Monday, July 24, 2017

Professional Bike Fitting Services

Hello and welcome! Look for a new website coming soon but in the meantime you will find everything you need to know about my bike fitting services as you scroll down below.

A bit about me first. In addition to providing professional bike fitting services, I am also a full time Physical Therapist Assistant and have been in practice for 8 years.  I have been racing (ultra endurance MTB focus) and wrenching on bikes for the better part of fifteen years. I have a passion for all things cycling, especially it's interaction with the bicycle. I appreciate you taking the time to visit my site and hope the information here is helpful in your search for a better cycling experience.

Every bike rider has their own unique combination of posture, mobility, and coordination. This requires a holistic approach from the bike fitter to see that each rider's fit helps to make their cycling experience the best it can be.With my combined experience as a therapist, racer, and mechanic I have a unique perspective on the relationship between a rider and their bike.

 My fitting method relies on the latest research in the field and careful direct observation of the rider. I have taken multiple fit courses to continue my education including the latest Trek Precision Fit course with Triathlon specialization. During the fitting process I will optimize each rider's position including cleat position and footbed customization, a balanced and stable seat position, and a comfortable yet efficient bar position. This ensures a position truly tailored to the individual rider.

Regardless of performance level or experience, every rider should be comfortable on their bike. A major part of the fitting process will identify how the rider functions off the bike and how this can be improved through a customized exercise program to improve performance.

What to expect during the Fitting
·         Pre fit interview to outline cycling related goals and relevant physical issues.   
·         Thorough evaluation of your strength, posture, and mobility.
·         Dynamic assessment and adjustment of foot/pedal interface, seat position, and bar setup to improve comfort, handling, and power.
·         Off-the-bike exercise program to improve bike specific strength and mobility.
·         Detailed position records for future reference.
·         Expect to be at the shop 2.5-3 hours. Triathlon/TT may take a bit longer.

Where to go:
·         Cahaba Cycles Homewood
·         2834 18th Street South
·         Homewood, AL 35209                     Parking in front or back (back is usually easier).

What to bring
·         Bike(s), shoes, fresh cleats if available, any orthotic devices/insoles you have, any cleat shims or wedges you currently use, cycling riding kit, helmet, gloves.
·         Bring your bike ready to ride. Tires aired up, check your suspension pressure for mountain bikes, shifters working properly. Check your cleats and dig out any debris/mud. If you have any doubt as to the condition of your bike, get a tune up a week or two before the fit.
·         Water bottle for hydration, snacks, shock pump, seat mast cutting guide or other tools/spacers/items specific to your bicycle.
·         If you have any parts that are broken, not comfy, or you are unhappy (folks that hate your saddle, shoes, etc.) with… consult me pre fit for replacement recommendations. Feel free to bring extra parts (stems, seatposts) if you have them handy.

What to wear
·         Casual clothes and athletic shoes are fine for the off bike portion of the fit.
·         Cycling kit (jersey, bike shorts, cycling socks). No baggy shorts for riding!

What I cannot do
·         Diagnose or treat injuries.
·         Perform cleaning/tuning/repair services to bicycles in need of attention.
·         *Be responsible for questionable equipment that fails during a fitting session*

Please do what you can to address any ongoing physical issues with a doctor, physical therapist or other specialist.  By arriving with any pertinent diagnostics, I will have more information from which to base our fitting decisions.  I am part of the equation to help you move/feel better.  I do have access to several excellent health professionals able to provide assistance with physical issues. The last point* is to cover just a few “unknowns” that can occur.  From time to time we see equipment/accessories in need of repair or replacement that cause problems or fail in the course of a fitting session.  Cracked or splintered carbon parts from previous adjustments are an obvious problem.  The same goes for incompatible parts, faulty suspension, improperly installed seats, and lack of grease/carbon prep on parts.  These are considered pre-existing issues for which Cahaba Cycles/myself cannot be held responsible.  Cleat screws that have been over tightened and/or installed without the appropriate thread locker/grease or walked on to the point that the head breaks off while attempting to remove them can present a major time setback during the course of a fitting. I will point out issues with your equipment needing attention that I deem important for your comfort and more importantly, your safety.  We have the appropriate tools to handle most jobs safely but encourage you to examine, clean and adjust your equipment before arriving.  Prep your machine as though you were about to ride at an important event so we can focus on the fitting

  • Comprehensive road, cyclocross, MTB fitting - $250. 
  • Triathlon/TT fitting - $280
  • Cleat fit with footbed optimization - $80
  • Strength, stability and mobility assessment without  bike fit…$75
  • Cutting seat masts, ATB handlebars or other necessary “surgeries” with the appropriate equipment – Cahaba Cycles shop rate per hour
  • Replacing parts such as tires, chain, cassette or other components necessary to conduct the session – Cahaba Cycles shop rate per hour
  • Additional adjustments – free for two months after initial fitting
 We cannot predict every issue that can arise during a fitting and understand that things just happen sometimes.  Minor issues that arise which can be remedied quickly (brake pad adjustment, slight wheel truing, minor derailleur adjustment, rewrapping handlebar) will be handled promptly free of charge as we roll through the fit. More involved (many Tri or aero road bikes) component or cable installations may need to be done post fit at shop labor rate as mentioned above. A reminder about bar wrap and grips is important.  Be prepared to replace it if your current wrap has issues going back on in a quality manner.  Bring your own fresh wrap if you have a specific product you enjoy.  We stock some great options for wrap and grips for replacement if need be.  Bring or be ready to purchase fresh cleats if at all possible. Footbed options are available if your current ones do not provide sufficient support.

