Holy s(&*

I’m slowly coming to the realization that in a few days, I’ll no longer be a part of “normal” working society. This, along with the incoming good news in sponsor support I’ve received is nearly overwhelming at times. I’m also a little surprised by how supportive the local cycling community is. Not that they aren’t a great, friendly group of people- it’s just that I wasn’t expecting them to be so genuinely happy to see me bypass the “what ifs” and go all out in pursuit of my dreams.

I’m every synonym you could possibly imagine for “excited” with a dash of “terrified” thrown in just to make things more interesting.

In the immediate future, tomorrow is the Outdoors, Inc. Cyclocross race. Unfortunately, there’s also a USGP race in Louisville this weekend, so unless someone headed there takes a wrong turn at Albuquerque, the Nashville contingent (and several Arkansas racers) aren’t likely to show up in Memphis on Sunday. After that, I’m generally sticking to more local/regional CX racing.
Zandr asked this morning why I don’t pursue high-end CX sponsorships. Well, I love CX, and I love being in the pain cave for 45-50 minutes at a time, but after traveling all over for a long season of mountain bike races, I’m ready to keep it local(ish) for the winter months. Unfortunately, local(ish) in Memphis means racing a handful of women who like to start slow/in the back (read last Saturday’s race report) and the occasional Men’s race with <20 entries. Not exactly what the bigger companies are looking for marketing purposes. My biggest races this season are the Tennessee State Championships as well as Master’s Worlds at the end of January. It’s going to be interesting to maintain/build top end power for the duration of the winter training season, but it’s not like I won’t have the time ;)

 

As cheesy as it sounds, I saw this on Facebook this morning, and it makes me think of my upcoming adventures:

 

Expansion ~~From the moment we are born, the world tends to have a container already built for us to fit inside: A social security number, a gender, a race, a profession or an I.Q. I ponder if we are more defined by the container we are in, rather than what we are inside. Would we recognize ourselves if we could expand beyond our bodies? Would we still be able to exist if we were authentically ‘un-contained’?

 

Gearhead CX- Village Creek

Sunday presented us with a choice of two cross races- either Nashville, which would be a sure thing as far as the course and competition, or a race at Village Creek State Park in Arkansas, which was a first year event that we hadn’t heard much about. At half the car time it’d take to get to the Nashville race, Arkansas won out.

Ryan, Matt, and I arrived at the park, and I wanted to get in a nice, long warmup like I’d done the previous day. We registered, then I changed and headed out to check out the rest of the park (if you’re ever wondering, the path through the golf course is beautiful and somewhat deserted this time of year). I rode for nearly half an hour before coming back to the car to have a *RedBull, make clothing adjustments, and ride a couple of laps on course. While I was doing that, Matt was getting off of the trainer.

The first course “feature” I hit when I left the car was an ~36in tall pile of dirt that looked like a small BMX jump in steepness and texture. You couldn’t see where the trail went on the other side, so I took it somewhat slow and ratchet-pedaled over the top. Following that, the course was a mix of traditional cyclocross grass hills/off camber/grass that took a turn into the nearby woods for a 1/4 to half mile of singletrack. It was pretty smooth, but also included three 3-4 foot wide bridges with on/off ramps and no side rails. They added a whole ‘nother level of sketch to some of the questionable stuff I’d previously seen on cyclocross courses.

As I rounded the last few turns before I was back at the car, I heard a loud “WHACK” noise and yelling from somewhere on course. I didn’t really think anything of it and continued back to the car to make a final clothing adjustment before the race. A minute later, Matt came walking through the field carrying his bike and obviously shaken. He was covered in dirt and was bleeding from his face, neck, shoulder, knee, and back of his hands. As he dropped his bike and sat down, I tried to figure out what had happened and how badly he was hurt. People started to gather, and someone pointed out that his bike was broken-

(Yeah, I know, bad focus in the photo, but it’s what I’ve got for now. You get the idea)

Matt looked bad. He’d gone too fast over the top of the dirt hump and launched just enough to float above the ground on the other side until his front wheel hit at the bottom. His frame crumpled on impact, and he landed on his face and chest. We called the paramedics over. While they were checking him out, he started to feel dizzy and lightheaded. They didn’t know if he’d hit his head or was just experiencing low blood pressure, so they took him to the ambulance and said they may need to take him to the hospital.

