Lull

In the lead-up to Cohutta, nothing is happening. Well, other than repeated storms that seem to be trying to blow/flood various parts of the Mid-south off of the map. The tornado sirens have been going off so much in the past week that I’m afraid people are not going to take them seriously when it actually matters. Luckily, I was able to get out on the road bike yesterday between storms (with the exception of a 5 minute downpour) for my tune-up ride. Everything is good. Now, all I do is wait and not drink beer for a few days and I’ll be ready to race.

So, in lieu of anything interesting that has to do with riding a bike, here are some photos from early 2007 from when I was into some trail running…

F(*^ing Awesome Grill

I like my outdoor cooking appliances like I like my men.

Oh, wait, nevermind… that doesn’t make sense.

Yes, my new grill is so awesome that it deserves its own blog post. We’ve been occasionally using a little Weber kettle and dealt with it up until recently when I was forced to cook food in “shifts” since the kettle was so small. Soon after, we went shopping for something larger and found the Master Forge Jet Light… aka, the “666 grill” because of its 666 square inch grilling area. Features include “Jet Light” (a propane-powered lighting system that eliminates the need for lighter fluid or a chimney), cast iron grates, upper warming rack, and “counter” space on both sides… pure awesomeness…

 

In training news, Saturday’s “Cycle for Safety” ride was a trip to the pain cave and back. Sunday, I went for an easy spin on the Jet, and my legs felt leaden. Today, the trip to the chiropractor was painful because of a handful of trigger points in my upper back and shoulders, and finally, when I got to work, the first thing I managed to do was clamp my right pinky into the mechanism of the workstand. It’s likely going to result in a permanent change to my fingerprint on that finger. I also ordered a Crest rim, some DT Swiss Aerolite spokes, and a MTB Powertap hub.

Looking forward to next Saturday… Cohutta. Singlespeed.

Wednesday 2-a-Day

Yesterday’s training was broken up into separate rides so that I could get my endurance mileage in and still attend the Tiger Lane training crit in the afternoon. I had high hopes of waking up this morning and writing a blog post about training criterium glory. However, the event was rained out, so I had to take comfort in racing cars along the route to the non-race venue.

Instead, here’s a story about helping old people.

It stormed like mad Tuesday night- trees and other debris were everywhere. Wednesday morning, I was JRA (like you do when you’re getting some endurance mileage) on my way to Arlington when I passed a driveway where the garbage can had tipped over and blown about 15 feet away from the curb. I actually passed a lot of garbage cans that looked like that, except on one end of this one, a little old blue-haired lady in pajamas with curlers in her hair was trying to drag it towards the curb.

I circled back and asked her if she needed some help. She looked startled and said something about the storm and that she almost had it. Upon further inspection, there were 4 water-soaked garbage bags and a few gallons of water inside the can. I dumped it out, righted the can, threw the bags in, and wheeled it to the curb while she stood there still looking sort of stunned. When I picked my bike back up, she thanked me a couple of times and told me that she was going to have to be nicer to her one grandkid that wanted to put extra holes in his head. Uh. You’re welcome, granny.

 

I fvcking love two-a-days.

 

Back to the Ozarks

I was long overdue for a Syllamo trip. I was actually planning on it for it for a few weeks, but since Ryan was at Mississippi Grand Prix, I knew there was a chance that I’d be going at it solo, and I didn’t want to tip off you stalker types that read my blog every day. Fortunately, Matt wanted to check out the Outdoors SIR9 demo bike on some real singletrack, and we headed over friday after work.

Saturday morning, we hit the trail going reverse race direction on the blue and orange. Doing that always makes the race direction seem easier since it forces you to start with a technical decent then climb relentlessly the entire way from the Highway 5 trailhead.

You know what sucks? They’re logging on the blue trail now. A good half mile of what was the first singletrack in that direction has been opened up to “logging equipment” size. Damnit.

In climbing away from the highway, I quickly realized that geared bike riding had made me a little soft, and that I wasn’t fully over the cold I’d caught earlier in the week. Matt was also looking a little tired, so when we arrived at the White River Bluff trailhead, I suggested that we finish our ride by going up Green Mountain Road and down to Gunner Pool, then back. Along the way back, I realized that I wouldn’t get my prescribed 4 hours for the day unless I took a detour, so I bombed down to Blanchard Springs and climbed back out to polish off the day with about 4600 feet of climbing. Hopefully that one will pay off at Cohutta in a couple of weeks.

