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Thursday, September 9

Shenandaoh Mountain 100 '21: Part Three

It's a long slog from Aid Four to Five. The Death Climb is less death and more slow torture, but I guess "Slow Torture Climb" doesn't have the same ring to it.  I'm staring at my Wahoo map looking for that hard turn to the right and when I get to one, I don't see arrows.  The 100k course saw some sabotage, so I'm not taking any chances.  I head up the road a bit, don't see any course verification arrows or tape, come back down and wait for the next rider to come along.  He verifies that we aren't there yet, and I think mebbe now I'd have company, but on the next pitch up, he's off the back.  

Finally, I get to the the correct turn and settle in.  I catch a few riders as we ride up into the mist, and finally roll into Aid Five where I'm greeted with pizza and beer and a banjo-wielding Kent.

It's all I've been thinking about the entire day...well that and not falling off the side of the mountain or quitting or Creed or how many gears I have left or what the fox actually does say.  I knew if I got to here, the rest would be "easy."  Just climb the politically incorrectly named "Killing Fields" (really, we need to do something about that), down Chestnut (without dying), up Hanky Mountain (again) and down the final couple descents that I know are in my wheelhouse.

All those things up to Hanky sucked in the way that I thought they would. I Eagle up the... "Killing Fields" (I hate even typing that), I baby my way down a moist Chestnut (I enjoyed typing that), and I'm delighted to roll into the final Aid Station and see so many familiar faces.  I'd been living off Coke and Pringles, and since I'd already peed three times, I'd pretty much given up on drinking outta my bottles since... let's see.  I poured out half of one when I picked up my last two bottles at Aid Four and I still had a full bottle left thirty one miles later? Derp.

Up Hanky at a snail's pace thinking about how this is the LAST time I'll even be doing this hundred mile thing here ever.  Soak it in.  I don't know what time it is, and I don't care. I'm going to finish, and nothing else matters.  Hit that final descent, and it's one of the least biscuit-risking downhills of the entire day.  I'm feeling good, and I'm catching up to riders that I'd seen earlier in the day... and I'm pretty sure that some of them are in the 50+ class.  

But then I hit that hard left turn onto the double track, see some people there out of the corner of my eye, and I'm pretty sure I heard someone yell "beer."

I could not hit my brakes any harder.

Despite catching up to some people that I'm pretty sure are in my class and despite riding a shifty/squishy bike today, I'm a single speeder at heart. I can't ignore the fact that some fine citizens took the effort to schlep some beer all the way into the woods, and I'm very aware of the shared delight.  

Three chugs, two colossal burps, and back at the chase.

I catch the group on the double track descent in short order, but I can't get around the guy at the back.  I remember one more pitch up before the ride down into camp, and when I get to it, I bury myself like a dumbass.  

"On your left.  On your left.  On your right..."

I make five passes on the way up, slam around the right into camp, weave my way down the hill, cross the line, dismount, start limping away to be alone so I can have a good cry.  I finished in 10:25... which beat my 2006 time on a fixed gear by two minutes (albeit a slightly shorter course back then), but still my second slowest time ever.  That was a very uncomfortable day, and while I'm super bummed to have done so poorly, I'm equally elated.

I just got into a good cry tho before my frand Chris walks over and then there's no more time for crying and it's just time to hang out and tell war stories and drink beer and be happy.

Not the way I expected my final SM100 to go, but at the very least, still something I can be proud of... eventually.  Walking the fine line between "respecting my body" and not being a quitter has been very difficult lately, and I'm ready to have fun playing bikes again very soon.  After all the shit I've been dealing with and the desire to just chuck mountain biking off the roof of a parking deck and take up pickle ball, it's nice to have a non-win in the win column.  I remind myself, doing things like this is a privilege, and I'm fortunate to be able to do them.  So mebbe not this hundie ever again, but I'm not saying I wouldn't consider a new adventure.

Speaking of...

A week long road trip with Bill Nye begins Sunday to include West Virginia bike rides and World Cup spectating and frands and limping up the side of more mountains with a backpack full of beer and whatever comes my way.

Commence the Van from Man-Tuk't Tour '21.

Wednesday, September 8

Shenandoah Mountain 100 '21: Part Two

I'd realized that I left my iPod Shuffle on the charger at home as I was getting my gear ready Saturday night.  When there are rules against having earbuds, and I'm in racer boi mode, I can be my own happy/angry company, stoked to be pushing myself and trying to punish others for being near me. A sad and broken Dick is terrible company tho.  Lots of thoughts about quitting all the things (racing, riding, blerhging, life) and songs from some strange lobe in my brain that contains Creed, Bryan Adams, and Peter Cetera flood my entire cerebral cortex adding to the mental misery.

