Friday, April 27, 2012

Niner Sir 9: First Ride Review

The Green Machine after the inaugural ride.
It is clean, it is green, and it is a machine.  I recently built up this Niner Sir 9 as my back up bike for my wife to ride, but it has only seen double-track as well as the pavement around our neighborhood (o.k., and one short .3 mile test ride on my backyard single-track by Nate's girlfriend).  I've been itching to ride this beauty, so when the wife had some cancellations and came home early, I was off!   
Due to a small amount of recent rain, I knew most ‘official’ trails would be closed, so I decided to go to my favorite ‘unofficial‘ trail off Old Reedy Creek Rd.   The plan: ~12 miles of single-track and maybe more.  Unfortunately, I found out the airport area had received much more rain than the southern part of the county as the trails were soaking wet & muuudy.  I rode less than 4 miles of single-track before I was back out onto Umstead.  :(
Fortunately the bike performed well in spite of the wet, slick conditions.  My biggest reason for wanting to get this beast on the trails was NOT to compare my scandium One9 ride to the ride of steel (the steel was noticeably better, but more on that some other time) but to test the new 1x9 drive-train setup.  I am using a sweet looking bash w/ an N-Gear Jump Stop to keep the chain steady.  Even though I know others using this set-up successfully, I have read (on forums) of people losing their chain as well (install error?), so I wanted to bounce down some trail to test it out.  Now I did not bomb down any trails with the wet conditions, but I aimed for every rock and root to get my bounce on.  I was happy not only with the chain staying in place, but also that there was no discernible chain-slap on the lower chain-stay (I guess Dillon @ Dillon Bikes took out the correct amount of chain-links for me).  Being that I have not ridden gears on trails in a long time, I was amazed at how much better traction was when I geared down.  Sure, I went slower than normal, but there was no spinning out on slippery rocks or roots and the aerobic workout was stellar and necessary for my tired legs.  When I hit Umstead afterward, I was also amazed at how much slower I climbed with the gears, but also how much faster I could descend and ride on flats.  On the slightly downhill section from the cemetery to my car I was consistently hitting 23+ mph by gearing down.  On my normal 32:20, I am lucky to hit 15mph on semi-flat Umstead areas (with some downhill momentum).  So in summary: I think I will need to ride this bike more to be able to give a fair and honest review *wink*.    
Bashguard w/N-Gear Jump Stop

The 1x9 setup had no issues

I will say that my decision to build up this green machine (for my wife, of course) is looking better and better.

Wheelset close up --Stans Arch's w/Hope ProII Hubs.

Almost done!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

2012 ORC HTFU 100 -- Rain Delay

After postponing the race due to another event being postponed due to rain, we rode 100 miles in the rain.  What a day!
Mine started at ~4 a.m., there was thunder and lightning visible from the crack in the drapes, and it was raining, hard.  My wife wakes me up to tell me (in a serious, somewhat angry tone) that she wants me to reconsider riding this morning.  I look up at the clock and say, “You woke me up at 4 in the morning to tell me this?”  She went on using words like ridiculous, crazy, right mind…but I had already started trying to get back to sleep )really, we have been married for almost 10 years, does she even know me?).  At ~4:30 I am woken up again by her talking.  I turn to her and ask what she said. “Nothing.”  “Were you talking in your sleep?” “No”, “Were you talking to me?” “Yes.” “Well, what did you say?” “Never mind.” “Really? Are we going to play this game?” “Fine, I said you have more machismo than brains!” “Oh, thank you.” And I went back to sleep again, in-spite of the loud noises made by her eyes rolling.  When I do wake up, it is still raining, hard.  I go to the computer to see who all has cancelled (a few), I get ready, grab my usual banana and chocolate milk breakfast (along with a half eaten power bar) and off I go.

