Monday, June 29, 2015

Just Peachy

Well. Another weekend of racing. I had family in town the three days prior to yesterday, and we stayed so busy that it wore me out. Beer drinking, wine tasting, and walking all over the place does not a good race make.

Of course I felt tired and sluggish when I woke up and started down the road to Spartanburg, SC...

But on the way I started to feel peachy.  Ha.

I left a little later than I wanted, which gave me little time to sign in and warm up  (and of course shoot the shit with everyone I saw.)  We lined up, and before we took of we were laughing and joking around. My plan was to take it easy and see how I felt. When we started I did just that. 

I ended up in third and we weren't setting a fast pace. The group stayed together for a while, until the three of us started pulling away. About two miles later, first and second pulled away.  I kept my pace to control my heart rate, and tried my best not to lose a spot.  

The trail wast fast, and with only a few roots and no features I was just zooming along. The first lap was pretty uneventful until I came out on the road heading for the start/finish line...

I spotted second place heading out for lap two.  Now I had a reason to pick up the pace.  I sprinted to get back out on the course but he was long gone.  I no longer felt tired at least and was able to keep my effort high.  About three miles later I ran up on him but he didn't try to get away.  That was good except that I didn't have it in me to pass.

I was getting tired of slowing down and made a plan to pass.  I was taking the climbs better so the plan was to pass him on the next one.  Just as I made my move, he fell over. I slowed in the middle of the climb and asked if was okay.

He was.  That was good because I wouldn't feel right passing him if he was hurt. 

I pushed hard, trying to build a big gap.  He would disappear and reappear, trying hard to keep my pace.  I pushed harder when my legs and lungs would let me. When I saw a familiar sight  (the last section) I gunned it. It was longer than I remembered. I started fading and wondered if I would even make it out of the woods. 

Just then I popped out on the fire road and put the hammer down one last time. 
I finished second. 

Photo cred: Meghan K.

It was a hard effort, and a tough race. I left it all out there and came away with a spot on the box.  I was happy.

And yeah, I actually had fun too.  

Friday, June 26, 2015

Fun Friday

This week took forever.  It actually felt like four Mondays form which I could not escape.

Now, it’s the weekend.  Your weekend.  Mine too.  Whatch gonna do?

Buy some new shit you don’t need?

Buy some new shit to make new shit you don’t need?

Ride something fun?

Yeah, me too.  Actually, I’m gonna race this weekend.  Of course I’ll tell you about it on Monday (or Tuesday if I forget to show back up here.)    In the meantime, I’m heading out tonight to watch some musical acts with rock guitar sounds and all that.

See y’all next week.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Too Much Change

So yeah, it’s been a while since I mentioned the new bike I got from Niner I guess.

If you’re looking for some sort of long term review, then I suppose this could be it.  I really like the new EMD9 for the most part.  It’s an entry level 29er hardtail XC bike, and with that comes decent components.  It’s a solid build, but a little on the heavy side.  Since I’ll probably keep it for a while (and race it of course), things are in the works to made it a little lighter.  Why just a few short days ago I made a call to my local bike shop to get things going…

Anyway, it is a good bike, especially for the price.  The geometry is the same as Darth Maul (my One9) so I didn’t really have to get used to a different ride. One minor complaint I have is the seat, but that’s just because I’ve been riding the same seat on every bike I own for years now.

I took care of that too.

My last and only real complaint is the shifty stuff.  And quite honestly, I hate it.  No offense to Niner or the quality build of the EMD9, but I just can’t get used to shifting.  Ain’t gonna happen.

I’m stuck being a single speeder.

Thanks to Mike L. for that gem.

Gears have a purpose, but not for me.  When racing, I either find myself in too high of gear (forcing myself to work harder than necessary on climbs) or I get lazy and shift down when the trail goes up.  This is unacceptable.  I’ll keep riding it geared and all that for a while, but I don’t think I’ll ever undo the damage that was done by riding just one gear these last few years.

