Ouachita Recovery

For a couple of days following the Challenge, I didn’t want to ride. I forced myself to commute to work on the Surly on Tuesday, but other than that, I had been generally content to just try and be normal for a few days. Tuesday afternoon, Matt called me up & told me that he & Charles (another wrench from the Union Ave Outdoors store) were going to have some beers and ride their fixies around, and I was welcome to join them. Ryan (who has been having an equally hard time recovering) was hesitant, but eventually gave in and agreed to go.

In a perfect world, I’d insert photos of the story as I told it, but, well, there are a lot of photos, and WordPress is a pain in the ass in that respect, so you’ll have to read and periodically scroll down to the gallery for illustrations.

When we arrived at Matt’s, he and Charles were at the nearby corner store. They soon walked in with pre-ride provisions- Budweiser and 4Loko. Someone broke out the duct tape, and they played a quick game of Edward Beer Hands (see photo gallery below). I could have told them it was a bad idea, but it would not have mattered…

15 minutes later, Charles had verped a little bit on Matt’s carpet (and his Celebration Station t-shirt), and Matt was sitting on the floor fighting a similar urge (notice the “natures miracle” carpet cleaner in the photos of Matt at the end of the couch). Fortunately, both parties rallied and Ryan, Matt, Charles, Cathrine (Charles’ woman), and me struck out to meet Joy (future bike shop employee) and visit various drop-type spots in the area.

P.S. Natures Miracle won’t take red #5 out of carpet.

We ended up turning the night into what can only be described as a Memphis-style pub crawl. Along with the bike spots, we stopped at several corner/liquor stores along the way. The locals are awesome. However, while we’d narrowly avoided drunken disaster earlier, it came back while we were at a spot they’d deemed the “Joy Drop” (since it was the size of Joy).

Sometimes, young men and large quantities of alcohol are a bad combination.

Jokingly, I took Matt’s phone. Matt got mad, and somehow it turned into Matt and Charles nearly getting into a fistfight. After a lot of yelling and shit-flipping, Matt and Charles took their bikes and went home. We followed Matt by a few minutes only to arrive at his apartment to find a fist-sized hole in the wall and him with a bleeding hand. We spent a while talking him down. Somehow I managed to make him laugh once or twice.

While the night didn’t end well, it was encouraging that I was able to get on my bike and have a great time not trying to go as fast as possible while ignoring all signals from my body to stop. I hate that things went south for the group, but in all honesty, sometimes we all just need to let loose, yell, and punch holes in shit. Charles is, as far as I can tell, young and immature. He just makes that behavior a habit. Matt is a 39 year old trapped inside a 23 year old. Sometimes the 23 year- old Falcon Punches the 39 year old and runs amok for a while. We’re all our own brand of crazy. It happens.

Without further adieu, the night in photos…

Ouachita Challenge Race Report

My brain still isn’t totally working right now, but I figured I’d get something out here to keep everyone interested…

It’s always a relief to wake up just before the phone alarm clock goes off on a race-day morning. After an on-off night of sleep, I was glad to see that it was time to get up when I woke up for the 5th or 6th time. We struck camp and headed up to Oden School for breakfast and the race start.

I don’t want to jinx myself, but if I could finish a race as well as I can start it, then I’d be kicking Amanda Carey’s butt right now.

I pedaled around and made it to the start area in time to grab a spot that would put me in good pack position for the course rollout. It was a great move, because, like Southern Cross, it meant that I’d be racing from the front. Out of sight, out of mind… or something like that.

I maintained a good position/pace all the way up the pavement/forest road to the first singletrack. Once I was there, I actually felt more at home and settled into a (probably too hard) nice pace. I was feeling great for all three of the Ouachita Trail mountains- especially Blowout, where I gave out sage advice like, “you can ride that, just pedal like hell!” With a suspension fork on it, the Air9 felt like a downhill bike. Unfortunately, I also passed Ryan, who was walking with his bike and yelled at me that he’d endoed and hit his face on a rock. I had to block out the worry and concentrate on not succumbing to the same fate. Chalybeate (pronounced “clee-bit”) was hard, but I made it over without much issue.

