Monday, January 30, 2012

Dragon Rides and W101 Course Appendix

Something about New York City makes me want to listen to Christian rock. Not that I am ordinarily into that, and I know that there are those of you out there who think that Manhattan at rush hour is romantic and fun because you see Time Square on the Today Show every morning and Al Roker looks super friendly and huggy. But driving through Queens in January with the filth and potholes and $10 tolls, rats, angry assholes, blown out tires, dirty roadside furniture dumps, and the feeling that everything everywhere you look is a scam...well, I find the seek button on my rental radio and tolerate Creed before Creed was Creed, pray for Jesus or Al to be with me now.

I also yearn to ride the dragon. Something about life going a little too fast and complicated inspires the need to simplify, slow down a little, and ride a rigid 1x8 for a while. And this, in the year of the dragon itself, might be a theme of its own creation, the Chinese New Year.  I'm told that, astrologically speaking, Dragons prefer to live by their own rules, driven, unafraid of challenges, and willing to take risks. They’re passionate in all they do and they do things in grand style. So then, 100 rides on the dragon by next January?  I'm only on number 4, but goalsetting aside, sometimes you just need to shake yourself up a little.  Rigid, rooty singletrack might be a tad uncomfortable, but it's certain to give your life a good rattle. Perfect.

In the spirit of simplicity, I'm still running a 1x8. I considered a singleator and a gusset kit, but weary of having to actually use my brain to solve chain tension and chainline problems, plus the prospect of flat road one-track connector ass-chafing due to inadequate gears, and I made the reliable choice and loaded her up with an old 600 series road derailleur and a same era 11-26 cassette. And let me tell you, it shifts like a rusty, 1940's jeep. Again, perfect. The process is the point.  I'm in no hurry.  In fact, quite the opposite, I'm feeling a little rushed to stop rushing. 

Speaking of not rushing, let's talk about the Wilderness 101.  It would seem that multiple BRC racers who have never ventured into the wilds of Rattlesnakeavania have the itch to go test their mettle.  Resounding, Oh hell yes.  I won't use the space herein to debate the merits of 29er vs 26er on this course, tire selection, 2X9 vs 1x10, etc.  I just don't have that kind of knowledge anymore.  But, I can tell you where to poop.  So I drew up a little practical advice guide for the longest race on the NUE series, sent it down to Big John in Richmond last week, and I thought I'd post it up here as well for the semi-education of the not-so-masses.  Ahem...

29er vs 26er matters less than making sure you wipe thoroughly. 

W101 Appendix for Big John:

Course map:

