Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Birthday, Medic Stuff, and More Bike Racing

First things first. Today is a special day for my son Isaiah, a.k.a. Lunchbox. He’s been with me here on Earth for 14 years now, so we’re getting ready to celebrate. I know, 14 years isn’t a long time, but they have been the best years of my life so far. He’s a great kid, and it’s a privilege to be his dad. Also, I can’t forget to mention all the work he does as the official B-43 photographer. When he’s armed with the camera, he makes sure to capture the action during all of our adventures. Tonight, in his honor, we’ll be heading out to dinner at one of those fancy Japanese flamin’ grill places.

Now, we’ll go back to the River’s Edge Mountain Bike Marathon. After the race started, I figured I would change my clothes and eventually see if I could get out on the trail for a bit. My knee was feeling a little better, so I hoped that I could meander around the course and offer my assistance to any downed/injured riders.

Before I got a chance to walk over to my truck, an injured rider came in. She had fallen on the Figure 8 loop, and dislocated her shoulder. When Little Miss Sunshine and I started helping her, a woman standing next to us asked if there were any medics on the scene. We said, “Yeah, us.” The lady responded by saying that she was a physician. Proper etiquette is to always yield to someone with higher training than you, so we let her take over. A woman who was with her said that she was a CMA (Certified Medical Assistant maybe?), and she tried to step in and help too. As a former EMT and current heart specialist, Little Miss Sunshine found this lady’s lack of knowledge a little disturbing. The whole scene was kind of odd actually, especially since the “doctor” seemed to have quite a bit of trouble getting the shoulder back in place. All we could do was stand by and try to help:

I really wanted to take over, but it wasn’t my place to tell a doctor how to treat a patient. I suffered this exact same injury a year and a half ago, and I had less trouble putting my own shoulder back in place. I knew I could help, but my hands were tied. I mentioned to Little Miss Sunshine that maybe our dear “doctor” was probably a dentist or something. She was part of a coed duo, and she said that her partner would take over when he came in. She seemed more interested in getting out on the course for her lap than anything else (or having someone relieve her from her struggle.) Just then, another rider came in with the same injury (or close anyway.) Little Miss Sunshine tended to him, and did an excellent job. Eventually, both riders will be okay, but their race was over. I decided to hurry up and get out on the trail in case anything else happened out there.

Before I left though, I saw a couple of my racing pals at the start/finish line. Here’s a photo of Rod, the other half of the coed duo that I mentioned yesterday:

Just as I turned around, the Space Cowboy came in from his first lap. I barely got a photo of him, since he was hauling ass and feeling mighty fine:

Here’s Mrs. MadSS coming in from her first lap:

I eventually got out on the course, and I stopped quite a bit. My knee was still hurting, so I camped out every so often to rest it, and to get some photos. Here’s my pal Chad toughing it out on his third lap:

A little while later (in a different location), The MadSS came through on what I think was his last lap. He was almost going too fast for my camera:

While I was out on the trail, I got word that yet another rider went down with a shoulder injury. I raced over to the Green Loop as fast as my knee would allow, completing the 3 mile section in record time. There were a couple of us looking for the downed rider, but we never found him. I guess he managed to get out under his own power. Left without a patient to treat, I headed back to the finish line just in time to catch a few of my friends coming through on their final lap.

Here's the Space Cowboy coming through at a high rate of speed, giving it his best:

When it was all over, some folks managed to grab some free beer before it ran out. The MadSS and his Mrs. were recovering by the man-made river with some frosty brew:

It looked like a fun, yet challenging race. I was bummed that I couldn’t race, but it was good to be out there helping the other racers. I’m proud of all my cycling friends that entered the race. They gave it their all and impressed the shit outta me. Maybe next year I’ll be able to join them for some torture. Until then, I’ll be working on getting my knee (and my bike) back into tip-top shape while I prepare for the next grueling adventure…the Tree Shaker. Oh fun.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Left Out

Today’s post was supposed to be a tale of how I struggled through 50 miles at the River’s Edge Mountain Bike Marathon this past Saturday. With the string of bad luck I’ve been having as of late, I should have known that I wouldn’t be participating. When I woke up early Saturday morning, my knee was swollen so bad that I could hardly walk down the stairs. I applied some Icy-Hot and a knee brace, and hoped that the swelling would go down so I could at least volunteer at the race.