No, you may not and can not take me higher.

So after pushing my bike up to Wolf Ridge and being reminded that maybe I shoulda tried restarting my lower back exercises sometime between my first wreck in July and now, I stopped to pee at the start of the descent.  I guess 40oz of coffee and 12oz of beet juice will run through a human like shit through a moose.  Back on the bike and down Wolf and I can sense that my Biscuit Risker (organ? gland? bone?) is still not fully healed.  I'm involuntarily yoinking on the brake levers, and making it scarier than it needs to be. In the past, I'd normally rally down it on a turgid fork hardly ever getting passed, even in a much larger field of riders.  Now?  

"I'm gonna pull off to the left, you go right!"

Back down to Tillman Road, and once again, there is no train to climb aboard.  Quitty thoughts are circling in my brain.  This is the last real "easy" chance to bail on the race.  Deep down, I knew that if I quit, I'd be full of all kinds of regrets.  All I have to do is pedal, eat, and not wreck (for ten or eleven or twelve hours), and I'll finish.

Aid Two to the climb up Hanky Mountain and I find some company in Sam for a bit.  We talk of Tours de Burgs and the Giro and he could even remember a moment from SM100 when we went down something or other descent in a constant rain together (my first quit at a hundie for "reasons").  Then I lose Sam and find myself with a woman who thinks I'm a local but I'm not but she is and that gives us things to talk about for awhile until we aren't together anymore.  Meh.  My knees are hurting, and I think back to when Bill Nye and I were getting ready, and I told him I wasn't wearing knee warmers even though he thought they'd be a smart move, and I know my knees are weaker than his.

Down the next descent on Dowell's Draft, and it's East Coast "exposed" single track.  Just a tiny ribbon of dirt trying to cling to the side of the mountain.  I'm outta my comfort zone and letting people around me... again.  Come into Aid Three and I know that this is committing to going waaaaaaaay far away from being able to quit.  Whatever.  Coke, Pringles, roll out on the long road section... and once again, no train to latch onto.

Where is everyone?

A couple young riders come by me and I hear them babble about this being a sub-ten hour pace, and it's right there and then that I decide to turn my Wahoo to map mode and ignore all the data number stuff.  From this point on, I'm just gonna watch the LEDs that show me my heart rate, and stay outta the red zone at all costs.

Oh, it dawned on me that after I broke a carbon railed saddle in Breck on the Vertigo Meatplow V.7, I came home and swapped out the one on the shifty/squishy bike... and assumed it was the same height as the new one... and it totally wasn't... so stop and raise my saddle about 3-5mm... and my knees stopped hurting... as much.

*note to self: check saddle height on the V.7*

After suffering the road bit all alone, I get to the climb I'd been fantasizing about riding on gears for years.  It's pitchy, narrow, loaded with rocks both loose and planted, and has plenty of rooty step-ups.  It did not go as planned. As I said before, dismounting my bike takes some forethought, as does getting back on.  I can't just hop on or off, and I can't get janky on the pedals to get through the technical bits.  I end up walking more than I ever have.  And slower. 

Down another side hill descent that continues to rattle my sense of mortality, and into Aid Four to dump a half bottle out (don't want a messy aid bag), grab two freshies, more Coke and Pringles, and I roll out with Scott Rath.  This will be nice.  I'll have pleasant company going up the Death Climb... until it points up a little and Scott says, "Nice seeing you.  Go do what you do."

And I climb away from him to find myself all alone.  Again.

Tuesday, September 7

Shenandoah Mountain 100 '21: Part One

When I bought my shifty/squishy bike back on July 3rd, one of the first things I thought about was getting one more sub-9 hour Shenandoah Mountain 100 and mebbe a podium in the 50+ class (something I imagined I'd try to do after I turned 50).  I was already signed up for 2021 because I didn't wanna end my SM100 "legacy" with a DNF last year.  I was just starting to go back to work every week after more than fifteen months of working every other week and riding my dick off when relieved from my occupational duties.  As an added bonus, I was going to take two trips out west in the two months before SM100 and ride at elevation for a week each time.

I probably couldn't have had a better run up to the race...

Oh, yeah.

Then I had my Plunge off the Plunge on July 16th that kept me off the bike for awhile, and then the Breck Wreck four weeks later that put me deeper in my sad hole. 

