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Thursday, June 23

Autoreply: Out of Office

Somewhere out there in the woods on Stage 2 of the Trans-Sylvania Epic, I decided that when the race was over, I was going to take my cute, tiny computer (as Matt Hawkins refers to it) off my handlebars.  I can't remember how long ago I put it back on... last October... for something?

Dunno.

It was nice for helping in the planning of the route for Tour duh Charlotte, and by default, it's just stayed on there.  Laziness?  More than likely.  Required gear at PMBAR.  The clock to remind me when to eat at TSE.  Otherwise pointless.

Well, on Stage Four whilst riding in the rain, it died.  Funny, but that was the day that I caught Matt Green (flats), went into third, and would have really liked to know how many more miles I had to go until the finish.  I got back home, tore the back off, let it dry out, and it worked again.  Now it goes back in storage.

It would be terrible to know how many miles I've traveled at the upcoming Tour de Burg (yeth, I'm 99% going), and there wouldn't be any accurate information available regarding distances for each given day, so whatever.  Eat when we get to the lunch stop and whenever else offered, and I should be good.  Drink everything all the time.  Coke, water, beer... whatever.  Doesn't matter.

Of course, I open my big mouth Tuesday and profess my love for my hard tail, and then Bill Nye sends me a text Wednesday afternoon.

"Stop in the Spoke Easy and check out my new frame."

Sure.

Good lord.  The Patrol Carbon from Transition Bikes.  So pretty... boner maker.

It hits most of the marks... 73mm BSA (threaded) bottom bracket, non-Boost rear end, water bottle mount, rear end fits a chunky 27.5" tire, just a touch heavier than my hard tail.  Aside from needing a stealth drooper of the proper diameter, I could swap my 29" Pike back to 150mm so I could run the 2.8 Rekon, get something to tension the chain for single speed purposes, and boom... bike.

Oh yeah, come up with $3,200 first.  Plus some more doll hairs for the other things.

Maybe I'll just ride his and do my best to hate it.

Trying so hard to remember or forget if this was fun or stupid.

Before I forget to ever mention it, TruckerCo posted up a test comparing its Cream sealant against one of the leading competitors.

The test was done independently by someone with way too much time on their hands and quite the big brain.  Read it, absorb it, make your decisions (and save some money).  My testing has just involved not getting flats all the time.  Not very scientific, but I did bail on my career path as a science teacher after my first two years of college.

No blerhg tomorrow.  Up early and heading out to Charleston...

No, not that horrible town by the ocean where tourists flock to a place where people used to sell other people so they can buy trinkets and whatever else they choose to dispose their income on in the pursuit of happiness.  West Virginia.  Close to heaven on earth as you can get.  Also a big river, huge free concert, a cool brewery, and a nifty environment to walk around and look at people.  Oh, and mountain biking in the Kanawha State Forest.

Yeth.

FYI: I just fist bumped myself.

Tuesday, June 21

Inconclusive Conclusions

Saturday's ride was enlightening in more ways than one.

It's no secret that I've been entertaining the idea of a full suspension bike (again).  Watching too many sick edits, Red Bull TV World Cup Downhill races... my inner-American wanting bigger and better.  Gears?  Still not so much.  I can't figure them out, and until such time that I'm too old, weak or just plain tired of tromping around on my single speed, I don't think I'll want them.

But suspension in the back parts of a bike?  I look at my Stickel and think about this frame that I've had for more than four years now.  It's the bike I normally take to Pisgah for squishy fun rides.

Frame weight?

5.04lbs

There are way many carbon fullies coming in close to that... so many.  It's awfully difficult looking at new frames coming out constantly and not thinking about the possibilities.  Toss an old derailleur on there or a Rohloff or an Alfine tensioner to keep the chain on and bazinga.  Full suspension single speed.

I would be the star of my video edits... in my mind.  Not going to mount up a GoPro and spend hours editing footage so I can help everyone else fill the internet with more snoozefest chest cam footie.

But then that ride this past Saturday.  Black Mountain from the top to bottom.  Garsh.

