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Friday, July 31

Morale no longer shot to hell

My eyes.  I've got that issue sorted out.  I think.

At first, I did the American thing.  I threw money at the problem.  Eye exam (why did I turn down coverage in January?), order glasses from a typical eyeglass emporium, try contacts, order prescription lenses for my Oakley Racing Jackets. 

The glasses from the place next to my eye doctor... great for out and about town or watching TV. Not for riding.  Cost?  Stupid.

Contacts?  Didn't work.  Long story.

My Oakleys?  My eyes can't adapt to the aberrations.  I feel like Wash Out from Hot Shots.

I can't wear them all the time in order for my brain/eyes to get used to them.  I'm near sighted in one eye and far sighted in the other.  My prescription is optimized for seeing things far away, so I can't wear them doing normal up-close things. 

So, I went down a road suggested by a friend, discounted at first because I was sure my other, more expensive options would work out.  They didn't, so I ended up ordering from Zenni Optical (online).

One of the reasons I didn't want to do it was because of the whole "buy local" thing, but when you get to the bottom of it, there's a reason why glasses cost so much.  Luxottica.  Google it if you're curious, but basically glasses are expensive because one company controls the majority of the market to include brands, retail locations and vision care.  It's a sweet racket.  I know my neighbor might be working at Lenscrafters, but seriously.  I always wondered why eyeglass stores took up so much square footage.

Anyways, I ordered one pair, loved them, and ended  up ordering three more.

Anyone wanna buy three Ultralight 29er tubes cheap?  SRSLY.

For what I paid for my Oakley lenses (not including the frames I already owned), I could buy more than ten pairs of these glasses in all kinda varieties of tints, finishes and frames.  The pink ones on the left are gradient tint with a mirrored oleophobic coating and the ones on the left are yellow tint with a hydrophobic coating.  My other choices were clear for occasional night rides and some straight up sunglasses for staring directly at the sun (my other hobby).

Yes, they look like cheap convenient store sunglasses.  To be honest, they feel like cheap convenient store sunglasses.  I don't really care.  I no longer have to feel so paranoid about where my Oakley$$$ are all the time.  If I break or lose them, I'm only gonna be bummed that I have to wait two weeks to get new ones.

I figured I would share this with the class since I know I'm not alone in the world of blurry things.  These glasses are game changers for me, and I'm once again seeing the trail in a much less dangerous manner.

I have no problem giving them my...

SEAL OF SEMI-APPROVAL

I'm not too thrilled about endorsing the whole "buying direct from China" thing, but in this case... c'mon.  Other than Oakley, how many other sports eyewear brands are manufactured in the US?  Until somebody decides to make some reasonably priced prescription riding glasses, I'll be a loyal Zenni customer.

And because... burrito... and Lloyd Bridges.


Thursday, July 30

The long, slow road to Breck

Hard to believe that I'm getting ready for another Breck Epic.

Bill Nye came by and grabbed the Vertigo Meatplow V.7 and some of my gear last night.

I know it's stupid to be nervous, but I feel like it's taken me more than ten years to build the perfect single speed, and this is the first time it's been outta my sight for this length of time.  It's irreplaceable at this point... to some degree.

So of course, I was so happy to see this later last night:

I think he could get more, but maybe he's looking for some quick gas money.

Anyways...

He's heading out early to ride, play, acclimate and try to keep Nick (AKA Dip n' Spray, AKA The Face of Chaos) in check.  He's joining along to hang, ride, play (and perhaps enjoy a legal bowl... of oatmeal), and hack things with a machete.

We'll have a pretty sweet Charlotte contingent staying with us (we're being joined by April and Andrea), so I expect to have much funs, and beers, and river soakings, and watching Xtreme Ladder infomercials, and... I dunno.  Just happy to be going back to my "summer home."  I miss that place something awful.  Also looking forward to seeing my asshole "friends" that I only get to see in Breck.  Such a sweet bunch of guys... that rip off my legs and beat me with them.