Regardless, I went up to Stokesville with a "positive attitude" and a shifty/squishy bike and a limp and a taped ankle and a certain lack of fitness.  Sub-9 still on the brain, sub-10 would be acceptable, but beating my first SM100 was the real challenge, I guess... because I made it so?

That time 37 year old me put up on a 26" wheeled fixed gear?  10:27:46

I got a pretty good position for the start.  45th (9th row of five) outta 350 racers.  From the neutral start  to the pavement and then "go" and all the way till we banged a left on the first fire road.  It seemed effortless to stay in contact with the front aided by all the shifty bits.  I didn't have to suffer the 300 RPM, maxed out heart rate, and slipping back through the field that I'm so used to in the past.

Get to the first single track, and I kinda hold my own.  With only 350 riders this year and not 500-600, things opened up kinda quick, and I had clear trail all the way down Tillman.  When I hit the first gravel and was all prepared to hop on a geared train, there was no one around.  Meh.  The shifty bits made quick work of the gravel, and when we hooked a left up the paved climb, I was able to stand and climb on my locked out squish like my body is used to doing.

Take a another left, start going up, and that's where the wheels came off the bus.

As I'd hoped, I was able to use that fat stack of gear options to stay on the bike as things got steep.  I was aware of the fact that normally I can walk as fast (or faster) than someone tryna Eagle their way up the hill, but my walking game is shit.  I normally walk faster than most humans all the time, but at work the last few weeks, I was finding myself getting smoked on the sidewalks and in lobbies.  I can only get my right leg/ankle/foot to limp so fast.

So, there I am Eagling away on the slippery climb, and I find myself losing it a little in the slippery bits.  I need to unclip my right foot and get it down, but I find that it doesn't quite work that way.  Since my calf isn't fully functional, getting out of my pedal takes a bit more thought and a slightly different method.

I almost fall off the side of the trail... for the first time that day.

I'm in walking/limping mode, and... well... it's not so buenos.

It's rare when someone can walk up a hill next to their bike faster than me, and at best, mebbe match my pace.  I'm a 130lb man with a 31" inseam.  When it comes to walking, I haul.  Now I'm having to find spots to the side of the trail to jump off and let others walk or Eagle past me.  All the way up Lynn and over to Wolf Ridge.

This is definitely not going the way I envisioned on July 3rd.

Wednesday, September 1

You had plans for both of us...

That involved a trip out of town.

So much and so little going on...

I decided while I was in Breckenridge hobbling about, I was going to stop pussy-footing and just get a Vassago Radimus.

It's not because the Vassago Optimus Meatplow V.8 dumped me into a formidable, unmovable object on July 16th.  Well... mebbe.  It's mostly because when I bought it, I wanted another single speed that wasn't turgid.  Something "fun."  I decided on a slightly custom Optimus that I thought mebbe I'd race and then I never did and then I swapped the 120mm Step Cast for a 140mm 34, essentially making it a little more Radimus'ish... but not really.

A few months ago, my buddy Rich showed up for a ride on his Radimus, and whaddaya know?  The small has been redesigned to fit two bottles and now I'm scratching my head and shaking my piggy bank.  Even though I just got a new bike, I'm still YOLO'ing hard in my latter LO days.

This is what I want.

Up at 6:25AM this morning and making hay.

Of course, now that I have two bikes with more modern geometry, I'm staring at my Vertigo Meatplow V.7 and wondering what will come of all this.  Do I need a modern geometry turgid bike, or is turgid just turgid, and I'll use it when I feel like being stupid, and that's that?

Dunno.

Speaking of being stupid...

I don't think I've taped my ankle since high school cross country.  I don't see myself getting through the Shenandoah Mountain 100 without having the added stability of the tape.  I can pedal just fine, but getting janky in the gnar and especially walking is kinda meh.  I've been trying to imagine how much walking I'll have to do, what with being shifty-enabled for the first time ever at a hundie.  I can easily imagine four or five places where I'll be limp-hobbling up a steep incline, despite all the shifty bits.

I'm no Christian Tanguy...

A million years ago, Thom from DirtWire TV interviewed Christian after his big SM 100 win.  

"I see you're wearing road shoes.  What did you do at the hike-a-bikes?"

"Ahhhhhhhh... what eez "hike-a-bike?"

And there you have it.

I wish I was going into my first ever geared hundie in better health, but it is what it is. Now I'm just hoping that I'll be able to finish.  I've already told myself that if there's any sign that I'm fucking my ankle/leg/foot/whatever up even further, I'm going to pull the plug.  I've got a ten day van ramble coming up with Bill Nye (including some serious side hill WV spectating at the World Cup in Snowshoe), so I'd rather lose the day than ANOTHER entire trip.