What to expect after the fitting
  • Easy riding (conversation pace) to let your body get used to the position changes. This can take from a couple rides for small changes up to a couple weeks if we have to make large changes.
  • New balance and handling dynamics, so ride often and take it easy on the corners and technical terrain
  • Stay away from sprints, hard group rides, and technical descents until the requisite muscle firing patterns and stability patterns have set in and the bike is feeling normal.

I always encourage clients to allow themselves a 2-3 week window of EASY, frequent (at least 3-4x/week) riding post fit. 30 to 60minutes is a good ride duration for most rides during adaptation. This is a time to cruise and enjoy the scenery. That is not always possible as some riders come in due to acute issues during a time of heavy activity and I can advise on uncertain scenarios before the fit. 
This is a serious investment of your money and our time.  I am as passionate about performing quality work as you are about enjoying your cycling experience.  Feel free to call at (205) 427-9869 or email with any questions.  I look forward to meeting and working with you towards a great bike fit!

John Karrasch, PTA 
Cahaba Cycles Homewood                
(205) 427-9869         

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Bikepacking test run by Evan Koch

Below is an awesome write up by Evan Koch...much delayed due to me forgetting to post it! Enjoy it, excellent details.


So in an attempt to do more epic shit (epic's relative, I'm a 39 year old IT consultant with two kids and lived a sedentary lifestyle up until a few years ago), I signed up for the Delta Epic. I've done centuries and I've done 60+ mile mountain bikes rides, but I've never done any type of overnight rides and it's been at least two decades since I've been camping.

My best case scenario for the Delta Epic is that I do ~100 miles each day and camp out one night - this might change when Jason Shearer finalizes the route for the Delta Epic. To make sure I wasn't biting off more than I could chew, I thought it best to give bike packing a shot before the actual event.

I planned to camp out on a friend's peninsula; if things didn't work out, I could always use their guest bedroom. I left my house around 9 pm on Friday night and headed out to my friend's house. I rode the CX bike on the street, though I did take a different route to avoid spending too much time on the heavily trafficked roads.

Machine generated alternative text:
leu N

1.5 hours, 13.8 miles, and 1138 ft later, I arrived at my friend's house. Not my best time, but I had ridden in Autauga earlier that day so I wasn't fresh, plus I wasn't used to the weight of the bags. I cleared the sticks away from my intended camp site, spread out a vinyl tarp, and unrolled my Titanium Goat bivvy sack. The sack is water resistant but not water proof, and I wanted to protect it as much as possible, so I put a vinyl tarp on the ground first. I changed out of cycling kit into a long sleeve shirt and shorts, brushed my teeth, and zipped myself up into the bivvy sack.

I wasn't quite sure what to expect from the weather - the forecast said it'd be in the low to mid 60s overnight, so I packed a top sheet just in case I got cold. That top sheet ended up being my pillow for the night. I also packed ear plugs but didn’t use them at first - my friends said they liked to leave their windows open at night as they enjoyed the sounds of nature. I woke up multiple times throughout the night due to screeching birds - my friends informed me the next day that the herons on the lake had babies, and the baby herons were very loud. Think of the pterodactyl noise from Joust, and then turn it to 11. I tried the ear plugs but I couldn't go back to sleep, so I started packing up around 5:30. I changed into a fresh cycling kit, ate two bananas, packed up my gear, and headed home. Since traffic wasn't an issue at that point at home, I took a more direct route - 9.9 miles, 597 ft, and an hour riding time.

Machine generated alternative text:

So now for analysis. My loadout was:

Machine generated alternative text:
A Sprocket - Bag that attaches to the Pika, made of mesh netting so the rider can easily confirm that the Spot is active
B Pika - Bag to hold the Titanium Goat bivvy sack, extra cycling kit, sleeping clothes, sheet, and vinyl tarp
C Jerry can - hygiene items
D Tangle - frame pump
E Mag Tank - spare inner tube
F B-Rad 4 - two water bottles, and spare inner tube (also another water bottle in a Z cage)

The jerry can bothered me - my thighs definitely aren't the thinnest, so I could feel it pressing on my leg sometimes. I think I'm just going to stash my hygiene items in another bag and ditch the jerry can. I also ended up sawing off part of my tooth brush handle so it'd fit in the jerry can.

Machine generated alternative text:

When I do the Delta Epic, guessing I won't need a sheet. I'll put the extra kit in a bag and use it as a pillow.  I'll probably do a few more test runs, but I think this one went pretty well.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Pete Foret's 2017 Dirty Kanza 200

Guest post from Pete below. Good stuff.

Dirty Kanza 200 miles in the Flint Hills of Kansas is in the books.

Thanks to @Joe We at @Bike Link and the rest of the gang for keeping my steed in top notch shape. Also, thanks to our amazing sponsor @ErgoSci for keeping me healthy.

Dirty Kanza is an amazing race and it goes to show you what can happen when a community gets behind a project. There were 1150 200 mile rides that started the race with 828 finishing the race. The town rolls out the red carpet for all of the racers and makes sure you feel at home.
I headed to Kansas with @Matt Wa, @Ed K, and @Jack Wh. This was a motley crew that turned out to be one of the funniest bike trips I have ever been on in my life. We never stopped laughing and messing with each other.  We arrived in Emporia Kansas late Thursday night and went straight to bed. The next day we went on a 20 mile planned pre-ride through town that we thought was going to include some gravel but it didn’t. So when we were finished with the pre-ride we decided to go ride the first 8ish miles of gravel. Once we finished our ride we checked in to get our numbers and went to a race meeting in this beautiful old theater.  Then it was time to eat. Eating was always an event with @Jack Wh and his dietary needs, meaning it consisted of chicken and cheese. Kids today what are you going to do.  After lunch we went back to our rooms and used this time to start setting up my bike and preparing for the race before we went out to dinner.

