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Thursday, May 5

It was the meh of times...

Last post before PMBAR.  I know.  Sorry.

Looking forward to riding with my first new partner in five years.  It's been awhile since I've spent 8-12 hours in the woods with someone who isn't Zac.  Used to swap it up at least every couple years to stay fresh.  Back to that modus operandi for awhile, I guess...

unless I give Watts a bad experience like what happened to Zac and I at the Year of the Wooden Nickle PMBAR (2011?) and I feel compelled to try again.

Me, after the race started, wondering where my pooping partner went.

Almost every year after that was just seeking some form of redemption in the form of a top 5 finish in the overall, and once the SS class was added and we took the top step, one more (failed) shot at a repeat.

We've been through a bunch together.  Sickness, broken bike parts, wooden nickle trickery, not-so-fit years, and lots of not so entirely perfect route selection on my part.  Best thing we ever did was (mebbe) invent Pack-less PMBAR.  Four years in a row doing the race without a hydration pack.  Smartest thing I/we ever did.  I'll never go back on that.

So, Watts.  Good partner?  Probably.  He's pleasant to be around, in that way that these two guys are a good fit for each other:

Watts doesn't know much about the Pisgah, as far as trails go... other than the fact that he likes them and that they are made of dirt, rocks, mud, roots, and creeks.  He does know how to drive there, and that's pretty clutch.  He's also donkey strong right now.

That's him standing high above Chris J and Gary C, two guys who can crush... and he crushed them.  Like a beer can.  Well, less like a can and more like a Capri Sun juice sack.  But still crushed tho.

Watts has also encouraged me to go back to my rigid roots.  I haven't done PMBAR on a unsuspended bike since 2011, Zac and I's first year together.  After that, we did what we felt like we had to do to increase our chances of making great bike race.  This decision is more or less because Watts (you know, bike shop owner Watts) doesn't have a fjork, and it would seem that the powers that be want to keep my dream XC fjork (that I pretty much want for the Pisgah 111... and I dunno?) out of my hands until such time that it's useless to me in 2016.

The weather is looking terribly pleasant.  This makes me happy and sad.  It will be nice to play in the woods with Watts and having the sun shine down on our balding heads, but I feel like we would do better with a little added misery.

We're old.  We're grumpy.  We're already a peg lower on the mood-o-meter than the youthful team of Zac and Nick.  We have much less further to fall before we hit bottom if things go sideways.

Then there's Scott Rusinko and his partner (who is an unknown to me).

Third at last week's Cohutta 100 and constantly exploring the Pisgah.  He also bought the same tiny hat with flowers on it, so we've got a fashion score to settle as well.

Then toss in Faster Mustache teammates Nik and Colin and a few other unknowns, and we have the recipe for an interesting race indeed.

I am excite about this race in a way that one can only truly understand once they've done it.  All the unknowns... check points, route options, other team's and their decisions (good and bad), bumping into riders coming from the opposite direction, wondering where they are going and where they have been, the likelihood of a mechanical in Pisgah when riding all day...

So.  Much.  Excite.

See you next week.

Wednesday, May 4

Non-human vestigiality

In the good news column as I head into PMBAR weekend, most of my self-inflicted injuries are getting better.  My stomach no longer hurts from the time I tried to access my spleen with the end of my handlebar.  The bruise is gone on my left quad.  Even my left shoulder, which has been giving me problems since last September, is feeling much better after a few weeks of having the messenger bag off it at work.

My thumb tho...

Hyper-extended digits are truly a pain in the ass.  They seem to take forever to heal, and I imagine it's because it's difficult to get through a day without using them, especially the thumb.  Putting on socks, washing out a heavy pan, cleaning my glasses, working on my bike... just about any activity can be an unpleasant reminder that I'm still not healed up yet.   Even the act of holding down the hem of my underwear to take a leak has to be done carefully.  I realize that had I been raised in Gastonia, I'd just be dropping full trou to the floor, but sometime around age two, I was told not to do that.