Who gives a shit.  Single speed is dead.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Second Part Of…

That race I did Sunday.  I was on lap two and figured that I had plenty of time to move up.  It was hot but I was plenty hydrated.  I felt good (legs and lungs anyway), but mentally I knew I had some work to do.  The only thing on my mind though was the fact that I had to do two more laps on a not so fun trail.

Well, I guess it was fun but my state of mind was wrong.  Suddenly, I remember what my friend told me about making sure to have fun when I raced and I realized that I could.  I started hitting every little jump and bump to catch some air, and taking the turns as fast as I could. 

I even got all Enduro™…

 I don’t know who took this photo.  I found it on The Internets.  Sorry, but thanks to whomever it was.

Anyway, I was having fun, and stopped worrying about whether or not I caught anyone else.  I passed a guy (not in my class) and got passed by a few (also not in my class.)  I was working hard, but no longer feeling like racing was a chore.  Lap three was more of the same.

I finally finished, and felt good about myself.  I think I was in 8th place or something like that, which is okay considering the wheel issue I guess.  As far as the overall standings go, I might still be good.  I finished ahead of one guy who’s ahead of me overall, and with a few races left I have time to make some upward movement.

The main thing is, I really did have fun.  The course was actually pretty good, and the event was well organized.  I really can’t complain, even if I wanted to.

With a long “season” and series, it’s easy to get down.  I can’t be on my “A” game every time I hop on my bike and I’ve learned to accept that.  When it’s all said and done, maybe I’ll finish in the top three overall.  If not, hopefully I’ll at least come away feeling like I had a great time.

Only time will tell…

Monday, June 22, 2015

Battle Of The Bikes

I kinda got screwed.

After a good week of riding/training/talking to a friend about getting burned out, I was ready to jump back into the Southern Classic Series and give it all I had.  After a couple of wrong turns yesterday morning, I arrived at Country Park in Greensboro ready to race.  When I lined up at the start, I noticed a couple of Cat1 guys in my class, no doubt taking the easy way out so they could get on the podium. It discouraged me a little so I lined up in the second row of a pretty big field.  The plan was to ride my own pace…

But plans change.

Photo credit: Mike Long

When the race started, the “ringers” took off.  I got a little mad about it, and transferred that anger to my pedals.  I put the hammer down and dropped the whole field.  I knew I couldn’t keep that pace up the entire race, but I wanted to make them work to catch me.  I had a huge gap before we hit the singletrack…

Then I noticed that something wasn’t quite right.

After a proper warm up (for once) I felt good physically but had an issue with my bike.  As I tried to shift into a different gear something made a crunching sound.  I looked down to see my chain all crooked and junk.  Then all of a sudden the whole field went by me.  Shit.

I stopped for a moment to see what it was and couldn’t find the problem.  I rode a little further and felt like I was dragging an anvil behind my bike.  I stopped this time and found that my rear skewer was askew.  I straightened everything out, tightened it, and took off again.  I was hurting bad from such a sudden stop, but I knew I could catch back up if I worked hard enough at it.  I pushed and pushed, and eventually came up on one guy in my class.  I hesitated to pass him since I was so tired from my effort to catch back up, but eventually he told me to go by.  I worked hard to put a gap on him, and with my new-found confidence I started looking for the rest of the pack.

The trail was sorta fun, but it was typical cross country stuff and very roadie friendly.  I think maybe I rolled over one log pile, hit a few roots, and maybe even saw a rock or two.  This did not bode well for me, since would have to work extra hard to even catch a glimpse of the rest of the field.  I kept working but I was getting bored.  I was on lap one of three so I had plenty of time, but I didn’t know if I could survive the boredom.

I made it through one lap, where Mike was once again waiting with a camera.

One down, two to go.  Could I keep going?

Tune in tomorrow…

Or don’t.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Fun Friday

I have some good news…

Not, there’s never good new on the News.  My news is, you made it to Friday.  And more importantly, made it through almost a whole week of my crap and nonsense.  I don’t have to write it, and you don’t have to read it.  But we do for some reason.