Keep in mind, this is about 10 minutes before the race was supposed to start.

At that point, I’d been not warming up for about 10 minutes, and, as racers were lining up, paramedics are talking about taking my roommate/friend to the hospital. I told Ryan to go on, and that I’d decided not to race. Actually, there was no decision. The whole thing had me so shaken up that I just didn’t even think about it. I changed clothes and stuck around the car in case they decided he needed to go get checked out.

Turns out, he was generally OK. They cleaned him up and let him out about halfway through the race, and he helped me cheer Ryan on for the last couple of laps.

Not that I didn’t know already, but I realized even more so how important your brain is in racing. When I’m focused and ready, I can take on giants. If my brain is worried about my friend smashing his face on the ground, I feel physically incapable of pedaling my bike. I don’t feel bad at all for not racing, either.

CyclocrossRoads Clash Race Report

Saturday’s CX Roads Clash race was somewhat of a late addition to the Memphis Cyclocross calendar. It worked out well, though, because the double race weekend I’d originally planned to attend in Nashville was shortened to a one-day event, and there was a race on schedule in Wynne, Arkansas for Sunday (about half the distance compared to Nashville).

I managed to miss my pre-race tune-up ride on Friday (I was planning on doing some quick intensity during my commute home from work, but found out during the workday that my super baller EVO had a seized drive side bottom bracket bearing which had scored the aluminum spindle of the crank. Unfortunately, the bearings feel fine out of the bike and both get “heavy” once they’re pressed in (the drive side being worse). Cannondale is sending a replacement BB and spindle, though I’m pretty sure that’s not going to solve the problem. Here’s to hoping I’m wrong.

Anyways… So I didn’t ride Friday. Saturday, I decided I’d get to the race pretty early (it was at Shelby Farms, which is only a couple of miles from my house, and where I go for most of my CX training). Ryan (who raced the A race) and I drove over, and I headed out on my B bike for a nice, 40 minute warmup. I arrived back at the car to have a Red Bull, change bikes, and go for an easy lap of the course before lining up at the start.

There were 4 other women at the line, and, between us, cat 4 men, and singlespeeders, there were 31 starters. I figured I’d have a good handle on the women (they lined up in the back and told me they liked to start “slow”), but I wasn’t sure what the men (some of which are very strong roadies) would do. When we were given the GO signal, we hammered off down a hill. A guy from Marx-Bensdorf took the holeshot, followed by Boomer Leopold on his singlespeed and Dale Sanford (also a strong road guy from M-B), who explained to me during the race that this was only his second time on his cyclocross bike. I was next, followed by all of the chasers.

As we negotiated the first few turns/hills/barrier before the first singletrack, Boomer took the lead, and I fell in behind Dale and M-B guy. The first couple of turns were rooty and pretty ridiculous for high-speed CX riding. Dale nearly wrecked (I don’t know if he clipped a pedal or nearly went off-trail) and Boomer took off as we almost piled up behind Dale. Going up the longer hill out of the woods, the other M-B guy who had hole-shotted ended up flubbing his remount after some logs, and I ran past him, landing me in 3rd position, chasing Boomer and Dale with the other M-B guy on my wheel.

I put my head down and reeled Dale in a couple of feet at a time over the next lap. Somewhere, the other M-B guy fell off. As we exited the woods into the headwind on the 2nd lap, I overtook Dale. He stayed mostly on my wheel for the entire race, but never tried to go around.

(I’m not totally sure why he was on that side of his bike in this photo)

Some more photos, courtesy of Micheal Carpenter…

 

I suffered hard. You have to when you’re leading someone who, by all the power-to-weight numbers, should be kicking your ass. I never caught Boomer, but I wasn’t that far back, either.

