Just Riding Along and Stuff

Just Riding Along seems to be gaining some traction in recent episodes. If you aren’t sure what I’m talking about, you can check it out here: Mountain Bike Radio- Just Riding Along

The past few episodes, we’ve actually had more write-in questions via Facebook than what we can cover in the show, which is great, because it’s very effective insurance against dead air- on a related note, if you want to be 100% certain that we fully discuss a topic that you want information about, I’d suggest actually calling in during the show. We often times have to speculate, which is fun, but may not give you what you’re looking for. Added bonus- you’re also much more likely to win the giveaway if we’ve got one.

Since it seems we’ve got a good listener-base, I’ve also been trying to procure some product to test/review/talk to someone about on air, and, so far, I’m 0 for 3. Apparently, no one other than Bruce Dickman from ProGold sees the value in internet radio shows (nothing wrong with that, of course- we’re pretty huge fans of their products).

On the training front, everything is chugging along. I’m putting in approximately 15 hours per week (give or take), and, though my legs were arguing with me yesterday about the intensity of some 15 minute intervals (I eventually won the argument, but it took lots of loud music and hurt a lot), everything is going pretty well. The weather here is back to 40/windy/humid as f*** for the foreseeable future, so my volume is acutely stunted by taking to the occasional trainer ride. Not that I can’t get out in that stuff…

Tough day at the office

…it’s just some days, 40 and raining feels less tolerable than others.

In “mechanic of the century” news, I found one last thing that got killed by the mud/powerwashers at CX Worlds. Fullface Kenny was giving me a hand with a quick check of tension on my 2 sets of I9 wheels (normal suggested maintenance after the first few rides) when he found that all of the outboard bearings in my i25 road tubeless wheels were dead (not the wheels’ fault- this is guaranteed to happen to any bearing if you’re sloppy with the pressure washer). I hadn’t touched them other than one washing since we’d come back home, so I’d totally missed it. So, it was impromptu hub rebuild time at the shop. Luckily, Kenny has continued my legacy of bearing hoarding at the shop, so I was able to replace everything that was crunchy. I got artsy with Instagram (again).
P.S. In case you were wondering, after a little thrashing- including both Syllamo and Tour de Wolf (read- irresponsibly fast launches from washed out root drops), the Trail 24s were in near-perfect shape.

Finally, in “EVO Saga” news, Cannondale has responded favorably to my previous blog posts about my frame issues (I was actually contacted directly by Mandy Braverman from @CannondaleWomen on Twitter). Previous issues aside, it’s nice to see a company that responds to customer issues rather than ignoring them/pretending they don’t exist, or, even worse, deleting them from existence when posted in a public social media spot (ask Dan Hensley what he thinks about Specialized’s views on IMBA Rule #2). As of Tuesday, they are supposed to be shipping a new bike my way. This one should be non-defective and totally compatible with any PF30 bottom bracket available. I plan on tearing my current frame down again today in preparation for the new one’s arrival, though I’m not getting too excited just yet, because I don’t know if it’s shipped. I’ll keep you posted.

Crosswinds Classic

There’s really nothing to report about this one. I showed up, registered, then was approached by an official and one of the two other 1/2/3 women (Scotti Wilborne) who were at the race. Instead of racing in a small group, she wanted to ride in the men’s 1/2 race. Her reasoning? She didn’t want us to get battered by the wind for 70 miles/4hours (our race was billed at 39 miles- I have NO idea where she got those numbers), be bored, and not get a good training day. I think, to paraphrase, she was saying, “I don’t want to grind around in the wind with one/two other people then sprint for the finish.” She even told me, “if you don’t want to do the distance, you can pull out after two laps, and I’ll let them call you the winner.”

I told her two things:
-I’m here to race, I don’t care how many people it’s against.
-If I wanted to hang around on a group ride with fast guys, I wouldn’t drive all the way here and pay money. I’d stay home and go to a group ride.

The one thing I didn’t say (which, honestly, I don’t think would have changed her mind) was, “hey, I don’t know where you got the idea that I was going to make it easy, but I intend doing my damnedest to kick your ass and win, even if it’s just the two of us.”