The next section was an 8 mile piece of pavement with a nice, 15-20mph headwind. Luckily, I found a guy who was giving off a roadie vibe. I commented on the firmness of his legs and he was happy to let me draft until we passed through Sims, where he pulled off to get some water. I didn’t want to stop, so I kept pressing on. Who cares about a little wind…

Soon enough, I passed through the next aid station where I refilled my camelbak and took to the Womble trail. For a few miles, the trail was relatively flat. My legs were feeling questionable, so I tried to flow where I could and spin where I couldn’t. Unfortunately, once the Mauldin Mountain climb started around mile 40, cramp karma tried to get me back for last year where I’d passed Namrita O’Dea when she started to cramp in the same spot. My inner thighs would seize up violently when the trail would pitch up. A few times, I tried getting off of my bike to stretch, but when I would stand up straight, my quads would cramp equally as badly.

Straight spelunking into the pain cave.

If I stopped for a few minutes then continued at an easy pace, I could probably alleviate the cramps enough to get through the last 20 miles with fewer issues. If I stopped for a few minutes, I would seriously risk the win I’d been working on all day. I don’t know if anyone who reads is wondering what goes through someone’s head in that situation, but that day, it was my coworkers at Outdoors. Our store is like a family, and I wanted to represent them as hard as possible. I won’t say I didn’t utter (aka “yell”) multiple obscenities, but I went as went as fast as I could without totally locking up.

I don’t remember much about the last 15 miles or so. I wrecked once in a powdery/rooty/steep section of bench trail, but I think the short break was not a bad thing. Also, going down the last of the forest road hills, my left triceps cramped a little. When I made it to the pavement, I was looking over my shoulder more than I was looking ahead of me. I cramped up the last pitch to the finish line, and I think I cried a little bit once I crossed.


So, yeah. It wasn’t pretty, but it was a win nonetheless. If Laureen had been there, she would have been on me like Lady Gaga on a meat dress. I feel somewhat lucky, but not totally. I think I died a little bit out there. I had this song in my head most of the time:



I spent most of Wednesday prepping bikes and body for Ouachita. After making that last post (which, I noted, got a lot of “crickets” from the peanut gallery), I went for a quick spin, ate breakfast, then headed up to the shop to hang around and work on bikes. After getting Ryan’s Titus ready to go (wheel true, rear brake bleed), I left for a massage, then came back to work on my bike. Mine wasn’t quite as simple.

Remember my mention of XX shifting issues? I figured I’d try a few tips found on the internet and from conversation with Mike, the area Niner rep. This involved swapping my shift cables for non-coated, re-routing them to cross in front of the bike, and adjusting the B screw. This meant I needed to remove the crank, which I wanted to do anyway since the bottom bracket was so incredibly noisy during the 6 hour race.

I knew things weren’t going to be good when I had to wail on the crank with a rubber hammer to remove it. I quickly found the source of the noise- the BB30 bearings (especially the non-drive side) were partially seized and gritty feeling. Once I removed the CYA cups, I pulled the bearing seals. The bearings were filled with water (presumably from when I washed it earlier in the day). I had no idea that the seals were that loose, so it obviously wasn’t the first time they’d been fouled with water. Lucky for me, they weren’t rusted. I cleaned them as best I could, and re-packed them with grease. The drive side spins like a champ now, but I think that the non-drive bearing might not be so lucky.

The cable re-route was pretty straightforward. You have to remove the cover from the XX shifter to change cables out, which is annoying, but not difficult. The routing on the front end feels great. Unfortunately, the BB cable guide and piece of housing that runs through the chainstay creates a lot of friction for both derailleurs. If you grab a cable from the BB and shift before those parts are routed, there’s no drag on the cable. Once the cables are run through the guide in the BB and through the second housing, the drag is very apparent on both the front and rear. I really don’t want to run solid cable housing outside of the bike (or inside, for that matter- apparently some people are drilling their headbadge and doing that), but the shifting is already a little slow going to higher gears in the back. If it causes any more problems, I might have to go to solid housing as a last resort.