The A race that followed was a good one to watch- with the recent addition of junior tri/running talent Seth Rider to the top of the podium, there’s a bit of a shake-up in the usual “pecking order” of local men’s racing. Should be a good one to watch at next weekends’ Outdoors, Inc. race.

The Next Episode

Ok, so earlier in the week, I made mention that I was quitting work to begin training more. It’s a decision that Ryan and I have made after a fair amount of deliberation over the last few months. Being a professional cyclist has been a dream of mine since the first time I pedaled a bike as an adult. Right now, I’m good. I’m fit enough to win regional stuff and get an NUE podium when the right people (don’t) show up. I’m not content with this. I feel as though I’ve reached a bit of a plateau in my ability to get faster because of both the time and physical demands of my job (as a mechanic, you’re basically on your feet for 30-40 hours a week).

Now for the realistic part- I could do this and still fail. I might reach a genetic limit and not get a lot faster than I am now. I’m aware of this. I’m OK with this, too. It won’t upset me to know that I tried as hard as possible, but there’s no way for me to be as fast as the women I want to race head to head with. I also realize that there’s not much money in cycling- ESPECIALLY women’s cycling. I’m not looking to make money. I’m basically looking for it to no longer cost me money to race. So, I’m giving it two seasons, then re-evaluating and making future plans. ‘Til then, I’m going for it.

On the sponsor front, exciting things have been happening since Interbike, and, surprisingly enough, very little of it Interbike related. My main sponsors will be Niner Bikes, Industry Nine, and Outdoors, Inc. A couple of local guys are the US distributors of Nimblewear Clothing, and they’ve offered to make a kit for me. It’s going to be black & purple. I love purple.

These companies are all being very generous in their support. While you enjoy reading the next chapter in my great cycling adventure, the best thing you can do right now is shop with my sponsors. Tell them you appreciate their support of Brickhouse Racing (and whoever else they sponsor). The important part is that they make money because of the relationship they have with my racing/blogging. Your money helps them make aspiring cyclists’ dreams a reality.

I’m in the process of figuring out what races I’m targeting. So far the list includes the Whiskey 50, Trans-Sylvania Stage Race,  Breck Epic Stage Race, and XC/Marathon National Championships. There will be more, but those are the ones that are on the radar for now.

Show of hands…

How many of you have been around here since the blog beginning?

The Kenda road team days?

How about back during my short stint on the Metro Volkswagen team followed shortly after by a nervous breakdown which led me to mountain biking?

My first 100?  (You know… the Cohutta ’10 with all the rain and thunder?)

My first road trip to Colorado? Second?

Just started reading today?

 

How about that time that I decided I’d quit working my “normal” job in the bike shop and dedicate most of my free time to racing and training in an attempt to become a professional cyclist?

 

 

 

Wait, what?

 

Race to the Canal Report

Before this weekend, I’d never ridden in the Land Between the Lakes area. So, when I had to make a race-schedule decision between either Race to the Canal on my mountain bike or Cyclocross in Nashville, I went with the “spend more time in the woods with gorgeous fall colors” option. Race to the Canal is a 37 mile (for Cat1 and Open categories) point-to-point race that takes the North-South and Canal Loop trails from the middle of the Land Between the Lakes peninsula to the canal at the north end. Other categories started further north.

Poolboy Matt came along to race the “37 Open” category. We arrived mid-day on Saturday, and stopped by the bike shop to get some trail info before heading out to pre-ride some of the course. The people at the Wood ‘N Wave shop are super nice (they also have a female mechanic, which just adds to the awesome). Matt was having some problems with a bad schrader valve on his fork, and they were really helpful in fixing it. The pre-ride was great. We rode the Canal Loop- half of which wasn’t race course, but we figured it was a good chance to get a feel for the landscape. The conditions were essentially perfect- a little bit of dampness had transformed the trail into mostly “hero dirt” (when the dirt is just wet enough to make it ultra-grippy), and the leaves were in full-on color change. I was excited to see the rest of the trail on Sunday.

