Thursday, October 29, 2009

El Viento Grita Maria

When I woke up yesterday, I wasn’t motivated to ride. I could hear the strong wind blowing from the north, and I don’t care for the wind. In fact, give me anything else—searing heat, freezing temperatures, rain—and I’ll be happy to ride in it. However, the wind and I have always had an uneasy relationship. When I say this, I’m just trying to be nice. The truth is, we absolutely hate each other.

Until the last few years, I have always been a pretty skinny guy. Even now, at 5-10 and 167 pounds, nobody would call me fat. But as recently as five years ago I was racing at 148 pounds. The wind has its way with someone that size on a bike. The wind is a bully. It pushes, shoves, pulls and kicks sand in your face. It laughs at you. Calls you weak. Says stuff about your mom.

Ask a big, strong rider how he feels about the wind, and he might just shrug; it has little effect on them. Ask a skinny guy, and he will tell you in great detail how much he hates it, his diatribe most likely peppered with expletives.

Years ago, I remember my buddy Steve and I setting out on our daily training ride on a windy day. We were planning on a ride around Folsom Lake, which was about 65 miles round-trip from where we lived. After around 15 miles of the wind blowing in my face, I turned around and went home. Steve completed the ride alone, and didn’t speak to me for a couple days. I loved riding with Steve, but I hated the wind just a little bit more.

Since Wednesday is the only day I’m guaranteed a mountain bike ride, I felt like I had to go. I dragged myself out of bed and prepped the bike, ate breakfast, and headed out the door with the kids. After dropping them off at school, I drove to the trail.

It was clear and cold, and the north wind made the 46 degree morning feel much colder. I spun out of the parking lot eager to reach the woods where the wind would be blocked somewhat by the trees.

Riding in the woods on a windy day has always given me the creeps, and yesterday was no different. It’s unnerving to ride under huge trees and hear the creaking and groaning coming from above as they sway in the wind. It was only a couple miles before I saw proof my uneasiness was not unfounded:

The branch was so freshly snapped the scent of pine was still in the air. Nice.

I rode on and enjoyed myself in spite of the cold. When I reached Beal's Point, bulldozers were working on the dyke. The dirt levy road was blocked off and a detour sign pointed me down the entry road to the left. When I reached the bottom I found this sign:

Yep, the detour was through illegal singletrack.

While part of me was happy to ride some of my favorite trails without fearing The Man, part of me was also pissed. If riding these trails is such a horrible, heinous crime against humanity that it carries a $270 fine, why is it OK now? Shouldn't we be routed out to Auburn-Folsom Road so that no horsies or hikers lose their outdoor experience? So that no calamitous collision occurs between equine and our knobby-tired killing machines?

Yes, I'm being over dramatic. Sue me. But if mixing user groups on these trails is a huge problem, a dangerous situation, then wouldn't the trail just be closed to mountain bikes during the dyke work?


Monday, October 26, 2009

Got Milk?

The last race I had planned to do this season was yesterday, and I was not there. I elected to skip it because I was feeling pretty tired.

Last week was rough as far as rest and relaxation were concerned. The typical week is crazy anyway, with long work days, the kids’ homework, Taekwondo, running errands, making dinner, etc. We never get enough rest considering we get up at 3:30 a.m. for work.

Normally Friday night is a time to lie around and unwind, but we scored free tickets to the last Sacramento Kings preseason game Friday night. After working our 10-hour shift, we rushed home to grab the kids. We then ran errands related to the next day’s birthday party before grabbing a quick bite to eat and barely making tipoff at 7:00. After the game was the long drive home for me, in horrible post-game traffic, while everyone else slept. My head hit the pillow at 11:30 p.m.

On Saturday we got up (too early) and started preparing for my son’s sixth birthday party. It went off fairly smoothly, although herding six-year-olds through a movie and pizza party can be a bit stressful. We were finished and back home by 3:00. I was exhausted and knew at that point it would be dumb to race.

Yesterday I woke up and lounged around, eventually parking myself in front of the TV to watch the first half of the 49ers game. At halftime, with the Niners down 21-0, I suddenly wanted to go for a ride. Although it was late in the day, I decided to go mountain biking.

I performed a quick maintenance job on my single speed, which hadn’t been touched since the race two weeks ago. I threw it in the truck and headed to Salmon Falls.

I had not been to Salmon Falls in about two years. Due to how rough the ride is, I didn’t want to do it until I felt my wrist was ready. After banging through the 50-mile race a couple weeks ago with no issues, I was ready.

Right out of the parking lot is the most technical, rocky climb on the ride. I almost made it all the way up before screwing up right at the top. After that I cleaned every hill and rock garden the rest of the way.

Along the way I saw this guy:

Since I had my camera out, I took the obligatory MTBR bike + scenery shot:

Towards the end of the ride I was feeling a little weak. I really needed something other than water. That's when I saw this Holstein cow:

I hadn't milked a cow since high school agriculture class, but I figured I would give it a shot. I needed some energy drink!

It was tough to aim the milk into the small mouth of a waterbottle. Milking a cow is much easier with a proper milk bucket. I wish I could have taken pictures, but my hands were full of teats.

After the milking I continued to ride while the milk cooled in my bottle. Who wants 101.5 degree milk? (That's the body temp of a healthy cow.)