Fast Forward to 7ish.  When I pull up to park on ORC Jeff, Steve and Matt are already there.  The rain is coming down pretty steadily, but this is an HTFU ride, so we get ready and by 7:05 we are off.  We are all surprised Mark is not here, but think we may run into him.  Just after crossing hwy 40 we see someone coming up behind us.  It is not Mark but Geoff, and then before we even get to the gate, Mark shows up.  So six of us set off for the ride.
Single-track was not really an option. Our route consisted of a bizarre Umstead loop (1.5 loops really) and then the decision that we should try to link Greenway to the ATT.  We did, eventually, but Matt first led us on a couple of mini loops around the streets of Cary.  We were kinda going the right way, just with a couple loops or out and backs thrown in (the longest being 7 miles)…no one seemed to mind because after all, the goal was 100 miles, in the rain; how we got those miles was inconsequential at this point.
I should mention that because Geoff rode ~200 road miles Saturday, he rode with us for ~40 miles before heading home.  Kudos to him for showing up in this weather.
I probably should not share this next event, so I will be coy and you will need to infer the facts.  The last stretch of greenway was brought to a halt due to some MASSIVE construction of a new…uh, road.  Once we navigated past this ‘road’, and onto the last stretch of greenway, it was only a few miles to the ATT.  We rode ~5 miles down to the New Hill entrance (see pic) and then headed back the way we came.  At this point we were 50-60 miles in and were hungry! 
Next Stop, Jimmy Johns.

Matt was true to his word and flipped the bill for the five lunches.  Interestingly, I saw three #10’s and one #14 (can’t remember what Matt had), but they are delicious.  The best part of JJ’s sandwiches is the bread.  It is soft and delicious, but also light in that it does not take over the sandwich the way a large chain competitors does (if you could not crack that code, I am talking about Subway).
Alright, lunch is over, we are all feeling better and we hit the Black Creek Greenway back to Umstead. Steve had to bail due to a time constraint ( I think he was only going to ride as far as he needed to get the Jimmy John’s sandwich, so I am glad we ate later rather than sooner so he had to man up and ride for ~72 miles).  Now we are down to four.  We decide on an Umstead lap, and a trip out the Reedy Creek Greenway toward Ben & Jerry’s.  Due to the weather, we decided not to stop for ice cream (shocking!) and just keep pedaling as we realized that whenever we stopped, the odometer stops also (very frustrating).  At this point (~mile 80) I hit the wall.  I had some energy, but absolutely no power.  I did not walk, but I was crawling up inclines.  Everybody was leaving me behind, and I did not care.  If you have done long rides, you get to that point where you don’t care about anything other than finishing.  Luckily Matt was not feeling great also (though better than me) and he stuck with me for most of the remaining miles while Jeff and Mark rode far in front of us.  When Matt and I finally made it back to the cars, we still needed  over ½ a mile, so we coasted down the hill and across the ORC bridge before the water treatment facility and then a short (~.15)  out and back on the greenway to get our final tally.  FWIW, yes, it rained the entire time.  The heaviest was the first few hours before dropping to a drizzle.  But at that point, it did not matter.  We were all soaked and we were going to finish.  Glad I did the ride, glad I had good company, glad it is over!
At ATT New Hill Area.
 100 miles baby!
Finally Done.

Some of the highlights from the ride:

Matt literally running into the wall going through a greenway tunnel.  From behind it literally looked like he fell asleep while riding and just leaned into the wall.  Because it was a tunnel, the sound of his shoulder and bar end scraping against the concrete was pretty loud.  Still, he held on and rode on out.  Talk about ‘hitting the wall’.

Mark showed us a new route through Umstead at ~mile 77.  It helped add a bit of single track to the ride and was a fun little section.  Unfortunately, I am sure it may be “frowned upon” so I doubt it will become part of my regular laps.

Decided to wear glasses (yellow lenses) the first ~30 miles (good decision).  Took them off before hitting the greenway (bad decision).  the rest of the ride invovled constant blinking to flush the grit out of one or both eyes.  There was no wiping eyes due to the grit all over your hands and the rest of your face. Good times.

I carried a soda from ~mile 30 to mile 70 in my back shirt pocked just to drink with my sandwich.  It exploded when I naively twisted the cap off.  Luckily I was already wet, so it did not bother me too much.  Being wet, sticky and cold was not great (much more fun being wet, sticky and warm).

Matt almost lost his left testicle on a spill that had him, uh, falling on the tip of his seat.  He was in pain, but he hardened up (poor choice of words?) and rode it off.

Matt had messed up his pinky and so was riding with a pinky brace and no gloves.  He was telling me how the doctor said he needed to wear the brace for 6-8 weeks to give it a chance to straighten. Just after he finishes telling me this, his brace falls off while going down hill, so just says ‘screw it’ and rode on with a bent pinky tip.  Maybe when he gets home he will pull a Ronnie Lot and just cut the little sucker off.
I am sure I am leaving things out because it is late and I am tired.