Mile 0 -  Coburn Park.  A jolly good time.  Right on Penn Creek, more of a river.  Good fishing.  Happy ball playing area, and perhaps a tussle for Mr. Jonas (john's dog) should he choose to accompany you on this great journey.  Good camping, shower in the river, but probably avoid showering near anyone named “Sandusky.” 
Mile 2 - First climb.  Yeah, that happened fast.  Good news is it's pretty mellow, but it's also packed with midget climbers sprinting for the top.  Roll over nice and easy and there’s a long, gravel decent.  Careful on a sweeping right hand turn.  Just a gravel road, but people always blow it here.  A couple years ago, some guy left approximately one third of his ear in the gravel on this turn. 
Mile 10 ish - At this point, I'll begin be a little vague with the mileage, and chances are so will you.  This is rolling gravel.  You are probably flying through here.  Slow down, it’s easy to go way too fast.  Sticking to someone’s wheel is nice, but not so nice that you should kill yourself doing it.  Spend as little time on the front of a group as possible.
Mile 22 or so - An amazing 1.5 track decent.  Gets a little more singletrackish every year.  Smooth as butter.  4 ish miles long?  Goes on forever.  Wooosh. 
Mile perhaps 28 -  A pretty radical rock garden in some singletrack somewhere in here.  Don’t hurt yourself.  A couple of long skinnies.  Inevitably, someone is laying on the ground here, cramping and screaming like it’s the end of the world.  Crowds tend to gather to see who can ride this section (but moreso, who can’t).  Probably not worth it.  A big climb immediately follows. 
Mile 40, for certain -  Aid 2.  40 miles in.  Eat yourself a sammich.  Keep takin’ it easy.  It’s been mostly a gravel road ride so far, and you can feasibly make it here before 9AM.  Do NOT get here before 9 AM. 
Mile 41 - Shit just got real.  A monster climb out of this thing.  1500 feet in about 4 miles or so.  It could be getting hot by now.  Probably a good time to shed a layer, especially if you are wearing pink panties.  They will be useless from here on out. 
Mile 50ish - For every monster climb, there is a great decent.  This one is gnarly, so watch yourself.  No need to ride all of it.  It beats on you – could be worth a stop on the way down to let the arms unpump. 
Mile 53ish -    Amish picnic area.  Look strong, they are watching you.
Mile 60, solid. -  Aid 3.  60 miles in.  I once made it here in 4 hours.  Do NOT get here in 4 hours.  Certain death awaits if you do.  Avoid a heavy feed – there’s a big, crampy, singletrack climb leading out of it.  It could be worth your while to grab a bar or a sammich and eat it while you hike a bit. 
Mile 61 - The aforementioned climb.  People crying on both sides of the trail, who, 3 hours ago, thought they could send this race in about 7 hours.  I’ll be about ¼ of the way up on the left, sobbing.  Please provide me with a sammich and encouragement.
Mile 66 -  Sassafras.  Goddammit this thing is good.  It’s got steep descending, flow, a berm or two, a jump with a cameraman, and it just rolls and rolls.  The problem is, you start to feel pretty terrible by about this point, and it’s a little tough to enjoy.  About halfway down, there’s a right hand switchback that 50% of riders blow.  No big deal, just don’t huck your meat straight off it into the peripherique. 
Mile 68? -   A super gnarly decent coming off a dirt rd.  It’s pretty straight, so if you just line it up you can send it.  But it’s sorta long.  And you’ve got to pedal through some sections to maintain your Mo.  Again, this might be worth walking bits of. 
Mile 70 -  A wee road section into aid 4.  30 miles to go.  The next 30 miles can take you either 3 hours or 12 hours, depending on what you’ve done to yourself up to this point.  Again, there’s a big climb right out of the aid station.  Don’t eat at the station, put something in your pocket and eat when you hit the top.
Mile 75ish, I can never see my watch because of the tears -   The top of perhaps the toughest climb.  Rattlesnakes are, literally, everywhere around you.  You might not see them, but they are in here.  Some of the densest rattler country in the USA.  If you must collapse in a pile of sobbing misery, try to stay on the trail. 
Mile? -  Some pretty rad singletrack atop Sand Mtn.  It’s, well, sandy.  But sorta neat.  Chances are you won’t appreciate sandy singletrack at this point, but in hindsight, you will reflect and think, wow, that was sorta neat. 
Mile 80something - Little Poe trail is a long, sort of flowy descent, but for some reason you have to pedal through the entire thing.  It’s not rocky, so I don’t understand why.  The physics of this one are lost on me.  But the bottom gets you to Aid 5.  It’s possible that SMT won’t get the permit to ride this section, in which case they’ll route you over to some godforsaken jeep road.  Less pedaling when you hit the top of it, but the decent will probably eat any tubes you have left.  Patch kit.  HTFU.  Stay positive. 
Mile 88 -  Aid 7.  If you can make it here, you can finish.  Too many people throw in the towel here.  Don’t be that guy.  Get a soda and turn your brain off.  Pedal, damnit.    
Mile 90 -   The run in.  It’s a long, flat railroad grade beside Penn Creek for a bit.  My grandfather used to fish in here.  Paved.  Super easy.  I’ve seen good riders walking this section because they just couldn’t take it anymore. 
Mile 94 -  Climb.  It’s really not too bad, but it’ll feel pretty tough.  If you’re feeling OK and you’re in a group, this is a good place to get away from them if that’s on your agenda.  One good attack usually let’s people know you’re still feeling like fighting, and if they are not, they’ll probably fold. Last year I got smoked and had to walk some, failing to avoid a dead porcupine carcass mid trail which I actually flatted on.  It is what you make of it.   
Mile 97 - Ridiculous, boulder-strewn, riverside singletrack.  Come back and try to ride it another time.  It’s a short hike back onto the railroad grade. 
Mile 99 -   A couple of dark train tunnels and you emerge onto the road back into Coburn.  The good news, if you are finishing in the dark, is you have your lights on anyway and the tunnels aren’t really a problem.  The good news, if you are without lights, is that you just rolled W101 in 12 hours or less.  Just roll straight and look for the light at the end of the tunnel (literally.)  You’re almost home. 
You take the good and the bad, that's just how racing goes.  I circled this thing my first year in 8:44.  Last year, I couldn't break 10 hours, and my wife, 6 months pregnant with twins at the time, had to push my bike from the finish line to our car because I was incapable.  I left a lot of pride at Coburn park. 

