30 June, 2011

It was Another Week!

Apparently I already have a post titled "What a Week..." so my titles aren't very creative!

Flash back to issues at work that surfaced on 20JUN11.  Not to go into detail, but let's just say I will be dealing with this for the next 90 days.

My wife was in Florida last week for a volleyball tournament (Assistant Coach W9), so my support group was essentially nil.  Wednesday I took delivery of my Superfly 100, a very special anniversary gift from the most wonderfal lady in the world.  However,  I was in the midst of a crappy week, and the only way to recover was a "mental health" day.  Think sick day, but for your brain.  This ride was covered in detail on the previous post.

After a good ~30 miles on Thursday, I rested Friday in preparation for my first race as an Expert/Elite.  This was to be at Cannonsburg for the State Games of Michigan.

It felt good to be back on the SS, kind of like an old pair of slippers.  I had gear up for the event, running 33x18T, preparing for a little more climbing than usual.  I had reattached my seat, and slightly over-torqued the clamp to ensure no more issues.

12:30 arrived, and it was time to race.  We (the single-speeders) started after the Elite men, before the women.  The race started and the top guys shot out the front, and I was kind of stuck in a pack of guys that were a bit slower.  I settled in briefly, knowing that 4 laps (~20 miles) was a bit more than I was used to.  Then the pack began to spread out, and I was caught behind a person with little experience racing.  I made the "On your left" call, but apparently it startled him, as he stopped and cut off my move, causing me to bobble and unclip.  I then had to wait again for another spot and pass more aggressively.  There were a couple climbs I had to dismount due to traffic, but is apparently slowed those ahead of me as well.  The rest of the first laps way relatively smooth.  I caught back up with the group, and on the climb near the end of the lap made a move around and pulled into 2nd place.

Lap 2 was uneventful.  I was passed by some geared folks, but was still holding strong in my position.  I was riding well.  However, on the flat after the "big" hill, I dropped my only bottle.  I had to jump off and reclaim it, as I dd not know of another option.  Lost a little time, but holding strong.

Lap 3 and I was begining to suffer.  I was losing power quick, and I could tell.  I took a Gu before this lap, and was waiting for it to kick in.  Meanwhile, about halfway through the course is a vertical-U with a short down, and a steep, loose up.  I made this climb on the second lap, but the third time is not the charm.  About 90% of the way up, my rear tire slid out and I fell over.  In one motion, without letting go of the bars with either hand, I rolled over, jumped up and ran to the top and remounted.  Imagine this in one action, with no stopping or pausing at any point.  Apparently there is some video footage, which I will link to when available.

Final lap, and I am ready to be done.  I have little power left, even on the gradual climb at the beginning.  I have been riding in and out of geared riders, but no SSers for a while.  I have no idea how many were in front.  Time to dig deep.  I tried to focus on the anger I had inside from the previous week, but somehow couldn't tap into those reserves.  It was just me and the bike.  I think I was passed by another SSers shortly before the skills area, and he quickly pulled a gap on me.  I dug deep on the last climb and closed the gap, but I was spent at the top.  He pulled away on the flats, leaving me to flounder.

Then to add insult to injury, my seat came off again!  This was ~1 mile to the finish, mostly downhill.  Knowing the drill by this point, I stopped, grabbed my saddle and stuffed it into my jersey pocket.  The rest of the clamp is probably still out there, and I could not care less.  I finished the race, dropped my bike and chunked the saddle into the ground. It took some self control to just not heave the whole bike into the finish line stream.
[NOTE: The seatpost has been replaced by my old stand-by, however I have not contacted Woodman yet to get their response]

The results were no quite so bad.  I ended up finishing in 3rd place.  Not bad, a podium in my first Expert race.  However, this was due to the fact that 2 other singlespeed racers went out for a 5th lap like the other Elites.  So in reality, I finished 5th, which was still better than my Sport finish last year here.

After the awards, it was time for some Sonic, and some repair work for the Pontiac Lake XC race the following day.  Swap the seatpost, put the 16T back on and I am ready to go.

Get out to Pontiac, and I was flying solo.  13:00 start, so I was in no rush.  I ended up meeting with Team Big Kahuna and hanging with them on this warm Summer day.  I got in some spinning to warm up, and could tell right away my legs weren't all there.  Instead of 4x5 mile laps, today would be 2x10 miles.  I don't know if that is better or worse.

