Spa City 6-hour Race Report

This is a bit of a long one-

Last time you heard from me, I was sitting in Hot Springs Starbucks thinking that I was capping off a slightly bad day with a decaf, a cookie, and some venting. Unfortunately, my daily shipment from the failboat was still being unpacked.

Back at camp, I’d already set up my tent (as a changing spot) and hammock (the snazzy new one from Eagle’s Nest that I got as a Christmas present from my parents). I was getting tired, so I settled in and got cozy. At first, the hammock seemed like a cocoon of awesome. But then, the wind blew gently… rocking the hammock ever so slightly.

I felt seasick almost instantly.

After deciding that I’d rather NOT be seasick all night, I ended up lowering the hammock enough that my butt touched the ground , which prevented the swaying/seasick combination. It was surprisingly comfortable, so I was out pretty quickly. Of course, some other campers rolled in around midnight and decided that a race course/ campground was a great place to drink and make lots of noise at midnight. So, at midnight:05, I yelled at them to please be quiet.

Stunned silence… then some muttering, very little noise, and a patchy remaining night of sleep.

In the morning, I took the advice of commenters on my previous post and went to the Pancake Shop in Hot Springs. Damn, that was good. I went back to camp to do the last of my race prep.

10:00 rolled around, and the race was on. I don’t mind a LeMans start, and I felt well-positioned and paced during the first lap. I decided on the 2nd lap that I’d stop big-ringing (39t) the climbs and start hitting the 29 on the steeper spots in order to keep from killing myself early. Unfortunately, one shift from small to large at the top of a hill resulted in chainsuck, which somehow resulted in the chain dropping to the inside of the small ring and wedging itself in between the ring and the frame. I had to stop and muscle it out, which took what seemed like hours. As I re-mounted my bike, Laureen Coffelt and Heather Ladd appeared on the trail behind me (remember what I said about Laureen being ready to kill you if you have a mechanical? Yeah… it was like that). I rode like a scalded cat.

When I passed back through the pits, I stopped to swap bottles and grab half a sandwich. Laureen passed me without stopping. Since it was only the 3rd lap, I decided to play bulldog for a little while and stuck to her wheel. I thought I had everything figured out… then we crossed a small creek. My foot came out of my left pedal. I tried for a minute to clip back in and realized that something was amiss. When I pulled over, Laureen never looked back (well, at least not when I was watching her ride away). Heather passed me soon after. The spring in my left eggbeater was broken, and I made the limp back to the pits.

I’ve never hated myself as much as I did at that point. I’d prepped as if I was going to an NUE-type race rather than a lap race. I had tools, but no replacement parts. No one in the surrounding pit area had a spare pedal of any type. I wanted to curl up & die in the back of the Element. I made one last effort to find a replacement pedal, and if finally paid off- I found a nice man that had an unfortunate wreck and was not continuing on in the race. He was using crank brothers Smarty pedals, and offered one to me for the remainder of the race. I slapped it on and took off into the pain cave of redemption.

The next two laps, I was passing people like they were in slow motion. As I rounded the last two corners of singletrack before the pit road on my 5th lap, Heather’s rear wheel was in front of me. I passed her, made my fast pit-stop, and told the officials that I was bangin’ 7 gram rocks, and going for a 6th lap. Heather was right behind me, but eventually dropped away. The effort had landed me back into a podium spot with Pua (who had pwnt all of us) and Laureen (who I finished about 7 minutes behind).

Photos and a rundown of everything I f*cked up to follow. For now… bedtime.

Hectic pre-race day

Right now, I’m sitting in a Starbucks in Hot Springs, AR. The car charger on my phone isn’t working, so I figured I’d come up here & charge it since I’m camping, and there’s no electricity. If my phone dies, then my mom might have a massive panic attack since, somewhere in the Memphis area, there are convicts on the loose.

Yes, I know I’m in Arkansas… a long way from loose convicts.

