Vapor Trail Prep

Vapor Trail 125 training is officially in full swing. Not that long, hard rides aren’t always a staple of my training program, it’s just that now, I’m extending them into night hours. Wednesday, Kenny and I took off from the house around 7:45pm (I rode an hour before we met, just to get some extra mileage), and rode a loop up the Wolf River Trails, on the road to Stanky Creek, two laps there, and then rode back the way we came. The fastest I’ve ever mustered for that route was a fraction under 4 hours, so I was expecting our ride to be around 4:15-4:30 (total time ended up being about 4:25).

Night riding is a lot of fun. It’s definitely something I’m still getting used to, but I’m figuring things out things like the light brightness I like, and the pros/cons of wearing glasses (Pro- eye protection Cons- sweat & fog, and, if someone is riding behind you, their lights will reflect on the inside of your glasses, and it’s more difficult to see. Also, when you lean over the front of your bars, some of the light from your front light will also give you the same reflective effect).

Along the way, we ran in to (literally) some of the nighttime denizens of the woods. Early in the ride, I was moving along at a good clip when suddenly something brown dashed out of the woods and under my bike. As I caught the object in the lower half of my peripheral vision, my initial thought (based on speed and color) was that it was a rabbit. However, it lodged itself momentarily between my chainring, crank, frame, pedal, tire, and the ground before rolling off back into the woods.

Armadillo.

Somehow, this exchange resulted in the unclipping and loss of a shoe.

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We laughed about that one for a good five minutes. I’ve always wanted to catch one and keep it as a pet.

 

 

One of my favorite things about night riding is the lack of people on the trail. The people you do see out there aren’t the usual “joggers wearing both headphones” or “family on walmart bikes” that you have to watch out for in the daylight. Really, the biggest thing you have to watch out for are the nighttime spiders that start building webs across the trail the instant the sun sets. Most of the time, it’s just a stray web on your cheek or arms, but occasionally…

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When I got home, I was tired and hungry. After a quick shower, I dove into the leftovers that the guys had left for me in the fridge- cold Kale salad and some pizza.

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No pics of the pizza. I ate that first. Knowing I’d be riding for 5-6 hours that night, I’d also brought home a treat for myself from Whole Foods earlier in the day.

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As I expected, the “being wound up from riding” part of my ride made it kinda hard to sleep afterward. It was probably close to 2am before I was solidly asleep, and I sweated and tossed & turned for the remainder of the night. Too bad I can’t be like this guy…

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I’m feeling good about my night ride skill building. Very soon, there will be a Syllamo night ride. That will be a big step outside my comfort zone not only in the difficulty of the trail, but also because it’ll be solo. I don’t usually ride by myself at night, though it’s generally because in the city, you have to worry about ill-intended people who you may encounter. The likelihood of coming into contact with anyone at Syllamo (much less someone who is out looking to rob or kill the next vulnerable individual they encounter) is minimal. I’m both nervous and excited about it.

Tour of Da U.P.

Ryan had been after me to make a trip up North with him for a while. So, we’d decided to leave the Monday following my fight as sort of a recovery-time trip. I generally made the best of having one and a half black eyes…

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Our first stop Monday night was at his brother’s house in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin. It was a quick stay-over before we continued north to his Mom’s (Gail) house in Marquette, MI.

It was cold and damp up there, and we ended up borrowing warmer clothes from his mom and finding a local shop where I could get a set of arm warmers. Tuesday night, we hit up a group ride that left from a friend’s house and went to the North Marquette trail system. I later found out that it was supposed to be a “guys only” ride, though I’d been fully accepted into the group via both my riding ability and my skill of opening a beer bottle using an SPD pedal.

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Gail baked espresso cookies while we were out. No exaggeration- I probably ate a dozen of them within a two-day period.

