Friday, January 29, 2010

Final Preparations

Although I covered my visit to Cane Creek Cycling Components yesterday, I failed to mention that I actually acquired the parts I need to finish my headset installation. I was hoping to get a few of those fancy anodized headset spacers, and I did. Jason was kind enough to hook me up with some, in fact it was way more than I needed (unless I want to continue riding that fork with the super-long steerer tube.) So, last night I took little inventory before I got started.

The photos don’t do them justice. I grabbed Goose for a little more mechanicin’ (don’t worry, it won’t hurt.) I first took a moment to survey the current configuration.

I think I might be happy with the stem height, so I planned on using the same amount of spacers. Little did I know that I had two giant spacers that would do the job of four of the old ones. Now my shit won’t look like an accordion anymore.

They went on with ease, and they matched the color of my bike, which is a plus if you like aesthetics. Now I just need to ride the thing a little bit to determine if the steerer tube can be cut to the length I desire. If not, I have plenty of leftover spacers to jack it back up.

I guess this isn’t a full-on mechanic’s lesson, since this is a job that is very simple. If you want more details regarding headset maintenance and such, then you should check out the Cane Creek website. They have some videos on there to help you, or to satisfy your curiosity.

Headset Installation

Adjusting Your Headset

Headset Maintenance

Alright, now that the tech tips section is done, welcome back. I also need to mention the cool new addition to the B-43 shop. Is it cooler than a beer fridge, you ask? Well, that depends on how much you like beer I guess. The folks at Cane Creek were kind enough to let me sneak out of there with a nice banner to hang up in the shop. Now I can advertise to my neighbors and bike buddies about the great company that is Cane Creek. Booya!

This weekend is race number three in the 2010 Winter Short Track Series, and it is looking like it will be more interesting than the last two. We are under a Winter Storm Watch for our area, so the trails could be frozen and covered in snow and ice. I guess I will have to seriously think about switching my tires for this one. I will check the conditions on Saturday and figure that one out. There is also the possibility I could ride my full squish bike, Goose for this one. Come back Monday to find out what happened. You know you want to.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Head For The Mountains

That’s exactly what Lunchbox and I did on Monday. It was time to high-tail it out of Charlotte and take a trip out west. The North Carolina High Country was calling, and we answered. This trip was more than just getting out and enjoying the mountains though. For me, it was a chance to escape normal life for a day and get a little rest and relaxation. We left the B-43 World Headquarters bright and early and we were westbound and down (just watch ol’ Bandit run.)

We saw some weird stuff along the way, with the above photo being the funniest. I had no idea that elderly folks took their scooters so seriously. Anyway, this trip wasn’t all about fun and games. This is the part of the trip that was the “super-secret” mission. When we got into the mountains, we took the exit for Fletcher, NC , and made a stop to see my new friends at Cane Creek Cycling Components.

My friend Jason was kind enough to invite us over for a tour of the facility, and I worked it into my schedule (actually it was the first thing on the agenda that day.) I pulled into the parking lot and looked around for a moment. The building looked small on the outside, and it was rather unassuming. We parked and headed to the front door to make our presence known.

We walked into the front lobby where we were greeted with numerous awards and other Cane Creek branded paraphernalia. I spotted a telephone on a little table and picked it up. I dialed the operator and we exchanged a few words:

Operator: Cane Creek Cycling Components, can I help you?

Me: Hello there. This is TheMutt from the world famous B-43 blog. I’m here to take a tour of the facility.

Operator: Yes sir, we’ve been expecting you. Please wait while I send someone up to get you.

Me: Thank you.

Lunchbox and I waited for a few moments until Jason came to get us. I haven’t seen him in a few months, although we have been in communication via e-mail and social networking sites on the Internets. He welcomed us to the facility and had us follow him inside.

We walked into a giant room filled with parts, boxes, and boxes of parts. There was a lady sitting at a table, and she was putting Cane Creek headsets into packages. I was amazed that there wasn’t a room full of giant robots for that. Jason informed us that they do all of the packaging by hand, and he proceeded to show us some other parts and their packaging as well.

While we were walking around, he gave us the lowdown on the history of Cane Creek Cycling Components. I’ll try my best to sum it up. Back in the 70’s, a major Japanese brake manufacturer called Dia Compe opened a U.S.-based facility in Fletcher, NC. They provided brakes for bicycle manufacturers here in the United States. In the late 1980’s to early 1990’s, Dia Compe teamed up with the folks at RockShox to market suspension forks. The components were produced locally in Asheville, NC. Around that time, Dia Compe became involved in licensing the Aheadset threadless bicycle headset.

