Mulberry Gap Women’s Weekend

After a hard-ish week of training, I was really looking forward to the Mulberry Gap Women’s Weekend. I’d volunteered to help with the bike maintenance instruction part of the weekend, and, though I wasn’t 100% sure of what to expect, I knew it’d be a good time no matter what. What I definitely didn’t expect was a near-blowout of my passenger side rear tire, which went totally flat in the space of about 10 seconds while I was going fast in the fast lane of the heavily-trafficked 3-lane I-75 just south of Chattanooga. Luckily, when no one is punching you in the face, it’s pretty easy to deal with panic-potential situations with a cool head and steady hand. I guided the Steel Box through traffic to the shoulder, which I found to be far too narrow for a tire change, so I limped to the next exit with my hazard lights on and found a suitable parking lot.  (p.s. keeping a yoga mat in your car has more use than just impromtu yoga sessions)

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From getting out of the car to finding a ProGold  pro towel for a final hand-cleaning, flat change time was 12 minutes.

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Once I’d found a tire repair shop, purchased a new (used) tire (the rim-ride had destroyed the inside of my old one), and waited for the installation, the total time lost was only an hour. After that, it was off to Mulberry Gap.

The afternoon meet-and-greet time & settling in was just getting warmed up when I arrived. As an added bonus to everyone being excited to meet each other, Mulberry Gap is dog-friendly, so there were some 4-legged friends around as well…

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…and a cool moth

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Sometime around dinner, we found the clown bikes in The Barn.

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…and before bed, there was a bug that needed a proper dispatch from the cabin. I found a suitable page of a nearby magazine that served this purpose well.

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Saturday morning, we started out with breakfast and a short ride to talk about bike handling. Split into beginner and intermediate groups, I rode out with Anet, one of the event organizers, and the latter of the groups, and we went to a short section of a nearby singletrack climb. Before we started, I made one rule for the group- unless you’ve actually hit, injured, or caused some other accidental physical harm to someone, there’s no apologizing allowed. That’s something you don’t often hear in a pack of guys that’s learning something new- them apologizing for not being able to clear an obstacle or for having a slip-up of any sort. Women, on the other hand, seemed to feel compelled to say they’re sorry for these things. I let them know that there’s no need to be sorry for a normal part of the learning process.

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Just before the ride, everyone filled their pockets with some goodies donated to the event from Gu Energy Labs. They were super stoked…

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After our short ride and some lunch, we geared back up for a longer afternoon ride. We went up a long forest road climb to the Bear Creek trail with a quick stop at a very nice overlook. Luckily, the rain in the picture missed us until the very end of our ride. 

 

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Once we were down Bear Creek, we rode more of the Pinhoti Trail. I made it up and over a climb just ahead of my group, so I stopped and took some photos, and caught a few of the ladies on their way through the creek at the bottom

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Just as we arrived back at camp, the bottom dropped out as a big storm came through. It knocked the power out until nearly midnight. Which meant, unfortunately, that my bike maintenance portion of the evening was blacked out. I was able to help a lot of the ladies individually, though. I’m sorely disappointed in some of the halfass things that husbands were doing with their wives’ bikes.

For example, one woman’s bike was set up with gripshifters. No biggie, but he hadn’t taken into account the length of the bar end, grip, and shifter when assembling everything. So, she ended up with her knuckles approximately 6 inches apart from each other on the bars when grabbing in a spot where she could use both the shifters and the brakes (you can see in the photos below- the scratches on the bar are where the brake levers were clamped prior to my moving them). I cut about two inches off of each one of her grips and moved everything out. She was stoked.

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Then, there was the woman who was missing a spoke.

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The woman whose husband had told the bike shop that she weighed 150 or 60 pounds (she’s probably 120 with a lead weight in her pack).

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That photo was taken after lots of descending, and she’d only used about half of the travel. In all fairness, though, that one was a pretty awesome bike that he’d ordered her for mother’s day, but it’d just arrived at the shop the day before she left. It would have been nice to have called her and asked, though. I helped her with adjusting the air volume and told her to ride the bejesus out of it down a hill and see if she came closer to using all of the travel.

Some other honorable mentions- running shoes with flat pedals, running shoes with cheese-grater cheapie flat pedals, and a new set of 26×1.8″ tires. Of course, I can also see the view that at some point, its everyone’s job to learn about his or her own  equipment. That goes without saying. However, you’ll never get interested enough to learn if you hate riding because there’s a myriad of cheap-to-free things that could be fixed on your bike to make riding more comfortable, easier, and more enjoyable.

I digress.

On a more positive note, here’s Lynn, a very inspiring older-than-the-others woman who has the flat pedal game down to a science, with some nice, wide platforms, and a pair of five ten shoes.

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I don’t know a much better way to spend a stormy afternoon than having a glass of wine and working on/talking bikes with some new friends.

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More doggies!

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The next morning, since I had a long drive home ahead of me, I decided to forego the post-yoga group ride (I actually didn’t do yoga either, instead getting a super kickass sports massage from Shelley, the massage therapist in for the weekend). Luckily, the drive home did not include any more flat tires.

It was an excellent weekend. Mulberry Gap is a really nice place to stay- it’s really close to miles of great singletrack, the cabins are nice, the food was tasty (and you all know how I am about food), and the company was more than I could have asked for.

 

 

It’s Hotttt out

First off- don’t forget about my awesome stuff for sale. The only thing from the original post that’s sold so far has been the Columbia pack. There’s still a SID World Cup fork, Easton EC90 Stem and Seatpost, some Pearl Izumi women’s winter gloves, and a nice women’s Deuter hydration pack.

