100 with its waves of ten riders didn't have a lot of hurried and worried feels.   It was more like tiny little group rides going out every few seconds.  I'm having a few "why do I do this?" thoughts.

Because I usually have a good time, that's why.

Scoop two time vaccine world champion Dr Mike from his abode and off we go into the new world of racing in 2021.  Get to the venue, QR codes at registration, masked humans, a podium assembled but only for use if you want a personal picture of you on it minus pomp and circumstance and probably other riders... a lot of people but a ginormous venue to spread out the crowd.  So far, so good.

Dr Mike and I "warm up" on a nearby gravel road... as in we freeze coasting down it, and then overly exert ourselves getting up the loose grade that's steeper than anything we're about to race.  Five miles and then we were like... ummmm... ready?

Roll over to the start, take to the front of the SS line, and next to me are two geared looking bikes.  The guy directly on my right has taken the battery off his AXS shifty bits.  The other is multi-time/multi-discipline National Champ Robert Marion aboard a semi-properly derailleur tensioned SS'ed rig.  He's beaten my dick off before.  His legs are still as huge as ever although his red beard is speckled with gray.  I expect yet another dick beating once again.  Absent are some of the regulars, although podium-frequenter Chase P was registered for the series but not present?  Still, normally we have about twenty single speeders or so, so fifteen taking the line this morning with a lot of "who dat?" feelings as I look around.

At "GO," I'm already pushing myself towards the front up the garvel road.  Dammit.  I know Robert is a smarter (and stronger) racer than I, so mebbe he's willing to let me do some work on what's about to be a very fast course where drafting is totally gonna matter.  I back off my 32X16 and drop into third wheel going in the woods behind the two shifty looking but not shifty at all characters.  

They're chatting.  I'm just holding on... and also watching all the "pro lines" which are forming and getting burned in "trail adjacent."  Fast people know how to ride fast.  

We pop out of the woods, and it's just us three.  Hmmm...

A quick look over my shoulder and we have a gap.  Robert leads up the garvel climb, and I jump on his wheel... kinda.  I know I should stay in his draft, but I keep thinking about Steve Prefontaine.  I want to go all in... because... ?

I'm no Steve Prefontaine... 

photo cred: Supercycling!
But I do try.

I go back to tryna stick on Robert's wheel.  I don't.  About halfway around my second lap, I feel the heat coming from behind.  Poop.  Obvs it's the de-batteried one.  Quick look back... mebbe?  I can't tell one stretchy underwear person from the other at these speeds.  I call out my line, scoot over, and zoom... it's Mike King.  Yeth, the former World Champ Mike King, racing fifty plus... and he's erased my one minute (I assume) head start in a lap and a half.  He musta doubled up on his Pop Tarts this morning.  Directly after that (as I'd find out later), Robert panicked the same as I did, and gassed it when he felt the King Heat bearing down... only to see that it was Mike King.  Regardless, that kick opened up a gap so huge that I wouldn't see Robert again until after the race while he was getting ready for the e-bike class to go out.

What world did I wake up in today?

The final three laps are spent looking over my shoulder and bracing myself for the occasional flyby of an athletic fifty plusser.  I chose the correct category this year, for sure.

I end up finishing a distant second, outta Robert's sight, and outta sight of third place... although Bruce S did just finish fourth in the forty five plus race immediately before hopping into the SS class.

I mentioned last week that mebbe Dr Mike and I were gonna do a little more trail riding after the race to make the trip worthwhile, but drinking one beer in the sunshine and watching the start of the e-bike class seemed like a worthwhile thing to do as well...

I mean, I was one of the few people who helped sponsor the illegitimate e-bike class four years ago.

Go ahead.  Call me a visionary.  I can take it.

Monday, January 25

Winter Shart Tarck Series '21: Race One Prumble

This "season" is going to be interesting.  I've definitely had more saddle time since... March(?) than ever before leading into the Winter Shart Tarck.  Fitness should be high, BUT I knew there would be a downside to this as well.  Every other race would come on the tail end of a week off, meaning eight days to ride myself into the ground before race day.

