Sunday, December 4, 2011

Bamacross #6: Sloss Cross 2011

It seems I have missed out on all sorts of happenings in the last four Bamacross races I have been unable to attend.

Yes. I have missed four out of six. I was busy. And lazy. And hungry. Mostly busy.

Boris put it on enough of the Cat 3 racers to earn himself a cat up to the big boys, Travis decided to er...crash the Cat 3 party instead of the 4's, and Will Fyfe sold his cross bike and took up knitting. Two of these three things actually happened.

More importantly, Bamacross has seen the advent of the Beer Fairy. This wonderful woman has taken it upon herself to supply the racers with all the beer and yelling they could ever want... or dread, depending on their level  of participation. The series is finally legit.

My cyclocross prep since the first Brookside race had not been the best. By this, I mean I have not ridden the Nature Boy since that race in early October. Oops.

I drove the entire 2 miles to Sloss Furnace this morning to see Kate riding into the parking lot as I was driving in. Meh. We can't all be green. The Singlespeed race started a tad late so I had plenty of time to preride the course. Nothing new, I still can't take a cross bike around a turn for shit. At least I am consistently awkward. The course had a sweet concrete step up I was able to ride instead of run, lots of tight turns on the backside, and some long straight sections that somehow all had a headwind. Man, so pumped we got some long straights with headwinds. I hate it when they forget to put those in.

I was in a daze before the start and let myself end up in the back row. I was at first upset by letting myself fall to the back before we even started but this was short lived. I noticed my watch picking up someone elses heart rate strap which was clocking in at 132 BPM. At the start line. Yikes. I was still pondering who the nervous nellie was when we were released. My back row position provided the perfect set up for a sneak attack hole shot. Not the best tactic to win, but it was time to have some fun. Taking cross racing too seriously misses the whole point.

George, Jimmy, Zach, and Other John quickly made their way around me on the first lap and made me hurt more than I wanted to this early, or at all for that matter. The course was killer and hurting me oh so beautifully. I grabbed my first beer from the Fairy by the Bici tent and made my first goal of the race - take as much beer as I could during the race. My secondary goal should have been to not puke. As we came around the first lap I took my chance to quickly attach myself to George's rear wheel like the wind avoiding leach I am. Karma quickly flew into my face in the form of a big ass lugee George sprayed over his shoulder. I had to pass him...I had to. If someone spits in your face and you don't pass them you might as well pull over and throw your bike in the woods. Seriously.

crushing gravel

I settled into a good pace and began to try at catch Jimmy. I timed him at every chance I had and it seemed to be around ten or twenty seconds the rest of the race. He wanted to stay away as bad as I wanted to catch him. At three laps in they called three laps to go. Hell yeah, three more laps. No problem. More beer up. More yelling. More awesome everywhere. What a great crowd.

hope in a dixie cup

I wasn't catching anyone but George definitely wasn't catching me with two laps to go. Fair enough. I hopped back on my bike after another run up the stairs and noticed how smooth the float felt on my left pedal. Too smooth. I checked the cleats before the race and thought they were tight enough but alas they were not. Cleat wobbling to and fro, I set out on my fifth lap and tried to up the pace some. My only reward for this was puking on the back stretch of the course. I was spared some humiliation by the fact it happened on an isolated part of the course. I figured this meant I was going fast enough so kept the same pace for the last lap.

I really don't remember anything from the last lap, I just wanted to be done. Soon thereafter, I was done. In so many ways, I was done. Yet again Third place Singlespeeder. I'm okay with that. Sloss was brutal on everyone's bikes today and mine performed great. I have had my concerns about tubeless cross but it sure worked out swimmingly today. Michelin Muds on Stan's rims at low pressure ruled the roost. I bottomed them out numerous times, hit big rocks in turns, basically everything you aren't supposed to do to a cross tire if you want it to live another day. Score.

The spectating/heckling was as much fun as the racing. What an awesome scene this has turned into. Brent had the best podium ceremony I have been apart of and I scored another sweet size Large t shirt I can start wearing when I am fat and forty five. Good job to everyone that was a part of this today and thanks again Beer Fairy. You rock.

Stay tuned to the Bici blog, should be a team rundown in the next day or two.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Resurrection of the Beast

That sounds a bit apocalyptic. Sorry to disappoint, but no end times prophecies or readings from Revelation tonight.

The Beast is my 1983 Trek 500, a bike given to me by a friendly soul at the shop which I have probably ridden more than any other bike I have owned. It has spent most of its life as a fixed gear but that duty now lies with the Nature Boy. I sold my old commuter, a Soma Double Cross, to one of my friends and had the perfect opportunity to revive the Beast as my main road ride.

Its a slow POS on group rides due to a number of factors, one of those being myself. That's what a carbon Madone/Scott/Tarmac or whatever is for, this thing is for commutes on bumpy roads at 5 AM and the option to hit some gravel if I come upon it on a ride in the country. It rides pretty decent for being so old. I don't really weight enough to flex the frame and the brakes are now of  "adequate" status with the Kool Stop Salmon pads.

Trek 500 56 cm frame and fork
Handbuilt Dura Ace/ Open Pro wheels. 36 hole.
Fat Hybrid tires
OEM brakes with Kool Stop pads
Sora compact cranks
Dura Ace 9 speed mechs with flat bar shifters (duh)
Niner Flat Top bar and Bontrager alloy post and stem
Cane Creek bar ends with green ESI Chunky grips
XTR pedals

2 cages via Rivnut
Fat front

Dirty Kanza 200 mud/cow shit on frame bag
Oh, and yes, that is a Bikestache on the handlebars. Melissa got this for me as a surprise birthday present and I think it really suits this bike. Gives it a bit of a Burt Reynolds theme. Classy.

Last time I visited my Mom's house I found my long lost Dremel tool. Given a four day weekend I went to work making some bitchin' homemade tools for an upcoming wheel build.

Optional revolution indicator
 I'll be a nipple spinning machine with this baby.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Mark your calendars.

Brent sayz:

 The "Skyway Epic" mountain bike race application was just approved by the U.S. forest service. Mark your calendars for 5/20/2012. We will race from Adam's Gap (bottom of Cheaha) to Hwy 148 (Sylacauga and back - 53'ish miles. Pre-rides as soon as this weekend.

According to the googleweb, a crop circle predicts "something terrible" will happen starting on 5/20/12...also a partial eclipse that will cover the usa. 

Brap, Brap,(sputter),Braaaaap!

Also, side note on a hamstring workout I found by Nick Tuminello:
My athletes haven't had a single hamstring injury since we started doing this circuit. That's not proof of anything, but I think these exercises have certainly helped keep my guys healthy.
Lie on your back on the floor with your legs straight, your arms out to your sides, and your heels on top of the Swiss ball. Your calves should also touch the ball. Lift your hips up and bring the ball toward you for 20 leg curls. Your heels should be flat on the ball at the top of the curl. Don't let your hips drop.
On the final rep, hold the curl position with your heels flat on the ball, and do 20 hip lifts, squeezing your glutes at the top. Finally, in the same curl position, switch to the balls of your feet, and do 20 more hip lifts.

If you're not crying by the end of those 60 reps, color me impressed!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Oops, I did it again.

Sorry, I had to. It popped into my head. Sorry.

Yet again, my yearly cyclocross campaign has disintegrated before the halfway point of the season.

I made a return visit to the ortho doc this week and we talked a bit about the MRI of my left leg. He thinks it was a lateral hamstring tendonitis that simply took a long time to heal. Imaging says everything is good (no cysts, tears, or any other abnormalities) and it has been feeling fine now that I am only riding and quit trying to run on it.

I have a real cross bike this year and had fun at the first Brookside race. Bamacross has really grown since Brent started it and I think it adds a lot to the Birmingham cycling scene. As much as I want to love racing cross, I really think my body just wants to be fat and lazy this time of year. I'm at home sick right now and have been off the bike for five days... Let's just call it my off season and leave it at that.