I've entered the 40+ Mens Solo class.   Not really sure why.  Only @18 single speeders registered (most coming from elevation) but 90 guys in the 40+.  Languishing somewhere in the mid-pack is my lofty goal.  Elevation kills me, but in that good way.

Sorry.  Not get enough Wilderness 101 chat before I swapped topics to Breck?  Thom at Dirtwire.tv did interview me, despite my lackluster seventh place finish.  Click here to listen to a litany of excuses, and feel free to use them yourself in the future.

Wondering what is looks like to go down No Name on a rigid bike?  I'm  wondering myself, being that I had my eyes closed the whole way down so they wouldn't bounce outta my skull.  Well, it's in the highlight reel.

"Rocks... like... everywhere."

Tuesday, July 28

Reflecting (dead) Pool

I don't want people thinking that I hate the Wildernesss 101 (Watts doesn't want people thinking I hate it either).  I'm just terrible at 90% of what the race is by nature. 

I can't hammer the flat sections and take advantage of the groups that blow by me.  Blame that on the fact that I was too stupid to remember my '06 experience and gear accordingly (shoulda been 32X18) and how little I ride on the road.  

There were zero climbs that required a hike-a-bike. Zero.  I'm really good at walking.  #humblebrag

I like my climbs longer, more soul-crushing... something where my @130lbs at X watts > someone @155lbs at 120% of X.  Also a climb long enough to create sads and cramps.  I like when others have sads and cramps.

Those descents?  How could I forget how rocky and steep and clusterfucked and rigid fork unfriendly they are?  Almost absolutely nowhere to give my hands even a couple of seconds away from lever squeezing duties.  I don't feel like I normally lose too much ground on most descents, but these?  I think I was going backwards at times.  So hard... never a chance to let the bike go, only insane attempts to keep my eyes in their sockets.  I'm not saying I woulda ran a suspension fork, just that I forgot how bad it was and was unprepared for such big sads.

The race is an incredible experience, quite the challenge, and worth doing if you haven't done it.  I haven't done any hundies aside from the Shenandoah Mountain 100 in years, and the atmosphere was exactly what I would want.  Not too many people, a soaking river, beer, quiet camping... my little friends.

But, as always, horses for courses.  I'm not the horse for this course.  In no way am I saying that if you picked the same single speeders and threw them on a better (for me) course that the results would be any different.  I just woulda been more stoked throughout the day.

photo cred: Tomi McMillar
Aid Station Brocery Shopping Tips:  You can easily transport a half-banana up your shorts, but don't try it with four Fig Newtons or a quartered Little Debbie's Oatmeal Creme Pie.  You can stick up to ten Pringles in your mouth at once... as long as you don't need to breathe for the next five minutes.

I most certainly love riding in this part of the country.  I wouldn't have gone to the Trans-Sylvania Epic six years in a row and am planning on my seventh if I wasn't truly smitten.  The air, trails, rocks, weather, streams, people, views, trees, ferns... superb.  Simply.  Stunning.

There were so many points throughout the day that I was trying to figure out just how I was going to unload my Shenandoah Mountain 100 entry.  In the moment, had I a smart phone and one bar of signal, I mighta put it out there for sale. 

Now, I'm kinda stoked.  The realization that two months ago, I was getting x-rays and popping pain killers... and now I'm feeling like, I dunno, as good as I ever feel.  Awesome.

I just need to get to Stokesville early enough to claim some hammock friendly trees.  No more air mattresses for me and my tossing-turning sleepstyle.

BTW: Anyone wanna buy an air mattress complete with a tiny pump?

I think I did a great job selling it.

Monday, July 27

The 2015 Wilderness One-oh-One

Friday morning.  Jordan shows up in front of my house in the Hub/Pisgah Tavern Sprinter twenty minutes early, because that's what she would do.  I'm ready to go twenty minutes early, because that's what I do.  We roll towards PA.