I know how you feel. 

Well, go do something fun this weekend.  If you’re local (or out in the desert), make sure you stay hydrated.  It’s awful damn hot. 

I have a race on Sunday.  I hope I don’t spontaneously combust.  I’ll do my best to keep cool.

I’ll most likely see y’all Monday with a race report of some sort.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Still Just Like Us

Just as I started getting back to “regular” blogging, something threw a monkey wrench into my plans.  I was out late on Tuesday night, which meant that I didn’t have time to get my shit together yesterday morning. So I'm behind. Again.

After I got out of work, it all started with this:

A trip to Common Market for a giant sack of beer meant that I was ready to party.  But this was no party.  A special friend was in town for a girl’s night with Little Miss Sunshine and Jana, and I sorta crashed the party (actually I was invited.) 

Who the hell am I talking about?

Our friend, pro mountain biker, and all around positive person Sonya Looney.  She’s my biggest fan.

Although she is sans socks in that photo, she is a self-proclaimed sockaholic (just like me.)  And I figured that having two very enthusiastic DeFeet supporters in the same room is something worth talking about.  Well, that and there’s not much else going on.

It was basically just a nice evening with friends.  Many of you know her as “pro mountain biker” or “famous”, but she is actually a real person and pretty damn cool to hang out with.  I mean, she even went out to dinner at a regular restaurant, just like us.

The conversations in our group were all over the place, but that’s what friends do I guess.  I really dig how motivational she is though.  It’s a constant struggle for me to stay motivated (especially during race season as you already know), so talking to her was huge for me.  Although I may seem like I don’t need any help screwing up things on my own, I really enjoy having positive people around to keep my head in the game (so to speak.)   Most of our local bike people are really cool and like family to me, and Sonya is no exception.  Well, except that she lives is Canadia now, eh.  What’s that all aboot?

Anyway, didn’t ride that day (other than indoor at TC), but spending an evening with bike friends was still more fun than anything else I do.

I know.  Who gives a shit.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Just For Fun

So after a week off the bike I had to pedal.  Little Miss Sunshine’s momma was in town from Buffalo and we talked her into a ride down in the big city of Charlotte.  We grabbed a few bikes, drove down to a parking spot near a local greenway, and…

We hit all the usual highlights, including the tallest building between NYC and the ATL.

We also saw some hidden city stuff I’d never really noticed before.

We rode greenways, city streets, and even hung out at some of the local sportsball facilities.

It was a fun day.  Early Sunday mornings mean a day free from crowds and tons of traffic, which is perfect for riding through the city.  I know the little lady’s mom had a blast.  

It was just the kind of “recovery” I needed too.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Just A Little Busy

The new job has been taking a lot of my "precious" blogging time. I'll eventually figure out how to get back to"normal." I had a chance to do a "Fun Friday" post a few days ago though (since I was off work), but I had something really important to do.

Yup, my little guy Lunchbox is a graduate.  He has completed high school and received a diploma, which means that he's ready to go on to bigger and better things.

Okay srsly, he is on to bigger and better things.  He already has a couple of college credits thanks to his hard work, and something even bigger is coming up very soon.  I'll get into it one day, but not today.  In the meantime, I'm very proud of him.

In other news, I took some time off from the bike since my race over a week ago. I actually needed it, since a long race season was sorta getting to me.  It worked wonders for my mental state (which was about half past crazy) and physically I think I recovered a little too.

Now I feel ready.I'm not sure for what, but who gives a shit.

At least I did something productive and put a couple of stickers on my "race"bike.

Wow.  So exciting around here.  At least DeFeet and Maxxis might be happy about it.

Monday, June 8, 2015

My Struggle

I know, it’s a shitty title considering…

Anyway, this could be called a race report.  I woke up yesterday morning with a strong desire to stay home.  I had such a shitty day the last time I raced that I wondered if I had it in me again.  Plus, I wasn’t really recovered from two laps in the heat with nothing to drink.  I know, who gives a shit. 