I needed to post today to concede to the heat. I’m just going to come right out and say it- I’m having a hard time physically dealing with the heat and humidity in Memphis now that our summer weather pattern is sinking in. Basically, the highs are somewhere in the 90’s, and the humidity is somewhere between 50 and 60%, making the heat index in the neighborhood of 100 degrees or more by  noon.  I’m not complaining… lord knows I only complain about cold. I’m merely stating a fact.
I am pretty sure that my problem is sweat. I sweat sooooooooooo muuuuuuuch. Which, if you live someplace where the normal daytime humidity isn’t 60%, is a very positive thing. A high quantity of low osmolarity sweat is actually a sign that your body has adapted well to exercise in the heat. However, that sweat only serves to cool you off if it can actually evaporate. The humidity here stunts evaporation, which basically means that I lose pounds of water with little benefit to the cooling of my body.

Just an example- Sunday, I had a 22oz bottle of Gu Brew + Elete before my ride (about 500mg of sodium), then drank nearly 5 24oz bottles of water in the space of 3.5 hours (I’d started with some Roctane in my bottles, but refilled with plain water on the road, so it was gone halfway through the ride). I was still seriously feeling effects of the dehydration and heat during the last hour.

My strategy looking ahead? I’m going to start weighing myself before and after both fight training at the gym and my training rides to see just how much I’m losing. On the bike, I don’t know if I could physically drink more water than what I’m drinking now, but it’ll at least give me a good idea on where I stand and how much more I should drink off the bike. I’m also going to start carrying some more electrolyte drink mix on my rides. The Gu Blueberry Pomegranate electrolyte mix works really well (it’s the higher sodium flavor), but it can only work if I’m actually drinking it the entire time (duh). Also, Gu has a new Roctane electrolyte capsule that I’m going to start taking with me on rides as well.

Another thing I’m planning on that I haven’t done in the past is avoid the heat. I’ve always been one to live by, “if you race in the heat, you have to train in the heat.” While that’s very true, the fact is, I don’t currently plan on racing in the heat any more this summer. What I DO plan on doing is racing when its dark (at the Vapor Trail 125). So, I’m going to integrate night riding into my schedule. Today, I’ve got a 4 hour tempo ride on tap. I plan on starting around 5:30 or 6 and finishing the last couple of hours in the dark. That way, I’ll avoid both the hottest part of the day, and I’ll be practicing for my next huge race.

It was very nice yesterday to go to Shelby Forest State Park for some hill repeats. The roads and bike path in the park are super shady, and, while the hills aren’t very big (the longest one takes a little less than 2 minutes to climb), they do tend to be steep as all getout…

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I’ve gone from full-on recovery straight back in to eat, sleep, train, mode. It’s 10-15 hours/wk of riding with an additional 5 or so in the gym getting ready for my fight. So, I have some days where everything revolves around getting ready to train, training, and recovery. I live for the feeling of being a little exhausted and digging for more. I’ll get a little bit of a break this weekend at the Mulberry Gap Women’s weekend, where I’ll be teaching bike repair,  helping with some of the riding instruction, and handing out some Gu Energy product to the attendees. I’m pretty stoked to spend a few days hanging out with some like-minded ladies.

July 12th

I figure that, since it’s a month away now, I should go ahead and officially let the proverbial cat out of its bag. My half-secret July 12th goings-on that I’ve eluded to lately is going to be my first MMA fight.

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As an 0-0 person fighting someone who is 2-4 (Toni Tallman), our photos didn’t make the poster… especially since the other female fight on the night’s card includes a former Kansas City Chiefs cheerleader who has been in the MMA world for a lot longer than “threw my first punch back in the 2013 cyclocross season.”

How do I think it’s gonna go? Well, what I lack in experience, I make up for in natural born athleticism, extreme aerobic fitness, and killer instinct. So, I think it’s going to be a good matchup. I’m definitely not nervous yet, though I do often lay in bed at night rehearsing all the possible scenarios that could unfold in 9 potential minutes of fighting.

My “training camp” of sorts has been starting up since I came home from Kansas. I was back in the gym that Tuesday (more in an attempt to reset and get back into “normal” life than anything else), but that whole week was somewhat slow because I prioritized recovery over anything else. Now that the gravel is out of my legs, and I’ve got my head on a little straighter, everything has been going full-swing. I feel like a learning sponge- every day a little stronger, faster, and more confident than the previous.

For Sale

It’s late spring cleaning time. Here are a few nice things that I’ve ended up not using that need to GTFO from my bike storage area…

Deuter Women’s Hydration Pack– I won this at a race, and I’m very sad to say that I can’t use it. I’ve found that my torso and shoulders are on the long/broad side for any women’s specific hydration packs. If you’re petite, this thing is legit, and I’m a tiny bit jealous. Here’s a link to the pack on Deuter’s site: Compact Air 8SL. It’s pretty light for a larger-capacity pack, and I really like the back ventilation system, lumber padding, and stow-away helmet holder (that little zipper on the bottom in the pic of the top of the pack).

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It’s got an expanding accordion-style zipper section, too:

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The way the 3L reservoir (a nice one with the large, roll-down top opening) goes in and out looks like it’s one of the easier styles on the market. There’s a zipper up each side of the pack and a velcro section at each shoulder, so it opens up all the way, and you don’t have to run the drinking tube through any little holes:

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MSRP on this is $125, and I’m asking $75 (plus shipping if you aren’t local).

