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Tuesday, August 22

'17 Breck Epic: Stage Two

Stage 2 – Colorado Trail – 43 miles, 7200′ of climbing

Jeremy and I are not lined up together.   I don't think we really talked about "lifestyling" the rest of the race as a couple.  Still, as we hit the first climb, there we were.  Wheel to wheel. 

Might as well do this thing then.

He's climbing quite well, so I tell him to go on without me if I can't follow.  He says the same thing to me later. 

photo cred: Timothy Faust
Get to the first aid station and I share my beer with him.  He had not committed to the "lifestyle" yet... at least not enough to be prepared for such an event.

photo cred: Ffej Knar
Out of the aid, up the climb, and I lose Jeremy... only for him to come around me on the way back down and we crawl into the second aid station sorta together.  The volunteers are catching on, and my beer and bacon are out without even asking this time.

photo cred:Ryan Ferguson
We leave together, but the next climb is a soul crusher.  I get to the top alone and descend hoping he'd catch me.  I wait at the bottom.  Gnarmire rolls down to me.

"Jeremy said that you should just go."

"Meh... and no."

At this point, no sense in giving up a good thing.  In a matter of moments, I see Jeremy coming down the side of the exposed descent.  Bueno.

One more climb.  One more descent.  We cross the line together again.

My bike is making more noise than the day before, but being that I've already over-preloaded the bottom bracket and stripped the tiny Cinch screw, I give up.  I decide that from here on out, I'm only going to lube the chain and check the tire pressure every other day, assuming that as long as I leave everything alone, nothing will fall off (or out).

Monday, August 21

'17 Breck Epic: Stage One

Let's skip past all the preamble bullshit.  Let's just assume that I flew into Colorado at the last possible minute, checked in, bought beer, made bad decisions, and woke up Sunday morning as ready for the first stage of the Breck Epic as I ever was before... which is not really.

photo cred: Ffej Knar
Dropping off my aid bags at 7:15AM... as I will have to do every day... because... Breck.

Stage One: Pennsylvania Creek – 35 (yeah, right) miles, 6000′ of climbing

I've got two goals this year.

Finish the Breck Epic for the seventh time.

Drink a beer at every aid station.

As stupid as the second goal may be, it's mine.  A reminder that I'm only here to have fun.  A carrot that will always be dangling out there.  A reward for some effort made. Stupid people have stupid goals.

Stage 1 begins, and the pros are crushing the "neutral" start.  I'm somewhere in no man's land, between the haves and have nots.

I get off the pavement and once we get into the meat of the real climbing, I can see Yuri Hauswald just up ahead of me.  Terrible.  I can remember "racing" against him at a past Breck Epic.  He was always just ahead... yet out of touch.  And then gone.  I don't want to be tempted to try to hang on to him.  That's not the agenda.  He's smart.  Excellent long gamer.  I'll be flying too close to the sun. 

photo cred: Timothy Faust
I back off.

And then I'm at Aid Station 1.  My first beer.

The volunteer grabs my drop bag and asks if I need anything.

"Just my beer."

"Your what?"

*looks in bag*

"Oh."

And so it begins.

I drink my beer and watch a few single speeders go by.  Oh well.  I'm not here for that.  Lifestyling.  Let the race go on without me or my self-inflated ego.

Get back on the bike.  Move on to Aid Station 2.

photo cred: Breck Epic media team
Another volunteer looks into my bag as they grab it off the ground.

"What do you need?"

"Beer and bacon."

*looks in bag"

"Okay."

I'm standing there watching riders come and go.  It's interesting seeing people come through... in their own... ummmm... particular idiom, sir.

Then Jeremy comes along.  We both did the single speed class of the Breck Epic five years ago, all staying in the Pittsburgh Frat House.  I ask him if he wants a swig of my beer.

He does.

I ask if he wants to ride the rest of the day together.

He does.

We ride the remainder of the stage as a couple.  Coming down the final descent, we get caught behind a rider who just refuses to let us get by.  Someone comes up hot on my right side, and I let them know, "It doesn't matter.  She's not gonna let us around."

And then an elevated feature comes up that shortcuts a switchback.  I think about it, but considering I just fell off the side of a very innocuous bridge fifteen minutes ago, I decide it's not worth it.

The rider behind me?  They go for it.

And she nailed it.  Passing Jeremy, the slow rider and myself quite handily.  Meh.