At dinner we met our support Driver gina byrd-stadler. The race allows you to purchase support which means at each rest stop there would be food, water, and if you decided to use drop bags or you could have a support vehicle. We had the luxury of having both. @Gina byrd-stadler, lives in Kansas and for some crazy reason agreed be our support crew. This turned out to be extremely important and I can’t thank her enough. She went well beyond the call of duty to make sure we had when we needed when we got to each stop. After dinner we went back to our rooms and finished up any last minute race prep issues we need to go over and went to bed.
The race started at 6:00 AM Sat. morning. Before every race I do I set personal goals. The goals for this race were:
1)      Go for the Race the Sun Patch. This means you finished before sunset. Under 14 hours and 44 mins
2)      Go for the beat Mid-night patch. You guessed it this means you finished before mid-night. Under 18 hours
3)      Get the Breakfast Club patch. This means you finished. Under 21 hours

When the bell started ringing we were off and rolling. People from the community lined the streets. It was really amazing to see people out there supporting this event even though they did not ride bikes. I bet I gave out 100+ high fives on the way out of town. The pace was calm while we were on the road averaging around 17 mph.  I thought to myself if we hold this pace I could go for the Race the Sun patch. Man was I dreaming. Once we hit the gravel I estimated I was in the top 300 or so and the pace jumped up to 19+ on the flat sections for the first 20+ miles.  My legs were feeling great and I was riding in a nice pace line on the gravel roads. We rolled into the first support station 50 miles into the race with an 18.26 mph pace. I knew this was a lot faster than I wanted to go but I figured I was conserving a lot of energy in the pace line. I immediately jumped off my bike at the paid support station and grabbed 3 PB&Js to put into my feed bag. Then I grabbed my water bottles and started to fill them up and noticed the water was blue. I asked and was told it was power aid. I should have thrown it out and started over but there were a lot of people around and I didn’t want to waste it. This move would come back to haunt me around mile 80. A volunteer helped me finish filling up my bottles and I was off after only spending less than 5 minutes at the support station.
I started looking at my time and my pace looked like it was going to be fast enough to get the Race the Sun patch. I continued to move at a steady 17.5 mph avg. and was really enjoying the scenes out there. Everything is wide open and green.  I ended up chatting with some locals which made the time pass by rather quickly. At this point I was still feeling good and riding strong. Around mile 80 everythign changed. Everything was going great up until this point I was staying on top of my water and nutrition intake. As my good friend Jason Shearer likes to tell people, this is an eating contest on a bike, and he is exactly right. All of a sudden, everything I drank and ate felt like it was sitting in my stomach. For the next 20 miles I tried everything I could to get more fluids and food into me to see if it would make a difference. I was still feeling OK but I also knew something was not right.
I rolled into the second support station with a 15.26 mph pace and rolled up to our support vehicle. I was still feeling good but I knew something was not right with my stomach. I’ve had this stomach issue before because I ate too much and all of the blood went to my stomach causing me to lose all of my power. The way I fixed it was I took in some caffeine and it helped me clear out my stomach while giving me a boost at the same time. My plan was to get my bottles setup and have one bottle with my caffeine for the ride. At this time Ed and Matt caught up with me. We talked and thought it would be great for us to ride together. We were still on pace to make the Race for the Sun patch so we took off. Within about 10-15 miles it finally hit me. My stomach was not processing anything and I knew it was going to be a long day. The three of us road together for a few more miles and Matt had a flat. We ended up changing the flat which was a sad sight to see but it got done.  After a few more miles I ran out of my water only water bottles and needed some water really bad. Everything else would not go down. So I saw a house and I told Matt to go on without me. They were really nice about letting me use their water faucet to cool off and drink. I ended up drinking 2 full bottles and topping off all of my other bottles then off I went.  By this time I knew I was not going to make the race for the Sun cut off time so I focused on making sure I didn’t have any mechanicals and to get as many fluids in me as possible to see if I could fix my stomach.  The weather was amazing with a perfect temp, light wind, and no rain. With the limited fluids and food I was able to take in I started to get some cramps in my legs. However, I was able to work through them and make them go away.  There were a lot of concrete bridge crossing over small creeks/rivers throughout the race but when I rolled across this one creek the water felt amazing. I pulled over and sat in the creek to cool off my muscles. After about 10 minutes I started hearing thunder so I got back on the bike. Sitting in the water was a good and bad idea at the same time. My muscles and body were cooled off but the chamois padding in my bike shorts were wet. This ended up causing a couple of saddle soars which are painful and make ultra distance races a challenge.  About two hours later I came up on this road with a case of water and a 5 gallon bucket. So I stopped and topped off my bottles. While I was filling up a truck pulled up and I asked if he did this. He said yes and I thanked him multiple times. The people from all 3 communities were amazing. You can say what you want about Southern hospitality but I can tell you right now Kansas hospitality is right there too.
I rolled into Madison, the final support station at 6:40PM and headed to the support vehicle not feeling good at all. Everything was shutting down and I didn’t know how to fix it. Ed and Matt were still there but were about to head out. We talked for a little while and Matt asked me how I was doing. I showed him my stomach sticking out and said when have you ever seen my stomach sticking out this far. It looked like I had a basketball for lunch easily sticking out 5+ inches. I sat down in a chair while I drank some ice cold water hoping that would help my stomach start functioning but it did not help at all. After about 50 minutes of rest I went to the paid support station and grabbed 3 PB&Js to put into my feed bag. Then off I went back out on the course.
By this time the sun was setting and I might have had 1 PB&J in the last 3 hours plus some electrolytes. I made sure I drank water not matter what so I would not get dehydrated. I knew I need to eat but every bite of food I took in felt like it was about to come back up. The sunset was beautiful and the people of all 3 towns were amazing.  I waited until the last minute before I started using my light to make sure it would last until I crossed the finish line. When I got to mile 180 you could start seeing the lights glowing from the city of Emporia, Kansas and my spirits started lifting. They even had those search lights rotating in the clouds. About the same time I came to a crossroad with a truck sitting there with it’s lights on. I hear two little voices saying great job, go go go, only 20 miles to go. It was two little girls around the age of 7 cheering on the riders. While this brighten my spirits more than ever I knew I still had a ways to go. With each pedal stroke I would get closer and closer to the city knowing I was almost to the finish line. The joke however was on me. The race director pulls a cruel joke on you by brining you right to the edge of the city only to send you back out a few miles so you will travel through Emporia State University.  With about 15 miles to go my light started blinking meaning it was about to die. The good news is I stopped by Bike Link the week before and bought the new Cat Eye double LED white blinky light. Before the race I mounted the light to the front of my helmet and with 150 lumens I was able to light up the road enough to get me to the finish line. When I came up on anything I thought might be sketchy I would turn on my main light and put it on flash mode to conserve what little battery I had left. Once I went into the tunnel that leads to Emporia State University campus I knew I was home free with only one last obstacle. There is only one significant hill on the campus of Emporia State University and I be damned if the race director didn’t send us up this hill.  It’s not too long or too steep but after 205 miles it becomes a lot longer and a lot steeper.  At this point in time I was really thankful for bringing my mountain bike with a 1 X 12 gearing. Once we got through campus we were greeted with a people lining the streets cheering us onto the finish line. People were high fiving me all the way to the end. Once I crossed the finish line I was greeted by Ed who looked like he just went out for a nice ride. I grabbed my patch and asked where the medical tent was located. My goal was to get an IV to help with my fluids but they said they would have to take me to the hospital and I was not going to do that. They took my blood pressure and it was 96/56, which told me I was dehydrated. I expected this since my stomach shutdown.

