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Tuesday, May 23

TSE SS Preview: SS is Ded. Long Ded SS.

The Spring Classics are over.

I'm a little bummed to miss out on the monsoon conditions at the Pisgah 55.5k the day after the 111k, but I got up before 6:00AM, tore down my #vanlife, and drove home.  I then proceeded to work for about five hours on getting my bike and gear sorted for the Trans-Sylvania Epic.

And just like that, I'm on my way to Central PA tomorrow for the TSE.  Good lawd.  Eight years in a row.  How the time flies.

Of course, I've only finished six of the seven I've been to the event.  Broke my butt on Enduro™ Day a couple years ago.  My butt feels fine now, but my feels still hurt, as that's the only stage race I've ever DNFed at since I started doing them in 2004.  I've done so many at this point, I don't even wanna bother trying to count them.  Let's just call it a "shit load."

I've got an excellent chance at a mediocre performance amongst this group of ding dongs.

Going down the list in logical alphabetical order...


My buddy from another duddy.  He was sick at PMBAR two and a half weeks ago, so while I was stronger than him then, whaddabout now?  Dunno.  He does have a fear of rocks.  And he rides a high post.  And I'm pretty sure he won't dope (put on a suspension fork) for the Enduro™ Day.  Also, he and I enable each other to normalize our alcohol consumption rates.  Almost always.  So some buenos and no buenos there.  This might be the week that we realize we are way better at beer than we are at bikes, so mebbe just do that and only that.

Matt Ferrari.

He's won here before.  An NUE podium guy in years that I guess are gone by at this point.  He's so consistent tho.  Probably the only good single speeder to make it out of the dirty years and continue podiuming after our sport got taken over by "athletes."  A local who knows the trails, and he'll be sleeping in his own bed every night.  He also broke his butt at TSE one year, but did a way better job than me (natch, he does everything better than me).  If he entered this race, I doubt he's just coming out to play.  Aside from the time he broke his butt, the only other time I beat him was at the '06 Mohican 100.  That was a hundred years ago.

Dan Giroux.

He raced last year.  I beat him, but he was sleeping under a tarp all week while I was in Upper Eagle living the good life.  He descends faster than me and also has a sweet beard.  If I can't out climb him, I'm screwed.

Joel Nankman.

Pretty sure his real name is Joël Nankman but whatever.  He's a wild card.  TSE veteran.  Usually rides coed duo with his awesome wife.  Can ride a wheelie the length of a football field, turn it around in the end zone, and bring it all the way back.  In the dark.  He looks strong and has a better smile than I do.  He apparently is okay with images of himself on the internet doing a "triathlon."

Evan Plews.

The only professional single speeder in the group and sufferer of PTSSS (Part Time Single Speeder Syndrome).  Unless he brings that full suspension single speed that was giving him issues at the 2015 Pisgah Stage Race, he'll need to have about twenty flats (daily) for me to beat him.  I think he got that bike sorted out anyways, so there goes that spot on the podium.

Matt Spohn.

He beat my dick off last year.  He says he's much fatter this time.  He also had a nice beard and rode rigid in '16 until his hands starting falling off the ends of his arms.

Scott Williams.

An "industry" insider media douchebag from Dirt Rag.  I rode with him a lot at the Maxxis Appalachian Summit.  He seemed strong.  He also appeared to know how to ride a bike in the woods.  I'd say we might be on equal footing, but that doesn't fit my pessimistic mold, so I'll concede a place to him now and get it over with.  His beard game leaves a little to be desired tho.

Douglas Wilson.

He raced last year.  Pretty sure he's just there to have great bike race experience.  He and Doug were the ones who joined me on the final stage of last year's race with a head start on the field so we could cheer everyone on when they came down the Death Chute.  Not the act of a serious racer man, but there were only three single speeders still "racing" on the last day.

Of course, there's me.

I ded.  Still hoping my legs get back under me.  Hoping all this fluid retention stops retenting.  Hoping I don't have to keep replacing the beer I bought for TSE but seem to keep putting in the fridge for consumption more like now.  I'm hoping in one hand, defecating in the other... because I ride a single speed bike and that's what gross people do. 