Around the middle of 1990, the Cane Creek name was born. It was named after the road on which the building was located. Jason told me that there is also an actual creek called Cane Creek nearby. They also started producing rear shocks and manufacturing wheels shortly after this. We walked over to the wheel department and I learned something else. Each wheel from Cane Creek is assembled and trued by hand right there in the building. I was told that the design of the wheel made it impossible for a machine to assemble them. So, if you buy a set of Cane Creek wheels, rest assured that they are hand-assembled and inspected by a live human being. It's hard to find that kind of workmanship anymore. You had better hurry though, as Cane Creek is getting out of the wheel business. They are closing out the wheel in their inventory at ridiculous prices. Check out their website for more info.

As the tour continued, we headed over to the shock department. It’s there that they build each one (again by hand) and test them to exact specifications. Even if you send one back for repair, it goes through the same process. Across the way from the shock station was where the headsets were made. The aluminum used in the 110 Headset is purchased locally and made on the premises. They send them out to be annodized and laser-etched with the logos, and then they are packaged in house. They sure do a lot there for such a small facility (it's bigger than it looks on the outside.)

We walked to the back of the building, which was full of inventory. I got the lowdown of several products, and that’s where I got to meet a few of the employees. First was Nancy, who packages each order to send out to customers. If you order anything from Cane Creek, Nancy probably sent it to you. She made sure that Lunchbox and I walked out with some water bottles and stickers. Please remember to thank Nancy every time you receive a package from Cane Creek.

We walked around to the office section, where we got to meet some of the sales-types. I met Chris, who is the newly-hired Director of Domestic Sales. Then there was Gary. Gary is the sales-guru and all around knows-everything guy at Cane Creek. If you have a problem or a question, chances are you have talked to him. He is a sharp dude. Coincidentally he’s the one who hooked me up with the short-sleeved jersey I got a while back. I also got to see some of Jason’s work. He showed us a lot of ads for cycling publications that are in the works. Neat stuff. Look for his ads in an cycling magazine near you.

That pretty much concluded our tour. We walked outside and talked a bit about upcoming changes at Cane Creek (I can’t spill the beans just yet), and also discussed general bike industry stuff. We really had a great time there, and it was very interesting to see a local bike component manufacturer up close. I am very grateful to have the opportunity to represent these guys, especially after seeing how they do business. Big thanks to Jason for having Lunchbox and I over there for the day.

We capped off the day off by doing a little snowboarding in Maggie Valley, NC, just up the road a bit.

Although the snowboarding was fun, I think the highlight of the day was our visit to Cane Creek. We talked about it all day. Although I didn’t take many pictures there (I was too busy being “wowed”), I will have long-lasting memories. Do you support Cane Creek by using their products on your bicycle? You should. If not, go buy some stuff right now. I’ll wait.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010


Okay, not in a riding sense, but in a blogging sense. I’m taking it a little easy today (cheating, if you will.) Even though I try my best to describe my racing as best I can, it’s still difficult for the layperson to understand exactly what it is I’m doing out there. Luckily, a friend of mine wore a helmet cam during the last two races to document his adventures. Since I’m not quite ready to talk about the secret adventure that Lunchbox and I took on Monday, I figured I would link up to his videos for y’all. He races in a different class than I do, but it’s pretty much the same thing. Check it out.

This one is from the first race:

This one is from the second, much muddier race, and he wore the camera backwards. It makes for an interesting perspective:

Looks like fun, huh? It was, indeed. The guy who took this video is Bart, the owner of Southpark Cycles here in Charlotte. Check out their website for some great bicycle deals, or stop in if you are in the area. I don’t normally promote any shop other than Middle Ring Cycles, but Bart does a lot for our mountain biking community here in Charlotte. So, check them out. I’ll be back tomorrow with more crap and nonsense.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Muddier Than Thou

Since I was out of town yesterday, I didn’t get a chance to chronicle the mud-fest masquerading as a race that happened this past Sunday. Yes folks, race number 2 in the 2010 Winter Short Track Series was far muddier than the last one, with an added bonus of steady rain during many of the races (including mine.)