I've always loved the Stickel since day one, but the 27.5 wheels (wide rims, plusser tire up front, 2.3 rear) have really livened things up a bit.  The bike really sticks and moves.  I don't know how much faster I'd be going with full suspension, but I don't really know if I need to go any faster in order to have more fun.  I enjoy picking my lines and riding accordingly on a hard tail.  The only real downside was that towards the end of a long run, my legs were a little tired from having to act as my suspension.  BFD.  The average Pisgah ride with friends holds up occasionally to make sure we're all still intact, so my "suspension" will get a chance to cool down eventually.

I just need to remain calm.  Until the Stickel breaks (unlikely... although I had a dream last night that it was cracked), is stolen (possibru) or my body can't take the beating, it's perfectly fine.  I mean, if I could have a do-over on this bike, it would be:

* titanium (weight reduction and no paint... let a boy dream)
* 30.9 stealth drooper compatibru
* 120mm fjork that's lighter than a Pike
* room for two bottles while also running a Stasher TubeTop (for occasional beer needs)
* fit a 27.5 X 2.8 rear tire (swapping over to Boost would help here)

There are tons of tiny things I could do that would make me happier right now... the lighter fjork (a 150mm Pike reduced to 120mm is just silly), a wider bar (which would require longer brake lines/drooper cable), King titanium bottle cages (zero dropped bottles on the Vertigo). Money pit items that when I add them up, I start thinking about tossing the baby out with the bathwater.

I've got a pretty decent selection of bikes to choose from for riding in the area that I live in currently.  That said, if I lived elsewhere... pretty sure I could justify some changes.  But for the occasional trip to Pisgah, zero gravel grinding opportunities, terrible road riding nearby, and everything else I do?

I'm set.

Still looking tho... but recognizing that the desire for another bike is more than likely just the want for another lifestyle.  Kinda like pining for a van but really just wanting #vanlife. I even find myself checking out road/gravel/noodle bar bikes when nobody is looking...

I think I'm supposed to be getting into video games or rebuilding a car... dunno.  I left my Mid-Life Crisis manual in the glove compartment of my '87 Suzuki Samurai when I sold it.

Monday, June 20

Um, yeah... don't read this.

Getting old sucks.

Or it doesn't.

I'm not sure.

I didn't make much of my actual birthday on Friday.  I don't really believe in the whole concept.  Don't get me wrong.  I love to celebrate with my friends and family... pretty much any occasion.  Like "Tuesdays."  Those are great occasions... as are the other six days of the week.  I guess what I'm saying is that I get to celebrate enough things that aren't really things (or actually are) that I don't care what I do on the one day that happens to be 365 days X n (n being number of years since I left the comforts of a womb and started having to deal with things like crawling, acne and 401k contributions).  As long as I'm not having ear surgery or breaking down in my brown Ford Tempo on a highway with a broken collarbone (ghosts of birthdays past), I'm good.

At my age, it's not too difficult to get wrapped up in one's mortality.  47 years of things.  Good memories, never-healing scars, glory days, lingering regrets, accomplishments, bad decisions... trying to recall the positives and get over the shitty parts.  Telling yourself to live for the moment while also acknowledging that there are probably fewer of them in front of you than there are behind.

Not wanting to waste a single minute but not sure what to do with all of them.

Shit.

My dad passed away at 61.  I hate saying "passed away," because he actually died.  "Passed away" just sounds more pleasant.  I got to see most of it happen.  If he coulda had one more day on this side of things, I think he'd want to negotiate first.  Go back to a time long ago and decide to not start smoking cigarettes as a teenager?  Then maybe, just maybe, tacking on an extra day wouldn't sound so bad.  Otherwise?  Dunno.  His last few days (months... years...?) didn't seem ideal or tranquil.

I'm happy to be alive.  Delighted to ride my bike with my little friends.

photo cred: Kürdt
Saturday.  There was some reference to this being my "birthday" ride, but in my mind it was a "the weather is perfect, I'm taking my daughter to two-week summer camp on Sunday, I'll be in Charleston, WV next weekend, and then off to the Tour de Burg, so this should happen now" ride.  I knew where I needed to be, and that's where I went.