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The next morning, we set out on a loop of the larger/more climbey South Marquette trail system. There was a course used in a local cross country race that incorporated most of the trails within a 3-loop cloverleaf. The trails we found were mostly machine-built, flowy, and sometimes steep/kinda rocky. One part, near a golf course, had signs every mile or so saying to be quiet. Then, once you were past the course…

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Near the end of our adventure, we climbed up a steep forest road to the Marquette Mountain overlook, then descended a trail called “Scary,” which was definitely one of several trip highlights, as it dropped from what was probably the highest point in town down to almost lake level… quickly.

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With all of our navigational breaks, the 29-mile ride took close to 4 hours. Back at the house, we ate, napped, had more cookies, and packed our things to go to Ishpeming for another group ride on the Ishpeming/Negaunee trail system. We found a handful of local hammers (including the town “Antique Gun Show”) and hung on tight.

Every riding community has an Antique Gun Show (a.k.a. “silver fox” or “bald eagle”), and if you don’t know who/what I’m talking about, you should go ride with Todd Henne in Arkansas.

I’m not sure I could find my way around those trails without local assistance, so I’d suggest the Wednesday night @6:30 group ride from Jasper Ridge Brewery if you’re ever in the area (there are several groups, so all skill levels are covered). The trails are worth the visit- lots of steep, tech stuff that will challenge you in all sorts of ways. It’s a nice, hand-built complement to the machine-built  smoothness of the South Marquette system.  Highlight of the ride? Hearing  locals’ discussion of where to go next- something along the lines of, “let’s take that two-track that crosses the luge” (thing you will never hear in Memphis #123). It was a pretty exhausting but highly rewarding two-a-day. Gail had made polenta lasagna and kale salad for dinner, which, along with more cookies, was another highlight of the trip.

In keeping with our “ride lots of trails in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan” theme, Thursday Morning, we drove to the Houghton/South Range area at the base of the Keweenaw Peninsula.

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That afternoon, we rode the snowmobile route from South Range to Houghton to ride the Michigan Tech Trails. If you can tolerate riding in loose sand, those things will take you anywhere you want to go:

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The ride out was fast, because it’s all downhill by about 1.5%. It’s worth not getting in to a half-wheel contest with your riding partner at that point since you’ll be climbing back up that same grade in tire-deep sand on the way home…

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The tech trails are really cool. We rode the “red loop” first, which has some neat wood features that I only took pictures of.

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It also includes the “Hairy Toad” trail, which, with all of its rocks, was another favorite for me. On a stroke of luck, we found a brand new downhill dirt jump/flow trail that was like an express train from the upper trail system to the lower one. No pictures of that one, only grinning and occasional whoo-hoos.
After a couple of hours there, we headed back up to South Range. The “uphill in the sand” ride back was as fun as I’d imagined it being. I get excited at the prospect of hike-a-bike followed by terrain that tries to be soul-crushing, no matter how simple it is.

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Something that’s hard to get used to… it stays light really late up there. This photo was taken at 10:00pm:

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Friday morning, we drove up to Copper Harbor. We started by riding the suggested “IMBA Epic” loop, which covered most of the trails in the system. Then, we rode up Brockway Mountain on the road to the Flow trail that meanders back to town.

From the Red Trail on the Loop:

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From the Flow Trail (that wooden structure is part of the “Overflow” gravity trail that takes a much more direct route down the mountain):

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The Copper Harbor trails are cool and lots of fun, but definitely don’t skip the other ones in the U.P. area, because they’re equally, if not more enjoyable. We also stopped by the Swedetown Trails in Calumet. I didn’t take photos, because the accumulation of leg hurt from all the other riding made the loop at Swedetown a bit of a mosquito-driven deathmarch. We toppped off the long day with a pasty from Toni’s.

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…and a little Tour-watching back at the house

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Saturday morning, we started the long trip home by driving back to Fond du Lac. As a little recovery, we tried to go ride some nearby trails. I say “tried” because all of the designated “bike only” trails in the park were way overgrown. So, we ended up just going on anything that wasn’t marked as a hiking-only trail.

