Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Wednesday Wreckage

The human body is a funny thing. I say this as sit here with my legs burning and my back spasming. A very funny thing, indeed.

Today I did a ride not unlike the others I have been doing for the last six Wednesdays. I stretched the mileage out a bit, but only an extra five miles or so. I rode a little harder this week, but not that much harder. I also rode the night before and probably didn't hydrate very well afterwards. I also lost a good portion of my fuel somewhere during the ride. All or some or none of these things contributed to some of the worst cramps I have ever experienced toward the end of the ride.

Everything started well enough. I set off from the truck on my single speed with 100 ounces of water in the CamelBak, two packs of GU, and water bottle filled with Accelerade sports drink. The morning was cool, which was nice after the seemingly endless string of hot rides this summer. I felt good and clicked off the first 10 miles easily and quickly. Same for the next 10.

Somewhere after that halfway point I reached down for my energy drink and it was gone. It had ejected and I hadn't noticed. I didn't even take a single sip. No worries; I had a packet of GU and kept going.

At the 30-mile mark I had the second GU and figured I had plenty in the tank for the last 10 miles back. I took a sip out of the CamelBak to wash down the GU and came up empty. I had downed 100 ounces of water in 30 miles.

I stopped at Beal's Point for a sip of water from a fountain, and it tasted horrible. Really bad. I opted not to put any in the CamelBak, which might have been kind of dumb.

At around mile 35 the cramps started. At first they weren't too bad, just some twinges in the quads. By mile 38 I was in full cramp mode. I had them in my triceps, quads, groin and calves. It was awful. I couldn't pedal in the saddle without cramping so I stood up for the last couple miles, pedaling a few strokes at a time and coasting. If I kept my knees locked I could keep the cramps at bay. This is not the preferred method of pedaling a bike, and I'm sure more than a few people who passed me in the final stretch wondered what the hell was wrong with me. "I saw this guy today, and I think he crashed and jammed a log up his ass."

When I made it back to the aquatic center I made a bee-line for a water fountain and drank for a solid two minutes. As I rode away I could hear the water sloshing in my stomach.

In the end I got the 40 miles I wanted, but it hurt. I hope it was just an anomaly since I have a 50-mile race on the horizon that will be much tougher than this little ride.


Saturday, September 26, 2009

Master Your Race

Bike race, that is. Do it on a 29er: the blonde-haired, blue-eyed super bike.


Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Feels Like the First Time

One of the enduring themes when recovering from an injury is the list of "firsts." You continually find yourself saying, "For the first time since I tore/separated/sprained/broke my (insert body part) I went (insert mundane activity). I'm really tired of saying it at this point, but it just seems to keep coming up.

In early 2007 I contracted Walt Wehner to build my ultimate single speed. Ultimate, at least, for an able-bodied rider who had never sustained an injury worse than a scrape or bruise in 23 years of mountain biking. How quickly that ultimate bike became a wall-mounted display.

When I designed the bike, I went with a rigid, non-suspension corrected fork. It is roughly 2.5 inches shorter than a suspension fork would be. If you were to install a suspension fork on the bike, it would ride horribly because the head angle would be about 2.5 degrees shallower. Think chopper. Add the change in bottom bracket height, seat angle and top tube length and you have a real mess. That didn't matter, though. I would never want a suspension fork. I was a single speeder, man. Pure. Hard core. Tough.

About 18 weeks after placing the order, the frame and fork showed up at my door. I built up the bike and rode it a grand total of three times before breaking my wrist in The Crash. But three rides was enough to know it was a great bike. We (Walt and I) nailed it.

Fast forward to last night. I eyed the dusty orange bike on the wall in the garage, the bike that had taunted me for almost two years, and I decided it was time to ride it. Since my wrist has been feeling pretty good lately, I figured I might as well see if this bike was ever going to be useful to me.

Up to this point I have been using a suspension fork for all my off-road riding. I was able to get past my hatred for climbing on a single speed with a suspension fork. Really, I had no choice. If I wanted to single speed, it had to be with suspension. In time I actually grew to like it.

Would I even LIKE riding a rigid bike now?

The last time I rode the bike was night ride with Doug in October of 2007, so I gave it a quick tuning last night, although it didn't need much more than air in the tires, some chain lube and a rear brake adjustment.

