Random SSCX

Yesterday morning, the trails were wet and the weather was nice, so I felt the need to complete a “long run” in preparation for the next weekend’s adventure race. I figured I’d stick to the 6 mile Tour de Wolf trail near my house since it’s got a good bit of root/roll to it. Since I started on this run buildup, I’ve made it a point to always run with some sort of impetus rather than just plodding along. It seems to have worked, because, though I doubled my past mileage in yesterday’s run, I kept with a solid sub-9min/mile pace. Kinda slow, but, not knowing how I’d feel the second half of the run, I started slow and ramped up until the last mile was at a sub-8 pace. (Side effect- Strava poaching!) I was comfortable the entire time (although, this morning, my body seems kinda pissed at the jump from 3 to 6 miles), so I’m feeling good about however much I’m going to need to run next weekend.

After my run, Matt and I went out for a short stint of trailwork on the Wolf River Trail. We didn’t get into hours of digging and hole-fixing like last time. Instead, we cleared vines and branches from tall cyclist/horseback rider headspace. We also saw a bunch of people going to ride the trails, which we’d both avoided riding since they were too wet. “Too wet” is a bit of a subjective definition, of course. However, now that I’ve put hours into moving dirt to fill spots that are eroded because of people riding them when they’re wet, I can tell you that riding on days like yesterday- when 75% of the trail is dry, but the other 25% is water/mudholes- is what causes the holes that Matt and I (and others in the community) are trying to fix.

I digress.

This morning, I was trying to decide what I’d do today, when someone on Facebook posted a link to the Keep Calm and Race Cross flyer. I immediately noticed the placement of the Singlespeed CX race a nice bit after the Women’s Elite race. I ran through the houshold spare parts list in my head, and came up with this idea:

out

in

There’s something oddly satisfying about putting a handful of high-end components on a nice, budget-oriented steel frame. I’m going to go ride it now and make sure that the rear wheel doesn’t slip. It may end up needing a tensioner, but for now, I’ve got the dura-ace skewer as tight as I’m able to make it.

Parts rundown:
Surly Crosscheck frame/fork
Dura-ace C24 Tubeless wheels
Hutchinson Bulldog Tubeless tires
SRAM Red Crank w/FSA 39t chainring
KMC 10spd Chain
XTR Pedals
Tektro Mini-v brakes
Tektro Levers
Salsa Cowbell bar
Thomson X2 Stem
FSA SLK Carbon Post
Fizik Saddle & Bar tape

Simmer Down

Since returning from Interbike, I’ve given myself a little bit of leeway to act more like a normal person who rides bikes than a full-time bike racer. In the past couple of years, I’ve gone to either extreme- either taking a full-on break from the bike for a week-ish, or, in the last year, since I did a good job of pacing my schedule, didn’t feel the need to take much of a break at all. Though I am “training” for the Tennessee Adventure Challenge race, it’s basically a fun thing that gives me a laid-back, low-expectation “goal” to keep me from going nuts while I take a rest from being hyper-focused on my usual races.

How’s that different? Well, Sunday, I had a 4.5 hour tempo ride on my training schedule. I wanted to do a specific ride on my mountain bike, but then it rained. So, instead of doing the ride on my road bike, in the rain, I just blew it off and went for a run/yoga class. I’m also doing other fun stuff, like stopping to take photos:

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Wearing baggy shorts:

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And meeting up with the Ladies Only ride last weekend:

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Part of my aversion to the 4 hours of road riding last Sunday was my lack of a road bike. I finally sent all of the defective Cannondale frames back and asked for a refund of my money. The final tally? 5 frames in the last year- every single one of them with the same defective bottom bracket shell. Number 5 was actually promised to be a 2014 bike from the new mold (the only reason why I rode a defective one with an adapter for months), but all that waiting, and they just sent me another one of the 2013 defective ones. They’ve got the bikes, and I’m still waiting for them to get their shit together and give me my money back so I can buy something else.

In the meantime, I’ve got my Scott CX bike overhauled and set back up as a road bike:

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In non-bike goings-on, I decided to try an Aerial Yoga class. It’s a ton of fun:

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Also, here’s a random photo of Indy, getting a bath:

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I know that my “less serious riding” time is serving its purpose, because I’m already starting to look at early season races to get on the schedule so my fall/winter training has a tangible goal. For now, I’m excited about trying some new-ish stuff and relaxing a little.