I've been really careful on my last few mountain bike rides.  I do as much riding as I can with my thumb draped over the bars.  It works most of the time, but when things get hairy?  No bueno.

Last week, I remembered a product that at one point on FaceBook, I referred to it as the "vestigial tail of the long forgotten bar ends."

I don't like a cluttered cockpit on my single speed.  It's bad enough I have a drooper lever (necessity) and a bell (luxurious necessity).  I decided last Friday to throw my vanity to the side and order a set of graphite Zytel Togs, hoping the subdued look would blend in nicely.  I paid extra for two day shipping just so they would certainly be here in time for PMBAR.

I spent the entirety of this past weekend and all of Monday staring at this, refreshing it regularly.

They weren't moving.  Of course, I was concerned.  Also, not so much, because USPS tracking is TRBL.  When I got home Monday night, nothing.

But then as The Pie and I headed out for a walk, she mentioned that she had checked the mail earlier, and it hadn't came the last time she looked.  She returned back down the driveway as I was putting on my shoes with a package in her hand.

Of course, I went on our walk first (family first and everything), but immediately upon our return, I tore into the package.  Inside, I found a note.

They don't know me from Adam, but the bump up to crabon Togs is @ $12, so thanks for that.  It goes nicely with my other crabon bits.

The crabon models are hinged, so no grip removal was necessary.  My only issue was with spacing on the bars involving my brake lever and bell.  Another shim under the shim for the bell bracket and everything was good to go.

Titan Tank full of Little Debbie Fudge Brownies and Stem Boner™ for the purpose of stability installed for PMBAR.

So much crabon...

This was honestly the biggest pain in the ass.  The bell did not want to play nice, and I wasn't willing to move my lever to make it all work.  I spent more time hunting in my tool box for shimming material than I did with mounting it tho.

So what was all that about not doing anything you're not used to right before a big event?

I rode them around a bit out in front of the house.  I'm surprised by just how much I can hold onto the bars in this position, but in a manner that doesn't pull on my thumb in the bad way.   Will I be able to hold fast going all the way down Black Mountain after nine hours in the saddle on Saturday?    Dunno, but I'm sure I'll find out one way or the other.

Tuesday, May 3

Not you brekkie

I'm trying something different this year.  I'm swapping up my pre-race breakfast food... or at least this time to see how it goes and maybe future forward.  In the past, I've done Chocolate Fudge Pop Tarts, Honey Stinger Waffles, oatmeal, Subway breakfast sammiches, bagels... I dunno.  All kinds of things.  Mostly lazy things.  Probably entirely. 

The hardest thing about choking back breakfast before a race is just trying to get it down.  I've got enough things to be worried about, so I'm not a fan of breaking out my camping stove (except to make a gigantic French press of coffee).  I certainly don't want to get up 45 minutes early to make myself a "decent breakfast."  I want something that goes well with my coffee and can be eaten while wandering around my car, tent, hammock... wherever.

So this is what I'm trying this Saturday before one of the most important races (to me), PMBAR.

 Not my actual cookies, but close enough. 

No-Bakes.  What's in them?

1 3/4 Cup(s) granulated sugar ~ 1,352 calories

1 sticks margarine or butter ~ 805 calories... 92 grams of fat

1/2 Cup(s) Low-fat milk ~ 45 calories

1/3 Cup(s) baking cocoa ~ 48 calories

3 Cup(s) quick oats ~ 474 calories... 30 grams of protein

1/2 cup crunchy peanut butter ~ 1,520 calories... 56 grams of protein and 128 grams of fat

1 tsp vanilla ~ who cares?

So, somewhere in the neighborhood of 5,000 calories in an entire batch.  I can shovel more of these things into my face than I'd like to admit.  Enough that when Nia wakes up in the morning, she usually yells, "DAD ATE ALL THE COOKIES!"