SOLD! Columbia Treadlite 10L Pack– Also won at a race, but falling in to the “I like my Osprey pack better” category. This is a never-used Columbia pack that appears to have been discontinued. Read more about it here on the Columbia site: Treadlite 10L pack. It doesn’t include a reservoir, but will hold a 3L bladder. SOLD!

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They’re already down to $44 on the Columbia site, so I’ll let this one go for $25 (again, plus shipping if you aren’t local)

Pearl Izumi Softshell PRO series Ladies winter gloves– I ordered these, wore them once, and realized that they’re a touch too small for me (the fingers are about 5mm too short). I’m really OCD about how the fingers of my gloves fit, so it drove me way crazier than it would most other people. Anyway, if you wear small to medium gloves and are looking for a pair that’s super warm, these are the top-of-the line offering from Pearl, and normally retail for around $100 (I can’t find this exact model on the Pearl site anymore).

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Since they’re worn and washed, I’m pricing them at $25 (shipping extra)

Easton EC90 10degree, 100mm Stem– Brand new, in the box. Light and sexy. Info on Easton’s Site

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Retail is $240, and they’re selling on EBay in the $180-200 range, so I’m asking $165 (plus shipping)

Easton EC90 27.2 Offset Carbon Seatpost– Also brand new in the box. Also light and sexy. Info on Easton’s Site

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Retail is $210, Ebay is ~$140, my price is $125 (plus shipping)

PACKAGE DEAL- If you want the stem and the seatpost, the pair are $275

EDIT: I almost forgot!

RockShox 2013 SID XX World Cup Solo Air Fork– This fork has a little bit of an odd story, but in a really good way. I used to have a 2012 Dual Air fork. However, at the 2013 edition of the Breck Epic, that fork quit working. The awesome guys at the SRAM Neutral Support Tent warrantied it with a brand new, 2013 SID XX World Cup solo air fork. However, the warranty fork had white lowers, and my bike at the time was the black/moondust Air9 Carbon. It didn’t look very good, and the mechanic who did the repair took the extra time to put my black lowers on the new fork. SO, I ended up with a 2013 World Cup Solo Air fork wearing an older set of black lowers. It’s pretty sweet.

Specs- 100mm of travel, 15mm Maxle lite, X-loc hydro lockout, carbon crown and steertube (cut to 152mm length). Comes with an FSA compression plug and carbon top cap (the little black thing that’s twist-tied to the stanchion)

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EBay auctions are ending around $570, so I’m asking $500 (shipping not included)

Recovery Week

Last week, sometime on Tuesday during a yoga class, I realized that my legs had swollen up to the point of my kneecaps being noticeably less visible and my calves verging on cankles. Physiologically speaking, I’m no really sure why, after several days, that would happen, but, for about 3 days, I did an hour at a time, a few times a day in a set of Elevated Legs compression boots.

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It’d move the swelling out, only to have it come back within an hour or two of standing and walking. I tried riding, and, even though my muscles felt about as I’d expect, that or any other vertically-oriented physical activity made my legs more puffy.

Thankfully, by Friday, it was noticeably better, thanks in part to some acupuncture. One of my former students from U of M is an acupuncturist in Nashville (at Affinity Acupuncture), and he comes to Memphis every couple of weeks to practice from a chiropractor’s office. He’s one of the big reasons I was able to train as hard as I did for Dirty Kanza without taking large quantities of ibuprofen for back pain. I’ll admit, I don’t actually enjoy the process of acupuncture. The needles are really tiny, but when one goes into an irritated muscle, a lot of times it will twitch or contract involuntarily, and that’s not a pleasant feeling. Occasionally, the same thing will happen when the needle is on its way out, too. However, I walk out of the office feeling like a million and five bucks, extremely relaxed and with no back pain at all.

I could tell that recovery was going well on my Saturday ride. I only wanted to ride 1.5 hours or less, so I decided to get up early with Matt, who was racing a local training race about a 20 mile ride from the house (Ryan had left town to race in Louisiana). I put a bag of clothes in his car and left just after him to time it to where I’d get there & changed about the time his race would be in its first couple of laps (45 miles on a 5 mile circuit).
On my way there, I was in between rolling hills when I glanced over my shoulder and saw a large pack of Memphis Hightailers- the large local recreational cycling club. They’re nice people and all, but it was early, and I didn’t really want company, so up the next roller, I picked up the pace to a “don’t let the group catch you” effort. It was only 99% effective, because one dude decided to jump out of the group and come flying up the hill after me. He passed me about halfway up and hammered his way to the top, where he promptly slowed down to catch his breath. I ended up catching up to him and figured, ok, I’ll just ride on his wheel to the next corner a half mile or so up the road where the group is probably going to turn off my route. However, we reached another small hill, and he kept pedaling pretty easy. My inner troll came out, and, just to mess with him a little for chasing me down, I stood up and told him, “If you’re gonna pedal hard up one hill, you gotta pedal hard up all of them.” He chuckled and said OK and matched my speed. We were cool until we got near the top, and he looked over at me and said, in a “surprised dude” tone of voice, “Good job!”

I couldn’t help but laugh for a second before I shifted to the big ring and showed him what a good job actually was. I don’t know what he did, because I didn’t look back.