At the start, the field wasn't quite so deep, just 4 of us riders.  My plan was to hang with the leaders and make something happen on lap 2 if I could.  At the start I hung back into position 4, with the first-timer taking the lead through the fields.  Once we were onto the dirt, this fellow was clearly out of his element and was quickly left behind (for an eventual DNF).  SO I was now in second, just pacing behind the Tree Farmer when we reached "@ mile hill".  This would be the last time I saw him as he was geared poorly, and had to hoof it up the hill.  All alone again, I pedal through the woods as race leader until the gearies caught up.

However, this day my bike wasn't feeling right.  There was much more creaking than normal, the chain sounded different, and I think I was developing some headset play.  I decided not to push the pace, but ride along carefully as not to damage anything.  Then during a climb about 75% of the way through the first lap, I was pushing hard and something locked up.  The dropouts slipped and my wheel was cock-eyed.  I moved over to the side of the trail, and began to readjust my drivetrain.  I didn't get it perfect, but it was rideable and I was not caught by either of the other one-gear crew.

Lap 2 was OK, I just pedaled along, letting anybody pass that wanted to.  I did not have any mechanical issues, but oddly enough this lap was a full minute slower than the first one (and 4 minutes slower than my TT lap).  I finished with being challenged by the other riders and successfully widened my lead in the Tailwind series.

However the Big Kahuna himself crashed on his second lap, so I waited around for him to cross the line.  He was kind of banged up, but still walking/  Results were particularly snappy this time.  I helped the team clean up camp, then it was back to Sonic and headed home.

The trip was annoying, as when I got on the highway (I-96) at Howell, traffic was dumber than usual.  Speed hit 80, followed by complete stops.  Where the hell was all this traffic coming from, and why?  As I approached Okemos I realized, these were all lemmings headed to East Lansing for the U2 concert, and were following the same set of Mapquest directions.  An extra 40 minutes added to my trip, but after exit 110 it was smooth sailing.

On to this weekend, and another race, this time the Stony Marathon.  I won the Brighton Stage race, so the double points do nothing for me.  I am not sure which bike I will be riding that day, it depends on when the SS is done.  Then up to Boyne!

24 June, 2011

Crash Course in Full-Suspension

Things have been quite a bit hectic lately, at work and home.  On bright spot is that (conveniently) on my 9th wedding anniversary, I brought home a new Superfly 100.  Thanks On Two Wheels!

Need a new license plate next year, maybe "Suprfly"?

I picked the bike up on Wednesday, and came home to start setting things up.  Seat height and position were easy based on my SF-SS.  Unfamiliar tires with tubes will take some trial and error.  I have some Bontrager tubeless strips coming, but just aren't here yet.  Put on some new ESI Chunky grips, but waiting on my Fi'Zik Tundra to arrive.  Setting the sag on the shocks was a bit more tedious.  I started with the recommended values, and ended up dropping the pressures quite a bit to get the recommended sag.  I knew there was only one way to know for sure and suddenly came down with some sort of 24 hour virus.  I don't know if it was something I ate, but it prevented me from working yesterday.

I woke up to another dreary day, but it was not raining.  Things were damp, but the sidewalks were dry, so that was good enough for me.  I had grand plans, a trip to Poto, a loop around Highland, and then a stop by Anderson on my way home.  I loaded up the bike and took off towards Pinckney.

Now, after tooling around the cul-de-sac the evening before, I knew things would be different.  For starters, I was now riding a bike 46% heavier than I was used to.

I got to Poto and the lot was pretty much empty.  Apparently people were concerned with the weather.  I took off up the trail, trying to remember this whole shifting thing.  I threw the front into the big ring and left it there.  Now my shifting chores were 50% easier, just use my right thumb.  I was somewhat used to Shimano shiters, so I kept trying to shift using my thumb and forefinger.  I realized right away things were a lot noisier than the SS.   All the clicking, squishing, and chain bouncing were noticeable.  However, without Chris King behind me, things were a lot quieter coasting.

I thought a lot more "thinking" would be required.  I don't believe that was so much the case, instead of surveying the best lines and positioning, I would just point an shoot, clicking up the gears when I needed to.  The biggest obstacle was not standing up for everything, and letting the suspension do its job.   Same amount of thinking, just different topics.

I made it through Poto well enough.  There were some muddy hike-a-bike areas, but overall conditions were good.  I tipped over once going uphill when my back tire lost traction.  That was the biggest difficulty in climbing, rear traction.  I aired down a bit, and it seemed to help.

Loaded up the (now slightly dirty) bike and headed north to Highland.  The ride over was just long enough to eat a PBJ and dry my socks a bit.