On Saturday before the race, I decided to heed the last minute call to arms to do work on the course.  I don't ever remember missing an annual Shart Tarck work day, so why not?  It's not normally the day before the first race for about a thousand obvious reasons.

"Don't overdo it," The Pie said as I was getting ready to head out the door.

"Why stop now?"

What a blessed "off week" I'd just had.  The sun was out and the trails were open.  I rode.  A lot.  It's so hard to keep it out of the red zone on a single speed no matter what I'm doing, so I wasn't getting any "recovery" days...

Well, except when I cut a solo ride short on Wednesday when I was already feeling the effects of the previous four days of riding in the woods.  My legs had no snap, and my "trail feel" was off a little.  Thursday I was right back in it, and over those next two days, I mighta got in 45 more miles and 5,000 feet of climbing.

How do you not go to Pisgah with your little friend when it's T-shirt weather in January?

I considered doing trail work on Saturday a "recovery day."  I didn't bring my bike, and wasn't worried about getting a ride in all day long.  I'd just be happy to work alongside friends in the sun. 

Well, the promoter hadn't beaten the drum all too hard, since we'd only be doing some drainage work as opposed to the normal winterizing and feature building (or rebuilding) at the old course.  There were just six of us instead of the usual twenty to thirty people.  Two junior riders, the ASCG trail coordinator, the promoter, his assistant, and me.

Only three or so hours of de-berming and digging and whacking errant water-holding roots and scraping and... ungh.  So much labor, and not one terrible jump built, but at least the trail shouldn't hold water if we have to race in wet conditions over the next five weeks.  Fortunately, we got occasional breaks as we'd have to get off the trail to let people pre-riding the course go past us.  Bless you.

Of course I woke up Sunday morning all kinda sore in old man places with no idea how exactly it happened.  My left shoulder, lower back, hamstrings, and my butt.  I guess those are my shoveling muscles.

But that's just "muscle pain" and should have no adverse effect on how hard I can pedal a bike for forty minutes...

I tell myself.

No regrets.

Thursday, January 21

The Lonely Street of Dreams

 Fuck it.  Here I go.

Again.

The Winter Shart Tarck Series begins this weekend.   No, it will not be the same as it used to be, but then again, what is the same as it was twelve months ago?  I haven't sat down in a restaurant, had a beer inside a brewery, hung out indoors pretty much at all with what I used to call "people" since... March?  I think?

The race course won't be the same.  I went out to the new venue and rode it (or at least what I'm kinda sure it will be) on Tuesday.  No more giant berms, booter jumps, A-line/B-line climb options...  rocks?  Pretty much a gradual gravel climb to a smooth ribbon of singletrack through the woods.  It is what it is.

The experience won't be the same.  I'll drive down with Dr Mike, we'll race in the single speed class at 12:25, and after that's done... we might just ride the other trails down at Anne Springs just to make a day of it.  I sincerely doubt we'll stay and spectate and drink a beer in the sun.  Even if we did, there's no obvious interesting sections like at the OG course at Renni, so I don't think you're gonna see "a crowd" of spectators anywhere.

Which is the point, emmaright?

The elephant in the room we call COVID.

At this point, I feel like everyone has decided what they think is "smart" and "safe."  From the people that are still letting their Amazon packages sit on their porch for 24 hours before bringing them in and wiping them down with bleach or gasoline (and then lighting them on fire) to the people crowding establishments or visiting extended family or licking doorknobs or sharing memes about how mask wearing will kill you or whatever else...

Whilst the rest of us look down our noses and think "that's crazy but that's also crazy but what I'm doing totally isn't crazy..."

Member leaving the house without considering the risk factors involved in doing whatever activity you're about to pursue beyond your front door?

I think I member.