The next morning, with the help of some friends, we got a ride to our start location just in time for the pre-race meeting. The 37 mile group was small enough that we ended up being started as a group rather than with gaps between categories. I was glad- the other two women who’d entered had already told me they weren’t going to try to race with me (makes me a little sad), so I decided I’d see if I could hang with the guys.

When the race started, a bunch of guys took off at full speed. I was near the back of the fast people when I rounded a corner to see one of them getting back on his bike. The slowdown was enough to let Matt and the other guys get down the trail and out of sight. I was immediately on the wrecked guy’s wheel, but didn’t ask to get around because it was pretty obvious that he was faster, but just needed to get his shit back together after wrecking. I was right, and soon enough, on the first climb, he disappeared into the woods, and I was alone.

I had a hard time getting into the hills at first. They were too long to be punchy and generally too short to get a good rhythm going. It took me a solid half hour to get a feel for the gear to use to get up as quickly as possible without blowing up halfway through. Between hills, the trail was crazy fast and flowy with lots of baby berms and perfect dirt. Pretty soon, I was motoring along and waiting for the guys ahead of me to get tired.

It wasn’t long before I saw a group of three guys at the top of a climb when I was at the bottom. I knew they had to be fading.

(caution- dubstep content)

I resisted the urge to catch them immediately and kept motoring at the same pace. It took what seemed like forever, but eventually, I was on Matt’s wheel (I wasn’t sure where the other guys were). He said he was having a bad day and let me around at a doubletrack spot in the trail. We about 1.5 hours in, so I kept the hammer down in search of the other two guys who I’d seen with him earlier.

I never felt tired, and found both of them within the next 15 miles. After ripping through the last couple of miles of race course, I quickly found myself climbing the road up from the trail to the finish line

 

Matt finished about 10 minutes later, and the 2nd place woman was about 5 minutes behind him. Our other Memphis friends, who’d raced the shorter versions, had great days as well. If you haven’t checked this trail/race out yet, I’d highly recommend marking it on your calendar for next year.

 

In paved-road news, My new road bike arrived exactly two weeks ago, and it is, quite possibly, the most amazing piece of carbon ever to leave a factory in Taiwan. I want to post a bunch of photos, but I’ve been (vainly) holding off because I’m waiting on a set of bottle cages that I ordered through the shop nearly 3 weeks ago. Hopefully they’ll be here this week, and I can show off the finished product.

 

Reservoir Cross Race Report

In order to keep travel cost to a minimum, I decided to skip the Kanis Park night race on Saturday night and just daytrip Reservoir Cross on Sunday with Poolboy Matt and one of our customers from the shop who was trying his hand at CX for the first time (kudos to him- the Reservoir course is tough and technical. Not the easiest when taking the plunge for the first time). I hate to miss a good night race, but I was being a slave to logistics.

The Little Rock area received a couple of hours’ worth of rain early Sunday morning, making the course both slick and gooey. Since everyone seems to ask, I rode the Challenge Limus tubulars that I glued up last year, and ran around 27psi front and 30psi rear. I say “about,” because I don’t know how accurate my pump is. I do, however, like how my pressure feels when my pump reads those numbers. My usual barometer for “proper” pressure is whether or not the rim hits the ground once or twice per lap when pre-riding, and it passed that muster. The Limus is a very knobby tire, and I have modified my rear one for improved rolling resistance:

 

The Open Women’s category was lined up behind the Cat4 men, Masters Men, and Juniors. Each group started about a minute apart. I’d told myself that I would race hard, but not totally destroy my legs so that I could race the men’s race afterward.

I’ve come to the conclusion that this is impossible.

We started going straight up a paved hill. I got the holeshot and never looked back. I did, however, feel at first like I needed training wheels. I started the course turning gingerly though the mud, all over the brakes. Within a lap, though, I’d trash talked myself into going full-bore. I made it my goal to pass everyone on course that had started before me. I had a few close calls with sliding front tires and a pedal strike in the off-camber section, but I took those to mean that I was doing it right. If you aren’t the greatest bike handler, the Reservoir Park course will showcase that. I definitely could use some practice in getting my cyclocross mojo back for the season.