When I was arguing with Scotti about which race to do, I was hoping that the other Memphis woman who was at the race, Pam Tate would be at the start line. Instead, she raced the men’s master’s race. She complained that it was too easy. I told her afterward that she should’ve raced me, because it wouldn’t have been easy. She gave some sort of reason that had to do with needing more/faster pack racing because she was doing some bigger races this season.

The thing is, women can’t actually race each other in a men’s race. The guys get in the way. They either chase you and weld you back into the field, or they’re making breakaway moves of their own, and you’re not welcome to play. What it turns into is sitting in the group, listening to guys piss and moan at each other, occasionally going hard, then finishing with the pack. It’s essentially a group ride, but with slightly higher testosterone levels. The men’s 1/2 race at Crosswinds had two break groups, and, with that, most of the teams were represented, and the field shut down to “roll to the finish” speed. One of Ryan’s teammates reported that Scotti was complaining that no one was chasing the breakaways down.

So, I rode 39 miles with a couple of tandems and a couple of juniors. I rode the first lap with them, then I decided to do my own thing and ride the 2nd & 3rd of the 3 laps as hard as possible. I got my training for the day. I wished it didn’t have to be that way, though.

No-Race Weekend

If you’ve been around for a while, you may (or may not) notice that I skipped the 4th Annual Southern Cross Race. I’ve had a lot of fun doing it the last 3 years, but with CX Worlds extending my CX training so far into the winter, I wasn’t feeling the race weekend. Looks like it was cold and damp as usual, and the women’s podium ended up with the same ladies on it as last year.

Could I have podium-ed? With my current level of fitness, probably so, but speculation is pretty useless in bike racing.

Am I sad I missed it? Nope. I spent the weekend training. Saturday, the guys from 901 Racing invited me out for their (chilly) team ride. It was a mostly steady ride, which was good since my legs were pretty trashed feeling from the previous days of training. On the hard efforts, I could tell that the power was in there, I just had to work past the “quads fresh out of the meat grinder” feeling to get to it. Saturday afternoon, Matt and I visited No Regrets. This time, however, I wasn’t the one getting the ink:

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Sunday, Ryan completed his shortest homebrew session ever when he started a 3-gallon batch of cider. Hopefully, it turns out to be a viable option for gluten-free homebrewing (his last attempts resulted in a mead that tastes like olive brine and a sorghum beer that’s super bitter with an aftertaste of more bitter). Luckily, this seems like the simplest of the three, and, if the finished recipe is any indication, it’s going to be incredibly tasty.

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After that, Ryan, Matt, and I rode most of the Wolf River Trails. We attempted to go to Grey’s Creek (a less-used, slightly more adventurous trail), but one of the creek crossings a couple of miles in was way washed out, and continuing on would have meant either searching upstream for a better crossing or getting our legs wet/cleats clogged w/mud in the washed out one (neither of which was a desirable option for the guys). So, we turned around and dodged runners on the more traveled trails.

Because of the incoming rain, I’m skipping yoga this morning and going out for my ride instead. Ryan and Matt are both traveling for their jobs this week. I’m excited to have the house to myself so I can go to late yoga class then lay around in my underwear with a bottle of wine and a cheesy movie that includes explosions and sweaty men with no shirts. Bachelorette mode: engage.

Weekend at Syllamo & Industry 9 Trail 24 initial review

First- the riding.

It was awesome, as always. I’ve visited a lot of trails in my short-ish time as a mountain biker, but the Syllamo trails are still some of the most beautiful and challenging I’ve encountered. I did my usual Friday afternoon warmup on the green & orange trails- it’s a good start to a weekend there because you can knock out the loops in ~1.5 hours, and they leave from the closest trailhead, which means the drive there is easy. Those particular trails also give you a nice sampling of what Syllamo has to offer- climbs, descents, flowy stuff, overlooks, and, of course, what’re probably the two “best” rock gardens of the entire system.