I digress. It’s been a long day.

It started well- I avoided the rush hour traffic out of Memphis and arrived at Ceder Glades in time for a nice course pre-ride. During the ride, I managed to smash my large chainring into a rock. My chain would no longer stay on the large ring, and shifting was out of the question. I finished the lap in the small ring, but not before I called up Kenny (co-worker) to tell him to take an XX chainring from the shop so I could replace it when he arrived early in the morning.

Once I was back at my tent, I found the offending tooth on the chainring. With a little tough love from my channel locks, I straightened it up. The chain would shift up, but only if I were in the highest gears on the rear cog. It would, however, stay on the large ring, whereas before, it would jump around all over the place. Just in case Kenny didn’t make it in the morning, I decided to go by the local shop (Parkside Cycles) and see if they had an XX chainring that I could purchase in case of an emergency.

They did not. The mechanic there was a really nice guy, and he had me bring it in so that he could take a look. With a little more tweaking, it shifted. I took it out for a spin around the block, and it shifted perfectly. When I came back, he told me good luck and sent me along my way. I think I owe someone a 6-pack tomorrow.

Once I was back at camp, registration had opened. I then realized that I didn’t have my license with me. Luckily, I was able to pull my authorization to ride up from the USACycling site. I got my number and goodie bag, then went off to Rolando’s (awesome “Nuevo Mexican” food in downtown Hot Springs) for dinner. I sat on the porch, where the man playing guitar and singing played “Mad World” and “My Girl” back to back. Talk about a Sheen-sized mood swing…

I figured I’d find a coffee shop to kill time and charge my phone. I passed two closed coffee shops on my way to Starbucks. BTW- Hot Springs apparently has a 7:00 rush hour in the Oaklawn Track area. It took me 20 minutes to drive 4 miles. Before I saw this end of Hot Springs, I thought it was an odd but almost cool sort of place. Now, I sort of hate it.

At least in the morning, I can go to the Pancake Shop when I wake up. After that, all bets are off. The solo women’s field is a tough one. I’ll destroy myself as hard as possible and hope for the best.

Speaking of flipping…

Remember this post? Essentially, I told Pearl Izumi that their “buckle” droptail design (which, in fairness, is used by several other manufacturers) looked like it would not offer much convenience in comparison to their very awesome waistband type (which is not used by anyone else). The customer service person who was so quick to answer my initial questions about the shorts has ignored my request for an explanation as to what exactly they were trying to achieve with their buckle design.

There you have it- Pearl Izumi has, once again, given the middle finger to customer service.

I’ll wear the current shorts until they fall apart… which, in my experience with lower quality shorts, will be about May, if I’m lucky. By then, the Outdoors Inc team shorts should be in, and I will just deal with non-drop bibs. It’d still be nice, though, to have the “perfect” shorts. I have no idea if anyone in the business of bib-shorts making reads this blog, but if you’re willing to listen, these are my “demands”:

-Quality construction. Don’t use the thinnest spandex, and use strong thread to hold it together. Ibex is a champion of this. Hincapie also comes to mind. Thin spandex sucks. My first experience with poor-quality fabric was back in 2008 (racing with Kenda) when Verge went cheap, and lots of chicks in the pro/elite ranks were left showing off their under-shorts tattoos because the fabric was so thin. It caused a big stink amongst women’s teams that most of the general racing public didn’t hear about because, well, if you don’t have anything nice to say about a sponsor, then don’t say anything at all.
-Chamois that isn’t a diaper. Yes, women are different than men. No, that doesn’t mean that the fabric used in my chamois should be measured in square feet and the thickness of my chamois in inches.
-Droptail. Steal Pearl Izumi’s waistband design.
-Fit. Most athletically-built women complain about not being able to find shorts/jeans that fit their thighs without going up a size, leaving the remainder of the garment too large. Take this into account when making your women’s shorts. 8-inch inseam, generous leg-holes, snug around the waist, and snug-fitting suspenders.
-Price. I don’t mind paying a little more for good quality, but don’t put the “hey these are euro and cool” markup on your product like Assos and others do. I’m not paying $300 for a pair of shorts. Ever. It’s spandex. No matter how much quality you put into the construction, no matter how many panels it’s made out of, consumers realize that the cost to make the shorts is probably somewhere in the range of $.50 per pair (including the daily handful of rice you give to the kid in the sweatshop that’s running the sewing machine). Don’t insult me with a %9000 markup.
-Offer them as a custom-sublimated product.

