Non-racing Race Weekend

As a testament to my rest/training plan, I decided not to enter the local 12 hour race- 12 hours of Stank. However, Ryan and two of his Marx-Bensdorf teammates did (team name “we ride you long time”). Aside from a flat tire on Ryan’s first lap, they kicked a bunch of butt in the 3-man sport division. Race report HERE. In the meantime, I went out Saturday morning with a friend of mine who was in town while her boyfriend was racing. We took our CX bikes to Shelby Farms where I taught her how to ride singletrack.

After lunch and a beer, we drove back to the race course to see how things were going. I ended up doing a few minor repairs for people (took the folding Park stand out of the living room after all!), drinking a couple more beers, and playing first-aid tech to the other Marx-Bensdorf team (aptly named “Marx and Bruises”). It was rare for one of them to finish a lap without coming in covered in dirt and blood, and their anchor rider wrecked early into his final lap, cracking his helmet and spraining his A-C joint.

After getting home late Saturday, we “slept in” until a little after 6 on Sunday. I had a 3 hr endurance ride on my schedule, and Ryan ended up attempting it, but then turning back towards home half an hour in because his body was thrashed. With a fresh pair of Gatorskins installed, I ventured back on to the gravel that previously killed one of my old worn out tires earlier in the week. No problems there, just not enough gravel.

On the way back in to Germantown, I found out the hard way that one of the usual bike thoroughfares was (still) a narrow-single-lane construction zone. Lucky for me, the barreled-off lane where the asphalt was removed down to the dirt road bed doubled as a very convenient bike lane. The remainder of the day was spent holding down the shop at Outdoors. We just built a really big custom ti bike for a really big guy… that was cool…

tibig

Sunday’s Quote of the Day from Ronnie: “Tell Aaron that if he screws up my bike, I’ll break him in half.”

(He was joking, of course)

Confessions of a bike geek

Right after I was delivered back to my house by my parents on Wednesday, the UPS guy showed up with a couple of boxes from Park Tool. Inside was a new workstand (folding Team Issue edition) and various other tools like T-handle torx wrenches (I get a warm fuzzy feeling just reading those words), a handlebar holder, magnetic bowl, baby torque wrench, some open end wrenches, and a BB90 bearing removal tool. I was giddy. I don’t know if the workstand will make it out of the living room. I think it adds to the decor…

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Oh yeah- also pictured with the tools are my new Crank Brothers pedals. They’ll get their first use this afternoon in a photoshoot for Outdoors, Inc. Can’t wait!

The right side of the fence

Lately, I’ve been enjoying early morning pre-work rides out at Shelby Farms. There’s a lot of satisfaction to be had when riding along the Walnut Grove park boundary and watching all the desk jockeys on their way in to town…

WGroad

Today, I am off work and had a 3 hour ride on the schedule. I was JRA…

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…and a few miles later, found this:

hole

No problem- I carry 2x tubes/CO2 cartridges (and a Clif bar/tire boot) with me. However, the CO2 air chuck was a weak link to my “uber prepped” system. When I stuck the valve of spare #1 into the inflator head in order to give the tube some shape, the tiny stem part of the valve core broke off and stuck in the inflator head. CRAP.
I tried to pry and prod it out using various pointy parts of my multi-tool, but no dice. Then, I tried to cram it in as far as it would go so I could try and use the CO2 on my 2nd tube. I thought I had it, but as soon as I stuck the other valve in, the other valve core broke.

Lucky for me, my parents are retired, so driving out a good half hour from town to rescue me was high quality entertainment. I just took the wait as an opportunity to work on my tan lines.

toes

In other news, keep an eye on the next issue of Memphis Health and Fitness Magazine. I hear the next cover is going to be Brickhouse-a-licious…

Slow Wind-up to the Offseason

I was totally going to post about how I aspire to be awesome enough to get “invited” to Interbike by a sponsor, but Dicky beat me to it. So, instead, I figured I’d talk a little about the off-season.

Life has been pretty laid back for the past few weeks. Outdoors, Inc is still a really great place to work (though Jason is gone now, which sucks), and I’ve mostly been taking days at a time off the bike or just doing ~1hr easy rides. Looking at the upcoming schedule on Training Peaks, though, I can see this off time slowly winding itself up into full-blown, zombie-inducing training.

I’ve started lifting now. Unlike the last person who coached me (back before my roadie nervous breakdown), the Wizard and I seem to see eye to eye on developing an off-season lifting program. I’ve been to the gym twice this week, and, even though it’s been all pretty light stuff, I’m pretty freaking sore. Hopefully by January, I’ll have half the guns of Selene Yeager (who I’ve unofficially named the “LVG” of mountain biking), and I’ll be needing that alloy Niner handlebar because the carbon Easton that’s on there now just won’t be stiff enough.

I’m also hoping that I’ll need that bar because it’s specially made to jive with the A9C frame geometry… but that’s another post.

Tomorrow is going to be my first ride of any substantial length since Shenandoah. I’m not expecting it to be too incredibly fatiguing- it’s just a 3 hr endurance ride, but I’m guessing that if my off-season starts with 3 hr rides that it can only get more difficult from there. I can’t say I’m not looking forward to it.

As a side note, alcohol and I have been taking a break from each other lately. We needed our space. Side effects of this have been better sleep as well as a couple of pounds missing on the scale. I like being realistic, so I won’t say I’m not ever going to drink again. I’m just saying that I finally realized that it was time to cut back from “very enthusiastic beer enthusiast” to just “occasional beer enthusiast.” So far, it’s worked out well for me. I feel odd saying this around the sponsors, because I know they keep an eye out here, but I figure that a lot of my audience reads as a sort of “vicarious living” kind of thing, and more than a couple can identify with recognizing that it’s time to slow their roll on any particular habit. To you, I raise my glass (of water).

Yeah, deliciously cheesy. I know.

Trail LED Darkstar- Initial Shakedown

We’d initially planned a ride out at Herb Parson’s Lake yesterday morning, but it ended up not happening. So, we decided we’d go for a night ride instead. My Trail LED Darkstar came in while I was at Shenandoah, but other than showing it off its insane brightness to all my friends, I hadn’t done anything useful with it.

First off, I still can’t get over how small this thing is. I put it on my helmet (mounts with a simple velcro strap), and its weight is unnoticeable. I have a 4-hour battery pack, which, according to my kitchen scale, weighs just a fraction less than a pound (for comparison’s sake, a full 22oz water bottle is 1 pound, 11oz). It fits very nicely into a jersey pocket.
It comes with a handlebar mount as well, but I prefer the helmet option.

As far as brightness goes, I’ve never used anything comparable. This light is rated at 1200 lumens, and, looking at the MTBR Light Shootout list, is a great deal as far as lumens/dollar. When we rode to the trailhead (city streets), I kept it on the “medium” setting. It’s easy to switch between that and the brightest setting by just pressing the large button on top of the light. Once we got into the trail, it lit up the whole “corridor” of singletrack to near-daylight conditions.

Side note: I’m not gonna lie, trail riding at night is a little spooky. We heard a coyote barking/howling close by as well as lots of “mystery rustling” in the bushes. I’m glad Ryan was with me. I also came around one corner and saw a little owl standing in the middle of the trail. OMG! I didn’t know they came in pocket size! I don’t know the species, but it was less than 6″ tall, and stared into my light for a couple of seconds before flying off. Very cool.

Overall, I’m very impressed with the Darkstar. It’s definitely bright enough to be your only light, because the beam is broad enough to get the ground close to your front wheel, but powerful enough to shoot way down the trail at the same time. Improvements? I think my only wish is for a more “adjustable” form of helmet mounting. I found myself tilting my helmet back a couple of times so that the light would point down trail a little more. I’m going to experiment with different helmets and mounting spots next time I use it.

(9/21/10 Update: Just got an email from Grady @ Trail LED- going to get an adjustable helmet mount and give it another whirl!)

Photos (including DOT 4 Brake fluid for size comparison):

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pack

Stupid Tax

I’ve always heard people say, “there should be a tax for being stupid.” Lately, it seems that people I know are suffering consequences of doing things that are, well, just stupid. I’m not going to cite specific events, but I’ve seen some doozies lately. I, myself, am most definitely NOT immune to the Stupid Tax. Just last night, we were out at Saucer for Jason’s (my coworker & buddy) going away party.

I drank too much. I know better than to do this. It was stupid.

This morning, I had a raging hangover (a.k.a the “Irish Flu”). I think it actually beats the one I had last Halloween when we partied with the Nashvegas people on a Saturday night between CX races. Only this time, instead of having to get up and race cross sometime around noon, I had to be at work at 9:45 to meet up with my boss so he could show me the way around the Union Ave. store. It wasn’t pretty, but I made it (and Joel will probably laugh when he reads this). Stupid Tax prevails.

BTW- a Ginger Brew from the cold drinks section of Whole Foods combined with truing some wheels eventually brought me back to the land of the living sometime around mid-day.

In other news, work is still fun, and you get to read a lot more random posts like this for the next couple of weeks because I’m doing very little training right now as part of getting totally recovered & ready to hit it hard in the upcoming months.

Random Post

Random things that don’t all deserve their own post:

The pump track is about 1/100th of the way done: 2 rollers, 1 turn, and 1 29er-sized tabletop. I sort of finished the “tiger trap” drop, too. It’s kinda scary looking, but I plan on riding it as soon as we get some rain to harden up the dirt I packed on top of the lip for “shaping” purposes. The horses randomly wander in and walk on the berms while I’m not there…

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table

lip

trap

In other news, I Iced Matt the other night when he was over at the house for some beer drinking shenanigans:

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…and, last, but certainly not least, I’m absolutely fed up with trying to find jeans that fit. I was at TJMax today, and, out of curiosity, tried on a garish pair of Apple Bottom jeans. BAM. PERFECT FIT. Hey, guess what, though- they ONLY come in one of several styles- slightly ripped and/or bedazzled, and really, really ripped and/or bedazzled. Plain “denim”? Awww, Heeeeeeell no. Never.

