Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Swing Swing

Since it would be a shame to break tradition, I was awoken in my tent on Friday night by the sound of rain. Luckily the rain was light, and the trails were bone dry for the entire race. There wasn’t a single puddle of water or drop of mud at all. I had plenty of time to kill before the noon start, so I wandered around and chatted for a bit. I ended up pitting in the same place as last year. I was pitting with Florida's Chris Johns and Chris Janiszewski, and we were right next to Mark Hendershot and the pair of Daves from up north. It was kind of funny that we were all back and in the exact same spot as last year.

The race started with the hated “designated runner” lemans start. This meant that the team riders could have a team member running the ¼ mile loop in tennis shoes and then tag their team rider to start. For solos this is kind of lame, as you don’t want to sprint the run when you have 24 hours to ride, but you also don’t want to start behind 200 slower riders. The run wasn’t too bad in the end, and I was in the top 20 or so getting to the superfly. Coming up the first climb required some traffic control, and I rubbed a couple of wheels in the slowdown. The pace for the first lap was pretty mellow, and I rode the lap with Mark and Chris.

The second lap started well, but I was soon worried as my legs were feeling off already. My legs felt like I had already been riding for 6 or 8 hours, and I hadn’t even made it 10 miles. My back was aching a bit as well, and I began to have a bad feeling about the race. It was bad enough I even worried a bit about even being able to stay on the bike until it got dark. I fell back off the pace of Mark and the Chrises, and was passed by another solo rider. After another couple of laps, my legs warmed up and felt a bit better. My pits were going well, and with the handoffs I barely had to slow down at all to grab a new bottle and go.

The Burn course is quite nice, as you’ve got tons of berms, not too much climbing, and some pretty sweet descents. The last descent is especially cool, as it’s like a roller coaster with huge banked turns. I had forgotten about all the roots and rocks, as the course was definitely thrashing my hands out more than I would like. It flows pretty well, and is broken up nicely with rolling climbs and descents. Passing was tight on the first lap, but after that there were no problems. I managed to run over a black snake on the 5th lap or so. I kind of thought it was a moving root at the time and didn’t realize it was a snake until I ran over it. Temperatures were quite warm during the race, but it didn’t really bother me that much.

My legs were good until around 7 or 8 hours in, and then they began to feel toasted again. I was kind of bummed out, but knowing that a lot can happen at night, I figured I might still have a shot at a decent finish if I could just stay on the bike and ride all night. My hands were pretty trashed at this point as well. On every bumpy descent they were getting quite a shaking, and my fingers were once again killing me. I need to get this figured out, because I get the same pain earlier and earlier in every race I do… Damn you proximal phalanges…

I wasn’t so good at math on the day either. Grabbing my Moab light, with its supposed burn time of 8 hours on high, I headed off on my first night lap. I rode the first half of the lap with the light on medium, but didn’t quite think it was enough, so I switched back to high. Arm and knee warmers were quickly needed as the temperature dropped, and I began to think I didn’t bring enough warm clothing with me. Going with the theme of the day, my night laps were quite inconsistent, with my legs swinging from good to bad and back again every few hours. With all thoughts of a podium spot fading away, I was in “stay on the bike make it through the night” mode. At this point, I hadn’t had to use my front derailleur yet, so I decided that another goal would be to finish up the race without using anything besides the middle ring.

Dropping temperatures meant I couldn’t get down the full bottle of infinit every lap, and I was down to drinking a little under half a bottle a loop. To get the rest of my calories, I stopped in the pits for about 2 minutes every lap to eat a pair of clif bloks, drink some burn, and complain about being cold. I had an interesting experience a little before 4 am, when my battery ran out. Luckily I was on the last climb of the course, and the moab has backup LEDs. Even with next to no light I was able to pass a few people on the climb, and began the final descent back to the transition. I was quickly caught by another rider who was kind enough to slow down a bit and light the way. I quickly swapped the lights and headed back out. My hands sort of leveled off during the night and the pain sort of dulled as the hours went on, so that was a nice bonus.

At this point, the temperature really started getting to me. I’m not sure exactly what it was, but it was probably around mid to low forties. Every lap also had a big open section for ½ mile or so that received a nice cold breeze from the lake to chill me out even more. I was in summer wear with arm and knee warmers, and my teeth were literally chattering every time I went through that section and on some of the descents. My lap times had a huge drop as I couldn’t get or stay warm at all. Finally the sun came back out around 6 am and I was able to ditch my light and hope for it to warm up. However, by 8 am, it felt like the temperature hadn’t gone up at all. I even stopped for 5 minutes in transition to sit in the sun like a lizard to try and get warm. After that, I felt ok until I took about 6 pedal strokes and was chilled immediately.