Takers? Somehow, I doubt it. I think that with most clothing manufacturers, women’s bib shorts are somewhat of an afterthought.

Spa City 6 hour and the art of flipping your sh*t

As the Spa City 6 Hour draws near, the entry list has grown, and now includes not only Laureen Coffelt, but also Monique Mata (aka Pua Sawicki). Laureen is steady. In “short” races like a 6 hour, she’s waiting just a few minutes back, never slowing down, never having a mechanical, and ready to eat you alive should you waver. Pua? Well, two years ago when I started this off-road stuff, she was a big name. She still is, though in my typical pre-race e-stalk, I can’t find any recent results, and her blog hasn’t been updated since May of 2010. Maybe I’ve got a chance?I have yet to e-stalk the rest of the entry list. It could be full of additional badasses for all I know.

Since not everything can be an “A” race, I haven’t let up on training. I plan on breaking camp at Ceder Glades after the race and making the short trip west to camp and do some Ouachita Challenge recon with the Antique Gun Show on Sunday morning. If everything goes as planned, I’ll end up with a 17 hour training week.

If anyone knows of a good breakfast joint in Hot Springs, let me know.

In other news, I’ve recently come to realize that I am mastering the art of “Flipping my Sh*t.” Not in a “needs anger management” sort of way, but more like a “you just did something so dumb/thoughtless/etc. that I’m going to tell you exactly how I feel about your actions” sort of way.  If you’ve ever watched a show featuring Gordon Ramsey (Hell’s Kitchen, Kitchen Nightmares), you’ve seen a master sh*t-flipper at work. I call it an artform, because anyone can lose their temper and yell and act a fool. It takes a master to very sternly tell someone (in a way that he/she can understand) that the act that he/she has committed is so incredibly stupid/thoughtless that it’s blown your mind almost past the point of sanity. This must also be applied only at the appropriate time/place, and must be such an inarguable verbal lashing that the receiving person is left with nothing to say.

And, finally, I think I found my new spin instructor (thanks to Nate for the link):

Century #1

…of 2011, at least. I normally don’t like to make a post of nothing but complaining and whining, but I figured I’d tell you just how bad it was in hopes that other 100 milers this year will only be better. Also, I’ve been told by several people that they read to live the wannabe pro life vicariously through my blog. Well, it’s generally a sweet life, but sometimes it’s just fvcking hard.

My instructions for Sunday’s ride were to maintain a strict Z2 pace for 6 hours.  I’m in the process of digging a bit of a training hole, and I started feeling delayed effects of Southern Cross late in the week, so I started out feeling tired. The icing on the cake? It was damp, 40, and cloudy. The 50 and sunny forecast never showed up.

Light wind from the NNE and a mostly eastbound route made for slow going on the way out. I decided to take a route I’d previously used from Cordova to Williston and tack on an extra loop to the east side. It had been a nice 5 hours a few weeks ago, so I figured that the new (to me) roads would add more interest. Unfortunately, the interest I found was not of the rural, bucolic type.