I’m also fed up with vanity sizing. I’ve ridden many miles and lifted many weights to get an *ss like mine. You aren’t going to demean it with a size 4 label just to make overweight people feel good about themselves because they can fit into a size 10 now. Eff that noise.

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Now that the season is over…

With SM100 in the books, I’ve decided that my race season is over. There are a few good ones still on the regional schedule, but I’m ready to rest up a bit and buckle down with my training since I’ve generally just been racing and resting since I came home from Colorado. Yesterday I went in to the cardiorespiratory lab at U of M for a lactate threshold/VO2max test. It hurt on several different levels- there’s the acute physical exertion of a max effort test coupled with the results of the test itself… I’ve got some work to do. It’s nice to have a baseline, though.

I’m also ready to not spend money on races. Since my last teaching paycheck went into the bank on August 31st, I was “officially” unemployed as of September 1st. Lucky for me, though, I scored a job in the bike shop at Outdoors Inc. The pay is probably less than half of what I was previously making, but I genuinely look forward to working now. I’m also learning a bunch of secret mechanic tricks, and I’ve got a gorgeous mechanic manicure (think French manicure, but with grease under the tips of the fingernails instead of paint on top). I might start painting my fingernails. You know… fer giggles. It’s great, but, like I said- quite the belt-tightener.
Not that I’d turn a donation down or anything, but I’m trying to look at it in a positive way- generally the things that aren’t so great for my training (like going to Saucer for delicious, expensive, high calorie beer) are also some effective money wasters.

So that’s the preliminary plan for the fall & winter- train, work, sleep, and stay hungry for next year.

SM100 Product Reviews

I don’t like to gunk up my race reports with a bunch of shill for my sponsors & other stuff I like unless it was about something that was pivotal to the race itself. However, there were a few things that made my race day better that I think are worth an honorable mention.

Ibex Indie Jersey: It was in the upper 40s at the start of the race. I’d normally wear something with my jersey until I warmed up, but in my rush/lack of good packing, I figured I’d be going with “shivering” while I warmed up instead. Luckily, wool has some magic powers to be warm when you want it to be and breezy/breathable when you don’t. This was my first time wearing a wool jersey, and I actually didn’t feel nearly as cold as I expected to feel given that this one is made out of one of Ibex’s lightest weight fabrics. Once the temps crept up to the 80s later in the day and the sun was blazing on some of the exposed parts of the course, I was still really comfortable. I can’t wait to get my shorts in later this week (I’d ordered some with my jersey, but the size chart @ Ibex doesn’t jive with singlespeeder legs, so I had to return them & go up a size. The Ibex people were totally cool, though, and waived the $5 return shipping fee since I’d followed their chart and wasn’t satisfied with the subsequent fit).

Photo Credit: LS2379 from MTBR
Photo Credit: LS2379 from MTBR

I always make sure to be totally honest in my reviews, and there are a couple of things that weren’t “perfect”-Â Since I’ve got a small frame, I can only carry one water bottle on it (I refuse to use the under-the-downtube mud collector spot). So, I carry a bottle in my middle back pocket. Wool is not as elastic as synthetic fabrics, so with the weight of the bottle, the back of the jersey stretched out a lot. I haven’t washed it yet to see if it will fully rebound, but it was kind of annoying to have a bottle bumping my butt while I was spinning. I’m not sure how that could be remedied other than changing the fabric, which would make it not so awesome and comfortable, so I’m not totally sure what the remedy could be.
Also, a full-length zipper would be awesome.

Stuffitts Shoe Savers: I forgot to mention that while pre-riding, I ran through a giant mud puddle. I blame it totally on Todd, because I was following him on the doubletrack when he suddenly swerved to miss said puddle, leaving me perfectly aligned to hit it. The result? My shoes were soaked in stagnant summer water/mud. Normally that’d mean that they would be damp and rank in the morning, but through the magic of cedar, Stuffits dried and de-funked them. I’ve loved these things for a while, and I use them constantly in both my road and mountain shoes.

Raxter Tarsus: Yes, this already has its own review, but this is the first road trip that I’ve taken it on, so I wanted to update that yes, I still really like it.

And, the award for the product I hate to love goes to my Pearl Izumi gloves. A while back, Pearl pissed me off a little with their “here’s our jersey and some nipples, go buy it!” advertising. Since then, I generally try to avoid their stuff. However, padded full finger gloves are somewhat hard to come by, so when I found a pair at a shop up in Midland, MI last month, I figured I’d give them a shot (the women’s Select Gel model). I have some recurring issues with numbness from my right ulnar nerve, but I gotta say, when I wear these gloves, it never bothers me. The padding in them is arranged differently than any other gloves I’ve used, and I honestly have to say, I plan on stocking up if I can find them on summer closeout somewhere.

Upcoming reviews-
I’ve got some new stuff from Rudy Project and Trail LED that I’ve yet to test. I’m really excited about the Trail LED Darkstar, because it looks impossibly tiny, but it’s insanely bright (1200 lumens). With the days getting shorter, I’m sure it will get some use soon enough!