Eventually, the oblivious "racer" lets Jeremy and myself by, and we get to the finish together.

High fives abound.

I seek out the rider who impressed the ever loving shit out of me with her pass.  I see the kit from behind and roll up behind her, smacking her on the shoulder.

"Nice job."

She turns around.

It's Katie Fucking Compton.

Oh.

We have a nice chat.  She understood that Jeremy and I were trying to not be dicks, because we coulda made an aggressive pass many times, but chose not to go for it.  Being a woman, she could make the move and not be considered a bag of shit.  It was an interesting conversation about men and women and racing and courtesy and dickhead men and oblivious people.

She also had nice eyes and she suggested maybe I try riding a normal bike.  For fun.

Back at the condo, I spend way too much time trying to figure out why my bike (which I never rode after I got it all put back together for the race) was making such an awful noise.  Not able to figure it out, I just started in with the beer... because sorrows and drowning and whatnot.

Friday, August 11

Kingdom of Dog

My "goals" for this past week were to take it easy.  Light morning hour long commutes.  Lots of sleep.

But...

Crazy busy week at work.  PGA Championship comes to town and I'm running tickets all over the place.   And doing my regular law firm stuff.  Perfect timing.  Whatever.

Stoked about heading out to Breckenridge tomorrow.  It always feels like coming home when we're driving into town that first day.

My bike is already making itself at home.

photo cred: Big 'n Buttery
It was threatened that my bike was about to skinny dip, perhaps with Big 'n Buttery and Good Guy Greg, but no further images were sent to me.  Dunno.

Looking forward to drop bags with beer in them and a totally new experience on familiar trails and eating something other than Pop Tarts every morning and hanging out with loads of friends and getting dropped off the back of the first start group right out of the gate every day...

Hold the phone.  What's this?

Last night, the latest update went out.  Tucked inside, this nugget:

In a nutshell, things have changed... a little.

Sun: MASS START (I'll be happily mid-packing all day long)

Mon, Tue, Wed: Starting with the fastest of the fast in group one.  Twenty minute head start on people riding my speed.  Expecting lots of "me time."

Thu, Fri: 10-person time trial starts by GC standings, which means I'll be amongst my peers time-wise.  Should be less lonely and molar fun.

So I've got that going for me, which is nice.

This will be my seventh trip out there.  As much as it hurts a little to ride above 10,000 feet (for this lowlander), I love the air up there.  Clean.  Crisp. Refreshing.  Worth it.

I am excite and vibrate.

See you later.

Tuesday, August 8

Dog is Good

I don't know who coined the term, but I'm a semi-committed "lifestyle racer" for the time being.

This is a perfect example of the difference between "lifestyle" and serious racer.

If I really wanna be competitive, I run Carbo Rocket's Half Evil (purple drank flavor preferably).  That way, I get almost all my caloric needs filled while keeping up on hydration.  Mebbe a gel here or some Pringles there, but that's it.

But as a "lifestyle competitor," my needs are different.  I'm apt to wake up a bit depleted in the electrolyte arena from a little too much non-performance enhancing beverages the previous evening.  I need some proper fluids, but I wanna save a little caloric intake for the better things in life.  Gummy Tummies, bacon, beer, etc.  Too many calories and you start dealing with stomach distress, so I make sure that there's always room for Jello (shots).

I'm sure you thought I'd go Cosby there, but I didn't.

So, yeah... right now, I just wanna live through a race, suffer as little as possible, and enjoy myself as thoroughly as I can.

Gonna do my best to explain this mess in a manner that does not evoke pity or disgust.

Whether by self-relegation, laziness, or old age, I find myself chasing fewer and fewer podiums.  Partially because they don't matter all that much.  Partially because I'm not wanting to put in the effort/work to get on them.  Mostly because I'm just getting old, and I was barely good enough to begin with.  It doesn't get easier.

After I get back from the Breck Epic, the only thing I have left to do is (was) the Marji Gesick 100.  I was gonna power drive up and back with Wadsworthless, but plans changed, and he won't be able to join me (celebrity stuff).  I only wanted to go up there to try to break the 12 hour mark and earn another belt buckle that I wouldn't know what to do with except hang next to the others.  I've only got two belts after all.

With that off the table, I'm now thinking about heading up to the Bicycle Times Adventure Fest.  Looks like an incredible time, similar to the Dirt Rag Dirt Fap Fest I attended back in July.  Just closer to my house.