Anyways… the point? My legs felt pretty decent doing a 2-3 minute hard effort. Not 100%, but definitely on a solid road to being there. I got to the car a half hour later, cleaned up, and watched the ongoing circuit/road race. Matt tried to get in to every viable break, which ended up wearing him out enough to get dropped when he didn’t make a break and had to help with some chasing. It made for some good heckling when he rolled by and yelled that he felt like LeBron James.

That afternoon, we went to a friend’s housewarming party & crawfish boil. Highlights included a muddy back-yard-trail race, a moon bounce, a garden hose in the moon bounce, and running away from said moon bounce at a high rate of speed in order to avoid being body-slammed in the mud and sprayed with the hose. People watching laughed at my “scalded cat”- like reflexes, but, hey… I was neither muddy nor hosed, so I consider it a win.

Sunday started with an easy 2 hour ride and a generally laid back day to put the wraps on my recovery week. My legs felt alright, nothing was swollen, and I’m looking forward to the next batch of training. I did get notice that I’m “in” for the Vapor Trail 125 in September. It means that I won’t be going to Breck Epic again this year, but I will likely kick my yearly Colorado Pilgrimage off with a stop through Breck for some riding and relaxing around the end of the Epic.
Until then, I don’t have any real plans except for a Women’s Weekend at Mulberry Gap later in the month (I’ll be teaching the Bike Repair class)  as well as my July 12th shenanigans, which will remain mostly secret until the right time. I’d very much like to find some racing to fit in between all of that, but right now, I haven’t found anything that looks like a good time that isn’t >6 hours from Memphis. There’s supposed to be a mountain bike race at Stanky Creek in town next weekend, but the trail is absolutely saturated from the recent rains, and it won’t be getting any better with continuing heavy rains this week. If the race isn’t cancelled, I’m not going to be a part of tearing up the trail.

So, a little lull in the action for now. I can’t take that for too long, though, so I’m sure I’ll figure something out.

 

 

Dirty Kanza FAQ

Last night on Just Riding Along, I covered a good bit of this, so if you’re a listener, you can probably skip this post. I figured as a follow-up to the story of my race, I’d go through a few specific things that, if you’re interested in racing Kanza or something like it, will help you out.

#1- What’s the start like? The start of Dirty Kanza is fast. If you have any hopes of being competitive (or if you just want the first 50 miles of the course to happen faster for less effort), you need to know how to draft. Not only should you know how to, but you should be comfortable with it. Practice- motorpace, ride with an experienced group of roadies, etc. Just get very familiar with it, because (as you’ll find when you are practicing), you can move down the road behind a large group at 20mph for very little effort compared to if you’re riding alone or taking turns with one other person… especially if there’s wind involved.

#2- Which bike should I ride? All I have is bike X- do I need a “gravel grinder” bike?  The “right” bike for DK exists on a continuum. Barry Wicks was on a road bike with large, tough slicks. I rode my Cysco hardtail MTB set up rigid with a fast rolling 2.0 mountain tire with some sidewall protection. Either of those bikes along with any bike that falls within that range can be competitive. Go with what you’re most comfortable riding for more than 11 hours at a time over rolling terrain that includes both smooth gravel and incredibly chunky, rough gravel. If you are comfortable with clip-on aero bars, I don’t think that they’re a bad idea, though definitely not a necessity.

#3- What tires should I use? Use something that’s got some sidewall/puncture protection that’s at last as big as what’s on Barry’s Bike, but no bigger than what’s on my bike (a 2.0 mountain tire). This is universal to all gravel racing… not just DK. When you’re racing on a surface that’s made out of rocks, there are lots of things out there to cut your tire open. The reason why you hear SO MUCH about how “sharp” the flint rock is at Kanza is likely more due to the 1200 people on course riding anywhere from 20 to 200 miles… lots of tires are riding lots of miles, so of course you’re going to hear about the destructive powers of that particular breed of gravel versus, say, the gravel around the Ouachitas in Arkansas, which is equally as vast and sharp. Tire tread isn’t all that important out there, so skimping on that to save weight/rolling resistance isn’t going to hurt much. As far as width goes, just remember that the skinnier tires may be lighter, but they’re also going to slow down more on anything that’s not Cadillac hardpack. Wider tires are, of course, heavier, but they let you maintain momentum and speed when you roll over a rough surface. They also give you the most comfortable ride, and, in all-day racing situations, comfort is speed.

#4- I heard the gravel out there rips everyone’s tires to shreds. How can I avoid flats? Three words… PICK. A. LINE.  Also universal to riding all gravel, but something that the terrain at Kanza begs for- Because of the roller-coaster-y nature of the Flint Hills, a lot of riders get tempted to bomb down one hill in order to zoom partially up the next. If there’s loose/deep/wet gravel at the bottom, doing that is a good way to get a flat. If you’re at the top of one roller, and you see a flat tire party on the next hill, then use your brakes and find the best line through the bottom. Do what you can to avoid plowing full speed through deep/gnarly spots, and your flat tire chances will be greatly reduced. Go tubeless if you can, and take two tubes, boots, a patch kit, and a nice frame pump, regardless. That teeny little lightweight pump that fits in your pocket is only cool until you’re on the side of the road, exposed to full sun, in the middle of a cow pasture, being buzzed by 50 horseflies whilst pumping it like a madman just to get enough pressure to make it out alive. CO2 is ok, but remember… you never run out of pump.

