28 September 2009
The show went well, great to connect and re-connect to so many industry types. Things are happening, and while Moab looms large, there are bigger fish frying on the horizon. Gotta' keep focused, gotta' keep moving, gotta' keep picking and choosing and responding.
Notes to self for next year: Keeping it on the DL, not going out at night, getting enough sleep is key. Wearing compression socks all day is key. The Americano at Illy Esspressamente in the Palazzo is key, as is their gelato with crepe au chocolat. And the crab rolls w/ pop rocks at Yellowtail in the Bellagio. And going out on Monday for Outdoor Demo -- although *not* key is crashing on the second-last run while riding a Santa Cruz Blur and spraining the knuckle on your braking finger.
Glad to be home, glad to hear Kate say "da da" in person after hearing it on the phone all week, and glad to sneak a snuggle this morning before starting the week. Bring it!
17 September 2009
I said that out loud to myself yesterday: "Things are coming together."
Sh*ts gettin' done. Interbike plans are solidifying. Packages are arriving, packages are leaving. And I'm finally seeing the light at the end of this long, snot-filled tunnel.
Next week's show is going to be interesting. I have a plan, and I'm sticking to it. Not sure that I'll make it out to the races, but I plan on coming home Saturday as rested as I can be and ready for one last gasp -- Moab.
In the meantime, the treatment modalities that I'm employing seem to be making a dent. Two pink pills yesterday and one each for the next four, and the infection should be killed. Following that up with a few snorts and a few other pills, and the junk is clearing out. And I finally caved -- yes, I stuck a teapot in my nose and let the salt water flow.
Truth be told, the neti pot wasn't as bad as I thought. I've always equated them to Whole Foods, new age "holistic" medicine -- and I've always been afraid of letting water flow through my nose, period. But if you can close off your throat, hold your breath a little, and stand over the sink, it's not that bad -- and holy cow does it work. The immediate relief I felt in my compacted sinus cavity was worth any gross-out factor I might have imagined -- it was really *that* good. And this may sound odd, but if you brush your teeth just beforehand, any weird salt flavor is covered up and it's sort of pleasant. Sort of.
So I'm on the upswing, and looking forward to getting on trail this weekend. Not sure what my legs will have in them (given the antibiotics I'm taking now), but anything is better than nothing at this point, which is where I've been for too long.
Oh? And the best part? My coworker Craig is moving to Africa, and yesterday we hosted a little goodbye milk-and-cookies party for him. And since you may want to eat a little something when you take your antibiotics ...
16 September 2009
Anyway, PA Colleen informed me that I have a sinus infection. Yee-ow, I think I could have told her that. But I liked the way she described it: the virus bounced around my system for a while before deciding to settle in my left sinus cavity. Which is why I lost 3-ish hours of sleep last night and was darn near reduced to tears from the intense pain in the upper half of my head. And Colleen "got it," talking me through every conceivable symptom management tool I might have at my disposal. Best yet, they're all compatible.
So ... a quick-hit dose of antibiotics over the next couple of days, some sinus spray, some saline spray for travel, and -- gasp! -- a netti pot later, I was rolling back to work and leaving huge chunks of infectious tissue on Division Street. I must say, farmer blows have never felt this good before ...
Goal No. 1 is to get healthy before Monday -- if you've ever flown with a sinus infection, you know how painful it can be. Plus, I then spend 5 days on my feet at the show, not exactly a recipe for "rest." I hope to hit the trails this weekend, and maybe push it a little up the hills, but real training is on hold -- we'll see what I can do in the few days between Vegas and departure for Moab. Expectations will have to be adjusted for sure, but you never know ...
15 September 2009
Next week there's no riding, so unless I can get some time on trail this weekend, I'll have basically three weeks of no good riding by the time I get back from Vegas. Not the ideal prep for Moab, but I'm not quite ready to write it off yet. Close, but not quite.*
* That is to say, I'm going to Moab, just may have to adjust my expectations.