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Back at the house, we ate dinner and sat around watching the Tour with the kids and animals.

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Sunday, we finished the drive. It’s a looooong day.

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I’m pretty sure Indy was happy to have me back.

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Observations from the trip:

#1- the Upper Peninsula dialect is equally as unique and endearing as a thick Southern accent.

#2- Don’t take a trip up to that part of Michigan without visiting all the trails. Lots of people just go to Copper Harbor. It’s great, but the others are too good to miss, and not far away.

#3- Take bug spray. The mosquitoes are the size of hummingbirds, and the flies have found their way into someone’s meth stash.

#4- Bring some fall clothes. It warmed up some from our first days there, but overnight lows in the 40s/50s in the middle of the summer are pretty normal.

#5- Hardtail or Full Suspension? You definitely won’t die on a hardtail, but there are lots of roots, rocks, and techy stuff that make a full suspension a good choice if you’ve got one.

 

 

 

Mulberry Gap Women’s Weekend

After a hard-ish week of training, I was really looking forward to the Mulberry Gap Women’s Weekend. I’d volunteered to help with the bike maintenance instruction part of the weekend, and, though I wasn’t 100% sure of what to expect, I knew it’d be a good time no matter what. What I definitely didn’t expect was a near-blowout of my passenger side rear tire, which went totally flat in the space of about 10 seconds while I was going fast in the fast lane of the heavily-trafficked 3-lane I-75 just south of Chattanooga. Luckily, when no one is punching you in the face, it’s pretty easy to deal with panic-potential situations with a cool head and steady hand. I guided the Steel Box through traffic to the shoulder, which I found to be far too narrow for a tire change, so I limped to the next exit with my hazard lights on and found a suitable parking lot.  (p.s. keeping a yoga mat in your car has more use than just impromtu yoga sessions)

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From getting out of the car to finding a ProGold  pro towel for a final hand-cleaning, flat change time was 12 minutes.

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Once I’d found a tire repair shop, purchased a new (used) tire (the rim-ride had destroyed the inside of my old one), and waited for the installation, the total time lost was only an hour. After that, it was off to Mulberry Gap.

The afternoon meet-and-greet time & settling in was just getting warmed up when I arrived. As an added bonus to everyone being excited to meet each other, Mulberry Gap is dog-friendly, so there were some 4-legged friends around as well…

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…and a cool moth

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Sometime around dinner, we found the clown bikes in The Barn.

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…and before bed, there was a bug that needed a proper dispatch from the cabin. I found a suitable page of a nearby magazine that served this purpose well.

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Saturday morning, we started out with breakfast and a short ride to talk about bike handling. Split into beginner and intermediate groups, I rode out with Anet, one of the event organizers, and the latter of the groups, and we went to a short section of a nearby singletrack climb. Before we started, I made one rule for the group- unless you’ve actually hit, injured, or caused some other accidental physical harm to someone, there’s no apologizing allowed. That’s something you don’t often hear in a pack of guys that’s learning something new- them apologizing for not being able to clear an obstacle or for having a slip-up of any sort. Women, on the other hand, seemed to feel compelled to say they’re sorry for these things. I let them know that there’s no need to be sorry for a normal part of the learning process.

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Just before the ride, everyone filled their pockets with some goodies donated to the event from Gu Energy Labs. They were super stoked…

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After our short ride and some lunch, we geared back up for a longer afternoon ride. We went up a long forest road climb to the Bear Creek trail with a quick stop at a very nice overlook. Luckily, the rain in the picture missed us until the very end of our ride. 

 

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Once we were down Bear Creek, we rode more of the Pinhoti Trail. I made it up and over a climb just ahead of my group, so I stopped and took some photos, and caught a few of the ladies on their way through the creek at the bottom

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Just as we arrived back at camp, the bottom dropped out as a big storm came through. It knocked the power out until nearly midnight. Which meant, unfortunately, that my bike maintenance portion of the evening was blacked out. I was able to help a lot of the ladies individually, though. I’m sorely disappointed in some of the halfass things that husbands were doing with their wives’ bikes.