The Nature Boy has sat neglected for over a month now. I might have to break it back out for Sloss Cross in a couple weeks. Whoo!

Race plans for next year are spinning furiously in the medicinal cesspool that is my brain right now. I might actually register for some when my head clears.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Chainbuster Oak Mountain 9 Hour - return of PMFC

 *As a report on a 3 man team hopefully this will be about one third the length of a normal race report. No guarantees.

I did my first endurance race in a team format yesterday at the Chainbuster 6/9 Hour season finale at Oak Mountain State Park. I don't count PMBAR as a team format since both people are riding the whole time. I guess I should say this was my first RELAY event. Ah, clarity.

I originally signed up for the 9 Hour Solo Singlespeed race and changed last minute due to my concern over what was wrong with my left leg. I went to an ortho doc last week who checked it out and did an MRI. MRI says...not a whole lot wrong. Doc said go ride but don't run. I decided to try something new and play it on the conservative side for the race and had Kenny switch my registration to a 3 man team with Nick and Sean. Having just turned 26 I can already feel my wisdom increasing.

My planning for the race quickly went from obsessive to unconcerned. I made my race pile in the floor in about 5 minutes then went out for dinner and drinks with some friends. Guilt free.

Out at the park, I quickly declared I would not be riding first so I could avoid running. Nothing wrong with milking a minor injury. The order would be Nick, myself, and Sean bringing up the rear so to speak.

As Nick went to ride I began to get antsy. We had a trainer to ride to warm up under the EZ Up. On a beautiful day. With 25 miles of singletrack close by. Yes, I did a trail ride to warm up before every lap. Not the most efficient way to do things, but efficiency was not high on my list of goals for the race.

Relay racing is tough. It confused the hell out of my body, which is used to going to race for 6 to 12 hours and not sitting. The process went much like this:

-Bust ass on the trail at cross country race pace for an hour trying not to puke
-Sit still and eat too much food
-Forget what time the last person went out for their lap
-Spend ten minutes figuring out when I needed to be at the timing tent
-Go ride to get warmed up while full of sandwiches and soda

The course was tough. It went backwards from normal race direction which mean climbing Blood Rock and descending the freshly built and aptly named Jekyll and Hyde trail. My laps were pretty consistent at 51 minutes for the two day laps and 53 minutes for the night lap. I had a hard time seeing where I was going on the night lap and eventually realized my headlamp was on it's last legs. Batteries don't actually have appendages but it was putting out enough light to see that I was on a trail but that was the extent of what I could make out. Jekyll and Hyde was nasty in the dark but I made it through with no crashes or walking.

Sean finished his last lap at 6:08 and the race was OVER at 7:00. Hmmmm. This was a quickly solved conundrum. Nick was next and even if he pulled out his fastest lap of the day we would still be in fifth place. An executive decision was made to continue on with beer, food, and heckling whoever warranted the abuse. Soon after Lee Neal came around to cinch the 9 Hour SS victory and Jason Barksdale was the last official rider to finish the race. Stacey Davis rocked the women's 6 hour singlespeed style. 3rd place I think? Proud of all of them, good showing. Ed and Wael's team was first place for the 9 Hr relay with the PMFC still in 5th.

After doing this event, I have a new respect for the team riders out there. There is more strategy involved than I imagined and the planning between laps is a skill of its own. Chainbuster puts on some of the best lap races out there and hopefully they will be back next year. As much fun as the team deal was I think I will have to return to my solo roots next race to get a full helping of pain fueled by stupidity. Pics later.

I cannot finish this without congratulating my teammate Sam Porter on a 5th place SS finish at the USGP cross race in Louisville. Real talk. Way to go, Sam!

Monday, October 24, 2011

There in a fortnight.

When I worked (that really shouldn't be past tense but whatever, I'm a part timer) at Cahaba Cycles I was fortunate enough to overhear many conversations the other mechs had with customers over the phone.

My favorite:

Customer - "Do you sell pennyfarthings?"

Eric - loooong pause "Yeah, we'll have it ready for you in a fortnight sir..."

Anyway, I went to go ride the planned Chainbuster course at Oak Mountain again Saturday and bailed after the first lap. That was tough. I went ahead and committed to something I have resisted for months now - no activity for a couple weeks.

I have had a lingering hamstring strain for about three months now. It doesn't hurt, per se, but damn is it annoying and uncomfortable. I can ride just fine but running always fucks it up again, as does yoga oddly enough. Rejuvenating? Not this round. 

It took me this long to really realize what was going on with the leg. Basically, there are two types of hamstring tears. The first would be an acute tear, with swelling and a big loud POP. These are usually seen in sprinters. The next is a chronic tear, which is much smaller and less painful. It has a gradual onset and is mild enough to allow continued activity while never really allowing the tear to heal. Pretty sure I have the chronic version of a hamstring tear. Hopefully it heals up without me constantly aggravating it. Some good transverse friction and eccentric exercise should do it. Time to be the patient instead of the therapist for a bit, I suppose.

I joined the BUMP crew Sunday to help finish Quarry Road Bypass. This is going to be a new trail at Oak Mountain and is looking pretty badass right now. I want to ride it soon. My ribs are incredibly sore right now from all the tool swinging and rock carrying. Manual labor isn't so bad when it's nice outside.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011


I finished half of a sponsorship app to a great tire company yesterday and stopped suddenly with the realization that there is no way I could make it an entire season on only one brand of tires.

I have not yet thrown the application away.

On one hand I have never had a company tell me if I could a deal on their stuff I could not use the product of a competitor but it almost seems like an understood standing condition. Maybe I am crazy. Or have a guilt complex.

In other news in the incomplete applications department, I almost signed up for a 24 solo this weekend and decided not to. The bike race will have to wait, other things have priority at the moment (suit shopping, dog bathing, and not being gone the whole damn weekend to name a few). Good luck to Lee and Zach, my Bici brethren.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Bamacross Numero Uno: Brookside

My condition after the first cyclocross race this year...

Mind: Satisfied I raced hard
Legs: Unimpressed with what the Mind requested
Stomach: Confused by today's diet of cheap beer and hot dogs

Bici Coop was the sponsor group for the first Bamacross race this year and I think we pulled it off with style to spare. A great turn out yesterday made quick work of setting up the course which everyone seemed to be pretty amped to go suffer on. The grill was going strong before noon. The new baby blue jerseys turned out quite well - thanks Paul Halupka. You da man, man.

I will let Alan do the full recap on the team site since he probably has a better grasp on how everyone ended up so I will just throw in some words on how it went down for me out there.

Something has been wrong this year. I'm not nervous on start lines any more. No extra trips to the bathroom for no reason. All vital signs stable. Perhaps being unable to focus on anything for very long is a blessing in race situations.

Brent lined up the Singlespeed people with both Masters classes and the women. Awesome, a big group start so I don't have to worry about who is ahead of me.

"First Masters 35, then Masters 45, then singlespeed, then women," Brent called out.

So much for my hide in the pack tactics, I would have to watch as the other ten one gearies rode away from me on the first straightaway. My fears came true as they started us and sure enough, most everyone rolled on past me. I was way they could go that fast for 45 minutes.

I had no tactics, no game plan, no goals. Cross is still very foreign to me. I am better at the transitional stuff this year but don't have enough time on the Nature Boy yet to be comfortable tossing it around like a mountain bike. Good thing you don't have to comfortable to go fast. About two laps in, we had established a lead pack of three including Sam, Phillip, and myself. We were right together the next twenty minutes or so, slowly picking off the Masters racers. Ah, carrots. I love carrots.

I quickly decided I would be able to speed up on the last lap and win. Nevermind that I had already attained my top speed and would not be able to speed up under any circumstances.

Awesome plan. Failed execution. Phillip and Sam put ten or fifteen seconds on me during the last lap and that was that. Third place. My eyes felt like they were bleeding, so glad to be done. Hell of a lot better than I was expecting. I got a weird Surly t shirt as a prize that says "I'm with Big Dummy." The shirt has a hand pointing directly south. I need to ride around on someones shoulders when wearing it, I suppose. Nothing wrong with that at all. Totally normal.

