Singlespeed Gravel Grinding

The workout prescription for Saturday called for 5 hours singlespeed MTB riding with an intensity of Z4-5 on the climbs. When I read this, I realized that A) There’s no place in Memphis where I want to ride offroad for 5 hours, and B) there are no climbs in Memphis.

Luckily,the Ouachita and Ozark Mountains are not far away. I made plans to drive over to Lake Sylvia after work on Friday so I could get up early and complete most of my ride before the raging heat of the day was upon us (we’re in the middle of a heat wave- complete with daily triple digit temps by noon-ish). I called up Todd the Antique Gun Show, and we planned to meet at the lake around 6am.

When I arrived, Todd was already there on his bike- he’d parked 20something miles away at the Ouachita trail trailhead on highway 7 and ridden over. We started out of the lake area when Frank Webber John Karrasch passed us on his way in. We turned back to pick him up and headed back out.

Side note- Why did I think that was John Karrasch? For some reason, when Frank passed us, I though Todd said, “There’s Josh.” Then “Josh” turned into “John” in my head during the ride. John Karrasch has a beard, Frank has a beard, and in my head, they turned into the same person. I’m bad with names. Usually not that bad, though.

We headed west towards highway 7 on Brown’s Creek Road up and down a few small climbs until we finally reached Forest Road 124. It was a little bit of a beast of a climb with some grades over 15% and some slippery gravel that made SSing somewhat difficult. Once we were up most of it, we reached the intersection of FR 132 where Frank turned off to go back to his car. I continued on with Todd back to his truck to get a little more time and some cold water.

After the refill, I went back up the hill solo to take FS 132 back to my car. While none of the climbs back were incredibly long, there were plenty of steep spots that tested my will to stay on my bike rather get off an push. Two hours later, I was back at my car- final numbers? 5:15 ride time, 65 miles, and just over 6,000ft of climbing. Got some nice photos of the scenery, too, but since I’m laying around in a post-ride near-coma, I’m using my netbook, and the photos are on the other computer.

Come back tomorrow…

Edit: Photos…

Tough Choices

As some of my face-friends/fellow ORAMM racers noticed, The new, updated Outdoors, Inc. kit has made it’s debut…

(photo courtesy of Lightbox Productions)

Being the fashion-conscious individual I am, I am bothered by the prospect of wearing a black helmet with blue kit. After some searching (and Tour watching), I found that the company BBB makes a couple of nice, dark blue helmets, though I’m not sure which one I like better: the plain blue Falcon, or the Falcon “team” worn by the Euro-Pro Vacansoleil Team…

I’m not usually one to wear “team” apparel (from other teams), but I know from watching hours of Tour footage that it’s going to match my new kit. Also, I can channel thoughts of Johnny Hoogerland… the newest “tough man” of the peloton, who (in case you vacationed under a rock during The Tour) was knocked into a barbed wire fence when a media car hit his breakaway partner:

 

Of course, advice is what you ask for when you’ve already made up your mind. It’s always fun to ask the readers, though…

 

Interval Days

Yesterday (short interval day) started with a small breakfast, coffee, and Ryan telling me “your legs are starting to look less fat”  (like most men, he’s got quite the way with words).

I headed out around 6:15 for a half hour warmup before looping back to my pain cave- Lenow Rd. It’s not far from my house, and for this workout, is the best place I’ve got around here other than the long, flat river road in Shelby Forest (a solid 45 minute drive from my house). The workout is one I’ve written about on here before- 3 repeats of an 8 minute interval that starts in zone 3 and ends in zone 5. Despite my struggle to recover from heat exhaustion and dehydration on Sunday, I was feeling pretty froggy.

I generally felt great and seemed to be hitting my usual power numbers pretty easily, but once I was back home looking at Training Peaks, it seemed I hadn’t done quite as well as in the past. I also didn’t feel nearly as tired as I usually do. Not really sure what happened there, but coach & I ended up revising the day so that my second ride included some 1 min all-out efforts.

Me Gusta.

Today, the intervals were longer- two 20 min race pace efforts on the single speed. I took to the Tour D’ Wolf Trail since it’s got just enough small roller hills to keep the heart rate up.

Side note: a lot of locals HATE the TDW trail. It’s in the middle of a huge public park, and the trails are overused/abused on a regular basis. They’re rutted, mudholed, and re-routed enough times to be 10 feet wide in a lot of areas. However, I like things that are historically significant to the things that interest me. That trail was once the site for one of the biggest MTB races in the US. Some of the fastest mountain bikers from that era (the last TDW race was in 2001) have touched their tires upon that ground. Knowing that adds motivation to my ride.