For example, one woman’s bike was set up with gripshifters. No biggie, but he hadn’t taken into account the length of the bar end, grip, and shifter when assembling everything. So, she ended up with her knuckles approximately 6 inches apart from each other on the bars when grabbing in a spot where she could use both the shifters and the brakes (you can see in the photos below- the scratches on the bar are where the brake levers were clamped prior to my moving them). I cut about two inches off of each one of her grips and moved everything out. She was stoked.

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Then, there was the woman who was missing a spoke.

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The woman whose husband had told the bike shop that she weighed 150 or 60 pounds (she’s probably 120 with a lead weight in her pack).

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That photo was taken after lots of descending, and she’d only used about half of the travel. In all fairness, though, that one was a pretty awesome bike that he’d ordered her for mother’s day, but it’d just arrived at the shop the day before she left. It would have been nice to have called her and asked, though. I helped her with adjusting the air volume and told her to ride the bejesus out of it down a hill and see if she came closer to using all of the travel.

Some other honorable mentions- running shoes with flat pedals, running shoes with cheese-grater cheapie flat pedals, and a new set of 26×1.8″ tires. Of course, I can also see the view that at some point, its everyone’s job to learn about his or her own  equipment. That goes without saying. However, you’ll never get interested enough to learn if you hate riding because there’s a myriad of cheap-to-free things that could be fixed on your bike to make riding more comfortable, easier, and more enjoyable.

I digress.

On a more positive note, here’s Lynn, a very inspiring older-than-the-others woman who has the flat pedal game down to a science, with some nice, wide platforms, and a pair of five ten shoes.

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I don’t know a much better way to spend a stormy afternoon than having a glass of wine and working on/talking bikes with some new friends.

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More doggies!

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The next morning, since I had a long drive home ahead of me, I decided to forego the post-yoga group ride (I actually didn’t do yoga either, instead getting a super kickass sports massage from Shelley, the massage therapist in for the weekend). Luckily, the drive home did not include any more flat tires.

It was an excellent weekend. Mulberry Gap is a really nice place to stay- it’s really close to miles of great singletrack, the cabins are nice, the food was tasty (and you all know how I am about food), and the company was more than I could have asked for.

 

 

For Sale

It’s late spring cleaning time. Here are a few nice things that I’ve ended up not using that need to GTFO from my bike storage area…

Deuter Women’s Hydration Pack- I won this at a race, and I’m very sad to say that I can’t use it. I’ve found that my torso and shoulders are on the long/broad side for any women’s specific hydration packs. If you’re petite, this thing is legit, and I’m a tiny bit jealous. Here’s a link to the pack on Deuter’s site: Compact Air 8SL. It’s pretty light for a larger-capacity pack, and I really like the back ventilation system, lumber padding, and stow-away helmet holder (that little zipper on the bottom in the pic of the top of the pack).

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It’s got an expanding accordion-style zipper section, too:

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The way the 3L reservoir (a nice one with the large, roll-down top opening) goes in and out looks like it’s one of the easier styles on the market. There’s a zipper up each side of the pack and a velcro section at each shoulder, so it opens up all the way, and you don’t have to run the drinking tube through any little holes:

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MSRP on this is $125, and I’m asking $75 (plus shipping if you aren’t local).

SOLD! Columbia Treadlite 10L Pack- Also won at a race, but falling in to the “I like my Osprey pack better” category. This is a never-used Columbia pack that appears to have been discontinued. Read more about it here on the Columbia site: Treadlite 10L pack. It doesn’t include a reservoir, but will hold a 3L bladder. SOLD!