After arriving on site, I briefly considered skipping the muddy race and doing my volunteer duties for the event for the whole day, rather than after my race as normal. When I ran into Neal Boyd and informed him of this, he said, “That’s what winter bike racing is all about!” I couldn’t argue with that logic, so I filled out my form and signed up. I took a practice lap and I was satisfied that I could hang in there for another fun-filled race in the muck. I spun around the parking lot for a bit to keep the legs warm, since it was a little colder than it was last week. As the start time for my race neared, I lined up and got ready for the pain and suffering.

As I waited for the race to start, I thought about my strategy. Last week I took off so fast and left the pack behind me, but I blew up just before I made it back to the start/finish line. I spent the rest of the race suffering because of it too. This time would be different, since I knew I didn’t have the stamina to lead the entire race. I decided to take off at a decent pace and stay somewhere in the middle of the pack where I would be comfortable. I would do my best to stay with the group, and then start picking them off one racer at a time.

I pretty much held my ground on the first lap, although the conditions were as shitty as a baby’s diaper. I climbed out of the trail and was greeted with a super-slushy fire road, which was hell on my legs and lungs. After trudging through the muddy goodness, I rounded the corner for my first lap. I was still in the middle of the pack, with only one rider passing me so far.

As the race went on, I was having trouble navigating the corners on the downhill sections. I soon noticed that I had lost most of my front brake, and all of my rear brake again. While I thoroughly inspected my brakes and made the proper adjustments before the race, I somehow had the same issues as last week. This really sucked because I usually have an advantage on those sections due to my weight. The smaller, skinner guys can climb better, but my 225 pounds just goes faster downhill (that’s physics, baby.) I couldn’t go balls out and adjust my speed since I didn’t have the proper braking power. I rounded the corner for my second lap and tried to figure out a new strategy.

While I am giving Lunchbox the thumbs-up in the above photo, I knew my race wasn’t going as planned. I wanted him to see that I felt okay, which I actually did (surprisingly.) While my recovery time was improving on the climbs, I was having a lot of trouble gaining back any of the ground I lost from my mid-pack start. I pushed as hard as I could through the climbs, but the downhill stuff was getting worse as the race went on. My weight quickly became a disadvantage on the slippery decent, and I was sliding all over the place. I became familiar with more than a few trees during the next few laps. I began to wonder if racing was such a good idea, given the conditions.

This time I actually managed to give Lunchbox a smile as I rounded the corner on my last lap. I was probably just happy that the end was near. I decided to throw caution to the wind and give it everything I had so I wouldn’t get passed by anyone else. While I wasn’t in an anger of finishing dead-last, I knew that I had to work hard to finish mid-pack. I did a little better this time on the trail, but I didn’t pass anyone else. When I saw the final approach to the finish line, I stood up and mashed the pedals. I would pass out dead at the finish line if I had to, just to keep anyone from getting by me. Although I didn’t end up dead, I didn’t finish mid-pack either. I came in at a not-so respectable 14th place, but the important thing is that I finished I guess. I need these races to jump-start my season, so every little bit helps. When the race was over, we all had a great laugh at how muddy we were.

I can’t explain why people do things like racing in such horrible conditions. Hell, I can’t explain why people race at all. I know that for me it somehow helps maintain my sanity, while also keeping me in some kind of decent shape. The only saving grace is that there are tons of other crazies out there with me. Welcome to the Dirty South. At least I didn't wear a white jersey this time. See y'all tomorrow.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Workin’ It Out

Since I talked mostly about my training regimen on yesterday’s post, I thought that today I would cover the unfinished subject of my new Cane Creek 110 IS headset. I got this headset last week, and I was itching to put in on my bike. Also, I felt that it was time to make a commitment to proper steerer tube length on the Fox Fork I installed a month ago. I’ve been riding around with a “giant spacer stack”, as the Dirty Party Cycle told me on one of our rides. See for yourself:

Wow, talked about “jacked to the max.” I knew I was sitting too much in an upright position, but I also knew it was temporary. I haven’t ridden the bike much like that, but it wasn’t about to be a permanent thing. Rather than cut the steerer tube though, I decided to play around with the positions of the spacers first. The cutting will come after I am satisfied. I don’t want to cut too much off, since it can’t be put back on. Before I even thought about doing some wrenching, I needed to grab the most important accessory:

Anyway, it was time to replace my Cane Creek IS-3 headset with the far superior 110 IS. It has served me well in my mountain biking adventures, but it was time to get with the times. I’m no longer an entry-level rider, so I don’t need to be riding entry-level parts. Cane Creek 110 headsets have a warranty of 110 years, so I should have plenty of quality rides with it. As I was told by a friend at Cane Creek, “It will be buttery-smooth for years to come.” Mmmmmm, butter. So, goodbye Mr. IS-3:

Although the 110 IS came with a new top cap, I was a little partial to the one I was using. I got it at a race a few years ago from some Cane Creek reps, and I liked the fact that it was different than the one I was using (the standard Cane Creek to cap.) The top cap for the 110 looks classier, so I decided to part ways with my current one:

So, first things first, I had to install the new crown race on the fork. After disassembling everything, I wondered if the current crown race would be compatible. I decide against using the old one, since I wanted to use all new parts. So, with a little elbow grease, I got the new one installed:

The greasy fingerprints are not a feature of the Fox Fork. It has to be purchased separately.

