Friday, August 17, 2012

Race to Sunset and breaking news about my butt

August 4th was the Mountain Goat Adventures Race To Sunset at Blankets Creek. I was thinking about racing it and in the week prior to the race, Grayson sent me a message telling me that he was injured and asking if I wanted his race entry. Of course I had to do it now, that race being as local a legitimate race as exists. Then, Brother talked himself into doing it too; his first mountainbike race in 5 years or so, and probably his 10th ride on a mountainbike period in as many years.

So we set out for the race and it poured rain the entire time we were driving the 35-40 minutes to the venue, thankfully shutting off right as we pulled off the highway. Upon arrival, we talked to the lovely ladies at Registration which was a completely pleasant and painless process in every way. Having done tons of races, I’ve come to expect everything and anything at race registrations. I liken it to checking in and going through security at airports. Some are great, like Vienna or Reno; some are terrible. Like LaGuardia. This was definitely one of the better ones. After we registered, we found Janice and set up the pit box and got ready to race. A Pastor from the church that was letting us use its parking lot for the race gave a prayer before the race which was very genuine and very nice and left everyone in a good mood. Then we heard the Anthem and I couldn’t help but to think of our athletes at the Olympics which then made me want to go and crush it. I'm sure everyone felt the same.

There was a LeMans start, which I like, and I went into the woods in 4th position or so, along with Wyatt who was doing his first 6 Hour Solo and planning on destroying it on the first lap, and Brother right in front. Shane went by and I knew he was going to set a quick tempo. The rest of the first lap was pretty hectic, as I overtook Shane for second place in the sector between the two loops, and caught Wyatt who then let me go by as Shane caught back up and passed me as we headed back to the Start-Finish. My main issue was with picking lines; I ride Blankets several times a month but exclusively the opposite direction to the race (it had been 2-3 years since I last rode the trail that direction) and I felt like I had never ridden the trail before in my life. Plus is was HELLA slippery and my rear semislick was proving to be a bad decision. So that was fun.

After a while, the wet trail started to dry out and become more tacky and less sticky. I was overtaken for second, falling back a few minuted into 3rd position. On the 3rd or 4th lap I clipped a tree with my rear derailleur at speed and it bounced me back into another tree on the opposite side of the trail so I had to dismount and straighten my mangled hanger and rotor manually (I didn’t do a very good job) so that I could continue. Grayson was giving me splits to the guy in front and I passed him on the 6th lap after he had blown up trying to chase Shane so I was back in 2nd.

After a while, I became aware of Cesar chasing me in 3rd and closing a minute or so on each lap, but with Grayson giving me splits I calculated that he was not closing fast enough to be able to do a 9th lap where Shane and I would be able to. So I came in from the 8th lap and saw that he was still at least 7 minutes back and Shane was still 6 minutes up on me. I would not be able to catch Shane on the last lap and Cesar would not have enough time to complete another so I hung it up then, happy with 2nd.

We had awards very promptly ( I still don’t know if anybody took podium photos or where those may be if they exist, I will continue trying to find them) and had a really nice friendly podium because those guys are just that cool. Brother came 4th after Cesar which was a tremendous result for him because even though he would have been able to flog anyone and everyone on pure fitness, there is no getting around the fact that the kid does not ride the mountainbike at all anymore so I was stoked for his result there for sure.

The bike was brilliant on the whole race except for the parts that I managed to destroy. I never had a single bad shift; through all the mud and crap the SRAM X0 shifted brilliantly, even on the one section of the course (Hurl Hill) where I dropped from the 39t to the 26t chainring while climbing at full power. I can report that I had absolutely no pain in any body part (except one, see below) which is really remarkable for a 6 hour race. Before this Breezer Cloud9, I can honestly say that I’ve never before had a bike that I can get off after almost 6 hours of racing and feel like I was only finishing two hours of easy training.

Now the crappy part that some of you may want to skip if you’ve just eaten: I’ve been dealing with a pretty heinous saddle sore for the past few weeks that made me want to skip the race entirely and stop racing for a while to heal. I’m sure many of you have seen me avoiding road group rides lately, now you know why. It is slowly going away from what I can tell but I am forced to sit on the saddle crooked to keep from putting pressure on it and it is aggravating the tendon under and behind my right knee and totally killing me.
I’ve been racing for 11 year continuously now and have had my share of saddle sores but they almost always manifest during base miles season after cyclocross is over (January-February). I’s really a pain in the ass. Hopefully it is gone soon. Sorry for the TMI.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

6 Hours of Tsali BIRTHDAY WIN yaaa trick

Story of how I won the 6 Hours of Tsali on my birthday and thereby Shredded All Available Gnar.