Bamacross has really grown the past few years and I am stoked to be a part of it. Here's to a gloriously long and painful season.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Bamacross prep.

There was a cyclocross training race yesterday.

It was $25...mmm hm. No thank you. Went to go mountain bike instead.

Later this week I will further my sabotage of my cross racing potential by signing up for the Chainbuster 9 Hour race at Oak Mountain that is slap dab in the middle of cross season.

Sweet, they put up a map of the course on the site - which is unmarked...but no problem. I compared a couple maps and it looks like the route will be:

Chainbuster Nov 12 race map

South Trailhead Parking Lot
Up Quarry Road Bypass - construction is going on with this today, should be finished soon
Down Bump Trail
Johnson's Mountain
Rattlesnake Ridge back to South Trailhead Parking Lot

Good course choices, I hope the map they put up is correct. This is going to have lots of climbing and lots of rocks. That is a good thing.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

How to, er, mount things.

Yep, no way to miscontrue that one.

Last cross season I didn't practice a single time and did fair at the races.

I have wondered many times why anyone would purposely go out and practice getting on and off their bike to get ready for cross. I mean, how hard can it be to get on and off a bike? I guess I should say remount and dismount to fall in line with the proper lingo. Turns out getting the whole mounting issue gets pretty tough at speed. I was always so exhausted in the races I didn't even notice how bad I was at the non riding parts of the race.

I noticed today. I took the Nature Boy out to ride the pseudo cross course at George Ward. The bike was awesome. 32 psi front and 35 psi rear feels like a good pressure and the brakes still do what they are supposed to. I like it.

I however, sucked. I can get off a bike pretty quick but discovered I do this stupid stutter step deal when trying to remount at speed. Think Michael Jordan pump fake before a jump shot...too bad it wasn't the '93 Finals or I wouldn't look like a bumbling idiot doing it. This effectively brings one to a halt to give a false sense of security when jumping back on a seat similar in layout to a fence rail. Go figure, I want security when jumping on something unyielding. The problem seemed to be unwillingness to actually jump off the left leg to get on.

After troubleshooting the hot water heater tonight I was still irritated with my pump fake remount and went to practice some more. I'm not fast doing it but I can now do it without the stutter step. Really gotta JUMP off the left leg and COMMIT to getting up there. Think cowboy jumping up on his horse. Maybe not having a big cowboy hat is the issue at hand here? Who knows, I have over two weeks to figure it out.

I still want to double up and race Andrew's J and B special tandem in the 4s race with him. Now that will be awesome.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

All City Nature Boy build.

Done, son.

I rode it around some last night. Much like the other good handling bikes I have had - it rides like a bike. A very green and sparkly bike.

For the curious, here's the build list:

All City Nature Boy frame and fork
Cane Creek headset
Stans Arch rims laced to Surly hubs with Dt Comps and brass nips
Tubeless Michelin Mud2s
Shimano Dura Ace crank
KMC 610HX chain
XTR pedals
Paul Neo Retro cantis with Kool Stop Salmon pads
SRAM S500 levers
Salsa Cowbell 2 bars
Silver Thomson post and black Bonty of these needs to change for fashion's sake
WTB Vigo saddle

**Not pictured is a Tangle bag from Revelate Designs. I got the medium and it fits the 52cm frame like it was made custom. Good for DK200, Trans Iowa, or carrying lunch to work.

A more detailed post will be warranted once I have ridden it more but I will say the brakes are the best cantis I have ridden. Nose wheelies on pavement no prob, ya know, cos thats an important element of cross racing.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Hard Nox 50 Race Report

The weather for the 2011 edition of the Skool of Hard Nox 50 miler looked pretty grim on Thursday...and equally grim each of the forty times I checked over the next 3 days leading up to the race. Tropical Storm Lee was meandering up from the gulf towards Mississippi with 8 inches or so of rain predicted over the weekend.

This really threw a kink into the cost benefit analysis I had done of my 3 racing options for Labor Day weekend:

1. Trans North Georgia - 350 miles, mucho climbing, high potential to get lost, high commitment level.
2. Shenandoah 100 - Expensive, 9 hour drive, expensive. BUT I want to do it.
3. Hard Nox 50 - Cheap, close to home, good promoters, blah, blah, blah. Winner winner chicken dinner.

Boris, Jacob, and myself had already registered so off we went, ready for the worst. Boris wanted a good showing at his first endurance race. Jacob wanted redemption from a cramp filled suffer fest last year. I wanted to get the Dirty Kanza DNF monkey off my back and see what racing with a rigid fork on unseen trails was like for the first time.
Backcountry Reserach TULBAG - Worked great
  I didn't want to preride but joined in anyway after killing an entire plate of mac and cheese. Thanks Charlotte! We did a proper preride, meaning we got lost until after dark and rode 20 miles 12 hours before the race start. Oops. It drizzled through the night and then quit right before we crawled out of the tent. There was no wind. God obviously wanted us to go suffer in the woods for five or so hours, time to get it on.

The Nox 50 course has two slightly different 25 mile loops with the majority of the race being twisty steep singletrack with most of the climbs clocking in around 2 or 3 minutes. I took a look around at the start before our beloved LeMans sprint to the bikes. I saw one other singlespeeder I knew, Old Faithful - Hardwick Gregg. This made me sad. Don't get me wrong, Hardwick is a nice guy and a good rider. Problem is he is old and has been kicking my ass by a small margin for years. I wanted to pace myself to not die on the second lap but promised to keep an eye on Hardwick and any other singlespeedy people.

On the gravel climb to the trail entrance I was feeling the effects of the ride Saturday night and not in a good way. I weighed my options and made it up to the top twenty only to have my efforts negated by a slight downhill leading to the Rabbits Run trail entrance. The trail was slippery, steep, and for the most part cambered in an unfavorable direction to my goal of staying upright. About halfway into this lap I could feel a rider coming up quick and did the automatic thing.

I moved aside, let the fast guy pass, and said, "Good job, go get 'em man."

I then realized he was also on a bike with a single cog. Yes, I felt dumb. I would later find out this was Boomer Leopold from Team Locos. Strong.

The rest of the loop was uneventful and I ended up in small group with David Darden from the Ham and one of my singlespeed competitors - Drew from Mobile. Drew was good to ride with so we agreed to work together. Hmmm. This happens on road bikes and in gravel races but never in a mountain bike race. You just cannot work together. It does not make sense. Instead of pleading my case, I simply said, "okay," and pedaled on. We came out of the woods to see the lake that the start/finish is on. To get across part of the lake we rode on these old boardwalks that were slimy from the rain.

Ever the cautious and helpful racer, I advised Drew we should be careful. As we came up on a right hand turn ON the bridge I saw Drew's tire slide out in slow motion and him slide halfway off the bridge. I immediately followed suit but time failed to slow for me and I ate it also. What the hell? Easily the most violent, abrupt crash I have ever had. At least I slid a long way on my right hip for style points. We came into the pit area together and Joseph Dabbs told us we were near the front of the SS race. Great, now I had to figure out how to get away from my riding company.

I waited for a chance to get away and at some point waited on Drew to fix his saddlebag. I certainly wasn't going to attack a man fumbling with tubes and CO2 cartridges on the side of the trail. Now a man whose tire slips off a root on a climb? Fair game. With twenty miles to go I decided I should probably start racing at a less casual pace if I wanted to avoid another Hardwick beatdown.