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Handlebar Tape- Etiquette and Attention to Detail

I’ve come to notice a disturbing trend that’s taking the mountain bike world by storm. As “Gravel Grinder” bikes are becoming the newest hot thing (I’ll reserve comment about the whole gravel grinder specialty bike thing… Guitar Ted did a good writeup, and he’s much more qualified to opine on the subject than myself) . It’s not the gravel grinder trend that I find disturbing, it’s the utter lack of respect for handlebar tape I’ve seen on some gravel grinder bikes.

I understand- as a mountain bike person, you’ve only dealt with lock on/slip on grips. Now that you’ve got this fancy drop-bar bike, suddenly, there’s a new skill to be had with getting that overpriced strip of foam/cork/pleather wrapped around the bars in a way that covers the metal and doesn’t come loose. Uh… kinda a pain, but whatevs.

What you don’t realize is, it’s so much more than that.

Enter, the roadie world. Perfectly wrapped bars are more than just function. They’re a sign that your attention to detail is impeccable. It means, “I’ve poured over every detail of this machine as if it were a part of my own body.” At one time, white bar tape was used to denote the “captain” of a road team. There’s history there. The perfectness of your wrap job is a sign of respect to the activity of both cycling and wrenching itself.

So, when I see things like this:

(The finishing tape… oh god, it’s so wrong)

…it’s as if someone got up during the eulogy of a funeral and talked about the time he had a raunchy one night stand with the deceased. You just don’t do that.

I understand- the guys at ESI (makers of the above tape) are, as I described earlier, just not privy to the tradition that surrounds the accessory. That’s why I’m making this post- so you, the gravel grinder seller/buyer/wrench/new wrench who just started learning, know exactly just how disrespectful it is to our sport to not take care and make the tape just right.

You’ll find instructional videos and websites all over the place, so I’m not going to go into detail about the process itself, just the small details that you should pay attention to when you’re wrapping bars.

-If the bar-end plugs that come with your tape have any sort of logo on them, make sure it’s upright and straight when you install them.
-If you’re using SRAM road shifters, make sure that the ends of  the strip of “cover” tape for the back of the lever don’t come between the hood nubs  and any of their respective holes in the body of the shifter. If you prevent the hood from resting in those spots properly, the hood will rotate around the shifter while you’re riding. I usually wrap the bar as normal then go back and trim the cover strip away from any of the holes in the shifter body before rolling the hood back into place. Rob Manning has a great photo of what I’m talking about in his blog post about 2012 SRAM Red:

-The finishing tape that comes with your tape is bunk. No one really uses it. You’ll want black electrical tape. Yes, electrical tape comes in other colors, and there’s some cool pin-striping you can do with it, as well as some fun color-swapping/customizing (see photo below), but black is always appropriate on every bike.
-The surest sign of a nice wrap job (aside from tight, evenly spaced, complete coverage of the bar with tape) is a good finish. When you read most taping instructions, you’ll see how to trim the last bit of tape at an angle so that it creates a straight line around the bar. That’s incredibly important to master prior to the application of electrical tape.
-The electrical tape goes on the bar tape… not on the bar itself. This is the most often violated “rule” out there. If you do everything else right, one width of tape wrapped around 2-3 times is all you need to keep your handlebar tape in place. Here’s one from the Garmin Pro team:
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Also, it’s extra style points if you apply electrical tape in a way that allows a tiny bit of the cross-section of tape color to show on the edge (especially if it’s something cool, like the Cinelli Caleido Tape). See photo of Poolboy Matt’s bike:
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-Finally, make sure that the distance from tape to stem is even on both sides. The tape should cover at least to the part of the bar where it gets fat for the stem clamp. I like 3 finger’s width (my fingers and yours may not be the same size, but 3 fingers is usually a safe bet, anyway). I’ve been known to count the number of wraps from end to lever then lever to finish, but as long as you can make them look symmetrical, one more or less on a side isn’t going to spoil everything.