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They’re already down to $44 on the Columbia site, so I’ll let this one go for $25 (again, plus shipping if you aren’t local)

Pearl Izumi Softshell PRO series Ladies winter gloves- I ordered these, wore them once, and realized that they’re a touch too small for me (the fingers are about 5mm too short). I’m really OCD about how the fingers of my gloves fit, so it drove me way crazier than it would most other people. Anyway, if you wear small to medium gloves and are looking for a pair that’s super warm, these are the top-of-the line offering from Pearl, and normally retail for around $100 (I can’t find this exact model on the Pearl site anymore).

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Since they’re worn and washed, I’m pricing them at $25 (shipping extra)

Easton EC90 10degree, 100mm Stem- Brand new, in the box. Light and sexy. Info on Easton’s Site

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Retail is $240, and they’re selling on EBay in the $180-200 range, so I’m asking $165 (plus shipping)

Easton EC90 27.2 Offset Carbon Seatpost- Also brand new in the box. Also light and sexy. Info on Easton’s Site

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Retail is $210, Ebay is ~$140, my price is $125 (plus shipping)

PACKAGE DEAL- If you want the stem and the seatpost, the pair are $275

EDIT: I almost forgot!

RockShox 2013 SID XX World Cup Solo Air Fork- This fork has a little bit of an odd story, but in a really good way. I used to have a 2012 Dual Air fork. However, at the 2013 edition of the Breck Epic, that fork quit working. The awesome guys at the SRAM Neutral Support Tent warrantied it with a brand new, 2013 SID XX World Cup solo air fork. However, the warranty fork had white lowers, and my bike at the time was the black/moondust Air9 Carbon. It didn’t look very good, and the mechanic who did the repair took the extra time to put my black lowers on the new fork. SO, I ended up with a 2013 World Cup Solo Air fork wearing an older set of black lowers. It’s pretty sweet.

Specs- 100mm of travel, 15mm Maxle lite, X-loc hydro lockout, carbon crown and steertube (cut to 152mm length). Comes with an FSA compression plug and carbon top cap (the little black thing that’s twist-tied to the stanchion)

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EBay auctions are ending around $570, so I’m asking $500 (shipping not included)

Air 9 Carbon Singlespeed for Sale

Yes, I DO have a race report to write, but my recent lack of quality sleep means I’ve come down with a case of the post-race grouchies. So, in lieu of doing a poor job of race-reporting, I’m going to make my “for sale” post for the singlespeed…

 

Frame: size small,  purchased about a year ago because I really liked the moondust color (I had/sold the white one that I’d been riding before that). Since then, I rode it a few times at Syllamo , then at the Breck Epic. So, it’s definitely the least ridden of all my bikes (it’s got a couple of paint chips, which are shown in the photos below).

Wheels: built them myself. They’re Hope hubs with NoTubes Crest rims and DT Swiss Aerolite spokes (a little lighter/stiffer/sexier than your typical round spoke). The rear rim is pretty new- I dented one at TSE last year during the Enduro stage, and Kenny swapped a new crest onto the spokes/hub. Since then, it’s only been ridden around Memphis. Tires are a Maxxis Ardent 2.25 and Ikon 2.2

Fork: Fox Talus 32  (used at 95mm setting)

Brakes: Avid XX (includes 3 sets of new pads!)

Crank: Truvativ Noir w/32t Salsa chainring

Other parts: Bar- Niner low top RDO cut to 704mm, Stem- Niner RDO 100mm, Post- Thompson setback, Grips- cheesy ones I won at a bike race. I’m assuming that if you’re buying a carbon singlespeed that you’ve already got a favorite that you’d put on there anyway (same with the saddle).

Price: $2,100, shipped anywhere in the lower 48. This price is prettymuch on-par with what you’d pay on Ebay for a similar bike (I even found a couple that were rigid that sold for the same)

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IMBA is Coming to Memphis!