Good Times!

Saturday, April 14, 2012

2012 Meltdown at Harris Lake -- 6 Hour Race

Note: the race was rain delayed to April 14th
What a fantastic day to ride your bike on a windy, twisty, slippery, rooty loop, over and over… for ~6 hours. 
This 6 hr. race at Harris Lake was a special one.  Not because I was feeling good (though I was) and not because I did well (though I did), but because it will likely be my last TORC endurance event with many of the riders I met when I began racing in 2009.  The course was well laid out (Thanks to Steve, John, Matt and yours truly) and the weather was spot on perfect!  I chose to race my last local event in the Single Speed class (which would come back to haunt me), even though I could have raced 40+.  Because I am known for riding a SS, it seemed like a fitting way to end my last local event. 
And we’re off!  The race started well with surprisingly less bottle-necking than I expected.  I followed my usual strategy of going out a bit fast the first lap and letting the momentum of other riders carry me through for a bit.  One thing I did differently this time was I tried to keep up my momentum (faster pace) longer than usual.  I felt good and wanted to test my endurance and recovery with a quicker pace, and what do you know, I was able to hang in there, well, for 6+ laps anyway.  I even caught up to and rode ~ a lap and a half with Jeff Dennison who is a class above me (literally and figuratively) until that 6th lap. I did not really hit the wall, but I lost power/strength and slowed down over many areas of the course. My laps went from ~34 to 36 minutes for laps 1-6, to ~39-41 minutes for laps 7 through 9 (not a dramatic drop, but certainly less consistent).  I also started cramping during lap 6 and it came on hard during 7 - 9.  I was glad I was able to fight through it and keep riding, as I will need to do that for PMBAR in three weeks.  One strategy I tried to implement, even when my legs had lost their power, was the mental game.  It is so easy during a race to just go slow when you legs are shot.  I knew this course well enough to know that there are many spots to gain a lot of speed and keep a lot of momentum if you pedal with a fast cadence and just keep pedaling.  Sure, I suffered, but I was able to not loose dramatic time by keeping mentally alert and taking advantage of maximizing speed where the trail would allow it.  I passed a lot of riders those last few laps using this technique.
Interestingly, when I came across the line to start lap 9, I noticed that my last lap was ~41 minutes.  There was ~39-40 minutes until the cut-off.  I knew that there would be a good chance I would just miss the cutoff for another lap, and believe me, I was glad to miss it.  Sure, if I reeeeally needed to, I could have Hardened The  #$@%  Up and done one more, but with some home construction on Sunday, A “Rugged Maniac” mud run next Saturday and a 100 mile ride next Sunday, I was ready to start my recovery.
In all I completed 9 laps in ~5:36 for a total of ~60 miles.  That was good enough for only 5th place in the Single Speed category.  IF I had registered for 40+, I would have been on the podium at 2nd place.  Still, it ain't nuthin' but a thing.  I had a great race and a great time.
Photos courtesy of 'Melissa's Dad'.
Thanks 'Melissa's Dad'. :)
Thanks again to Steve Rodgers and all the Volunteers (myself included…yes I just thanked myself) for the efforts to make this event  happen.  The local series (XC and 6 hr) have been a big part of my life over the last three years and have kept me motivated to keep riding.  This is something I will truly miss.

Note: Many interesting stories in this race.  Like the gal who showed up having never raced before and killed it!  But one of the most interesting was this guy I had just passed who bit it hard.  His bike flipped to the side after what looked like hitting a root just wrong, and he seemed to flip over twice and slide along the ground while tangled in his bike.  It all happened so fast but I was like, "Dude, you o.k.?" He replies, "It wasn't as bad as it looked." Of course he knew it looked bad, and he said this while grimacing while still on the ground tangled in his bike.  So I said, "Well it did look bad..." and something like See ya, or Gotta Run. And before you crucify me for not stopping to help, he did get back up and keep riding. After the race I found him and asked how he felt.  I pointed out I was the guy who was next to him when he bit it.  He asked me, "Which time?".  Turns out he went down, hard, four times.  He was scraped and bleeding from both arms and both legs, in numerous place.  But he only had to fix his bike once, and he kept riding.  That guy deserves an HTFU award!