A Weekend with the Men

After a brief hiatus from CX racing following the Outdoors, Inc. race, jumping back in on Saturday was a little like hopping into a chilly pool. I’ve started my last cycle of training intensity before Worlds, and the two races over the weekend were an effective addition to the stress.

Saturday morning was cold- somewhere around 30 degrees. We bundled up and rode over to a nearby church for the first annual Cordova Cross race. Once we were registered, we rode a couple of laps of the course to stay warm. The course itself was pretty boss and contained most of the fun/challenging elements that you could ask for in a cyclocross race- fast sections, mud pit, uphill barriers, sketchy-steep turns, power sections… all packed in to a relatively short loop around the church property.  The field was divided in to A, B, and Women’s groups for scoring, though we all started together. I entered the women’s race, but from the start, ended up staying near the front of the pack. While I was clawing back any men that were unhitched from the lead group, Ryan was busy winning the A race, and we both took home a win in our respective categories (I landed 4th overall against the guys).

Trophies!

Sunday was a bit more serious. We packed up and day-tripped the Arkansas State Championship race. The promoter decided that no categories (including women’s open) racing the B race would receive a payout. Shitty. Also, being from Tennessee, I don’t qualify to win an Arkansas jersey. SO, I decided to race the men’s “A” race to see if I could grab one of the top 5 spots and take home a little cash.
The race course was sweet- it was mostly soft grass and typical CX-type terrain. However, it included one section of snotty, greasy, and occasionally rocky singletrack. When roll call started, I lined up in the front row in case anyone was wondering if I really meant business.

Of course I did… I was wearing my “business” armwarmers…

From the gun, I made an aggressive start. Ryan ended up behind me, and didn’t make it up to my wheel until around 4 laps in. This was the first race for me on Ryan’s Reynolds wheels with the Challenge Limus mud tire. As the race progressed, I got more and more comfortable with the surprising amount of traction they afforded me on the soft grass and slick trail.

They’re officially on my “awesome” list:

 

Also on the “awesome” list, carbon tubular wheels:

 

 

 

(those last few are courtesy of Cliff Li)

Once again, I ended up in 4th place behind 2 Arkansas men and Ryan, who finished 3rd. Another good, hard day of training in the books. The only place I feel like I’m really lacking is in the last 20 minutes of a 60 min race. Fortunately for me, the Worlds race is only 40 minutes long, so I should be able to lay the hammer down for the entirety of the race. Looking forward, the next couple of weeks is going to be a rabbithole of intensity, including two hard workouts and the TN State Championship CX race on Sunday. I foresee lots of compression tights and sleep.

 

Phone Dump

It’s time for the next edition of phone photodump- lots of fun photos, not enough time/content to blog them separately…

First, from the “cool bike shit” files, is this:

No, I didn’t get a new powermeter. I decided that since I’m gunning for a world championship in Cyclocross that I should be doing a majority of my training on my cyclocross bike. So, on Saturday, I took the Quarq off of my road bike and put my cyclocross chainrings on it. Yes… shit just got serious.
The only problem that I’m running in to is that Quarq recommends that you re-calibrate the slope for your powermeter when you change the rings. They provide a table for calculating this change. However, I had new rings installed from the beginning, and I don’t know if the slope was ever changed or not.  I might have to pull that crank and send it to them for calibration.

 

The RDO fork is pretty boss. Consider it a rigid fork multiplier… it makes everything that’s fun about riding rigid even more fun. It also makes everything that’s challenging about riding rigid a little more challenging.

 


I like ironing Ryan’s work clothes- especially when he brings me coffee and a pop tart.

 

Thor has discovered television.

Turbo, at the age of 10-ish, has discovered garbage.

 

Thor and Turbo also have a not-so-secret pact that he won’t bother her like he does the little dogs if she’ll allow him to snuggle on the dog bed.

 

Can you spot the terrier in this photo?

 

 

Skatepark!

Tuesday evening, Matt asked if I wanted to join him and Joel at the new Memphis Skatepark for an early morning shred session. Try as I might, I couldn’t think of any good excuse to not go-

Excuse 1: “but I don’t have a bike that’s good for riding in a park”
Use the Endo Machine

Excuse 2: “but bike day is only on Monday”
It’s 6:30 in the morning. WTF do you think is going to be there at 6:30 on a weekday when it’s 30 degrees outside?

Excuse 3: “Ive got no skills, what am I going to be able to do?
You’ll have fun, trust me.

So, I was up before dawn layering myself and not really sure what to expect. Most skateparks I’ve been to are the general “street” style park, and, since I have no “street” riding ability, I didn’t know what I’d be facing. However, the Memphis park turns out to be a little bit of a throwback, with two bowls that ride somewhat like an in-ground pump track.