11 September 2009
So, I'm for sure pulling the plug on Treadfest this weekend. Which totally bites -- fun race (similar trail feel to Shenandoah), close to home, last XC for the year -- I can't remember the last time I skipped a race because I was sick. But Interbike looms large, and the last thing I need is to spend 4 days on my feet while still trying to beat a bug. My coach tells me we have enough time to be in form for Moab, but from my perspective as I lay on my bed, I just want to be able to ride again, let alone race. It's really that bad.
09 September 2009
08 September 2009
I also spent the time reflecting that a year ago I was able to ride with Brad on these opening slopes. This year, I was very, very alone. I found this nugget earlier today when I read last year’s blog:
“Without each other, Brad and I would probably have suffered something horrible on the slopes of climb five.”
A year later, I was right. I caught and gapped a guy in a Giant kit, but even then I was still alone as he rocked out to his iPod. As we turned right onto the forest service road, I caught and passed another guy, and just caught a glimpse of Mr. Giant accelerating into the climb behind me. I managed to hold off the second guy, but first Mr. Giant and then another rider caught me as we climbed higher and higher. I dug deep, more mentally than physically, knowing that the aid station was somewhere around the next corner, or the next one, or the one after that. I played mental tricks with my watch, trying to guess at what time I would reach the aid station, and what that would do for my finishing time. The cramping seemed to be under control on the steady slopes, my heart rate was pegged at a paltry 150, unable to go higher from my previous efforts, and I absolutely left it all out there on the course. I got to the point where it didn’t matter who passed me; if they could catch me, they could have it.
But then, like a miracle, the aid station appeared. Sooner than I expected it, I rolled in to see one guy rolling out and the two guys who had passed me stopped and grabbing food. As tempting as the pizza looked (Brad says I ate a piece last year, I honestly don’t remember doing so I was so blown), I just grabbed a couple of bottles and rolled … only 25 miles left!
What’s so cruel about this pitch is that it. never. ends. Ever. I think I’m still climbing it. The aid station is situated at 75 miles, about 2/3 of the way through the climb. You’ve been on tarmac, then gravel, then forest service road for what seems like forever, and then, oh!, you’re not done and still have 5 miles to go, mostly uphill with just a few flat traverses. A pat on the back from the ever-friendly volunteers, and off you go …
The last 5 miles of climbing are kind of nasty. It’s not open forest service road; instead, you cross meadows and make your way up some nasty doubletrack that probably only gets used for the race. I left Giant guy behind and worked my way up to the guy who had been rolling out – “Hey, I’m Andy.” Oh, wait. Andy? I do a double-take on the race number plate, which has our names on it. I’ve caught up to Andy Applegate?!
Andy told me he wasn’t on a great day, and as we climb through the exposed rock section the Giant guy catches and passes us. Andy and I drive through the meadows together, and we’re more or less side-by-side on the steep stuff, until finally we get to the *almost* top and I have to stop for a minute to pull grass out of my derailleur pulley. He goes past and makes sure I’m OK, and then I’m chasing him in the big ring as we approach the top of the climb. This singlespeeder guy catches up to us, and I joke about how I get to pedal easier on a super-steep pitch and he says he can just “pedal less.”
Descent 5, Chestnut Trail: On the way up, Andy asked me if the descent was singletrack. I had forgotten that yes, yes it is – some of the knarliest, rockiest stuff out there. This after 7 hours of riding, never letting up, when your arms and head are fried and it’s all you can do to keep moving forward. I had told him to take the lead, but he warned me against it, saying that he wasn’t “known for his descending” and that I should go first. The grass in my mech made the decision for us, as Andy dove into the woods with me not far behind. Maybe it was the bear bell jangling, maybe it was him, but before I knew it he was pulled over to the side telling me to go first. OK, I thought, here it is – the last thing I want to do is go ass-over-teakettle in front of Andy-friggin’-Applegate!
So there I am, going headfirst down this narrow, rocky trail, a2 behind me, and I realize that my little brake problem has gotten big. Really big. As in, I have to pull the levers all the way to the bar to *start* the braking process. This was brake fade at its worst, because I hadn’t adjusted my pad contact properly and my forearms were already burning. Holy crap, this was about to get interesting.