I felt great again. Now I’ve got an afternoon spin and two recovery rides before the next two days of long distance heat torture this weekend.

Rough Start

Sunday, I kicked off the killer training week with 6 hours riding the MTB (mostly) on the road. It was hot. I’m not one to complain about heat, and, well, I’m still not complaining, I’m just making the general statement that, during the course of my ride, it went from  “hot” to “really fucking hot.”

There was nothing special about the route- I rode through Arlington, Gallaway, Lambert, Oakland, once around Herb Parson’s Lake, and then back home through Germantown. Sometime before hour 3, I realized that I was overheating, and the EFS powder in my camelbak was not sitting well. I stopped at a church and tried diluting it more and hosing myself down, but it never really improved. I’d thought before that I’d just mixed it too strong, but I’ve come to realize that it just doesn’t agree with me.

I also realized at the Herb Parson’s Lake trail that riding a rigid fork over the root beds after 3.5 hours of road riding sucks pretty bad and spent most of the lap dreaming about my first ride on the RDO. Before hitting the road again, I hosed myself down once more and was off to finish the last hour & a half of the ride. I knew soon after that I was pretty far past being able to cool off, and that my only hope was a dark rain cloud in front of me, but I seemed to be tailing it by a few minutes.

The last hour was pretty brutal. My brain was boiling inside my skull, so I was feeling incredibly loopy. I thought about calling for a ride home, but wasn’t about to admit defeat. Looking back, I’m surprised I was able to find my way home. I did, though. When I walked through the door, I immediately went to take a cold shower. Me = 1, Heat = 0… I think.

I felt bad the rest of the day. I felt bad most of Monday. I’m also stoked that I gutted it out. Whatever doesn’t kill you & whatnot…

The remainder of the day was spent mostly laying around in compression tights drinking ice water, eating the lasagna that Ryan made, and taking photos with random large objects brought over by one of Ryan’s teammates who is getting ready to move to Germany. He took the gun back, but left us with an interesting object he’d found on the side of the road during a ride…

 

 

Next on the schedule?

Monday- recovery/chiropractor
Tuesday- short intervals
Wednesday- long intervals

 

 

Training Rabbit Hole

After botching ORAMM, I was tempted to disappear into the woods of Pisgah NF with my bike, live off of insects and berries, and not emerge until I was the most fierce off-road cyclist in existence- somewhat like Beatrix Kiddo shipping off to train with Pai Mei in Kill Bill. Seeing that I don’t like the taste of insects, and I’m not sure whether or not a Kung Fu master of any sort lives in the forest, I resolved myself to driving home and discussing my lofty training wishes with my coach. After a few recovery days, he finally sent me the message, “Your Dojo is ready ;-)”

So, starting with 6 hours tomorrow, my next 8 days in Training Peaks totals up to 26 hours of riding.

I’ve churned out some tough weeks this season- including some 14-16-18 sets of 3, and everything has generally gone well. This will be a test, but I’m confident it’s one I can ace with plenty of food, rest, and maybe a trip to Lake Sylvia for some forest roads next weekend.

 

 

RDO Update

I’m accumulating a large number of parts at the shop, and, as of Tuesday, the only thing I lack is a headset, which I’d ordered a couple of weeks ago from Chris King through their employee purchase program. Sometimes manufacturers sit on EP orders a little while, so I haven’t been in too much of a rush for parts since my frame currently looks like this:

However, I figured yesterday that I should call and check in on it just to make sure the fax didn’t get lost or rolled into a large joint and smoked by the employees of the King company. Turns out, they didn’t have the shop address I’d put on my form listed as an Outdoors, Inc location (we have a main warehouse, which they did have on file), so they just didn’t process it. No call, email, or other attempt to contact…

It’s straight now. My headset should be shipping today.

Other than being severely over budget, this is going to be the most awesome build I’ve done to date.

 

 

ORAMM Race(ish) Report

I arrived in Black Mountain, checked in, and immediately went out to pre-ride some of the 8 hour drive out of my legs. Since I wasn’t very familiar with the area, I went to Curtis Creek- the forest road climb where we camped last year. I’ve always felt like I could nail forest road climbs, so I was feeling confident. I rode about 4 miles up then turned around & rode down while I was still feeling like I wanted more.