The 110 IS came with brand new Interlok spacers, all pretty and shiny. The problem is though, I still wouldn't have enough even after I cut off the steerer tube, unless I cut it really short. I found that the composite Interlok spacers I had been using were compatible with the shiny new ones, so they would have to do for now. I will haveto try to get some more from my friends at Cane Creek. Look how pretty these are:

The headset installation was a breeze, mostly because an internal heaset doesn’t require any special tools. I just popped in the bearings, installed a couple of spacer rings, and put on the top of the headset. I threw on a couple of spacers to put the stem at what I think will be my desired height, and installed a few more spacers to cover up the yet to be cut steerer tube. Here is the finished product:

After a short test ride (and actually turning the handlebars rapidly), I was more than pleased. The difference was night and day from the old IS-3. Once I get a coupe of rides in on it, I will decide on the proper steerer tube length. I think I may actually have a good fit with the current configuration though. More to come at a later date on that one though. For now, I want to give a huge thanks to Cane Creek Cycling Components for hooking me up with such a quality product, made right here in the good ole U. S. of A. in their Fletcher, NC facility. I will be a “friend of the brand” for years to come. If you don’t have a Cane Creek headset on your bike, then you are missing out. Or, you just plain suck. Your choice.

As for the weekend, I have a full plate, so to speak. I plan on hitting up the Carolina Beer Company again this Saturday, since my growler is empty (did I mention that I like beer?). Sunday of course is race number two of the 2010 Winter Short Track Series, and I am ready again. I am off Monday, so there will be no posting on here for me until Tuesday. Lunchbox and I are going on a super-secret out of town mission that I won’t mention here until later. I have to keep you wanting more, right?

Thursday, January 21, 2010


I guess so. Since I ran out of gas so fast last Sunday, I’ve been trying to pay more attention to how my body reacts to different forms of punishment, I mean riding. Since it’s still too dark to ride when I get home, I’ve been using the controlled environment of the gym to monitor my results. I learned from the race that I have plenty of strength and power, but I have a slight bit of an endurance problem.

While riding the X-Bike the last few days, I’ve been wearing a heart rate monitor to see exactly what’s happening when I get tired. I start with a five-minute warm up, and then I shift gears (if that’s what you call it on a stationary bike.) I push it pretty hard and watch my heart rate steadily increase, then I back off or a minute or so. After that, I shift to the highest gear, stand up, and mash the pedals. My heart rate shoots up to the max after a bit, and I take mental notes on how that feels. I then shift down to a more comfortable level and cruise for a bit, while maintaining what I think would be a good pace. I repeat this for the entire ride. I realize that what I’m doing is called “intervals”, but it’s the heart rate results that I’m most concerned about. I need to be able to gauge how I feel during the race so I can make adjustments as needed.

I realize that there is plenty of data and other information about this kind of training available on the Internets, but I need to do my own study to meet my specific needs. Short of hiring some sort of cycling trainer guy, this is all I can do. I hope to see some results, and maybe I’ll move up in the standings a bit. That would be a good way to see what is and isn’t working for me. It’s a long war, and it doesn’t have to be won in the first battle. I guess what I’m trying to say is that the race season has just started, and I don’t expect to win the first series.

I got a little garage time last night to sort out some things on my primary bike, Goose. I set out to install my brand-new Cane Creek 110 IS headset, and to also decide on a proper steerer tube length on my new Fox Fork. You see, I didn’t cut anything off of it, so the fit has been a little weird. The good thing is, I’m not currently racing this bike, so I have plenty of time to decide, and more importantly, to do it right. I’ll talk more about that tomorrow.