Adrenaline factor at 10, bear bell going nuts, I’m juking and zigging and zagging around corners and over rocks before I even know they’re there. I feel like I’m just barely hanging on, reminding myself that it’s better to ride it out than lock it up, but so white-knuckled that I can barely make a fist even now, two days later. Andy is somewhere behind me, crazy because the singlespeed guy just passed me, and thankfully, WONDERFULLY, the trail slopes out and I’m following this singlespeeder down, fast but not killer, around and through and whew! we're onto the road.
Aid Station 6: The singlespeeder has gapped me slightly, and I know with one climb and one descent coming up, I have to make up my time on the road or he will catch me. He’s obviously faster than me on the descent, so here’s my chance: I click down and power up, and as his legs are spinning madly I mash past him with a “here we go!” and I catch sight of his number plate and holy crap it’s Gunnar! Aw jeez, now I *really* need to go hard, I’ve got Andy and Gunnar *and* Sue just behind me!
There are only 12 miles to go at Aid Station 6, a lot of it downhill after re-climbing the lower slopes of climb 3. I’m still trying to do the mental math on my finish time, but with no real sense of how long the final climb will take, I’m just hoping to break 8:30. I have just over a bottle left from Aid Station 5, so I’m in good shape, and I roll past and make the turn on the forest road.
Final climb/final descent: I’ve got basically nothing left, but I know there are riders coming. I pin it best as I can, again not getting my heart rate over 150, and although I feel like I’m crawling, I’m managing to hold off most of the guys behind. One guy does catch and pass me, and Gunnar gets to within 20 seconds or so, but using the guy ahead as a rabbit I manage to get out of sight just as we near the top. I’m trying not to look at my watch, and I’m just praying that the left turn (instead of the right from climb 3) is just around the next corner. And soon enough, there it is! Wa-hoo!
I follow the other guy onto the descent, knowing that I have to give it everything if I want to hold off the guys behind. This is my finest moment – I don’t catch the guy ahead, but I don’t lose too much time either, and I absolutely let it all hang out. Thankfully this descent is pretty open, although I forgot about the leg-searing climb in the middle, and I’m big-ringing it on the verge of cramping with every pedal stroke. Sub-8:30 is in the bag, and I don’t even look at my watch to realize that sub-8:15 was almost there too. Before I realize it, I’m flying through the campground, in one of the most fun finishes to a race there is. Kim and Kate are cheering as I round the big grass loop (don’tfalloverdon’tfalloverdon’tfallover), and there’s the finish line, and the gong, and my pint glass – YEAH! It’s done!
And I’m done. Kaput. I have to sit down and put Kate on my lap because my arms are so tired. I snag a hot dog, home-made fries and beans, and start drinking – lemonade never tasted so good. Gunnar comes in, and Sue, and probably Andy in there, but I’m so blown that I just sort of stare at the map as I chew my food. I talk to Christian for a minute, and Ernesto, and the Giant rider, huge congrats for Jeremiah, and for Danielle, and by the time I make it back to my car I can’t even fathom going up to talk to Jason or Jon or anyone for that matter. Instead, we pack up, Kim gets in the driver’s seat, and I turn into an absolute vegetable – only getting out of the car once at a rest area just north of Harrisonburg. We roll into Breezewood a few hours later, and it’s all I can do to decide where I want to eat dinner …
I know I’ve said it before, but HUGE shout-out to Chris Scott and all the volunteers. SM100 is a very special event, and every year they make it so. I’m already planning my assault on sub-8 for next year, knowing that the race organization does everything it can so that *every single rider* has an amazing experience. Thank you Shenandoah Mountain Touring Company!
Official results have been posted, and I came in at 8:15:54, good for 27th overall. Gunnar was just a minute behind me, Sue at 3 minutes, and Andy another minute behind that. I again lost 10 minutes to Ernesto, who placed 19th, the second time that’s happened this season, and I look forward to facing off at Moab after he’s done some ‘cross racing and I concentrate on the mountain bike. If I can lay off the desserts between now and then, just maybe my power-to-weight ratio will be closer to his …
All in all, I’m happy with how it went down. I learned yet another lesson about pre-race hydration, and promise myself to be more careful in the future. And it was great to be able to share such a wonderful day with both my Ks – having Kate be all snuggles and smiles after the race made everything worth it. Thanks to you both, I love you!