Luckily it warmed up a little after 9 and I was able to ditch the arm warmers. I finished my 25th lap around 10 am, and checked the results to see if I had to do another lap. Once again, my math skills failed me, as I was convinced I couldn’t move anywhere in the standings if I quit then. Apparently this was wrong, as Virginia Trek rider Shawn Tevandale was able to ride for another 2 hours or so and finish another lap and bump me back to 5th place. Oh well, 5th and 4th are the same as 40th at the burn, so it wasn’t too big of a deal.

So despite a sub-par performance, I can’t help but come away from the race relatively satisfied. I made it through the night, finished in the top 5, and rode almost 190 miles. My nutrition went well, and I wasn’t really hungry or too tired during the race. No stomach problems, no cramps, no mechanicals. With the exception of my legs, everything went really well for the race. Congrats to Chris Johns pulling off the win in his first 24 hour race, definitely impressive. Mark put in a solid consistent ride but finished up about a half hour back of Chris. Javaun Moradi rounded off the podium. I knew at the start that Javaun would be a guy to watch, as I raced against him at Conyers a few years back and he rode really strong there. I was ahead of him for about 8 hours or so until my legs started to hate me again. Chris Janiszewski was riding strong but had some stomach problems 12 or 13 hours in. Many thanks to the Chris' Dads, they definitely did a great job of making sure I got out of the pits quickly and had what I needed. The drive home was awful though. Even with all the burn I still had to stop 3 times on the 3 hour drive to stretch or try and catch a few minutes of sleep. Since I won’t be racing the disc burner, it seems like I’ve got almost an entire month until I race again… Looks like actual training might make a comeback.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008


What a long weekend...

The Burn 24 Hour race was a great time, even though it didn't really go as I hoped. The day was definitely full of extremes for me, with my legs, lungs, and motivation swinging from highs to lows and back again all day. But I kept the pedals turning and didn't stop, and ended up finishing the day in 5th. I was actually in 4th but apparently can't do math after 22 hours on the bike. Endurance driving after the race was a questionable decision, but 32 oz of burn kept my eyes open enough to make it home. Onward to finding some time to chill and relax for a few days...

Apparently I subconciously choose my beer to match my bikes... who knew?

Monday, May 19, 2008

3 Equals 2

With an 11:00 am start time and only a 2 hour drive, I was able to get a good nights rest and didn’t have to get up too early to make the race. I arrived at Tsali around 9:30, and dropped all my stuff off at the transition. This year the transition area was in the parking lot, which was a huge improvement over its former location. In previous years, getting things to the pit area required carrying everything a ¼ mile up a fireroad, which was not so much fun. As I was preparing my stuff, I noticed something quite odd. There was this strange blue stuff all over the sky. I didn’t know what to think, I’m only used to seeing grey and black. I brought the Rig and the Superfly, and wasted probably 10 minutes looking back and forth at them trying to decide which one to ride first. I’m not sure what I was thinking at the time, but I finally settled on rolling one lap on the singlespeed to see how muddy it was.

The race started with a lemans run up the ¼ mile fireroad. I managed to be the 6th or 7th guy to the top in spite of my retarded looking running style wobbling back and forth with both hands on my jersey pockets to keep them full and my bling swinging wildly. The 32x20 was decent for most of the fireroad climb, but every time it flattened out or turned down I was losing tons of time. I was slightly spun out on the middle sections of the course, but it wasn’t too bad. The climbs were really fast by necessity, and I was beginning to think that maybe the ss was not so much a good idea. Since Tsali doesn’t drain, the course was still super muddy. Lots of nice mudholes all over the course made sure that cold brown water was flung on you 5 or 6 times a lap. The final flat section made up my mind on the bike selection, as I was once again spun out. Tsali is just an odd combination of long moderately steep climbs and fast flat/slightly downhill sections, and I was rarely comfortable with my gearing. There really aren’t many chances to make use of your momentum either. Although, it would probably be perfect with a front derailleur and some chainrings to 3x1 it.