So there you have it.  I can see myself anywhere from a lucky stage podium due to a bunch of others having a bad day or somewhere much closer to last place.  It's really gonna come down to whom amongst us cares the least about performance... and that's gonna be the real race to watch anyways.

Looking forward to limited access to the internet, seclusion from the outside world, porch beers with friends, incredible trails, and an endless supply of noxious fart gases... EAGLE!!!

Monday, May 22

2017 Pisgah 111K: Part Two

I'm sorta confident about my flat fix but not really.  First time using the Dynaplugs, being in a hurry... did I put enough air in?  Am I squishing about or just crazy?  Fuck it.  Just go.  I start catching people back. Chris Tries, Captain Morgan... and then I catch Sam Koerber?  How am I passing him, and even more important, how fast is that single speed guy ahead of me going?

Get up to aid station #3.  I look around for the other guy, but he's wearing an orange helmet and so is like a million other people and this is the same aid station as #2 so there's a sea of orange helmets.  Meh.  Get more air in my rear tire, more or less as a panacea, I think.  Grab two bottles and my spare CO2.  Up Laurel and more bacon from my jersey pocket.

I push the pace up Laurel wondering if the SSer is ahead of me killing it or behind me... because orange helmets.  I catch an orange helmet.  Wrong guy.  I get caught by an orange helmet.  Wrong guy again.  Then I see my orange helmet rider, and I burn some matches to let him know that I really don't wanna see him again.  At the top, orange helmet guy (Mark from UP) wants me to lead down Pilot Rock.

"Ummmm.... I'm on a rigid fork and you're on full suspension."

"I've never been down it before."

"Get ready to see something."

He's right on my wheel until we get into the switchbacks and then I make a few that he can't and I'm alone giving my soul away to one of the roughest descents in Pisgah.  He catches me at the bottom and asks if my hands hurt.

"yeth."

More gummy bears and I sacrifice a few more matches wanting to get to the last aid station alone.  Two tiny cups of Coke and slam some potato chips in my face and go.  South Mills River Trail to the Wheelchair Ramp to the hike-a-bike up the back of Black Mountain.  I see one orange helmet below me, and I move faster.  Another orange helmet comes up on me, but this time it's orange helmet Mark.  We walk up the side of this gawdawful mountain together, me forgetting just how many pitches are beyond okay.  I'm death marching.

At the top, Mark wants to follow me again.  Okay, I guess.  There was some work done a week ago up here, and despite all the fears that the maintenance was gonna "sanitize" the trail, I can assure you that Shrimper and his crew did nothing of the sort.  It's as sick as it ever was.

"I live for this!" ~ Orange Helmet Mark

"I live for beer, but this is okay too." ~ me

Down to Maxwell Cove and the final hike-a-bike before I'm in the barn.  I let orange helmet Mark past me and descend the final run on my own.  Come into the finish... pretty sure I'm third to NUE studs Gordon and John.

Nope.

Gordon missed a turn and ended up just having himself a pleasant day in the woods.  Thusly, I moved into second place.  I'll take it any way I can get it.

55.5% of the reason I do Pisgah Production events... beer with friends and sleeping in my car a hundred yards from the keg.

photo cred: Daniel S

Sunday, May 21

2017 Pisgah 111K: Part One

I'll keep the preamble shortish.

Get off work at 3:00PM on Friday, drive straight to registration, fill out waiver, drive to hotel...

Yeth, I got a hotel room.  Despite having my miniature van life, I know that recovering from the Pisgah 111k before TSE will require some kinda effort.  A real bed and free breakfast counts for something.  Besides, I've told myself a thousand times that the money I'm saving by not buying a van could pay for hotels until I'm done doing this stuff.