Anyways, gleaning what I can from a casual perusal of all the nutrition information, they ain't all that bad.  Plenty of protein, carbs and fat to stoke the fires.  Oatmeal?  Who doesn't know how good oatmeal is for them.  Peanut butter?  Simply ambrosia.

Yeah, that butter and sugar thing.  Whatever.  Let's just think of it as the glue that holds this thing together and move on.

Other things I had considered were cold pizza and tater tots.  Problem being, as much as I could wake up and eat either of those things with much unbridled exuberance, they don't go with coffee IMHOMO.  Both of them require some sort of bubbly beverage to wash them down.  My absolute favorite things to eat with coffee are pretty much peanut butter toast (which only lasts for a few sips and I don't have a toaster in the woods), cookies, and actual coffee cake (which is messy and doesn't have half as many marks in the "plus column" as No-Bakes).

No-Bakes are a No-Brainer.  I don't know why I haven't been doing this the whole time, assuming I don't shit myself this weekend and prove this to be a trbl idea.

Monday, May 2

DuSomething

I had options for the weekend.  None that truly pulled me in one direction or the other.  Possibility of big rains on Sunday meant I had to make the most of my Saturday.  Then I got a text from Chase.  DuPont.  With a cast of characters I've mostly never had the chance to ride with even tho we roll around in the same circles.  I don't know my way around DuPont, so when I get the chance to ride with someone who does?  In.

 Following Paul of the Dale Earnhardt Lollipop Squad up one of the first climbs.

You know when you meet a Duane or a Dwayne, you never think to ask him which he is.  It doesn't seem relevant at the time, but when you sit down and write about him, it does.

Chase, the giver of options and savior of weekends.  I'm used to him destroying me when we race short track together, so it was nice having him in sight for more than two minutes.  He's a recent plusser convert, and was baptized with a sweet sidewall rip in his rear Schwobble tire.

My stem was crooked.  I knew this before the ride.  I did nothing about it.  As I sit here writing about it, I can see the bike across the room from me... stem still pointed the wrong way.

Noel "The Thrilla Vanilla Killa Gorilla" Kirila said Jason tries this every time.  Slicker than anyone would ever imagine.  He always ends up wet.  Still tries anyways.  I made it from the other direction later in the day, and I can say that I don't think I'll feel the need to break my elderly hip in the future.  One and done.
   
I've been here multiple times.  I've gotten up to the top from every way imaginable.  I have no idea how to get here on my own.  We went down in a direction I had never been before, and I have to say that the plusser tires may have found their happy place on the Stickle.

This guy was up there.  Not sure how he did it, because I heard he can't climb at all.  He couldn't look up from the ground and risk looking at grown men wearing Lycra.

 Everybody takes this photo.  I am also everybody.

Extreme Tomato Shirtless Club for Men sighting in the parking lot.  He pulled into the lot with his prodigy on a tag-along.  Baller father son stuff.

Jason is the only member of the Shirtless Club for Men with brokeback surgery scars.  I think this makes him president or something.

I swear I ran into every single person I know on the trail.  All I can say is... strange.  Just strange.

Friday, April 29

Tightening Up

In the world of insignificant (to you) but significant (to me) changes, I'm pitching the loose Allens in my Tülbag for some Original Fix It Sticks.   Why?

I'd like to claim weight as the reason, but even I'm not (entirely) that anal.

Claimed weight: 55 grams Actual weight: 51 grams

Little Hardware doesn't actually claim weights on their Allen wrenches... Actual weight: 56 grams

No, that's not my scale.  It's a never-used piece of equipment in the corner of our office at work collecting dust.  I've threatened to steal it, but horking something from work is considered a firing offense, regardless of whether or not anyone uses it (except for weighing bike stuff).

Anyways, why swap?

