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):




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…





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


…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.


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!

Shenandoah Mountain 100 Race Report

I’m a little lacking in creative motivation right now, so I can’t think of any smooth and witty opener to set the tone for my report…

Or was that just it?

I camped out at the Stokesville Campground for the weekend. Todd and I pre-rode the first climb and singletrack descent the day before, and, based on the elevation profile, I knew it was going to be a challenge. I was kind of wanting the 21t cog I’d used at the Breck 100, but Todd swore that a 32×20 was the way to roll because of all of the flat sections between climbs.

Somehow, on Sunday morning, I managed to miss the 5am wake-up call and oversleep until 5:30 (race start was at 6:30). I’ve actually never overslept before a race, so it was an unfamilair near-panic feeling as I rushed to find food and coffee. Todd said something along the lines of “I figured you were up & moving in there!” [“there” being my tiny two-person tent] I was too busy getting things ready to ask him what exactly he thought I’d be doing in there for half an hour…

I fabricated a pretty nice breakfast out of two bagels, some peanut butter, and greek yogurt, then changed clothes, scalded my mouth on some campfire coffee that the guys in the tent across from me had brewed, and made it to the start line with about two minutes to spare. The only thing good about running late is that you don’t notice that it’s 48 degrees outside.

The start was slightly frustrating on a singlespeed since it rolled on flat pavement for a mile or two before the first climb. I was passed by a lot of people that I ended up motoring by as we negotiated the first pitches. Following that climb was a singletrack descent with some nice rocky sections. Between those sections and the next couple of singletrack climbs, I realized that riding with a lot of geared riders at about a 10-11hr pace will net lots of walking through sections that I feel reasonably confident that I’d clear otherwise.

Guess that’s for me and The Wizard to work on that this winter, eh?

I figured out going to the 2nd singletrack climb that the 32×21 might have been not as much fun, because I was able to Carey Lowery the Hell out of some guys on a long, flat section of road. (“Carey Lowery” being my term for sitting in and drafting men on 29ers so they do all the work while you get pulled along, doing no work, and acting like the cute, innocent killer that Carey Lowery is). That next climb was a beotch.

I don’t remember if it was Aid #3 or 4, but somewhere in that timeframe, I ate some gummy bears. If you’re easily offended, stop reading NOW, because I’m about to drop an F-bomb.

No, really, stop reading my blog altogether. Go see what Glen Beck has to say or something.

I fucking love gummy bears.

Seriously. Ever since Cohutta, where I crammed handfuls of dirt and sand-covered gummy bears into my mouth at one of the aid stations, I’ve sought them out at all races. They’re indescribably awesome in ways that you’d only understand if you rode a mountain bike over a bunch of mountains for 100 miles.

I digress.

Around mile 70, on something called the “Death Climb,” I started feeling really awesome. I think it was the combination of gummy bears, electrolytes, pb&j, and just really enjoying a long singlespeed climb, but I’d look way ahead, see the hill covered in groups of people, then pass by them in what seemed like just a minute or two. It felt like no time before I was at aid 5 getting another handful of gummy bears and a bottle refill.

Speaking of aid stations, this race had some of the most on-point volunteers I’ve ever experienced. You’d pull up, they’d park or hold your bike, grab, refill, and replace your bottles, get things out of your drop bag, etc. Not that all aid station workers aren’t great and very much appreciated, but the SM100 volunteers were above and beyond that normal level of greatness.

So I left Aid 5 and was mentally prepped for what some people had said was the toughest part of the course. The “Death Climb” turned into a series of several long descent/climb repeats that the Appalachians are infamous for- no trail ever goes from the top to the bottom without a few 100 foot rollers in the middle. On one of the climbs, another singlespeeder passed me. He was absolutely flying- his unzipped jersey (a sweet Ibex one similar to mine) was flapping in the breeze, and he was on flat pedals. Holy crap! I can’t imagine riding a mountain bike- especially a singlespeed- on flat pedals! It was obviously working well for him, though.

I kept with my steady grind up the hills. I passed a woman or two, so I didn’t let myself back off on the flat spots between rollers. Soon enough, I was on the singletrack (mostly) descent and only had one climb between me and the finish. Luckily, the one remaining was the “easy” lower part of a climb we’d negotiated earlier in the day. It had been my favorite, so I didn’t mind a repeat appearance.