After that, I stopped by registration where I found Dicky, who was laying around sunbathing while he waited for some late-arriving friends Tim and Rob. I ended up letting him use my air conditioning once he realized that they wouldn’t be around anytime soon. Later, we all had some delicious Mexican food and Tim & Rob took me to a nearby grocery store with a huge beer selection so I could stock up on some of the local stuff (though they also had Breckenridge Brewery Vanilla Porter there- one of my all-time favorites). After getting the cooler re-arranged so that my beer wouldn’t boil all day Sunday, I headed back to the B&B and settled in to bed. I’d cranked the AC down in my room, so I prettymuch hibernated all night until my 5:30am alarm went off.

Since I was boringly well-prepped for this race, I’ll skip all the “race morning” filler about parking, port-o-potties, and drop bags and get to the important part.

I raced on my singlespeed in the open women’s category. I figured I had a good shot at placing high since I generally climb better on my SS than I do on my geared bike. Brenda Simril was there with her husband Lee, so I knew that if I were anywhere in sight of them on one of the non-singletrack sections of race course that he’d be on the big ring and pulling her away at high rates of speed. I didn’t know any of the other women on the start list, but Zeke Lilly pointed out plenty that he said I should “watch for.”

From the gun, the race goes fast. It’s generally rolling on asphalt for the first few miles, and I was left spinning in the back while the leaders hammered away. I tried to comfort myself by imagining what everyone would look like in their granny gears on the Curtis Creek climb halfway through the race. We finally hit the first climb of the day (an easy asphalt hiking/walking trail) and I settled in to a wonderful “don’t blow yourself up” rhythm.

Just about the time you’re getting tired of an easy paved climb, you reach a gate that puts you back out on the short section of road before Kitsuma- the somewhat infamous first singletrack climb of the day. It was there that I sustained my only injury of the race when a really obnoxious, thorny vine grabbed some skin off of the top of my right arm. I knew that I had a lot of ground to make up, but didn’t panic, settled down, and ate some gel.

Within minutes, I was rolling up the rooty trail that would eventually pitch upwards and start switchbacking steeply up the mountain. It’s a tough climb.

Brief Tangent- Last year, the switchbacks were pocked with rocks and roots. You not only had to navigate repeaded steep, nearly-180 deg switchbacks, you’d usually have to navigate a rock step or two as well. At some point over the winter, some trail work was done, and the ledges smoothed out. A lot of people were mad about it. I can see why. It’s not nearly as technical as it was before. If I were a local with time to figure out the lines and ride it without being in a race-induced conga-line, I’d probably enjoy the challenge it presented. On the other hand, before, you had an excuse to walk. Now, you don’t have an excuse other than a lack of general fitness rather than “I suck at switchbacks that combine a high degree of fitness and technical skill into one repetitive package.”
The descent was once equally as difficult. It had drops, steeps, random logs on the steeps, and off-camber “surprise” turns that would repeatedly pucker your butthole up into your brain. Now, it’s still steep, but the “danger factor” is somewhat removed. The turns are more banked, some of the rocks are gone, and it’s generally been smoothed into what rides like a downhill pump track. I’m not gonna even pretend as if I enjoyed the “old version” better- it’s about the most fun descent I’ve been on since the Downhill course in Winter Park last year.

Trail politics aside- like I said, Kitsuma is difficult. Pacing thrown out the window, my heart rate was pegged somewhere in the 180s as I rode/pushed for nearly 20 minutes. Eventually, I made it up and over and was back on the road trying to settle down, eat, drink, and prepare for the next similar but shorter climb up Star Gap. It was there that I started to feel the effects of being previously redlined for a moderate amount of time. Going up even the more “rideable” parts of Star Gap, I couldn’t get on top of my gear. At the top, a woman who I’d been back & forth with caught up to me and exclaimed that she was having derailleur problems. I replied back- “Yeah, me too.”

After that, the trail turns into a less steep/switchbacked overgrown closed off forest road. Being more of a “comfort zone” for me, I started getting into a rhythm on the climbs and trying to float down the descents without wrecking/dislocating a thumb like I did in the same spot last year. I made it to aid 2 at the bottom of Curtis Creek feeling a little rough, but hopeful that I’d pull some ladies back on the way up the forest road.

Unfortunately, my blow-up had taken away the nice “flying” feeling I’d had the day before. I still managed to get a nice pace going, though I was forced to walk a couple of steep spots around the halfway point. Then, it started to downpour. It felt really nice, and being cooled off a bit made my calves feel less twitchy. I was about 8 miles up and almost looking forward to the 2nd half of the race when I stood up to grind out another switchback and SNAP… I was sitting on my top tube and rolling backwards.

