Thursday, January 17

Winter (Shart Tarck) is Calming

Anyone can correct me if I'm wrong, but I'm pretty sure I raced Winter Short Track for the first time back when it started over fifteen years ago.  My memories are limited to certain events in particular.

2003, racing on my first single speed, a dirt jumper from Planet X.

This behk is where it all started.  Hard to believe I still loved SS after riding this for more than a month.

Three was the year they had a one lap Misfit Class.  Any bike that's not a mountain bike could take part.  I did one on my fixed gear work bike and another on adult tricycle.  I can also remember Kevin and Tommawicki pushing a little red wagon with a blow-up alien in it.  Bring back the Misfit Class BTW.

I raced the 35+ class when I was eligible (the classes in Sport were only under/over 35 not the current classes).  I went off the front and started catching the all the Sport under 35 riders who had a one minute head start.  It got to the point that Neal (the promoter) offered me a prime if I could catch them all.  I did not.  What I did do was figure out that while I was not an expert XC kinda guy, I could never race Sport again either.

But then...

The SS Class was added, but there was only one time when I had a shot at first overall.  Second place in the first race, and first in the second.  Then I went home and actually managed to break a rib while washing my bike.  Seriously.  The next week, I fell back to dead last at the start and only managed a lackluster mid-pack finish when it was over.  The last two weeks I struggled and just managed to get third overall in the series.

2010 Team Dopers Suck

2011 Team FS SS

2014 was the last time I took a run at the whole series.

I had no chance of holding on to Chase's wheel, and I mighta got top three a few times, just enough to snag second overall.

Dahn Pahrs, forgive the shorts.  It was a different time then.

Since 2014, I've only dabbled here and there.  I'm just not in the podium hunt anymore in SS, and after all these years, spending five weekends in a row struggling in the mid-pack zone just wasn't something I wanted to do.  Still a fan of short track racing tho, I did continue to spectate and occasionally take part... because it's still fun to mix it up with friends.

Although I've got no real idea how I'll do in the 50+ class, I at least welcome the new challenge.  I can't compare the lap times from the one race I did last year because I was taking hand ups on the last four or five laps.  I don't think the top three in the 50+ were doing the same thing.

This will be my first foray into the final frontier (assuming there's no 60+ class in 2028).  My freshman year of post graduate work.  I guess that's a more pleasant way of looking at it.  I'm under-prepared, but what's new?  The shame or success ahead (either/or) should serve as the impetus to get me stoked on the rest of the '19 "season."

In theory.

Wednesday, January 16

I did something(s) right

No, I didn't win (or even get on the podium) at The Whole Enchilada, but I fell pretty good about how things worked out.  I was able to keep a decent pace for almost four hours, and I wasn't all that sore or worn out the next day.  My recovery was basically grab a pizza and a twelve pack from the store, take a shower, crawl into my Elevated Legs squeezy bags, and watch movies until 11:30PM.  Not entirely pro-level recovery, but I was hurting more last Monday after just riding 55 or so junk miles over two days the week before.  I'm actually in a decent mood (for early January).

Some things worked out really well this past weekend. I used some old standard garb for the chilly conditions; wool Swiftwick socks, neck gaiter, skull cap, and a sleeveless base layer.  Some stuff was new (to me) for making great bike race.

Two things from GORE Wear:

A long sleeve Windstopper base layer. (over the sleeveless base layer)

I can't remember when I got this, and I don't remember how often I've worn it.  I usually just grab a jacket.  That said, I had it under my jersey, it kept the wind off my chest and arms, but still allowed for a ton of breath-ability at the back (and the arms).  Wanna stay warm but still rock a team kit?  This is bueno.

BTW: I had a GORE Windstopper vest on at the start, which in theory made my core 200% windproof which is no better than 100%.  I'd put it on because I wanted it in case the 20% chance of rain actually happened, and my body seemed like a convenient place to store it.  I ended up putting it in my jersey pocket on the climb up to the Weigh Station Loop, and I wasn't any colder without it the rest of the day.

200% def not > 100% in this case.

Also this:

C-5 bib shorts Limited Edish.  I bought these last summer mostly because I was trying to be a better GORE ambassador (can't miss that logo on the leg).  It wasn't until I got them in my hands that I found they had GORE® WINDSTOPPER® Cup Technology... which is basically a windproof layer over the frank and beans.  This allowed me to opt out of wearing baggies to keep the bits warm, so now I guess I know why I own these bibs.