I still feel like I shouldn't waste the fitness and thick blood I'll probably end up with after Breck Epic, and a week later, a six day Mancation.  Mebbe head back down to the Fool's Gold 60 miler... looks like there is no longer a 90 mile option and they've dropped the NUE thing for '17.  I really liked the brutality of the latest edition of the course riding from the new venue.  So ouchy.  Also onsite camping and beer.  Lifestyle things.

Mebbe also the Creature from Carvin's Cove XXC race at the beginning of October?  Was pretty dope last year and only $35.  It's the most pain per dollar event I did in '16.

Mebbe the Pisgah Monster Cross... although I don't generally do garvel and it's four days after I've been gone on Mancation and a week before the Fool's Gold 60... but it is an odd year course (clockwise) which is generally more buenos for mountain bikes (I'd get dropped from the start and spend the rest of the day chasing carrots on long climbs and nasty descents).

Anyways, I'm gonna consider myself in the lifestyle class until 2019, when my racing age will be fifty years old.  Then my goals are going to be to use all this knowledge I've gained about recovery, nutrition, "training," and whatnot to see what damage I can do to the old guys on my single speed when I'm the baby in the group.  It will be a welcome vacation from "racing" against single speeders who are closer to my son's age than mine.

I'm old.  I'm okay with that.

Then again, mebbe I'll care even less about racing and massaging my geriatric ego, and I'll continue on doing what I do for no other reason than the fact that I have fun doing it.

Mebbe.

I got a year and a half to figure that out.

Monday, August 7

The Word of Dog

One ride left to make a final decision on the Breck Epic setup.  Pisgah, of course.

My route choice this time (again), so whatever I want.  Kangalangamangus, Togie, and Luther.  North Mills... a route with known knowns.

I decided to make a genuine, thoughtful feelings ride about running the Minion DHR II 3.0.  Worth it or not for what I wanna do in Breck?

There are three climbs that will make or break this for me.  Up Spencer from Wash Creek Rd.  Up Spencer from the Grassy Road of Death.  Up Trace from Spencer. 

If you're not from around here, that means nothing.

What I determined is that I need to be able to red line my motor to get this tire up some of the tech bits.  At a Pisgah elevation tho.  Not at 10,000+ feet.  As much as I love playing in the woods on this tire...

Damn it.

I can just imagine all these pitches in my head that took just a little extra to get up at Breck (I've been there six times, but have forgotten most of how bad it gets).  I just won't have the afterburners to do it with 1.5lbs more rotating weight (combined tires and wheels).

Kangalangamangus says it tastes good tho, so there's that.

Going outside of my wheelhouse a bit, it would be like lifting a Suzuki Samurai and putting on 33 Super Swampers but leaving the 1.3 liter, 63 hp motor fully stock... and running kerosene for fuel.  It's just not gonna get up the hill.   Might not even back down off the trailer.

So the bike is as it is now.  I'm gonna give it to someone else tomorrow night and then never see again until I get there?

Cue angelic music...

It is what it is.

Just about the lightest bike I could drag up a mountain and still have fun with going down the other side.  I did add a little crucial weight, but I doubt it's gonna slow me down.

More later, but I'm in the "lifestyle" class.  I've prepared my bike and packed my bags thusly.

I expect something close to the experience I had at TSE in May... but with slightly more heavy breathing.

Friday, August 4

There but for the grace of dog.

I've been doing stage races since 2004.  I probably haven't done more than any other unprofessional athlete, but more than most.  Safe to assume.  I'm at the point where it would be a chore to count them all up if someone asked me to do that for some reason. Mebbe as a sobriety test.

Anyways, I'm not much for learning useful things in general, but I've gathered some handy knowledge in all these years.

Like how to pack a drop bag.

Don't know what a drop bag is?

Basically, it's a bag (provided by the promoter or the racer) that gets taken to points along the course (usually aid stations) in which you can put anything you think you might need (as long as it fits in the bag).

Here's what's going in mine for the Breck Epic.

Tubes and CO2 preloaded in a Race Strap.

I'm rolling with a tube and two CO2s already on the bike, as well as a Dynaplug Air, but just in case... it's nice to know these are out there on the course ahead of me.  Peace of mind.

Mustard.

I'll already have a couple packs in my jersey pocket in case the cramps hit, but just like the spare tubes, if I use what I got, it's good to know there's more where that came from.  Most aid stations usually have plenty of comfort foods like chips, trail mix, Coke, and cookies.  I've never seen one with mustard tho.