I left the house and started thinking about my strategy on the ride up to Hobby Park in Winston-Salem.  There were a few “fast” guys in a bigger than normal field. I figured that when I lined up I’d get my shit together.  My heart wasn’t in it at first, and that continued when we started the race.  I didn’t do my normal “sprint like hell and take the lead”, but I did get up somewhere near the front…

Until we hit that big ass hill.

That hurt, and I suddenly realized that I wasn’t really ready for back to back weekends of racing.  As I hit the trail, the leaders sprinted away and I was left trying to find my legs and lungs.  We hit a downhill section and I recovered a bit, just in time to see a few people climbing the next hill fast.  I think I was sitting in sixth place but I was fading quickly.  One guy went buy on a climb and it turned into survival for me.  That’s no way to race.

The trail went up, down, up down.  I was getting bored and questioning my will to even keep it going. I didn’t mean for that race; I meant the entire rest of the season.  I had this internal struggle that I couldn’t explain.  All of a sudden though, I started feeling good.  I pushed it hard up a few climbs and recovered quickly.  Then we hit the technical section…

I’m not sure about the double black diamond designation, but it was nice to have something different.  Luckily I got a peek at this section pre-race (shout out to Jack H.) and I knew what to expect.  There were lots of rocks, which was a nice change from your run of the mill XC singletrack.

I breezed through it, cause I got skills (or luck.)  After that section I spotted a guy in my class, which was the carrot I needed to get my mojo back.  I made it my misson to catch him, no matter how long it took me.

I hit the last little section, passed through the start/finish line, and saw him up ahead.  After another trip up Derby Hill (with much less fatigue this time) I hit the singletrack with newfound energy.  I used less gears and stood up on the climbs, and after a few downhills I found myself nearly running over the guy I was trying to catch.  Rather than make my move then, I decided to ride behind him a while to wear him down. 

It worked, because on the next set of big climbs I mashed away while he struggled.  I passed him and did my best to put a huge gap between us.  Suddenly I was racing again, and actually felt like I belonged out there.  It was too late to catch up the the Cat 1 guys, but I gave it everything I had and felt much better about myself.  I cleared the “Little Pisgah” section again without incident and, knowing that I was getting close to the end, gave it everything I had left.  I crossed the finish line nowhere near the podium, but feeling good about the effort I gave.

It’s not supposed to be easy.  But, it’s supposed to be fun.  I didn’t think I would be able to do this entire series again and have fun.  That happened in the past.

I won’t let it happen again.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Fun Friday

Yeah, I know.  I haven’t been here in a while.  It’s not like I’m lazy or some shit like that.

I started a new job on Monday, and I’ve been so busy trying to assimilate to a new work environment that it’s been tough to do anything else.  I haven’t touched my guitar since last Sunday, and I’ve only ridden my bike once since my race last weekend.  That once maybe doesn’t count because it was indoors at TotalCyclist.  Meh.

Who gives a shit.

The new gig is going well so far, but it has its challenges.  My previous employment was at the same place for eight years, so you can imagine that it can be a little difficult to start all over somewhere else.  I’m in the same field, but things are different.  So far so good.

I’m glad I made the move though.  I needed to move on.

Anyway, let’s get on with the fun.

This weekend is another race in the Southern Classic Series.  On Sunday I’ll head up to Hobby Park in nearby Winston-Salem for some fun and suffering.  I’ll make sure that I don’t lose my water bottle this time (hopefully.) 

Other than that, this weekend will be a time to relax.  I don’t have any plans other than taking it easy. 

I’ll be back here Monday most likely.  And if I am (I’m planning on it) I’ll have lots of photos (maybe.)  If you know me, you know I like taking photos.  Since I probably won’t have a photographer with me at the race it will be a bunch of random shit.  It all depends on how much coffee I drink Monday morning to counteract the shitstorm.

A coffee shitstorm?

You betcha.

Maybe that will help keep me regular (blogging and that other thing.)