I'm just hoping to have some kind of positive experience outside on my bike that is different from what I've been doing for the last... ten months?  My life has been a blur of working for a week and then a week of filling my days with bike rides with a limited number of friends or fixing broke shit at my house or hanging with The Pie or a rare moment when I sit outside wearing ten layers so I can drink a few beers with a couple friends sitting at "social distance." 

Staring out the window and watching annual rye grass grow in my shitty backyard while the little birds eat half of my labor and money doesn't really help me mark the passage of time, although it does warm my heart just a bit to see that I made the birds fat and happy.

So, racing and then race "reports" are forthcoming and perhaps the usual self-sabotage associated with Winter Shart Tarck.

I will close with this:

Tuesday, January 19

I meant well...

For some reason, the state of North Carolina thought The Pie needed a new license plate.  It sat on the dining room table until this past Saturday when she dropped the hint that it needed put on her car.  Armed with a screwdriver, I went to task.  On the way out, she said something like "what does the state think about people who don't have tools or have severe arthritis or no arms or... ?"  I said something like "well, if they had the means to buy a car and then drive said car, I think they can figure something out."

First screw turned like... a screw.  Second one, not so much.  The screwdriver slipped as the screw refused to turn.  Dammit.  I know I'll get a couple tries at this and then I'm gonna round out the head and then I'll have to go get the drill and an extension cord and then go at it with a pair of vise grips and then see if I can find the right size replacement in the box of rando screws...

All before she needs to use her car in a half hour.

Doh.

Fortunately, the screw broke loose on the third try.  I went back in the house and greased the screws before putting them back in, just in case the state sends her another plate before she buys a new '27 Corolla.

The Pie is no longer a "Butt Fucking Loser."

Now on to my day's tasks.

I needed to put the mount for a Topeak frame pump on my Vassago Meatplow V.8.  I finally asked for a Race Rocket Mountain because:

1: I was carrying a sponsor incorrect pump that kinda sucked... because it's what I had.
2: I prefer pumps with an extendable hose because it's much more friendlier than yanking on your stem.

Problem is, ti bottle mounts aren't flush with the frame, so the mount as it is kinda sits out there all funny looking.  Tighten the bolt too much, and the plastic mount deforms around the base of the mount.  Then to top it off, my upper mount is a stud (for increased dropper clearance), so if I wanna put the mount behind the cage AND  sitting on the not-flush-to-the-frame mount, I'll run outta threads on the tiny post.

I've been down this road before.  I need to drill out the plastic mount in order for it to sit flush to the frame.  Usually no big deal...

Stick the right size drill bit in the slot, fire up the drill, the bit grabs the mount instead of removing any material, the mount starts slinging around and threading its way up the bit, the rubber strap that I was too lazy to remove from the mount wraps around my thumb, and at whatever billionty RPMs it was turning for that hot second starts pulling flesh off my thumb.

Arggh.

Run the the bathroom, rinse, antibiotic and bandage before I can bother looking at the damage. 

More time wasted looking for clamps... the one I that I found on the side of the road that I keep in one place and another that should be one of two that came with my Dremel tool but I loaned it out years ago and it was only returned with one of them and now it's not with the Dremel tool where it belongs...

Clamps found, confidence renewed, job done... a job that I thought would take ten minutes that took thirty and some blood loss.

My first thought when I injured my thumb was "shit, that's my drooper thumb."  Of my ten digits, I have two braking fingers, one bell dinging thumb, and one drooper thumb.  I can always shift my braking duties over one finger, and I could also shout instead of ringing a bell, but drooping duties rest solely on my right opposable digit.

So after I get the pump all situated, I test my thumb out on my drooper lever.  A quick push and the lever goes back effortlessly... I mean like there's no tension on the cable.  And the seat won't go down...

Obviously, the cable must have slipped at the clamping bolt?

Check it.  Nope.

I pull the housing from the lever and start yanking on the cable and it just starts coming out and I know the cable is busted.

Pourquois?