All in all, a perfect ride.  The weather, the trail conditions, the company, the route... utopian.  Coming down Black Mountain trying to hold Kürdt's and Colin's respective back wheels, I was once again reminded that as long as I can do this... I wanna keep doing exactly this.  I'll have to keep my temple (a loose reference to my moderately flabby, ambulating physical form) in decent enough condition to keep doing so if that's the long term goal.  Stretching, exercise, supplements, proper sleep, occasionally showing emotions other than "happy" or "meh"... flossing five times a week (I'm not letting the dentist tell me what to do with my weekend).

Maintenance.  Almost always tops on my list of things I don't want to do.  I ride single speed mountain bikes on the trail and a fixed gear at work for a many reasons.  Avoiding upkeep is high on that list.  It's the biggest waste of time with (sadly) the absolute highest reward.  The fewer things you have to maintain, the better... if you want to have shit that keeps working that is.

Getting back to life and not things such as bottom bracket greasing...

A shared friend (and someone who's company I greatly enjoyed when I was in his presence) took his own life awhile back.  It's been hard to absorb.  It's so far beyond my personal comprehension.  I've been a dopey person at times, not really sure about what I'm doing and why.  Fatalism.  Not always terribly interested in living, but honestly... you have to look forward to what might happen next.  There's always going to be another ride down Black Mountain, a hug from a family member (or an uncomfortable hug from a friend), another interaction that restores your faith in mankind... seriously, the positive things that are coming your way have to be something to stick around for.  And they are always coming.  Maybe not as fast as you want or right when you need them, but they're right over that pessimistically gloomy horizon.

On one of my dad's last days, he "woke up" and looked around his room at the VA hospital.

"Oh... I'm still here," he said with a certain amount of disappointment.

I hope to wake up every day saying the same thing to myself, hopefully with a 100% different attitude towards my current state of affairs.


Oh yeah, happy Monday and Fathers Day everybody!

Thursday, June 16

To Tour or not to Tour

FWIW, I need to really figure out if I'm doing the Tour de Burg in a few weeks.

The schedule, printed off to make it slightly more tangible for an old person:

Plusses:

* I've already got the time off
* Chris M has wrangled me a tiny cross bike for the two "road" centuries

* I could use a challenge
* I get to see my little friends
* The Only Race That Matters™
* I might get to ride new, incredible trails
* I need a reason to stay in shape between now and the Shenandoah Mountain 100
* It's the twentieth anniversary, so...
* I will be on the receiving end of a world of shit if I don't go
* Cheaper Than Living™
* Burritos
* Mr J's Bagels
* Free t-shirt?

Minuses:

* It's going to be super hard
* Seven days is a long time
* It eats into a few child-free days with The Pie (summer camp)
* I could do something else (being planned) that involves Pisgah and other little friends
* I'll probably destroy another pair of shoes hike-a-biking
* I hate road riding... more than anyone could imagine... granted, TdB road riding > your road riding
* I might be crippled by riding any noodle bar bike for 200+ miles
* Driving up and back all by my loathsome lonesome (that five hour drive home... ungh)
* Getting home on July 6th way late and going to work the next day
* I could bank the days off and go do something molar bigger ($1,700 flight tho)?

My FOMO is huge. I think about it before I go to bed and first thing when I wake up in the morning.   My indecision is painfully sleep-cramping.  My desire to be at the 20th Tour de Burg is only equal to the lack of desire to do anything that requires more than a mediocre effort at this point in time.

This is all just me thinking out loud.

I'll be 47 years old tomorrow.  Not sure what to do about that.  I started riding mountain bikes back in the late '80s.

How long ago was that?

This was one of the most popular movies at the time:

And I would have been underage drinking straight from a pitcher of Long Island Ice Tea on a Thursday night in Pogo's Pub dancing to this:


I didn't start the whole endurance racing thing until the year 2000.  That means I'm in my 17th year of racing long distance mountain bike events, more than half the time that I've been riding a mountain bike.  I'm not sure how all that weighs into my decision to do TdB, but I feel like it does.