But, like all things shameful, I'm keen to return someday with a mind for redemption. 
Until then, keep climbing. 
Keep looking up up up. 

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Two Man Time Trial. Hashtags not permitted.

As a new policy, I hereby refuse to race any event that appears hashtagged in any public media outlet.  Not that I don't dig technology, or that I don't love surfing the twitters late into the evening when I should be riding the trainer, but for the purposes of getting away from it all a bit, I'm going to prefer my racing be done with a little less public gusto.  I'm thinking the public will probably be fine with this decision. 
Appropriately in that same spirit, The TwoManTimeTrial is Sunday, 10 AM, leaving from BRC, and entirely free of hashtags at this moment.  So count me in.  From Shawn at the Shop:

The training ride is Sunday 1/22 from the shop. 
The course may be amended for weather and trail conditions though to remove the section along the RTF.
10am from BRC, 2 man/woman teams will go at 2 minute intervals from the shop front doors.

totally not for real race, this is a hard training ride only, plan on stopping for lights, signs, traffic, etc.  There will be no on course road closures or traffic control, so ride is totally at your own risk.

Naked, hashtagless racing.  No Map.  Raw, much in the same way professional wrestling was back in the 70's. 

What to ride, what to ride?  I'm told that this is a gravel (non)race that includes the RT, which, of course, isn't very gravelly at all.  Any race that "may" have a segment that rails the Rivanna from the shop to Ivy rd probably deserves fat tires.  But a long gravel route out into the "freeness" of Free Union seems to say Cross bike.  It also says, "we could use a map", but that's neither here nor there.  A safe bet - generally speaking, it's hard to go wrong with those Nevegal 2.5's. What the hell, run what you brung and Betty White and I will see you at the start line on Sunday. 

Still cracked, still rolling.   I just can't bring myself to put the old girl down.  That's the thing about euthanasia - a word that I thought, as a child, referred to kids in Tibet and what not - she's really got to be in pain or a significant danger to the people around her to warrant Dr. K getting involved, were he available, which he is not.  And from what I can tell, Betty White isn't hurting anybody right now.  So Catlett will have to tolerate her creaks and her aches and pains on Sunday.  And try to keep his frat-fro on my wheel.  We've got a (non)race to win, Booger, and all these Belgians and Italians aren't hanging around for a warmup.  Hydrate with something besides miller lite. 

And on the subject of iconic women in Hollywood and bikes that I ride, I was gifted a little piece of history a short while back.  And, while she's not quite as tired as Betty White, she is nearly as beat up, and quite possibly with many, many more miles on her hubs. 

I present to you, Madonna. 
The Dragonlady has risen.

8 speed.  Steel.  Rigid.  While Madonna is not necessarily as talented as Betty White was in her day, she is resourceful in ways that Betty was not.  I like her.    The rear wheel, appropriately, is an old race disc bontrager that I've hucked the living bejseus out of, ridden through epic mud, and generally mistreated like you might mistreat a musician whom, though you adore her, you are a little ashamed that she authored a photographic sex book so close  to her 50th birthday.  I'm getting off track.  Anyway, one new freewheel, courtesty of Ian at the shop (and by courtesy, I mean I still need to pay for this item, otherwise that's called "stealing") and it's rolling freakishly well for such an old creation - much like Madonna herself. 