I was only wearing HandUp Cold (not ColdER) Days gloves for maximal dexterity.

And (this is more important) I finally listened to the advice that HandUp Cody gave me sooooo many years ago.  I had nitrile gloves underneath, and I had zero issues with the cold.  I'm old enough now to feel the cold in my bones, and this was so clutch.  The only thing I can add to his advice was that I used a lot of baby powder to make getting it all on my hands much easier and keeping them drier longer.

Last but not least, I've found a new love.

I know it might not be the smartest choice for fast-rolling dry days (we'll see), but dang-ole if I wasn't hooking up where others were having issues on Saturday.  This thing will eat if you let it.  I'm probably just gonna leave it on there for Winter Shart Tarck unless things get super dry (not looking like it this weekend).  I didn't think anything was gonna knock the Rekon 2.6 off its pedestal for awhile.  I was wrong.

Just bringing all this up because I was super prepared to be uncomfortable for hours and hours this past Saturday, and I just happened to come up with the right combo (for me).   Not that I'm looking at doing this again for a long time.

I'm not a fat snow biker.  Never was.  Never will be.  Never wanna.

I live in NC for reasons.

Tuesday, January 15

The Whole Enchilada '19: Part Two

Of the 45 miles of The Whole Enchilada, I'd say about 95% of it is singletrack, purpose-built for mountain bike singletrack.  Thus getting at water bottles and trying to choke back an almost frozen gel are activities that have a certain level of difficulty attached to them... and now I also need to take my hand off the bars to occasionally raise my seat post that final inch or so.  I've got way more than 2/3 of the race to go and the more difficult trails of the day ahead of me.

I catch back on to Santana's wheel, and he's sitting in behind two other riders.  I ask if he's gonna make a move, but the front rider asks if anyone wants to come around.

"Very much so and thank you for your hospitality."

In fewer words tho.

Get around them and I'm feeling like I'm just about where I was before I had to fix the problem that I created for myself last week while also creating a new problem for myself today.

I find myself reeling people in by the ones and twos.  I'm climbing slightly faster than some, and I swear I'm not sliding in the slippy corners like the others.  Obviously, I know the trails just a little better than someone who hasn't been riding here since this place was just known as "Catawba" and we were parking in the ditches along Heavy Equipment Road.

OG parking.  No rules, no fees, no gods, no bathrooms.

Although we're on trails I know well, I kinda struggle with trying to figure out when I can get a quick pull on my bottle.  Mebbe I'll get a second gel when we get over to the Green Loop... what seems like a long time from now.  I'm thankful that I have @220 calories in each bottle to give me something to keep from being ded.

I'm saving my physical energy biscuits for the final big push on East Main... AKA East Pain.  One of my favorite trails at USNWC, and one that I make sure to hit earlier in the day or not at all.  Getting to the Green (beginner loop), I tell a geared rider to get while it's good.  I'm just happy that I'll have the chance to chew on a second very non-viscous gel and not need to fiddle with my drooper as much on this flat'ish trail.

Now on to East Main.

I thought I'd be spending the latter half of this day in solitude, but somehow, I keep catching up to other riders.  I tell myself to settle in, not burn matches trying to get around...

And then I pull the match outta the book and strike it anyways.  "What's the worst that could happen?  From this point, I'll finish regardless..." I tell myself.  I can't help it.  Any time I see a beard with gray hair or a slightly wrinkly eye scrunch, I assume we gotta both be 40+.  I can't just let that aggression stand, man.

I manage to pass two more guys right before getting outta East Main.  I know it's a chip shot to the finish, so I go all in until I pop out at the lower part of the fake river that the boat people play in, look over my shoulder, punch it for good measure, and back off when I can see the finish.

Cross the line, head straight to the Bike Source van to shoot the shit.  Ask MJ, "What time is it anyways?"

It's almost noon.

Well, shit.  I was counting on a five hour day, and it was less than four.  I really, really, really should at least have a watch, if not a computer of some sort for this whole taking the making of great bike race (at 50+) even the least bit (sorta) serious.