Race report (or not) next week.

Friday, August 27

Now what (again)?

Is this thing on repeat?

Starting to feel like I wake up every day thinking, "Now what?"

I assessed my bodily damage after the wreck(s), and similar thoughts went through my head as the last time.

"Breck Epic is in one, two, three... four weeks.  I can get better by then."

"Shenandoah Mountain 100 is in one, two... three weeks.  I can get better by then."

Trying to figure out what's what now.

I threw all my shit into the spare bedroom when I got home Saturday night, but when I woke up on Sunday, I decided to put my whole bike world in order.

The Fox 34 Step Cast showed up while I was outta town, and I put it on ASAP, despite the fact that I'm only hoping I can ride it soon'ish.  The Epic EVO is now down to under 24lbs.  That's the kinda weight that says "no excuses."  If I can't go fast on this... well... it's on me.

At least I'm good as far as that bike goes.  I also got the Vertigo Meatplow V.7 put back together and sorted out to a fully functional state, if for no other reason than to have my piece of mind.

Me?

Well, I hurt my ribs (again) a little higher up than I did last time.  That said, dropping outta the race gave all my previously injured parts a break, so I'm calling that a wash.

All those gross images I posted on social media of my foot have left me with a lot of google doctoring to do.  I'm pretty sure my foot was injured by the shoe buckle being punched by the ground into my fleshy/bony bits.  I thought that was my only issue, but two days after my accident, I realized that my right calf was swollen and less defined than the left.  Hmmmm...  I wrecked on my right front side, so what took my leg out from behind?

Oh, yeah.  I was totally drooped and hovering over my saddle, and I snapped the saddle rail, and there was nary a mark on the saddle at all, soooo... pretty sure I have an intramuscular bruise caused by a calf/saddle collision... an injury "which may interfere with a muscle's function and restrict your ability to move."

Basically, my shit ain't working between my knee and my ankle.  I have full range of motion, but when I try to raise my body weight up on my right foot, I get nothing.  I feel fine riding on the road, but I'm limping all over the place at work.

According to my body expert friend Buck, I'm clicking the mouse, but my leg is buffering.... "try back later."

So fuck all if I know what to expect.  Mebbe I can ride a hundred miles in a little over a week.  Mebbe I still can't.  Dunno.

But won't it be excite to find out?

Hopefully I'll know sooner rather than later, as a deferral a week out sounds better than a DNF ten miles in.

Thursday, August 26

Breck Epic '21: The Too Soon Post-logue

I hung out at the aid station waiting for the lead riders to come through.  Mebbe I'll wait for my frands.  The only thing for me back at the house is a fridge full of beer and my new buddy, a fresh bag of ice.  I pulled my shoe off real quick like, took a look at the swelling, and shoved my shoe back on just about as expeditiously as it came off.

A nice nurse saw me hobbling about and insisted I sit down and prop my leg up.  I told her I'd taken a look at my foot, and she told me to leave my shoe on until I was in a place where I'd be leaving it off for awhile.  Doh.  Eventually, she had to leave, so I returned to chair (she offered to let me keep it), and I plopped myself down in the dirt.  I found myself next to Bob, who had a splint from the back of his upper leg down to his toes.And then I wanted to vomit.

His Achilles ruptured hike-a-biking on day one up Little French.  

So I started feeling less sorry for myself.

I watched my frands pass through until I felt I'd wasted enough time not icing and elevating my sad, fat foot.  It was a slightly longer ride back to the house than I'd anticipated, but just as miserable as I expected.  I couldn't stand up to climb, and my wobbly saddle added to the complete sense of shit.

Got back, iced my foot, waited for everyone to come back... at least I still have the El Jefe Margarita Challenge to live for?
And hot tubs (after 24 hours of ice) and fox sightings in the backyard.

The story doesn't get much more excite than that. 

My foot about 24 hours after the wreck, at full-swole but not at complete blood pooling... which was so pretty when the colors came in.

The day after, I went down to watch the start.  Promoter Mike Mac saw me, came over, gave me a big hug, and I sobbed like a baby.  I don't quite stage races.  I've dropped out of all manner of events because I just didn't feel like doing them after I started, but never a stage race.  I cried when I broke my butt at Trans-Sylvania Epic and quit, so it was no surprise that this brought me to tears again.

Anyways, watch the start, head to the drug store for supplies, back to the house for ice and beer and movies and housekeeping and hygienes and what have you.