A bit of pre-race chatter, though: The drive down was good. Since this was Kate’s first big road trip, we snuck out of the city on Thursday night and made it to Elkhart, Indiana. Up with Kate’s babbling on Friday morning, we were out the door and on our way more or less on time … With a quick stop to shake the legs in Cleveland on the Cuyahoga towpath trail, we were in and through Breezewood just before dinner, stopping in a very sad Hancock, Md. for a quick bite. We finished our drive in the dark, with a full moon glowing over the Shenandoah Valley …
Saturday’s easy morning was replaced by a quick leg-searing jaunt in the early afternoon, as I once again tackled the first climb and descent on the course as my pre-ride. I had forgotten just how steep it was, and how rocky at the top, but in all I felt good about my preparations, and was excited to get things started. I was quicker than Brad and I were last year, thanks in part to knowing the course and in part to the super-dry conditions, and made it back to the campground in time to say hi to Jon Posner and Jason Berry before heading into town for dinner. We were meeting Kim’s friend from college and her family at Cally’s, and dining al fresco on the rooftop deck was a great way to relax and get ready for the *very* early wake-up call …
Climb 1: They staged us a bit differently this year, avoiding the huge rut at the edge of the field in favor of a bit more narrow spacing on the road. Still, it was 550 or so eager racers jammed into a fairly small section of gravel, and as with last year, the route out of the campground was sketchy with a capital “S.” I stayed as relaxed as I could, and once we made the right-hander onto North River Road, I started to use my ex-roadie mojo to move up the outside of the field.
By the right-hander I was on the inside of the field, and as we started to climb I was sitting comfortably on the left side, in about 5th or 6th position. Just as we started to crest, I hear a voice behind me, “Hey Chris, how’s it going,” then “go, move up, go, move up” – it was Jeremiah, looking for me to clear the path onto the fire road … which I did, giving him an out, and then it was a quick left and onto the dirt road …
I stayed with the front group through the easier part of the climb, tacked on in 10th to 15th place or so, losing a bit on some of the washed-out sandy corners but easily gaining back on. We weren’t yet going that hard, despite Jeremiah’s declaration that he was going for the course record, and by the time it got a little steep we had maybe 20 guys together with a gap back to the next group. We broke up a bit at the first gate, and I found myself in maybe the third group, and by the time we turned left onto the meat of the climb, we were in onesies-twosies just doing what we could to make it up. I crested alone and made my one mistake on the day – I had my head down on the short pedal section into the radio tower, and sure enough, I rode straight into the only standing puddle of water/mud on the entire course. Lower extremities and bike thoroughly drenched, I dove into the woods and took a good line through the first rocks, managing to drop the guy just behind.
Everything was good for a few minutes, as I rode more than I did last year but still had to walk one short ascent. As we began to drop, though, all of a sudden my tube/CO2 cartridge let loose and fell to the ground. It was way too early to take any risks, so I quickly stopped and re-set, as Ernesto rode past with 3-4 guys on his wheel.
Descent 1/Aid Station 1: Quickly back on my bike, I dropped down the first descent and was back on the fire road before I knew it. A quick right onto the forest road at the bottom, straight through the first aid station, and I could see Ernesto up ahead. I knew what was coming, but I felt good, so I put my head down and just pedaled, catching him as we approached the pavement climb and getting a glimpse of all the guys I had dropped off from up ahead. Ernesto tagged on as the road turned upward, and soon enough we were at the group. I was still feeling good, and knew that I was at a disadvantage going into Lynn Trail with a big group, so I kept on pedaling and before I knew it had a gap. Approaching the trail entrance I saw three more guys up ahead, and dove into the woods with the intent of catching up.