Check in at the hotel, ride over the El Chapala, order a novelty sized beer, Matt Sweeney shows up, we get a booth, I eat the best thing I've ever had there, get one not-so-noveltly sized beer, head back to the hotel.  Realizing that I've still got some daylight to play with, I drive back over to the start/finish, park my Fit of Rage, build my #vanlife bed, drink a couple keg beers, ride back to the hotel.  Sleep after watching... something with robots on TV.

Go to breakfast in the lobby in my riding shoes because my flip flops are back at the car.

Ready myself, ride back over to the start, take a spot at the front.

The plan being that I can never hold on to the neutral pace. Start at the front, drift back, begin the climb up Clawhammer with lots of carrots ahead of me.

It doesn't work this time.  Somehow, I'm still at the front when the race goes live. I make a break from the group, because that was something I used to do when I was young enough to do it.  Nothing strategic, just being an asshole.  I can hear everyone riding at a talking pace about thirty yards behind me.  I'm pegged.

I manage to get to the gate at the bottom of Clawhammer first.  Dumb.  As I figured would happen, people start coming around me.  Geared riders... and Gordon and John on single speeds.  And then another single speeder.  Then another.  Then another... who the fuck are all these guys?

I get to Buckhorn Gap in familiar company, but once the gradual descent starts off the backside, I have to let people by me.  Sorry, I suck.

Chris Joice pulls in behind me.  I offer to let him go.  He declines.  I let him know we've still got five guys ahead of us.  He knows.  Apparently, he can count.

We get to the bottom of Squirrel Gap, and I let Chris go up first.  I know how strong he is on the punchy stuff.  He leaves me.  Things stop being so steep, and I get past him where I can actually pedal.  Down Cantrell and I catch a single speeder on a rigid frok.  He doesn't seem to be down with the sickness, so I pass him and keep trying to hold my shit together.  The wet rocks are tossing me all over the place.  Like an alpha male in prison, I'm telling myself, "This would be a lot easier if you stop struggling."  Get down to South Mills River Trail and excite because it's mellow enough to finally eat some gummy bears.

I cross the bridge before aid station #1 and make a wrong turn, but photographer extraordinaire Steve Barker yells at me.  I have no idea why I was gonna go the wrong way.

No needs at the check point and I roll down towards Bradley Creek.  At the deepest crossing, I see the single speeder on a yellow Surly almost across the other side.  I monster stomp my way across, pass him on a steep section, run, hike, and ride away.  Stomp all the creek crossings mebbe making such a splash that others near me got wetter than they planned, and onto the climb up 5015.


Grab some bacon.  Buenos.

I catch up to another single speeder and take note of what he has going on.  He's standing up on the steep pitches and burning matches.  At the same time, I'm staying seated and closing down the gap.  Much much buenos.  I come around him, but I guess he doesn't like me knocking on his door.  He passes me back and leaves me in his rear view mirror.

I start to take personal stock.  My brakes really aren't doing very well.  I never changed the pads after a wet PMBAR two weeks ago.  The weather predictions were for dry and sunny... but the previous night's downpour had served up some gritty conditions that I hadn't counted on.  I didn't feel like I had a lot of brake pad left.  I started thinking quitty thoughts.

Get up aid station #2, grab a bottle, flip my bike upside down, look at the pads... mebbe if it's not too wet on Spencer... and Fletcher... and Pilot Rock... and Black Mountain... mebbe?

The guy on the yellow Surly comes into the aid station as I'm flipping my bike back over.  Shit.

Down 1206, up 5000, up Spencer, down Spencer... Shaggy and his crew are at the bottom.  Mebbe he had a tasty beverage.  Mebbe I drank it... and a minute later, I catch the guy who destroyed me on 5015.  Game on, I guess.  I think I'm in third now, so I'll fight for that.

I hammer my dick off to get to Fletcher Creek without him on my ass.  That trail is my business and I rail it to the bottom hoping to never see him again.  All the way down and I'm on the lumpy Reservoir Road.... feeling good... going fast.

And then I hit a huge rock that I shoulda saw but didn't.

Pssssssssssssssssssssssss.

Fuck me.