Steel is real scary. 

Still, I'm pretty sure Betty White could kick Madonna's ass. 
We'll settle this on the BRC test track, ladies. 

90 years young

Until that time, keep your knobbies buzzing about, and I'll see you on the line on Sunday.  

Up, up, up.   

Monday, January 9, 2012

"Marco Had Not Future Tense"

"Looking back, there was always a fatalism in Marco's riding.  He won or lost through foolish, inspired deeds with little sense of strategic calculation.  The tangible holding-at-bay of the night in those unforgettable late-afternoon victories at Montecampione and Les Deux Alpes was always there.  For others, stage-racing has always meant weighing up the potential of stages to come, and riding accordingly - riding, it might be said, in the future tense.  Marco had no future tense.  His sytle, in life, like his cocaine use and death, was lyrical, not narrative - a losing himself in time - and, in time (or outside it), the forces that had allowed him to live, consumed him as they comsume us all."  -  Matt Rendell, The Death of Marco Pantani
Jan Ullrich, sit your bad-luck, no-teammates, no-talent ass down. 

February 19th, 2012.  Will our mightyfine winter of 2012 top the Pantani-Day weather of 2011
Who is in top winter form this year and willing to be subject to the now-annual, mostly-fabricated, pre-race interview?

"This is me looking at you, looking at me, wishing you were fly like that."
Stay tuned. 
And, by tuned, I mean, loosely in touch but locked and loaded for Feb 19.  

Up, up, up. 

Saturday, January 7, 2012

If Santas sleigh was not tubeless...

He might have kept my patch kit for himself.

Fortunately for me and my apocalypse-preparednesslike stockpile of non-UST tires, Santa is down with the sealant. So I get the patches.

Who wants to go ride Torrey?

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Not the transcounty epic. But still rad.

Getting an inch and a half of rain the day before the proposed transcounty adventure left us high and not very dry at all.  No way that such a disorganized, classless bunch of ruffians should roll prized, local, public singletrack on a muddy day in the name of...well, I'm not sure why we actually do the things we do.  But Preddy Creek, the RTF, Ohill, FoLakes, and Walnut Creek are all in better shape for us not having plundered their sloppy goodness. 

But, as Dad's time on the bike goes, when it's your day to go it's your day to go.  And with kiddie coverage already dialed in for Wednesday, something epic had to happen.  So we headed high, for the ridgelines, to seek out a ride I'd wanted to do for a while - linking Whetstone Ridge and Sherando in the same day. 
From C-Ham, Tuesday 10:10 PM "Hydrating."

One of the great things about knife-edged ridges and sandy jeep roads: rain doesn't really bother.  And the views don't hurt either. 
living the dream indeed

The beauty of Whetstone Ridge.  And perfect iPhone reception
Down Whetstone we went, 5 of us shortly before 10 AM.  A-game singletrack as the saying goes.  Game on.  I believe the recordsetting time down Whetstone in a Giro of yesteryear is 1:08 or some such nonsense.  We popped out on Irish Creek rd shortly after noon, split up, and three of us made the one hour road ride around through the Valley to Vesuvius while the other two headed back up Irish Creek and home. 

An hour up the road to Gertie's, formerly known as Pinkie's, in the boomtown of Vesuvius:  a really quality store stop.  They had hot Chili and grilled cheese on special, plus 2-32oz gatorades for $3.  We'll take 6.
From there, 35 minutes around and up the backside of the Coal rd to the Jeep trail.  3.5 miles up to Kennedy ridge, and pushing darkness and the depth of C-Ham's mucus-filled lungs, we banged a left and came down Kennedy Ridge through frozen, tacky dirt and specks of snow and iced over moss with the sunset straight ahead.  Unreal.  We made it to our shuttle vehicle at the entrance of Sherando at dusk, success.

The Transcounty Epic?  We shall prevail.  ISO a dry or frozen Sunday in January for the big north-to-south. 

Details to follow.

January 1st.  No where else to go but up, up, up.