Somewhere, in the midst of cyclocross training, I improved my ability to negotiate rock gardens. I’m not 100% sure how (improvement in my equipment is a contributing factor for sure, but more on that in a minute), because I was generally glued to a ‘cross bike since Christmas. Friday afternoon, I managed to clean the rock gardens on both the green and orange trails, first time through- something that, until Friday afternoon, I’ve never managed to pull off, even individually. There’s always been at least one dab or do-over every time I’ve ridden them. I went back to the cabin basking in the awesomeness of rock garden domination and enjoyed the sunset with a glass of wine on the back porch.

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Saturday morning, I met up with some people for a quick trailwork party. We cut a corridor through a logged-off section (essentially, that means that if you can stand in the trail with your arms out, you cut anything between your fingertips that’s not a grown-up tree). In the logged areas like this one, it’s lots of lopper and line trimmer work. It’ll pay off big time once spring hits by keeping the angry plants off the trail for an extra month or two before mother nature takes over completely for the summer.

 

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After that, we got on our bikes and went tree hunting. First, to a downed one on the yellow trail. Then, we split up, and Wes and I went to the blue and orange trails. Before splitting, we stopped back at the cars, which were parked at a campsite down a logging road. While we were there, the campers occupying the site drove up. They were two college students who were researching stress hormones in wood frogs. Apparently, that was the Southern end of the frogs’ territory, and they were hoping that the incoming rain (which ended my trip a day early) would bring about successful trapping. We also encountered a group of guys in ATVs who were looking for an ATV-legal path to the yellow trail overlook. They were camping elsewhere for one guy’s bachelor party (too bad all guys can’t be classy enough to go enjoy beer and nature for their bachelor parties).

 

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We removed 3 more trees from the blue and orange trails before finishing up the orange loop and riding back up the forest road to our cars. The trail is nice and clear for now, but the hog damage is getting out of control in some areas. They root along the side of the trail and turn over dirt, rocks, and leaves. The fluffy leaves hide the rocks, making for a dangerous riding condition in some sections where you can’t see what’s hiding under the leaves. Other than a bounty or hunting season, I’m not sure what we can do before they tear everything up.

Enough about the battle with hogs. On to the good stuff…

It’s not often that I’m wrong, but, I have to admit, here and now, that, for the last 3 years, I’ve led many people down the wrong path when it comes to hubs. Before this weekend, if you asked me, “should I get a hub with uber-fast engagement?” I would have answered you with something along the lines of, “you won’t notice a fast-engaging hub as much as you’ll notice if your hub engages slowly.”

Well, I was mistaken.

I didn’t think that a fraction of a second of faster engagement could make a difference in clearing a spot or not clearing it. Actually, it makes a huge difference. Granted, my fitness is great right now, and that helps with the tech-riding success I had this weekend. However, I can’t discount the impact that my new wheels had on my ability to put the fitness to good use. I was amazed over and over again at how much of a blast I had riding them.

Also, I’ve had a lot of people ask me about the I9 stiffness vs. the carbon ENVE wheels I rode last season. No, they’re not as stiff. But, if I put everything I’ve owned on a scale of 1 to 10, 1 being American Classic Race wheels and 10 being ENVE carbon, I’d give the Trail 24s about an 8.5 (for further reference, a Stan’s Crest/DT Swiss aerolite/hope would be a “5” in my head).

My totally subjective judgement on stiffness is based on a couple of things- one being how much the wheels make you notice “other” stuff about your bike setup- i.e. you have to pay much more attention to things like suspension and tire pressure adjustments when your wheels are super-stiff. The ENVE wheels beat the hell out of me the first time I rode them in Arkansas because I needed to make major changes in my front fork setup (lighter weight oil in the damper/less air pressure). The I9s made me realize that I needed less air pressure in my tires as well (previously not a problem with the ENVEs since the rim was sooooo narrow; previously not a problem on the AMClassics because they were superflexy). My other (totally subjective, possibly untrue) measure is more of a feeling of flex under load. I’ve noticed that some wheels (both mountain and road) seem to have a weird vibration (almost like a groan) that resonates through the drivetrain when I’m putting down a good bit of power. On a mountain bike, it’s just annoying. On a road bike, it will make me think I have a flat tire.