I f*cking LOVE PUMPTRACKS.

Joel and Matt were on BMX bikes, and were ripping around at high rates of speed. The Endo Machine wasn’t quite the park ripper- the headshock kept clunking as it repeatedly unloaded and bottomed out. Joel and Matt both took it for a spin and promptly returned it, kinda like:

All clunking aside, I still had a blast.

 

Watching them, I realized that a large hole in my riding abilities exists. I also realized that the Endo Machine is not an appropriate bike for riding in a skatepark and learning such skills. If there’s one thing I hate, it’s when I feel like my equipment is an excuse for my lack of performance. If I’m going to suck, it’s going to be because I (not my bike) honestly suck. So, like any normal person who is determined to shred a skatepark with the goal of becoming a well-rounded mountain biker, I went home and bought a bike:

 

 

I think we’re going to have a lot of fun this winter.

 

Syllamo Thanksgiving #5

Our final day of riding was another easy one- an out & back on the “easy” part of the yellow trail with a lap of the red trail in the middle. Aside from Ryan taking a spill when he handlebar-hooked a vine, it was a pretty laid back ride. The weather was finally trying to be sunny, so the scenery was excellent.

Once we were back, I cleaned up and started with the real highlight of the day (week?)- Thanksgiving dinner. The night before, I’d brined a turkey and prepped the dressing and mashed potatoes, so everything was set for an amazing dinner. Did it turn out just right? Check out the photos and see for yourself…

 

This concludes the Thanksgiving series of what’s probably the most uneventful trip to Syllamo I’ve had in a while. I’m looking forward to better weather on my next trip… whenever that may be. With prep for worlds heating up, I’m looking at a busy training schedule focused more on bringing the CX pain than negotiating rocks and trail for hours on end.

Syllamo Thanksgiving #4

Wednesday’s ride was a short one. I had a momentary lapse of judgment and suggested that we take the Blue trail down to the highway. I remembered about halfway down that the 6 inches of rain we’d received in the previous two days had backed up into the White River and surrounding creeks- including Livingston Creek, which the trail crosses three separate times.

Matt and Bruce rode ahead of Ryan and me, and, sure enough, when we reached the bottom, Matt and Bruce were wandering around looking at the quickly flowing, waist-high water. We decided to climb back up to Green Mountain Road and back to the Green Trail for a lap of nice rockiness. Afterward, it was back to the cabin to prep for Thursday’s Thanksgiving Dinner. And work on the puzzle.

 

Obligatory Green Trail Overlook photo:

Syllamo Thanksgiving #3

Yes, I realize I’m sorely behind on posting about my 5 days riding in Arkansas, but you have to understand, Ryan and I were heavily involved with both riding our bikes and completing a 1000 piece puzzle. Priorities, man.

 

The night prior to our 3rd day riding saw downpours that brought 2-3 inches of rain to the area. So, more forest road riding was in order. Ever since this post well over a year ago, I’ve been itching to get back to Barkshed Camp to ride out of the camp on Barkshed Road, which (if you’re not the link-clicking type) I’d previously attempted but failed when I found the road blocked with a multitude of trees and brambles.

Luckily, this time, I had more daylight and the encouragement of Ryan and Matt. We found that much of the deadfall that had covered the trail before was now cut, and, though we granny geared and walked a little in the brambled spots, within half a mile, we popped out at a forest road gate that kept traffic off only that short section of trail. So, after sharing a ziploc bag of gummy bears, we traversed the the remaining 8 miles of Barkshed Rd. on nice, rolling, gravel.

The forest road eventually dumped us onto Push Mountain road. It’s a nice, low traffic (surprisingly rare for that area) road with a good shoulder. We followed it up to a gravel county road that led us back into the forest. Along the way, we saw two very large pigs as well as a forest ranger who stopped to ask (in a very polite, roundabout way), what in the spandex-clad hell we were doing out there.

Somewhere along the way, Matt bonked and yelled at his bike when the front derailleur stopped working. Luckily, at that point, we were only half an hour or so from Gunner Pool Camp, where we’d parked the car.

Random Caption Contest:

(All I can think of is this Wayne’s World skit: http://vimeo.com/476035 )

Some others:

 

 

Syllamo Thanksgiving #2

The weather on Monday was a little bit dismal. The rain stopped early in the day, but clouds and fog hung around all day. Bruce decided that he’d hold down the couch while Ryan and I hit up the Ozark forest roads.

We parked on Green Mountain Road and began climbing. Earlier, I’d picked the route based on Google Earth maps. I’d found a “road” that looked like a nice overlook trail- It’s nice to have Ryan here to ride with me so I can get off the usual trails & roads and explore some of the ATV trails that rarely see traffic.

