Wednesday, June 22, 2011

2011 Briar Chapel XC Race --Back to Earth.

So, after my better than expected 24hr Burn, the next event on the calendar is the XC race at Briar Chapel.  Yes, a race that requires speed is just what I needed to shrink my expanded head and bring me back down to earth.  This is an interesting course in that it is mostly fast and flowy, but there are a handful of spots spread out on the ~6 mile course that present a challenge.  A couple of short rock gardens, a short yet narrow rock/rooty/technical slow speed accent, and a nice sized log-over (16"-18") were areas that caused a few problems for even intermediate racers.  During the pre-ride a week before, I was able to clear all obstacles (had to, there was a girl riding right behind me), so I felt pretty confident about that aspect of the race.
 The area I was not sure about was division.  Now while I will only ride a Single Speed, that does not mean I will only race in the single speed class.  This class consisted of three sandbagers guys that I already knew would smoke me, then a bunch of other guys that I did not know, so I signed up for 40+ (need to act my age); but then I though how this might be my 26" Soul Cycles Hooligan's last race (cracked frame), so at the last minute I decided to switch to single speed class to send my beloved bike out the right way.
The race started well.  We were sent up and back on a gravel road to help spread us out, it worked.  I went out a little harder than usual to try and avoid any backlog on the single track, and I rode the entire race nearly unobstructed.  Everyone I encountered was cool about passing, and little to no time was lost in this area of the race.
As far as single speed or 40+, turns out I did not make the most advantageous decision, but I knew that going in.  I go smoked in the single speed division, not even sniffing the podium; however, in the 40+ I would have likely been 2nd or 3rd.  (the scoring corrections were not exactly correct, but that's cool).  Still, I rode what felt like my best XC race ever, ~18 miles at ~11.2mph (32:18 gearing).  I have ridden that pace before in XC,  but over less distance.  Then again, my odometer is not dialed in so who knows, but hey, it felt fast, I definitely left it all on the course, and I did not get hurt, so all is good.  My only mishaps: I had one low speed endo' during lap 1, but was able to stay on me feet, pick up the bike and get going.  Then in lap two I dropped my chain in the uphill rocky/rooty area.  I  had to get it put back on (lost maybe 30-40 sec.) but what a fun race and a learning experience.  What did I learn? you ask.  I learned that XC is not my strength (actually I knew this already).  The longer the race, the better I am likely to do, I mean how many people are stupid enough to want to ride for 12-24 hrs???  :)
Thanks go out to Steve Rogers and Volunteers for orchestrating such a fun event.  Good Times (but next time I go 40+). ;)

Thursday, June 16, 2011

26er or 29er? The Time Has Come.

Gotta have the white one!
The unthinkable has happened.  I have a crack in my beautiful Soul Cycles Hooligan.  It is not a big crack, and it is not in a catastrophic area (where the upper rear triangle meets the seat tube), but it has increased slightly.  So now the question.  Do I stick with a 26er or go with a 29er?  If I was ever going to get a 29er, now would be the time.  Well, lucky for me, Chad B., owner of Soul Cycles is going to warranty the frame and send me a new 16" Dillinger in white (26" is no longer being made).  I bought the 26" frame because I heard great things about their support and customer service.  All I can say is Wow!  I would urge anyone considering a 29er to check out the Dillinger (can be run SS or geared)...commercial over.   So now I just need a fork, wheelset and tires; all other parts will be swapped over from my Hooligan (unless I decide I need a new stem, grips etc.).  ;)

To help make the "29er transition", Matt R. hooked me up with his buddy Alex who runs  Alex is going to allow me to demo a few bikes in return for honest reviews, and I get the experience of riding a 29er on real trails.  The first bike I tried was a Specialized Camber Elite.  This is a 30+lb. Full suspension 29er in a size large.  When I first sat on it and rode around the parking lot at San Lee I thought, "Don't like it...too big, too bulky etc."  Interestingly, about 1/3 through the ride, I was sold.  I was clearing all the rocky areas and even clearing tight switchbacks (up and down hill); clearing areas I sometimes dab on my 26er.  Naturally, this bike had no problem sticking to a line so downhills were bombin' fun!  Next up, Specialized Epic Carbon!

Also a big thanks to Kelly and Vanessa for letting me borrow one of their 29ers.  Kelly and I spent some time making Vanessa's geared Salsa El Mariachi into a Single Speed that I could use for a few weeks.  the 15.5 inch frame is a bit tight (and the bike is a tank), but I will just put on a setback post and a longer stem (from 70mm to 100mm) and it will be nice.  Also, before I knew I was getting a warrantied frame, several riders (Dave and Nate to name a few) have offered to let me Demo there bikes to give me a solid 29er feel, very cool, thanks guys; beer is on me.

Mmmm, looks delicious!
I was given a lot of crap from my friends for riding a 26er.  And I gave a lot back by defending the smaller wheels.  I still feel like I don't need a 29er, I have done well on my 26er, but I must admit that I have experienced the advantages of the bigger wheels (better rolling/traction...); and the so-called disadvantages (handling/turning...) turned out to be irrelevant.  Guess I will need to change my blog and email to get rid of the "26".  I will get to that right after I finish eating some crow.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Riding Again After the Burn, And Other Thoughts.

My first ride after the Burn24 was four days later at Harris Lake.  Sure was nice to ride trails that were not going to kick my butt.  Still, like a totaly newb I show up without gloves...legs were still tired, but after 4 or 5 miles it was my hands that had had enough.  I rode one lap of the Burn without gloves and it sucked.  I was quickly reminded of the soft spots still on my hands, so after one loop (9 miles), I had enough and wrapped my sore mitts around a cold beer (thanks Andy).
The next ride came a few days later at Creedmore.  Jeff (who took first at the Burn and 3rd at Warrior Creek (to name a couple of his many accomplishments)) was there to push the pace along with Jim, Jay L (my PMBAR partner) and Bobby.  Jeff and Bobby led this ride and set a pretty tough pace of ~9mph for the first several miles.  We ended up with 24 miles, but the first 7 or 8, while not quite XC pace, were certainly faster than 6hr pace.  Now all these riders are interesting characters, but Bobby deserves special mention for three reasons: One, he is a bit like me, and two he brought Power Aid and Klondike bars to share with honor of our Burn24 success he said.  
The Klondike Bars were soft but delicious.  Thanks Bobby!
So, how is Bobby like me?  Not by looks...there he is the opposite of me (short, bald and handsome), but I remember he started getting serious about riding shortly after I did.  I had some initial success winning* the TORC XC Series (*35+ division), then taking 2nd in the Endurance Series (Single Speed Class).  While I was content to bask in my weekend warrior success, Bobby continued to ride more and more, getting better and better.  Then wouldn't you know it, he kicked my butt in the 6BC six-hour race at Briar Chapel late last year.  Shortly after, he suffered a nasty injury but has come back just serves as a positive reminder that I ride with guys all the time that don't always race, but that kick (my) butt if/when they do.  Really, the only props I deserve is that I show up, and hopefully I ride hard when I do.  I know as well as anyone that I only make a podium if certain people don't show up.  And you know what?  (short pause for you to say, "What?")  I am o.k. with that.

Oh, that 3rd reason Bobby deserves special mention...he said he reads the blog, so this is to find out if he is telling the truth or not. :)