#5- What should I do to my bike to prep for the race? It’s dusty out there. I can’t tell you how many people I heard with dry chains. I also saw people trying to apply lube over dust at checkpoints, which is slightly less bad than dry, but still pretty terrible because of the amount of dust/grit that you’re attracting into the chain with fresh lube. Clean, degrease, and fully dry your drivetrain before applying a coat of ProGold Xtreme lube. Do this well in advance so that the solvent in the lube has time to evaporate and attract less dirt. That’s what I did, and it lasted all the way through both my 1.5 hour preride and the entire 13.5 hours of racing. If I didn’t need to wash my bike so badly, I’d leave the same coat on and see just how long it’d last, because it’s still dead-silent. It should go without saying, but everything needs to be in good working order before you start. While you’re at it, check your bottle cage bolts and top off that tubeless sealant in your tires.

#6- Hydration Pack? Bottles? That depends on a few things- How fast are you going? How much water do you need to ride the ~50 miles between checkpoints? With the exception of the first 50 (when it temps were in the upper 60s and the sun wasn’t fully out yet), I drank 4 bottles of water or more every 3.25 or so hours (as I mentioned in my report- I stopped and filled up at a cold hose around mile 180). I likely would have run dry by about 195 if I hadn’t. That wouldn’t be a day-ender, but those last 5 miles would have sucked a little more.
My advice is to figure out how much water you, personally, need to drink, per hour, when the temps are 70-90 degrees and you’re pedaling at whatever is “your” race pace intensity. You should also know, through your extensive training, about how long it takes you to ride 50 miles over rolling terrain. Extrapolate your water volume needs based on those things, then figure out how you’re going to carry it all between checkpoints. Between 3 bottle cage spots on my bike and a J.Paks RukSak, I didn’t need a hydration pack or a back-pocket bottle. Not carrying anything on your back is more comfortable than having the heat/weight back there, but carrying a pack if you need it is better than being dehydrated.
Also, on the topic of hydration, if you want to have the best chance of success, avoid alcohol for at least the day before the race, if not two days. Start taking in extra sodium and water the day/morning before. Don’t whine to me about this- you’re likely paying a lot of money, taking time off work, taking a crew person’s time, training your ass off, etc. Have some damned respect for all that and don’t drink a fucking beer at dinner. When you’re talking about your body’s preparedness to ride 11-18 hours, then yes, it definitely matters.

#7- What should I eat? Just like with water, figure out what you need to fuel 50 miles at a time during your training rides, and extrapolate. Personally, I can’t hold everything I want/may want in the teeny pockets of my jersey. Also, I like to carry more than what I think I need. So, I use a J.Paks SnakPak, and it’s like having an all-I-can-eat buffet on my bike. The easier it is to get to your food, the more likely you are to eat often. My approximate food/drink tally was 10 Gu Roctane Gels, 1 Gu salted caramel gel, 1 Clif Turbo Shot gel, 3 packs of Gu Chomps, 3 medium size Redbulls, 2 snickers bars, 3 Bonk Breaker Bites, 1 handful of cheetos, 4 bottles of 1/2 strength Gu Brew Blueberry-Pom flavor (contains extra salt), 7 bottles of 1/2 strength Gu Roctane drink, 5(ish) bottles of plain water (doesn’t include late-race hose refill or the bottled water out of the cooler at aid stations).

#8- What should I do about course navigation? My Garmin 705 worked wonders, but it only lasts about 14 hours. I knew that there was a slight chance of it dying, so I went to OfficeMax and had the course maps/cue sheets printed & laminated so that they’d be waterproof. Don’t plan on course markings, because there aren’t that many, and they’re all move-able. The laminated (to make it waterproof) map/cue sheet combo is worth having. It only cost about $8 to have it done- I had two laminated sheets, each side printed with the map on half the page and the cue sheet on the other.

#9- Who can be my Crew Person? It’s very likely that your crew person is going to be a non-cycling friend or family member. Be sure that person knows exactly what you’re going to need at each checkpoint. I showed my dad how to fill bottles, unfold the workstand, printed off a crew map, and made a list for him.

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So, everything turned out really well because of that preparation and his hard work. Don’t ask someone to crew if they’re lazy, whiny, or were standing around with a thimble when the good lord was handing out brains. If that eliminates all of your friends/family, the Dirty Kanza team offers a “support crew for hire” program. It costs money, but it looks like they do a great job, and the proceeds go to a great cause. 

#10- HTFU. The answer to most of these questions lies in long, hard days of training.

 

Dirty Kanza 200

Nothing like setting an alarm on your phone for 3:45am.

The nice people at Emporia State University opened both their dorms and their dining hall to Dirty Kanza racers and crew. We got in the dining hall right at 4am for a fresh breakfast burrito and a side of “I need more coffee before I can work a cereal dispenser properly” rice Chex.

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As is customary for bike races, a lot of dudes woke up and chamoied up before breakfast. The stakes were raised this time with the addition “dude already wearing a hydration pack”

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Once I ate and was chamoied up myself, I double checked the crew car and headed down to the start line. Thankfully, riders are asked to line up according to predicted/desired finish time. So, I found the middle-ish area between the 12 and 14 hour signs. I also found Tall Brian from the Ogre 150.

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I figured it’d be good to stick with him if given the opportunity, though according to everyone I talked to, the start is pretty balls-out, so I mostly planned to just roll with whatever happened. Balls-out is a pretty accurate description that made me very happy that A)I’m very comfortable drafting/pacelining, and B)I did a fair amount of motorpacing prior to this race. The first 30 minutes of the race, which was mostly flat with a few turns, my average speed was 20.2 mph, but for very little effort, power-wise.