Back at the cabin, we engaged in one of my favorite past times- drinking a beer & sitting on the porch to watch the sunset. Afterward, catfish.

Sunday, I wanted to ride the entire trail loop. We started off at the Scrappy Mountain trailhead, rode the “easy” section of the yellow to the red, around the red and “hard” part of the yellow, and back to the car. I got into a fight with the rocks somewhere along the way. Rocks 1, me 0. At the car, I dropped off Matt as well as my Camelbak, which was making my back hurt (I finished the ride with one bottle, making refill stops at the jugs we dropped at the trailheads on the way in.

Highlight of the ride: cleaning the entire green trail “overlook” rock garden from end to end without putting a foot down. Me 2, rocks 1. Low point- getting chased and bitten by a swarm of horseflies while negotiating the short climbs on the orange trail. Luckily, Matt met me at the Highway 5 trailhead with bugspray so I was able to suffer in peace for the remainder of the ride.

I felt like I was flying up the last climb- a nice feeling at 5+ hours into a ride. When I made it back to the trailhead, I realized that I’d finished the loop a lot faster than my race time from last year (granted, conditions last year sucked… but it’s still a good feeling). So, I didn’t get the 6 hours that I’d planned for, but in a good way.

Syllamo’s Revenge is probably going to be the hardest race I’ll go to this year. The additional miles are going to destroy me if I start to cramp like I did at Ouachita, but hopefully this weekend leaves me a little more prepared.

 

Road Dose

Yesterday was my first day back to long endurance riding on the road bike since back around March 20th. For whatever reason, any time I go for a while without riding like that for a while, it always hurts a little more than usual the first time back. As a bonus, the workout called for 10 minutes of Z4 interval at about 1.5 and 3.25 hours into the 4 hour ride. For as much as the first one was a fun break from Z2, the second one made my blood feel like hot lead circulating through my legs. It’s both humbling and inspiring when a workout exposes weakness.

After my ride, I relaxed at home a bit, ate 2nd breakfast, and went by work to pick up one of the demo bikes to meet a customer at the trail for a test ride. I hadn’t ridden the Jet9 in a month of Sundays, so I took it out for a break from the hardtail. I’d forgotten just how much damn fun that bike is!

Because of the double-up, I took it easy this morning. Ryan woke up early to lift, so I had some coffee and hit the road pre-dawn for an easy hour before the bike-hating car commuters were packed onto the roads. Sunrises are best viewed from on top of mountains, but a suburbia sunrise from the saddle is a close contender.

Here’s the part where I get to throw in some shameless plugs with a photo featuring both my Trail LED setup and the sweet Ellsworth wheels I won at the Ouachita Challenge:

Squeal Out

Anyone who has ridden with me knows that I’m a full-fledged victim of Avid brake warble/howl/squeal/whateveryouwannacallit. Looking for solutions, I found this thread on MTBR, which led me to believe that the noise that Avid brakes make is somewhat akin to leg cramps in that there are a lot of theories with some anecdotal evidence, but no proven, specific reasons behind why it happens.

Also found in that thread is this stuff: Squeal Out

I figured I’d give it a shot and sent the guy a private message asking for the free sample he was offering. Not long after, I got an envelope in the mail containing a Ziploc bag of gritty paste and (somewhat mis-spell/comma-ed)  instructions for application:

Against the advice of the instructions, I applied it to both brakes at the same time on my geared A9C. After that, Ryan and I went to Stanky Creek for an easy ride. Not a peep out of my brakes. Sweet! I’ll try it on the older, noisier Elixir CR brakes this morning on the SS and report back in a few weeks on the results and the long term effectiveness.

Rest Weekend Day 2

Someone commented on my last post to ask if I was ok… yes, I’m fine, I’m just taking the weekend easy to finish recovering from the first few early season races, the volume of training put in to getting ready for those, and the lab test I completed friday morning. I’ll be back at it soon enough with 4 hours on Wednesday and 8-10 at Syllamo next weekend.

This morning, I’m relaxing with some coffee and Paris Roubaix. All I have to say is JOOOOOOOOHAAAAAAAAN!!!!

Your photos for the day are some related to Ouachita- the pre-ride on Brushy and a couple of post-race back at home shots…

Rest Weekend

After some vigorous (and rather successful, I might add)  lab testing yesterday, I was assigned a rest weekend. So, no training related posts for you… instead, here are random photos of dogs and cats playing with each other.

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: