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Tuesday, August 23

SSUSA '16: Do or do not or try or don't try. There is no no.

Wake up in the darkness.  Have to pee... hard.  All the moisture that was usually distributed throughout my body is now in my bladder.  I let it all go into the weeds.

Find some Gatorade.  Ice cold from the cooler.  Now I have a (much worse) headache.

Wake up again.  Fart loudly.  Again.  Having one of those "why didn't god kill me in my sleep" moments.  I hear others ambling about, banging pots and starting stoves.  I guess I need to get up now.  Despite having a proper mustache, I felt the dead opposite of how it feels to bronze in an Olympic mountain bike race.


It's already warm.  Humid.  I eat a couple Pop Tarts.  Andy gives me some slightly browned water.  It's much easier than making my own coffee, so I appreciate the kindness.  I consider putting on a special outfit, reconsider the heat, inconvenience of it all, and non-breath-ability of the fabric.  I put on a kit instead.  Shanna's wandering around the campsite with her ass cheeks hanging out of her princess outfit.  I feel immense guilt and shame.  Return to the tent, squeegee the chamois cream out of my bibs for reuse, and change into something more single speedy.

Head over to the start and just sit there regretting at least seven but no more than fifteen things I did the night before.  None of them illegal.  Well, we were stopped before we completed the more illegal of the things we considered, but it was more of a borrow situation in our collective minds.

We line up for a LeMans start.  Doug announces that when he finishes chugging his beer, we can go.  A few seconds in, some of us decide that since we're just walking to our bikes anyways, might as well go now.

Watts comes running by me on the way to his bike.

"You're trying too hard, Watts." ~ me

He responds by shrugging his shoulders.

I get to my bike and hop into the melee.   Rider density maxed out at the entrance to the single track.  There is no flow in flow trail when you're riding a train.  I regret not at least jogging to my bike to stay outta the traffic to maximize fun potential.

I make a few passes, and Bill Nye is no longer in the active role as my wing man.  I'm without friends.  Sadness and a lingering hangover to keep me company.  I see Buck at the side of the trail fixing his bike.  He tells me to wait up.  I soft pedal.  He catches me, passes me... leaves me.  Meh.

I pass Montucky and Cinder Block at the side of the trail.  I decide shortly after that they will be my friends.  I stand at the side of the trail and wait.

Montucky catches me.  No Cinder Block.  We get stuck behind some riders who can't figure out a switchback.

"You want some hot wine?"

Montucky's sales pitch left a lot to be desired, but I was going to be caloric-deficient on the day and not in a place to say no.  We stand there and clog up the trail until we finish up, unknowingly holding up the first place woman.  Not our fault (that she didn't want hot wine).

Out from a trail and into the open, we are told that we are 15th, 16th... so on.  I tell Montucky that either we are trying too hard or others are way better at hardly trying.  We need to slow down.

We get to the hike-a-bike.  I can see Buck up ahead.  Montucky stomps by me, puts his bike across the entire trail.

"You want some hot wine?"

Yeth.  As if I have a choice.

We finish pushing up the hill and catch Buck at the first beer stop.    We drink some of that.  It's bueno.

A loose alliance is formed.  We ride off together.  Montucky's Bluetooth speakers playing what sounds like a Quentin Tarantino movie soundtrack.

photo cred: Chris Reichel
We stop when we need to.  We stop a few times because we don't but there is a bench so, stop anyways.  We pick up another rider that knows Buck but refers to him by his other nickname, "Asshole."  Now we are four.

We ride together, stop together, navigate our way by suggestive arrows together.  At some point, Montucky starts running on fumes... so he's left behind.

"Where's Montucky?" ~ Buck

"He dead." ~ me

It's hot, we're tired, we're flailing.  We ride together until the finish, which was some indiscernible distance between five and twelve miles for the last couple hours (it seems).

Eat.  Water.  Water.  Consider a nap.  Think better of it.  Change into evening wear and relax in the only shade in the campground, which unfortunately (for the children) was the playground.

photo cred: Andy Forron
Consume enough beverages of a known quantity to get in a familiar state of being and then go up to watch the decider events for SSUSA '17.

I see people prepping for a foot down competition. I assume it's part of the deciding.  I watch.

It's actually to decide the real SSUSA champion, because racing is dumb.  I'm also dumb because I miss the opportunity to play bike games.

The decider event happens, and it's leaf blower polo.

 photo cred: Colleen O'Neil
Bellingham, WA beats New York in the finals.

photo cred: Colleen O'Neil
I'm happy because that means I don't feel like I need to go.

More regrettable things happen.   Still pretty sure nothing illegal is successfully pulled off, but perhaps there were some offended parties.  Nothing out of line for a single speed event tho.