Once we were getting into the rollers, I immediately focused on pacing myself and staying tucked in behind whatever wheel was in front of me. I never even saw Rebecca Rusch, but I knew that at least a couple of other ladies, including a fast-looking woman and her male teammate/racing compadre from the Tokyo Joe’s team, were in the same large pack that I hung with over the next 15 miles or so. It was hard to tell who was who- the 100 mile race started a few minutes after the 200 and took a shorter route to join parts of the 200 course, so at some points, the groups were combined.

We passed a course split where the “DK Lite” course (the 50 mile version) turned off of the 200/100 course. There were several cars/course marshalls there making sure that everyone went the right way. Immediately following that, the road went to single-lane width and turned to baked-hard mud with lots of ruts in it. Someone got crossed up in a rut maybe 20-30 yards ahead of me, and suddenly, a guy was laying on the ground across the road. I saw and heard a lot of people slowing down and asking if he was OK, and he didn’t answer them. By the time I rolled up, a couple of riders stopped, and the injured guy was bleeding out from under his helmet and conscious, but not really responsive. Everyone was a little freaked out and not really sure what to do… the injured guy had apparently hit the ground like a lawn dart, smashing the crown of his helmet into a bunch of pieces and cutting his scalp open.

I stopped. I know enough first aid that, if it were a very serious injury (as it appeared it could be), that knowledge could be the difference between the guy living and dying. He seemed to come around a little once I was next to him talking. I helped him get his hydration pack off and put it under his head as a pillow, then started yelling at people passing and asking if he was OK that someone needed to ride back to the previous split (maybe a half mile back on course) and get a car out to take him to the hospital NOW. Luckily, rider #69 (didn’t get his name) turned around for help. While we waited, his bleeding was slowing down, and, other than being dizzy and lightheaded, he was thinking pretty clearly, and told me his name was Blair, he was from Canada, and he’d endoed in a rut when someone stopped suddenly in front of him. He told me I should go on, but at the same time, he was holding on to my hand pretty tight… that, combined with the potential for people with head injuries to have turns for the worse meant that I wasn’t planning on going anywhere until help arrived. It didn’t take very long before a volunteer jeep rolled up beside us, and I was on my way.

The five-or-so minute break put me back in pack a little and I went from drafting to passing for the next part of the course. It was still kinda foggy and misty, so the Flint Hills were gorgeous…

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It wasn’t long before I made it to the first checkpoint. I found Gerald, swapped out bottles, had a Redbull and Snickers, then was on my way. The next section started out kinda hard. There was a little headwind, and the groups for drafting were occasionally sporadic. It wasn’t too bad, though. I had my one tire problem around mile 70… there was a length of deep/gnarly gravel that was a little downhill and didn’t have a “good” line in it. I rode through it thinking “crap, this is going to get one of my tires,” and, sure enough, my rear end started feeling squishy a few seconds later. I pulled over to check it out, and there was a really small hole with a little sealant leaking through. Since I had my new favorite frame pump with me, I decided I’d air it up and see if it’d seal before I put a tube in it. Karma was on my side, and, for the first time in my history as a mountain biker, a tire that had leaked much of its air out sealed up and held perfectly for the remainder of the race.

Soon after that, around mile 85, the course turned north, and the tailwind carried me up to the next aid station, where I repeated the Redbull/Snickers/bottle swap routine and checked the pressure in my rear tire with the floor pump before going out for the 2nd half of the course. It was 6.5 hours in, and I was feeling like I’d ridden a good 100 miles… not fresh, but not bad, either.

Right after leaving town, the course went straight east for about 13 miles. I found myself in a pack of guys who actually knew how to ride in an echelon, and stuck with them most of the way through the crosswind. It wasn’t long after there that I found myself in what was probably my favorite part of the course- miles of rolling hills/pasture, with an excellent tailwind. The cows on the open range provided me with several minutes of entertainment, as they’d be standing on the edge of the road staring at me as I rode by, and I’d swerve suddenly and yell “BOO” at them, resulting in startling/running off. Me at 130-something miles thought this to be high quality entertainment, and I did it at least 3 or 4 times. I also rode with a guy whose friends were spectating from a small plane, which, after buzzing just over our heads a couple of times, they landed in a nearby field so they could cheer/take his photo…

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At the last checkpoint (around mile 152/9hrs 52 min), I mentally prepped for the last part of the course. Though the wind had been at my back for much of the previous section, I was getting hot. I’d eaten/drank as much as I’d felt like I could, which still wasn’t enough to keep impending dehydration at bay. The last 50 miles would be an exercise in how well I could tolerate pain and heat exhaustion. I knew this, and took an extra few minutes (I was there about 10 minutes, total) to sit in the shade and have an extra bottle of cold water and an electrolyte tablet.

As is expected in a 200 mile ride, everything was hurting at that point. I kept my focus on taking advantage of the last bit of tailwind before the course would turn back east then south around mile 175. I regretted not wetting myself down with ice water at the checkpoint, so, at mile 170, I found the one creek on that section of course that cows weren’t actively pooping into, and I stopped to sit in it for a few minutes.

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It felt AMAZING, and I rode that buzz for the next 5 miles or so before stopping at someone’s large garden next to the road to refill a bottle with cold water and hose my head off to keep cool. I always try to stay positive and think of the good things/enjoy the scenery/ignore pain etc. However, I know the reality of heat exhaustion very well, and I knew it was at the point where I was either going to stop and take care of myself when cold water opportunities arose, or I was going to risk heat stroke. Additionally, my left foot/toe pain was coming in full-blast, and the breaks were the only thing giving me slight temporary relief from the crushing pain. I did, however, enjoy the lack of hills after about mile 187. I had a good drafting partner or two when the course went south again to make its way back in to town. Everything felt bad and torturous at that point, so I thought about how awesome it would feel when I finished.

Turns out, I felt THIS AWESOME when I finished…

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My time of 13 hours and 33 seconds was good for 3rd overall out of 30 women, and 1st in my age category. I was in rough shape with severe heat exhaustion and dehydration. I laid in the grass for a few minutes before finding a couch in the recovery tent. Everyone kept trying to make me eat and drink, but my head was pounding, and I felt like all of Main Street Emporia was rotating around the axis of my brain. I sat there a loooong time before I was steady enough to get in the car and go back to my room. I got in the shower, and Gerald left to get dinner. When I went back to the room (we stayed at the ESU dorm, so the shower was across the hall), I was locked out. I laid on the couch in the common area until the lights overhead became unbearable enough to make me go downstairs to the front desk and get someone to open my door for me. I vaguely remember sending some text messages, my mom calling, and my dad waking me up with cold french fries from Sonic and telling me I should go to the hospital. However, I sort of thought I was dreaming, so I told him no.

The next morning, I was still in pretty rough shape. Between being sore everywhere, feeling like my internal organs were on fire, and sunburt, I didn’t sleep much at all.

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Thankfully, my insides had settled down enough that I could drink some more water and gatorade. By the time we made it to the awards presentation, I felt up to eating a cup of yogurt and a banana with a cup of watery coffee. I didn’t realize that the results were going to be seperated into 39 & under/40+ age groups, so when they called me on stage for 1st place, I was kinda caught off-guard (unfortunately, 2nd & 3rd weren’t there for the podium, so I was up there alone).

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I made two more trips on stage- once more for the overall podium with Rebecca Rusch and KT DeSantis (the aforementioned lady/teammate from the Tokyo Joe’s team), and once to get recognition for the race’s Sportsmanship Award. Apparently I received two nominations from other racers for stopping to help the guy with the head injury. Boom.

My morning’s intake of sugar and water turned my appetite around, and by the end of the awards ceremony, I was nearly about to eat the rocks out of my trophy.

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We went to the diner around the corner, which, despite the nearly hour long wait for food (they were slammed with DK racers), was a welcome return to the world of “being able to eat solid food.”

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We got back on the road for a pretty painful 9 hour drive back to Memphis (by way of the Chipotle in Springfield, MO, where I consumed 99% of a 4 pound burrito for lunch).

Was it a great race? Yes. The Dirty Kanza staff, volunteers, and basically the entire town of Emporia make for a great, well-run event.  The course itself is awe-inspiring. If, like me, you’ve ever driven past a gravel road in the middle of nowhere and wondered where in the world it could go, this race answers your curiosity in ways that you can only understand if you get out there and ride it yourself.

I could go on all day about race tips, nutrition, tires, etc. but I would rather save that sort of stuff for reporting on Just Riding Along tonight. If you’re interested in the techy parts like that, give us a listen at 7:30 central time, or download the episode later: http://www.mountainbikeradio.com/just-riding-along/

The Road to DK200

Yesterday morning, my dad (Gerald) and I left Memphis to drive Emporia for Dirty Kanza. With Ryan doing a local road race and Matt stuck at work, he’s next in line for the “excitement” of driving/waiting around for hours on end just to have a cooler and some spare snacks & tools every 50-ish miles while I’m out there. The drive went smoothly, with one detour to check out the Bass Pro Shop HQ store in Springfield, MO.

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That place is pretty gigantic, and full of various living/taxidermied wildlife:

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Gerald needed to look at camping supplies and get some fishing lures so he can check out any nearby fishing holes while waiting for my arrival.

 

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I drove the last couple of hours… I can’t fathom why Chevrolet would make the driver seat and the steering wheel off-center from each other in a nice car like a Suburban, but it nearly drove me nuts. Exhibit A- the seam on the seat is straight down the middle:

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By the time we were in and settled, it was a little late to go for a ride, so we walked downtown to dinner and found BBQ (I’m discovering that it can be difficult coping with other cities’ barbecue when you’re from Memphis). Afterward, Gerald wanted ice cream

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This morning, I went out to pre-ride the first few miles of the race course. We rode out to the first hill of the course… the view from the top was very scenic in spite of it small size:

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Barry Wicks’ bike:

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The heaviest bike in town:

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(kidding)

After the ride, I cleaned up and found an excellent lunch at the Brewery. I skipped the beer, though… in the name of staying extremely hydrated. Now, I just get to lay around, snack on lunch leftovers, and wait for the riders’ meeting at 4:30.

For anyone wanting to follow along at home, you can get general Dirty Kanza race updates on this site: http://www.bluestemproductions.com/dk200/

If you’d like to follow me (or anyone else) specifically, you can go here and enter a bib number or name (my number is 654): https://register.chronotrack.com/event/tracking/eventID/8568

 

TSE Nostalgia

I can’t help but get a little nostalgic this week about the Trans-Sylvania Epic Stage Race. It’s happening right now, and, as a lot of the friends I made during that week are posting their pictures from this year’s Epic, I’m prepping to go on a different adventure. That week of racing was one of those experiences that changed little bits of me in all sorts of ways. If you weren’t reading back then (or if you’re bored and want to hear some race reports) you can visit the links on the late XXCmag site by clicking here: TSE 2013 Audio Reports

The quick and dirty is, I had an excellent first 5 days, which landed me a lead in the Enduro Competition and, on day 5, a Stage win and a boost from 5th in GC to 2nd (the NoTubes train derailed and all 4 of them went extremely off-course).