A few weeks ago, one of our local trails was (once again) struck by a bandit trailbuilder. He cut new trail parallel to two different slightly steppy/rooty spots that are steppy/rooty because they’re built up the fall line of the hill they span, which causes water to wash straight down the trail. Unfortunately, the bandit built his bypasses straight up the same hill, just a few feet over, effectively creating another problem trail. I posted a photo and rant on the local mountain bike forum and got responses ranging from “those bypasses are terrible and we’re closing them down,” to “I think they’re ok/don’t know what the big deal is/they might work because they have more curve to them than the original trail.” As I explained in the post, it takes more than a curve and hopes & dreams to build a trail that isn’t going to turn to total crap within a year. Also, if a good reroute is actually built, the original trail is so compacted that it will take hand tilling in order to encourage nature to reclaim the path.
This situation revealed a more obvious problem- a lot of the mountain bike people in Memphis don’t realize that there is a real process to planning and building a trail. Heck… even the “legitimate” bypass trails that were built after a flood left large stretches of deep sand on the trail could stand some work to remove stumps that were left into the ground, improve flow, etc. Brad Corey (of the Mid South Trails Association) who I’d consider to be Memphis’ original/biggest trail advocate, had recognized the need for education in the past and applied two years in a row to have the IMBA trail care crew visit, only to be denied both times.

So, following my personal philosophy of “no complaints without a solution,” I contacted Steve Schneider, the IMBA rep from Arkansas who I’d originally met through trying to find help to fix the Syllamo trails. He has agreed to come to Memphis and give a trailbuilding seminar on April 25th. Not only will it be an opportunity for the people who work on the trails in town, it will also be an important learning opportunity for the North Mississippi Trail Alliance that’s about to start cutting new trail just south of Memphis.

Unfortunately for me, that’s the same weekend as the Ogre 150- a gravel road race in Missouri. The race will serve as a very important “dress rehersal” for the Dirty Kanza 200 at the end of May. I’m bummed, and I feel really guilty for catalyzing such an event and not being around. However, it’s in good hands with the guys in town (Brad from MSTA and Chris from NMTA) that are helping with the organization of the weekend.

If you’re reading this and interested in attending (or at least getting the notes afterwards, as I am), here’s the Facebook event page: IMBA Trail Seminar

More Photo Rambling

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That was last Friday- the final round of anesthetic injections to my left hamstring.

Also on the list of needle-related appointments was a trip by scooter out to Chiropractic Memphis for acupuncture. One of my former students is working at Affinity Acupuncture in Nashville and comes to Memphis every two weeks for a Friday/Saturday. It’s the only thing I’ve found that makes my lower back completely pain-free. I’d highly recommend him if you’re in either Memphis or Nashville (comment here or though facebook or email me for his contact info).

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I can’t wait until it’s scooter time, all the time.

The doc gave me the go-ahead on the previous visit to train as normal following the injections, so, on Saturday, I took to the road for a spirited group ride. Turns out, when the shortest/most intense intervals you’ve done in the past 4 months are 10 minutes long, the attacks/chases/etc. of such a ride create quite the pain cave.I spent the remainder of the afternoon resisting the urge to eat everything in sight.

It was nice, so I cooked outside:

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Here’s a random dog photo. Penny’s tail is always blurry unless she’s sleeping.

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Sunday was a much-needed recovery day, then Monday was an interval day. I started with some greenline/trail to warm up, then went to my usual spot in the middle of Shelby Farms where there’s a long, flat, and lightly-trafficked road that’s great for that sort of thing.

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That’s been laying on the unfinished part of the greenline for a couple of weeks now.

Today, I’ve taken the chance of another recovery day to do my usual errands, which included a trip out to Bike World/Nimblewear USA headquarters to finally put in the order for my 2014 Brickhouse Racing kit! Looks like it should get here in about 3 weeks. Looks-wise it’s mostly the same as last year. I’ve basically just changed some sponsor logos around and gone with an upgraded fabric/cut for the jersey & bibs.