So, initial reports for the I9 trail 24 wheels- Wow. Just, wow. Sure, it’s just been one weekend, but Syllamo is not a place that suffers lesser equipment lightly. I’m absolutely itching to get some more time on these as the season continues.

Rest Week

Saturday morning, Ryan was tired from his Friday race, and I was tired of being cold and muddy (the Power Washers were frozen/broken on Friday, so I spent the duration of his race scraping and chipping mud-ice off/out of his bikes 2x every lap). So, in lieu of sticking around to watch Saturday’s Elite races, Ryan and I packed up and headed back to Memphis.

Another driving factor was Sunday’s festivities- our roommate Matt’s birthday ride,  AKA “Poolboy Matt’s Birthday Death March.” We rode a couple of hours with a big group, drank some beer and whiskey, and a good time was had by all. Unlike 100 mile MTB races, a 40 minute CX race will leave you tired, kinda sore, but not fully destroyed. So, a rest week after a hard race is more of a mental break than a physical one.

Actually, I’m still feeling pretty tapered and awesome right now, so my plan for today is to go out to Herb Parson’s Lake and ride a couple of laps on my new Industry 9 Trail 24 wheels. I’d tell you all about them myself, but it just so happens that someone else just posted a really good rundown on them this morning. So, chances are, you’ve read it already. Unlike his, which are straight up pink, I tortured a wheelbuilder with my color scheme. I decided on a combination of purple, gold, and black spokes with a purple hub. The purple & gold are just bright enough to be flashy, and the black ties everything together to keep it classy. Win-win:

(excuse the sloppy chain tension)
Close-up of front hub

 

I’m very stoked to get wheels this nice. I’m even MORE stoked that, in the 18 hours that they’ve been in my possession, I’ve seen a tremendous response from local people who want to get a set. It makes me feel warm/fuzzy/happy inside when my sponsors get a return on their investment. If you enjoy reading my adventures in bike racing, click those links on the right and tell them you saw it here. I swear it makes a difference… the more you buy their stuff, the more I get to show their stuff off to the “world” via bike racing/blogging. It’s a beautiful feedback cycle.

This weekend, I’ll really get to put the wheels through their paces at Syllamo. The guys are going to their team camp somewhere in Middle Tennessee, so I’m going on a solo mountain bike retreat to the cabin for a few days. While I’m there, I’m going to get a little more focused on what exactly I’d like to do this summer for a race season. Amanda Carey summed up my feelings very well in her recent interview with MTBRacenews. I’ve got a basic framework started with Whiskey Off-road, TSE, some SS National Championship racing, and Breck Epic, but now it’s time to fill in the gaps.

 

One more week

Suddenly, it’s just a few days until we leave for Louisville. Not only am I tired of preparing physically for the race, I’m also a little tired of typing about it. I’m stronger than last year, the competition will be deeper than last year. All I have to do now is race outside myself in 6 days. Let’s just leave it at that.

In more exciting news, I sold the Air9 Carbon!!! I’m extra happy because a woman bought it. Not to sound “reverse sexist,” or anything, but it always makes me super excited to see other women on really nice bikes. The replacement for that frame is another Air9 Carbon CYA frame, but in moondust. I am going to make it a little more sexy than before with the Niner RDO bar, stem, and Ti Cog (I got a 20t in case I’m riding someplace where the Endless 21t kickass cog isn’t appropriate) as well as an MRP Bling Ring. Now all I need is for my Industry 9 Trail 24 wheels to show up, and I’ll be worthy of a spot on the Sick Whips page of Dirtwire.tv.

Hopefully it’ll all arrive while I’m in Kentucky next week, and I can do some building on Monday and/or Tuesday. That won’t be the only thing I’ll have to build- my warranty replacement Cannondale Super6 EVO frame should be here next week as well. I realized soon after I built it that the drag I was feeling on the crank wasn’t “new bearing” drag. Turns out, the bottom bracket shell was out of spec, and when Cannondale tried to fix the problem by sending me a new bottom bracket, the replacement got stuck inside my frame. Not just like “hard to get out” stuck, more like, “large men laid it on the ground and hammered on a stuck driveside bearing and it’s still in there” stuck. So, the replacement frame ships out on the 28th. I’m excited to have my road bike back.