I finished my maintenance off with bleeding the X-loc on the suspension, which was previously feeling as if it was only working halfway. Today’s ride will tell if the efforts to improve the shift performance were successful. Unlike last time, when I was massively under-prepared for Spa City, I’m taking the Jet9 with me for backup. So, if my band-aid-ed bottom bracket decides to explode during tomorrow’s pre-ride, then I’ll have a plan B.

As far as body prep goes, I’m doing better than my bike. Yesterday’s tune-up ride yielded some nice power numbers and left me wanting more. The massage on Wednesday was excellent, and I believe will start to be a weekly addition to the my bodily upkeep. As the chiropractor said when he was laying in to one of many of the knots in my upper back- you’ve gone well past the point of exercising for health, and now it’s starting to break your body down. You have to be as vigilant in the maintenance of it as you are of the bike you race.

Point taken.


The next installment in my series of  “Life Advice that Gets Ignored by my buddy Matt” is a continuation of several of my previous posts. Remember when I told you to be true to yourself ? The advice of today is to be true to those closest to you as well.

I touched on this very briefly when I previously explained how “flipping your sh*t” can be an artform. While it gets the point across that you aren’t happy with the actions of someone else, it’s usually not necessary. When you have a close relationship with someone, and an issue arises that causes some sort of conflict, it needs to be dealt with immediately with logical, straightforward conversation rather than being swept underneath the proverbial rug.

Case in point- remember in my last post about how I said that my friend was in an argument with a girl he’s very fond of over their widely varying views on religion and the fate of his soul? Apparently, the text conversation went on through Sunday. Many tears were shed on her end, and no resolution came of it. Monday morning rolls around, and BAM… she acts as if nothing ever happened. The worst part? He’s OK with this.

My advice doesn’t come from thin air. It comes from experience. So, as always, I can give you 500 examples of where I’ve eff’d this up in my own life. It took 7 years of first marriage for me to figure out that when your significant other asks, “what’s wrong?” that the correct reply is “X is wrong” and rather than “nothing.” Sure, it will start an argument. It’s conflict- it can bring painful issues to the surface for both of you. I can promise you, though, they’re much less painful there than when they’re inside your head, gnawing at the back of your eyeballs every minute of every day.
Now, I make it a habit that if Ryan does anything that upsets me, bothers me, or might potentially upset/bother me, I tell him. Immediately. It’s been my experience that an immediate, small argument in which you reach a resolution will prevent the pattern of buildup/unhappiness that occurs when the conflict in question turns into an 800 pound gorilla napping peacefully on the other side of the room. Sure, it’s safe for now, but WTF are you going to do when it wakes up?

I’m stating the obvious for most of my readers, but since my advice tends to fall on deaf (or at least unwilling) ears in real life, I use this blog as an outlet.  If you’re reading this and thinking about your own relationship problems, then save yourself the trip to the counselor and tell your mate exactly what it is that’s bothering you. If you aren’t in a relationship, turn your speakers up and click HERE (or HERE if you’re more Hipster than Hip Hop).

Pre-OTC Weekend

The weather this weekend decided to turn (hopefully for the last time this season) cold and rainy. This meant that the usual weekend world championships (aka trinity ride) didn’t go off as normal, and I stayed in to do a 2 hour trainer workout. I made a comment about that on Facebook, and someone commented back that they didn’t know how I could stand to be on the trainer so long.

My secret? Intervals and Three 6 Mafia.

After that, I went to work. Normally, I’d be off all day on Saturday, but the shop is incredibly busy right now. We needed some bikes built, so I headed in after lunch to help get it done. Afterward, Matt and I went to Flying Saucer found someone who could quite possibly qualify as the dumbest waitress in Memphis. At least she was good looking? We appreciated each others company nonetheless- Ryan was off to Tuscaloosa for some road racing, and Matt’s potential woman was upset because he didn’t respond as she’d hoped when she expressed her deep concern over the eternal damnation of his soul.

I’ve recently come to the realization that “Hope” is just short for “setting yourself up for disappointment.”

I digress.