Gore Tex rain gear.

When it rains up high, it gets cold.  Sad.  Wet.  Hail.  Lightning.  Shit weather.  I could start with a jacket strapped to my top tube with a Super 8 strap, and I will if bad weather is predicted for earlier in the day, but I like to reserve that space for storing knee/arm warmers, a vest, or a hat if/when they come off as the day warms up.

Realizing that bad things sometimes happen with these open-top drop bags (Thom's very nice rain coat came up missing one year), I've come up with this solution to securing my expensive (and useful) layers.

Obvs, it all gets tucked into the bag for practical purposes.

Honestly, I was looking around my bike room for some cord to do this with and found these old shitty medals from my Ohio XC racing days and there you have it.   At least I know my jackets won't fall outta the bag.  So glad I got sixth place sport class at the Raccoon Rally back in '94 now.

A tiny hat.

I might start the day with a tiny hat on my head, but I might also drop it in my bag at the first aid station.  As I said before, the weather can go downhill faster than a chubby guy on a Fargo, so a hat in the final bag of the day, just in case.

Gloves.

It can rain.  It can also stop raining and your gloves are still soaked.  If you have a spare pair, do yourself a favor and send them ahead.  Dry gloves (in a Ziploc bag) can turn that frown upside down.  Trust me on this one.

Beer.

You don't have to drink to have a good time, but you also don't have to get outta bed if you have cable TV and a bed pan.  It's best to have cans for the sake of not finding a wet bag jangling with shards of glass.  Keep them safe(r) and cold(ish) with a coozie.  Sponsor correct is even better.  I'm pretty sure most of the aid stations at Breck Epic are at or near the bottom of a climb (except Gold Dust), so I can't think of a better place to numb the senses a bit or at least motivate you to descend slightly faster.  I suggest staying on the shitty side of the beer spectrum.  Miller High Life, Budweiser, PBR, etc.  Not my go-to home beers, but they don't taste that bad after spending a couple hours redlining at 10,000 feet above sea level.

That's about it for me.  I've heard of other people putting all manner of things in their drop bags.  Tires, shoes, bib shorts, saddles... that one time an Ellsworth sponsored rider managed to fit a whole spare wheel in a drop bag *wink* at the Cohutta 100.

Anyways, I guess I hope that if anything that terrible happens, I can fix it with Gorilla tape.  It's worked so far, so I'll just go with that.

Welcome.

Thursday, August 3

Are You There Dog? It's Me, Dicky.

Here is where my current state of Breck Epic preparation related paralysis has me:

Lightest wheels I've got are on the bike with an Ardent 2.4 front/Ardent 2.2 rear.  3,710 grams.

Heavier but capable wheels with Minion DHR II+ front/Ardent Race 2.35 rear sitting right next to the bike.  4,280 grams.

570 grams (1.25lbs) molar.

Forty or so minutes of effort, swapping tires and wheels and cog and spacers and toobless goop to have all my options sitting there before me.  One tire might have been removed from one wheelset to be put on the other only to end up where it started.  Nobody's perfect.

Would take minutes to swap to the heavier set up now.  Would take zero minutes to do nothing.  I'm very good at doing nothing.  Truly is my forte.  Look at how much nothing I can do:







I'll admit, hitting the space bar a few times is slightly more than nothing.

Every day, we'll probably start with some climbing.  By "some," I mean "loads."  That problem I talked about a couple days ago... drifting (accelerating?) towards the back of the fastest starting field of the day?  It would happen a bit slower with the lighter wheels.  Not a lot, but mebbe I'd be less lonely for an extra fifteen minutes a day?

The monster truck meats.  I can't help but think about how fun that looks... 29 X 3.0 of 3C/EXO/TR technology coming in at 1,110 grams sticking to the surface of the earth like Velcro at 11PSI.  All party, all the time... except when I need to get it up the side of a mountain.  Less of a party and more of a wake.

That Fox Step Cast fork over in the corner... calling my name.  The mechanical incarnation of a pile of money.  An albatross around my neck.  Let's just rule that out right now.  Then we can all move on.

Okay?

Good.

I'll get one more ride this weekend, and then I gotta hand my bike over to Big 'n Buttery for the drive out to Breck.  There will be no turning back then.

The Six Stages of the Breck Epic Preparation and Execution


Denial
Anger
Bargaining
Depression
Acceptance
*something happens*
After Party