I took it out to do the normal Wednesday Lake Natoma-Granite Bay ride this morning. After riding the Moncog for so long, it was a real eye-opener to ride something light. Railing out of corners and flying over steep little climbs was a blast. I was climbing up many more hills in the saddle with this bike. It's SO fast.

The rigid fork wasn't much of an issue, really. The lack of bar ends was a much bigger problem than the fork. It was the first time (hey, another first!) I have not used bar ends, and my wrist wasn't digging the lateral bending when climbing. That's a good thing, though, so I'm not going to put bar ends on this bike. Oh, and I'll be keeping the bike.

Anyway, here's a picture from the top of one of the climbs:

So is there really a difference between a $175 Chinese frame and a custom-built frame? Um, yeah.

I need to wrap this up, so here are the final ride stats:
  • 35 miles
  • 3 park rangers
  • 1 rattlesnake
  • 1 ground squirrel, crushed, RIP (sixth career kill)
  • 1 flat tire (shocking, I know)
  • 1 sore wrist
  • 1 happy camper


Thursday, September 17, 2009

Dirty Pigs

The swine flu is coming. This is fact. I know it because my employer, the illustrious State of California, is preparing for it. The government of California is never wrong.

Witness the new sign in my restroom at work:

It joins the helpful sign from earlier this summer which pleads with us to save our water:

The hand washing sign goes into great detail regarding the proper way to wash one's hands:

I especially like the part where you are told to leave the water running, walk to the paper towel holder, dispense the paper towels, dry your hands, walk back to the faucet, and THEN you carefully use the paper towel to turn off that precious water.

Nice. I wonder why this state is bankrupt?


Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Breakin' the Law

Sometimes life gets a bit boring. When it does, I like to get a shot of adrenalin by performing death-defying feats on the mountain bike. When that isn't enough, I ride the single speed to make it tougher. If that doesn't do it, I ride at night to make it even more difficult and dangerous. And when that doesn't do it for me, I like to go out and break the law and get chased by the fuzz, man. What a rush.

Today I was out doing the normal single speed ride around Lake Natoma and Folsom Lake. For the last few rides I have been adhering to the rules, as ridiculous as they are, and not riding on the illegal trails. Today, however, I decided to poach a couple little stretches that I really like. The first section was fine, but when I reached the end of the second section, a ranger was there waiting for me.

I quickly turned around, hoping he didn't see me. In a couple minutes I got back to the start of the section, and what do you know: another ranger was waiting there.

They pretty much had me trapped.

I turned around again and rode while I looked for a place to bail. I decided to go over a ridge and down to the main gravel levy road, the very one the rangers were parked on.

I ran and pushed as fast as I could over the ridge. My plan was to get back to the first ranger so quickly that he would think there was no way I could be the same guy. As I approached the road, I looked both ways and I couldn't see any rangers. I mounted up and rode as fast as I could toward ranger one.

When I came around the last corner, there he was sitting on the bumper of his truck. As I rode up to him I said, "How's it going?"

He eyed me for what seemed like forever before giving me a very slight nod.

I rode past and waited for him to stop me, but he didn't. I think being bold and aggressive might have saved me. Whatever it was, I was thankful to escape the lecture and/or $270 fine.

A couple minutes later I looked down and my socks were full of foxtails. I was so obvious I went boonie crashing. I really think he gave me a free pass.

I enjoyed the rest of the ride, as always. On the way back I kept it cool and avoided the temptation of the forbidden singletrack.

About the only other thing worth reporting on was a tortoise sighting. I can't recall ever seeing one on a ride before. He was a big guy, about nine inches long. He wasn't very interested in coming out for a picture, though:


Thursday, September 10, 2009

Goats Head Soup

The basic plan for Wednesdays is to go mountain biking. However, since I did a couple tough rides on Monday and Tuesday, I wasn't up for a full-on mountain bike ride yesterday. I opted to do an "easier" dirt/road combo ride from the house.

I have a general route that connects a lot of the trails in the area, but yesterday I did it in reverse for the first time. You don't really realize how much descending you are doing on a ride until you reverse the route and climb up all those fun downhills.

The first section was the trail through Serrano, which is basically a gravel road. Then it's on to New York Creek, a great little piece of singletrack. I usually do this ride with a rigid fork, but yesterday I was riding the Jamis Dragon with a Reba, and it was so much more fun. Since I have been hitting the dirt a bit more, I really feel like my handling skills are coming back.

