Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Pisgah Kicked My @$$ Again

Turkey Pen Gap was was much better in the DH direction.  See WTF I Need a Beer or 4 for details!  There still was plenty of hike a bike up Black Mounrtain from Claw Hammer Road.  Some on TPG itself and Cantrell (Can't Tell If if is a creak or a trail) Creak had a fair amount of Hike a bike as well, particularly with the 34X19t.  Funny it did not seem so steep on the way down, just the other day.  Squirrel Gap was pretty fun, but I was shot by then, but could still turn over that big gear, more like a slog.  Even the gradual South Mills River and Buck horn trails back to Claw hammer would probably have been more pleasant on a lower gear, though.  Broke a chain early and stopped to borrow a tube and pump to a guy from Indiana that left his in the car.  "Don't leave home with out your gear" goes double for Pisgah.  I carry two tubes a big air, a pump, plugs and boot material, chain links, tool w/chain breaker, Leatherman, Hanger fixer for when I have gears etc. 

Overlook on The Black Mountain trail

Waterfalls on the South Mills River trail

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Roth Rock Ride Epic State College PA

This is a long lost post. We were just getting moving, for real this time.  We had no internet or cell reception for a hot spot at Greenwood Furnace Campground. Then my PC went out. So it got lost in the shuffle.  But with this years TRANS-SYLVANIA MOUNTAIN BIKE EPIC looming I thought I would drop it.

Even though ROCK is in the name, I thought North Jersey has the rockiest trails that I have ridden so far. I reached out to a local, cause the guy at the shop hurt his back last fall after hitting it too hard on his brand new fat bike. Wider Q factor and chasing around youngsters, he said.

So I show up a little early and and get a warm up in with the president of the local club. I guess Tuesday is the day regardless if the official shop ride is on or not. Most thing are up from the Tussey trail head. Ironically there was enough cell signal for my wife to work a the trailhead while I rode.

I headed back to the trailhead for the arranged time. I was happy to see four single speeds coming off of cars.

Plenty of climbing, be it on fireroad or single track, most of which could be considered a rock garden.  Kinda like Wawayanda on the New Jersey's north border with New York, just with more up!  The landscape has some spectacular groups of rock outcroppings to navigate

Sunday, May 10, 2015

WTF I need a Beer or 4

About half way through, what was supposed to be a 28 mile ride, I figured, if the climbing the stats of 5700 ft, were correct on the file for the route I was taking, that I would be paying for it all on Turkey Pen Gap (TPG).  As I approached mile 22,  those feelings grew.  Then that first look up the stairs should have had me and my 34X19 gearing, scurrying to the road back to the car.  2500 feet in 6 miles is just silly.  The file I had said 28 miles.  I had a little out and back here and there, plus the 3 miles on Squirrel Gap and Cantrell (cant tell if it is a creek or a trail) .  To top that off TPG was so steep, even with the speed coming off the rear wheel, the Garmin read 0.0 MPH and did not gain 1/100th of a mile during the walking sections, which was most of TPG.  The garmin got 33 miles,compared to the 40 from the phone.  Felt like 40.  The file I followed was probably made with a Garmin using GPS for speed and distance, which under states, while the phone app usually overstates, particularly the more you stop or go painfully slow.  So it is probably some where between 33 and 40 miles.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Cohutta the 2nd Half

See the first half here. On the subsequent climb a woman came by.  Most of the girls were gearies, with that and long endurance event being the great equalizer between the sexes, I have humbly accepted the occasional pass by the fairer sex.  Not this girl, she left her gear bike at home because of the muddy conditions.  She ultimately got 6th among the women.  When Bonsby came by a little later he said he has seen her race before and she was a force to be reckoned with.  I dropped her on the next descent only for her to dance away up one of the succeeding climbs.  She seem to climb about twice as fast as me,  a feat I could not match on the DHs.

Now back to the numbers game.  I was still averaging about 10.5 mph at this time.  My metric century was done in 5:44.  Thing were still looking up.  But that damn rest stop #5 would just not materialize.  Mike came up just before the crest of a hill, we both lamented over the 35 miles between rest stops, he was out of H2O.  I told the full suspension riding Bonsby that I would follow him on my rigid bike for the descent.  He said he was not going to go to fast and let me pass.  The fire road turned up again and some time had passed, as well as a few other rider and I started to worry about Mike.  Hoping that he did not crash or flat.  But shortly before the climb out to rest stop #5/4 he passed me.  I had another fast pit and left as Mike was getting his camel back filled, only for him to pass me on, what I call the bonus climb.