  The lot at Highland was completely empty.  I thew my dirty jersey and (now warm) wet shoes back on, wiped off some sand from the chain and continued my inaugural day of riding.  Besides a big mud hole in the beginning, Highland was in good shape.  There were a couple of slick spots, and I fell once when the rear lost traction on a fast sweeper.  I had planned on doing the Full A-D, but after finishing C, I was feeling a bit spent, dirty, and the rain was starting to come down with some force occasionally, so I passed on D.

I loaded back up, hungry, dirty, tired, and moist.  I started to head home, and Garmin told me of a 5:15 arrival.  My decision to skip 'D' was a good one, as there were some storms soon after I left the park.  Along the way home, I decided I did not want to kill an hour before going to Anderson for the group ride, so my trifecta trail run became a bifecta.

All in all, it was a good day.  Plenty of alone time to do some introspection, try out the new bike, and just pedal.  I had 2 different type courses, one with some fast, rough downhills, and another tight twisty, climbing.
I thoroughly enjoyed my ride(s).  It was different, equally demanding physically, and rewarding just the same.

So in order to compare the 2 rides, consider 2 chairs.  One is a folding metal chair, the other is an overstuffed La-Z-Boy.  The metal chair is good because it is light, you can move it anywhere, but you have to be more conscious of placement (OK, I am grabbing at straws with that last one, but you know what I mean).  The recliner is very comfortable, but not as portable.  Another thing is sometimes, I would forget about the footrest.  Maybe my analogy isn't so great, but you get what you pay for.

I love the SS for its simplicity.  The "Get on and pedal" mentality suits me well.  If there is a climb, you stand up and pedal.  Rough spots, stand up.  It is all about conserving momentum and proper lines.  The 100 is point and shoot, not as much concern about the "where".  You stay seated to reap the benefits of the system.  Sit and spin up the hills, hammer and pound back down them.  It is a yin-and-yang relationship between the two rides.

I was worried that I would pick a favorite ride and have one expensive garage hanger. Now I think I have different bikes for different moods.  Do I want to be quiet and simple, or hammer and squish?  I think the gearing will help my offroad training.  I am not sure what races I will do on which.  Still gonna look for the CPS overall on the SS, but will try to get some race time on the 100.  I will probably do some endurance races on the 100.  Heck, I may bring both bikes and alternate, just to see how it feels.

The children...

Today I am back at work, legs tired from a day spent trying to out-pedal my problems.  2 races on tap for the weekend, now I have to remember how to ride rigid again.  See you on the trails.

13 June, 2011

My White Whale

This weekend marked my second trip to the Tailwind race at Fort Custer, the Custer TT.

Last year I started great, an was doing well until a broken chain at mile 7 ended my racing day.  I still finished by scooting along and coasting when I could, but finished almost an hour behind the winner, and 30 minutes being the place in front of me.  It sucked.

This year, I was back for revenge.  I took all the proper steps in preparing.  Including participating in the annual Tri-County Bike Asscociation's T-Shirt Ride, a metric century, the day before.  I knew I would be properly warmed up.

We got to the park and registered painlessly, which lately seems to be somewhat of an exception.  The day was somewhat cool, with some wind.  I sat in the truck most of the time before the race, only getting out to spin my legs out for about 15 minutes before my start.  Well, actually it was 25 minutes before the start, because the "event" time was behind "actual" time be around 11 minutes.

All singlespeeders were started intermixed, so you had no idea if the guy in front or passing was Expert/Elite or Sport/Beginner.  I lined up against a very youg fellow, and I had to give him props for coming out and racing in the "adult" categories at such a young age.

However, when the time came, it was me versus the clock and I was gone.  I started alongside the road and ducked into the trails.  I hit the 2-track and was pedaling at what I thought was a good pace.  I looked at my computer, and it said I was in HR zone 6.1, or otherwise above my maximum heart rate that I had input. [Sure enough, I checked the recorded data, and it said I hit 207 BPM.  I am not sure how accurate that is, but I did dip down and back up to 198]

Flowing into the singletrack, I was performing well.  My legs felt a little tired.  They were whining a bit, but not complaining too loudly, so I continued to push.  Shortly before Amusement Park (backwards) I got passed by a couple guys on the same team riding 2009 Superflies.  I tried to hang with them for a while, but they pulled away in the open.  I think they have been geared slightly lower, and working together.

Mile 7ish, going up the switchback climb, I passed the point where my chain snapped the previous year.  I was still pushing a good pace, and somewhat relieved to get the mechanical monkey off my back.  I cruised through the next section, across the creek and back towards the start.