I kept seeing Chris throughout the first lap until we hit that flat section at the end. At this point I felt like I was going backwards, and I was passed by another solo rider. Hopping off the rig, I grabbed a bottle and was on my way with the superfly. I quickly passed the solo guy who had gone by me halfway up the fireroad climb. The superfly felt so much better for this course, and I didn’t have to thrash out my legs trying to turn it over all the climbs. This also gave me a chance to really compare the two bikes riding them one after another at race pace. The superfly is definitely a little snappier coming out of the corners and a bit softer of a ride on the bumps. 6 laps in, time was flying by, pits were quick, and the legs were good.

However, it wasn’t to be. Not sure if it was going harder than I should have on the SS the first lap or my nonexistent training week with finals after DSG, but after my 7th lap I was definitely not feeling it anymore. But with 5 or 6 hours of riding left, the only option was to just roll with it and hope no one got close enough to make me work. The next few laps felt like they took forever, but every lap completed was 11 miles closer to being done. I was down to drinking only half a bottle a lap at this point, which is generally frowned upon when 100% of your race calories come from the bottle. After 2 and a half night laps, I finished up the race in 2nd place with 130-something miles. The night laps were quite cold, and I was shivering profusely even after I stopped to get my arm warmers. It looks like the third time was the charm after all for the 12 Hours of Tsali.

Knee warmers and socks are 70% of a pair of pants, right?

Congrats to Chris on his win, he definitely had the better legs on the day. I suppose if things had gone a little better for me we might have actually had a race, but that’s how it goes sometimes. A big thanks to Cory Rimmer for helping me out in the pits filling bottles and lubing drivetrains. He thought he could just say hi during the race and walk away, but I put him to work instead. Surprisingly, the drive back wasn't too bad, and I managed to make it back to Knoxville by a little after 3:00. I’m looking forward to this week for a nice easy recovery week of spinning to try and get ready for the Burn 24 hour race on the 24th.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Geared Up

I've made the decision to bring out the gears for the first time this season for the Tsali 12 Hour. This is actually going to be the first race ever on the Superfly, so thats kind of exciting, I suppose. Clicky Clicky. I imagine thats how it goes anyways. We'll see if I get halfway through the race and realize I've only used 2 or 3 gears.

What's this? A race without rain? That just doesn't seem right. I guess I'll have to get by on staying dry and riding high on the superfly...

Ooh, So much rhyming potential with 'fly'... But I won't be "that guy."

Wednesday, May 14, 2008


It is time once again for the 12 Hours of Tsali. I've done this race twice already, with mediocre results each time.

Two years back, it was the second 12 hour I ever attempted. Of course it rained as the race started, and I still had no idea what the hell I was doing in the longer races. Tsali is a sloppy mess when it is wet, so I won't say it was enjoyable. The rain stopped an hour or two in, and the rest of the afternoon was cloudy skies with intermittent thunder. It was kind of odd though, as halfway through the race they made everyone stop due to a severe weather warning, but it didn't even sprinkle. So after another lemans start, we were back at it again. Once it got dark, the rain started pouring again, and the trail was lit up every few minutes by a flash of lightning. Despite having time to do another lap, I called it a day and finished around 8th place.

[Writing about the mud of two years ago reminded me of one of my favorite Tsali moments, which occured during the horrendous conditions of the 2007 SERC race. I'm sure anyone who was there remembers how bad the trails were and how destroyed their bikes were afterwards. The bike shops should have to give kickbacks to goneriding for all the brake pads they sold. But anyways, I had caught up to one of the expert women just in time to watch her slide out in a corner and land in a 6 inch deep puddle of muddy water. As she picked up her bike, there was a sucking sound and then a plop. Looking at the bike, the grip on the left side of the bar was gone. We sort of looked at the bar, then the puddle, then gave each other the universal WTF look. One of the funniest random race moments I've experienced... She declined to attempt to fish the grip out of the muck.]

Last year's race was only slightly better. Due to some problems with trying to get our bikes onto the rack and having to call random people at 6am to try and borrow a hitch rack, we made it to the venue only 25 minutes before the start. Trying to get dressed, registered, and get my stuff together at bunny speed was not really how I wanted to start the day. At least it didn't rain. As there were about 15 knoxville people doing the race and offering support, I figured I wouldn't have any problems with getting my bottles filled and minimal support duties taken care of. So with the same lemans start up the gravel road, I hopped on and plunged into the dusty cloud that filled the entire course for the first lap. It took about 3 laps for my eyes to finally flush out the dust and feel normal again, it was quite ridiculous. As I was coming through transition, I kept noticing that my empty bottles I tossed down were not getting refilled, and as I switched bikes, chains were not being cleaned/lubed. I was sort of confused as to why nobody was helping me, but didn't think too much of it.