I arrived at Tsali in early afternoon on Friday and grabbed one of two remaining available campsites (which I felt very smug about). Then I set up my tent and went out on the course preride. The first thing I noticed was that the course was very washed-out and chunky; more technical than I remembered. It was also drizzling which made me think that the already muddy course could possibly be rather damp for the start. All of these factors could play in my favor so I can happy about riding an actual mountainbike trail versus the smooth F1 course that I remembered Tsali being from years past. I also noticed that a lot of people (first timers?) were annoyingly preriding the trail backwards from race direction and giving me angry looks. Hmm.

I got back to the campsite, ate some bagels, Janice arrived and fed me some vodka and some of her awesome chili, the temp went down to sane levels, and we talked about life next to the campfire which was nice. Then we went to sleep and I was massively stoked to race. I also listened to a bunch of 50 Cent. That's my secret. Now you know how to win bike races.

Race day morning, I registered and said hi to Mr. and Mrs. Berger who are the nicest race promoters you'll ever meet, having known them for 10 years.

Bike Setup went as thus: I was on my Breezer Cloud9 29er hardtail which is smooth and steady through anything and also very light; a huge benefit on such a hilly course (~2500 feet/760 meters of climbing per 11.6 mile/18.7 km lap).
I went with 22.0 psi front and 24.0 psi rear in my Specialized tires and 6 clicks of Terralogic in my Fox F29 fork. This gave me a firmer ride than usual but it would suit the course well. I had 7 bottles of endurance ISO mix, 3 bottles of standard ISO mix, and several packets of various flavors of Honey Stinger chews and waffles. This would be my food for the following 6-6.5 hours.

I elected to start in the second row for the 500 meter gravel LeMans start, giving some team riders the front row spot. I ended up about 5th to the bikes although my bike was a little further up the road and I was passed by a few more riders on the 3 km. gravel road climb that lead into the singletrack. I entered the trail about 10th-15th. I noticed some fellow Solo 6 hour racers setting a fast tempo but my legs could not respond and I let them go for the first three laps, settling into 4th.

The first half of the race was uneventful, although my legs finally came around and I was able to overtake two guys in my category to slide into 2nd, where I was comfortable. Unfortunately, I had no idea how much time #1 had on me as I was racing unsupported, and I also had to stop for ~10 seconds at my pit box to grab new bottles after every lap. Then, towards the end of Lap 6, rain started to pour and the course immediately went to hell. My semislick rear tire was super fun, let's just leave it at that.

Legs were great though, and I had a good steady tempo, until when I was finishing my 6th lap and getting ready to depart for the final one, where Emily's BF (sorry dude, don't remember your name) told me the leader was 1 minute ahead. Slay mode ENGAGE.

I made steady progress through the mud and pouring rain and at around 8 kms on the course, I caught him. He didn't realize who I was and he was noticeably cramping and in difficulty, so I called the pass and he let me through. About 1 km farther down, I hear him calling for a pass so I let him back by. Then he set a good (higher) tempo and I had to attack him on the steepest part of the course which was rocky and enormously slick. I didn't give a look back until the end of the 1 km. final climb and when I did, he wasn't there.

However, not wanting to take any chances, I stayed on the rivet in big chainring the entire 4 km. back to the Start/Finish after dropping him, and ended up with a 3 minute gap at the end. Mr. Berger called out my name and said I was the winner.

Then I took a shower, we had a podium, and I drank the entire bottle of sparkling wine by myself.
Hurrah. The end.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

This past weekend was the third race of the Chainbuster Series, which is a local Southeastern endurance mountainbike race series at which I am concentrating on the Solo 6 hour category. The event was held at Fort Yargo State Park in Winder which is a fantastic venue because of the fast, rolling course and close proximity to Atlanta. The 11 miles of the Yargo course is one of the fastest in the Southeast besides Jackrabbit in North Carolina. I registered at the venue the morning of the race and we were expecting hot weather throughout the day with a high chance of thunderstorms later in the day. Because I had been out West riding the trailbike for the past few weeks, it was going to be interesting getting back on the racebike again.