I finally got into some sort of good riding zone and began to ride the downhills and singletrack well. The Niner fork was performing well and I was feeling good. I came into the 37 mile aid station and put two Nuun tablets in a bottle, making sure to put the lid on gooood and tight so none of my precious electrolytes would escape. Tropical Storm Lee had created a nice cloud cover for us and it felt great in the woods. The steep climbs were beginning to hurt me. I had been on a mission of pride and foolishness to not hike ANY climbs during the race and my forearms began to cramp, putting me in a posture that was more velociraptor than mountain biker. I spent the the next two miles of fire road doing a brachioradialis deep tissue massage rather than eating or trying to go fast. Gotta have priorities, I suppose. Side note: Nuun gets close to combustion level when left tightly sealed due to the carbonation. Lets just say my sinuses and eyes were well rinsed when I finished the race...

The massage worked and I was back on my game until I began the ill advised practice of asking aid station workers how far to the finish.

"Seven miles!"

Ten minutes later - "About six miles..."

Three miles later - "Six miles."

Argh. I had to get out of the self induced mental block from the time estimates and turned my clock where I couldn't see it and resigned myself to riding as hard as I could until I saw those wonderful slippery boardwalks again. Once I was able to focus on riding again I had a blast on the trail and was soon rolling through the campground. Thank God, I could finally quit pedalling. These races are like self serve yogurt, a good portion makes sense but why do that when you can fill it to overflowing and forge ahead til you feel like death?

Anyway, race was done and so was I. Boris handed me half a Bud Light of unknown origin and I got the rundown from Dabbs. Bici Coop had done well.

Second place singlespeed and ninth overall in 4:34. I finally took down Hardwick and won a cool ceramic mug.
SS podium
Boris got fourth in Men Under 40, fourth overall, and fastest second lap of the race. Good enough for a first effort, I guess. Here is the Strava of his race and "preride".

Jacob had a deja vu from last year, cramped up in a ball, but managed to avoid death and finish with the help of some pickles.

Awesome race, awesome promoters. DO IT if you get the chance. Glad I made it to this one.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Who wants to coast, anyway?

This looks like a fun way to spend the long winter months this year...I don't think I crashed enough last winter.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Hiatus schmiatus

I took a bit of a self imposed racing hiatus this summer and I am not sure what I think about that. Fool's Gold was this weekend and looks like it was a great time, but I'm glad I stuck around town to see My Morning Jacket.

When I say hiatus that is ignoring a couple alleycat races but er, I don't count those. They are cool and all, but it's not the same. I don't daydream fearfully about them the way I would about going to a too long race in a new, exciting place 

My reasoning involved some babble about the heat and saving money. I have not been able to avoid the heat and money is not exactly piling up here in the house, although I am damn close to paying off my car.

The hiatus has allowed for a beach trip with Melissa and some extra time around the house on weekends which has been awesome so I hereby deem it a success.

You see where this is going, the hiatus is about to end. I ponied up for the School of Hard Nox 50 Miler in Mississippi on Labor Day weekend. Yep. Mississippi. It actually looks pretty cool. The course has almost 5,000 feet of climbing, was cheap, and is generally regarded as "hard" by those who have already partaken.

Immediately after the money was plunked down the fretting began. What about training? That should happen before racing, right? I have been riding to work and going to ride where ever I want on the weekends. Or not riding and making french toast. Boris, Jacob, Lee and moi rode 9 laps on the Dead Dog trail out in Trussville that ended up giving about 4400 feet of elevation gain and enough roots to numb your hands and rattle your teeth. The ride was awesome and made me feel better about my new purchase.

So much for the carbon free bike

I bought one. I had to. I have wanted one for two years and got a good deal on a used one. I left on a skinny front tire for the first ride at Oak Mountain a couple weeks ago. Christ, that was brutal. It made me remember my 26er rigid days. The ride was rough enough my pump dislodged itself and I broke a bottle cage I thought was bomber. It wasn't. I then came to my senses and returned to my favorite front tire of all time - the Rampage. I stray from them time and time again even though they have not done me any wrong. Truly an excellent tire.

It's all good with the carbon wonderfork now and the bike just feels right. It rides like a bike, in a great way. I will do without the Mountain Bike Action style superlatives here - I trust it in the twisties and downhills and it seems to climb as fast or slow as I care to. I cannot go as fast on a rough downhill but who wins an endurance race on a downhill, anyway? Maybe someone faster on the dh than me, I don't know.


I am up to 40 minute runs in the dinky little Unshoes sandals. I don't ever get excited about going for a run but I no longer despise it. Running is just something else to do in the day, better than brushing my teeth or washing dishes but not as good as coffee or oatmeal. I guess I will keep it up.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

More on seat height...and boobs.

Basically, I'm a dumbass.

My knee hurt because I carelessly put a new saddle on a bike with no regard to setback. All better now.

I have still been poking around for bike fit info. Not changing anything..just learning. Here is some more seat height wisdom from Steve Hogg, a pretty smart guy when it comes to bike fit. No laser and smoke BS. Anatomy and kinesiology at work:

How to set seat height accurately if you are a bike fitter:
Focus on the velocity of extension of the rear of the knee under significant load.  That velocity should be a constant.  If you see even the tiniest flicker of acceleration at the rear of the knee before the bottom of the pedal stroke, then the rider is losing control of the motion and is too high; at least on that side.  If in doubt, increase the load a touch.  Always check the other side under similar load and if there is a difference in fluency between sides, have a look at the pelvis from the rear for your clues as to why.  What is significant load?
Significant load is enough resistance to have the rider forcing the gear a bit at 80 – 85 rpm but not so much as to sacrifice technique.  This kind of load is similar to riding a hill hard while seated, in one gear harder than is comfortable. Under this load, better than 99% of riders will drop their heels more, and extend their legs more than they will under less load or in flat riding where momentum plays more of a part. It is this kind of load that determines seat height.

How to set your own seat height:
Find a hill that takes at least 3 minutes to ride up. Warm up thoroughly and then ride up that hill under significant load (see above for definition of significant load).  Do you feel like you are riding a step machine or do you feel fluent through the bottom of the stroke on both legs?

If you feel like you are on a step machine or feel a bit powerless, drop your seat 3mm and repeat the hill.

If you feel equally fluent through the bottom of the pedal stroke on each side, raise your seat 3mm and repeat.

For those who have to drop their seat, repeat the hill and drop the seat 3mm per time until you feel fluent through the stroke while forcing the gear.

For those who have to raise their seat, repeat the hill and raise the seat until you feel like you are a touch less fluent on one side than the other.  This is an early warning sign that you have entered challenge territory.  (For more info about challenges.)

Now drop your seat 6mm.  Why not just drop the seat to the last 3mm increment?  Because not every day is the best day of your life.

For the patient ones still looking for the boobs: Sorry. Google Liz Hatch or something.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

I flipped. Then flopped. Then changed my mind some more.

Well, after a lengthy decision process on the rims for the Nature Boy cross wonder bike I changed my mind at the last minute.


I chose the Notubes Alpha 340 rims based on the recommendation of a fella at Stans and a few reviews online. Stan's tech support staff will say all of their rims are most excellent if you call them, btw. For whatever reason I researched the 340s a bit more this weekend while I impatiently waited on the wheels to be built. I was not happy with what I found.

Apparently, the bead hook design that makes Notubes rims so awesome on the mountain bike side was changed to suit the new Road Tubeless stuff. I found this post detailing some odd spoke tension changes that occur to the 340 rims when a tire is mounted on them sans tubes. In short the tire compresses the rim causing spokes to lose tension. When spokes lose tension nothing good comes from it.