I was a little more worried when I grabbed my last mixed bottle 5 hours in. Luckily, when I came through the next lap, Mark had just started mixing me up a new batch so I was able to just grab it and go instead of mixing my own. After a few more unmotivated laps and wasted time in the pits cleaning chains and minor repairs, I started thinking about the burn 24 hour race that was coming up the next week, and decided to just hit 100 miles and call it a day. Accomplishing that, I packed my stuff up and headed down to where the knoxville crew was camped. I was kind of bummed out at the lack of support. I have no problem racing unsupported, but I usually like to know that going into the race, not finding out in the middle.

At the campsite, Abby greeted me with a "How was your sandwich?" I gave her the raised eyebrow and look of confusion. "The sandwiches I made you, how were they?" It turned out that Abby had been supporting my competition and neighbor in the pits all day. She found his nutrition stuff and made him sandwiches, mixed up bottles, etc... So random, but it made for a good laugh after another forgettable day at Tsali.

So, back to the present... The third time is gonna be the charm. I'm still sort of indecisive on what I'm doing for the race. Options are:

1. Race open with the neglected pile of carbon in my corner.
2. Race open on the Rig, being "that guy".
3. Race the SS class with the Rig.

Looks like I've got til 11:59:59 tomorrow...hmm...

Friday, May 9, 2008

The big show has finally come and gone again. Only 359 more days until the next DSG… Sigh… This year’s race started, as all my races seem to, with a healthy thunderstorm the night before. The rain stopped an hour or two before the race though, so at least I didn’t have to get my things ready in the rain.

The race started with a lemans start again. I made it through the whole run without repeating last years “slip n slide” incident. Apparently that was not forgotten, as Jeremy mentioned it before the start and a handful of people around remembered me as “that guy.” I made it through the field section without incident, and started passing people as we hit some of the doubletrack climbs. The mud was horrendous. I hate to be the guy that says “and that was the worst __________ ever.” But it was without doubt the worst mud I have ever experienced. I got to experience the thrill of trying to push a bike up a hill, and having the wheels stop turning completely due to the amount of sticky mud. The clearance on the rig fared better than most though, as I passed 4 or 5 people with immobile wheels before mine finally stopped. Mr. 24 himself managed to snag the picture that I think best shows the conditions of the day:

Descending in the muck was definitely interesting. Coming down the back side of 911 hill was super shady the first lap. It was pretty much just sliding sideways and praying the bike turned enough to keep you out of the trees. There was one other doubletrack descent that was pretty bad as well. I figured a ton of people had wrecked there when I came by for the second lap as there was a small crowd of people there watching people descend. As I slid sideways and barely made it down upright, there was a collective “aww” of disappointment. The second lap was better, but still extremely sloppy. By the third lap though, things had dried off enough that things weren’t too slippery and the wheels spun freely.

I was keeping a pretty steady pace while downing a bottle and a half of infinit every lap. I cannot say enough about how good the infinit stuff is. Check it out, it is the real deal for sure. During the second lap, I had caught Jake Kirkpatrick, but then he took off right as I caught him. It was weird though, as the next lap, I caught him in the exact same spot, and went by and never saw him again. This put me in third place, where I stayed for most of the race. Dejay and Fuzzy were gone from the start and were unfortunately out of reach. From this point on the course was in perfect condition. The next 4 laps went without incident, and I began to calculate the number of laps I needed to do to finish. I actually got a nice mental boost when I forgot I was on eastern time and realized I had one less lap than I thought I did. It's weird how I can do all these laps and remember nothing about them... As I sit here I can't really remember anything specific about a big 6 or 8 hour chunk of the race.

On my 7th lap, Greg Martin caught me, but I soon passed him back as the course turned uphill. At this point I was ready to start increasing the tempo to finish off the last two laps. However, coming down 911 on the 8th lap, I punctured the rear tire. I spun the tire to get the sealant rolling around, and CO2ed it. Air still gushed out of the too big to seal hole. I just couldn’t believe it as I saw my pro podium chances at the greatest event on my race calendar deflated. 3 or 4 minutes later, Greg came by, and I never saw him again. I’m sure there’s no bigger boost of energy or cure for cramps than seeing your competition with a mechanical in the late stages of a race. After begging a CO2 I was back in action, but the whole affair cost me 10 minutes or so. I XCed it for the remainder of the lap and even caught back up to Nat, who had gone by as I was fixing the flat. Nat was kind enough to pull me through all the flat sections where I was spun out. I did a quick light switch and continued on at high pace until I hit the first big climb. ¾ of the way up, my legs were killing me, and I had to back off to make sure I finished the lap. I toasted myself the 8th lap after that flat and didn’t have quite enough to finish at full XC speed. This left me with a 4th place finish in the pro singlespeed.