Check the results.  Fourth place 40+, far enough back from 3rd that my stupid self-sabotage mechanical error didn't matter, and first guy over fifty to finish...

Which makes me happy and also meh and also ok.  It would be nice to have had a 50+ class, what with 11 of the 47 riders in the 40+ class being over 50... but there wasn't.  I'm not sure if the USNWC promoters see the benefit of dividing the 113 male non-junior riders from a cost (little to none?) benefit (some) standpoint.  From all my years of doing this, I can only see where more single speeders, 50+ athletes, Clydesdales, etc might sign up IF there is a category for them, but what do I know? 

LATE EDIT: As long as the promoter states that they will consolidate categories if they don't get X number of riders per category, there's NO downside to more cats (unless you're giving out serious swag/money).

Also, I realize that coming from the 50+ year old who missed the 40+ podium by one spot... I'll just sound like the old man yelling at a cloud. 

More than normal.  It's kinda my thing.

Anyways, helluva way to start the '19 "season," and I managed to get a month's worth of training for Winter Shart Tarck in one day.




Monday, January 14

The Whole Enchilada '19: Part One

When my alarm goes off at 5:30AM, my first thought is, "I can't wait to take a nap."

And just like that, I'm reminded of my number three pet peeve with endurance races... early starts.

I'd gone to bed early the night before, but I guess my food/beer double supper combo had caused some disturbed sleep.  The tossed-about bedding bedlam I woke up in, an indicator of some major unrest or perhaps a bombing raid.

Check the weather and the 32° to 47° rise in temps from start to finish I'd spent the prior evening preparing gear for has turned into a 36° day with zero change in temperature.  Shit.  I love summer races where clothing selection doesn't matter.  "What's the minimum amount of clothing I can race in and not get arrested?" scenarios are most desirable for me.  Hastily repack while trying to get my requisite amount of coffee inside me.

Drive over to the USNWC, register, prep in the (running) car, head over the start way too early, park my bike near the front of the line, stand next to the fire just out of range to risk melting my polyester racing underwears to my (not quite) narrow ass.

They're gonna start us in waves, four self-sorting, choose your adventure waves.  I leave the fire and grab my bike, standing in the second row of wave one.  I know how this plan will sort out, being that I know the course... sorta.  They'll blow my doors off on the gravel around the center and the ride out on the pedestrian-difficulty path out to the front of the park.  That should keep traffic in front of me well sorted before I start hoping that my old man legs kick in and do something magical that I haven't really prepared them to do.


I'm quickly off the pace, churning my 32X19 as fast as I can without blowing my "what the fuck are we doing, it's January?" heart up and out of my chest.  Dung Lee (the guy who bravely recovered Watts's stolen bike a few years ago) comes by me and asks "What gear you running?"

I reply but only have a quick moment to look down and see his single speed bike between his madly spinning legs.  Before I can inquire as to his ratio (as is the polite single speedy thing to do), he's gone.  I see some of the lead group take an early wrong turn ahead.  Ha.  I guess.  I mean, I feel bad, but the USNWC does not close intersections off for races in order to allow the park to be open to other user groups... so I know it's best to keep heads outta asses and pay attention.

I also decide that if I get off course, I'm going home.  My head may just end up in my ass in order to stay warm.

I find myself in the company of Santana, someone I've known locally for as many years as I can remember racing in Charlotte.  We keep pace together on the way out the parkway, but once we get into Smokey, I know my 32X19 is gonna be a gear I can smash, so I come around.

My old man legs are starting to come to life AND my tire selection I made is on point.  I'll mebbe get into that later, but riders ahead of me are slipping and sliding while I'm eating up ground and making passes.  Neato...


Something feels awkward about my leg extension.  I look down... and my post is slipping in the downward direction.  I should be able to see the top of the "N" in "TRANSFER," and I'm now seeing only "TR" and not even a little bit of "A."

Fuck me.  Literally.  It's all on me.  I did a bad thing last weekend.  When I put on new pedals and decided to wear my new shoes, the need to raise my saddle was apparent.  I'd forgotten how I decided on how to get my Thomson seat post clamp up to 2.8nm of torque, being that my Topeak digital gauge only reads as low as 4nm.  I used it anyways... it said 3.5nm on the display.  I thought "how bout that?" and just backed it off a bit of a turn.  Good enough, right?