Also found this in some comments to the excellent cross tubeless primer from the guys at cxmagazine:

yes, you can run rim brakes on ZTR 355 29'rs. we have literally sold hundreds of them. you might have some inconsistent braking til the black anno wears completely off, but its really not a big deal. its a pretty short brake surface though, so use short pads and just watch over the wear a little closer. There is not a better tubeless option/rim in my opinion and we've done tubeless since the beginning. you'll have a great experience with it. Dont bother with the 340. The 340's we were real excited about when they first hit the market. We bought a bunch and immediately started selling them. EVERY single rider we put on them (130-190lbs) had burping issues. We had guys that blew all the air out and people were getting both upset and disappointed. We put two layers of yellow Stan's tape on them initially. That way if they went road tubeless, the high air pressure wouldnt blow through the tape. A second layer is not a bad thing for cross either as a tight clearance between tire and inner rim diameter tends to be a benefit. Not only did we have different heights and weights of riders trying these out, we also had them all trying different air pressures and there was plenty enough people to cover both aggressive riding technique and softer technique. The only couple of things that made these rims solid was higher pressure and the thick Stan's rubber rim strips we started using. Both of these options were bummers to the people that got these rims. Each one of them was excited to have a rim that was both lightweight and to be able to utilize the benefit of running low pressure as we've come accustomed to.
The big bummer now...... Stan's discontinued the ZTR 355 29'r rim a couple of months ago. Ive tried to find them everywhere, but all suppliers are out of stock. so, our limited stock of this rim will not take us even to the beginning of the CX season.
if you find em, buy em. I dont know of a replacement for it yet. Hopefully they bring the original bead seat technology to the Alpha 340 and we'll be very happy once again.

I was able to bail on the 340s at the last minute and am going to use the Arch ZTR 29er rims, which should be the most badass, durable, tubeless cross rim available right now. This is what Cyclepath, a shop that does lots of tubeless cross stuff in Portland recommended to me. The rims are primarily for disc brakes but stop fine with rim brakes after the ano wears off and I can also run 28c tires WITH tubes to whatever PSI the tire is rated to for commuting. I will be using either PDX Crusades or Michelin Mud2s tubeless for cross with Stans juice. Muuuch better feeling about these wheels with the Arches. Now I just have to wait... Some more.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Andrew Coggan on saddle height

A recent leg issue caused me to take another look at my saddle height (turns out what I have always used based on feel, zen, and cupcakes is close to the sciency recommendation) and I came across this advice from the bike geek of bike geeks...well, Zinn might give him some competition but here it is anyway:

Step 1: put on your cycling shoes.

Step 2: measure from the ground up to your greater trochanter. Example: 92cm

Step 3: take the desired percentage of this number (96-100). Example: 88.3cm to 92cm

Step 4: subtract the length of the crank arm. Example: -175mm = 70.8cm to 74.5cm

Step 5: set your saddle height as measured from the center of the b.b. to the lowest point on the saddle to this value.

Step 6: adjust as desired/necessary.

(If step 6 sounds too 'unscientific', consider this: for me, optimal saddle height based on, e.g., the approach of Price and Donne actually represents a range nearly 4 cm wide.) 

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Still missing a feather boa and wheels.

Awesome crank, not so awesome picture.

The Nature Boy will be done this week. Tyree is building me some Stans Alpha 340 rims to Surly SS hubs and I will be well on my way to having a rideable cross bike. This is easily the longest a frame has sat unridden in my house.

In the foot care blurb of the week, I am discovering neglect is rarely the way to cure what ails you, despite being the easiest "solution". I have had a painful, cracked heelskinthing for close to nine months. I quit ignoring it two days ago and fixed it with what could only be called a mini pedicure. I'm an idiot...the foot is fine now.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

What the hell is a Fipster?

The running deal is going pretty well, I spent the first couple weeks doing very short runs completely barefoot.

Then I decided to stop halfway home on my commute home and run in a parking lot in my socks. It was an odd decision and I reaped zero benefits from it.

I somehow got a splinter and the socks rubbed the bottom of my foot raw in a way pavement had not yet been able to.
 The ride back home was painful. So painful. The ball of my foot was on fire for a few hours until I dug out the wooden culprit.

This experience led me to order some super thin sandals (Unshoes for those who care) to run in which have a Vibram sole without the retarted looking alien toe fingers. I ran 20 minutes this afternoon, my longest yet...calves still get sore during the run but my feet feel like they are better able to support themselves.

Fipster - exercising hipster. One who eagerly engages in any newish trendy athletic activity that might elicit approval from preferred peer group. Coming to urbandictionary soon. Copyright Melissa.

I might as well continue this disjointed post with some bike news:

1. The Bici Coop Tour de Birmingham alleycat was this past weekend. I stood on the cinder block sprinter's podium, did knuckle push ups, drank beer, stared at chickens, and posed like a very manly iron statue. Great time, worthwhile use of a ten dollar bill for sure. Too bad I suck at short races.

2. The Nature Boy is still in the living room half finished. Meh. I want it all the way finished soonish.

3. Gooch propositioned me to race with him on his tandem for the cross races. I'm in. Hopefully he still is in a couple months.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Surly hub chainlines

120mm - 43.5mm chainline
130mm - 47.5mm chainline

dammit, i dislike measuring chainlines. i think my eyes are crossing.

nature boy is in the house. right here. in the dining room.

using XTR vs with cable adapters until they make me mad enough to join the cant stop wont stop clan.

more cohesive post with pictures, stick figures, and hieroglyphics if i am feeling up to it when it is not so close to an old man's bedtime.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Singlespeed CX: not as hip as PBR but close.

Rumors abound that Bamacross is getting with the program and doing a singlespeed class this year. Might as well build a bike and do a couple of the races I can ride to from the house. Yeah, I could do the whole convert the mountain bike over thing but that just makes it mediocre at two things instead of good at one.
 I'm getting an All City Nature Boy, which will be gradually built over the next few months. I initially wrote down my planned build on a Post It but threw it away so my plans will live on here, easily changed and never lost.

Planned build:
Frame and Fork: All City Nature Boy
Headset: Cane Creek S3
Bars: Salsa Cowbell 2, Nitto Noodle, or Salsa Bell Lap. Not too sure on this one.
Stem: Something aluminum
Post: Who cares. Not carbon. Actually, a Moots post would be nice.
Saddle: Selle Italia SLR
Brakes: SRAM S500 levers and Tektro CX9 calipers
Crank: Ancient SR Suntour 165mm
Chain: KMC Z610HX. Best SS chain out there.
Wheels: Surly flip flop hubs to Stans ZTR 340 Alpha rims
Tires: Stans Raven 700x35

I'm not too familiar with cyclocross stuff so if any of this stuff blows let me know what doesn't blow that I should get instead. Much thanks.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Tour Divide time

It is yet again time for the Tour Divide - 2700 miles on a mountain bike north to south (or vice versa) across the big peaks of the Western United States. For some reason, compared to RAAM, it seems downright pleasant.

Follow the race here: Race Tracker

One can also listen to the tired ramblings of the riders here: MTBCast call ins.

Saturday, June 11, 2011


In a quest to toughen up my bitch ass weak feet (this is a real condition, a close cousin of the tender foot) for bike racing and the inevitable mud hike that accompanies at least a few races during the year I have been trying to go barefoot a bit more around the house. PMBAR freakin' killed my feet, Turkey Pen Gap > me. I have done well so far, my feet are dirty and I stepped on a toothpick earlier.

More importantly, my feet felt good even after hiking for 7 miles in gravel filled shoes while we were in Kansas.

I have never really like running but I think I am going to give it another shot this summer. I feel like a huge lemming being intrigued by Born To Run, but damn there is a huge pile of research out there advocating going without the clodhoppers. From what I have seen in the physical therapy clinic I work in, there is little connection between all the "super shoes" out there and  a decrease in foot pathology among runners.

I guess I will just go run in socks at the UAB track here in Birmingham. I bought some Vivo Barefoot Oak's to wear to work but am hesitant to run in my non smell bad work shoes. Damn, they are awesomely comfortable. Some of the best shoes I have had. No, I did not pay full price.

The "training plan" is to go and run some on days I don't ride to work. I have done this a few times so far and felt good. I ran with the dogs some when I took them out at night and ran once to the store to get beer...hey, I wanted beer and it seemed like the most efficient way to get it fast. Oh, and yes, you can run holding a six pack without frothing it up. The key is a gentle stride.

This should be a good experiment and I will try it and keep it semi documented on here.

Oh yeah, the I9s are here and setup on the bike...first ride tomorrow.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Dirty Kanza 2011

First things first.