About 3/4 of the way up that last climb, I saw the flat-pedaled SS guy with his bike on the ground, standing on the side of the trail, chilling out & taking a drink. I generally make it a habit to encourage people late in races, and felt compelled to give him some motivation.

“Come on, gorgeous, let’s go…”

He was on my wheel and climbing before I could catch my breath from speaking. A minute later, he went flying past me, leaving me in a cloud of powdery Virgina dirt. Chivalry, meet death.

My official finish time was 10:30:24 and 13th place.

Stoked. I like finishing the season off with a good race. No cramps, no bad wrecks, no death marching. Even though it was slow, I call it a success. After food and beer, I met/gave isht to the guy (Nate) that passed me after my motivating words (he’s actually a nice guy from DC), met Dicky, then took photos of the podium presentations. Amanda Carey won the race and the 2010 NUE series and Todd won the men’s competition.

Some podium/other random shots…

Quick Question-

If old people are retired, then why do they wait for holiday weekends to go out in their RVs and fill up campgrounds? Why don’t they just make their trips during the week?

I figured I’d split the drive to Harrisonburg up so I wouldn’t be spending 12 hours in the car the day prior to a race. I looked around on the internet & found a spot to camp east of Nashville. Only problem was, when I got here, all the sites were full (see paragraph #1). I considered trying to park in a discrete place and bandit a spot out off of a hiking trail, but I really didn’t want to have something like a towtruck or park ranger to deal with in the morning. I was just about to leave when I figured I’d make one more lap of the campgrounds at one of the sites without many occupants.

At what’s probably the spot most distant from the camp entrance, I saw a woman sitting outside her RV reading a book. There was a large open area next to it, so I figured I’d try my luck…

“Excuse me”
(she looks up)
“If I give you some cash, would you mind if I pitched a tent just for tonight on the other side of your campsite?”
Her: “Ummm… sure?”

While I was setting my tent up, she drove off. So, before I left for dinner (another adventure), I left a note and $10 in the door crack of her camper. Woohoo!!!

Once I threw my sleeping bag in the tent, I headed back to town for dinner. I’d spotted a Chinese buffet on the way in, and since it looked pretty busy, I figured I’d chance it. When I arrived, there was a police car in the parking lot. The officer was standing outside the rear drivers side door of an SUV, and, from inside, I heard what I swear was a woman in labor.

A small crowd was gathering.

I figured that must be some damn good Chinese food and hurried into the restaurant. It was alright. I’m hoping my fortune was off by one day…



Time for the final 100 miler of the season- the Shenandoah Mountain 100. Late last week, the Hurricane Forecast gave me tingles when I saw the prediction for landfall in Virginia about the same time as the race. It’s since been updated, though, and now, this is the forecast:


Is it wrong to feel a slight twinge of disappointment? I mean, I like nice weather as much as the next gal, but (as long as it’s not cold), I like the rain and mud, too. A lot.

Maybe I should be thankful, though. I’m still working out brake issues from Fool’s Gold. I removed the Formulas from the One9 since the pistons were sticky. I called Formula up, and they said to take everything apart, clean and lube it, then re-assemble. I’ll get to it eventually, so I’m just going to rock the ElixrCRs this weekend, though they could use a little cleaning up also.

I’m tempted to say “eff it all” and just put BB7s on both bikes.

Glen Danzig Appreciation Post

Recently, I took Ryan’s old iPhone (he got a new one), and have been using it as an iPod touch. I’ve been on quite a Danzig kick lately.

I had no idea who Glen Danzig was the first time I saw the “Mother” video on MTV. It was way past my bedtime on a Saturday night- I’d stayed up late despite knowing that my parents were going to drag me off to early church in the morning, when, all of a sudden, there was this gorgeous, sweaty, shirtless man on my television singing about Hell and how he was going to help me find it. Instant crush.

I think I had recently removed a poster of Joey from NKOTB from my wall.

Fast forward many years. I discover the Misfits and all other sorts of awesome music. Danzig remains one of my favorites, though. I’ve heard that he’s even signed the wall at Graceland. I’ve always been tempted to go try to find out for myself. Still have a crush.