Here are some random pictures from the last week:

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Move on…

I wasn’t going to post anything because I’ve tried to avoid the whole Lance/Oprah thing as much as possible. I’m not really going to talk about it. I just wanted to rant a little (surprise surprise) about the whole “sensation” stirred up on news and social media.

I don’t want to watch anyone’s downfall. I can’t relish in it. No matter how “bad” a person is, I’m not happy to see anyone fail, get thrown under a bus, be executed (figuratively or literally- talking all levels of bad here), or fall from any sort of grace. It doesn’t make me happy to see Lance Armstrong get any sort of comeuppance for actions or lies of his past. I feel uncomfortable when I see/hear people celebrating societal and/or physical revenge on someone.

Right now, I’m more concerned with the war on little black ants in my kitchen that’s now spilling over to my computer desk (before you say anything, yes, I feel bad when ants die, too, but I feel worse when I find one crawling on my arm while I’m typing). I’m more concerned with finding a suitable partner for PMBAR and Double Dare so I can enter the series for a chance to vie for the title of Queen of Pisgah. I am concerned with the two more days of hard training I need to complete before my WCCX taper starts- both a relief, because I’m exhausted, and a stress, because after Sunday, I’ve built what I can, and I can’t build any more. I have way too many things to keep me busy to mess with celebrating a confession that was pointlessly obvious in the first place.

Hey, everyone, I’m real sorry to have to tell you this, but I have a mohawk and more than one tattoo. I tried to cover it up forever, but I’m ready to come clean and admit my propensity towards bad hairstyles and permanent body art.

If you want to quit re-hashing the past and talk about something current, follow @lauren1717 on Twitter. She’s posted a lot of great links to articles about the current plight of women’s pro cycling.

Bike for Sale/Training in the Rain

First off, I’ve posted it on Facebook, but I’ll put it here, too. I’m selling my Air9 Carbon CYA frame and RDO rigid fork. It’s out of total vanity- I want a Moondust color frame.

Air9 Carbon CYA Frame- I got this particular frame back in September of 2011, and I’ve had it set up singlespeed since then. The frame is a small, and includes headset bearings, eccentric bottom bracket, a PF90 insert (new in box), and shift upgrade kit. I included a pic of a scuff on the top tube where my brake lever hit it. Other than that, any other scratches are very minor.
Carbon RDO Fork- The fork is very lightly used. I trained on it a little over last winter (not much since I was getting ready for Worlds 2012 and mostly riding my CX bike), used it at Cohutta 100, then took it off. It probably has less than 200 miles on it (104 of those being Cohutta). The RDO fork has a tapered steertube and 15mm thru-axle.

Asking price $1100 for the set. If you’re just interested in one or the other, you’re welcome to make an offer, but I’m not quite as keen to make such a sweet deal on one as I am for both. How sweet is this deal? Well, retail on all of these things new is $2650 (frame/frame parts/fork). If you’re local, I’ll even drive it over to your house. Not local? We’ll work something out on the shipping…

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Over the weekend, the weather turned foul again, with more rain moving in and temperatures plummeting overnight Saturday. I found myself doing “hour of power” workouts in a downpour both days (in addition to some extra trainer time Sunday morning). The 40/raining ride wasn’t as bad as you’d think. It was a combination of not being out for an incredibly long time (1.5 hours) as well as having a good rain jacket and fenders. It was also the maiden voyage on my kickass Industry Nine tubeless road wheels, which automatically made everything at least 5% more awesome.

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The wheels really do kick ass. With tubeless valves and rim strips, they are exactly 1500g. If you’re looking for a reference, my Mavic Ksyrium SLS wheels were 1490g with valves. The most noticeable difference between the two? The I9 rim is HUGE. They make my CX tires ride more like a MTB tire, which is great for sliding around in the mud. I can’t wait to put them on my road bike once ‘cross season is over.