All in all it was a great experience. I even learned how to control my own leg cramps and make them go away without having to take anything. We have already started planning next year’s Dirty Kansas trip and I’m looking forward to going for the Race for the Sun patch. Thanks to everyone who followed my adventure and sent messages. Special thanks to the person who talked to me all day. Without your words it would have been really hard to finish.


Monday, May 8, 2017

Posture Tips For Cyclists

Not the best title, I admit.

Maybe one day I can be the Bike Fit writer for Buzzfeed.

Let's accept the bad title in the hope more folks that need this will find it.

I see lots of advice on how cyclists can correct their posture. Terrible posture. So bad. I tried to find a picture of myself fresh off the bike but came up short. Below is the closest I could find.

Image result for gollum

I apologize for those who don't appreciate my sarcasm. I thought it was pretty good.

I think the importance of posture is pretty overblown. Take a quick look around the internet and you can quickly find any number of articles on "text neck" and other maladies of modern chairs and cell phones.

Why do I think it is overblown? Give this video a quick watch.

Fine, I will admit cycling isn't really ideal to cultivate textbook "perfect posture"...of course, if that was the goal we would all quit our sport and be security guards or something like that.

I think a variety of postures during the day are good and losing the strength or mobility to have options there is probably not a good option. The items I'll go over below are actually applicable to everyone, not just cyclists, which maybe means I AM writing Buzzfeed clickbait now.

Here we go. Posture Tips. I don't think these are in really any order because importance will depend on what YOU are missing.

1. Go for a walk - I really think 10,000 steps a day is a great goal. Get a dog. That will help. Maybe walk 30 minutes during your lunch break.

2. Stand up straight - Just like Mom told you. All the strength and mobility in the world is useless if you are creeping around like our friend Gollum above. Good posture should feel relaxed and easy. If you can snag a standing desk or one of the variable ones, go for it.

3. Stretch breaks - Build some short stretches into your day. Which ones? Lots of options and consistency goes a long way. How long to do them? Just do them. You'll figure it out.

4. Prioritize - Get some mobility work in early.

That's it. Nobody needs perfect posture but if you want to improve yours this should be a good start.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Foot Strength and Mobility. A Simple How To Guide

Between the PT clinic and fit studio, I see lots of feet. Some weird, some normal, most of them clean enough to let out in public.

I am writing this as I feel like lots of advice on foot function (meaning strength and flexibility) is overly complicated and ultimately aimed at selling something or proving how smart the dispenser of the advice is.

One thing I have learned is never assume anything about a client...TEST IT.

I had a fit client a few weeks ago who has had recurring calf issues for a couple years and asked me during a session if her feet might be weak or limited in some way. This gave me two options.

1. Go on a diatribe about the plight of modern footwear and how she needed to get back to nature and read three books on working the core muscles for her feet get the idea


Turns out strength and mobility were fine and we resolved the issue quickly after with a minor equipment tweak and some pedaling technique advice.

If you want a whole list of the maladies of wearing shoes, go elsewhere. There are plenty of sensational things written on this. I'm not doing it. I want to put forth a few things I have found easy to check for yourself at home.