I DNFd this one...and I'm still going to write about it. Pics at the bottom if reading is too hard.

Why do a write up on a race I didn't finish? Finishing is the ultimate goal after all. In a nutshell, this race blew my mind and my body in more ways than I ever imagined so I might as well share the adventure. I came into it assuming it would be the hardest race I have done. This was one of the very few correct assumptions I made this weekend.

I looked down at my heart rate monitor three minutes before the start to see it flashing 198 BPM at me. I decided it was confused from the other riders with gadgets around me and turned it forward so I would no longer think about it. With my pacing plan for the day staring at the pavement we rolled out of Emporia, KS for two hundred and five miles of gravel "fun". My new and revised plan was to go sorta hard til it got hot then ease up until dark. Lee and I had planned from the get go to try and stay together but this lasted about five minutes amidst the frenzied double paceline that formed once we hit gravel. During the roll out I met Thad, another singlespeeder who had graciously provided me with his top secret Kanza gravel tips a couple months ago via the Facebook.

The first leg of the race was 62 miles from Emporia to Cassoday and contained some of the most beautiful scenery of the whole race. I had seen plenty of good pictures of the Flint Hills before this race but was still awed by the landscape. It really is different from anything I have seen but I just don't feel I have the words to properly describe. Let's go with beautiful and leave it at that.

I found a fast moving paceline -a bit too fast I think looking back on it- and latched on for the next ten or fifteen miles until I decided I was just wasting energy early and peeled off to wait on Lee, who happened to show up in the next ten minutes. We held a good pace and made it to the first checkpoint in right under four hours where Zach was waiting on us. Many thanks to him for the support, made the day so much better. We were both feeling great and after a quick refill we grabbed our maps for the next section and took off. Well, I should say that differently - Lee grabbed the map for the next section and I grabbed his old map from the first leg. Ooops.

Emily Brock, last year's winner of the lady riders, joined us for a long chat as we started the 44 mile trek to Florence. We pedaled along, chatting merrily for the next few miles, before we came to a halt to look at the map. Missed a turn and not by a little bit. Oh well, missed turns are part of a race with maps and lots of turns. No biggie. I tried to avoid doing the mental math of how much time we wasted with this missed turn and we fell in with another fast group. We met a guy named Steven (I think) from Texas on a fixed gear (!) who said he knew Bamacross, small world. Not more than ten miles later we were lost. Someone had torn down the course markings and we had a group of fifteen exhausted guys arguing over which unmarked road to take. This is where things began to get a bit hazy.

It was close to noon and oh so hot. Not Alabama hot with humidity and shade, but Flint Hills hot, totally exposed and scorching. I put everything out of my mind except looking at the countryside around us and not missing anymore turns. Our average speed was still upwards of 14 mph but with all the extra miles it was over eight hours from the start when we made it to the halfway point. Lee and I both agreed we felt like death at this point and were no longer able to eat due to the intense heat. I considered quitting while I refilled my bottles and surveyed the riders laying on the ground around us. Freakin' rough, lots of DNFs already. We rolled on to the third checkpoint 60 miles away in Council Grove. We had both improved our condition from death to shitty and discussed ways to boost morale for the longest and hottest section of the course. Despite our wishes, we did not find Ted Nugent singing to us in the next yard we passed. Dammit, more disappointment.

After fifteen more miles of 99 degree heat, a stiff headwind, and no relief in sight I was in a dark place. Dehydrated, confused, and becoming more nauseous by the minute I asked Lee to stop. The horizon and the prairie grass had a bit of a lava lamp look to them. Hmmm. We discussed how bad off I would have to be to quit and get someone to take me to a hospital. I decided I was not quite there so I chugged a bottle of water and pedaled on. This is not a method of rehydration recommended by anyone with a brain but I was desperate and had to do something besides mope and stare off into the distance. Lee neglected to tell me about the dark rings forming under my eyes until later. Good thing, that probably would have been my undoing. I don't remember what the course was like at this point besides climbing a lot of hills. I simply pedaled. We suffered through the next couple hours and were rewarded with some cloud cover and shade around 5PM.

I gnawed on some Twizzlers as we rode along and my world slowly turned back to a happy place. A creek to cool off in served to further elevate my state of mind. I was feeling like a champ and happy to be out riding. Halfway through this leg we noticed a wall cloud and some intense cloud to ground lightning directly in our path. The road slowly became wetter and slicker so we got off to walk. We were able to take cover behind a tree when the storm really hit - sixty mph winds, hail, rain, tornadoes reported by some riders. The aftermath of the storm in the form of muddy B roads was worse than the actual storm. The wheels were so clogged with mud I couldn't even push the bike so we crawled under some barbed wire and rode in a cow pasture for a few miles after scraping off mud.

NOTE: Do NOT climb over barbed wire in muddy bike shoes unless you absolutely have to. Just crawl, it's way safer.

The roads were showing no improvement and were totally undrideable. After pushing bikes in a ditch for five miles trying to avoid horseflies we met a farmer who told us most of the B roads were about the same. Same meaning horrible. Hm, flashbacks to DSG in 2009 began playing in my head as I did the figures on how long it would take to get through another 25 miles of this. Too long.

A guy we were riding with said he "had heard if you could make it back to the third checkpoint on the road they would let you continue..."

Things got weird after this. We eventually found a busy two lane and began hammering the 35 miles to Council Grove. I called Zach to get the word on the course situation. Official word was we were disqualified since we were on the road. Yes, he was 300% sure. No, we could not continue on to the finish. We got to the last checkpoint to announce our DNF to the official there and he gave us another map to go on to the finish!

We stopped at this point with 180 miles in the bag and accepted our DNFs. My legs still felt good, I wanted more but it was not to be this day. Some riders who bailed off the B roads continued on to the finish somehow and I guess....didn't DNF? 65 people out of 350 riders finished. Yikes. Congrats to the overall winners on the tandem, so awesome. The Flint Hills were absolutely brutal, epic, soul crushing and whatever else you want to call it to describe how thoroughly it will kick your ass. Hardest race I've been a part of and I will be back next year. Loved it. Good job to everyone that helped put this on and the town/citizens of Emporia. Some of the nicest people I have ever met were up in Kansas this weekend.

Director sportif

Parking courtesy of broken jacuzzi

Springfield, MO was a nice spot to rest

Still felt good at this point...

Fargo fork held mud as well as it did bottles

Leaving the Flint Hills

As remote as it gets

Friday, May 27, 2011

An outlier in the glove world?

Well, Ergon has finally given in to my requests for a lightweight glove with pre curved fingers and seams I can't feel.

This is assuming they have had gnomes in the woods spying on me to hear my bitching about my five year old Fox gloves with the worn out thumbs and saggy palms. Saggy palms. It just sounds bad.

This is all good news, right?

Sorta. They are close to 50 bucks. Bah, unless Mr. Kerkove wants to send me a pair to sample/fondle (Medium please), I am going to wait until I see a few reviews of these.

*I feel that I should mention that I probably have 20 pairs of gloves in the house, all of which have some sort of small flaw that irritates me.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Rest stop on a Saturday morning.

Just a quick snapshot from a Dirty Kanza shakedown ride on the Scandal (it's on the right, the other one is Boris' bastardized road bike Paragon) in Vandiver, AL.

Some brief notes on the ride since I have some biscuits & gravy calling my name:

-Explore new roads in the middle of nowhere and you WILL get chased by dogs. 3 times...
-32/15 seems like a good gear, if a bit spinny on the road.
-106 miles and around 8,000 ft. climbing.
-All the water bottles are working great, the bike only feels weird carrying it.
-Pretty sure I drooled on my bike coming back up Shades Crest Rd. It was steeeeep.
-We saw some (thousands) weird cicadas that only come out every 13 years. Incredibly loud.

Fun ride, I'm ready to go to Kansas.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Dirty Kanza prep and surgery on tools.

Recovery weeks: This past week saw me riding less than any other week this far. I can be lazier, I promise.