As far as the dirty jersey incident from yesterday, I‘m not sure if I’ve made any progress. I rinsed it off last night, and placed it back it the tub for some more soaking with the all-powerful Oxy Clean. It appears to be working a little, but I’m starting to think that I will have permanent mud-colored polka do accents on my team kit. I’ll probably just give up if it’s not clean by this weekend. I have other things in mind anyway. After all that mess (pun intended), I think I’ll need a large dose of beer. It just so happens that I bottled a fresh batch of homebrew that should be ready this weekend.

See y‘all tomorrow.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Back in the Mud

Well, after the mud-fest that was race number one of the 2010 Winter Short Track Series, I was faced with a minor dilemma. After the race ended, I was covered head to toe in muddy disgustitude. I headed over to the impromptu “bike wash”station to try to remove some of it. The caked-on gunk I had accumulated on The Greatest Short Track Bike on Earth was easily removed, so then it was on to me and my clothing. As I began my sad attempt to clean up, I realized that wearing my all white team kit from Middle Ring Cycles was probably not the best idea in the world (at least for that muddy race.)

While I did have an alternative (my long-sleeved Cane Creek Cycling Components jersey), I opted to represent my shop sponsor first and accessorize wit some other goods from Cane Creek. I rinsed off the mud as best I could, and I figured I would get home so Little Miss Sunshine and I could work some sort of mud-removing miracle. I tossed my soaking wet muddy garments into a bag and brought them home, ready for the final phase of cleaning (or so I thought.)

When I arrived at home, LMS quickly shouted out, “Grab the Spray and Wash!” like it was some sort of medical emergency (she is in the medical field you know.) She grabbed a small tub and got busy. I watched in amazement as she scrubbed away, but I soon decided that I should join in.

We scrubbed and scrubbed, and then let it soak overnight (actually two nights.) When I got home yesterday, she had washed everything in the washing machine and hung it up to dry. I looked at the shorts, and they were as clean as new. The jersey however was nearly as dirty as it was before we started the Spray and Wash fest. She said that she didn’t understand why the mud didn’t come out, and that maybe we needed to take more drastic measures. She came up with the idea that I should go get some help from a recently deceased quasi-celebrity.

Yep, I headed out to the store to sum up the power of Billy Mays and his Oxy Clean. I grabbed the tub and filled it with warm water, while scooping copious amounts of the super-cleaning substance. I scrubbed a little and let it soak.

Now I play the waiting game. Hopefully I can wear my Middle Ring Cycles team kit without displaying the unwanted sponsor logo of polka dotted mud (they aren’t good representatives of the sport anyway.) I do have a backup plan in the works. Until I can get to Albemarle, NC to pick up a new team jersey, I can wear my fresh off the UPS truck short-sleeved Cane Creek Cycling Components jersey (thanks Gary!):

The kitty in the photo will not accompany me on race day.

I guess we’ll see if my efforts are successful when I get home this evening. Out of all the race preparation I need to do, I never thought that cleaning my clothing would be an integral part. I bet when you came to this blog, you didn’t think you would be reading an entire post about handwashing muddy race garments. Maybe tomorrow I’ll switch it up a bit.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Pre-Race Festivities

I realize that yesterday’s post was a little long-winded, but I guess that was from my leftover race excitement. I’ll try not to go on too long today (unless that’s why you come here.) I’ve mentioned before that I get nervous before every race, but this one was different. Since it was the first race of the season, I was a wreck; mentally and probably physically too. I have high expectations for myself for this season, since I’ve made great strides in my racing ability. Also, I have sponsors to represent, so there is extra pressure. To calm my nerves, the fam and I decided to take a small road trip on Saturday to help with my pre-race jitters.

What better to calm my nerves than some beer, right? We took off and headed up to Mooresville, North Carolina to visit one of our fine local breweries. The Carolina Beer Company makes a lot of tasty beers, and some of them are very high on my list of favorites. Carolina Blonde, Little Miss Sunshine’s favorite, is also brewed there. We walked into the tasting area, which resembled a bar (of course.) They even have soda and other non-alcoholic beverages for the kids, so Lunchbox could sit and have a drink too.

It was a nice, relaxing atmosphere, and just what I needed. It was great to get out with the family just to hang out. Sure, we did some other running around that day, but hanging out at a brewery and sampling different types of beer was a nice treat. When you arrive, you belly up to the bar and tell them you want to sample some beer. You get what looked to be about a half pint-sized glass, and five tokens.

You hand the barkeep a token, and tell them what kind of beer you want to try. They even had live music, and some lady outside grilling some sort of meat tube thingys. We just hung out and sampled a few beers; that’s it.