Sunday morning was still cold and damp-ish. Fortunately for me, the Ouachita Challenge taper had begun, so rather than a 5 or 6 hour solo endurance ride, I headed out for an urban singlespeed venture from near the University of Memphis to Overton Park and back. Along the way, I saw a reminder of past life-

No, I’m not Kalus… but I’ve hung out with the guy (and his little brother). The story is that they’re the children of gypsies and don’t live in one city long enough for their past to catch up with them. Or something like that.

After Overton park, it was back home to do a little work on my own bikes. I needed to get the suspension fork swapped back onto my geared MTB and the rigid fork back on the singlespeed. Since I’ve been spoiled with a climate controlled bike shop, I have taken to doing at-home work in the comfort of my living room rather than out in the garage. The animals (especially Thor) find this to be quite entertaining…

I can’t remember the last time I was this glad to be cutting back on training volume. Not that I don’t enjoy it- it’s just that the harder you work, the nicer it is to play.

Saddle Search

Also on my mind this morning- I need to hoard this saddle:

It’s the Selle Italia Max Flite Trans Am. I love it, and they no longer make it. If you have one for sale (or see one for sale somewhere ), please comment here or email me (andrea @ brickhouseracing . com)

A netbook, a tattoo, and dogs

For a while now, my current go-to computing device has been a Sony VAIO laptop. It does its job well, but it’s pretty big as far as laptops go. About the same time that I started getting annoyed at having a giant laptop, our Verizon MiFi started to crap out. So, I started shopping around for netbooks. After much review-reading, mind-changing, and laptop upgrading, we ended up getting a USB modem stick from Verizon and an ASUS Eee PC netbook (the fancy one with the metal case, dual processor, and long battery life).

I am now more portable than ever…

(If you’re wondering about the size scale, the dog is a Jack Russell Terrier)

Now, all I need is a road trip.

Ryan (eternal Mac fanboy), who always has his eye on the latest and greatest steve jobs invention, made the comment that I have very simple technology needs- he can purchase a <$400 piece of equipment for me, and I’ll be happy for years (his current fiending is for a $1300 laptop). My reply is that for what I lack in techie desire I make up for in carbon fiber lust. It’s very true, though. I tend to use a computer until it’s so outdated or falling apart that I am forced to get something new. He likes regular upgrades. I hope that his computer habits never extend to his relationship habits.

In other news, all of you that have ever ridden behind me can say goodbye to this…

(not the dog)

I picked that lovely piece of tribal off of the wall of the Underground Art tattoo place back when I was 18 and had just graduated high school. It’s just not up to par with my other artwork, so I’m getting it covered up with something else. What? I don’t know. Last time I went in, Joe covered it with fleshtone ink to lighten it up a bit (which is why it looks kinda hazy in the photo).

In the past, I’ve told Joe what I want, and he’s made gorgeous drawings. This time, I really have no idea what I want, so I told him that I wanted to stick to mostly black & gray as well as what I liked in his portfolio and gave him the reins to draw something of his own creation. Of course, I have final say as to what gets marked on me forever, but I’m incredibly excited (as is he) to let him lead the creative process. He said he’ll send me photos as he sketches, but those are gonna stay secret until after Monday, when I go in for the first cover-up session.

Hopefully there will be plenty of people behind me to admire it at next weekend’s Ouachita Challenge.

Summer guide to bike shop etiquette

Now that bikes are coming out of hibernation, my shop is full of things that need to be fixed… NOW. We have a schedule, and we try to be fair to everyone that comes in, which means that if you walk in right now and need a tune-up and new cables on your bike, you’re going to land mid-week someplace. In a month, it’ll probably be two weeks. You see, not only are the two mechanics in your shop working like hell on the bikes that need to be fixed, they’re also helping customers, answering the phone, and building new bikes to replace the ones that have been sold.