Two leisurely rides to work. That's it. I made sure to eat plenty also. The beauty of the "recovery week." Justified laziness and slothfulness - It is reason enough to ride hard the other weeks of the year.

Yesterday was a gloomy, stay inside all day Saturday. As promised, I helped Melissa take on 10 hours of spring house cleaning. This post better get interesting in a hurry, I just realized. I have noticed when reading others' blogs out there, if the bike stuff is buried under three paragraphs of house cleaning and job complaining I will never make it to the bike stuff.

House looks awesome, BTW.

Ok, I'm ready, bike related things.

I spent a couple hours yesterday morning transforming my mountain bike into what Guitar Ted and others would affectionately call a "gravel grinder." Before I was able to muster the motivation to start swapping out tires full of sealant, I was distracted by a side project.

A multi tool that is useful: This took the better part of 45 minutes. I got distracted from the distraction and a slight hangover made my fingers just clumsy enough to drop every washer I picked up. Was it worth it? Hell yeah, it was worth it. Every multi tool I have ever owned has been full of useless stuff that just gets in my way when trying to open it with gloves on. This one is easy to open. So easy I opened it about ten times yesterday for no good reason. This started life as a Pedro's RX tool and is now pared down to the bare essentials I need:

3, 4, and 5 millimeter allen wrenches
Chain tool that actually works
Plastic body that holds it all together

Every ounce of self control in me was used to NOT weigh it before and after. I like to think I'm not that obsessive about small side projects.

Dirty Kanza prepwork: I have had parts waiting around to swap onto my mountain bike for Dirty Kanza for a good while now. I could have just as easily used this time to find a good, cheap cross bike to ride. The mountain bike was awesome at Southern Cross back in February so I decided to just go with it for the DK200. I have seen lots of talk about how rough the terrain is up there in the prairie lands and the organizers recommend at least a 45c tire. A cross bike may be a little faster but all I need is something comfortable and reliable, which are the only things that really matter when it is dark and you have been on a bike for 200 miles.

In the picture above, you can see a few parts picks which have a common goal. I refuse to carry a hydration pack that far on my back in June so it is all going on the bike. This setup may change some and I also have a King Cage top cap mount for another water bottle on top of the stem but I feel good about the storage capabilities of the bike. Current plan is one bottle on the seat tube, two on the Salsa Fargo fork, one in each of the bags on the bars, and one in the top cap cage. Six should be enough. The Jandd frame bag will carry tools and food. This means my jersey pockets are free to whatever I happen to find on the side of the road or at a gas station that looks good.

Although it looks like it, I did not take this picture to show off a horribly misaligned rear triangle. I caught it at a funny angle, that's all. The tires are Bontrager 29-3s, which measure out to around a 1.9 and have thick enough sidewalls to make me feel warm and cozy inside. Just out of the picture is the rear cog, a 15T matched up with a 32 in the front. This may be too steep on some of the hills but I cannot bear the thought of being spun out on every non climbing section for over 200 miles. No way.

I did not have time to put on the new Hitch strap from Backcountry Research before PMBAR but it now has a home. Yes, that is a total of three tubes on the seatpost. The flint up there is sharp and I want the insurance with me. The lower strap with two tubes in it will probably be moved to the downtube since the frame bag has rendered that cage unusable.

For anyone else considering using the Fargo fork on a mountain bike, think hard before throwing down for it. The 2011 model is not yet available. This is important because the newer ones have a more mountain bike friendly 470mm axle to crown height. I settled for a 2010 with a lower 447mm axle to crown height. Coming from the 100mm Reba, this was quite a change. The bike now has a 74 degree head tube angle (similar to most road bikes), a lower BB, and a shorter ETT requiring a change from a 65mm stem to a 100mm. Getting the bars in the right spot was a bit of a head scratcher but all seems well now and it actually handles really well.

Three weeks until we leave for Kansas. We have a good group going including Melissa, the Beagle, Lee, Zach D, and myself. Hopefully, the Mississippi chills out soon since we will have to cross it at some point.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

2011 PMBAR Results

Well, they are posted.


Looks like we ended up 51st out of 107 teams after the nickel damage was said and done. Eh, good enough for some out of town rookies. I have not analyzed it too closely but we would have a top 30 spot somewhere if we had turned the nickel in. Next time.

I just finished the Dirty Kanza 2011 bike and will post up some details once I track down a picture taking device.

Monday, May 9, 2011

PMBAR 2011

*First things first, Happy Mother's Day Mom. Love you lots, will buy you a propane tank and cook for you next weekend.

It was around 7 o clock the evening before PMBAR when it dawned on me that it would be dark soon and I should probably take a look at the map of Pisgah National Forest. I attempted to piece together potential routes from scribbled lists of checkpoints of previous years' races. I quickly ran out of fingers to mark places on the map and gave up after about twenty minutes. My thoughts quickly turned to the steadily decreasing likelihood we would make it to the Davidson River Campground by 11. Jimmy, Nick, Sean, and Jason had already secured two campsites but it seemed that the volunteer night guard there was somewhat ornery about rules and there was "No way we would get in after closing time." In what would become the theme of the weekend we decided to figure it out when we got there.

Then the dude let us in with no problem and was even friendly about it. I took this as a good omen for the weekend.

For the uninformed PMBAR is the Pisgah Mountain Bike Adventure Race. It was been put on by Pisgah Productions since 2003 up in the rugged forests of Brevard, North Carolina. Riders in teams of two (Lee Neal joined up with me for the trip and there were a couple other teams from Birmingham as well) compete to reach up to five checkpoints spread throughout Pisgah National Forest within the time limit of fourteen hours. Four checks are needed to finish and three are mandatory. A typical day would comprise 50-80 miles of trail and up to 15,000 ft. of climbing.

As we stood around with 100 other teams at the start I couldn't hear a damn word that Eric Wever was saying. Oh well, I figured, I read all the rules online. Eric handed out each team's Passport and map of the forest. Turned out Eric was saying "Read all the rules before you start" over and over and over...yeah. Mistake.
"I read the rules online already, we're good..."

Here are a couple of the snippets we missed during our brief scan of the rules:

1. You are required to read ALL the rules.

13. Every Team Race Packet contains a Wooden Nickel; that must be given to the Race Director prior to leaving the start!

With our Wooden Nickel firmly taped to the last page of the Passport we booked it up to Pressley Gap to figure out where to go from there. As we started to hike up Black Mountain we noticed some riders cutting left towards Maxwell Cove on a gravel road. I have gone down Black before and the thought of walking up it was not the least bit appealing. Bye bye hike a bike, hello gravel climb. The gravel eventually led us to South Mills River and we nabbed our first checkpoint and backtracked it out to the gravel climbs on 476 and 1206 to get to Pilot Rock. This ended up being the move that prevented us from getting the fifth checkpoint. Going in this direction would eventually put us at the farthest possible spot from the Daniel Ridge/Farlow Gap check making it not worth the three hour time bonus we would earn.

Anyone who made it through PMBAR without crashing is a better rider than me. My crash wasn't even cool looking. Uphill. Slow. Still clipped in. My right knee made sweet love to some granite and I spilled my first blood of the day. I popped some Advil and continued-no reason for a small flesh wound to mess up a good ride.

Lee and I both decided that we would rather hike up Pilot Rock than Laurel Mountain since it would be a MUCH shorter hike. We hoofed it up Pilot and made our second check of the day. Much to my surprise, the checkpoints actually had food at them. The Pilot Rock/Laurel Mountain check had Pro Bars, which are way better than they sound. For some reason I remembered the descent down Laurel as somewhat serene and fast. Wrong. We were met with plenty of steeps and off camber rock on the way down to 1206 and our third check at North Mills River/ Lower Trace. Someone on 1206 was cooking grilled cheeses on the side of the road and offered us some. Lee and I ate two each. Both amazing, way better than "energy food".