In my hands, what the cable should look like about to be nestled in its barrel nubbin.  Next to it, the cable snapped at the head.  Yeth, this is that $$$ Jagwire drooper specific cable kit (you can't buy only the replacement inner cables BTW).  Did I just get a bad one?  Did I mebbe kink it during a post rebuild?  Is this because the cable is only .8mm versus a standard shift cable that's 1.2mm?

Sigh.

At least that didn't happen on my last ride... or the very first push of the lever on my next ride.  I'm at home with my tools and plenty of replacement cables on hand.

But of course, nothing is easy.

I tried threading the new cable down the seat pipe and into the housing several inches down in there, but I couldn't hit the tiny hole in the ferrule.  Now I wanna push the housing from the front, but I had wrapped Gorilla tape around it where it enters the frame to cut down on potential wiggle noises.  Unwrap the tape (which sucked), push the housing... it won't budge.  Put the cable into the other end of the housing, shove it all the way through, use it to wiggle and jiggle the housing up to where I can get at it.

The rest of the process goes pretty much like normal... but then again, I was only trying to mount my new pump... or a license plate... I can't remember.

Quel dommage.  I wonder where in my work space that hunk of skin got slung.

Love, love, love the aesthetics of an internal drooper.  Hate the actual routing process tho.

Sometimes I can see why people take their bike to their local shops and pay professionals to do the job.

Wednesday, January 13

Positive Postal

Sorry (but not sorry) for being such a grumpy Gary (Busey, obvs) yesterday. 

For a guy who has been spending as much time doing what I love (riding around aimlessly) on my overly abundant time off, the weeks when I've been heading into work have been a little more mentally taxing lately.  The person who is normally in the "lead position" has been out of the office, and I've somehow found myself filling the seat.  

As we call it, "being the mustache."

Good thing I'm prepared for this task.

At least in the ironic sense.  Everything I know about the job is based on my proximity to it and the things I've accidentally learned out of idle curiosity and a desire to be a little halper.  75% of the work, I know what I'm doing.  The other 25% is a "growth opportunity."

The Pie has has been learning me how to speak "corporate."

What that means is I've been tied to a desk the last three weeks that I've gone into work.  It also means we're short handed.  It's also² been during some of the busiest times of the year.

It also³ meant there were days that I went into the big building at 9:00AM, and I came back outside at 5:00PM, spending all that time in a windowless room.  I mighta snuck out to peep at the outdoors once or twice on a potty break.  I was not the "bike guy," as we get loosely referred to by regular office folk. 

It's difficult for me to sit still, and worse, to sit still indoors.  Perhaps that's why I packed a solo ride beer the other week, because as long as I was outside, nothing else mattered.  I love my job because it grants me the freedom to be outside, even when it's raining and cold or hot and swampy.  Life is better lived in a non-climate controlled environment.  It's what I've been doing since '96 (except that regrettable three months in middle management wearing a tie and slippers and shaving daily), and I miss my regular job.  I've resorted to leaving my "running shoes" at work (are they even running shoes if you don't run?) because it seems pointless to click and clack around in clipless shoes for eight hours and not hopping on a bike occasionally.

It's temporary, but every time I have to call the outside courier, I'm jealous.  One less trip down Third Street to the courthouse.  One less climb up Fourth Street past the bus station and the arena.  One less trip out to the residential area of Dilworth where I look at houses and wonder how many kids I'd have to have in order to justify heating that many square feet and are there rooms that no one goes in for years at a time?

So perhaps that and what's going on out in the real world have been pulling my spirits down at times.  

But... everything is temporary.  The bad as well as the good, but there will always be more of both, and it's probably better to focus on the potential for the latter more than the former.  The days are getting longer, the temperature will get warmer (eventually), the trails will dry out, and my saddle sore will go away.

I hope.

The Pie would like to remind me that I still have a jerhb.  I still have my health.  I still have a tolerant wife.  

I tell her I also have five bikes and a dog.

Count your many blessings.

Tuesday, January 12

Leaning into it.