Then, at mile 11.1 I wove (weaved?) between a couple of trees, and must have been a bit wide on the exit because something grabbed my front wheel and before I knew it, I was on the ground.  I knew there was a rider behind me, and I didn't want to get caught. I quickly jumped up and went to remount when I hear a strange rattle.  I looked down and saw my seat hanging from the brackets.  Apparently something was knocked loose in the fall.  I moved to the side to assess the situation, maybe I could put the seat back on, which is about the time that the rider behind passed.  "Screw it" I thought, I don't need to sit down.  I threw the seat into my jersey pocket and jumped back on.  About 20 yards later I stopped again to removed the hanging hardware, to make sure I didn't lose any pieces, and because the rattling was annoying me.

5 miles to go, not seat, unable to drink, and shortly my legs began screaming!  I was now riding a bit cautiously, since the remaining seatpost was a bit pointy, and I did not want to be impaled.  There was the big rooty step-up on green where I jumped off and ran, but the rest of the time it was stand and hammer.  Surprisingly, looking at the 1-mile splits, I actually picked up the pace at the end.

I loop around the closing mile past the start finish line.  I was suffering and the line looked so close, but I still had to loop back out and around.  I passed some spectators and my wife who was taking pictures.  Later I found out she was asked "Does he normally ride without a seat?" which may be an effective training strategy, but probably not the smartest idea.

Out of the woods, the final stretch to the finish is a grassy line alongside the road, with a slight uphill.  In front of me, I can see the rider that passed me.  At least, I think that was him.  I buried myself trying to close the gap.  I drove deeper into my pain cave, my brain telling me "It is OK if you get off and walk the rest" and my legs wholeheartedly agreeing.

Obviously my brain was wrong, and I told my legs to shut up.  I did not catch the guy before the line, and coasted through the corral and far enough away that I would not get run over by other finishers.  I then dismounted and collapsed.  My breathing was highly labored and sounded a bit like I was sobbing.  My wife came to my aid, worried I was badly injured.  I was fine, except for a 8" scrape up the front of my right thigh (I later found).

Then it was recovering enough energy  to make it back to the truck, load up the bike and wait for results.  Once posted, I found out I finished in 2nd place, 18 seconds behind first.  I was crushed.  All that effort, all the suffering for second place.  If I did not try to fix the seat, if I did not stop a second time to remove the bolts, if I had worked harder anywhere along the course...

It was a good day in all, hanging with my friends from the local Custer Cyclery team who had a strong showing, and cheering for them on the podium.  I am not sure if I will return to this race next year.  I have something to prove, but I am not sure I want to go through the frustration again.

Today will be spent recovering, and figuring out how to make sure I get that damn seat clamp dialed.  I have 2 weeks to figure it out.  Watch out then, the course will have to deal with one-pissed of mountain biker...

08 June, 2011

Welcome Back!

Wow, it has been a while since my last post.  I took 2 weeks off from racing to recover, and because there were no races I wanted to do...

Last week was Hanson Hills.  I have only raced there once before, in 2010.  That race was about 50 degrees (F) and rainy.  I was having tummy troubles and just not feeling well.  However, I finished in ~53 minutes and got my first top of the podium finish.

We arrived a bit early, and hung out with team Big Kahuna while waiting for my 2:45 start.  2011 the weather was bright, sunny, and dry. Surprisingly dry.  The sand pits came out in full force, causing me to nearly wash out in a couple corners.

There were only 4 singlespeed sport racers, and we were the first wave on the single lappers.  When we got the "Go" I took off, not pushing too hard on the 2 track leading to the first climb.  I kept waiting for one of the other guys to come around, but nobody ever did.  My strategy was pound the two early climbs and see where that leaves me.  After the first climb (mile 1),  I didn't see anybody for a while.  It was mile 7 where I first saw some riders coming in the other direction where the trail loops around close to itself.  As I looked to identify the riders, I clipped a tree with the end of my bar which sent me careening into the brush.  I didn't crash, but I did stumble-run with my bike for a bit [I did later find out I tore my limited edition pink ESI grip and lost an end cap].  Back on course there wasn't anything much else to report for the remaining 2.5 miles (according to my GPS).  I made the last climb at the end, down through the sand, off-camber hill and across the finish.

I ended up being first in my category, first in my heat, and fastest single-lap race time, 43 minutes.  10 minutes faster than my previous result!  It was a good day, but it is probably time to consider my future race category.