Climb 2, Lynn Trail: I did catch them, and on the lower slopes of the climb stayed with them. One guy was singing (I think it was the same guy as last year), and I was riding higher than I had last year. I even got a bit confident … right up until I had to dismount and walk. For the record, I hear even Jeff Schalk says he has to hike parts of this trail, so I didn’t feel so bad – and for certain, my SRAM XX group helped me get further up the climb than I managed last year. But Lynn trail is humbling, and my bear bell got *really* annoying by the top. It’s not so bad when I’m in the saddle, but when I’m walking next to the bike on a rocky trail, it’s kind of a pain to the ears …
Ernesto and a couple of the guys from the road group caught up to me on the climb (and one guy complained about my bell), as we all alternated riding and hiking up to the top. I did OK, hiking quite a bit but not losing too many spots, and felt alright as we crested the climb.
Descent 2: First off, let me say that my Siren Song SL continues to prove itself as an awesome bike. There may have been a slight disadvantage to longer-travel bikes on the hairy descents, but as they say, “any issues are purely mine” – not the bike’s. And I’ll be honest: I descended like a wimp.
I was having a bit of a problem with one of my brake levers, but more to the point, I’m just not that experienced as the grade goes down and the speed goes up. I did better than last year, but I also walked a short section of the second descent – it was a bit loose, and I lost my nerve. I wasn’t being overly conservative – I flew over some of the drops before I realized what was happening – but I also wasn’t letting it all hang out, either. I lost a spot or two, and lost time to the guys I had crested the climb with. But I didn’t get down on myself; instead, I just accepted it and determined that I would double my efforts in the areas I was good at: the road and the steady grades. Before I knew it, I was dropping into the river and flying out of the woods.
Aid Station 2: And I was alone. I could see bodies up ahead on the road, the guys I had lost time to on the descent, so I again put my head down and motored best I could. Only, Scottie down in the engine room was having a problem, and all of a sudden I was fighting cramps in my legs. It wasn’t too bad, but we were only 2 hours into the race, so I was a little worried. I relaxed my back, trying to restore blood flow to my legs, and was able to pedal out of it without a problem. Or so I thought …
I caught up to Ernesto and another guy as we approached the second aid station. The volunteers at this race are the best I’ve ever experienced, and their system of bottle exchanges is ingenious. Ernesto and I took on bottles while the other guy stopped to fill his Camelbak … we soft-pedaled for a few minutes, but he still wasn’t coming, so we started to climb.
Climb 3/Descent 3, Dowell’s Draft: All I remember about climb three was staying on Ernesto’s wheel. I wasn’t able to do so at Cohutta, and I paid a heavy price – I was bound and determined not to repeat my mistake. I think we overtook two or three guys on the fire road, and I managed to keep the cramping under control as we crested the first part of the climb and clicked it into the big ring to traverse the meadows on top. I stayed with him for most of the traverse, right up until the *very* steepest pitch just before the descent. I finally had to let him go, and there, 3 hours into the race, I found myself alone – as I would be for most of the rest of the race. He made up more time on me on the fast, flowy descent of Dowell’s Draft, as I lost another spot (or two?) by being conservative on the bench cut – I’m just not that comfortable with a 100-foot drop off to my left, and I used the brakes way too much. Another guy caught me right at the end, and I followed him into the next aid station.
Aid Station 3: He had a drop bag, I just needed fluids … only I underestimated how much I needed them. I did a quick bottle grab and started out – I made it about 500 meters and my left leg cramped so bad that I let out a shriek, which in turn made a nearby dog start howling. It was a surreal moment, as I sucked down the Heed they had given me and tried to relax. Instead of turning back I just kept rolling, figuring the two full bottles would do me over the next climb. I was lucky – they did – but in hindsight it may have been better to turn back and get more water.
The 5-mile road section went OK though, the cramping was mostly under control, and before I knew it I was catching the guy in front of me and we were diving into the dry river crossing. Last year I hiked it, this year I rode it, and was pretty happy about that. What I wasn’t happy about was the two sips of water I had left in my bottle – all the fluids I had to last me another 8 miles. Thankfully most of those were uphill, with some hiking sections, and the rest was screaming-fast downhill … no chance to drink, and I’d be at the next aid station before I knew it.