Sometimes you get urine on you.  C'est la vie.

The evening ended with Bill Nye's and mine own bikes missing, a walk back down into the holler, I might have chased a skunk on foot...

And by "might," I totally did.

Just wanted to pet it tho.

Monday, August 22

SSUSA '16: Preamble

Up and in the truck early in the morning on a Friday to do the thing I said I wouldn't; travel eight hours to ride less than forty miles the next day only to turn around and go home the day after.

So we're basically heading up there for two parties and one ride with friends.

Jim scoops me and then Bill Nye.  Then highway, and more highway, and PA back roads.  We pass this tiny bar around 3:00 in the afternoon, just about a half hour away from Raystown.

"Man, I remember passing that place on my way to the Trans-Sylvania Epic so many times."  ~ me

Jim applies the brakes in a less than gentle manner and the truck heaves ho into a turn around.  We're going in.

Steele's Tavern

As America as it gets.

Cheap beer. Cheaper pool.

Hot bologna, you say?  I dunno.  On crackers?  Why didn't you say so?  You had me at $1.25

A few games of cut throat pool and we get back on the road.

We roll into the parking lot at 5:05PM, five minutes after registration opened.  Couldn't have not planned it any better.

No sooner am I signing my life away and I'm handed a beer.  I guess I brought two kits for no reason.  We're not riding today.  Business done, set up camp so I know I have a place to sleep tonight (if I can find it all the way down in the holler), and head back up to the Pine Shelter to see who crawls out of the woodwork as the night progresses.

A lot of the usual suspects showed up, along with all manners of celebratory accoutrements.  Miscreants, scoundrels, thieves, drunkards, ruiners of things... friends.

The night went more blurry than a crappy iPhone photo rather quickly.

Some things were done that were instantly regrettable and other things that had regret attached to them that wouldn't be felt until the morning came and the self-induced haze burnt off entirely.

Now I've got to restart my heart and moisten the cotton someone apparently shoved in my mouth before I went to sleep.  We've got some simulated bike race thing to do.

Thursday, August 18

Because we got the bomb.

There's a reason I don't change my header image very often.  Or the sidebar images to the old blog or past results... or anything else that's outdated or at the very least, tired.

It's difficult and time consuming (for me).

Only so, because I don't know entirely what I'm doing and don't want to learn, much less store that information in my head part for future use.

I decided it was finally time to add CarboRocket to the list of Dick Supporters the other day. Thought I could squeeze such a thing in before I headed out the door for a "training" ride on Tuesday.

I was wrong.

I borrowed the html I've been using to put linked logos into the sidebar years ago.  I felt like I owed as much to my supporters ("sponsors" sounds so elitist, especially considering what I actually do).  I don't know what html is or how it works.  I just figured out that I copy and paste links into places where I see them in the code, push publish, and hope for the best.

So the CarboRocket logo was too big after a couple stabs in the dark... and I accidentally used a gif.. and after thirty minutes or so, I was late for my ride.

And that's why I don't change things on the blerhg very often.

I was inspired into action because I got my purple drank in the mail.

It's honestly my favorite flavor of Half Evil, the drink with most of the calories and hydration I want in one bottle.  The purple drank flavor also has zero caffeine, which is best for me 95% of the time, as I like to save that (caffeine) for later as opposed to having constant access to it.  As excited as I was about getting a resupply of the stuff, I was even happier that they've swapped over from tubs to resealable bags.  Cuts down on waste and whatnot and way easier to pack for travel.

Speaking of packing, I've gotta get all my things together NOW.  I'm getting scooped at some ungodly hour tomorrow morning to make our way to SSUSA in PA.  I can't remember the last time I traveled so far for such a short race, but only an asshole would be traveling to SSUSA with the actual race on their mind.

I might be an asshole, but I'm not that kind of asshole.

Gonna put this here, just so I can listen to it.

Tuesday, August 16

Two more weeks of mustache glory

Not for nothing, but I signed up for the Fool's Gold 50 (60?) late Sunday night.  Not entirely sure why, but I know I'll probably be shaving off my mustache when I'm done racing for the year, so perhaps it's just to keep it a couple weeks longer.  I'm also stoked that the venue has returned to a little more after party friendly status, complete with camping and such.

Wasn't too hard of a decision to do the 60 miler over the 100 (which is actually 90).  Shenandoah Mountain 100 is just two weeks before the FG, and I didn't want to spend nine to ten hours in the Virginia mountains thinking about nine to ten hours in the Georgia mountains in my near future.

I don't really foresee any real podium chances down there.  With the NUE Marathon series drawing in riders like Ernesto Marenchin and James Litzinger (who both have a shot at 1st in the series), not to mention the usual suspects and the Motor Mile Mafioso (aka: Dicky Dream Sqaushers), it would take a miracle to get me on the box.