My average speed from 62 to 77 miles had started to drop.  There were several riders walking up the bonus climb, I think they were stragglers from the 65 mile Big Frog version of the race.  At least I was going faster than walking pace!

Finally back back at rest stop #3/6.  A volunteer asked how I was liking the single speed now.  I felt a slow grin come across my muddy face and sad the bike hadn't given up yet, but my body may have.

The final climb.  It would end just over the next rise or around the next bend, but it seemed like it never did.  A short false flat or small dip and I was sure it was down hill from there.  After all Mike said the the last Single track was all down hill too, Great I thought.  But first I had to climb the same hill we first came down on the fire road.  Blue sky, That is a good sign we are near the top right?,  Not! The road would turn and keep on climbing.  We had to dodge the occasional car on these narrow gravel road from time to time, as well.

Just when I just about had it,  A bearded single speeder with a full hip pack passes me on what was really the top of the Fire road.  I caught him back on the descent, but confused the entry into the single track, which turn immediately up, not down and he was on my wheel, so I let him pass. I headed into the Quarry loop as Bosnby headed out.  I was dead tired and parts of the quarry did not care.  As for the rest of the single track, I am sure it would have been great fun an hour or two earlier, but now it was anything but the DH single track I was hoping for!  A girl on gears passed me on a particularly SS unfriendly stretch.  I thought she was gone until the hard left hander, that pointed up a moderate to steep climb with rooty technical bits.  She was walking about a couple hundred yard up.  I asked how she liked the DH single track, she replied that she did not have anything left in the tank.  I was walking before I got to her and pulled off as a guy on gears  was coming up.  He saw why I got off and got off as well.  He said "after you", so I remounted after the big root that I was too tired to to attempt and was on my way past the girl, with the guy in tow.  He and I replayed that same scenario a few times, before a definitely pro gearie section came up, where I stepped off to let him do that gearie thing they do.  This Single track may have been loosing elevation, but it was not giving it up with out a fight at every turn, literally.  When it finally did pint down, it was like, "Wait What, that was it?!" and we were out at the power station, not the finish line like TK and I had thought.  Nothing left and nothing left to do but pedal the very slight grade on the pavement back to the start finish area.  Pedal I did, painfully slowly.  I have never really needed a cheering section to motivate me, but here on this plain old, nearly flat stretch of pavement, going about 7.5 miles an hour, through the parking lot, I soaked up every cheer and clap and good job that came my way.

I ended up 15th out of 21 single speeders that signed up, but was the 2nd to last that finished on this day, at ten hours and thirty eight minutes.  I would have been 13th out of 34, with only 21 finishers.

As slow as this was, just two weeks prior to the event, I would have happy with 11 hours, and consider it an improvement over the eleven hours and nineteen minutes that the Tatanka 100 took me, with similar elevation gain, but a completely different profile.

I was happy with my start and the first 20 miles of single track and even the early fire road climbing and I was super happy with my fire road descending through out.  I was good until about 10% over my training duration and miles and I finished and got that mug.  Over the last 10 miles I was thinking I got to finish to get that mug!

TK had to take this Picture quickly before I fell over!

Recovery ride with Tom

Lunch the day after....
We Crown thee the Hundred Miler

Sunday, April 26, 2015

2015 Cohutta 100

I am starting to write this more than 24 hours after the finish of the race and parts of my legs are still sore. This race is the probably most suffering I have ever done, the most on a bike for sure!

Tammy handed me off to Tom near Asheville, I drove to give him a break and let him work from his mobile office, he is always being productive, that man is.  The GPS was a little off and we stopped at Ranger station first.  I hollered down to some guys riding crossing the bridge to ask them were registration was.  It was one of those small world moments as it was Michael Bonsby, he showed me around the MOCO Epic a while back.  I would see him many more times, several during the race as we were yo-yoing back and forth for a while, late in the race.

We get to registration, sign up, pick up our SWAG bag and number, some complementary pre-race pasta, confirmed no course changes with impending inclement weather, drove the opening road climb and walked down to the first hairy bottle neck, checked in to the hotel and had a little pizza to supplement our fuel and protein stores and were in bed a quarter past nine.  This is normal for Tom, I on the other hand had to move my bed time up gradually over the last several days, just so I could manage at 5am.  I was getting a head ache, probably a remnant of my 38 degree race tune.  I took some aspirin a and buried my head in the pillow until my hydration caught up to me at 3:30.  I little more fitful sleep, I could not let Tom have all the fun I guess.