I used my fingers to figure out the math BTW.

Gonna head to The Spoke Easy tomorrow evening after work to "celebrate" putting another year behind me.  Big plans... I know.  About as much of a celebration as I'm gonna do.  Saturday is prolly the last day of non-oven temps in NC until fall, so I don't want to waste in on a couch with a hangover.

Tuesday, June 14

TSE: The Final Dump Down

Following up on things about the Trans-Sylvania Mountain Bike Epic.

Boring things first? Sure.

I've had my NOX Composites Farlow 29" rims (on Industry Nine Torch hubs/spokes) for just over a year now.

Only two stages of TSE last year (sigh), Wilderness 101, Breck Epic, Shenandoah 100, Fool's Gold 50, PMBAR, Pisgah 111k, this year's TSE... and like a gazillion rides in between all those brutal (on equipment) events.  They're as true as the day they were built.  Almost 100% of all the riding has been done in a turgid manner BTW, so my 130-145lbs has been unskillfully piloting these through all sort of nasty business, slamming into things and hoping for the best.  Aside from some cosmetic scrapes and scratches, zero damage.


Just at the '16 TSE alone, I bottomed out both rims numerous times on the chunderous rocks at all kinds of different speeds.  The kinda "thunk" when you know that your aluminum rims would have had a nice fold on the sidewall.  I got nothing but good news when I looked them over last weekend.  I can't gush enough about these things...

Even tho I've been eyeballing a set of NOX Composites Kitsuma 29" rims for even molar volume... since it looks like I might be sticking with 29" wheels on the rigid SS.  I know they'd be slightly heavier, but whatever.  Cheaper than the full suspension single speed ideas that keep creeping into the back of my mind.

Since I'm talking about things that are round, I can say in that same time, I've had zero flats with the Ardent 2.4/Ardent Race 2.2 with TruckerCo Cream tire sealant.  Zero.  Sure, there are lighter tires, but you know what I like?  Not changing flats.   This... muy bueno.

Scuffed but solid.

Also another "since,"

The HandUp gloves.  Rigid riding with minimal gloves and zero padding plus ESI grips are the ticket.  If you say there's something better, you haven't tried this yet.

The Togs?  They're staying on.

I used them... a bunch.  More than 50% of the time I'm riding since I've installed them, I'm touching them.  Way more than 50%.

I mention all these "comfort" items for a reason.  It sounds stupid to say it, but most, if not all, of my physical problems feel @95% better after a week of 16+ hours on a rigid bike.  My shoulder feels good.  My thumb... still a little stiff and not full movement there yet, but zero pain.  I'm pretty stoked to say that all systems are probably better than they have been in awhile.  I've been doing a few new things to aid recovery as well, and I got through (the five day version of) TSE feeling better at the end than I've ever felt before.  Boom.

Although this blog is all about me and bike and not my family or recipes, I did my best to include some bits about the other single speeders last week.  I can't really report on the racing action that I was nowhere near, but I saw pictures...

speaking of being there and all single speedy, there were two others that I never mentioned at all:

Sara Loyah

and Karen Brooks.

They were just a bit further back every day, so I rarely saw them throughout the week.  I did get a chance to talk to Karen at the final awards ceremony, but that was it.  Side note worth mentioning, she was the editor of Dirt Rag that let me get my foot in the door way back when.  I'll always appreciate that, although I threw gallons of gas and a match on that bridge years ago.

Anyways, there they were, duking it out with all us testosterone-fueled dickheads in the single speed class.  First time we've ever had more than one female single speeder?  I think so.  Normally, it's just Karen.  There was also Tanya Hanham from Canadianica the first year... but two at once?

So mebbe we get enough for a female single speed class next year?  Mebbe?  C'mon... it will be so much fun (in that way that pain is fun).

I think that's all the thoughts I have about TSE related things.  Seven weekdays in a row of blerhg, so time for a break to figure out what's next.