When I got to the U.S. National Whitewater Center, registration was in full swing. Little Miss Sunshine was assisting with pretty much everything, so I decided to take a walk down pit row to visit some of my racing pals. I guess they’ve all been reading about my (lack of) adventures, because everyone asked how my knee was doing. I even received some good-natured ribbing from one of the guys from the Skeleton Crew, which made me chuckle a little bit.

I saw the Space Cowboy and his pit crew, and we chatted about knee ailments for a minute. I told him good luck, and headed down the line to visit the MadSS and his single-speeding wife. They were engaged in their pre-race preparations:

Just then, the MadSS made a mad dash for the woods. I thought maybe he had caught a glimpse of Bigfoot or something, so I hobbled over to where he was standing in hopes that I could film the elusive beast (Bigfoot, not the MadSS.)

False alarm. No Bigfoot in these here parts I guess.

The race was about to start, so I went over to find a good spot for photographs. Yep, that’s right. Instead of racing, I was relegated to taking photos. I would end up doing more important volunteer stuff later though. Until then, here are a few shots from the start of the race:

Number 246 above is Josh from the Skeleton Crew.

Number 281 above is my friend Cathi. She was representing the Coed Duo category with her husband.

Number 177 is my XTERRA mentor, Peter.

Number 352 is the infamous Space Cowboy, and it looks like he was thinking of running me over.

The little happy guy above is Cedric. He was doing the race solo, just like last year. He’s a tough kid, and it’s cool to see him out there mixing it up with the adults. He has a motor that won’t quit.

I’m cutting is short today, even though I still have some interesting stories from the event. It’s Monday, and I really don’t feel like thinking too much. I promise I’ll be back tomorrow with more tales of mountain bike marathon racing.

Friday, August 27, 2010

It’s Not Looking Good

I’ve been hinting around about possibly doing the River’s Edge Mountain Bike Marathon (which is tomorrow morning by the way.) I haven’t been “training” for such an event, but that doesn’t worry me in the least. I can suffer my way through it if need be, and that’s what I was planning on doing. So, the fact that I’m not in “Endurance Racing Shape” doesn’t affect my decision whether or not to participate in a 50 mile mountain bike race.

With all of my bike issues as of late, you would think I was worried about breaking something during such a grueling event. Well, I’m not worried, since there’s not much else left to break. Shit, maybe I just jinxed myself. Anyway, I took The Big O out for some test riding at the U.S. National Whitewater Center da udda night, and everything was fine. Well, that is until I went barreling down the Carpet Trail at a reckless rate of speed.

I didn’t crash or anything, but I might as well have. While I was celebrating the fact that I made it down the last section without a flat (unlike the XTERRA fiasco), I noticed something strange. I tried to pedal out of the flat section to get back onto the main trail, but nothing happened. My shifter was shifting, my chain was uh, chaining, but my wheels weren’t playing along. Basically I was pedaling but going nowhere. I flipped the bike over and noticed that my cassette would spin freely in either direction, and it wasn’t engaging the wheel like it normally should. That’s not really a trailside repair, so I walked it out.

I haven’t had time to look at what’s going on inside my rear hub, so basically I would be without The Big O for any race/ride this weekend. I’ll get to it eventually, and I know I can take care of it somehow. Besides, I have two bikes, so it means that my brand new trusty Goose gets the nod for any racing this weekend. Bike problem solved.

That covers the riding fitness and mechanical issues, but I had something sneak right the hell up on me this week. With all of the riding I’ve been doing, I’ve apparently developed some sort of knee ailment. I’ve had issues with this knee in the past, but I’ve been mostly pain-free for quite some time now. Well, up until this week anyway. So, I guess this means that I’m still not sure if I’m doing the River’s Edge.

I know, you came here today and had to put up with all of this babbling and nonsense, and I still haven’t given you a definite answer. I’m not gonna call it quits just yet, so it will be more like a game-time decision. When I arrive at the race tomorrow morning, I’ll figure out if my knee can take the abuse of riding 50 miles. If I do it, I want to be able to do the whole thing and not just quit after one lap because I’m in pain. If I don’t race, I’ll just hang out and volunteer. Either way I’ll get some interesting stories out of it. Meanwhile, a little ice is in order until tomorrow morning:

Thursday, August 26, 2010

No More Breakin’ (Hopefully)

Since I’ve been kind of a frame killer these past few weeks, I decided that it was time to do a little investigating. I’ve never even considered the fact there there could be some kind of flaw in the frame design, nor an issue with the quality of bikes with the name Diamondback on them. At least that ruled out something.