So, there you have it. Like any other part of wrenching, it’s really about attention to detail. It’s the little touches that add polish to a job well done that make a big difference between a bike that just “works” and one that not only works perfectly, but that has the extra flair that makes it pleasing to the eye.

Interbike #2: The Hustle

Crossvegas was just something thrown into my trip for an extra challenge. It’s like the spur of hike-a-bike to an overlook that you add to your long ride just because it’s worth the view. The real reason I went to Interbike was to visit with sponsors and potential sponsors. Couldn’t all that be done through the magic of the internet? Well, maybe… I can let someone know what I need and what I’m willing/able to do for them, but the impersonal setting doesn’t suit me nearly as well as meeting face-to-face.

I’ve been told that I’m very “marketable.”

Last year, I approached the show with very little focus. I swept across the show floor going into any booth that looked cool, and probably handed out about 100 business cards in the process. It was a successful trip in many respects, but I got pretty lucky along the way. This year, my approach was more calculated. I made contact ahead of time and found out when I should stop by to talk to the right person to hand out a packet full of race resume and other pertinent info.

The process of turning myself up to “11” and selling people on my ability to persuade the masses is both incredibly fun and incredibly exhausting. I took breaks often to hang out at the Ergon booth with my friends in there. As Sonya Looney put it… it’s a “safe” place where you can sit down and switch off for a few minutes. Plus, they had a kickass happy hour on Thursday afternoon. I generally played it cool on the post-show parties, though. It’s hard to do my job if I get further sucked in to the money pit/hangover that is Vegas. There’s a great article along the same vein over on BikeMag: Interbike Survival Guide

With the exception of not being able to track down a marketing guy at SRAM, I was successful in meeting with everyone who needed to be met with.
Fun side story- I did have a fun moment at the SRAM booth when I stopped by their info desk. The nice girl behind the desk said she had the same shirt as I was wearing. I asked if she’d taken advantage of Target’s “2 for $10″ deal as I had, and, turns out, she did, and her other shirt was the same as I’d bought.
Like I said, I would rather meet in person, but the info desk couple was very nice and encouraged me to take a ‘MTB Sponsorship” card and email them after the show.

As for everyone else, the meetings were positive. Nimblewear, Gu Energy, ProGold, and Industry Nine are all a go for doing it again next year. As far as potential new sponsors, I can’t really talk about who and what just yet, because it’ll be different than the who and what this year. More on that sometime (hopefully) early in November.

Interbike #1- Crossvegas

Earlier in the Summer, Chad from Nimblewear asked if I’d be interested in the “Wheelers and Dealers” race at Interbike. I wasn’t sure if I was going to Interbike, and was less sure that I wanted to race, so I told him I’d get back to him.  Fast forward to August-ish, and I decided that I was game for both. However, when I went to register, I saw that the Wheelers and Dealers race registration was full. So, I entered the Elite Race. Nevermind that it’d be my first CX race of the season, my first Elite-level race since 2009, and that I’d never flown with my bike anywhere.

Wednesday morning, I paid the $150 one-way ticket for my bike and headed off to Vegas. Thankfully, my flight was a direct one, and, with the hop across two time zones, I landed with plenty of time to find a shuttle, get checked in (side note- when you check in “early” at a Vegas hotel, they charge you out the ass), and put my bike together. Turns out, I’d have one more chore… when the plane landed and I touched base with the person who was supposed to give me a ride from the strip to the course, he informed me that he’d decided not to go, and that his car was full of stuff from the previous day’s outdoors demo event…

fuck-cat-stuck-in-a-bottle

So, while I was in the process of shuttling, getting my bike together, etc, I mentally prepared myself to ride to the course from the hotel (not a huge deal, but not what I really wanted to do, given my lack of planning for that sort of thing). However, I enlisted the powers of social media and found a ride with a friend of pro racer Adam Myerson.

Hotel room workstand:

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After finding lunch and settling in, I needed to find the expo center and touch base with the Nimblewear guys, who’d made a special Interbike-edition pink houndstooth skinsuit for me (see right edge of photo)

CXstart

(Side note- Haven’t found any action shots… Even though I raced head to head with both Amanda Carey and Judy Freeman throughout the race, all of the photographers managed to keep me out of those ladies’ photos.)