Hard to think about bikes a lot lately.  I'm sure much of our collective brain power is being drained by the world we find ourselves in now.  As apolitical as I try to keep the blerhg, I'll admit there was a moment months ago when The Pie asked me if I was happy that Turmp had lost the election.

"Yes, but I think he's going to spend the next two months trying to burn it all to the ground."

A vague prediction, but I woulda never guessed this would be his "best" work.

You're painting with a very wide brush if you call this a "riot" and those participating "rioters."  Yesterday, as more and more images and video were released, I was about as close to tears as I could be over something "political."  Hate on one particular politician or a whole swath that doesn't hold the same ideals as yourself, but I can't imagine being unable to sympathize with a bunch of people, Republican or Democrat, who were at work just doing their jobs and then finding themselves in the dark hiding from an angry mob with so little to defend them and no idea when or if help was coming?  And to be one of those Capitol Police officers? 

I try to put myself there, and I just can't.  I have trouble finding the words.  I know I'd have some sharp words for my employer at the next performance review.

Of course, all this makes me miss my friend Bill, if only to hear what he thinks about all this... that little ball of white spittle forming on his lower lip as he excitedly shares his view.

I'm very fortunate to have my garvel bike. 

Over my last ten day period of not going to work, despite taking two whole days off the bike, I've easily racked up huge amounts of saddle time.  I can't remember when or if ever spending this much time doing what I love.  With the local trails mostly closed, it's my only escape from the insanity, even if sometimes I end up riding with frands, and we try to verbally process the shit overloading our brains.  Once I get out there, it's kinda hard to want to stop.  If I can keep moving, the world can't catch up to me...

I tell myself.

*heart emoji hug emoji mebbe eggplant emoji*

Thursday, January 7

Well, I had to follow you...

Well, shit.

I came home from being in the woods all afternoon thinking I'd write some kinda reflective post yesterday, and I guess the world done went and blew up, and I got distracted until this morning.

Anyways, I planned on getting away from life and stuff.  The fuck away.  Too much shit lately.  I love riding with other people, and I hate the idea of driving my car by myself to get a ride in, but the trails were closed locally, riding around town every day brings back a lot of the sinking feelings, and I didn't want to be around anyone... if for the only reason that almost every human interaction leads to discussions of the COVID nature.

That was a long sentence.

The virus has found its way into my world recently.  Coworkers, distant relatives, loved ones.  I'm le tired.  Not to mention, I recently painted the dilapidated front porch only to have unforecasted rain fuck it all up.

Time for the woods...

I normally eat a bacon, egg, and cheese burrito before a big ride, but that's when I'm in a hurry.  It was a day for a sit down breakfast.

Ironically (or not), on the drive to Uwharrie, I listened to a Bike Tumor podcast with Tyler "Tool Bag" Benedict and "industry" acquaintance, Trey Richardson about... you guessed it, COVID.  It was mostly about possible long term effects and Trey's experiences as an "athlete" dealing with this shit show.  I was interested enough to take a break from taking a break.

I rarely if ever carry a beer on a solo ride.

I prefer sharing trail beer moments with friends, but this ride was more about hiding in the woods from the rest of the world than it was playing "athlete" or pretending that riding in circles matters.  I'd planned on zoning out to the shitty music on my Shuffle, but it's on its last legs and wouldn't play.  No buenos.  I was left with previously downloaded podcasts on my phone...

I know.  Who needs something in their ears to enjoy being outside?

Me.  I wasn't in the mood to be in my brain.  BTW: Not only does the Shuffle no longer want to talk to iTunes, they're about as rare as unicorns now, and refurbished ones sell for more than their original price.  I don't know what I'm going to do about all that.

The trail conditions weren't ideal, so I ended up cutting my ride a little shorter than planned.  I've been putting in decent mileage this week, and I'm starting to feel it as well.  Physically tired I can deal with.  Mentally tired, not so much.

At least all it takes is some time in the woods to charge my batteries.  I wished that worked for my Shuffle.

Time to watch some paint dry...

Stay safe (whatever that means).