I don’t think that my weight isn’t really that much of an issue either. At 225 pounds and well over 6 feet tall, I’m hardly fat. In fact, I see much bigger (and fatter) guys riding the shit out of aluminum frames, and they seem to take the abuse. I’ve ridden plenty of other bikes over the years, and I didn’t start breaking shit until lately. So, what could it be?

One thing I initially ruled out is probably now what I consider the main culprit. What, you ask? Well, smarty pants, it’s my seatpost height. Since I’m severely long-legged, I have to ride "jacked-to-the-max" to have any kind of efficient pedal stroke when I sit down to climb. On both of my recently broken frames, I had each seatpost inserted well below the minimum point labeled on the post. I though I would be safe in doing so, but turns out that’s only half the story. Sure, having enough seatpost inserted in the frame is the way to go, but in my case I don't think that what’s recommended on the seatpost was enough. After I broke the Big O, I took note of where the frame actually failed:

My seatpost was inserted at the “4” mark, with the minimum point being just below the “1.” This might have looked okay to the casual observer, but the bottom of the seatpost is exactly where the frame cracked (coincidentally it was at the weld though.) After doing some research on the Internets and also asking around, I realized that my seatpost should extend well below where the top tube meets the seat tube to keep this from happening again. Even though the seatpost looked like it was inserted properly, the leverage from such a short post is probably what caused the failure (in my not-so professional opinion.)

Here was my current configuration, and you can see that there is plenty of seatpost down in the frame:

I needed a fix, and I needed it quick. The frame size is an XL (22 inch), so moving to a bigger frame it not an option. I needed a longer seatpost, but at 350mm for my current one, I didn’t have too many options. I had to scour the Internets to find a longer post, and I finally did. A few days later, this box showed up at my door:

Of course the box was of no use to me, so I opened it up to find a new seatpost inside:

I know it doesn’t look much different than any other seatpost, but I assure you it is. It’s an Easton EA50 400mm jobby, which should give me plenty of extra post to violate my frame with. I swapped over the seat to the new post, and installed my new, extra-long seatpost. As with all of these parts replacement blog posts, this one took longer than normal since I had to stop and take photos.

After a little driveway testing session, I got the seat height dialed in, and there was still plenty of post down in the frame. Let’s hope this shit works. I’m kind of counting on it actually, since I have to do the same thing on my other bike. Of course, a full report will be in order sometime in the near future. Now, it’s time to go for a real test ride on an actual trail. Yeah I know, it’s kinda boring just talking about my seatpost and stuff, but that’s all I had. What, no talk of the River’s Edge Mountain Bike Marathon? Not yet. I’ll get into that tomorrow for sure though.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Finished The Ride

When I left off yesterday, I had my trusty map in hand as we decided which way to go. Sure, we were out there to ride bikes, but we thought it would be a much better experience if we tried to see a few more waterfalls. We planned the route, hoping to stay safe on the trail:

As we left Bridal Veil Falls, we headed up a fireroad to our next destination. The ride was nice, even though it wasn’t singletrack. We saw some nice sights on the way, including this little river:

We continued on, and briefly considered hitting some of the optional trails that looped off of the fireroad. We decided not too though, because we really had no idea how much riding we would have to do to get to the next waterfall. Suddenly though, a beautiful covered bridge appeared in the distance:

This bridge crossed another river, and it happened to be at the top of High Falls. We peered over the side and took a look:

This looked like a good stopping point, so parked our bikes and hung out for a while. Little Miss Sunshine gulped down some water and I caught her in the act:

She quickly grabbed the camera and caught Lunchbox and I looking over the falls:

I regained control of the camera and took this Awesome photo of my bike with my new Cane Creek sticker:

It looks like my bike was holding up, so we decided to head down to the bottom of the falls for a closer look. Here’s what we saw:

You can actually go down to the bottom of the falls, but we opted not to since the bikes would be unsecured. Next time we’ll bring a bike lock. Anyway, we hopped back on the road and we were in for a treat. Even though it was still fire roads, it was swooping, super-fast downhill action. We all flew down the hill to the next stop. Right up the road was the next waterfall. Triple Falls, as I recall:

We stayed there for a while, just taking it all in. I’ve never seen this much beauty on a mountain bike ride before, and I was happy. Lunchbox was enjoying it too, because he just plopped down on a pile of rocks to stare at this natural wonder:

Little Miss Sunshine snagged some passers-by to have them take a group photo, but I guess I wasn’t ready:

Did I mention that we were there to ride mountain bikes? Well, we did get some actual trail riding in. The waterfalls were incredible, and so was the actual trail. We hit a few things on the way back to the parking lot.