Sunday’s training in and of itself wasn’t the most fatiguing workout possible. However, the accumulation of all of the training I’ve been doing up until Sunday made me feel pretty exhausted. My legs were on fire inside my compression tights, and when I tried to use the foam roller, I felt almost nauseous. So, in lieu of rolling, I emptied everything ice-related from the freezer into my tub and took a 15 minute ice bath.

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The first 3 minutes is the worst. After that, it’s actually pretty relieving.

Today, the recovery efforts continue. I’m going to yoga in a little bit, going for a short, easy ride, then follow it up with food, rest, and another attempt at rolling the muscles out. If all goes as planned, tomorrow is another hard two-a-day. This week will be the hardest before training backs off into tapering the following two. I’m eager to get it done and get to racing.

A whole bag of awesome

Suddenly, a bunch of cool stuff just happened on the sponsor front.

Monday evening, I received an email from Gu Energy. I’d sent the application for sponsorship off a while ago and hadn’t heard back, so I’d started to wonder. What they have to offer is more generous than I ever would have imagined, so I’m incredibly stoked to be a part of the team.

Then, Tuesday morning, I got an email from Industry Nine. My road wheels are ready, and they’re gonna be here on Thursday! Riding along in the box with my wheels will be a shiny new Endless Bikes Kickass Cog- a gold 21t. Not that I’m not already lighting off fireworks in the kitchen out of excitement over my road wheels, but the thing I’m most excited about from I9 is the new mountain wheels that will be here in another month or so. Purple hubs, purple/black/gold spokes… yeah. It will be a dream come true if those get here before my post-worlds Syllamo trip.

To polish off the “great sponsors” trifecta, the UPS man dropped off a ProGold care package, courtesy of Bruce Dickman:

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The bike wash is magical:

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In other, totally random happenings, I woke up yesterday morning and found that I had a kitchen drawer full of little black ants. After 5 minutes worth of research on the internet, I ran to Lowes for some Terro ant bait. What happened next, I can only describe as the “ant rave of doom.”  They congregated by the hundreds in the drawer and gorged themselves on poisoned sugar syrup.

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This picture is from early on. It got way more intense as the day continued. Hopefully, this is the final battle in my ant war.

Kit!

Sometime near the end of the week, this will be here from Nimblewear:

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(Huge thanks to Micheal at S2N Design for the design)

Just in time for delightful onslaught of purple accessories to hit the market:

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That last one is the X-project shoe from Pearl Izumi. It would be perfect for racing CX, but it doesn’t exist in stores yet. According to the regional rep, I’m going to have to wait ’til March. All I’m missing now is a fresh pair of black Swiftwick Pursuit 4s (best sock, EVER) to tie it all together.

Since posting the proof on my Facebook wall, I’ve had a few people make mention of wanting a Brickhouse kit for themselves. Once I get it in and see the colors/fit in person, I’ll have a better idea of when/how I’ll do a run for people who would like to buy one. It would be a slightly modified graphic (I’m guessing no one will care if theirs doesn’t say “Wilson” on the collar), and I’d take a deposit for whatever items you wanted. Kits would get here 4-6 weeks after you order, and I’d send them out once I had all of your money.

Even if I’m not the fastest woman at Worlds, I’ll surely be the best dressed.

Speaking of fastest, my training this weekend went well. After a frigid morning ride on Saturday, I lounged on the couch until later in the afternoon, when I did some 20 minute intervals on the trainer. I know a lot of people detest the trainer, but I’m finding it to be a comforting pain cave. Versus riding outside, it’s easier to maintain a steady power output, and, when I’m done with my last interval, I can sit up and pedal at 50 watts to cool down while looking at Facebook on my sweet new iPhone versus taking the energy to ride home from the roads that I typically use for intervals. It’s also a lot easier to dress. Winter laundry = hamper full in two days.
Yesterday, I did ride outside. I did the “hammer time” interval workout, where I warmup for 15 minutes, ride hard for an hour, then cool down for 15 minutes. I was getting a little tired in the last 15 minutes… thankfully, my Worlds race is only 40 min long.