Stop in Roanoke, VA to pick up Hub employee, Peter... because he left Brevard by bike three days ago and rode here, because... multiple hamburgers a day.

Get to Coburn (after stopping for Peter's first hamburger of the day), set up camp, register, Jordan convinces us to ride bikes back to Millheim... for more hamburgers.

Back at camp, I climb into a few beers before crawling into "bed." New tent for me and a sleeping pad that I don't remember ever having a good experience sleeping on.  I spend the night tossing and turning and occasionally sleeping and drooling and anxiously awaiting the sound of the morning gong.  Eventually, it comes.  Breakfast.  Coffee, good.  Jesus toast, peanut butter and jelly that sat in the cooler all night becoming as hard as a rock, bad.  One outta two ain't too terrible.

Micheal Jordan's number.  Second time I've ever pulled it.  Last time, it was my final 24 hour race.  I quit it at something like 1:00AM, sitting in second place, but I'd had enough of the format.  Hoping to buck this trend.

Find myself in the port-a-john (for the second time) while the race announcements commence.  Upon the cessations of my movements, I open the door to see the riders lined up right in front of my blue closet door.  Convenient.  Find my bike hidden in the sea of legs, remember my iPod, run back to the tent, get back in line a minute or two before the race starts, but without a "go," or a gun or much of anything.  Just the riders up front slowly leaving and us following. 

Roll out of town at a pleasant pace.  Hit the first climb and things start to blow up.  I decide to stick to my plan, not go too hard, hope the "race" comes back to me.

I remember this climb from before.  Not from the '06 W101, but many TSE stages.  Having some familiarity, I'm happy for no real reason.  I watch riders slip away.   Many single speeders, including Peter who has three hundred+ miles in his legs in the last few days.  Meh.  Maybe later.

Climb over, the race starts being how I remember it.  Rolling gravel.  Trains of geared riders pulling along at 18-22mph.  Some single speeders that can make that work tuck in like so many train-hopping hobos.  I languish in my own world of sads... until bob Sowga pulls up on his single speed.  Instead of being smart and sharing the work, we ride side by side and talk about most anything other than the fact that we should be working together.  We roll into aid #1 with an almost 14mph hour (so far) average.

Sticking to my plan, I stop at the aid station.  Fill my one empty bottle, regardless of whether or not I should, eat a variety of foods and look around at who's with me.  This crowd does not look like the people I would finish a hundred miler with (yeth, I'm being a judgy asshole).  The flat'ish roads were much friendlier to others than I.

I recognize the double track climb outta the aid station from TSE.  It's one that really works for me, so I attack.  I pass riders right, left and center.  Mashing and destroying the whole way up, but keeping my heart rate in check.  At the top, I also recognize the next descent from TSE... as the one that I slowly coast down as the riders I recently just passed blow by me.  It happens again.

I do see a sad Watts coming the other way.  I yell "whaaddafuck?" at twenty miles an hour and keep rolling.  His sad face told the story, he was screwed (found out later he dinged his Stan's rim beyond usefulness).

Continue on and occasionally pull to the side to let the heavier and/or geared riders go by.  The descent ends, more gravel, finally on some real trail, see the Three Bridges, make the first two... stupid wet rock.  Remount to ensure a successful ride through the spectator rock section.  Back out on more gravel... and over to Croyle's.

I remember it after the first few hundred yards.  The place I flatted in '06 (the first flat, not the second flat).  The place I flatted in TSE a few years ago.  Super steep and super gnarly, no place for a rigid fork.  Just try to hold on and not die.  I manage to do both and roll into aid#2 unscathed but mentally scarred.

More food, more gravel, stop to pee because people who aren't in it to win it can do that, stop to take off my left knee warmer... again, I have time for this.

These details may be filling in at the wrong moments.  I can't remember their sequence any more.  Just that they happened.