Monday, June 13

Trans-Sylvania Mountain Bike Epic: Stage Five

Stage Five: Cooper's Gap ~ 34.5 miles, 5,466 feet climbing

The night before, I don't remember all the minutes.  I might have created my own fog.  I do know that Dan Giroux said he was going to ride all day with his buddy, Doug Wilson.  I also had some interest in a traditional, last day parade lap... despite the fact that this "last day" was much harder than any previous edition of the TSE.  I knew the top three would still be racing (they were still theoretically close enough to change positions), but I asked Axel if he wanted to join us so he was also wallowing in mid-pack non-glory.  It took zero arm twisting to get him to agree.

Friday morning, everyone jumps aboard one of three or four tour buses for the drive to the start.  I end up on one with Montalbano, Green, Spohn, Giroux and Wilson.  We drive for an amount of time that seems ridiculous, considering we have to ride all the way back to camp eventually... over a bunch of mountains.

Thanks to Endless Bikes for the pocket-sized rum prize at the 6 Hours of Warrior Creek.  Nestles up all nice between two friends.

We get out of the bus, mill about, sign in for the day.  I wind up standing around with Dan and Doug doing nothing useful.

"We should just go."

"Yeah, we really should."

I ask one of the promoters (nameless to keep him from being held responsible) if we can leave early.  It would be better for everyone if the single speed shit show got out of the way early on.  We would try to get to the "Death Chute" section of Endurble One before everyone else and scream at people.

"I can't see everything that happens."

"Where do we start?"

"No idea."

No time to look for Axel.  We'll nab him when he catches up.  We start looking for a trail out of the parking lot.  An arrow or any indication that we're going the right way.  Not here, not there... what about here?

Yes.  Out the parking lot and left.  We start climbing.  An arrow.  People are following us.  Justin Lindine and Bryna Blanchard, both in the top three Open Men/Women.  We let them know that we have no idea when the race starts, and we're not exactly warming up.  We're heading out on the course.  Because.

Coming with us would be a terrible idea.

"oh.... thanks."

They both turn around and go back.  Good call.

We climb and climb and climb.  We need to cover six miles and 1,400 feet of climbing before we get caught by the leaders and screw things up.  No idea when the actual race starts and no idea what time it is right now (my computer died in the rain the day before).  Gravel climb, to insane trail slog in incredibly humid conditions.  I leave Dan and Doug behind, fearing the catch from the leaders.

"Was he just fucking with us?  Is he taking off?" Dan asks Doug.

Up on the final gravel section before the first Endurble, I see a volunteer ahead.  I crest the hill, and there's nothing but puzzled looks on the faces looking at me.

"We left early," I tell them.

The looks I get back are not of surprise.  Makes sense.

Making a slight left onto some double track, I see men's leaders Kerry Werner and Justin Lindine coming in hot.  I make room and they go by.  I slow down for my compatriots, and we hit the first bit of the Endurble.

Piss poor planning on my part and the non-coozied beer I have strapped to my top tube flies out.  It needs to have a coozie around it for maximum security on PA rocks, but the only two coozies I could find were around the two beers in my jersey pockets, flanking the bottle of Captain Morgan I have in the center.  I have to stop and shove it down my bib shorts... where it stays for ten seconds before ejecting a second time.  This time, it landed on a rock.  Beer is spraying out of a pinhole.  I tell Dan and Doug to go on without me.  I try to drink the beer shooting out of the can for a couple of seconds before I realize I can just open it and drink like a normal person.

Crush the can and catch back up with my two co-conspirators already at the Death Chute.

Dan, celebrating his first place finish in the "First One to Crack a Beer in the Pre-determined Location" race.

I settled for a hard fought third while Doug took notes on single speed etiquette for next year.

Our plan was solid.  We got to see almost the entire field come through, including Super Cody in his tiny gym shorts (that he was wearing in actual gym class the week before).

Matt Green came down like a honch, showing us how things get done and why we were only winning at life but not bike racing.

The look on Montalbano's face was priceless as he ran/walked/slid down the chute with Matt Spohn and he saw that we were already there standing around in the woods.