The basic idea here is to test ALL OF THESE and work on whatever you suck at. Easy, right?

I am listing them in the order that I think makes the most sense. Importance of each will depend on your particular goals and athletic pursuits.





*With these many people will have feet that are not in perfect alignment due to individual variation. Don't roll an ankle or anything but perfection isn't super important either. Hold on to something with your hand for balance.

I think the above tests are the main things to focus on. 

If you are bad at one of them, well, I think working on that thing will help it!

Feet are stuck in shoes all day. It isn't a death sentence for them, but maybe not their perfect home either. 

Let's make the best of it, yeah?

Monday, April 24, 2017

Guest Post: Shake n Brake 2017 Race Report

Good writing from local rider Evan Koch below. Enjoy.


In April, we’re lucky enough to have two races in the Talladega National Forest – Southern Fried Ride’s Skyway Epic and Chain Buster Racing’s Shake n’ Brake. Both are beautiful races and are in different sections on the TNF (unless you’re an overachiever and did the Skyway 200, in which case you went through all of TNF). The park is beautiful and I really should spend more time there. I believe Eddie Freyer said they had 40 miles of multiuse trails close to the Warden Station where we started the race.
One thing to point out for those that don’t know me – I’m a race rider, not a race racer. I read someone else’s race report (I think it was from Oak Ass 2015) and thought it was a good distinction.
For this race, I took Revelate Design’s new Mag-Tank cockpit bag. Shoved some Gu, a set of tire levers, a pair of pliers, a spoke wrench, and two FiberFix spoke replacement kits in the Mag-Tank. This bag was a bit larger than the zippered bag I normally use and the magnetic enclosure worked really well. The magnet takes care of closing the bag when you’re done. This was my first race without a backpack - I’m trying to move away from my safety blanket of having tons of water and gear in my Osprey bag. In the back jersey pockets I stored a hand pump with some duct tape (to secure broken spokes) and a spare tube, and on the frame my Z cages had a multi-tool and another tube beneath the water bottles.
As usual, I started in the back of the pack. Since I’m not a competitor, I’d rather not have to fight it out in the starting lineup. I guess people learned from last year, because I didn’t see nearly as many people with flats in the northern loop. The views on the first 10 miles I think are some of the best in the race. Last year one of the CX riders had 2-3 flats in the first ten miles and ran out of tubes. I also came across two guys who were riding a tandem mountain bike and let them use my multi-tool to tighten up their handle bars.
Later on in the race I came across a rider from Gadsden Outfitters who was changing out a tube. I offered to let him use my tire levers, as he only had one, and my hand pump so he could save his CO2 cartridge for later. While replacing the tire, we discussed what an amazing athlete Randy Kerr, one of his team mates from Gadsden Outfitters, was. A few racers passed us as we chatted, and then the sweeper caught up to us. Turns out his spare tube also had a puncture, so I bid him farewell as he was loading his bike into the sweeper’s truck. I caught up to some of the people that passed me and finished out the race.

Knowing that the post-race food was from Moe’s BBQ and that not jiving with my diet, I packed four almond butter sandwiches in the car. The drive from the race to Heflin was 25 minutes, and those sandwiches were gone before I made it to I-20. Lesson learned – next year, make five or six. Definitely looking forward to next year’s race, might even do some real training between now and then.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Skyway Epic 2017

Firstly, I raced a few weeks ago at the 12 Hours of Iron Maiden and managed to slide into a 2nd Place spot behind Tim Winters from Georgia...then never wrote about it. I don't know why, really. It was fun, I rode well, and it stormed. All the makings of a great story. Ooops.

Brent Marshall's newly expanded (60,100, and 200 mile options) Skyway Epic was this past weekend. I initially signed up for the 100 and tried not to overthink how long my day would be with driving and whatnot. The week before, it really hit me and I dropped to the 60. In full disclosure, I also had an incredibly bad ride the Sunday before Skyway.

Started out dehydrated. Stayed that way. Still rode 5 hours like a complete idiot. Tingly hands. Hand cramps. Couldn't drive home and had to stop at our clinic to drink water for an hour with Melissa babysitting me. So yah, big confidence booster to go race. I considered just bailing totally but rode normally Tuesday so promised myself I would do the short distance and focus more on hydration than racing.

The real irony of my mishap was the carefully typed Fuel and Hydration Basics document I made about 2 weeks ago. Do as I say, not as I do?

The 100 and 200 mile folks started at 7AM and we pushed off at 9. Brent gave us warnings about directions, a downed tree, and jeeps. If Brent Marshall says something pre race...LISTEN. Everything was relevant.

I kept to my pacing promise (ride easy, eat, and drink) by starting near the back for the singletrack. This forced me to ride slower than I wanted but ended up in a good group with the SmithLock boys and Frank Davis leading the bunch. Spin, spin, spin. The singletrack at Lake Howard is twisty, kinda flat, and sooooo much fun. Our group absorbed Lennie Moon during the singletrack. He was ready to quit but took up our offer to "just go for a ride."

Soon enough, we were out on the rollers of Rocky Mountain Church Road. I started having problems here keeping up. I was way spun out on the downhills and barely able to keep up with the geared folks. The group was moving fast so I stuck it out until the first aid station at 19 miles. Kim Wynn was also in our group. She was quiet but riding really well. Focused. Great riding, Kim.