I broke my chain. It was an almost new chain, and as far as I could tell the night before when I was checking everything over, had nothing wrong with it. I had a chain tool, but (even though I carry it with me on 1 hr rides from my house) no chain parts to use for repair. I couldn’t shorten the chain to remove the damage, either. I was SOL. After stewing for a few minutes, I zipped my jersey up and made the “chainless coast of shame” back down to aid 2.

Game over.

In retospect, I was in bad shape at that point. Not that I wasn’t going to finish… I was just going to suffer a lot in doing so. My coach asked if I felt like I should have run a lower gear, and I told him that I don’t want a lower gear, I want stronger legs.

I hate ORAMM so much now that I’ve resolved myself to winning it if it kills me.

Jet9 RDO

I heard that frames were shipping out, but never received any specific notice on mine. No complaints, though, it was a nice surprise…

 

This won’t be the speediest build I’ve had- I’ve been planning some fun customization, so between that and parts still arriving daily, it’ll be a week or two before it’s all together.

I used to read Brickhouseracing, but…

…what?

I hear it in post-race conversation all the time. “I used to read ‘x’ blog, but then ‘x’ happened and I got tired of it and stopped.”

Lately, I’ve been noticing a falling off for page visits to this site. Maybe it’s the lull in posting as of late? Is it my breath? My hair? Maybe I should comment more often on Dicky’s blog so that a few of his 11ty billion readers wander over here. When I asked him back around Southern Cross time how to gain more readership, his advice to me  was to “start a blog in 2006,” or something like that.

I’m guessing it’s a general lack of excitement and adventure that my previous posts once had. So, in sort of a “raise your hand if you’re not here” fashion, I’m open to suggestions- both from the loyal few that stick around here, as well as some of you that wander in by accident, read this post, and decide you’re probably never coming back.

P.S. “Tits or GTFO” is not a valid suggestion.

 

 

Eureka Springs Fat Tire Festival- Day #3

Spoiler Alert… What will now be referred to as the “downward spiral of suck” continued on Sunday.

The Cross Country race lined up at 9am on Sunday. Despite the downer of a Saturday, I was feeling like a boss. The race started, and I was still feeling like a boss. It begins by winding through the streets and back alleys of Eureka Springs, including some awesomely steep, short climbs. In the first few miles before we hit the main trail, Rachel, one other woman (not an omnium competitor) and myself had pulled away from the pack.

Did I mention that I felt great?

The non-omnium gal dropped back on a road section just before the main trail. I stayed just a few seconds off of  Rachel’s wheel as we entered the singletrack together. Soon enough, I took the chance to pass when she bobbled a steep, slippery pitch of one of the climbs. Then, it was her turn to do the same to me. No matter what, she stayed about 15-30 seconds back from me. I hoped to rely on my innate endurance to hold her off by maintaining a steady pace.

Somewhat suddenly, my legs started to feel bad. Really bad. Like, “hey, you’re bonking, and, oh yeah…  we’re going to cramp soon.” I was trying to drink some EFS drink mix from my camelbak, but it suddenly tasted/felt like it was too strong to digest. The calories I was taking in weren’t getting to where they needed to be. At just over an hour into the race, I felt impending doom closing in on me. Then, at the next climb, I went to gun it up a steep, rocky spot, and immediately my inner quads tried to turn themselves inside out. The lockup was hard enough that I almost fell over because I nearly couldn’t get a foot out of my pedal.

So began the hour of death march to the finish.

I had to back way off of my previous “like a boss” pace. Another woman passed me. My legs were still cramping, and my stomach felt like I’d swallowed a brick. I passed through the start/finish area for the 2nd of 3 times to start the last climb on the short lap before the finish. I saw a cooler on the side of the trail. I stopped and looked inside. There were 3 water bottles, and 3.5 bottled waters. I took the half bottle and chugged it.  As the climb started,  I cramped more, walked some, but my stomach started to feel much better. I then accidentally dropped my big air/inflator on the trail. Luckily, it was near a cat 3 guy who was hopelessly stranded with a flat tire, and he brought it back to me after the race.

Eventually, I made it to the finish line in 3rd place.

The drive home was long. Six hours later, I arrived home to Ryan and Matt getting dinner ready. As I unpacked the car, I happened to notice that my bike looked funny. Thirty seconds and a 4mm allen wrench later, I realized that my seatpost had slipped down just short of 2 inches during the course of the race. Cramp city, population 2 legs.

P.S. The Jet 9 RDO has charged to my credit card. The fork will be here Friday. ORAMM is next weekend. Much more exciting than my crappy weekend in Arkansas…