"How the fuck did you get here already?"

"We left early."

Kaysee Armstrong, first lady schralper down the hill... of course, on her bike.  She ended up winning the whole shebang, despite me costing her something like twenty minutes over the course of the week by getting in her way.

Axel came down with both feet on the pedals, crushing the descent.  Homemade ProCore inspires hard core gnarliness.

"Ride it out... but get back up here!"

Axel joined us, we explained our hastened departure, and it wasn't long before the stream of riders coming down became mostly walkers with an intermittent schralpper here and there.

Joaquin Gil Del Real, the other male single speeder, not a disappoint on the Death Chute.

Once we were pretty sure we were close to the back of the pack, we packed up and headed out to finish the remaining... 26.5 miles?  Jeebus.

We pulled into aid station, and it looked like the sun was coming out.  I pitched my vest, mounted back up, and the sun went away.  Moments later, the rain started in earnest.  By the time we got to the climb up Sassy Pig, it was pouring.

Silence.

We just kept moving.  Wet rocks, a slightly beer-tainted brain, and so many miles to go.  Doug told a joke about tofu and dildos, breaking the silence for a moment.   Something, something, meat substitute.

The descent down Sassafras was, if anything, memorable.  Pouring rain, a river down the trail, brakes fully engaged... sketchy death and all-encompassing hilarity as we slid down the surface of the earth.

At the bottom, the rain slowed to a drizzle, we shook out our hands, hit the road, and banged an immediate left on the Shittaka double track.  I threw my bike down in the weeds.

"I'm drinking a beer."

No arm twisting to get the others to join me.  Finish the beers, back on the bike, loud belching noises, come into the aid station from the other direction, and resupply for the final eleven miles.

photo cred: Axel Kiermaier
We discuss drinking the rum before heading up the final 2.5 miles climb up Stillhouse Hollow.

"No bueno."

Potential vomit a problem.

It's decided we will drink a beer at the top instead.  I crest first and call an audible.  We will drink at the bottom on the other side.  There's a sweet little stream down there.  I hope they read my mind when they don't see me waiting at the top (or they'll think I took off... again).

They roll down into the stream and join me.  We break out the rum and remaining beers and commence with the heckling and the offering of shared happiness.

photo cred: Axel Kiermaier
Good times are had being figurative and literal trolls under the old, dilapidated bridge... but all good things must come to an end, and eventually there was no more beer or rum, and to be honest... it was getting cold down in there.

We rolled back towards camp, and Doug had to put in a last minute "attack" to catch up to Joaquin Gil Del Real to nab his first place non-podium... something Dan, Axel, and I had already enjoyed enough of earlier in the week.

No hard feelings about the top three for the week not joining us for a five and half hour tour of the wetter parts of Pennsylvania.

photo cred: Aaron Chamberlain
Shriveled Dick

I was not consulted in regards to the attire or behavior of these three individuals.

Even though they were separated with almost half hour gaps between them, this is stage racing after all. You gotta keep your shit together and always know that anything can happen to change the final standings. Vicki Barclay broke a handlebar on the final stage, dropping her from the overall lead to DNF.  ;(  Justin Lindine was just a little over a minute back from Kerry Werner on the final day, and a flat while pinning it on the first Endurble took him out of the hunt. Anything. Can. Happen.  Kudos to five days of pinning it, guys.

There was a raffle that night after the awards. I was selected to draw the winning ticket for the Flat Dicky, and surprisingly, there were more than few tickets in the cup.

I can't even explain what I saw occur to Flat Dicky later that night.  Can't.  Even.  Try.

I feel as if we (Dan, Doug, Axel and myself) did a good enough job keeping the (very stupid) single speed parade lap tradition (started by Grig Martin seven years ago) alive.  It was a formidable choice, what with the longer mileage, way more climbing, and insane technical descents when compared with the previous year's final stages (and knowing we would be out there for way more than five hours), but there's just no way we could have done it any better...

Well, maybe getting Axel on board earlier, but you can over plan these things.  Not to mention, you know... starting early is probably against some rule.