I left the aid station and saw a wobbly Jimmy Smith headed up the Bull's Gap climb. Hmmm. Chase? Or stay true to the plan? I kept him in eye sight and continued to ride really easy. Turns out Jimmy had crashed already and had a cramping incident. Not his greatest ride from what he said later. I really should have passed him headed out Skyway but left it alone. I was happy with my pace and felt good, so no sense ruining a good thing.

Brent's warning of traffic on the course was valid. I saw lots of Jeeps out and a couple 4Runners. Everyone was really friendly and made passing easy, which was cool. I saw the leaders coming back our way a couple miles before the turnaround, and calculated about a 35 minute gap, less than I was suspecting. I arrived at midway with Jimmy, then promptly wasted a bunch of time fretting over how many Oreos I wanted and trying to find a gel I thought I had. It wasn't just any gel, it was a Gu Roctane. I really wanted it but eventually gave up and headed back with Jimmy now totally out of sight. Not good.

The temps were up around 70 now and the sun was bright. I still felt good but walked steeper hills on the way back to save effort. I lost more time coming back in but the goal was get back home safe with no weird shit going on with my hydration. The day was super low humidity which means not much sweating. I watered the bushes a couple times during the race, which was a good sign. The downhills on the Skyway ridge were harder than normal. Like, NO good lines, just a mess of ruts and rocks. Ah, the thrill of the unknown. Great fun!

As usual, Rocky Mountain Church Road hurt me on the way back. Sunny, hot, steep. My climbing was harder than I wanted it to be, which I am currently blaming on some equipment. Weak excuse? Maybe. I'll write an article on which equipment it was soon and let you decide if I'm nuts!

Coming back into the closing singletrack I got super confused about course marking and spent a few minutes roaming around and looking over course directions. I was still not confident but lucked out with my decision. I was really happy to be back in the woods and upped my pace. I waited 57 miles to ride hard, so enjoyed the last few miles as my only time at race pace. I felt good about hydration and nutrition. No chance of catching Jimmy but I wanted to at least get some good efforts in. At some point I realized the 60 was more of a 67 mile race than a 60. Meh. Bonus miles might as well be trail miles, so I'm not complaining. Oh, and about that precious Gu Roctane? It was still in the middle of the trail with about 2 miles to go. Off the bike, Gu in my pocket, back on the bike. Nothing to see here. I popped out of the woods in 3rd behind Randy Kerr and Jimmy Smith. Both are great riders and I felt proud to stand on the dirt podium with them.

I felt pretty normal thanks to my restricted efforts and immediately guilty I didn't race the 100! I think racing the 60 was the right choice as I didn't want someone responsible for me way out in the Forest if I had a repeat of last week's hydration problems. I planned better at Skyway and it paid off. What a relief. My concern level before the race was way high. If Trans Iowa nerves are an 8, I was a solid 7 out of 10 before Skyway.

Brent and everyone involved killed it again. The day was overall awesome and the real story is the 200.

Brian Toone won in right under 17 hours with Eddie O'Dea a few hours later. I am in awe of everyone that finished that distance including Pete Foret... I credit his success to wearing longer socks, of course!

 It's funny, 200 miles on a mountain bike is just, a long way. To finish is a huge accomplishment. I've done it a few times and it only takes a few hours in normal life to think, "How the hell did I do that?"

That is what makes long dirt races so great. The fear of the unknown and the curiosity of what you can do if you try hard. Thanks for giving folks that opportunity, Brent.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Snake Creek Gap TT. February 2017.

After last month's snowy and shortened Snake Creek Gap Time Trial, I don't think I was alone in my hope for better weather for this weekend's Finale event. As I tend to do, I checked the weather all week leading up to race day. We lucked out big time and ended up with an overcast sky and 55 degree temperatures at a race famous for bad conditions. This also meant I would be able to do the full 50 mile distance I signed up for a few months ago.

Prayers were answered Friday afternoon when I finally got my favorite sweatpants back from Pete Foret. I had severely missed them the past 5 weeks as they migrated from Matt Ward's truck into Pete's possession, where they served a long purgatory in the back seat of his car. We opted to stay at the same Days Inn in Dalton, the only difference being I was succesful in my attempt to sweet talk my way into a ground floor room. I immediately felt at home when I saw the license plate on the Porsche sedan parked next to us..."ROLL T." They might have been selling low T supplements but I am still telling myself it was a Bama thing.

We found a better spot for dinner this time. By "We" I mean Jacob found it and told me where to go. Cherokee brewing and pizza was really good and I was delighted to watch a 220 pound man call Pete "Pet" a few times thanks to a careless computer input. Jamie and Lennie joined us also and we had a great dinner. I usually count on a shitty night of sleep before a race and continued my trend.

By some combination of super cheap blanket and my collection of bike clothes on the bed, said blanket managed to develop a static charge of a magnitude I didn't think possible. I was sleeping poorly in the hot room but attempts to separate the Days Inn bedding delivered quite obvious sparks in the air. Nope. Nope. I'd rather be hot. 4 hours of sleep and we did about the same routine as last time. Self shuttle to the start is the way to go here if you have the bike rack situation to make it work easily.

There were lots of riders at the Dry Creek parking lot, which is the start for the 34 and 50 mile race. The line to the facilities was about 30 deep with the folks who had failed to make race weight back at the hotel. Oops. The forecast called for rain so I strapped a shell to my bike and wore a vest also, which I ended up not needing at all. Since the race is a TT, it starts with one rider every 30 seconds or so, but due to the volume of riders once in the singletrack it is pretty much a mass start scenario. The first 18 miles of the 50 sent us through the Dry Creek loops before starting the traditional Snake Creek Gap course.