I had a center front row start and immediately went to the front to avoid any trouble. There was about one mile of pavement on the first lap to thin the field leading into the singletrack. After leading most of this, I let about 5 riders in front of me to avoid having to set pace or pull on the front (our average speed for the first lap was 16.1mph / 25.9kph so drafting was indeed a factor). After some crashes opened up gaps further back in the field, I took over second from the Aussie Jim MacPherson in the third lap. I settled into a good pace, keeping time in the pit box to a minimum and remaining smooth and fluid throughout the course. I had a good race but had no idea if I was in first or second because I had no support crew to give me updates. After my sixth lap (right at 5:00 hours in), I paused in the transition to have a look at standings and found out that the Unstoppable Mr. Josh Fix had been smashing it at the front the whole time and had gone through 10 minutes prior. Perhaps by some miracle I cold catch him with one lap to go. MacPherson was 5 minutes back. His previous lap had been :55. He came in 7 minutes later. Surely he could not do another in :52 now. He powered back out onto the course. Surely he would not make it. I sat down to wait an hour. I took off my shoes and helmet and gloves and sat down with a Coke. Was I being stupid and lazy? Did I not have to do a seventh lap to keep my placing? We would find out.

I had called his bluff. I was wrong.

He arrived back with 40 seconds to spare, yelling things in Aussie.
I had been knocked down a spot but couldn’t even feel bad. He told me he thought I was still out there in front of him. He was ecstatic. It was a good moment.

Racers who have been doing this for a long time will tell you to race every race like it’s the World Championships. Take nothing for granted. I had a lot left in the gas tank after the race. No racer could tell you they would not be mad at themselves in that situation. But you learn something every time.
Congrats to Jim and of course to Josh for your amazing rides. This was one I will remember.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

2012 starts!

First, let me apologize for the lack of bloggage in the past few months. A quick update follows, after which I will detail the agenda for 2012.
Since the last post, cyclocross has come and gone; I got sick shortly after the last 6 hour race in the fall and spent the entire cyclocross season battling various degrees of sinus infections and bronchitis. After this experience, you may imagine that I am back to training 100% while trying to maintain my health (I have already been sick once this season, in the beginning of March) and ready to get at it in a nice varied schedule of endurance and standard XCO races.

The big news for 2012 is that I am riding for Fuji Bicycles - Advanced Sports International. This was arranged through Paul and Roy of ASI and through the steadfast support of my quasi-manager/industry pimp Todd Muller of Reality Bikes. I have already received and spent many good hours training and racing on my Breezer Cloud 9 29er hardtail (20.8 pounds of carbon sexiness, ready to race) and am anticipating taking delivery of the brand new for 2012 Fuji SLM29 within the following few months. Stay tuned to this space for details on these amazing machines and what makes them worthy podium contenders of the highest caliber.

My season kicked off at the Chain Buster 6 hour race at Tribble Mill park in Lawerenceville, GA. an event where I came second on the podium between the amazing Jeff Clayton of Georgia Neuro (who I beat to win the event in 2011, and who clearly has been training hard in the offseason as evidenced by our increased average speed) and the ever-present endurance talent Eddie O’Dea of the Topeak-Ergon team.

The second event (this past weekend) was also a Chain Buster 6 hour race, this time at the Georgia International Horse Park in Conyers, GA. This time, I pulled off the starting line first to achieve fast lap, and led the first 3 hours of the race. After this, I was caught and then overtaken by Eddie O who had clearly brought the better legs on the day. On the 7th lap and over 4 hours into the race, I was overcome by a terrible loss of depth-perception and vertigo brought on by the immense amount of tree pollen in the air having affected my inner ear; I subsequently withdrew from the event and slid from second to seventh place by the end of the race. However I retained enough points from that result to still be tied for second place in the series.

The following race will be the kickoff event of the US Cup East / Southeastern Regional Championship Series at the legendary Tsali trails in Bryson City, North Carolina. The Saturday event is a cross country time trial for bonus points and Sunday’s XCO Pro race consists of 30 miles of the finest Western North Carolina singletrack.

Thanks for reading and I wish everyone a successful 2012 season!