Pretty sure we get to pick which ones apply to us on the final day tho.

More TSE wrap up to come.

Friday, June 10

Trans-Sylvania Mountain Bike Epic: Stage Four

Stage Four: R.B. Winter ~ 35.2 miles, 4,616 feet of climbing

I wake up a little hungover.  I blame no one but myself.  A little too much patting myself on the back for surviving Enduro™ day.  I don't mind so much tho, as this means things are back on track.  America is truly great again.

On the long drive over to the park, Dr Jones says there's a very small chance of rain later in the day.

"Small."

Once again, I think I know how the stage starts.  Once again, I'm wrong (surprised?).  I gas it up the first climb expecting to dive into some tight single track right away.  We don't.  Time to tuck my brain back in my earholes. I try to hold my own when we finally hit the trail. I jockey for position and give way when needed.

Matt Spohn decided his days as a hand model would be over if he didn't keep his Endurble Approved suspension fjork mounted the rest of the week.

photo cred: Matt Spohn
We hit a long, paved section.  Mostly and very slightly downhill.  I get out-fatted and out-geared, losing many positions.  Axel blows by me.  Dan sits in with me for a skinny minute, but then he is gone as well.

And then we hit a two plus mile climb that goes on for close to 1,600 vertical feet.  I think of the classic line from Gattaca.


A little melodramatic, but I decide now is the time to "never save anything for the swim back."  I can see Axel and Dan in the distance.  I close it down to nothing and then breathe.  Then I go off as fast as I can for as long as I can.  I don't want any hitchhikers.  I take it all the way to the top.

Matt Green and Mike Montalbano duking it out somewhere towards the front of the race... I guess.  Never seen it for myself, so I suppose this is what it looks like.

I don't know when the rain started.  It's just a drizzle at first.  It feels nice.  Then steady to constant to incessant.  Not so nice anymore.  I push my glasses down my nose, and now I can only see about four feet in front of me.  Enough to go six miles an hour, but when the trail goes down, things get excite.

Stop at the aid station.  Grab a banana for the road.

Quickly discover that there is no "road," and enter a very uphill piece of singletrack while breathing through half of a banana.  Thooper.  Eventually choke it back and get back on with the rolling around in the woods in the rain thing.

I catch up to a rider slogging through some deep mud and rocks.  It's Matt Green.  He's had a bazillion flats and is currently riding one out, thunking around on rock and root.  We chat about our current predicaments, and then I leave him to his, knowing that I might get third now... unless someone offers him a tube, he takes it, and then proceeds to make great bike race.  I only have one tube, to that guy won't be me.

Getting to the fourth Endurble section of the day, I spend more time off the trail than on it.  I'm Sgt Schultz.  I see nothing.

But I run into everything.

Once I get on the long road back to the happy place, I turn the pedals over with all I got.

Life feels good again.  The sads from the first 2.75 days are forgotten.  I cross the line in third and very much ready to repeat last night's happy time celebrations.

Stop at the Elk Creek Cafe in Millheim on the way back.  Go to order a beer...

"First one is free to racers."

Nice.

Try to order the Valley Nachos (house made chips, w/Poe Paddy Porter Beer cheese sauce, beef stew and jalapeños).

"Those are coming out for free as well.  Also, free fries."

Well, sheeeeeeeeeee-it.  We order salad, except for Dr Jones, who decides he doesn't want to rely on the plates of things coming our way for sustenance.  The others give up too easily on the bonus food, but I power my way through the "pile" as it came to be known and destroy the fries.  Mama didn't raise a quitter (when it comes to food).

Back at camp, recover from the "pile" session, head over for my (spoiler alert) only podium of the week.

Me, asking Montalbano how he feels about dick punches on the podium.

Matt, mistaking my lean-in as an act of affection, draws in closer to all the machismo on display.

Montalbano, realizing that podium dick punches are really a thing, uses his cat-like reflexes to throw up a block at the last minute. He's on top for a reason, I guess.

Grand finale on Monday and then additional thoughts until my brain runs out of things.