Or I'd actually have to start taking things seriously starting now... and keep that up for a whole month.

No.

Not looking forward to the fifteen mile gravel and pavement lollipop stick out (or back), but the lollipop itself has some awesome single track.  It's good enough that it only takes me a year and a half to forget all the soul-sucking road sections and only remember the good times, thus my almost biannual appearance at the event.

Oh yeah, yesterday I restarted my running campaign for the third time since I started the restarting this summer.  Over two weeks ago, I went out and ran almost six miles at a 7:40 pace... and then it hurt to walk the next day.  Even worse another day later.  My feet parts (upper foot to ankle) hated me for that.  Damn it.  Back to two milers at a much more reserved pace.

Monday, August 15

Things Fall Aparter

I got my ride in on Saturday, pretty much the very ride I was looking for.  Black Mountain, Buckwheat Knob, Bennett Gap, Sycamore Cove, Pisgah Tavern... not in that particular order with lots of climbing in between.  Mileage somewhere in the ouchy zone without going into the "this is going to ruin tomorrow" sad place.

Something interesting.  There ended up being more bikes and people there than I was expecting.  Nothing bad, but I noted something worthy of notable notableness.

Aside:  On the way there, I learned something about Nick "Dip n Spray" Barlow that made me uncomfortable yet extremely proud at the same time.

Of the eight people there, only one or two didn't show up with a preexisting or about to happen issue.

Shoe related malfunction, bent and could/should be replaced brake lever, brake lever way out of adjustment, a rear thru-axle that decided to stop doing its job, clogged valve cores, and a sticky rear brake that needed bled (me).

Mountain biking is hard on equipment.  It's so easy to take it for granted that it's just going to work properly when we grab the bike after a week of it sitting in the corner.  Mud, dust, water, vibrations, cycles, one too many rides on a set of pads...

I'm as guilty as anyone.  As I stood in the parking lot of The Hub talking to Sam, he noticed I was fiddling with my rear lever.  It wasn't snapping back to its happy place.

"Meh.  I just worked on the front one two weeks ago.  The back one was fine.  I guess it's seen as many big rainy days and lake-dunk cleansings as the front."

Not so much a lesson learned for me (I'll never learn), but it just goes to show you that either you learn how to work on your own bikes AND keep up with it, or you find a good mechanic, treat him/her right, and let him/her work on your bike when it needs it.  Don't just ignore your issues and hope they get better.  They don't.

I mentally dealt with my brake issue all day, on top of a few (sorta planned) nutrition and hydration issues.  Not so much planned, but I knew wasn't going to have enough water and food to get through the day in the best possible manner, but it wasn't going to kill me, so fuck it.

I mighta felt like a hobbled and crampy pile of pooh later that day tho.

On Sunday, pull out the pads (which needed replacing... surprise), do the cup/air bubble thing, clean the pistons, remove valve cores for good measure (while I'm already piddling with stuff) and clean them up.


Here's my opinion on sealants. Either you pick a sealant that has very little particulate matter and seems to be all dried up every time you check it (meaning you don't have any sealant to do any actual sealing) or you pick one that has plenty of suspended solids and stays liquid long enough to be useful (but will occasionally need to be cleared from the valve cores).  I'm flat-free (aside from a giant sidewall tear) with TruckerCo Cream for a year and a half now, so I'll deal with a little maintenance if that means I'm not fixing a flat in the woods or standing next to a race course watching the world go by.

And of note, that core was using a test/proto sealant and doesn't reflect normal use.  But, it's the photo I have, so there's that.  Air not going in/coming out of your valve with enthusiasm?  Check you self lest ye wreck you self.

Oh yeah, also of notable notieness.  When you check your air pressure/add air/let some out, do it with the valve stem at 12 o'clock.  You'll be less likely to draw sealant into the core to begin with. Do I always do this? No.  Should I?  Yeth.  When do I remember?  When releasing some pressure with the valve closer to 6 o'clock and sealant comes out.  That's when.

I guess my main point is that if you ignore your mountain bike and don't keep up on maintenance, things are going to squeak, function poorly, break, and generally suck.  Sucky bikes make for sucky rides.

Learn things for yourself (and actually do the work) or visit your local bike shop often.  Life is too short for sucky rides.

Speaking of maintenance, remember when I said that as long as I know I might get to ride Black Mountain again at some point in my life, that's a life worth living?

Well, I was told this weekend that they are marking the corridor for the reroute RIGHT NOW from Turkey Pen down to lower Thrift Cove.  So how about that?  At least people will have something to bitch about for awhile, so that will make things interesting in the interim.