The next trail is Hidden Acres, another cool trail that almost connects New York Creek with Brown's Ravine. It's a no-no trail for bikes, and since a park ranger was camped out at the gate, staring me down, I rode right on by.

After a short road transition, I was on the Brown's Ravine trail. I really like that trail. Again, I felt like my old self. Finally. Just riding and not worrying about my wrist. It is what it is, and I've learned to ride with the "handicap."

It's sad to see Folsom Lake without water again. The marina is empty. All the boats are in the parking lot.

On the plus side, without boats the lake is calm and peaceful.

After Brown's, it's another short road transition on Sophia Parkway to the next trail, which is another gravel fireroad. It's about two miles long with a tough climb at the beginning and a ridiculously steep climb at the end. I had to climb it out of the saddle in a 32x32, stuck in that precarious place between spinning the rear tire and flipping over backwards. Very steep.

After a short singletrack descent I was back on the road where I noticed I had a rear flat. I stopped and found the goathead. I looked for a shady spot to throw in my spare tube.

When I got going again I jumped on the trail that links Iron Point Road to El Dorado Hills Blvd. This is where I got the second flat, this time with five goatheads in the front tire. I patched the previously flat tube with only one hole and put it in front.

On the long singletrack climb back up through the back side of Serrano I picked up a couple more thorns in my front tire. I didn't seem to be losing air, so I just kept going.

By the time I got home the front tire was going a little soft, but I made it. Within an hour it was totally flat.

It was a really great ride, especially since doing it backwards made it so much different, but the flat tires took some of the fun out of it.


Wednesday, September 02, 2009

California Dreamin'

When I set out to partake in an activity, I usually assess whether or not the activity is worth blogging about. Does it have blog appeal? Does the activity inherently possess the ultimate essence of blogginess?

If so, I grab the camera as I head out the door and start formulating the post in my head as I drive. Today's post was to be about a really great ride I did, in a place I haven't been to in a while, and all the great memories the area would invoke: the 24-hour races, the cross-country races, the victory, the defeat, the heat, the cold, the dust and the mud, the friendships that were forged, and encountering Sasquatch in the night. I would expertly weave all these things together, and produce my greatest post ever. My epic. My Moby Dick. People from every corner of the world would be saying, "Did you see SS29er's last post? It was . . . awesome. It changed my life."

Then I arrived at the trail to find this shiny new sign, and everything vaporized.

California is crumbling: our economy, our jobs, our infrastructure, our government, our parks. The standard of living we were used to is gone. Our status in the world is gone.

So due to budget problems, the parking area that was free for as long as the recreation area has existed now has a day use fee. Is it two bucks? Nope. Four bucks? No, it's TEN freaking dollars. Really, how many people are going to drop a ten spot to ride around in circles on a boring loop? It's not like it's Tahoe, Crested Butte, Marin or Moab. It's a dusty damn fire road in Cool, California.

Schwarzenegger took 15% of my pay, but he wasn't getting my ten bucks, so I drove across the street to a church and parked. But when I saw this sign, I left. I thought they were just too damned pretentious. I mean, what makes them cooler than the next Lutheran church?

Then I drove a little farther and found this:

Park and ride. How appropriate. I find it very funny that this free, state-run facility is a quarter mile from another state-run parking lot that charges $10. Suck it, Schwarzenegger. Dirty bastard.

With ten extra bucks in my pocket, I went out and did my ride. It was not epic. It was not that fun.

I rode the loop from the 2007 24-hour race, which is about 11 miles. One of the trail sections built for that race was overgrown and obviously had not been used since then, so I took about 1000 star thistle thorns in the shins. So nice.

Most of the loop is wide, dusty, rocky, rutted fire road with the occasional piece of singletrack. The only thing that keeps the loop from being completely useless is the tough climbing. People usually get readings between 1200 and 1500 feet per lap on their GPS units, so at least it's good training.

On the next time around I avoided the trail of shredded shins and took a new trail that looked to be recently built. It was actually pretty good, and a nice departure from the crappy fire road. Unfortunately, the damn horses had turned everything into powdered sugar. Worthless beasts. After a couple rains it should be nice.

This section gave me a break from the sun, and I briefly forgot that I was riding the boredom loop in Cool.

Although I set out to do three laps, the boredom kept me to two. I wanted 30 miles but settled for 24.