See y’all next week.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Home Field Advantage

I don't really believe in that sort of thing, even though the title of today's post might make you think otherwise.  Maybe it works for sportsball, but in mountain biking it doesn't amount to much.  Sure, I might have a few more people around that I know cheering (or in my case heckling), but in the grand scheme of things it's just another race.  

Yesterday's race at the whitewater park (part of the Southern Classic Series and a fundraiser for our local club the Tarheel Trailblazers) was a rough one for me.  I know the trails pretty well, and being close to the house is an added bonus.  After taking a bunch of time off the bike from my trip down to the Lowcountry I thought my legs would feel fresh.  I was wrong.  They felt like shit so I warmed up thoroughly and felt much better.  I also opted to carry only one water bottle instead of my normal two, since there are very few places that would afford the opportunity to grab a drink.  This would bite me in the ass later.

We lined up at the bottom of the hill, seven deep in my class.  My only strategy was to get in the woods first to make everyone work to pass me.  

Photo cred:  Mike Long

I sprinted up the hill (nearly busting my ass on the loose gravel in the process), and hit the woods in first place.  I was wearing my sunglasses and the trail was really dark so I couldn't see where I was going at all.  A guy went by me  and just like that I was second place but feeling good.

On a sorta flat section I took my glasses off and put them in my pocket, immediately improving my vision.  We hit the first "technical" trail, The Carpet, and I started climbing on the wheel of first place.  As the trail pointed downhill, I gunned it and bounced around from my failure to check my tire pressure.  My (only) water bottle ejected and landed on the trail somewhere.  


I kept pushing, knowing that I wouldn't be able to make up the time if I stopped.  The trail leveled out again and I put the hammer down.  In the back of my mind though was the thought of me trying to ride two laps in the heat with no water.  Another guy passed me and I was solidly in third place.  We finished that trail, hit a few flat sections and headed towards Goat Hill.  As the trail went up, I stood up to mash, slipped on something, and immediately hit the ground.  Another guy went by.  I was having quite the shitty day so far and not even three miles in.

At this point I would've had about a third of my water consumed, and that kept messing with me.  Another guy passed me when I was thinking about that, but I saw the leaders not far ahead and came up with a plan...

just hang in there until the second lap.

I was riding pretty well I guess (other than having too much air pressure in my tires) and before I knew it lap one was over.  My legs felt good so I decided to start looking for my bottle when I got back to that spot.  I climbed a bit, and on the descent I looked around and didn't see it.  I stopped, got off my bike, and looked around.  Still nothing.  Another guy passed me, and another.  Who gives a shit.  I knew that I needed something to drink if I had any hope of finishing that lap.  I gave up, hopped back on my bike and decided to tough it out.  

It sorta worked.  Eventually I passed one guy in my class as he stopped on the side of the trail for a break.  This would be a recurring theme for a while, with him even offering me a drink at one point.  Eventually he passed me back for good as I went into survival mode.  I was cramping, and crashed two more times somewhere along the way ( one was on the Carpet trail, the other I don't exactly remember.)  I was in a daze, hallucinating, dizzy, and thought for sure I would pass out.  I was determined to get out of there and finish the race, and luckily I was on autopilot.  After a while I spotted a crowd on the side of the trail and "yelled" to them, "How much further?"

All I heard was laughter, which was appropriate since I was only a few hundred yards from the finish line.  Dumbass.  I crossed the finish line and pulled over off the course.  I wanted to get something to drink from my truck but couldn't remember where I parked.  I faintly heard someone calling out my name and when I turned around it was...

Tom F., Texas Ranger.

He talked to me some more but I didn't really hear him.  He suddenly disappeared, returning quickly with a cold bottle of a popular sports drink.  He saved the day, and after a few minutes I started feeling sorta human again.

Then I remembered that I crashed a bunch and it kinda hurt.

My knee was swollen, I was bleeding and dirty, but for some reason when it was all over I actually had fun.  Even though I had a shitty day results-wise I was glad to be out there.  Racing is sometimes about results, but for me it's about pushing myself when I otherwise wouldn't.

And I wouldn't trade that experience for anything.