Halfway through the last lap, I was barreling through a really fast turn off of some pavement, looking to catch the last of the Cat 4 guys who had started first. As I loaded my front tire exiting the turn, I heard the incredibly terrifying noise of base tape and carbon unzipping from each other. Luckily, I was sliding at the same time rather than gripping. I continued on with the course, only to realize that the “I want to roll off the rim” noise was a result of the loss of pressure in my front tire. I managed to nurse it around the remainder of the course and finish before it was totally flat. Winning… but not my much over 14-year-old up & coming Emma Drummond. She’s going to be hot on my heels real soon.

 

The course ended up taking out an abnormally large number of tires that day. I saw somewhere in the neighborhood of 10-15 flats during the Open race (I decided that since I’d bombed through the first race and flatted that I’d bail on the 2nd race). Poolboy Matt flatted two himself. Upon closer inspection, all three of our flats were punctures in the same shape, size, and orientation in the tread. I’ll post some high-res pics later.

SuperX

I like fixing bikes.

It’s mostly about solving (or preventing) a problem (or several problems). Usually, it’s a worn out, broken, sticky, or otherwise compromised part, but sometimes, frame manufacturers give mechanics a problem with brand new bikes… the perfect example being the presence of normal, road bike cable housing stops on a cyclocross frame.

I’ve posted before about my dislike of open cable on any bike that will be ridden in any condition other than “dry.” It’s just dumb. There’s no point in putting a break in a bike’s cable housing if there’s any chance that, on a regular basis, you’re going to ride the bike in a manner that would foul the cables with mud and/or water. Even so, it’s how most cyclocross bikes are manufactured.

In the past, I’ve just dealt with it, changing out shift cable and housing on a somewhat regular basis for a stable of cyclocross bikes. I’ve also used Gore sealed housing kits, only to find that while, yes, they do keep stuff out, with modern shifters (cable routing under the bar tape) and drop handlebars, the amount of drag is terrible because of the interaction between the stiffness of the housing and bend from shifter around the bars (in their defense, the sealed housing kits work beautifully on mountain bikes and road bikes with the older-style, externally cabled shimano shifters). Just recently, I zip-tied a full length housing to the frame of Ryan’s “A” bike. It works flawlessly. I’ll also be the first to admit, though, it doesn’t look very good.

So, when I installed a Gore housing kit on my new Cannondale SuperX (yeah, I’m doubling up on Cannondales this season) and the shifting was crappy and heavy, I decided to go one up on the solid housing by using a drill to convert cable stop to “housing holder.”

Side note: Before I tell you all about taking a drill to my bike, let’s talk about warranty. Some bike companies can be evil, and, if you modify your frame in such a way, then your seat tube cracks up the middle, they’ll refuse your warranty, even though it’s highly obvious that the two events are, in no way, shape, or form, related to each other. From my dealings at the shop, I can tell you that Cannondale is not this sort of company (Niner isn’t, either). However, it goes without saying, that if one of my drilled cable stops breaks, falls off, or suffers any other cable-stop related malady, it’s my fault, and there is no warranty to speak of. Your frame manufacturer may be somewhere in the middle with their warranty philosophy… I’d advise you to find out prior to drilling if that sort of thing concerns you.

With that out of the way, let’s get to the good stuff.

I started by looking around on the internet for technique recommendations. I saw some good advice about protecting the frame with tape in case the drill bit gets jumpy, so I put a layer of Gorilla Tape around the downtube housing stop:

 

Next, I started with a small drill bit. How small? No idea on the numerical size, but it was a little bigger than the existing hole. Even with a not-so fresh drill battery, the bit went through the carbon stop like it was made of butter (so easy, I ended up not using tape when I drilled the stop on the chainstay. A metal stop may have offered more resistance). I prettymuch just repeated the process with increasingly large bits until a piece of 4mm housing fit through the stop with just a little friction. Done and done:

 

Depending on the frequency of cable stops on your frame, you will likely still need to use at least a couple of zip-ties to run the full-length housing. I typically wrap a piece of electrical tape around the tubing prior to mounting the housing/zip tie in order to keep the frame from getting rubbed at the mounting location. It’s still not perfect on the “looks” scale, but it’s a lot nicer than having the cable housing run next to unused housing stops.