As we were downing the second grilled cheese, we chatted with a team that we had seen at the start of the race busting ass to get back to the Start/Finish. Turns out they were heading back to turn in their Wooden Nickel to avoid a two hour time penalty that we would eventually earn upon our return.


I had assumed, yes... assumed, that this was some sort of token to turn in at the finish. This knowledge did little to dampen the good mood going and we decided to just go on with our original plan and finish it out. Dumb and avoidable, sure, but this is one of those races that is a blast regardless of finishing position. Time penalty or not, we had set out for a huge ride and this was no reason to stop.

Water consumption was a big concern of mine using a Camelbak. I am horrible at estimating how much I am drinking if I can't see it and this day was no different. We missed the turn to Yellow Gap and ended up at the North Mills River campground and a beautiful sight: an old water spigot. After five hours of riding I opened up the 100 oz bladder to find close to 75 oz staring right back at me. Oops. I guzzled until I felt uncomfortable, filled it back up and decided I had enough for the rest of the day. Slightly dehydrated and running on denial, we took a longer gravel loop to North Mills River to avoid the potential failure of being unable to find Yellow Gap. This was a great choice as it earned us one of the best downhills of the day on Wash Creek. Steep, technical descents were plentiful and I loved every minute of it.

The climb up Yellow Gap was rough due it not quite being steep enough to walk but steep enough to hurt the whole damn way up. As if that was not enough of a treat, Pisgah served up another long climb back up 1206 to find Bradley Creek. The entrance to Bradley was well hidden but was fortunately home to a hiker that gave us a heads up before we blew by it. This is where the creek crossings began. We hiked across close to twenty creeks before we got to the South Mills River/Bradley Creek checkpoint. Once I figured out the correct way to get across without falling down they were a mere nuisance and we were still having a great time.

The checkpoint at Bradley Creek meant we would be official finishers of the event if we made it back before the 14 hour cutoff. We had been racing for eight hours at this point and our chances of getting to Farlow Gap and back in without adding more than three hours to our time was looking grim. With the help of a volunteer and some other racers, we decided to head back to the Start/Finish at Davidson River. The question was how. We had a few options:

1. Backtrack through the wading pool that was Bradley Creek.
2. Wade through South Mills River trail to get back.
3. Face the 6 mile hike a bike up Turkey Pen Gap.

As the volunteer at Bradley Creek put it so eloquently "Fuck walking through all those creeks..."

I agreed. Turkey Pen Gap it was.

We hiked, hiked, hiked some more and then had five more miles to go. The climb was the steepest, longest hike a bike I have ever done (600 feet of elevation gain in the first quarter mile and over 2,000 feet total). LATE EDIT: Looks like the max grade on this thing was a little over 35 percent. Yeesh.

It was downright brutal, not to mention a big time suck. Every time I expected it to level out, it turned even steeper. Every downhill meant we had to make up the elevation loss with even more hiking. This was the first time I have tried to walk backwards up a hill carrying a bike (Do not try this by the way, very poor idea). If there was a chance for a mental or physical breakdown, this was it. We held it together, voiced none of the complaints in our head, and continued towards the clouds. Close to two hours later, we made it to our reward for all the climbing: the Black Mountain and Thrift Cove descent. Whatever pain and fatigue was present was pushed to the back of my mind and I had a great time the last few miles.

Ten hours and forty five minutes after we opened our maps we were once again at the timing tent. I handed over the Passport to a volunteer and announced to him it still contained a wooden nickel. He handed over a two hour penalty to us and mentioned that a huge number of impatient teams made the same mistake. I am guessing a few teams argued with him as he was very ready to go on the defensive and point out all the rules again. Bleh. I was more interested in getting a burrito and as much beer in my belly as possible and strolled over to Lee's truck for a well deserved sit on the tailgate.

I know this is long as shit already but there is no way to boil one's first PMBAR down to a couple brief sentences so there ya go.

We would have actually had a pretty good finish if we had turned in our nickel, but it really does not matter. I can not recall a race I have had a better time at and this was easily one of the hardest rides I have ever done. Just the way I wanted it. Having a good partner is crucial to finishing this race and having a good time. Neither one of us complained or moped the whole day, although there were certainly plenty of times it would have been appropriate. Crude jokes and heckling other racers do wonders for team morale.

Thanks to Eric and all the volunteers out there. You guys rock. This race might just be my favorite one yet and I will be back next year.

Here is our route. It was about 70 miles.

Thrift Cove>Black Mountain>5058>Buckhorn Gap>South Mills River>Squirrel Gap>back on South Mills River>476>1206>Pilot Rock>Laurel Mountain>1206>5000>Wash Creek>Yellow Gap>1206>Bradley Creek>Turkey Pen Gap>Black Mountain>Thrift Cove

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Very bad things

I feel like I have used this as a title for something before, most likely a paper I wrote while I was in college. A movie that great can be referenced more than once, as far as I am concerned.

Life has been...different the past few days. As everyone who has even glanced at the internet knows there has been a veritable shit ton of tornado damage in Alabama and the rest of the southeast after Wednesday. Melissa and I have been out in Pleasant Grove, AL the past couple days helping with some clean up. Clean up would be an understatement there...lots of people are in a very bad spot right now and I feel quite fortunate we are okay and more than happy I had an opportunity to help. Details on the damage are easy to find so I am not going to put up pictures or anything like that.

THE IMPORTANT PART: Go here for ways to help!

PMBAR is in just a few days now and I am becoming more excited by the minute. Excitement is not synonymous with prepared unfortunately. My partner, Lee Neal, has been diligently studying the map for at least three days at this point. I have not looked at it any so I have appointed him official navigator for the race. Pacing coordinator or some other duty will go to me I guess. I have decent mechanic skills. I can cook. I can scout out small game if we run out of food and daylight. Does Pisgah harbor any nutria?

Do I have my racing legs ready?


I made sure they were covered in poison ivy last week so all of our competition knows I am a serious woodsman. I really hate riding the trainer and had to make a choice between trainer time and a muddy, four mile trail that is a poison ivy nightmare anytime between April and September. Yep, my legs itch...

There are numerous home remedies for this but the Remedy of the Day today was to scrub the rash with Gojo hand degreaser and then apply a liberal amount of hydrocortisone cream. It is working well so far, I'm no longer glancing curiously at the 120 grit sandpaper in the office.

On the plus side my ivy covered legs have plenty of miles in them so far this year and I am only mildly unhappy with my fitness level right now.

What about that blogger contest?

Well, it is not going well. I actually decided to quit looking at the votes since I didn't like the way they were looking. This is going great. I figure...if I can't see it, I won't be bothered by it until all the votes are tallied. At that point I will either weep or rejoice, but ONLY at that point.

Industry Nine update: Wheels are ordered and should be here by the end of May. That seems like a long time.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

It's on, it's off, it's on AGAIN!!

Big news:

Voting for the Pisgah Stage Race Blogger Contest has been moved to Facebook. Thanks to all that voted on the old page but those are NULL and VOID now.

Sooooo please go to Facebook and vote for me again here:

CLICK TO VOTE (for real this time)

You might not be able to lower taxes or make much right with your voting in this country but you CAN send me to the Pisgah MTB Stage Race. Do it.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

It's on: Pisgah MTB Stage Race Blogger Contest.

Blue Ridge Adventures, purveyors of fine mountain bike racing in North Carolina, is giving away two free entries to the Pisgah Mountain Bike Stage Race. The race is in late September and has 185 miles of trail and 40,000 + ft. elevation gain to punish all that show up.

Bottom line: I want to go but I need your help. All you loyal and not so loyal wagon wheels racing readers go check out the contestants here .

Second bottom line: My page is here. Click and vote away! CLICK HERE TO VOTE.

The more votes I get the less I will talk about this on here. Unless I get a ton of votes then I win and everyone gets to read about what it takes to get ready for something like this and eventually the end all be all of race reports.

It looks like I am one of the underdogs in the contest and they spelled my last name wrong but my hope will not be crushed that easily. Go vote. That means you.