Friday, September 9, 2011

Chainbuster Tribble Mill 6 Hour race

I decided to do one more 6 hour race this year before cyclocross starts up. I had fun at Chainbuster's Conyers event this spring so when I heard that there was another Chainbuster race 2 weeks after arriving back from Europe, I decided that this event would be it.
I'd never ridden the Tribble Mill course but after checking out the course profile and elevation, it looked like it would be a super fast and fun course with no prolonged climbs but plenty of hard accelerations broken up by switchbacks and low-speed tech sections.
The morning of the race, I arrived early to get my pit set up. I would be racing self-supported but sharing a pit area with Eddie and Namrita O'Dea of Topeak/Ergon who were racing Co-Ed 2 person. At the start, I looked around to see who I would be racing against but it was difficult to pick out who was in what category. I had a good starting position and after a short lead-in, I went into the woods in second after Eddie. My goal was to stay at least 80% of an XC race pace to stay with a lead group for the first lap and then settle down to my 6 hour pace. After two miles, it became clear that there would be no lead group and I decided to pace off Eddie for the first lap (but at a reasonable distance so as not to piss him off). After the first lap was done, I overtook for the overall lead and held that until the fourth lap when two team riders finally came past.

I saw a few guys who looked like they might be in my category (based on the numbering system, which I hadn't bothered to figure out prior to the race) in the first few laps as I was exiting the transition and they were inbound, indicating about a 2-3 minute gap, but they soon disappeared as I kept the pressure on.

After every lap, I stopped at the tent to grab a fresh bottle of iso drink and always drank at least 2/3 of a bottle on the spot as well. I ate a delicious gel that I found at the pit after the 5th lap and had a Coke before my 7th and final lap. Other than that, I just drank iso drink and thankfully had no physical or technical problems.

Most everyone was polite and encouraging and I tried to say thanks to everyone who allowed me a swift pass. I was obliged to excuse myself a few times while passing riders on the outside on lines that didn't exist. No amount of gnar-shredding and making motorcycle noises was going to make semi-slicks grip on pine needles and sand-over-hardpack.

At the end, I completed 7 laps and could have completed an 8th if I had about 10 minutes extra, which was basically the amount of time I wasted in the pit box each time getting my own drink.
But winning is winning and it doesn't matter if you win by half a lap or a full lap so there's that.

I also won a "recovery mattress" which I've never heard of anyone doing at a bike race in my life so that's cool. It's super comfy, in case you're wondering.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Packing and Traveling With Your Bike: Part 2 of 2

Here are the step-by-step instructions.
This will take you at least an hour and a half if you've never done it before and an hour at the minimum if you've done it before.

Prepping the bike:
Put the bike in the workstand.
Remove the pedals and put them into a zip-lock bag. Make sure to include any pedal washers (ie: SRAM and FSA cranks).
Shift into the smallest chainring and smallest cog. Remove the chain and put it into a zip-lock bag The masterlink should go into its own small zip-lock bag.
Remove the rear derailleur and put it into a small padded bag.
Cut the cables and remove them. Take the loose housing off the frame and make sure to note which piece goes where.
Unbolt the handlebar and remove it from the stem. It is best to have a mark on both the stem and the handlebar to be able to align them again when the bike is being put back together. Wrap the handlebar well using bubble wrap.
Put the faceplate back onto the stem. Loosen the pinch bolts on the stem and rotate it so that the stem is right above the top tube in the box. Make sure that the stem does not contact the top tube. You may have to flip the stem.

Prepping and packing the wheels:
Remove the wheels from the bike. The cargo holds on airplanes are pressurized so, contrary to popular belief, nothing will explode if you leave your tires at normal pressure, but I find that being able to compress the tires helps to get the wheels into the case in certain circumstances.
If you have a 29er and a standard hard case, you will have to completely deflate your tires to be able to get them to fit. It is your call whether or not to remove the sealant from the tires prior to shipping. If you have confidence that your tires will remain seated on the rim, you can leave the sealant (as I do with my Stans wheels and sealant). You do NOT want the mess of it leaking out.
Take the skewers out of the wheels and set them aside. If your mountainbike has a thru-axle, it is best to put them back into the fork and/or frame.
If you have a mountain bike, remove the brake rotors, wrap them in clean paper and place them into a zip-lock bag. The rotor bolts can go into a separate little bag or back into the hubs.
Put the plastic shipping end-caps into the wheel axles.
This is when you should also put blocks into the disc brake calipers to prevent the pistons from being activated during shipping.
It is also a good idea to let the air out of and to fully compress the fork on your mountainbike for ease of packing (if you have a 29er, this is a necessary step in order for the bike to fit) and also to prevent damage to the fork stanchions.