This did happen... somewhere out there:

photo cred: Thom/Dirtwire.tv
Thom from Dirtwire.tv rolled up in his Jeep transport and we talked about droopers and such.  I was not in a hasty way, so why not visit with friends when I should be in a hurry to get this over with.

I roll under a cardboard sign strung across the road.  I think it says "BEER STATION."  I stop at the table in front of the cabin and because I can't believe it, I ask, "Is this real?"

It is.

I drink one cup of what is probably Budweiser and ask for more.  They acquiesce my request. It's not good beer but it 100% better than the no beer I had.  People pass me as I enjoy my beverage and I pass them back moments later powered by rocket fuel.

I pee again... somewhere in the prettiest woods I've ever seen.

The descents between miles 45 and 64 are all fuzzy.  I just remember them being steep as fuck, out of control, wicked and death on a stick.  Everything from my lower back, over my shoulders, and down to my finger tips hate me.  I find Thom on the disgustingly sick descent down No Name fixing a flat and standing knee deep in rocks.  He asks me to wait for him to finish up.  My brain can't wrap my head around the logic of waiting for the media guy while I'm supposed to be "racing," but I do it anyways.  Then he follows me down through the boulders and avalanche piles on his Rocky Mountain fully, perhaps to be a witness to my near-death experience.  It's the hardest descent of the day (so I thought), but it doesn't manage to kill me, although I pray for death or any manner of cessation to my pain most of the way down.

Out of aid#4, I look forward to just one more long climb, a gradual (peaceful?) descent, some rail trail, one more climb... and then... something to get to the finish.  I've been making lots of places back on all the climbs, and this one will be no different.  When I make the turn, I'm pleasantly surprised to see it's Stillhouse Hollow.  This is where I attacked Dejay this past May to take a stage win.  It's my kinda climb, so I jam all the way up. 

From there, I'm deep in familiar territory from all my TSE experience.  I catch Igor the Giant Single Speeder, wake him up out of a daze, watch him go nutballs and ride away from my like I'm standing still, and continue to that last "gradual" descent.

If the other descents were meant to instantaneously kill anyone on a rigid fork, this one was intended to slowly destroy them with gentle, bone-jarring kisses.  Miles and miles of teeth-rattling rocks... just absolutely the most painful thing yet.  Getting passed by rider after rider, gears churning, suspension squishing.  I'm dying.

Finally, aid#5.  More eating, more happies. Rail trail and one more climb on my brain.  I love the rail trail.  14.5mph and no impediments to forward progress.  I think my left pinky might be coming back to life.  I rejoice in the possibility of having of ten useful digits in the future.

Through the river crossing we'd been told about (a reroute around the infamous hike-a-bike over the Fishermen'sTrail), enjoy the coolness of the old tunnel, over a narrow and very familiar bridge accompanied by another rider.  Looking for that final climb...

"We're just around the corner from the finish," he says.

Huh?

My computer says I'm at about 92 miles. 

He tells me that the reroute cut out that last climb.  I'm okay with that.  94 miles after I started and 7:43 from the start, I finish... to what I would find out later is a 7th place single speed, 43rd overall place.

photo cred: Thom/Dirtwire.tv
Hooray for unexpected, slightly extended grass podiums.

Beers, more burgers... Jordan has the brilliant idea to hit the road towards home, and Peter and I fully agree.  Four hours in, sleep behind a semi-truck wash (and by "sleep," I mean fade in and out of consciousness for six and a half hours, snoring directly at Peter and Jordan, awakened by every noise and headlight and ghost.. probably ghosts... maybe aliens).

Wake up, five more hours, home, and spending the rest of the day moving and or falling asleep.

Wednesday, July 22

Going back to the One-oh-One

I have not done the Wilderness 101 since 2006.  Let me put that into some kinda frame of reference.

That was the first year of the National Ultra Endurance Series (despite the fact that the guy in charge of the NUE, Ryan O'dell, still thinks it started in 2009).