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Unfortunately for me, that was also the time when my body decided that it was done for the week. Stages 6 and 7 would prove to be two days of time-bleeding death marches that’d put me back into my 5th place spot. Included in those days were a bad wreck in some rocks early in stage 6 (in addition to my body refusing to function normally) and, in stage 7, Amanda Carey and I wrecking when we side-bumped each other as we both went for the singletrack hole shot.

Of course, overcoming the physical difficulties of the week made me a physically and mentally stronger racer. However, the equally (if not more) enlightening and life-altering experience was the sudden change in someone who I’d considered to be one of my best friends. If you’ve been around a while, you’ll know that, before TSE, Amanda Carey and I were good friends. We shared houses/cabins, split a room at my first Interbike (she gave me lots of good sponsor-hunting advice in the process), and she was, without a doubt, my biggest influence to make the leap to cycling/racing as a full-time practice.
However, After stage 5 (the off-course day), things got a little weird. No biggie, I thought… her day sucked, and everyone’s nerves are raw. Then, stage 7 happened. I was in 4th place GC (behind Amanda and Sue), just a handful of seconds ahead of Vicki Barclay. When we started, it was elbows out off the line. I was on the wheels of Amanda and Vicki as the course narrowed from gravel to 2-track, when, as we approached the first singletrack, Amanda pulled off to let Vicki in first. As I was trying to pass Amanda to stay with Vicki, she was diving in to the trail, and we ran into each other, shoulder to shoulder, and fell over into the bushes. Amanda fell on me, twisting both me saddle and my handlebars, and, once I stopped and straightened everything out, the NoTubes Train was long gone, and I lost my time back to 5th for the GC.
She was livid, yelling at me about that not being a “pro” move, and, despite my post-race apologies, she’d later tell Cycling News in her post-race/GC win interview that I’d “t-boned” her into the bushes. Since then, we’ve only talked in passing.

That sucked in all sorts of ways.

So, yes, to describe my Trans-Sylvania experience as life-altering would be pretty accurate. However, even life-altering events that aren’t “good” will usually make you a better person overall, so, I have no regrets, and, the race as a whole is pretty awesome, so I’d like to go back sometime in the future. That was one of my best performances against a field of exceptional bike racers, and, despite losing a best friend in the process, I gained a wealth of new friends, great experiences, and lots of fun memories that are all flooding back as I see this year’s photos and reports all over the internets.

Odds and Ends

As Kanza is drawing near, I’ve taken to making a few “last minute” tweaks to the Cysco. I’d originally purchased a Problem Solvers EBB 46 for use in the PF30 bottom bracket. My thinking was that it’d make swapping between singlespeed and geared one step easier. However,when I installed it the first time, a couple of things threw up some red flags- number one was the number of various spacers and wave washers (and a reducer shim for the NDS to make a GXP crank work) required to fit various cranks into the bottom bracket.
Once I’d read through the instructions and picked my necessary spacers out of the stack that came with the EBB, I went to install it, and realized something worse than spacers… it’s an incredibly loose fit in the bottom bracket of the frame. My first instinct was to double check that the frame itself wasn’t out of tolerance, and a quick test-fit of a standard PF30 BB revealed that the tolerance of the frame was perfect. The EBB is, literally, so loose in the frame that it rattles around until you torque its two bolts. I torqued it to spec, and, as you’d expect, it started making noise on the first ride.

I can tolerate a little EBB noise on a singlespeed. I’m not one of those people who is super OCD about it. However, I’m not going to listen to it on every single ride for the rest of that bike’s life. So, I put a Wheels Manufacturing PF30 Outboard Bearing BB in it, and it’s totally silent and happy. I may end up trying the newest PF30EBB offering from Niner at some point (if it’s ever actually available as an aftermarket part), because I’m not at all impressed with the Problem Solvers one. The best I can say about it is that it didn’t slip.

Also in the “tweak” category is a ti seatpost. I’ve been waiting on a backordered Niner RDO post. During my time with no RDO post, I’ve been using a standard Thompson, and I’ve found it to be noticeably less comfortable than a carbon post. So, since Poolboy Matt was wanting a Ti post for his bike, he bought a Salsa Regulator post, and is letting me borrow it through Kanza. When I swap that out, I’m also going to change to a different (but equally as tested over long distances) saddle- the getting-hard-to-find Selle Italia Max Flite Trans Am. I have a couple that I’ve been hoarding for situations just like this.

While I’m waiting on that, I’ll do a final test fit of everything today and make sure that all the bags and lights and whatnot can go where they need to go.  Stuff is generally falling into place well- I’ve got my nutrition dialed (mostly Gu Energy Roctane drink, gels, and Chomps, with additional Bonk Breaker Bites thrown in for some solid/easily digestible calories). I’m also using Gu Brew blueberry pomegranate (2x the sodium than regular Gu Brew) as a means of loading up on sodium before (and likely during) the race. Since reading this article from Outside Magazine, I decided to give extra sodium a shot, and, it seems that even on the longer/hotter rides I’ve done, my ability to stay hydrated and keep sweating is noticeably improved.  We’ll see how it goes when the distance and heat are multiplied.