At approximately 2 hours and 20 minutes into my ride, a medium-sized rat terrier came streaking across a yard after me. It was small and yappy enough that it made me giggle to sprint away from it. Once it peeled off, I sat up and turned around to watch it do the dog-chase “walk of shame” back to its house. Therein lies my mistake. When I turned around, there was a gigantic boxer and a short, fat, fluffy dog standing in the middle of the road. The boxer was hopping its front feet off the ground and barking with its hackles up from shoulders to tail. With two dogs in the middle, the sprint option is nixed. I had no choice but to face it down.  As soon as I was close, it began to lunge at me. Between lunges, I stopped and put my bike between me and it and proceed to chase it away from me with the chainring. Once it retreated, I got back on my bike and tried to get away before it came back. He immediately came after my right leg, which was not yet clipped in.

Luckily, that was on purpose. I managed to land a solid donkey kick to Cujo’s teeth.  He yelped and made a permanent retreat to the side of the road. The fluffy dog followed suit.

The remainder of that loop was similarly stressful. One trailer I passed had a massive pit bull chained  to a tree outside. Just as I was thinking, “damn, I’m glad that thing is chained up, I heard more barking as a 2nd pit bull- whom I’ve dubbed the “DJ Paul” of pits- with only 3 whole legs and the remnants of what I can only think is a leg that pit #1 had bitten off- came running (albeit slowly) across the yard towards me.

Then, I came upon a “road closed to thru traffic” sign. Hmmm… I wonder just how closed it is. The answer? Not closed enough…

After that, the remainder of the trip was uneventful. Thank doG. I ended the day at exactly 6 hours and 100 miles. My feet had fallen asleep somewhere around mile 15, and once I was in the shower, they turned bright red and felt as if they were covered in fire ants. The 100s can only get better from here.

…like an F-18, Bro

Between racing and training, my awesome mohawk was starting to get somewhat bushy and out of control. Also, between racing and training, I haven’t really felt like taking the time to make an appointment and drive to midtown to get my hair cut on my day off. I’ve got much better things to do… like nap.

So, when (beanpole) Matt volunteered to cut it for me after work on Friday, I was all for it. After getting iced in the parking lot of his apartment, we split a 40 of budweiser (for courage) and took to the bathtub… better in every way possible than going to even the most laid back hair salon…

(photo cred to Ryan and Steve Jobs)

In other F-18 related news, I’m riding 6 hours tomorrow. Today’s training was shortened because no one was riding Trinity at 8:00am in the downpour. In lieu,  The Wizard handed down some Z3 interval work for this afternoon. When I arrived home, I found this in my mailbox:

It’s a bitchin’ new Awesome Strap from Dicky. W00t!

In non F-18 news, things like this are why you should always bring your bike to Outdoors, Inc. if it needs to be worked on at a place other than your own garage:

Two unrelated things, enhanced by Charlie Sheen

In random order.

I’ve recently fallen in love with Pearl Izumi’s “drop tail” bib tights/shorts because they make the only disadvantage to wearing bibs no longer a disadvantage.If you look at the photo, there’s a waistband across the back…

However, they previously only made them in the “elite” line, which is not as nice as the “PRO” line. Honestly, I’d call them downright chintzy. Being the gear snob that I am, I was excited to see a pair of “PRO” level shorts labeled as “drop tail”  pop up on their website. They look like this:

Wait a minute, now… something seems to be missing. Where’s the waistband? After a little internet searching brought about no answers, I sent the following email to Pearl:

“I have a question about the W P.R.O. In-R-Cool® Bib Short. In the Product description on the website, it says that these are a drop tail bib short, but the photo is of shorts without a drop tail. I have a pair of the elite droptail bibs that I like, but I’d like to get something in the PRO series if it’s available. Thanks”

Within 24 hours, I had an answer:

“The new women’s P.R.O. bib does have a drop tail, but it’s not as large and doesn’t use the same overlapping panel as the one on the ELITE Bibs.  Basically, there’s a small clip on the strap in the center/back that allows it to separate so you can pull the back of the shorts down without having to remove your jersey to un-do the suspenders. Thanks for choosing Pearl Izumi!”