It was also the year that I started this blog, ended up third single speed in the NUE Series (mostly by being one of three guys to finish enough races to qualify), won my "World Championship" (mostly by being the guy who was running behind Cameron Chambers when he DNF'ed), and also the year I turned *erp*... 37 years old (mostly by just breathing for 13,505 days).

It was the only time I skipped ORAMM to do something else from 2004 until 2013. 

2006 was the last year that I was on 26" wheels, and I was one of the last guys in the single speed class to make the leap to big wheels.  The fine line between stubborn and dumb.

the rocks just above Three Bridges... just some of the pleasant rocks from the day
It was the last year that I put Band-aids on my nipples because I insisted on wearing my altered Fox casual jersey made out of sandpaper.


photo cred: Karin Abramo Randall
Fanny Pack of Doom, Shirtless Club for Men in its first year, drawstring chamois, stack of Pringles shoved in my mouth thus ushering the era of the Lonely Pringlespeeder.... need I say more?

I finished the 101 that year in 14th place in the single speed with an unimpressive time of 9:53:06.  This was back when I thought carrying an ultra-lite tube made total sense, even if I was running a high volume 2.5 front tire.

It made total sense until I ripped my Continental Diesel UST 2.5, booted it with a gel wrapper, inserted the fragile, paper-thin tube, and then flatted on the very next descent.  I ended up running down a single track trail, hopping out of the way of passing riders, and feeling many sads until I obtained more toobage.  Then there were just more sads.

BTW:  I didn't learn from this experience and repeated every aspect of that debacle almost a month later at the now defunct E100 in Park City, Utah (lovely place for a downhill run).

AMAZING SIDE NOTE: I recently discovered while prepping my drop bags for this year's 101 that all my light'ish spare tubes only have 38m long valve stems which are too short to go all the way through my Farlow rims.

I ordered new 48mm valve stem tubes from Maxxis, and boom they showed up yesterday... and, of course, I ordered the wrong ones.

The same exact .60mm thickness as the tube I ripped nine years ago.  Brilliant. As.  Shit.

Re-reading my blog post from my day at the 101 (I'd link it, but you would never want to wait for the old teamdicky.blog.com to load... I almost crashed the servers at work looking for it), I was in a very dark place from the 4th aid station all the way to the finish.  Makes sense because I remember so little of anything aside from flat tires, passing a tandem, and beer.

I have little if any goals or expectations going into this.  The 101 will be my first "real" race since I dropped out of the Trans-Sylvania Epic because... rocks and bones don't play nice.  Obviously, I would love to set a PR, not really a lofty goal though.

What I really want is to enjoy myself and have a pleasant day riding bikes in the woods with friends for a hundred (and one) miles.  Two weeks until I leave for Breck Epic, so it would be nice to have a positive experience with a number plate on the front of my bike.  A little redemption on the State College trails that took me out of the fun times for four weeks... would just be icing on the Swiss Cake Roll.

I should mention that I wasn't gonna drink beer or eat Peanut M&M's the week before this race, but it works for me at least 5% of the time, and I don't wanna mess with that kinda success.

Race report... I dunno, Monday, I guess.

Tuesday, July 21

Compulsion Conclusion

I got the final part to complete the perfect (for me) single speed.

Cornfused?

The Paragon Machine Works 142X12mm Combination Head Rear Skewer (part no. SK4010).

Most won't get it.  I understand.

When I got the ENVE crabon frok, it came with a nice, simple bolt-on skewer.

I wanted to use it, so sleek and sexy as it was, it appealed to the sleek and sexy me. I used to run bolt-on skewers on all my bikes before, so tool-required wheel removal was nothing new to me.  The fact that there was no somewhat matchy-matchy solution for the rear was no bueno.  I settled on DT Swiss thru-skewers that were anything but "quick" in their manner of releasing the wheel from dropout related bondage and started their lives out as Specialized labeled product until I got rid of the S-logoed lever... because... Specialized... and burritos... because everything for burritos.