I can’t say I’m not once again a bit disappointed to lose this one in the final stages. But it definitely gives me some more confidence as I start hitting the smaller regional races this month. I beat all the amateur guys, geared and SSers, and the list of guys in the pro cats that beat me is pretty much a who’s who list of endurance superstars in the US. Onwards…

Well, maybe I should at least take solace in the fact that I can claim the record for the most expensive flat ever ($500)… I need to figure out if I'm gonna really commit to this whole SS thing though. I could have used a second bike to swap out with all the mud and whatsuch...

But the rest of the Knoxville crew fared well, with Jeremy taking 1st in the amateur solo, Abby and Derek taking 3rd in the amateur duo, and the Knoxville team of Josh Reed, Jacob Prater, Andrew Howe, and Mike Biegalski winning the amateur team class. Congrats to all!

And I got to meet the man himself. Gary is without doubt an interesting guy, and his passion for bikes is impossible to miss. It’s kind of a cool feeling to meet the guy whose name is on your bike (and every piece of your clothing.)

Oh, and Gary says park the car and get on your bike.

Monday, May 5, 2008


The “Trifecta of Singleness” ending up being quite an entertaining ride. Fayetteville greeted us with a dark and cloudy sky, but the rain held off and left the course in perfect condition for the entire race. The crew that showed up was a random SS mix with tons of costumes, some cross dressing, lots of pink, and even a guy on a fixed gear. Announcing and commentary was handled by the capable and styled out crew of Nat, Yuri, and Rebecca.

Disco Rebecca and Nacho Libre Nat show off the goods

The first round of the race was a 2 lap XC race on a modified version of the 12 hour course. The SS course cut out 2 miles and 2 big climbs. I really didn’t have any interest in hurting myself since I had the 12 hour the next day, and had a nice spin around the course. I had remembered the course as being kind of rough, but it seemed a lot rockier than I remembered. Fuzzy didn’t seem to be interested in pushing anything the day before DSG, so I spun behind him for most of the race. After the first lap, we were required to drink a cold PBR before continuing on. I’m not really much of a PBR guy, but it sure was cold and tasty after riding a hot lap on the course, went down fast, and stayed down. A lap later and I finished up the first stage somewhere around 10th-ish. This was good enough to put me through to round 2.

Enjoying a mid race PBR with Fuzzy

Round 2 was a hill climb competition amongst the top 15 guys from the first race, and the top 8 went on to the final round. After a neutral leadout, I found myself in the middle of the pack at the base of the climb, fought through the traffic, and was in 4th right behind DJ about ¾ of the way up. My legs were letting me know the entire time that the hill climb was not a good idea for tomorrow. A look over the shoulder saw only Ohio Rob anywhere close, so I hopped off and ran the last pitch to save my legs and get to the top in 5th. However, I apparently missed the unsaid rule of not getting off the bike, so that ended my SSUSA aspirations.

It was all good though, as round 3 would likely have seen me bested by a girl or a strong breeze in the gladiator style SSUSA feats of strength. It was pretty entertaining watching a bunch of skinny bikers in spandex chugging PBR and attempting to joust while Yuri, Nat, and Rebecca hopped around in their sweet costumes. Congrats to Ohio Rob on his jousting victory and to the LaLonde Brothers on their crushing victories in both the XC and the hill climb. Those guys can fly for sure. So overall I got out of SSUSA exactly what I had hoped for: a lot of laughs, a nice pre-ride, and a heaping scoop of randomness.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Deja Vu

Blingin it out for SSUSA

I'm pretty sure I've been here before. Something about the whole "pouring rain the night before a big race" and the 13000+ feet of climbing seem familiar. Another long singlespeed race starting with a sloppy muddy mess and ending with me standing one step off the box... SSUSA was a good time though, with tons of randomness and craziness. Full stories will be up in the next day or so.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

I'm not really sure why, but it seems like every time I do a mountain bike race, it rains... So I shouldn't really be surprised to see that I will be once again spending another weekend covered in mud. This makes me three for three on the year, a perfect record so far! On the bright side, it might not rain for SSUSA. I guess I should take what I can get. Onward...