The trail we found was doubletrack ATV path that was either straight up or straight down. The steepness of the trails and the layer of wet leaves over the rocks and downed limbs made even the granniest-gear of climb or descent incredibly difficult. I’m looking forward to visiting it again without the thick cloudcover that was keeping us from enjoying the view.

We noticed countless numbers of ATV and horse trails along the forest roads. Since I don’t have a map to them, I’m not willing to explore them by myself. So, I’m planning on finding out from the forest service if there is a map available. They make great/challenging alternate routes when the weather saturates the mountain bike trails.

Good workout today. We basically hammered for 2.5 hours. Followup? Recovery pizza at Tommy’s Famous in Mountain View

Syllamo Thanksgiving #1

Yesterday’s ride was somewhat abbreviated. Ryan, Bruce, and I took to the orange trail. It had rained earlier, so it was a good choice because of its relative lack of rocks. This was also the RDO’s first time out at Syllamo, and if I recall correctly, the first time I’d ridden gears on these trails since breaking a derailleur on the Air9 Scandium more than a year ago (and subsequently swore off gears on that trail forever).

The initial descent was a blast, and I decided I’d use the short climbs on the trail to do a little interval training and see how the new bike would perform. In the middle of the first interval, BAM! Stick to the rear derailleur. My shifting was immediately rough, but still somewhat functional. I finished the interval, rode back to meet with Ryan and Bruce, then kicked it up again for the next climb.

Ryan followed me up until we reached a stretch of open, bald, wet rocks. I knew they’d be periodically slick, but decided that today I’d take my chances and hammer across. I made it mostly through until I hit one last off-camber spot. My bike shot out from under me, but somehow I managed to catch myself and keep from falling by grabbing a nearby cedar sapling. My bike landed squarely on the right side, rendering the derailleur slightly less functional than before. Once I was at the top, I decided I’d swap hangers (I’d brought two spares). Unfortunately, the new hanger, though it fit the frame fine, was very slightly different than the old one, and the derailleur was horribly mal-adjusted. The amount of sand and crap in the drivetrain was making adjustments tedious, and Bruce, who had fallen chest-first onto a rock early in the ride, suggested we call it a day.

So, we bailed off on the forest road and coasted down to the car. Luckily, once everything was clean, lubed, and re-adjusted, the shifting was fine. Crisis averted, for now. I’m incredibly happy that Matt will arrive with my singlespeed Monday night, so the geared bike only needs to make it through one more day of riding.

PS- The RDO is still awesome. Even if it does have that silly “gear” thing.

Morning Mud

Earlier in the week, I was scheduled for a tough interval workout. For whatever reason (mostly leftover fatigue- both mental and physical), I decided to blow off the intervals and hit the trail for a mountain bike ride.

There was a deluge of rain approaching on the radar, and, even though it wasn’t very close to my area yet, the air was heavy, and small drops were spitting from the clouds within the first few minutes of my ride. When I passed the trailhead, the parking lot was empty. On the trail, the rain had not yet breached the tree cover, so the ground was dry.

The trail is a pretty popular spot for morning  joggers and the occasional mountain bike rider, but today, I was alone. The sound of the rain on the trees over my head and the solitude of being the only person in the woods was absolutely sublime. Something about railing through the empty woods on a singlespeed gives you time to reflect and clear your head.

As the rain quickened, the leaves on the trail started to get wet and slick, and, through the magic of good timing, I made it off the trail just as the ground started to become saturated. The ride back home on the gravel roads through the north side of the park was equally as awesome…

The Road Not Taken

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Outdoors, Inc. MidSouth Cyclocross Championship

As I mentioned in my previous post, I was somewhat nervous going into this race. I’d had a slightly fatiguing training week, and I was unsure of my ability to defend “home turf” against the women who could potentially show up from out-of-town. However, following suit to most of the other races I’ve been to this season, the women’s field (6 of us) was somewhat small (partially due to the schedule conflict that pulled a few Nashville women north to the USGP race in Louisville, KY).

We lined up behind the group of “B” race men- cat 4s and beginner masters racers- and started a minute behind the group. I decided to take the initiative and dive into the wind head-first. I wasn’t sure how the other women would react, but it made for a good photo…

 

It took a lap or two to work through the slowest of the male traffic, but I eventually put a sizable gap between me and the other women. The next few laps, I had the pleasure of both bleeding out of my eyes and hearing all of my coworkers/friends cheering me on. Sponsorship gold, Jerry…

(notice worlds most badass armwarmers in that shot)

Hopefully, some more, awesome photos will surface soon.