Climb 4/Descent 4, Ramsey’s Draft/Aid Station 4, Braley’s Pond: If there was one spot to crash and open a gaping wound on your knee, the fourth climb is not it. Only, that’s what I did last year – and the subsequent descent into the wet quagmire of Braley’s Pond ensured infection and scarring that I can proudly point to today. This year, I played it safe – at about the same point where my front wheel started wandering in ’08, it started to do so again, so I got off and walked. I didn’t do it much, but just enough, and strategically it meant that I could catch my breath, stave off the cramps, and live to fight another day.
This was the first place I could get a time check as well, and saw that I was about 10 minutes ahead of last year’s pace. I hit the halfway point of the race at about 4:08, and doing the mental math Olympics in my head I figured I might have a shot at 8:30. But first I had to keep it steady, and by being a bit conservative lost three spots but ensured I would enter Ramsey’s Draft intact and with no blood showing. Ramsey’s is another place where my lack of experience showed, as I lost another 1-2 spots and could have spent a lot less time on the brakes than I did. Regardless, the SUPER-fast, flowy singletrack was still a ton of fun, and I had a HUGE smile on my face as I splashed through the first of the stream crossings. Braley’s Pond was longer than I thought, but soon enough I was at the gate and volunteers were handing me my drop bag of food, offering to put it in my pockets, lubing my bike and giving me fluids …
I sucked down a large water bottle even as the volunteers put two more on my bike, then hit the HEED table hard. I was way down on hydration, and needed to make it up – they gave me a couple of Endurolytes to try, so I sucked down those too, and then it was time to go-go-go … I looked back just as Sue Haywood rolled into the aid station behind me, and that became my motivation not to get “girled” ...
… and off to the heartbreaker I rode.
One mistake all day, dove into a puddle at the top of the first climb. Otherwise a fantastic race, left it all on the course, just need a bit more gumption on crazy-fast downhills and bench cuts and sub-8 is within my grasp. Oh yeah, already thinking about next year!
05 September 2009
(Rebecca, thanks for the invite, but on this trip Cleveland is just a rest stop. We're already planning 1-2 winter trips down to Ray's Indoor MTB Park so Kim can ride this year, we'll meet up then!)
We're staying there on the return trip, but I just have to say that Breezewood is a scary place. Turning right into a blazing afternoon sun in order to get onto I-70 is the most harrowing part of our journey every year. And every year, it's tough not to turn left instead and head over the hills to Gettysburg. Can't wait to get back there, the combination of history and amazing riding in Michaux just can't be beat!
Anyway, Kate is having a blast, the waffles at the hotels are good, and pre-ride on REAL mountain trails is just a few hours away. WOO-HOO!!!!!
03 September 2009
Last pre-race communique came through yesterday, asking folks not to drive the course lest it become super dusty. I think we'll have to face that either way, just more motivation to be further up the field. Still anticipating that turn onto Fire Road 536 -- I think I tapped the brakes last year, this year I know what's coming. Oh man this is going to be fun.
Today has been crazy -- packing and prepping for Interbike, and tying up some loose ends. Too much going on, the day has simultaneously dragged and flown. Hope to be on the road in just 4 more hours, fingers crossed.
Oh man this is going to be fun.
02 September 2009
OHMYGOSH, they came through BIG TIME. Behold, the limited-edition World Bicycle Relief Reserve 110 Headset:
From Cane Creek:
Cane Creek introduces the World Bicycle Relief Reserve headset. Cut from high-grade Stainless steel, serialized to commemorate the limited run of 500 pieces and packaged in a Western Cedar wooden box; this is one unique headset with a very special purpose.
With the purchase of each beautifully engraved Reserve headset Cane Creek will make a donation directly to World Bicycle Relief, enough to provide 1 bicycle per headset to a person in Africa. Read the official press release here.
Only 500 World Bicycle Relief Reserve headsets will be made, so don't delay and reserve yours beginning September 1, 2009 by calling 800.234.2725
COST: $200 USD
World Bicycle Relief Reserve headsets are available by pre-purchase only. Quantities are limited and no back-orders will be accepted once 500 units have been ordered. All purchased headsets will be shipped on or about December 1, 2009. Applicable taxes and shipping apply.
Made in Fletcher, North Carolina, USA.
More stunning photos here -- check out this amazing piece of art!