Nimblewear’s got a new long sleeve skinsuit cut that I’m gonna have to get my hands on soon. IT’S GOT THUMBHOLES!!!!

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I only got lost 3 times while trying to get through the 2 casinos that separated the lobby of the Luxor from the convention center in the Mandalay.

After hanging out for a few minutes, I headed back to the room too put my feet up and roll my legs before meeting up with Chad (the Twitter connection) to get out to the race venue. As I was walking in, I saw Bob Roll:

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Then, I found the guys from Swiftwick, who had their van set up right next to the course. They were nice enough to let me camp out there a little (ok, a lot), change in their van, and help me pin my numbers. If you’ve never owned a pair of Swiftwick socks, comment below, tell me why, and I’ll email you back with a code for 40% off a pair from their website. Your only regret will be figuring out what  to do with all of your other socks.

I made sure to start rolling around a little earlier than usual to warm my legs up slowly after flying/walking all day. They were  little argumentative at first, but eventually the power started to creep back. As soon as the course was open, I headed out for a pre-ride. The course gets a bum rep for being a “grass crit” and lacking in technical features. True, it’s a super power-course, but, as I’d find out later, being able to ride “crit” speed on wide open grass turns is a technical skill in and of itself.

As bib number 51 of 54, I had the honor of a back-row spot in staging. I didn’t stress it, though, and it actually turned out to be beneficial to NOT being caught in the pileup that happened just before the first left-hander off the start line. As soon as we were into the first turns of the course, I was starting to get into a good rhythm. I also noticed that most of the women around me were going slower around the turns than I wanted to. Once I was around them, I started trying to pace myself and use the momentum of “grass crit” turning to my advantage. It was working great until one of the last turns of the lap, when I came out of my coasting a little early and drove my left pedal into the ground at 500 watts. My mistake lifted my rear wheel and bounced it diagonally into the ground hard enough to burp air from the rear tire and stack me into the grass.

When I got up and remounted, my rear tire squirmed and the rim threatened to bump the ground, ending my “turn faster than everyone else” strategy. Oops. The remainder of the race had me head-to-head with Rebecca Gross (master’s worlds 2012 winner), Judy Freeman (from the Crank Brothers team), and Amanda Carey (among others). The crowds were amazing, and, around the run-up area, the sound was nearly deafening.

The last two laps, I was fading hard, and, as the last lap started, a small group came around me. Amanda was in the back of it, so I hopped on her wheel. The rest of the group started to pull away, but I didn’t want to blow myself up harder by trying to stay with them. So, I stayed where I was and caught my breath enough so that, as we approached the last long, heavy-grass power hill of the course, I went around with everything I had left. I didn’t want to look behind me, but on the last set of stairs, I could hear the crowd yelling for Amanda. I dug harder and finished a few seconds ahead of her and just behind the group that’d passed a few minutes earlier… 32nd place.

The dust and the effort on course absolutely destroyed me. I cooled down and got a ride back to the hotel just as the men’s race was staging. Great race? Hell yeah- it’s awesome to have a rowdy crowd and a lot of really amazing women to race against. Back at the hotel, I cleaned up and struck out on a dinner mission, finding a fancy burger place just before the kitchen closed. In bed by midnight on my first night in Vegas… hell yeah again.

 

Active Recovery Weekend

My last cyclocross training ride prior to Wednesday’s CrossVegas race was on Friday. All is well- my power numbers on the CX bike are just about as good as they’ve ever been, so all that was left to do over the weekend was some active recovery.

Saturday, after a short ride and some pretty strenuous yoga (if you’re local and enjoy yoga, you HAVE to try Arline’s Level 3 Vinyasa class on Saturdays), I helped the guys plan and build a bike rack in the garage. It’d been a while since I’d parked the Element in there because several of the 20+ bikes that reside in and around the house were spilling out into my parking area. So, we decided we might as well make it easier/neater to store them out there- especially since CX season is upon us, and there’d be extra dirty bikes moving around.

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I was put in charge of sanding…

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Finished product:

 

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Loaded up:

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We celebrated with sushi and a Saturday night trip to Target. Exhilarating.