I looked at the photo again and saw what they were talking about. Wow, really? I sent the following reply back to the person who had previously given me such a quick answer:

“I see that now… honestly, the thought of having to unclip, pee, then fish around under a jersey AND re-clip a buckle in the center of my back sounds like a bigger hassle than removing a jersey and pulling the suspenders down. Not to sound sexist, but did a man come up with that idea? It’s not practical at all.”

So far, I’ve heard nothing but crickets. My next email to Pearl Izumi will include Charlie Sheen Quotes.

“I am on a drug. It’s called Charlie Sheen. It’s not available because if you try it, you will die. Your face will melt off and your children will weep over your exploded body.”

In non-Pearl Izumi hating news, I love being resourceful. I realized a couple of miles from my house this morning that the drive side crank arm on my A9C was loose. I don’t have a 10mm allen on my multi-tool, so I thought I was going to have to cut y ride short to limp home and fix it. However, I realized shortly into my limp home that I passed right by a Coleman Transmission Repair shop. At first, I got an odd look from the guy at the desk when I pushed my bike into the lobby, but once I explained my situation, he disappeared into the back for a minute, came back with a 10mm, and I was able to tighten it back down and be on my way (hopefully that was a one-time occurrence. Time will tell).

Back at It

Through my whirlwind 4 seasons as a bike racer, I’ve figured out that I need as much mental recovery from racing/training as much as I need physical recovery. If I skip that step, then I’ll end up in the same place I was when I broke down, quit the Metro VW team, and nearly threw my road bike in the Mississippi River in the process.

The lead-in to a big race like Southern Cross is not necessarily stressful. It just involves a lot of focus- eat right, train right, go to bed on time, etc. The race itself is both physically and mentally taxing. Physically…  that’s obvious. I didn’t wear a heart rate monitor, but I know enough from past training that I was laying down a solid near/at/over threshold effort for every second of the 3 hours and 44 minutes of racing.

Mentally? Well, for starters, It’s a little scary to be putting that sort of effort out on the first climb. I’ve done it in the past, and it’s only resulted in heartbreak a la Southern Cross 2009 and Cohutta 2010. This time, I had to do it and have faith in both my pre-race training plan and my during-race eating plan. Later in the race, I had to keep yelling at myself to resist the urge to slow down. On the second climb, I ignored a lot of screaming from my legs. Everything but my brain was saying “chill… pace yourself… use the 34×26…”

When I crossed the finish line, I wanted to scream, laugh, cry, and sleep all at the same time. The mental release is pretty intense.

For the few days following, I tried my best to live “normally” instead of like a wannabe pro bike racer. I rode a little, ate pizza, and drank beer. It worked out well since we had a kickass open house planned at work. It was kind of a combination meet & greet for some of the new staff, chance to show off how insanely clean the shop is, and release party for our new stock of Niner bikes. Yep- you heard it right- Outdoors, Inc. is officially a Niner dealer now!

So the timing on that worked out well. Today I got up, milled around the house a bit, then went out for a 4 hour ride. My legs and my brain felt superb, and I made 70 miles in 3 hours and 45 minutes at a zone 2 effort. Looking at my schedule on Training Peaks, I’m excited to see a killer block of training on the calendar. I feel the need to quote Charlie Sheen right now…

Southern Cross- Photos not of the Race

After a brief nap on the ground near the post-race food tent, I pulled myself together, ate a little lasagna, and went back to the hostel to clean up for the awards. You’ve read the rest of the story, so here are some photos from around the hostel and the awards ceremony. The gallery below is mainly artsy-ish photos of people and things, including (but not limited to) Todd the Antique Gun Show, Jimmy Deane, Dicky, a Canadian with a Knife (Chris), a two-person women’s “podium” with Brenda Simril, single speed podium, 45+ podium, Mike Stanley (regional Niner rep), Billy Dee Williams, Taste Activator Glass (being tasted), hostel chickens…