Pull over.  Torn sidewall at the bead.  Grab the new Dynaplug tool (that I haven't talked about yet because I hadn't used it yet, but will eventually).  Use it not in the right way, plug the hole, CO2... psssssssssssss.  Another hole.  Shit.  Single speed duder passes me and a bunch of others. Gawdammit.  Another plug used in a non-prescribed manner and I'm back up and rolling, but with less steam in the engine, because... flats. 

Argggh.

Friday, May 19

I'm feeling that I'm sober...

Even tho...

You know the rest.

Despite not getting down to my "dream weight" before this weekend, I must say... whatever?

Keep in mind, I only ballooned up to 138lbs this winter and not my normal "things are getting out of hand" low 140s.  You just gotta go hungry.

I mean, the only goal I had all year was to win the SS class at PMBAR and crack the top three overall.  Looking back, my time preparing for the event woulda been better spent staring at a map than riding fifteen more minutes of junk miles or doing sit ups.

I feel fit tho, so I got that going for me.

The Pie has the good camera so I used the iPhone and a mirror but at least I remembered that I wanted this photo for good blerhg but I just got done mowing the lawn because a big part of preparing for a stage race is timing your yard maintenance and you gotta crop out things like the toilet because mebbe you haven't flushed it and didn't take the time to put on ironic jorts or pull down my pants to that oh-so-close to showing pubes but gotta show that cut and mebbe some veins because not Iggy Pop ripped yet but realize people read this at work so okay.

What was I talking about?

My legs are doing what I ask of them lately.  Not sure how much more unnecessary Dick I could get rid of, but I feel like I'm coming into the weekend with a full pack of matches.

A full pack of matches...

My dad was a consummate smoker.  A life timer.  I guess you could say he did eventually quit, but not until they put him in a bed at the VA hospital that he never got out of... oxygen, pesky nurses, loved ones who don't really wanna get blown up.

Back when he was the King of All Things Video, he kept his cigarettes and matches under the counter at the Theater Video.  Side by side.  Same place every day.  Yeth, there was smoking in my dad's video store.  Ashtrays everywhere.  I can remember back to when a couple of his employees (and my coworkers) were smoking teenagers, and that place looked like an AC/DC concert when the show's over and the lights came on.

Second hand what-what?

Twenty cigarettes in a pack.  Twenty matches in a book.  Side by side.

Sometimes a customer would ask to bum a light... or even a smoke.  For them, he had an extra pack and book set aside.  Gimmes.  There was no way he was gonna give someone his fifteenth match that was going to be used on his fifteenth cigarette.  When he ran out of both at the same time, he'd open a new pack and book.  That's the way he was.

It's no wonder that I have some of my anal compulsion.  Eggs.  I eat two a day.  Sometimes The Pie will be making eggs and vegetables for supper.  She'll put in three eggs.  Or five.  An odd number, regardless.  This hurts my head, because at some point, I'm going to pull out a carton with only one egg when I'm making breakfast.  Of course, I just need to grab the next carton and open it.  Leaving it with eleven eggs.

"Why can't you just eat one egg or three eggs for breakfast if it means that much to you?" ~ The Pie

Sigh.

I can see the future, and it is bleak.  Bleak.

She threatened to dig into the three cartons of eggs in the fridge and take one egg out of each before she left on vacation.

It was only a threat tho.

I think the death of Chris Cornell made me think about my dad.  Death does that.  Euthanizing a dog, someone I tangentially know passes, a brilliant comedian who lived a quiet, tortured existence, an artist who's music went straight to my heart and head.  It must be the familiarity, I guess.

The finality of seeing someone's life force being snuffed out, and the ability of the brain to store that information in a lobe with a direct line to conscience thought any time the word "death" hits home.

So, Chris Cornell dies and I find myself at work walking towards the elevators and getting choked up thinking about my dad who's been gone for nine years and matches and school bus rides and all kinds of shit just keeps getting pulled to the front of my brain full-on avalanche style.

I'm looking forward to spending hours in the woods tomorrow with my bike and an earbud keeping me company.  And the sneks.  I heard they're out and about lately.

I hate sneks.  So does my mom.  I guess I get that from her.

I spent an uncomfortable amount of time last night night talking to Watts on the phone and listening to Chris Cornell and not watching Archer and not getting banana bread crumbs on myself... and I was wearing clothes the whole time... so, progress?

Demons.  We all have them.  It's about beating them and never giving up.  Ending your own mortality based on... ?

I wished I had better words.  I wished I wasn't turned into a temporary pile of shit because someone I never met decided to check out.

But apparently I did.  I stayed up late last night and watched and listened and wondered.

Blow up the outside world.

Thursday, May 18

Peace. Out.

I promised The Pie I would go out at least one night while she was gone.  If I avoid human contact for too long, I tend to be flinchy when the family gets home.  It's just one of my "things."

So, I had a pretty good handle thus far getting ready for the Pisgah 111k and the Trans-Sylvania Epic by the end of Tuesday night.  Figured I'd hit up The Spoke Easy casual Wednesday ride... but it was changing up a bit for the Ride of Silence on this occasion.  Leaving Spoke at 6:15PM (or so) to Blue Blaze to meet up with everyone else.

I took this opportunistic window for what it was and beelined it after work to Birdsong for my Bicycle Benefits free beer...

plus one.

And a healthy supper of a bowl of nuts.

Bolt out of there in time to get live the High Life at Spoke... and mebbe another... because Kevin is in charge and his beer was still full.

I got asked to help cork intersections with the Spoke guys.  I don't know the route, but I do know how to sprint from the back to the front of a group and stand in front of cars, so okay.  We make haste to Blue Blaze and get there in time for another Bicycle Benefits freebie (I don't understand how this is a thing).

And then we prepare for the corkings.

And so the Ride of Silence goes with more of an interval theme that I had planned on, and five miles later, I'm a little beat.

photo cred: Ann from Bike Law
Free pint courtesy of Bike Law NC and then into the semi-darkness with a blinky that is inexplicably ded.

Get home and eat the Brussel sprouts that a "smart me" made the night before.  Prepare to get into the shower and then remember the loaf of homemade banana bread in the freezer and proceed to hack it apart with a knife while watching Archer.  I'm covered in crumbs.  I might be naked... that's as prepared to get in the shower as I got.  I end up going to bed, still possibly crumby, definitely unbathed.

I wake up the next day, seven minute breakfast, look at Facebook.

Chris Cornell is dead.

Shit.

I've never really been affected by the death of a celebrity.  I mean, I remember when I bought Prince's 1999 from a kid on the school bus.  He had a backstory as to where this new cassette came from, but looking back, I know he stole it.  You see, kids, back then, you had to go to a store to steal music.

I know.

Just like many white kids that thought they could dance, Prince's music was a big part of the soundtrack to my life.

Anyways, Chris Cornell's big years were right before I shut my ears off to the world of music.  It was the second period of time when flannel became cool again in my lifetime.  Anyways, his voice occupies more space on my Ishuffle thing that I wear when racing/riding than any other.  The Pie and I have spent many a peaceful afternoon on the hammock, drinking beer, listening to this:

So, this just sucks.

The thing is, I always felt like he was the kinda guy who had a hard time shutting his eyes or turning off his brain.  Hard not to get that "tortured genius" feel when you listen to him scream.

All I can think is that I hope he found some peace.

Wednesday, May 17

Time = Short

It was probably last week when I finally looked at the month of May... on a calendar... up close like.

Doh.

Not sure why I didn't see it, but I leave in one week for the Trans-Sylvania Epic.  There was a time when the Pisgah 111k was two weeks prior, then one week prior, now just days.

Hmmm... well.

It took at least four days for me to bounce back to normal human feels from PMBAR a couple weeks ago.  A full week before I felt like my legs were completely back under me. Wondering how I'm gonna feel after only a few days and a nine hour drive to PA.

To top it all off, this is a "living la vida bachelor" week, and while I'm wishing that I was playing with my friends after work, I've been prepping things for both races in a effort to save what spare time I'll have Sunday evening through Wednesday morning to spend with the fam.

The toiletry bag has been the best travel tool bag I've ever seen.  Enough so, I've looked for another one to replace it when it wears out, but nothing is equal in awesomeness.

Perhaps a waste of time, but I got the Stickel Meatplow V.6 all up and running Monday night.

Race brakes on my "trail bike," Trail brakes on my "race bike."  Makes sense.

The last three things I've done to the Vertigo Meatplow V.7 have all added some weight to the "race bike."  Pretty sure all three are improvements tho.  Mebbe.

I've been ignoring the Stickel lately... I don't remember the last time I rode it.  February?  Dunno.  I mostly bring the bike for spare parts, but I've also put it into service on Enduro™ Day at TSE in the past... which is now on the second day?

I don't like the idea of swapping back and forth between rigid and squish and back to rigid during a stage race, but I also don't like bleeding minutes and seconds on a stage when only the downhills are timed.  Meh.  I'm hoping my doors are blown off so hard on the first day that I give all my fucks away early on and just stay with the rigid frok all week.  Mebbe even put on the Maxxis Minion DHR+ 3.0 tire and just run into all the things the rest of the week?

But I have to give up on podium dreams before I do that.

So, yeah.  I'm busy.  In that way that I get home, cook, eat, shower, get to the business of laying shit out for two different races... and leave myself some time to unwind watching Archer before going to bed at a very geriatric 10:00PM so I can get up early for junk mile mornings.  Pretty sure I fell asleep well before that last night, as I woke up on the couch at 1:47AM with the TV still on and a mostly full beer on the coffee table.

Not very living la vida, I know.

Tuesday, May 16

More Ass Bag Content

I mentioned some time ago that I'd been using a Mystic Ranch Hip Monkey for my commutes to get the weight of a messenger bag off my shoulder (remember my rhomboid hobby?).  It's great for packing huge loads of crap above my butt area, but when it's closer to empty (just tools, tube, money, house keys) it's quite... a bit much.

So I set out to find a summer pack.  Something that just holds the essentials and mebbe space for a t-shirt for topless commutes.  I looked at every single one I could find.  I settled on this:

Vest. arm and knee warmers strapped to the top.

Pinch Flat Designs.  Andy from New River Bikes told me about it and boldly endorsed them.  He had an order coming into the shop, and Dog willing, if they came in before PMBAR, he was gonna bring me one.

Dog willed.  Andy made sure to pre-pack it with wholesome goodness as well.

I've been commuting with it for about a little over a week, and it is much the buenos.

The Lance cracker people were in the office looking at our UPS system and brought goodies last week.  I brought them home thinking trail food thoughts.  My family thought differently.  They gone.

I wondered what the elastic was for inside on the bottom and on the lid... but then figured it out.

That's my Tülbag, tube, spare key and 15mm wrench.  And on top?

Coozie (never leave home without one) and Ziplock bag for my pocket computer if there's a downpour.  I don't trust anything more than a plastic bag on a 30 minute commute in a monsoon.  I assumed the webbing on the outside was for clipping on a dangle mug, but Andy pointed out that a blinky would fit there nicely, so mebbe.

The straps were on the long side for my ever-diminishing waistline, so they had to get trimmed and dealt with because I hate dangling straps.

Anyways, fanny packs just ain't for commuting and walking around Disney World or Walmart.  I decided to go without my SWAT bibs for this weekend's casual ride in the mountains, and instead pack stuff in with me.

Plenty of room for my Tülbag (with mtb tools), a bag of bacon, a large apple, one beer, and a useless iPhone.  I coulda strapped my vest to the top of the pack, but I had a Super 8 strap on my top tube already and wanted to keep it there in hopes of saving it from all the stuff flung up from my rear wheel (DuPont was on the wet side... and drizzling).

Anyways, bug Andy if you want one.  He's got some left.  Not many tho.

And you know how custom bag makers can be, so get on it if you want one cuz who knows when more will be available.