I spent the rest of the week trying to make what I could out of it.  I went on a couple "easy" rides (racking up almost fifty miles and 3,500 feet).  I hung out with frands.  Johnny Hamburgers crashed out and couldn't complete Stage Four (earning him points for stitches and serious injury), so he became a compatriot on my Sad Dad life tour.  I visited places on course to watch the race (as best you can at a stage race).  I drank beer and soaked in the hot tub in an effort to keep up in the  Margarita Challenge... as the rules had been adjusted... as they were all week.  Not doing a stage was costing me negative five points a day, but I got credit for a "serious injury" and also "cold sores."  Also, if I could make it over to an aid station and drink a beer, I got "course beer" points which were worth three times as much as a house beer.  

The rules were very complicated and multi-layered.

In the end, I'm pretty sure Montucky won the contest (as it was designed to do), but when I got home, I found the first place prize in my bike bag.

I'm sure that was a sympathy nod or at least recognition for going as hard in the paint as I possibly could, despite all my self-created hardships, which is also going hard in the paint.

It was a good week in the high country regardless of the fact that I was injured and had to leave the race. 

I mean, we got to Flesh Storm the women's SS podium again, so that's something, emmaright?

Now what tho?

Wednesday, August 25

Breck Epic '21: Stage Two

Only day two and it feels like the house has its rhythm going already.  I can hear someone in the kitchen just before 6:00AM, and the coffee starts burbling its siren song shortly thereafter, prompting me to arise from the couch, wander over, pour a cup, grab my Pop Tarts, and return to my bed cum couch.

It's gonna be a great day... once I pull these scabby boogers out of my nose... after I eat my Pop Tarts, natch.

Kit up and get ready for what I would consider my third favorite day of the week, the Colorado Trail Stage.

I quickly forget that the gentle paved grade at the start leads to a tight double track where it's hard to keep your place amongst the geared riders.  It's a lot of work riding that slow, but if I get off and walk (at the same pace), I might have to hear the "rider back" bullshit... that I don't care about... because I'm going the same pace.

I get to the first full tilt boogie down some old jeep road.  My eyes are scanning ahead, looking for the blue groove as it shifts from left to right with little rhyme or reason.  I'm feeling like myself again.  Sure, my ribs are a little pissed.  My shoulder is questioning my judgment.  

But my brain is excite.

Come into a hard right sweeper from jeep road to single track and almost lose her in that turn.

Cripes.  Getting a little too anxious to embrace the full return of my mojo.

Some single track climbing and we get to a part I can actually remember, the slam bang switch backs down the Colorado Trail.  I've railed this before.  I'll rail it again.

The conditions are way dry.  So loose... so similar to the Palisade Plunge... I try to not think about it.

I'm catching a couple riders and putting some distance on the ones behind me.  My life is good.  Normal... I close in on making my first pass.

And then it happens.  I miss the left edge of the trail by a few inches, and the front wheel dives into the soft dirt.

Here I go again...

I'm immediately tossed off the bike to the left... just about the same way it happened to me about four weeks ago.  Fortunately, the conditions are loose over hard and not just hard, so I slide across the surface of this godforsaken planet in a slightly more pleasant manner.   I stand up and all I can think is "my ribs? my shoulder?  my bike?"

The ribs were a little angry.  My shoulder perhaps no more surly than it was at the start.  I give my bike a quick once over, and it looks just fine.  I go to hop on my bike and...

Ooff.  Qu'est que ce?  My right foot is no buenos.  Odd.  I don't know what's up with that.

I try and ride the bike like a normal human boy, but I can't put weight on my right leg.  I decide to finish the downhill by putting my weight far back on my drooped saddle, and... I can feel that I busted the right rail of my seat part.  

Poop.

And thus began the painful "I'm at mile eight and the aid station is at mile fourteen and the only way out is moving forward and down the mountain and try and not crash..."

This is all too familiar to me at this point.

Drop out of the trail to a double track to a fast fire road... and stop to talk to the two course marshals.

"Is there an easy way back to town?"

"Yes.  Don't go right.  Go down this way to the pavement, bang a left, and you'll hit the main road back to town... "

"Oh, but if you take a quick right on the pavement, your drop bag will be a few hundred yards away."

Seeking the solace of my aid bag beer and bacon, I opted for the right.

I just quit.  Eight Breck Epic finishes, but no ninth this time around.

Yes, I cried.  Yes, I admitted as much when interviewed by Devon O'Neil for the Breck Epic Daily Recap.  Yes, I now have problems to deal with.