I think about the day ahead.  Gonna be a long trip down the mostly flat parkway path, lots of seated riding on Thread, Green... so much more to come.  It's so early in the day, and riding with my saddle too low in the cold for hours and hours could cause some damage to my old knees.  In theory, the post can only go so low, bottoming on the top bottle boss...

No, I gotta fix it.  I stop while coming outta Panda, carelessly pull up my GORE vest, blow out the bottom of the zipper, fish in my pocket for my Tülbag, pull out my pieced together multi-tool (that I recently added a 10mm bit and a valve core remover to)...

(so you know what I'm talking about)
and it comes apart.  I'd wondered if I'd overloaded it for hurried access.  At least I answered that question... and I hear something drop through my spokes, but in my rush to get my seat post up, a quick scan of the leafy detritus proved fruitless. 

Santana blows by and a few others who definitely look 40+ go with him.  Guys I just worked hard to get around earlier.  Meh.

Get on the parkway path, try to ride no-handed while fiddling with my vest zipper... geared riders come by making use of their shifty bits and putting it to me.  More meh.

I dive into Figure 8 with a lot of those geared guys in sight, and I quickly discover that I created a new problem with my hastened fix.  I slightly over-torqued my clamp.  Now my post won't go all the way back up without a helpful hand or a well-timed, coordinated effort with my chubby inner thighs.  As much as I consider my drooper post an advantage when I ride just about anywhere, this hurts my head as well as my feels.

This is my life now.  Good job, Dick.

Thursday, January 10

Exercise, Exercise Each and Every Day

I can not say that my focus in preparing for the '19 "season" has been laser sharp. Coming down with RSV a month or two ago put a figurative damper on things.  The extremely moist weather has put a very literal damper on getting some decent saddle time.  My goals of losing X amount of pounds has borne little fruit.  I mean, I've lost a few pounds here and there, but I've always managed to find them again.  I'm very good at that.

Hardly an "all in" effort.

Anyhoo, The Whole Enchilada is this weekend.  While I'm not ready for 46 miles of mostly singletrack race making, it falls in the window of possible dry riding this weekend, and it will force me into a very long ride when I'd probably not do so on my own.

I'd really considered riding my Vassago Meatplow V.8, but... excuses.

So, I prepped the Vertigo Meatplow V.7.

New tires from Maxxis to start out the year and not be sliding off the trail so much.

This was my go-to rear tire last year, albeit I ran the EXO version... but they're currently out of stock at the moment.  I'm telling myself the lighter tire will suit the less technical/rocky racing I'll be doing in the earlier part of the year.

Stoked on this Forekaster 2.6.  I love the volume of the Rekon 2.6, but have sometimes wished for a knobblier tire with more/bigger mud-shedding spaces.  I'm debating as to whether or not it's a great idea for the Winter Shart tarck coming up... it's probably not, but it does look so confidence inspiring.

If there's one thing I need, it's confidence.  And fitness.  And this ping pong paddle game.  And this remote control...

I prepped out the Vertigo mostly because the brakes on the Vassago were being warrantied.  Although I thought having some squish up front for some cold, lumpy racing would be nice on my frozen hands, I knew it might be down to the wire getting my brakes back on the bike.

It almost was...

Now they're on there, but the hydro lines need shortened.  That's a process I don't take lightly.  I'm gonna have to stare at any mistakes I make for years to come, so it's not something I generally rush about doing.  Plus, I really wanted to watch The Godfather last night (never seen it).  Even if I took the time to shorten everything up nice and neat, I'd still have to figure out a different tire situation (the DHF/Agressor combo is muy heavy for XC endurance racing).  It would probably mean undoing some of what I've already done to the Vertigo... and I still need to watch The Godfather II tonight.

m'kay.  99% committed to racing this weekend.  75% to the Whole Enchilada, 25% to the Half.

I've found that an exercise in futility is still a form of exercise.

Wednesday, January 9

milKing the System: Part Two

Following through with a promise, I messed with the milKit System (again) when I got some new rubber bits from Maxxis.

Here's something I was looking forward to... a (possible) clean tire swap.

I went ahead and hung the bike and then weighted the valve stems to get as much of the TruckerCo Cream to settle right below the valve stem.