Sunday morning, Ryan and Matt went out to set a new WRT-Stanky-WRT standard. Earlier in the week, I’d done the route in 3 hours, 10 minutes (including both a mid-lap stop to help a lost old guy on a bike at Stank and a wrong turn on the way home). They wanted a longer ride, so they did the same route, but with 2 laps at Stank instead of 1. Elapsed time, 4 hours, 16 minutes. I have vowed to hammer out a sub 4 sometime soon after Interbike.
If you’re local and want to give it a shot from the house, hit me up on the FB page, and I’ll let you know where to park and tell you the route/rules. Gentleman’s rules in strong effect- not only can you not do anything that makes mountain bikers look like douchebags to other trail users and drivers, you are required to act kindly towards other trail users (watch for/greet/help them if they need it) and be mindful of traffic laws.

I picked up some groceries for the grill at Whole Foods, then came home and went for a run. In case you missed it, I’m slowly adding runs into my training in order to prep for the Tennessee Adventure Challenge… a little less than a month away. I wanted to see how fast I could run a mile. Turns out, I can run a mile in about 6 minutes, 27 seconds. I’ve got a good start on the speed stuff, now I just have to get through CrossVegas then start building some distance.

By the time I was cooled off and changed, the guys were home. After lunch, I went out to a local nursery and picked up some crepe myrtle trees.

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I dug holes while the guys bent metal garden border material. A few hours later…

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I also tried a different setup to catch the armadillo that has been rooting around in the yard and flowerbed at night:

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It didn’t work out exactly as I’d planned:

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I took it to the woods this morning and let it go.

So, two more days, and I’m off to Vegas. Lots to do in that time- gotta make some “sponsor me” packets for a couple of companies, ride a little, pack my bike, clothes, and generally get everything in line. Right now, I feel like my cat, Thor, when he crawls through the handle of a paper sack, then tries to walk around, stuck in the handle, with the bag dragging along under/behind him. He tries to walk it off and act cool when it’s obvious by his body language that he’s about to totally lose his shit and freak out. That’s prettymuch where I am.

Interbike Cometh

One week from now, I’m going to be packing up to fly to Vegas for Interbike. This year, I’m taking my cyclocross bike and participating in the circus that is CrossVegas. I’m somewhat under-prepared to race any sort of cyclocross one week from tomorrow, much less the only elite-level race I’ve entered since going to a USGP event in Louisville back in 2009, but what intervals and drills I have done are feeling good, so hopefully I’ll be better than DFL. Trial by fire is my favorite.

The biggest concern I’ve got about the race is not actually the race itself, but getting from my hotel to the CX venue several miles away. Riding there isn’t an option- the roads are terrible with traffic, and I’ll only have my tubulars on my bike, so the risk of flatting and being stranded in a Vegas ghetto is far too great. So, I’m asking everybody I know who will be there if they know of anyone who can give me a ride (fallback plan is to get in with the Nimblewear guys, but they’re gonna be running their booth at the indoor show until it closes, which puts me on a ridiculously tight schedule). There’s also the question of space in the rental car for such an endeavor.

Other than that, Thursday and Friday will be straight hustle from morning ’til whenever the hell I can get to sleep. It seems like once you’re in the black hole of Vegas, it’s suddenly 1am when you thought it as just 10. This trip, I’m lining things up ahead of time. More on the sponsor hunt after the show, though. For now, I’ll leave it all a mystery.

Short post today… I’ve gotta get some breakfast and get on my bike. As a household, we’ve taken to seeing who can net the best time for the route down the wolf river trail to stanky creek and back. Right now, it’s anyone’s game, as Ryan and Matt rolled a time that was faster than mine in rolling numbers, but longer than mine in total elapsed time (Matt made several adjustments to his new bike during the trip). So, today, I’m planning to set the record straight.