Packing the frameset:
Wrap the frame tubes in sheets of bubble wrap work great for this and if you want extra insurance, you can even wrap over the bubble wrap with sections of old inner tubes cut in half lengthwise.
Take the bike out of the stand, remove the seatpost/seat from the frame and wrap them.
Place the bike facing crankset-down in the case on top of the first sheet of foam.
Lay the handlebar between the top tube and downtube. There is no optimal positioning because of the shape of road bars so find whatever works best for you. I have included a photo of one option.

Packing the accessory box:
At this point, the bike has been separated into three sections: the frameset, the wheels, and the contents of the accessory box. Make sure everything that is to go into the accessory box is accounted for and put away: the brake rotors, skewers, rear derailleur, chain pedals, and the new cables which you will install or have installed at your destination. It is also a good idea to take a roll of electrical tape and extra zip-ties.
I also usually include an extra roll of bar tape, brake pads, lube, my digital tire pressure gauge, shock pump, a small Zippo tape measure, and my multi tool and flat repair kit in this box. Yes, it all fits.
The accessory box goes between the stays. It is best to zip-tie the seat/seatpost combo to the top tube or seat tube near where the handlebars are. Once again, optimal placement will differ.
Now any extra items can be included, such as shoes or a travel pump. These shouldn't have to be wrapped thoroughly because hopefully everything they could possibly contact inside the case is already packed well.


The second sheet of foam goes next, on top of which go the wheels. The wheels will overlap in the middle. The best way is to put the front wheel in first, and then the rear wheel with the cassette facing up. This way the cassette cannot damage anything in the box.
The loose bits of housing (if you're planning on re-using them) can go with the wheels. Make sure to secure the ferrules on the ends if this is the case.
Then follows the third layer of foam and then the lid. You're done!

A nice side-effect of having a bunch of relatively heavy parts of the bike packaged together in the accessory box is if the gate agent starts to gripe about the weight of your bike box, you can easily knock a kilo or so off the weight by removing the box from the travel case and putting it into your other checked bag.

Feel free to send me any questions you may have. Happy travels and good racing!


Packing and Traveling With Your Bike: Part 1 of 2


Traveling by air with your bike can be a fairly annoying thing. It isn't enough that you already have to worry about jet-lag and racing in an unfamiliar place but also you have to worry about potential damage caused to your bike during travel.

If you're a mega-pro, you have mechanics to worry about this for you and all you have to do is ride.
If you're an amateur or some sort of low-rent Elite racer, you have to do all this yourself. Do a good job and you'll have one less thing to be anxious about and go back to thinking about what's important: your performance.

If you pack your bike in an ad-hoc manner and in a rush, it will be damaged. I see a lot of people doing a bad job packing their bikes and it's because they don't even know where to start. My goal in writing this and making it public is to illustrate my method, which gets used a lot. In addition to the numerous bikes I've packed for other people, I've packed my own and my brother's bikes dozens of times for travel to Europe and to the West Coast with no damage.

It is important to understand that damage to a bike inside its travel case is most frequently caused not by external forces but rather by the various parts of the bike shifting and making contact inside the case.
The two types of damage that can occur are abrasions damage and impact damage. It is important that the parts move as little as possible inside the case and that the parts that are in contact are well-protected.
It is best to take the bike apart as much as possible for transport.
One detail which really helps in this is to remove components such as rear derailleurs, chains, pedals, and the brake rotors off mountainbikes and pack them together in an accessory box inside the travel case. Bike manufacturers do this to be able to pack bikes more efficiently and to prevent damage when the bike is shipped from the factory to the distributor to the bike shop, and so should you when you travel with your bike.
Another good idea is to cut the cables completely and install new ones at your destination. Cables don't cost much and not having your handlebar attached to the rest of the bike via cables is a great help in trying to Tetris your machine into a travel case.

It is important to have a clean bike to start with. Packing a dirty bike sucks, but not as much as unpacking and re-building a dirty bike. Do yourself a favor and clean the bike before you leave. The chain should then get a very very light coating of lube; just enough to thwart corrosion.
Everyone does a better job packing the bike on the outbound leg than on the inbound leg. This is to be expected. After your event, you'll be tired and anxious to get the bike packed and get on the plane to go home. Don't rush and don't get sloppy because you will not be pleased with the results.

Part 2 here.