Little Miss Sunshine was enjoying a nice Strawberry Blonde.

I was having a Cottonwood Endo IPA, my favorite from there.

After using a few of the tokens (we didn’t go through all of them), we decided it was time to head out. No need to get piss-drunk and drive back to Charlotte, right? Before we left, we decided to fill up a few Growlers with some tasty beer, so we could enjoy it at home. Little Miss Sunshine bought one from Carolina Beer Company, which of course had their logo on it. She promptly filled it up with Strawberry Blonde. I on the other hand, brought two of my own to fill. The one liter growler was filled with a nice Irish Red Ale (ironically I just brewed the same thing at the house.) I then grabbed my big fancy two liter Growler and filled it with the Cottonwood Endo IPA.

When I busted that thing out I must have looked like some kind of beer snob (well, I am a little bit of one I guess.) One guy asked me where we got it, and LMS informed him of this great invention called the Internets. His eyes grew wide in amazement when he started thinking about all of the things he could find on there. They even have some sort of Internets portal that will deliver the goods right to your home or place of business. Wow.

On the way out, we took a peek at some of the beer-brewing equipment, since it was right out in the open. It is much bigger than the operation I have going on at the B-43 Headquarters, so I must say that I was impressed. I snuck a few photographs for your brewing, uh I mean viewing pleasure.

While I do enjoy beer very much, it was nice to enjoy it in a place that actually makes, bottles, and distributes it. You can get most of their fine products at grocery stores and other retail establishments here in the Charlotte area, but that wouldn’t be as fun now, would it? If you are anywhere near Mooresville, NC, then I suggest you head on up and sit a spell. The tasting happens every Saturday from 12:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m., but the magic of beer making happens all the time. I had so much fun that I will probably go back this weekend. I’m sure my growlers will be empty by then anyway.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Ready or Not

With the official start to my 2010 race season only a few hours away, I loaded up the truck early Sunday morning with Lunchbox and the Greatest Short Track Bike on Earth, and headed out to the site of the 2010 Winter Short Track Series. I arrived early enough to register and to also take care of some last minute bike maintenance, i.e. airing up the tires and oiling my chain. It had rained pretty much all night, up until about 5 a.m., so I was preparing myself to ride in the mud-soaked trail. I brought along all of my racing attire, as I had still not made a decision as to what I would wear. I know, that’s awful girly of me.

It was slightly chilly outside that morning, but it wasn’t quite cold enough to don my new Cane Creek long sleeve super-insulated jersey. I opted instead for the bright white team kit I have from Middle Ring Cycles, and accenting it with some Cane Creek arm warmers and white (yeah, white) Cane Creek socks. I was a rolling billboard for my sponsors, sorta like NASCAR. As I rolled up to the start/finish line to prepare for a warm up lap, race promoter extraordinaire Neal Boyd started laughing. I aksed him what was so funny and he replied, “That’s the prettiest you’re gonna look all day.” I guess he had already seen first hand how bad the trail conditions were. The race must go on though.

I headed out onto the trail for a leisurely-paced warm-up lap to check the conditions for myself. I also wanted to see if there were any surprises, such as course modifications of which I was unaware. It turns out that the one thing I had going for me was the fact that the course had remained unchanged. Good, I thought, since I was very familiar with it. That would be the best luck I would have all day. I cruised through the race course at a decent speed, trying to familiarize myself with the muddy spots. I would have no problems remembering them, since the whole trail was pretty much a sloppy mess. After one lap I exited the trail and had a good laugh at myself. Neal was right, since I was already covered in mud.

I pedaled around the parking lot for a little while until the start of the race. My group was the first to go, so I wanted to stay warmed up until we started. I finished up and headed over to the start/finish line. I took a spot on the front line as my group started lining up. I looked to my left and I saw one of my arch-rivals from the Summer Series, Patrick. He seemed to have the same nervous look as I did, and he wasn’t too much into our traditional pre-race smack-talking. We discussed how we weren’t really ready for this season to start. I guess I had to be ready at this point, since the race was about to start.

I took a deep breath and waited for the pre-race announcements. We would race for thirty minutes, and after that we would do two laps, depending on whether or not you were lapped by the leader. Shortly after that tidbit of information, Neal said, “Racers ready!” When he said, “Go!” I took off as fast as I could pedal. I usually don’t get a very good start in these races, since the smaller guys are usually a lot faster than me. That wasn’t the case this time. As I tore off down the sidewalk to the trail entrance, I left everyone way behind. I hit the singletrack with no one even close to me. While I was excited about this, I concentrated on maintaining my lead throughout the course. There was no room for error, especially on such a sloppy race course.

