Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Fatter Mustache

Three stages down and until today I was sitting happily in third place. Not sure how the GC is looking at this point, but I got fourth on the super spinny, heavy on the climbing, mostly road stage today. Third in the prologue and third (even though I crashed hard early in the race) on the second stage. Oh how I love riding in Cooper's Gap Rothrock. The crash gave some nasty scrapes on both arms and right thigh, plus the extra bonus of a fat lip (hence the "fatter" mustache).

Head on over to tsepic.com for much better media of the stages. Abe is gettin' some great shots!

Friday, May 25, 2012

I can't seem to get past B...

Yea...those last two aren't food either : /

Ready yet? TSE prep

I've been out clearing trails the past two days. And I have more down logs to cut before the prologue Sunday. Even simply working on these short stretches has gotten me pretty damn excited to be back and racing next week. Now it's time to start getting into racer-ish mode. 

Back up Maxxis tires? Check. 

FM jersey? Check.

Spare brake pads? Check.

An assortment of fuels? Check. 

Purple Lizard map? Um, duh. Check. 

Shoes that aren't falling apart and helmet without cracks? Check and... Check. 

Oh yes, and freshly serviced pedals that just arrived today. 

I gotta thank Kazz and Alex C. of the Faster Mustache crew for getting me my helmet and lending a jersey. Also, a huge shout out to Chris at Loose Nuts for overnighting them shoes to me. 

Surely I'm still missing something....

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Male Escort

I'm back in State College and I made it just in time to lead out my good friend Tom on his bike tour to a wedding, to family and friends, and to some new head-space across country. We rolled out towards R.B. Winter State Park, his first stop, at a pace that he was quick to admit probably won't happen much. There were words of encouragement passed on, strategies discussed, and laughs shared. 
 The first push-off. Feel that frame flex with 80+ pounds loaded!
Our procession out of town ran the full gamut of cycling, including our friend Scott on his single-speed mountain bike, me on my flashy italian road bike, and Tom spinning the already well-traveled LHT
 Scott Woods threw a leg over his commuter to push us out of town. He gave Tom an extra challenge: Stairs. 

All smiles. 

Both steel...Very different rides.

Out past Centre Hall, I teased him long enough with the company of another cyclist and had to Blue Ball him, so I peeled off and up the appropriately named road. 

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Ft Yargo 9/6hr

The culprits. 

Eric Burke, Gabe, Kelly and I made an FM showing at this year's Ft Yargo 9/6hr race in Winder. Like the weekend before at Cohutta, the heat was on and the 10am start wasn't helping. By lap two I was certainly playing catch-up, fighting against dehydration and general heat fatigue. But for me, the bike and gear played particularly important roles this race...
The night before, with three dollars in quarters and the knowledge that an infinite supply of 16oz C02's will NOT seat tubeless 29er tires (see Cohutta post), I used a gas stations air compressor to setup one of my favorite front tires, a Maxxis Ardent, and a new-to-me Stan's ZTR Crest ss rear wheel. Pop, pop, pop goes the Stan's wheel. That great sound of a tire bead against a rim. It's like it was made for tubeless or something. Both the tire and rear wheel were fantastic for the race; smooth, fast, and confidence inspiring up front, with a quick response and energy transfer from the back.
My 2000-mile-plus mtb shoes on the other hand? Well, as Gabe and I sat listening to the pre-race spiel I noticed that my right shoe had a sole about 75% detached from its upper. Glad I saw this before the race. Nothing a little electrical tape couldn't fix. Woohoo. I was off to a great start.
The race began with a sketchy mass start on a narrow road, continuing on pavement for nearly a mile. Our friendly race promoter (and I mean that. this dude was awesome!) informed us that this first lap would be shorter and subsequently faster than all the others. Knowing this, I kept moving forward in the beginning (yellow line rule, what's that?) so I wouldn't get slowed down on the single track.
And then my bike gave me an ego check.
As I spun out, with the hole shot up ahead, I heard that ominous rattling sound. Dropped chain! "Really?" So much for trying to pass people early on. swoosh. swoosh. swoosh. Riders zipped past me as I pulled off to the side of the road and tried to quickly put my chain back on, with diminished fine motor skills from high heart rate and plenty of adrenaline. Don't worry, I told myself. I got six hours to get into a rhythm and race.
Chain back on, I pushed onto the sandy trail. I knew the stream crossing was up ahead and the trail narrowed, so I wanted a good position. "On the left! On the Left!". Get back up there.
Wait... why can't I clip my left shoe in???
Not only was my right shoe falling apart, but my left cleat fell off? Nope. Even worse. I looked down to see a bare spindle gleaming in the sun. My pedal fell off. This was not my day.
Defeated, I pulled up off the trail and back on the road nearby. I started rolling back to my truck when I saw the race promoter (Tim I believe his name was...) on his four-wheeler. With my final ounce of hope, I asked him if he could make an announcement back at the transition area for someone to loan me pedals. As he motored away to fulfill this poor man's wish, I dug deep and tried not to be far behind. When I rolled in, he was on the mic calling for pedals, but no one was coming to my aid. So I rolled around frantically asking everyone myself.
At the furthest end of the lot, when I was about to give up, Duncan from Reality Bikes (he deserves a shout out for sure) answered in the affirmative "yea, I got some crank bros pedals. sure you can borrow them".
Backed that bare spindle out, put a fresh pedal in, and I was back on course.
I have to admit, I don't have much experience in the timed/lap format races. So, like a bat outta hell I tried to chase back up through the field and make up lost time. What I realized after two laps (the second of which was my overall fastest) was that that time really was "lost". As I chased I faded. The plan was to race consistently and the pedal fiasco sort of blew that out of the water.
I got five laps in to finish 9th for solo 6hr ss. Had fun despite all the early headaches. Them trails are fast and have some sweet features. Both Gabe and Kelly set new knobby-tire distance PR's. I think they definitely feel the pull to the dark side that is endurance racing!
Gabe and Kelly post race, just before we got bbq in Winder. 
Also posted here

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Whatta Cohutta

First off I gotta give a shout out and thanks to fellow FM teammate, Mr. Nicoletti for lending what I reckon to be the very jersey he wore to a 3rd place SS finish in last years race. This was my first race for FM and it felt good to rock the red and black!
It was also my first time racing the Cohutta 100, though by no means my first NUE pain cave experience. I knew there was a lot of climbing to be had, but initially I was hoping to set a personal best 100 mile time, considering all the fire road. I sort of underestimated the climbing...and the heat.
But first things first: I rolled into Ducktown, TN before dark on Friday and got myself checked-in and my drop bags dropped down at the Ocoee white water center (built for the 96 Olympics), which served as the start/finish for the race. Even though this was almost my tenth NUE 100miler, I still questioned my drop bags, always asking "what if...?". What if I flat at mile 20; will I have enough CO2 at the next aid station? What if I'm cramping near aid 4 and they don't have anything salty? So on and so forth. I settled on two bags, got my number plate and got out of there.
I rolled up to a cabin my friends and former teammates (Matt Ferrari and Vicki Barclay) have rented the past several years just outside of town. Also shacking up there was my friend and Genuine Innovations Rep, Jim (Jimbo) Malta, Revolution Cycles racer Morgan Olssen, and much later in the night, the Harrisonburg VA duo of Chris Michaels and Jeremiah Bishop (eventual race winner). First thing I brought into the house was the sixer of Terrapin Rye Pale that was rattling on the rental car floor through the North Georgia mountains. You gotta have priorities going into these races and I definitely needed these cold later in the night. So in the fridge they went.
Foolishly, well into dusk, I decided to attempt to put more Stan's fluid into my tires, which, without the nifty presta valve injector, requires a break in the rim and tire bead seal. A seal that, even with ample supplies of C02 graciously provided by Jimbo, was never again achieved that night. Luckily I only messed with the front, so after an hour or so of messing with it, I settled on putting a tube in. It looked like I was in for a bumpy ride the next day, keeping my front (unsuspended) wheel at a high psi to save from changing pinch flats. Let this be a lesson. Let sleeping dogs lie. Don't mess with tubeless the night before a race. Drink another Terrapin and go to bed early instead!
The race began easy enough. A gradual paved climb, then down a bit and a hard right onto some sweet singletrack. I was in a good mood and being somewhat of a jester the first few miles. Cracking jokes. Celebrating the flowy bits out loud. Essentially making sure the people around me weren't taking things too seriously. If they were, you best believe I was trying to crack a smile from them. The way I see it, it makes long races a helluva lot more fun.
It wasn't long until we looped back towards the white water center and I was able to cut a bunch of people off as they fumbled through some rocky bits(The "Wolf Brain"/Highgroove
sticker on my fork must've given me special agility). Shortly after that though, it didn't matter much who I passed, cause we were dumped out onto the never ending, gravel grinding heart of the race. I was surprised by how many single-speeders were out. I made sure to get everyone's name and story. Half because I was genuinely interested and half because I wanted to seem like I didn't care about racing them. Hm. Maybe I shouldn't be sharing that...I was leap frogging and chatting it up with Team CF racer Nikki Thiemann a fair bit too, which was cool cause we sort of knew who eachother were from racing back in the Mid-Atlantic, but never really met until then.
All in all it wasn't until the tail end of the race that, like reverse metamorphasis, I went from being a spritely social butterfly to a slow moving caterpillar. I was strong on the long gravel road stretch out, passing people and setting what felt like a record pace, but the final loop of singletrack at the furthest point was where I let myself go. I rolled out of Aid 4 in a pack of three or four singlespeeders and held my ground until we looped back around to the same spot. It seemed as if we were at the lowest spot on course, at the base of the longest climb of the race. It was the very hill we rocketed down only a handful of minutes earlier, watching race leaders like Bishop, Pflug, and Ferrari ascend. I decided to sit and recharge at what was then Aid 5 and let several positions climb away. I was losing the battle to the heat and if the volunteers didn't run out of water, I probably would have stayed longer to rehydrate. On top of this, I had a false sense of confidence after being told I was in the low teens for single speeders. I told myself I could afford a bit of break.
Little did I know how far from the finish I really was.
I fought many demons on that backside climb. Once I was on the rollers on top and the long descent afterwards, I realized there were many others suffering. I took back a position or two before Aid 6, which seemed more of a frontline medic station than a rest stop. Several familiar faces from earlier in the race were there and I made sure to not make the same mistake twice and stay; so without letting too many leave ahead of me I rolled out.
The final miles seemed to last forever (sort of like this race report!). Nothing too exciting, just a lot of cursing the heavens and asking "why is this not over yet?!". I did finally pinch flat that front tube on the last few miles of singletrack. Miraculously the residual Stan's still left in the tire from the night before reverse sealed the tube. Temporarily.
Quick fix. Slow finish.
As I rolled through the finish in a daze only a hundred miles on a bicycle can give you, I looked behind to see 18th place in SS hot on my heels. Just goes to show, the race is always on at these events.
My friend Matt (3rd place SS) was of course already showered, sitting nearby with Jimbo. With my finisher mug, Jim discretely poured me some of that Terrapin and I sat there at the finish, content. I by no means broke my 100miler record, but I was done. And for that moment, that was good enough.

(This story also posted here)