Off-Season Shenanigans

It’s been a few years since a dabbled in adventure racing (2009… a Solo Sprint and a longer CoEd Team race). I enjoyed it, though, as I’ve become more focused on mountain biking, my adventure race interest slowly dwindled. I haven’t done any running (other than the few seconds of running in CX races), and I definitely don’t perform orienteering/pace counting very accurately. I did, however, start feeling a little antsy the first time I saw a FB friend post a link to this:

2013 Knoxville Tennessee Adventure Challenge

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It’s basically a 6-hour time limit adventure race that takes out two of the biggest things that keeps people from wanting to try adventure racing- the orienteering (navigation with a compass, topo map, and pace counting) and the laundry list of required equipment (to participate, you only need running shoes, hydration pack, mountain bike, and helmet). All of the paddling equipment you’ll need is included with your race entry, and, while the course isn’t marked, you follow a pre-marked map to get to the checkpoints.

Once I figured out that I wasn’t going to take cyclocross quite as seriously this winter, I decided it’d be the perfect thing to make for some fun off-season training. Tuesday afternoon, I went for my first “run”- 5 minutes walking, 5 minutes jogging, 5 minutes walking. Hey… you gotta start somewhere! My strategy is to build up to at least a 10 mile trail run by the first week of October. Easy peasy. Last time I decided I wanted to do something related to running, I went from super bike-fit to running the Ouachita 50k in exactly 1 month’s time. Of course, I could barely walk for 5 days following that race, but I figure there’s no way the adventure race course will include 32 miles of running, so I should be safe.

It’ll be a really fun change of pace before I get bundled up and back into my winter adventures.

Labor Day Trail Work

Last summer, my favorite recovery ride was to leave my house, ride to the Wolf River Trails (about 15 minutes away), and take the Blue trail to the Greenline, turn off, and ride back home through the north side of Shelby Farms. The blue trail was a lot of fun, especially one section that people seemed to avoid because there is a more “popular” bypass on the nearby, parallel white trail. Unfortunately, over the winter, people destroyed the blue trail by riding it when it was wet. Not like, “I’m leaving huge ruts down the trail” wet, but, “it’s dry except for the mudholes” wet (it’s prettymuch how all of the trails around here meet their winter demise since our soil doesn’t drain well). It essentially expanded all of the mudholes until they reached a natural barrier of some sort- making several of them nearly 10 feet wide. At best, you could ride one dry, choppy line around the outside of the hole, and, at worst, there are spots on the trail that are unrideable unless you go through a large hole filled with stagnant muck.

A couple of weeks ago, Poolboy Matt took it upon himself to go out with a shovel and start filling in some of the smaller holes. He spent about 3 hours working on about a mile long section of trail, and, with just a shovel and a lot of sweat, rehabbed the small piece of trail back to its former glory.

So, on Labor day, instead of a recovery ride following Hard Nox, he and I set out with shovels, a handsaw, and a rake. We spent about 2.5 hours in the morning and 2.5 hours after lunch, adding more dirt to some spots he’d already started on and starting new on a few more spots. Since a lot of the spots had multiple lines through/around them, we took to closing them back in and creating one line through the wide spot (making the singletrack single again). Also, since parts of the trails are popular for horseback riding, we cleared some privet and dead branches from rider height in order to make the lines we created accessible to all trail users.

 

I did before and after photos on a couple of spots:

This hole had expanded to the tree on the right of the photo and the brush pile on the left. Trail users started going around the tree, but at that section of trail, the line around the tree is much slower, and the “high” side of the trail is actually the line on the left (it’s been very dry here the last couple of weeks, so the hole is a lot drier than “normal,” which allows people to go on either side of the trail, further reinforcing the widening of that spot)

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We “outlined” the fill area with branches and moved dirt (from well off the trail) into the low spot. Matt trimmed back privet to improve the line of sight and we used the branches to close off the right side to allow it to be reclaimed by the woods. This being one of the popular horse riding sections of trail, we also took care to clean out the headspace approaching the new, filled in line (look in the background of the before shot @the large deadfall caught up in vines and privet)

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Another spot…

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…same strategy

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We’re essentially using large, sturdy deadfall to outline a path through the wide/low spot and filling one side in with dirt. It creates a small “bench” trail around one side of the mudhole. We realize those spots won’t be maintenance-free, especially as the dirt is moved around and packed in, and, in the long term, as there are heavy rains, people who ride the trail when they shouldn’t, and as the branches that we’ve used to border the spots start to decompose.

However, I think it’s a good start.

Hard Nox 50 Race Report

It was a hot weekend.