Friday, August 12

A post to fill in for a real post

Things are winding up.  My brain is everywhere.  A text from Jim a couple days ago reminded me that we leave for SSUSA in a week.

Doh.

Still gotta finish packing the By:Stickel for the Duwango Tango Mancation '16.

I really hate shoving my bike in a box.  Such as a messy affair.  Like trying to get anything that comes in a stuff sack back in its respective stuff sack.  I actually pulled a muscle in my stomach getting it in there.  I know that doesn't make sense, but it happened.

Not much going on this weekend except I'm sneaking in one more trip to the mountains, which should be enough to figure out if I have my fjork properly tuned.

Fortunately, I'll be on some of the same trails I've ridden the last three times that I've been up there, so comparisons should be easily made.

Also, I'll be dealing with my personal jellies all day long.

Bill Nye has his Enduro™ machine all built up and ready to ride (once) before taking it all apart to put in a box and ship to Hermosa Tours for the Duwango thing.  Good to see that my poorly thought out purchase of shifty bits is getting back out in the dirt.  I've not seen this completed thing in person, but it sure looks nice from here.

I'll bet it rides like a bunch of sour grapes tho.

Tuesday, August 9

Tuning Fish

You really can't blame me.  In the past, suspension fork manuals have been relatively worthless.  I hate using "sag" as a guideline.  Give me realistic weight/air pressure charts, and I'll go from there.

Even tho most of the time I would initially adhere to the charts, I would go out, have a shitty ride (or two), and adjust from there.  Usually, the suggested air pressures for my weight would be too low.

Anyways.

As far as all the knobs and buttons go on my more modern forks, fast'ish rebound, crank the low speed, rarely ever use anything other than "climb/lockout" and "trail" modes... since the fork would dive too much in the slow chunder on a sick descent (we have that on the Right Coast).

So, I can't say I looked too hard at the Step Cast manual.  This time, it was admittedly a mistake.

Suggestions for rebound speed based on air pressure which is based on weight?  That seems more scientific than "of course I don't want the fastest rebound, so mebbe few clicks in because... burrito?"

Also, those volume spacers.  It should have been an obvious thing to look at in regards to the limited travel I was getting last week.  Feeling shitty physically in addition to Basil saying he has a Fox fjork do something similar in the past... I was thinking that maybe there was too much oil in it.

Didn't really figure they already had two volume spacers in the fjork straight from the factory.  I guess not everyone weighs as much as Emily Batty, so they shot for the middle.  Derp.

So, take out the volume spacers, put the same amount of air back in, one click out on the rebound and full-on low speed compression damping.

Testing it by squishing it up and down in the bike room not good enough this time (not that it was good enough last time).

Sunday.

Hubbs had told me that the Tech Loop at the Backyard Trails was going to be shut down after the weekend for greenway construction.  I told him that as much as I will miss it, I don't ride BYT in the summer anymore.  Too much poison ivy and it's the most humid place in Charlotte (maybe on the planet).

But it is the closest place and it does have plenty of smaller hucks and such, not to mention there's a few flowy downhill'esque sections.

Shit. I'll go to the BYT.

Jump, flow, jump, huck on to the Tech Loop... run into Hubbs on his respective farewell ride.  Chat about the future of the BYT.

Finish talking to him, get bit/stung in the neck, run into him again (such is the nature of the BYT, insect encounters and running into the same people over and over).

He tells me that he was attacked by fire ants the last time he was there.  The fact that he didn't refer to them as "spicy boys" affirms my belief that Hubbs does a good job keeping his distance from the internet.

In the end, it was just enough of a ride to prove what a moron I can be, if I allow it, which I do... often.

My original tooo-slow rebound setting was causing the fjork to pack up on the gnar downhills and when added to the limited air volume, I had minimal useful travel when things were getting hairy.  This affected traction, kept the fork compressed too much (making the HTA wonky), and also made it hard to get the front end off the ground to get over obstacles (stupid but sexy rebound knob).

I should mention this is the first fork I've owned with three settings/compression damping modes that I've actually enjoyed riding in the "open" or "descend" mode most of the time.  Had I remembered what I read oh-so long ago in Michael Cushionbury's review on Dirt Rag...

"I mostly kept the fork in open mode, rather than the middle setting, because compared to pre-2016 offerings, that setting now performs very well. Only when the trail smoothed out for longer stretches did I go to medium. And of course firm was great for pavement and gravel riding to the trailhead."

Yeah, had I remembered, perhaps I woulda figured out I was doing something wrong from the get-go.

A ride at BYT does not equate to a ride in the mountains tho.  I'm looking at one more ride next week (prolly local) and then SSUSA in Allegrippis (which is pretty rigid frok friendly)... and that's it until SM100.

Still on the fence, but one leg is closer to the ground than the other right now.