We want nothing more than to make you happy. We want to make your bike work more perfectly than you could hope for, and we want to help you spend money on our products (if your shop doesn’t want that, then find a new shop). However, there are a few things you can do to assist us in this process:

1. wash your bike off. I’m not talking full-on soap and water scrub-down, I just mean hose the chunks of dirt and/or sweat & energy drink off and let it dry before you bring it in. Not only will this help me keep my shop clean, it will also make your service happen faster since I won’t have to do it myself.
2. Need an emergency repair the day before an important ride/race? I feel your pain. I’ve been in the same situation, and I want to take care of you. First, see #1. Second, realize that you are jumping in line, so I’m probably going to end up staying late/coming in early to work on your bike (or on the bike I was working on when you came in for that on-the-spot repair) in order to keep both you and the jumped customers happy.
3. About tips: We accept them, but don’t expect them. We greatly appreciate them. We will usually reciprocate this appreciation next time you bring your bike in for service by doing things including (but not limited to) working on your bike first thing in the morning on its scheduled repair day, lubing/wiping down your drivetrain, wiping down your frame, etc. You get the idea. Tip or no tip, I can assure you that you’ll always get exceptional service at my shop (if your shop doesn’t want that, then find a new shop).
4. When we’re busy, and you need help- say you’re a regular customer (or any customer, for that matter), and you need help picking out X product. If you come in at 1:00 on a Saturday, we’re going to be slammed. We want to help you, and we will, but it’s going to be after we help the person that came in before you. It’s only fair. Please don’t get mad if we don’t immediately drop what we’re doing. Hint- we aren’t nearly as busy on weekdays.
5. When things don’t go as planned: Let’s face it, sh*t happens. Sometimes once we get into a repair, we realize that it’s worse than expected. We might have to order a part or send something off for warranty repair/replacement. Once again, we want your repair to be perfect, but we can’t stock everything. Getting annoyed on the phone when we call and tell you we have to order something isn’t helping either of us. Also, once we place an order/ship a part off, then it’s out of our hands. Example: This winter, a snowstorm delayed a big shipment from our main distribution place. Some repairs had to be delayed. We can’t control the weather or UPS’ reaction to the weather, so please don’t yell at me when it prevents your part from arriving on time.
6. Don’t request a certain mechanic. First off, it’s rude and somewhat insulting to the other mechanics in the shop. Second, we all know our strengths and will generally work on bikes accordingly. We will always treat your bike as if it is our own (if your shop doesn’t want that, then find a new shop). If you still only want one mechanic to work on your bike, then you need to approach that mechanic privately to discuss this.

Hopefully this provides some insight into what your mechanic is thinking when you walk in to the shop asking for the impossible. We would love nothing more than to do that for you (if your shop doesn’t want that, then find a new shop), but it takes a little understanding on your end as well. Happy trails!

The Weekend?

Yes, I’ve been too busy over the past two days to tell you all about my awesome weekend.

Saturday was another round of Weekend World Championships with the Trinity ride. We rolled out at a painfully slow pace into the wind, so I took it upon myself to gather a couple of others to sit at the front and pick it up a little. Instead, the rest of the pack let us roll off the front for a few minutes only to get wiley and chase us down a little ways down the road. From there, the pace was blistering. I normally try to stay in the front half of the pack, but my legs would not oblige. I ended up in the back and getting accordioned around turns.

Then, I ended up dropped, in the wind, a healthy chunk of miles from the regroup point.

It’s been a while since I’ve had a good drop. Once I realized that chasing was futile (I was 10-30 feet off the back for a good few minutes), I slowed a little to eat & drink before putting my head down and finishing off the miles alone. Somewhere along the way fellow Outdoors, Inc. employee Jay caught up to me, and we traded pulls all the way to the store stop.

BTW- a store stop on a 3 hour ride is dumb. I’d rather be dropped all the way home instead of riding my *ss off, stopping for 20 minutes, then going back to riding my *ss off half a mile later. That just sucks. So, in light of that, I rolled up to the parking lot, swapped a bottle from my back pocket, unwrapped a Powerbar, and rolled back out to ride somewhat easy until the group got their isht together and caught back up. Frank and Marta joined me, and the group caught back up just before the turn to hammer up Seed Tick hill. I managed to ride hard and stick with the group for the remainder of the route. I even managed a pretty good sprint at the end.

I’m rather certain that getting dropped was a team effort between a really damn fast pace as well as some creeping fatigue. The previous weeks training volume have been 14.5 hours and 17 hours (respectively), and this week followed suit. I felt better than expected Saturday morning, but, if you’ve been paying attention, last weekend was a tough one- the Spa City 6hr followed up by 4 hours on the Ouachita trail.