I know my posts have been a little on the light side as of late. Trust me, I’m looking forward to some excitement just as much as you are. Hopefully the last few “serious” workouts prior to Warrior Creek go smoothly (the high notes- a 5 hour MTB ride tomorrow, another group ride Saturday, and one last grunt of 2x20min intervals on Tuesday) and I arrive in North Carolina ready to smash some pedals… or at least make a good story in the process of trying.

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Progress

Recovery is going pretty OK with my injected leg. The cortisone-affected area feels prettymuch normal, and the part of my hamstring that received what looks like 4 or 5 sticks (it’s hard to crane my head around and count in a mirror) is just looking/feeling bruised now. I was able to get out for a good ride and met up with some friends along the way. About 3/4s of the way through, this happened:

Those guys had no clue how to get their car unstuck… guess they don’t teach the art of rockin’ it in the academy! Along those lines, you’ll notice at the very end of the video the lack of a “thank you” from captain grouch in the driver’s seat… he was telling us to get our bikes out of the way because he wanted to drive the car on the high spot where we were parked. Apparently, he was trying to show his partner a “short cut” under the nearby bridge over the trailhead.

I’m very thankful that recovery has been easy enough that I can stay pretty active. I’m incredibly determined this year to keep my race weight a solid 140 pounds and under. I’ve been hanging out in the 142-144 area. It doesn’t sound like much, but when you’re already eating a very clean, filling diet that’s maintaining your weight, it’s basically an act of sheer willpower and hunger to lose anything. I did, however, decide that I’d reward myself once I arrived at said weight… not with some stupid pile of junk food or something like that. I designed a pair of NikeID shoes instead…

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I ordered them already, but I’ve imposed a 140 pound weight limit on them.

My #1 advice for losing anyone looking to lose weight? Control your appetite.
First off, low fat diets are totally bogus. The archaic recommendation to not eat fat is based off of old school misinformation and not off of any real science or human research. Fat and fiber make you feel full. Go ahead and eat bacon (the nitrate-free type), red meat, whatever… just watch portion size. While the fat in your food isn’t actually clogging your arteries, it is high in calories, so when you see that a serving of steak is 4oz, you’re in for a nasty wake-up call when you put that juicy ribeye on a scale. So, go for the full-fat versions of everything. While you’re at it, QUIT TAKING THE #@$*ING YOLKS OUT OF YOUR EGGS.
You’re going to get a lot more success by eliminating any sources of refined sugar (other than what you eat just before/during/after training). Eating something that’s mostly carbohydrates and little fiber/fat/protein is going to make your blood sugar rise quickly then fall below normal (I’m not going to take the time here to give you all of the physiology, but that’s the bare basics of it). Turns out, low blood sugar is a stimulus for hunger. Bonus tip: consumption of the artifical sweeteners in diet drinks will also result in low blood sugar and thus, hunger.

I’ve basically lived by that advice to successfully manage/maintain my weight (except after a long ride or bike race- I cut loose a little more then). I’ve also reduced alcohol consumption to 1 or 2 nights a week (because, let’s face it- Just Riding Along wouldn’t be the same if we were stone cold sober).

So, now that I eat mostly “good” food, I’m basically stuck with reducing the amount of food I eat. There’s no way around it, trick, or secret… I’m just hungry. It’s will power. It makes me angry at chocolate bars when I see them. However, I think of things like riding up hills, my love of looking muscle-y, custom Nike shoes, and find something distracting to do. It’s been working slow and steady, but I’m looking forward to adding in some extra training to keep things rolling in the downward direction.