Like, Dirty South, 96 degree w/65% humidity hot. In an effort to avoid the heat as much as possible, Matt and I waited until Saturday afternoon to make the 3 hour trip down to Ackerman, MS to set up camp the night before the Hard Nox race. We arrived just in time to get the tent & hammock up and change for a quick spin of the course start with Frank Webber before it was totally dark. I’m pretty happy that we did, because it was beneficial to know that the initial miles of singletrack were pretty tight and twisty (a lot like the Stanky Creek trails in Memphis). We made it up the first “climb” before hightailing it back to camp. My legs felt great, so I was looking forward to some serious pedal smashing the next day.

After a luxurious ham sandwich dinner, the darkness of the great outdoors activated the magic of human physiology and had us yawning and sleepy by 9pm. Somewhere around midnight, I had my only injury of the weekend when I managed to sprain my left thumb in my sleep. I don’t know why or how, but I can only assume I jammed it into the ground at a high rate of speed and folded it backwards. It woke me up and proceeded to give me nightmares about spraining all of my other fingers, which meant that I’d wake up every hour or two wiggling all of my fingers to make sure that I hadn’t hurt more than just my thumb. Luckily, by morning, it was just a dull, annoying ache accompanied by constant popping.

Sunday morning, race prep went well. I had my coffee and yogurt and changed in time to roll around for about 20 minutes before the race started. As 7:52 hit, someone told me that the 8am race start was pushed back to 8:30. So, I went back to camp, had some water, a Roctane gel, and tried to stay cool. Eventually it was time to roll down to the lake and get set up for the LeMans start. Strategy- set my bike up on the left edge of the road just behind a local guy who I knew would be smooth in his run/mount.

That strategy has never failed me, and I ended up very well placed (first woman, just behind the lead pack of men) as we rounded the turns out of the lake area and towards the trails. I was feeling great, and, once I had a good pack “spot” established, I backed off of “starting” pace and into “maintenance” pace. The trail to the mid-lap aid station was very roller-y and rooty, with lots of trees in the exits of blind turns. It kept you working. Luckily, a lot of the trail after the aid station was less complicated, and made it easier to take a slight mental break and just pedal.

I rolled into the pit area at 2 hours, 11 minutes and stopped briefly at my cooler to get fresh bottles and an extra pack of Gu Chomps. As I headed back out for lap two (a slightly modified version of lap 1), I could tell that, despite my pacing and hydration, the heat was really starting to get to me. I felt the deathmarch looming over me as my quads writhed inside my skin, threatening to cramp. About halfway to the mid-lap aid station, my left toes started to hurt like hell (same issue I’ve had in the past and haven’t sorted out yet), and I was forced to stop for several minutes to get them to quit feeling like they were being clamped with vice grips. I figured at that point that Laureen Coffelt, who tends to motor along at a slower, steady pace, was catching up to me.

I eventually made it to the aid station, had some electrolytes, and dumped several cups of ice water over myself. I focused on staying steady for the last 12 miles, taking some comfort in the thought that the course was “easier” on that end. However, I hadn’t realized that the 2nd half of the 2nd lap was different than the 2nd half of the 1st lap- meaning the trail following the aid station was just as roll-y and rooty as the 1st half instead of smoother and easier. I was majorly overheating, my left toes were trying to fall off of my foot, and it was all I could do to not think about anything other than pedaling and keeping my shit together long enough to get to the finish (I was mostly thinking of Laureen bearing down upon me any time I wasn’t going as hard as I could, which, looking at the power file, was at an intensity that’d normally be “recovery ride” speed).

I finally made it in 4 hours, 37 minutes.

podium

In conjunction with plenty of electrolytes from various sources, I drank somewhere between 4.5 and 5 liters of liquid during the race. Afterwards, I ate a lunch, snacked all the way home, and drank a lot more. When I arrived home, I was still 5 pounds under my normal weight. There’s no telling how dehydrated I was. It was too hot to keep up with the water loss.

As is customary for winning a race with a decent cash purse, I took the guys out for sushi dinner, where we inhaled several highly Americanized, gigantic sushi rolls, topped with glorified mayonnaise and soy sauce.  I’m done with racing in the heat for this year.