The singletrack was very fast and quite loose in the corners with loose rock over hardpack. I am overdue for a new rear tire but have a supersition of changing nothing before race day. My mental comfort of keeping tradition was countered by the dramatic lack  of rear traction in the corners. Oh well, at least my fork was operable. With  Tyree's help, I was able to fix a Reba that really wanted to wallow mid travel and refused to fully extend. Turns out Rock Shox uses a Solo Air system that is really a hidden Dual Air. Inside the fork leg is an extra air valve that can return normal pressure if it goes wonky and leaked air between positive and negative chambers. This fix happened much later in the day Thursday than I was comfortable with but hey, fixed is fixed.

I used a heart rate strap but turned off any indicator I could see during the race. I strictly paced off perceived exertion but still rode too hard during the Dry Creek Loop. Pete started right behind me, so we rode together almost all of the first 33 miles. I was spun out during much of the first 2 hours of the race which turned out to be pretty exhausting. We caught Carey Lowery around maybe mile 12, who I figured was having a bad day or was much better at pacing than us. It turned out to be the latter, as I would discover soon enough.

Thomas Turner came by us on Dry Creek and I very suddenly understood what it takes to ride a 4:09 on the 50 mile. He chatted for a minute and was quickly completely out of sight. We got through the first 18 miles in 1:44...WAY faster than I expected or planned. I started getting tired around this point due to making passes on the trail. It takes extra energy but in the end I think is smarter than riding behind slower riders. The trail turned slower and more technical through here, which I was happy with. I rode a 34/22 gear on my Superfly, which was better suited to this type of riding. Pete got away from me here and I really thought he was gone for good. I got a bit down during this time, also soon I realized I was hot. Like, really hot. I shed my arm warmers and vest on one of my increasingly common hike a bike walks. This brought some renewed energy and I picked up the pace. 10 minutes or so and I was back with Pete. Around this time Carey came back around, looking smooth as can be. Suspicion confirmed...I started too fast.

I got around Pete on the Horn Mountain descent and started feeling more comfortable on the descents. I was riding better with each hour and feeling good. I was diligent about nutrition and water as the penalties are big in a race this long. I think of the Snake 50 as 3 17 mile races that get harder and harder as you go along. I was happy to see the Snake Creek Gap parking lot as this meant I knew the rest of the course! The prospect of riding the rockier parts  of the course without snow and ice was very motivating. I saw Jeff McCord in the parking lot, who quite simply looked like hell. I could tell he didn't feel right so wished him luck and headed up the steep Mill Creek climb. My legs started to come around here and I was able to ride almost the whole way up. I yo yoed with Rachel Millsop for much of the race and a couple other guys. I got away on descents and they caught me during the hike a bike sections. I felt good on the Swamp Creek descent and climb back up Hurricane Mountain.

I got a bit confused around this point and thought I only had 7 miles to go, which I was wrong about. Not by much but I was concerned at one point I was off course. Wishful thinking maybe? I really enjoyed the rock gardens through Snake Creek Gap this time. I rode all the first two rock gardens and almost all of the third one. This was a pleasant change from January, where I basically had a long ass hike with cleats so packed with ice  I coudn't clip in. I was very tired but my legs had hurt so much already by this point I was used to it and decided I wasn't going to cramp so kept pushing hard. Most of my body hurt at this point actually, but I expected that. It is a super rough course and if you ride the descents hard it beats you up. I kept thinking I had one mile to go and was wrong. This happened a few times and I couldnt figure out when I left Snake Creek Gap trailhead, which I had tried really hard to remember. I was fried and started to get irritated, but calmed down some after talking with a guy I was riding with. I put the mileage calculations out of my head and tried to focus on the trail.

The towers at the end of Dug Gap meant I only had to descend the road and I was done. The descent was really fun and fast, and much more pleasant in 55 degree temps compared to last month. I came over the line in 5:47 which was well under my 6 hour goal. I rode really well the last 17 miles and was pretty well trashed at the end.  So much so that I totally forgot the belt buckle for completing both races! It took a couple good meals for my brain to get back on track and I am still pretty tired today. I understand the appeal of this race now and it is one of my favorites. Incredibly hard but rewarding. Thanks to everyone that helped make this race happen, it is one of a kind and draws a great crowd of folks. I think I can do better now that I am familiar with the course and will be back for sure.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Snake Creek Gap TT #1. Snowblind.

So. Snake Creek Gap.

I have wanted to do this race for well, the entire time it has been a thing. Problem is, it is a thing that usually starts New Years weekend. Busy weekend for many, including me, so I usually just whine and moan about doing it "next year"...

Last year I realized it was a more attainable schedule with 2 races done in January and February with the first one the weekend AFTER New Years. Also included was the addition of a 50 mile option with an initial 17 miles of the  Dry Creek trails added in. I will admit, none of this means a damn thing until you have been there!

I committed to The Snake a few months ago...along with PMBAR...and the Cheaha Ultra. I have been accused of overdoing things before and it is just my way. Pick what you love and get to work. With Snake Creek on the horizon I got in a few good weeks of training. Lots of work on West Ridge and chatting with anyone who had raced Snake Creek before which is, well, pretty much all my riding friends. I have learned that nothing is for certain, and as they say...Shit Happens. The Shit in my case was a case of Strep 10 days prior the the January edition of Snake Creek. I will mention here this is not the reason I didn't win. I wouldn't have won if Brian Toone loaned me his legs for the weekend. Backstory is fine in the context of a backstory but once it becomes a Shoulda Woulda Coulda, everyone has their own. Sickness, bad is a rare thing to go race and everything go by The Plan.