In other words, I got dropped, but I came by it honestly. Of course, I took some ribbing from co-workers, but then I explained to them…

So, what do you do on a Sunday to follow up a ride like that? Um, ride 6 hours. Duh. I plotted a route from Cordova through Fisherville, Williston, Somerville, Lambert, Braden, Galloway, Arlington, and back. It ended up being somewhere around 105 miles and took nearly 6 hours (riding at a Z2 pace). I don’t know for sure because my Garmin froze up a few miles from home.

The route included a couple of new (to me) gravel bits including Williams road (between Longtown and Porter just south of Braden) and Walsh Rd, which parallels the RR tracks to connect Hwy 59 and Braden roads, and is closed to thru-traffic because of a sketchy bridge. On either side of the bridge, there are large gravel humps with 4-wheeler tracks over the top of them (I almost ran headlong into kids on 4-wheelers at that spot). If you lack the combination of tires, skill, and crazy it takes to ride your road bike on 4-wheeler trail, I suggest you take Hwy 70 (which parallels Walsh/RRtracks) rather than Walsh. Just watch out for that dumb little dog at the corner of 70 & Beaver Creek. He’ll nibble your ankles.

Once again, I’m having problems with ischial bursitis. Essentially, the bursa under my left seatbone gets inflamed and puts pressure on my sciatic nerve. That makes my left leg and foot hurt/go numb. Standing up periodically throughout the ride doesn’t really help, so after about 4 hours of saddle time, I found myself having to periodically get off of my bike for a minute to relieve the pain/pressure and let feeling return to my foot. Last year, a saddle switch and fit re-evaluation helped a lot. I haven’t changed anything since then, so I’m not sure what route to take this time.

The ride on Sunday polished off a 16 hour training week. If you’re keeping up from earlier in the post, that’s 14.5, 17, and 16. The crazy part is that while it’s getting harder, it’s also getting easier. At first I wanted to lay down on the floor and sleep. I managed to pull myself together and train, but it was a little bit of a fight. I was often in zombie mode. Monday, I was sore. Yesterday, I felt as if nothing had happened, and had a kickass hill sprint workout on my singlespeed- kickass to the point that I’m going to have to move to a harder gear for the next one, because the 32×16 was too easy. Today, other than the fact that I know the bursitis thing is going to hurt like hell, I’m looking forward to a 3 hour Z3 workout. If my body follows its previous pattern, I could feel dead on Friday. As of right now, though, I’m getting pretty stoked at the way I’ve been able to adapt to the rigorous routine. After next week’s taper, Ouachita should be interesting.

Early Memphis

Last night, I was feeling down, so I figured this morning I’d join Matt and Joel for a ride in Overton Park, which is prettymuch on the outskirts of Midtown Memphis. This meant that most of my riding would be on city streets that are rarely seen by visitors to the city, so I took the camera along to catch a few shots of the morning light on the road.

At 6:00am, I headed out on the road for a few miles to get to the greenline…

I decided somewhere along the greenline that I’m very fond of pre-dawn rides, and since I’ve got the badass Trail LED light that I want to do them more often now that the weather is nice. Once I was off of the greenline, I realized that I was going to be early to our meet-up spot, so I rode backwards on Matt’s route to meet up with him.

Matt and I soon met up and went to the corner of East Parkway (which runs north & south) and Avery to wait for Joel. Joel was running a few minutes late, so we hung around in someone’s front yard, ate Gu Chomps, and discussed life as well as how much more awesome the ghetto smells in the morning than the fancy parts of town.

Once Joel arrived, we rode up the middle of East Parkway to Overton Park, which is incredibly cool because it’s a few miles of twisty trail through an old forest in the middle of the city. Matt bent a wheel on the log ride. I took more photos…

I made it home just in time to clean up and eat breakfast before work. The ride ended up being nearly 2.5 hours rolling time and 35 miles. It was somewhat over what was on my schedule, but my brain needed the saddle time. On tap for the weekend- Trinity Ride/aka Weekend World Championships followed by another Sunday Solo Century. Next week’s taper for Ouachita is gonna feel gooooood.