After a few miles I stopped to try it out:

Hot damn, did that hit the spot!


Monday, October 12, 2009

Race Report: Knickerbocker 50

It’s been a while since I typed the words “race report.” It feels quite nice.

Saturday was the Knickerbocker 8-hour/50 miler, which took place in Cool, CA. Since my first couple attempts at 8-hour races were not very successful, I opted for the 50 mile option in the Beginner/Sport Single Speed class. I’m OK with being a sport class racer, but I hate the fact that “beginner” is part of the class name. I have been racing for a long, long time, so I am no beginner. However, by no means am I an Expert/Pro anymore, which was my only other option for racing single speed.

I broke one of the cardinal rules in racing by making a big change to my bike the night before the race. I had been running a 34x20 (1.7 : 1) gear for the past few months, but last time I rode the Cool course the gear was a bit tall for my liking. I called around looking for a 21-tooth freewheel, so I could run a 34x21 (1.619 : 1), but this podunk cow town was fresh out. I had to switch out my cranks to get a 32-tooth chainring on there, which gave me a 32x20 (1.6 : 1) gear.

I went to bed that night and had a tough time sleeping. It had been 21 months since I last toed the starting line, and my wrist was still a question mark. I had not stressed the joint like it would be in this race. I was concerned about my wrist, my fitness, the distance, the cramps . . .

One thing that helped greatly was my buddy Doug deciding to come out and race. I felt a lot better about my chances of finishing the race with a partner to ride and pace with.

On race morning it was a bit cool and breezy. Reports from the course all said the same thing: super dry and dusty.

The course would be a 12.5 mile loop that we would ride four times, each lap with about 1750 feet of climbing.

We started with a Le Mans start, which means you run to your bike. I really hate having to run in cycling shoes, but the intent was to spread out the pack before hitting the trail in an effort to make the dust more manageable. I don't think it helped much. The dust was pretty bad for the first couple miles.

After that things spread out a bit and the dust was manageable, but still ever present. Doug and I settled into our race pace, which was a pretty comfortable tempo that never really taxed me much aerobically.

Lap one was pretty uneventful. There was more singletrack than when I last raced there in 2007, so I was actually enjoying the ride. We walked up the steep climb out of Knickerbocker Creek. I ride this climb during regular rides, but there's no reason to do it in a race; you can go just as fast walking and not destroy your legs.

The climb out of Salt Creek was great. My gearing choice was perfect and I was very comfortable on the climb all day. When we crested the top I was actually kind of surprised how easy the lap was. I felt confident I could finish the race.

Not too far into the second lap I had a twinge in my calf. I could not believe a cramp was coming on already. I upped my fluid and fuel intake and hoped for the best.

The second time up the Salt Creek climb the cramps really started to creep up. They weren't full on cramps, but I could feel them lurking. When we arrived to the start/finish area, I gorged myself on energy drink and gels. After lubing our bone-dry chains, we rode off for lap three, and I felt uncomfortably full.

On the third lap my triceps started cramping, so I tried to stay seated. Doug was spending much more time in the saddle on the climbs, so I tried to do the same to give my arms a break. At the rest stop, which was mid-lap, I again fueled up with a small cup of sports drink and a gel. On the third trip up Salt Creek my legs wanted to blister it, but I was still barely holding off the cramps, so I rode a nice tempo. Even so, I was passing quite a few people. It's a weird feeling to have really good legs and not be able to use them because of cramps.

Before the fourth lap, I drank about 30 ounces of sports drink and ate another gel. We soft pedaled much of the first half of the fourth lap because both of us were on the verge of cramping. At the rest stop they gave us some Endurolytes, which are capsules filled with electrolytes. I don't know if it was the capsules or just the fact that I was smelling the barn, but on the fourth trip up the Salt Creek climb I felt great.

After that we rolled down to the finish and it was over. I felt pretty fresh, and were it not for the cramps, I really felt like I had another couple laps in me.

Doug rode really well. He consistently pulled away from me (and others) on the downhills with the rigid fork, and climbed really well even though his 32x19 gear might have been a little tall for 7000 feet of climbing. I certainly couldn't have pushed that gear.

We ended up first and second in the Single Speed Beginner/Sport class. This may sound more impressive than it was, since there were three people in our class.

We had a cold keg of microbrew waiting at the finish, which tasted pretty damn good after the effort. It was a fun day and it felt great to finally get back out there and do some racing.

On to the pictures. Me after the race:

Doug bringing it home:

"Are you talking to us?"

Talking to Roger as he refuels for his next lap with PBR:

Roger describing how he passed me like a rocket:

Tinker wins the overall LNT series title:

Tinker attempts to run over me with his new scooter:

Todd and Roger mugging for the fans:


Saturday, October 10, 2009

Go Time

Doug's getting ready rumble!

Friday, October 02, 2009

Redemption Song

After my horrible ride on Wednesday, I was dying to get back out and see if it was just a fluke, or if I was going to have cramping issues in my upcoming race.

I was supposed to go on a field trip with my son today, but he ended up getting sick. Since I had the day off anyway, I slipped out for a ride.

I rode the same route I did on Wednesday and had no issues with cramps. I felt good and rode strong. I guess I just had an off day last time.