Santos #3

I didn’t have an exact plan for my third and final day in Ocala, other than start the day with breakfast from the same place I’d been going to…

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The shop across the street from the trail (Greenway Bikes) has a Wednesday night group ride, and I’d brought my lights, so I was tentatively planning on that. However, once I looked at the weather forecast, I decided I’d better ride earlier since rain would be moving through later in the day. I ended up riding part of the loop I’d done on Monday with some deviations onto the “red” trails that I hadn’t ridden yet. This time, since I (sort of) knew where I was going, I did it with fewer stops along the way and started taking advantage of the general “carviness” of the trails. There’s one trail out there aptly named “Bunny,” which repeatedly dares you to lean your bike over until you feel like you’re about to drag a knee. As an added “I love Florida” bonus, I also saw a dude riding in tights, a windbreaker, and a balaclava (it was a colder-than-normal 55 degrees and cloudy).

There’s also this thing, just randomly placed along another one of the trails…

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I giggled my way though a few laps of it before heading back to the trailhead with time to spare to play around in the skills area…

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I managed to ride the super skinny one about half the time I tried it, and was even more successful at the other one… even doing it in the “backwards” direction that required a pop-up on to the raised end. Considering my general phobia of riding skinny, elevated things, I was pretty proud of myself. It was a great wrap-up to the many hours of training.

That afternoon, I packed the bikes and whatever I could into the Element to prepare for the afternoon rain and early morning departure. As predicted, it started pouring around 4:00. I stopped back by Greenway Bikes and bought a beer. I could get used to a shop like that…

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The remainder of the afternoon was spent lounging in the giant tent, listening to the rain.

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Later on, I went back to Chipotle for dinner, but not until after I’d found a huge liquor store and gone on a beer hunt for Ryan. Liquor store employees are really friendly when you walk through the door and immediately grab a shopping cart.

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The next day, I was up, packed, and out of the campground by 7:00am. I’ve decided that winter training in Florida is a great thing, and I’m definitely going back next time the weather turns foul in Memphis. Speaking of… I made it back to Memphis just in time for the weather to be nicer here. It seems as if winter is finally losing its grip on the city (though, there are a few cold days in the forecast next week). Hopefully, the worst is over.

Santos #2

Tuesday, my training schedule was split in half. After getting up and going to breakfast, I came back and went out for an easy-ish ride. I decided I’d go over to the Vortex/Freeride area of the trail system and ride the “black diamond” loop then gawk/take photos at all the crazy stuff I’d only dream of riding during a nightmare. It didn’t disappoint…

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I did giggle my way through these two:

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What you DON’T see, either in the photo or actually standing at the top of that first one is that right where the rocks are a little ways down the trail, there’s another really steep drop-off. I’m proud to say, though, I handled it without panic or feeling as if it were a “close call” of any sort. I liked the black diamond trail a lot… it was very reminiscent of some Arkansas rockiness.
Fun side story of the day- the Black Diamond/Freeride area has a “qualifier” obstacle at both the front and back entrances (defined by IMBA as a high-skill-level, low-consequence obstacle that demonstrates the difficulty of the upcoming trail or trail feature). I came in through the back, where the qualifier is a rock… I was like, “hell yeah! I love rocks!” And, I popped right over it. I rode the loop, took my photos, then was headed out the front entrance, when I arrived at its qualifier… a tall, skinny ramp/bridge. I got off and walked, garnering all sorts of weird looks from the 2-3 carloads of dudes in the parking lot. Whatevs… rocks > man-made stuff

Once I was back at the tent, I cleaned up, snacked, and kicked back for a little while to figure out where I’d go for the 20 minute intervals I was supposed to do that afternoon:

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The selfie was mandatory since it was warm enough for shorts and a tank top.

I wasn’t familiar with the roads in the area, and the ones I’d driven on were all super traffic-y. So, I decided I’d drive out to the westernmost point I’d reached the day before and ride the open doubletrack paths in that area. It ended up working well- there’s just enough up/down grade to force you to shift & chance cadence occasionally, so it was perfect for long intervals.

Once I was done, I drove back and repeated the previous night’s snack/cleanup/dinner at Chipotle routine. Why mess with a good thing, right?