Someone left a nice log on the trail for me to ride:

Little Miss Sunshine decided to show off her climbing skills:

Not to be outdone, Lunchbox saw a rock that he wanted to ride over:

We capped off our day by hitting up the best Mexican restaurant in the area, Papa’s and Beer:

While the food was indeed awesome, it was the beer that I found the most refreshing:

What a great day. DuPont is absolutely my favorite place to ride now, and I can’t wait to go back again. I’m pretty sure the rest of the family will be asking to go again soon too. Hey, Dirty Party Cycle, you in? I hope you don’t miss the next trip out there, which will be very soon I might add. Also, any of you other locals that want to plan a trip out there, just let me know. I’ve got the fever for sure. The only cure? More waterfalls. Later.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

DuPont: The Return

This past Sunday morning, the family and I made a last-minute decision to head out to the DuPont State Forest for a little riding/waterfall viewing. It was just Little Miss Sunshine, Lunchbox, and I, although I did attempt to bring along the Dirty Party Cycle. I sent him a text message the night before indicating that I was trying to coerce the Mrs. into a trip to the mountains, but he wasn’t able to attend. One day, my friend, you’ll get to ride out there. Soon, I hope.

Anyway, as you may recall, my luck wasn’t so great the last time I rode out there. Nevertheless, I wanted to make sure that Lunchbox got to ride the really fun trails out there and also see some cool waterfall action. Since I’ve broken two bikes in the past few weeks, I wasn’t sure which one to bring. Sure, the trails out there are probably well-suited for riding on a 29er, but I also like the comfort of my full squish bike. I opted to exercise the demons and bring along the new and improved Goose, and I hoped that there would be no repeat frame breakage. I loaded up the bikes early in the morning and we got ready to go:

We headed west, towards the mountains. I love driving out there, and I never get tired of the view on the highway. Being from Florida, I just can’t get enough of the mountains. A quick look up ahead reminded me of one reason I love living in North Carolina so much:

We arrived at the parking lot, and Lunchbox was excited (just as we all were.) He was a little nervous about riding in the “real” mountains, but I reminded him that he has mad skills on the bike and he would be okay. He quickly changed his clothes and waited for us to hit the trail:

We rode along for a bit, and came up to the creek crossing. The water level was a little higher this time, probably because they had received some rain the day before. We parked our bikes and decided to play around in the water for a few minutes:

As we hung out by the water, some unknown cyclist jumped right in the creek. I figured he was either trying to cool off, or cover his tracks because something was chasing him. It wasn’t as hot as the last time we were there, so the water felt extra cold. He swam around in the frigid waters for a while though, and I thought about doing the same.

He got out of the creek and before I knew it, he was gone. It was like he disappeared before my eyes. I didn’t see him get back on the trail, so I figured that the North Carolina Bigfoot must have grabbed him. We didn’t want to be the next victims of a Bigfoot attack, so we hurried across the water to the other side of the trail:

We rode the trail for a little while longer, with our destination being the Bridal Veil Falls. The singletrack was fun, and Little Miss Sunshine and Lunchbox seemed to be having a good time:

When we got to the falls, there was quite a bit more water flow than the last time we saw it. This prevented us from getting behind the falls, so we opted to pose for photos in front of them as close as we could get:

Here’s a view of the falls again, without us in it:

And looking down:

And of course, some more with us standing by:

Lunchbox had a seat so he could enjoy the cool water and the beautiful view:

We hung out there for a while, just taking it all in. I loved the view from the bottom of the falls:

Soon, it was time to figure out where we would go next. I pulled out the map to navigate a course to the next set of waterfalls:

Where would we go next? Well, since I was armed with a map we would figure it out on the fly. I used to be a pretty good map reader back in my Army days, so I hoped that I could keep us from getting lost. This was only my second trip out there, but I was confident that we would find plenty of trails to ride, and plenty of beautiful nature to view. Since today’s post is a little long (with all these extra photos), I’ll continue where we left off on tomorrow’s post. Y’all come back now, ya hear?