I still retain the 4, 5, and 6mm that I've always carried, but I gain a T25 bit.  The only time I've ever needed one was the Tahoe Sierra 100 back in 2008, when my four of my rear rotor bolts wiggled out (assembling a bike for a race while on the phone with a loved one hundreds of miles away is never a good idea).  I'm still going to retain the 8mm nubbin I keep on me in case a crank arm or pedal comes loose... not that it's ever happened.

Except now I'll keep it handy here, with the chainring bolt that is totally incompatibru with my Race Face Cinch cranks but with the spacer it can (and has) bail out a friend who's missing some of his/her bits (1x or other).


Another reason is that sometimes, I find myself fishing for the tiny Allen keys.   The Fix It Sticks are much easier to find and grab with gloves AND, since I'll always need two to make them work, I'll just grab them both.  They'll also be orange, so they'll be easier to find/harder to leave behind... like the time my 5mm (with the elusive 8mm bit) spent the night in the woods in the proximity of right here:

Something nifty I saw on the Fix It Sticks FaceBook page the other day was that soon this will be available:


"The product comes with one set of Original Fix It Sticks and the mounting bracket, and is regularly $24.99. Ship date is estimated to be 7/15/16. Pre-order special: 20% off of our Original Fix It Sticks with Mounting Bracket (with promo code: bracket)."

So you can't have it now, but if you're the type that wants your tools even handier... get it later. Myself?  I couldn't deal with my overwhelming desire to keep them clean over keeping them über-handy.

Anyways...

As always.  Busy time of year.  Mayor's Ride to Breakfast this morning.  Don't think I've ever missed one yet.  Tomorrow, I've got to try and get a big ride in before heading out to watch the Charlotte Criterium... and they're having a 2/3 Category this year at 5:00PM?  Gonna be hard to get back from a long ride in time to pregame for that.  Then it's the one week countdown to my favorite race of the year, PMBAR.  I CAN'T WAIT FOR ALL THE EXCITE.  Me, Watts and the woods for eight to twelve hours of biking, hiking, talking about our mutually shared sadness regarding the current state of affairs of all the things, and discussing whether or not Gordon Wadsworthless's mustache is real or a sad lip toupee.

 Obviously a lip toupee tho.

Wednesday, April 27

Droop, There It Is: Pt 2

I can't believe it was that long ago, but remember when I wrote that post/whined about droopers being used/not used at the highest level in UCI XCO racing?   August 2014.  That long ago.  Well, this past weekend, Julien Absalon got on the Elite Men's podium with a drooper post.

Here's Julien looking resplendent while rolling droopy.

photo cred: AMB Mag
His bike, being all non-droopy and forlorn.

Significant?  Indeed.  Not the first time an Elite rider got on the podium with a drooper though, as Tanja Zakelj drooped her way to second in Windham in 2014.

Absalon needs to pull out all the stops to shut down Nino Schurter's advantage going downhill.  Nino's got crazy talent, and he's very entertaining to watch.  He's like the dirt version of Peter Sagan (assuming Peter Sagan doesn't become the dirt version of Peter Sagan himself*... or not).  I mean, people love Nino so much that they watch his crosspump videos.

Crosspumpers love watching other crosspumpers crosspump.

Absalon has always been able to challenge Schurter on the climbs.  What's amazing is that this past weekend in Cairns he finished only 27 seconds back in third place after he flatted, lost an Allen key in the pits while addressing the issue, and spent up to a minute looking for it?!?!

One can say that had he caught Schurter, the gauntlet woulda been thrown down, and Nino woulda unleashed his crosspump super powers.  If you watched the race unfold, he was having quite a good time throwing whips over the doubles once he had a decent lead established.  Let's just say he had some energy to spare... but still?

This is what I said almost two years ago:

"... say you are a rider who is a strong climber but lacks the ability to really rail descents and tackle the gnar at speed. Drop the post, and now you're changing your approach on turns and getting your weight back in the nasty stuff."

Nino's bike is off the deep end when it comes to being highly specialized (not Specialized) for his needs.  27.5" Dugast tubulars, Twinloc on-the-fly adjustable suspension travel... he was the only rider on SRAM's new 12 speed Eagle drivetrain.  He's not afraid to do what he feels right for him to have the best bikecycle possible to make great bike race.