I occasionally found myself glancing at the simplistic beauty of that ENVE bolt-thru, lying useless in a drawer with random bearings, axles, cable housings and other things that would otherwise clutter my work surface. 

That is until I was randomly perusing the Paragon Machine Works website for some reason or another, saw the news of this thing just being released, and boom.  I gave it that much thought.

There is a practical side to this.  Some say that I hike-a-bike rather quickly, I suppose for a man who stands at four apples tall.  I do this by channeling my anger and sads at the same time and driving that energy into so many flailing, tiny limbs to propel myself up whatever mountain is in front of me.  There's a certain lack of coordinated effort in my movement, and often times, I find my shin making contact with any protruding part on my (at that time) useless bike. 

I now have one less thing to take a chunk out of what is left of my shinny shin shin.

So, for now, I feel as if my bike is a completed project.  Perfect in every way... save for perhaps the Bluetooth Thomson drooper that hasn't been made yet because they're still waiting for the terminator to be sent back in time so they can borrow technology from it's semi-crushed head part to create a working product.

Until then, I'm stuck with what is still the best drooper in the world, so I got that going for me...

Gunga galunga... gunga, gunga-lagunga

Monday, July 20

Log Legs

Wow.  Eight days of living La Vida Bachelor this time.  I'm burnt.  My goal was to ride a lot.  I did.  Way more than 24 hours of saddle time, and maybe I'm burnt.  I was certainly hoping for coming as close to being over-trained as possible, so as to be trained for upcoming events.  I won't know for a few days... if I still feel like shit, then I guess I overdid it.

That stupid road ride Watts made me do, morning rides, commutes, after work rides, Thirsty Thursday at the White Water Center, a somewhat exploratory ride in Wilson's Creek with a group that included a bunch of people I've never ridden with, and yesterday's really stupid decision to ride 46 miles of pavement to get in 4+ miles of trail...

Fun and pain and occasional sunburn.  Saturday's ride pegged the fun-o-meter.

I climbed an unnecessary seven something miles of pavement to meet everyone at the second leg of their shuttle.  First group gathered and more climbing up from Gingercake Acres (more up?) with Yuri, Phil, Kelly, Gardner and Cam.  

Then we all jumped on a trail that I think I might have been on more than a decade ago, to the most flowy trail I've ever ridden in Pisgah... and then rain right before the gnar factor kicked up a notch.

To some gravel to thinking about one trail or the other and we took the other which wasn't really a trail anymore.

All to meet up with Mike, Laura, and Derek and to lose Kelly to time constraints and perhaps the ability to make wise decisions after bushwhacking through yellow jacket territory.

More climbing and hiking and we're at the top again... and it starts to rain... again.  More sliding down tech-gnar.  Down on the gravel and over to the visitor center to up our water game.

We stared at a cloud looming over the mountains we were headed to next until we decided to just go anyways.  Up, down Sinkhole, taking the classic line down the steep chute instead of the rocking ridge line... mostly because Yuri wanted to see it.  I won't need to do that again for awhile. 

Yuri rocking the strange root ball uphill at the bottom of Sinkhole.

If you've never seen it, you would never imagine how hard it is... although he did that strange hoppy trials stuff to get over it.  Is that still riding a bike?  I guess... the boy has skills for days.

Bottom of Sinkhole, arrive at the shuttle and beer and soakings.




And then, everybody loaded into the van... but me.  I went out for a few more miles of climbing, because... training, no burrito.

photo cred: Togie... who wasn't on our ride, but in the randomness that is the woods, there he was
Incredible ride.  Probably coulda ended the week there, not done the stupid ride I did yesterday and went to thrift stores looking for a clip-on tie... but whatever.  Still need to get that tie tho.

That'll do, pig.