I took each turn as fast as I could while still maintaining control. The mud was really slick, and it made climbing some of the sections very difficult. The course winds around through the woods and has quite a few jumps and berms, and I used them all to my advantage. I still didn’t have anyone close to me, but I kept up my crazy fast pace anyway. As I exited the trail and hit the fire road, the soggy grass suddenly sapped all of my energy. That, coupled with the fact that I had been red-lining since the start, was a recipe for disaster.

The fire-road climb back to the start/finish line was painful and full of my favorite racing bonus, suffering. Soon there was the sound of other racers behind me, and they were closing in. The road took a right turn as it headed back to the beginning, and that’s when I was passed by two racers. A few seconds later, two more passed me, then another. I had been dropped to sixth place in a matter of seconds, after leading the field for over four minutes. I’m sure these guys secretly laughed at me as they passed by, but they may have also been concerned that I would turn it on again and regain my lead. As they all dug in to make the final climb out in the swamp, I felt even more of my energy being sapped. A few more racers breezed right on by me, seemingly unhindered by the soupy conditions. Now I was questioning my sanity in my quest to become a competitive mountain bike racer. Now I was in full-on survival mode.

I rounded the corner at the start/finish line at the crowd was cheering, but I didn’t gain any advantage from it. Lunchbox looked at me and I could tell that he saw the pain I was feeling. I put it all out there too soon, and I was paying for it now. I even wondered if I would recover enough to finish the race. As I passed the first crowd I shifted into the big ring to gain some speed while I recovered a little more. I started to feel slightly better as I hit the singletrack again, but I got passed by a few more riders. At this point I thought I would end up finishing dead last, if I finished at all.

As I hit the normally fun downhill section, I noticed that the trail conditions had actually gotten worse. It was all I could do to stay on the trail at this point. Couple that with the fact that I was still trying to recover, it’s safe to say that I was not having a great deal of fun. While I enjoy racing, I wasn’t at this point in time. I approached a creek crossing that has a little jump before it, and I tried to double it. I barely got off the ground. I needed to just maintain a good pace and prevent anyone else from passing me until I could recover a bit more. Just as I started to feel good again, I hit the soggy fire road climb and immediately felt its wrath. I decided to ignore the pain and give it whatever I had left, which wasn’t much at this point. The soggy trail kept sucking the life out of me.

I slowly started to recover as the race went on, and I actually didn’t get passed anymore. I couldn’t help but go fast on the downhill section, since I noticed that my brakes weren’t functioning properly. I was squeezing the levers with all my might, but I barely slowed down. Although that was a scary thing in these conditions, it ended up being a benefit. I would have been more cautious otherwise. This unplanned speeding actually helped me regain some of my lost time, and I passed a few riders on the trail. I didn’t have enough to fight my way back up to the leaders, but I knew at this point that I wouldn’t finish dead last. I kept plugging away until the final lap. The end was in sight, and I couldn’t have been happier. I crossed the finish line and kept on riding for a bit to cool down.

While I was glad the first suffer-fest of the season was over, I was even happier that I didn’t cross the line in last place. I would have to wait a bit to see the final results, but I needed time to wash off all the mud anyway. After I rinsed off the Greatest Short Track Bike on Earth (and my muddy clothing), I headed back up to the tent to look at the results. I finished in 9th place, out of over twenty racers. Not bad considering that at one point I didn’t think I would even finish at all. We hung out for the rest of the day to watch the other races, and it appeared as if they had it worse than we did, at least with the mud anyway. I’m looking forward to next week already.

Friday, January 15, 2010

The Final Countdown

I’ll save you the corny 80’s video, although every time I hear the words in the title I think of that silly song. Go look it up on YouTube if you really want to see it. Anyway, I‘m talking about the final countdown to the 2010 Winter Short Track Series, which is the first race of a long season ahead. While I am filled with excitement, I am nervous, as I told you before.

I mentioned yesterday about a new sponsor in the works. While it has been official for a while, I wanted to wait until the last possible moment to announce it here. Yes, my friends, it’s time. I am proud to inform you of a new supporter for my upcoming race season. Any guesses? No? Well, it shouldn’t be too hard to figure out, since I speak of them constantly. Well, I actually speak about lots of companies, but only ones that I support with the use of their products. This particular company is passionate about cycling, and their goal of getting people riding bikes is in line with my enthusiasm for the sport.