Then take out the funky looking core using their supplied removal tool.

Break out the syringe, the the valve bit, and the needle bit.  Assemble.  Five seconds.  Mebbe less.

Word to the wise, I saw the part in the manual that suggested there should be no more than 22PSI in the tire before using the syringe.

It's only the very first rule of milKit Club, but the very first time I played with it?

I normally only have 17PSI in my front tire, but I forgot that I had set up the whole thing the other day and just jacked the pressure to something.something PSI.  I inserted the syringe, and the pressure inside the tire pushed fluid way faster than I was ready to deal with it.  When I tried to halt the out of control process, the force pushing out was too great...

And because I was just goofing around in the living room, sitting on the floor, totally unprepared... I (and the floor) was soon covered in in tubeless goo.

Note to self: Be sure to get the tire to well below 22PSI next time.

With the knowledge I gained from my previous folly, I set up a clean space to work, lowered the PSI, and two syringes full of potential latex mess were happily collected.

This is one of the reasons I was really hoping the milKit system would work:

That's how much liquid was left in the tire when I pulled it off the rim.  Normally, a tire swap means getting at least a few tablespoons worth of sealant on me, the floor, the tire, some tools, mebbe my work bench?  It goes everywhere.  Not today.  I was able to reuse 99% of it (unscientific guesstimate).

I will admit I just lazily dumped the recycled sealant into the new tire instead of mounting and then pushing it through the valve stem with the syringe.  I've become quite adept at doing that without making a mess, so whatever.

It's important to mention that the syringe/valve system would make checking sealant levels a less than five minute, zero-mess operation.  No more shaking the wheel, popping the bead, or just adding unnecessary sealant because more is better.  I've been one to do the latter in the days before a big event or trip, so... yeth.   I'm changing that method for sure in the future.

And, yeth.  I was able to give the milKit Booster 2.0 a new challenge (I'd already messed with it once before).  Two brand new tires with all the unfolding creases and zero sealant already coating the inner walls.  I can happily report back that twenty strokes of the floor pump brought the Booster to 140+PSI, and both times, the tire jumped right up on the rim and held air.  Yeth, I needed to use the pump to get the tire up to 30PSI and get the tire to pop all the way around, but as far as I'm concerned, this thing rocks.  I will not go multi-day adventuring without this ever, AND there is nothing out there that packs this small, weighs so little, and works so well.

Prove me wrong.

I'm also going to say that I'm super stoked that I can swap tires mess-free and with so little hassle. I'm gonna have to be really lazy to wanna avoid doing it in the future.

Monday, January 7

Treading Mud

I swear I'm trying...

I know it don't look like much, but it felt like... something.  I went ahead and started STRAVA on my phone so I could guilt myself into staying out longer. than I really wanted to.  Sorry, but it's kinda hard to fake the stoke when you're riding 32 X 18 on a bunch of greenways and sidewalks. 

But if anything, it's a testament to just how much the idea of riding a stationary trainer inside or going for a road ride sounds like the actions of a mad man to me. 

That said, I've had my fill of these rides that would never happen unless the trails were absolutely soaked.  I can't even begin to guess how many miles I've banked on concrete, pavement, and pea gravel over the past five or six weeks?  The wear on the knobs of my rear tire would say "too many."

I did get out to Poohstain Park for a dose of dirt and mebbe some mud surfing with Mills yesterday.  Not so much tryna get some fitness in, but to mebbe have a few "woohoo" moments on the bike to remind me why I have all this money tied up in a toy.  Also, it served to point out a few maintenance issues that I'll need to attend to before next weekend's Whole Enchilada...

Which I'm still not 100% committed to doing.

The course is up to 46 miles now, and you can see the kinda saddle time I'm getting recently.  My participation is pretty weather dependent, and I didn't wanna look at that until the weekend is closer...

But for some odd reason, The Pie shoved it in my face last night... even tho she'll be in Florida next weekend running a marathon... she still looked at our local forecast.  And then she told me... even tho I've told her it's pointless to get to worried about the possibilities this far out...


Now I worry.

Fresh tires, new brake pads (because I'm a moron, mebbe I'll get to that later) and chase down a creaking bit before the weekend and go back to keeping my head in the sand re:weathers.