10 days of no riding hurt me some but my main concern was the weather on Friday morning. I left work at 11 AM with my car and bike covered in ice. Once home, I was quickly joined by the Angel and Devil on each shoulder. Melissa was full of reason and good judgement, which I am always thankful for. Pete Foret sat on my left, brimming with confidence with his Subaru's AWD system. With too much pressure building in the house, it took a trip to Mr. Chen's to lock down a decision. Go to The Snake.

The drive up was pretty uneventful and I enjoy any chance to chat with Pete. Once in Dalton we quickly found out the 50 and 34 mile options would be doing only the last 17 miles of the course...which is nice in the fact it is the highest regarded portion of Snake Creek Gap but sucked because we came to ride 50. I was happy to see a beagle in the Snake Pit as well as plenty of friends from Birmingham, along with some new ones from other places.

Explaining Rule 5 

 Tony's Italian was the spot for dinner and I cannot help but mention I don't really know what carb loading is. People ask me about it all the damn time and I just don't know. I sign up. I go to the mountain town and go wherever everyone wants to eat and I eat. End of story. As I have said before, I am not a nutritional role model. Trying to sleep was a real treat. Pete is a champion snorer and the folks behind the wall were definitely not arranging gear for Snake Creek...

As predicted, it snowed overnight and we woke up to an ice covered Dalton with a "clear and bitterly cold" 5 degree windchill.

Snake Pit parking lot. 8 AM

 For those in the dark, Snake Creek is a point to point race, so you either depend on the race shuttles or make your own. We went the DIY route with Pete, Jeff, and Matt Ward driving us to Snake Creek Gap for the start. The drive was pretty icy and generally awful road conditions. The countryside was awesome to take in and I was pretty stoked to ride still. Our Plan was to warm up in the parking lot before the start but after 3 meandering laps I realized the stupidity of this "warmup" and checked in to start. We started out with a pretty decent climb where my hands immediately went numb with cold.

Well fuck. If they are this cold at 170 heart rate how could it improve?!

Turns out just fine and I was totally warm the rest of the race which ranged from actual air temp of 15 to 19 degrees F. Clothing list at the bottom of this post.

I passed a good many people up the first hill then saw Jeff McCord stopped. After a chat about his mechanical issues I grabbed some of my Nuun slushie and headed on. The entire bottle lid was already ice and I made a mental note to watch them closely so I could actually drink later. I set out at this point to simply go for a nice, snowy ride in the woods and not worry about Racing. My priority was to not do anything dumb and get done when I got done. This was thoroughly evident in the 13 minute addition in stopped time to my 2:25 moving time for the race....Oops.

The views were awesome and I was enjoying the trails, up and down. I hiked a ton but I expected to. The climbs are pretty steep and on a singlespeed you WILL hike a bunch. The first 7 miles I thought were quite easy but got tougher after the Sag station. I used a heart rate monitor and was rewarded with lots of blinky lights confirming the aerobic impact of my recent sickness. I had no idea what to expect from the course and the snow cover on the trails made the rocks tougher to see. Jackson and Frank both passed me around mile 10 and were looking very good.  The descents were steep and covered in either leaves or snow. I figured walking would be dangerous too so went ahead and rode. Heavy feet, light hands, hope for traction. Braking with heavy gloves on was pretty weird and I spent an hour or so trying to decide if my brakes were failing. Turn out, no, the only failure was my perception of them.

Once into the harder climbs of the course Stewart Miller caught me and we rode/ hiked together a bit. I rode, in retrospect, very conservatively, most of the race to pace for the unexpected. On top of the ridge I came to appreciate the full fury of The Snake. Very technical, very slick,  and I had never seen  any of it! I rode where I could but hiked a bunch. I had some real issues with cleats icing over which took lots of stick poking to remedy. I finally started to figure out the rocks some and ride more once I was alone. I messed up and rode behind a nervous and somewhat frustrated guy for too long but eventually scooted around. The scenery was amazing and I took plenty of  time to look around at the snow covered  valleys. While anticipating more rocks and elevation gain, I popped out onto  a very long road descent. For some reason, I looked over my bike before heading down and saw the rear through axle flipped open from one of many rock hits. I snugged it up and headed down the icy road to the finish. I felt a bit dumb as I realized I could have ridden a good bit harder until this point. Safety first, I guess.

I finished mid packish and had an awesome time. I am more excited for the full 50 with a better idea of the trails. Once finished I felt the cold for real in the Snake Pit trying to change into warm clothes.

After 15 minutes of thawing time

 Matt Ward popped up around this time with a wet belly, and some frosty looking track pants. We heckled him most of the way back to the start area to swap cars around. Good company makes a good race even better!

As I mentioned, I rode 2.5 hours in 5 to 10 degree windchill and didn't get cold much at  all. From the bottom up, what I wore:

Feet: Shimano MW81 winter boots with Hot Hands things in the tongue. Ice Breaker mid weight  socks.

Legs: Twin Six bibs with 12 year old Polartec ski tights.

Torso and arms: Defeet SS wool base. 626 aero jersey. Thick Defeeet wool arm wamers. Gore Phantom Windstopper jacket.

Gloves: Giro Merino base liner with Gore Thermo thick gloves over that.

Way up top: Rapha (I it) neck gaiter. Castelli Windstopper X hat.

The race was for sure a learning experience and aside from getting sick, I prepped for it pretty well. See everyone again Feb. 11!