I now have the support of Cane Creek Cycling Components in my cycling endeavors. Between my pathetic attempt at racing, the National Mountain Bike Patrol, and our local kids rides, Cane Creek has decided to give me some love this year. This is a huge honor for me, and I will do my best to support them as well. You may see lots of links to their site from now on (more than you have in the past), so be forewarned. They really are a great company and are an asset to the sport of cycling. It looks like I’ll be busy in the next week or so installing a new part on Goose that I just I received:

That’s some high-quality stuff right there. I am also ready to paint the town (so to speak) with some Cane Creek paraphernalia:

I mentioned yesterday that I might have some sort of clothing dilemma at the 2010 Winter Short Track Series. Well, I’m not sure what to wear because I currently ride with a team kit for Middle Ring Cycles, but I also now have some things to wear from Cane Creek:

I guess I’ll have to figure out some way to mix and match these things in with my stuff from Middle Ring Cycles. Like I said yesterday, I never thought I would have the issue of too many sponsors to support. I know it’s only two, but I still want to promote both of them in the best possible manner. I suppose I’ll find out on Sunday. I want to say thanks again to Cane Creek Cycling Components for supporting my inept racing adventures, and also I’ll give thanks to Middle Ring Cycles for supporting me as well. This will hopefully be a great season. I’ll give a full report on the race on Monday.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Training Plan

Well, there’s not much else I can do to prepare myself for the start of the race season. Sunday morning I’ll be on the bike for the first race of the 2010 Winter Short Track Series, and I am as ready as I can get at this point. I’ve done as much training as I can do to prepare myself for the start of the season, but I know it’s not enough. With only a few days left, I can’t get myself into any better shape. I will just have to suffer through the first few races I guess. I am quite used to suffering, so I should be very comfortable.

I felt the same way last year at the start of the series too. There are quite a few differences from last year though. First of all, I had a much heavier bike (around 34 pounds), an I was in really horrible riding shape. Last year I wasn’t on the bike very much before the start of the series due to the fact that I was recovering from a dislocated shoulder. Now I am in better, albeit not prime condition and I have a new, lighter bike to use for the series. The Greatest Short Track Bike on Earth should serve me well, or at least reduce the amount of weight that I have to carry around the course.

This winter I’ve done more riding that I had been doing in the past, but most of it has been on the X-Bike at my local fitness center. I’m still riding it at lunch time, but I have reduced the intensity to more of a “maintenance” effort at this point. I brought my Blackberry with me so I could have some tunes while I ride, and I took some photos of my awesome (sarcasm alert) experience.

Wow, look at me go. All that riding, and I didn’t move an inch. That’s probably the worst part of it. My favorite part about riding bicycles is the feeling I get while moving fast through the trees, or even flying down country roads. The X-Bike is supposed to be the next best thing, but I can’t wait until I don’t have to depend on it for my cycling fitness anymore. When we start having more daylight in the evenings, I can resume my nightly road rides, which really does benefit me during the race season. I never thought I would miss riding my road bike, but I do, especially after staring at this cockpit every day:

Well, as far as the rest of my preparations, I haven’t really put a whole lot of effort into it. I did resume the carb-loading plan I discovered at the Tree Shaker, although this time around I won’t be drinking between laps. I’ve been preparing nightly by enjoying fine beverages from some of our local breweries, most notably the Highland Brewing Company located in Asheville, NC. Here is my latest energy source:

Stewie says you can kiss his ass if you think I’ll share my beer with you.

That about sums it up, I guess. I am as ready as I can be. I know I mentioned a new sponsor a while back, but I haven’t made an official announcement yet. Patience, my friends. In due time I will announce the next supporter of my not-so excellent adventures. While I have received some goodies from said supporter, I am waiting for the “official” sponsorship kit to arrive (which should be any day now I hope.) Just to give you a small hint, I can tell you that I will probably have some sort of clothing dilemma on race days that will affect my other supporter, Middle Ring Cycles. Wow, I never thought that I would have an issue of how to display my sponsors properly. I guess people love supporting middle-of-the-pack racers these days. Whodathunkit?

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Out with the old in with the New

It's been a while so please allow me to rewind the clock to '09. Since Obama is an American. I can safely say this is the most vile "American" entree. Courtesy of the Hawaiian themed Christmas Party '09.

Secondly, there's a masked man running the 2010 Disney Goofy Race and a Half Challenge in the temperate climate of Orlando, Fl more on that one at a later date.