Absalon is aware of where he is losing time AND he's willing embrace some technology that others won't even consider because of weight (or lack of understanding).  If you don't know your history, this is amazing, being that long after the other pros had gone to disc brakes, he clung to V-brakes like a lobbyist clings to a cause (as long as there's a lot of money attached to it).

And Nino's feels on droppers (as of right now, from BikeRadar):

"All the dropper posts you get are too heavy or just not for cross country," he goes on. "I’m sure the future will have these, but they’re (currently) too slow, too long and you need to put your body weight on them. For real cross country they must be faster, lighter, easier and shorter."

I realize he's going to be (slightly) limited in which drooper he might be allowed to use and/or test based on sponsorship.  To say they're too slow (c'mon, I've ridden some real taint blasters), too long (some are as short as 50mm) and the "body weight" thing?  Spend enough time on a drooper and it all becomes second nature.  I know a fair amount of people who've only tried them for a short period of time and written them off entirely.  They take some getting used to, and I truly believe until you ride in a place where they really shine, you'll have trouble catching on.

But when you do give it a chance, it becomes as acceptable as tubeless wheels/tires, disc brakes and all manner of other things that we just take for granted now.

I know he was the 2008 World Junior mountain bike champion already, so pipe down.

Tuesday, April 26

Charity Balls

Not wanting to bust balls, but remember this whole Industry Nine raffle benefiting the PA Interscholastic Cycling League thing? It's still going on (and will be until June 3rd). All the exhausting details are here.   The short of it is you donate at least $10 for two entries into the raffle.  Each additional $5 gets you one more entry.  Give as much as you want, just keep it in $5 increments, okay?

As of right now, only Justin Lindine has raised more than me. 

Not sure what he's got to give, but I know what I'd want if I gave him $10.  Help me beat Justin, if for no other reason than I can't do it on the race course.  Here's where you click to cough up the dough and (mebbe) win some Industry Nine hubs.

Anyways, back to the business of me and all the wonderful things that happen in my life.

New ESI grips and Maxxis tires... smells like the "season" is truly upon us (or at least me).  I pretty much burnt up the Ardent Race that was on the back for almost a year.  Got my money's worth.

I have to admit, it's still difficult to look down at the Ardent 2.4 up front and not think that it looks diminutive.  That 2.8 Rekon did a number on my perspective.  For sure, the 27.5+ tires were missed while riding 30+ miles of trail at the US National Whitewater center the other day.  They sure seem like way more fun and, dare I say it, "flickable?"  I might have to give them another whirl in the mountains when I get time... June?  Mebbe?

The other thing.  Somehow on three of my last four mountain bike rides, I've had a slow motion wreck with lasting consequences.  Two weeks ago in Pisgah, I was seeing how much traction I could get with the 2.8 tires crossing a muddy bunch of logs at an angle.   I ended up landing with the end of my handlebar spearing my lower abdomen.  Last weekend, I went back-to-back with mishaps.  I fell over at zero miles an hour making a slow turn on Lower Trace without noticing the softball-sized rock my front wheel was on at the time... until it shot our from under me.  Down I went, hyper-extending my left thumb in the process.  That's my drooper digit.  Damn.  The next day, I decided to ride a log pile at the Backyard Trails in the reverse direction... despite the fact that I had to do most of the ride with my thumb draped over the bars.  I was on the approach when this decided to grab my left pedal/crank arm.

My bike's forward momentum was halted.  Mine own was not, and down I went, dinging my left quad on the stem as I went over the front.

My thumb pain is the only thing that's still lingering in a lifestyle altering way.  I did most of my riding this past weekend with it hanging over the bar.

Hyper-extended digits are pretty much right up there with paper cuts in annoyance caused by self-inflicted stupidity.

And hangovers.