Side note #2: I use Jagwire L3 lined cable housing for the best shift quality, though I’ve used less expensive stuff with equal success. The thought that using full-run housing will noticeably increase friction and drag on the cable is balderdash. Sure, from a physics standpoint, yes, there’s more friction on the cable when there’s more housing. However, I’d like to see you do a blind, side-by-side test, and see if you can tell the difference in lever feel between broken and solid housing. You’re sure as heck gonna notice a difference when the broken housing gets fouled. I digress…

I rode yesterday. The verdict? AWESOME. It’s only a matter of time before the Scott Addict CX undergoes the same surgery:

 

With the forecast for Sunday’s Reservoir Cross looking like “mud,” I can’t wait to plow through the slop with perfect shifting.

Cyclocrunk

I just noticed on my “stats” page that a lot of people are finding my blog via searching for “Cyclocrunk.” The series started tonight, and, for various reasons that would likely bring drama to my blog, I’m not doing it this year. Here’s the link to the Cyclocrunk site, and, if you need more information about the race than what the promoter has provided on the site (such as location, race format, etc.) you should call Victory Bicycle studio.

 

 

 

 

Clear Creek Challenge Race Report

Based on how sleepy my legs felt on Saturday after taking nearly a week off of the bike (including Interbike: 3 nights of sleep deprivation, 2 days of flying, and 2 days of walking/standing around on concrete), I knew that racing Cross Country on Sunday carried a strong risk of being a partial to total shit-show. However, Ryan and Poolboy Matt were looking forward to going down to Oxford for the Clear Creek Challenge race, and I didn’t want to disappoint. I figured at the least, it’d serve as a high intensity jump start back into training for Cyclocross.

The race course is largely rolling and flowy with a few bigger hills and a couple of lightly techy spots. Because of the rolling nature of it, the downhills and turns have a high ratio of reward for risk, and people who are familiar with the trail definitely have an advantage. I have ridden it a couple of times, but it’s been at least a year since then. I wasn’t sure how much the four other women had ridden it, but the group at the line included Laureen Coffelt, who never goes anywhere unprepared.

When the promoter gave us the “GO” signal, I momentarily attempted to implement my usual XC strategy of letting whoever thinks they’re fastest get the holeshot and going into the woods 2nd wheel behind her. However, the other women rolled it like they were starting a 50 mile road race, so I threw down the hammer and took the lead.

The initial portion of trail is twisty and fun. I don’t know what went on behind me, but I was able to build a lead by trying to stay way off of the brakes. I could still hear that the other women were close, and the trail constantly doubles back on itself, so there’s no “out of sight, out of mind” until you’ve got a heckuva lead. I kept pinning it until the trail was a little quieter. About 30 minutes in, the singlespeed leader (who had started a couple of minutes after me) caught up to me and let me know that Laureen was deep into 2nd and was a good bit behind me. I’d decided that I was going to chase down cat 1 men (who started 4 minutes ahead), so I didn’t let up.

The rest of the first lap was uneventful. I did my best to tune out the burn and stay off the brakes and eventually caught a cat 1 man. I passed through the start/finish area at just under an hour & 10 minutes for the first lap. I wasn’t sure of my lead until I re-entered the woods and heard someone yelling for Laureen as she was coming in to the pit area. Holy CRAP she’s close!

Pace-wise, I couldn’t push much harder. I was keeping up with nearly the same effort I’d started with, and still felt like I was flying up the hills. Feeling a little more confident with the dirt on the course, I kept trying my best to maintain speed and momentum. I kept seeing Laureen on the double-back parts of the course, and figured she was about one minute back… if I slowed down, I was dead in the water.

Thankfully, I didn’t slow down. Well, actually, about 1/2 a mile from the finish, my quads started to cramp like mad. Luckily, though, I fought through to finish in front, and was able to polish off another 1:09ish lap…

 

So, it was a good day. I like being pushed. I hope Laureen has plans to race some cyclocross.