The weather man was not wrong and we got up to rain and not quite 50 degrees out.  I foam rollered and stretched, suited up, packed up and headed to the start.  I lined up with TK on the line, just for good measure, at the front.  After a short prayer from the race starter, the race started at 7:02.  The start pace was pretty brisk.  I fell to about mid pack early and re-caught several riders towards the top after they were fading from the 10 plus minute effort.  I felt like I was just warming up.  I only saw 3 single speeders pass me, but it was hard to tell for sure in the sea of gearies.  I caught one and got on the wheel of a gearie behind behind him, just before the single track.  I aimed to mark him as long as I could.  We made several passes in the tight single track, until we came to a long train and rode it out until one punchy climb where someone went and several of us followed.  I had 2 good saves in that first single track; my front tire caught a rock just wrong on this narrow rise and pitched me sideways, towards the abyss, I unclipped and stabbed the ground with my foot, righted myself and was clipped back in, miraculously without losing any moment or stalling the guys on my wheel.  The next was crossing the creek before crossing the suspension bridge.  I tried to follow a guys line but he bobbled.  I was forced on to some big slabs that everyone seemed to be avoiding.  They very slick and under several inches of rushing water.  My wheels slide hither and fro and somehow I managed to right the ship.  I rinsed the mud off my glasses only to have them completely fog up for the a decent climb out of the river,  Then my brakes went out.  I just put new pads in for the race and the grit wore them down some much that I had adjust my mechicals.  The self adjusting nature of hydraulics was looking pretty goo right about then.  I lost some places a couple times until I got it right, stashed my glasses in a pocket and got back to it.  I did not stop for rest stop one, as #2 was so close.  I passed several that did stop, including that SSer that I marked.  "Now on to the fire road portion of today's activities', That SSer cuaght and passed me, commenting on the size of my gear, we were both standing.  I was feeling pretty good, though, with a just a few twinges of cramps around mile 40.  From 50 on they were increasing.  The rain stopped and the sun made its way out.  But the damage was done, my bike and I were covered in mud.  I switched from my cool weather fueling and tried to get more water into the mix.  I was happy with pretty much all my rest stops, as they were quick and the volunteers very helpful.  I dropped my vest and long  gloves at #4, filled my bottles and heard them say it would be 35 miles till i got back there.  It took a while for that to sink in, when about 20 miles into that 35, I see a pop up at a "T" intersection, thinking it was and aid station, I asked for water. They said they were not an aid station, they topped me off anyway and said the real one was still 15 miles away.

My average speed was bouncing between 11 and 10 MPH,  I was starting to have hopes of a sub 10 hour time, 9:40 even maybe.  Things were looking up as long as I could keep the cramps at bay and now this queasiness in my stomach.

This is really long already and I need to go to bed.  Look for part 2 soon,  I should have my results by then as well.  See Part 2 Here

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Cohutta Prep

So on February 11th, I get a phone call from my good friend Tom Kruse, Spelled with a "K" not that other guy.  He is taking on the National Ultra Endurance Series this year.  His first one will be Cohutta, which just happens to be only three hours away from Brevard.  Does this sound familiar?  Well the same thing happened for Tatanka.  You guessed it; he asked me to consider doing Cohutta on April 25th, just a scant 11 weeks out.  I had hardly been on a bike since early December and my first MTB ride since November was just February 1st.  It was my first single speed ride since October.

I know, sounds like every racer on the start line right?

Single Speed is my favorite way to ride, but I went down pretty hard on my left shoulder back in early September.  It has taken several months to get it to 95% and I was not willing to risk most of Pisgah on a SS.  Up until early December, I was doing a ton of endurance work exploring the forest service roads and back country single track of Pisgah on my geared bike.  Still pretty harsh on a rigid, but I was learning the area and it was pretty cool.  And then...

With all that, I was pretty sure Cohutta was a non-starter.  I had already planned to refocus on my kettle belling and hikes with Tammy.  But I had until April 1st to decide, if registration did not fill by then.  Following TK's call, I did several endurance rides on the road through our few weeks of winter, but then I decided to try something completely different.  Just two rides a week (one long, one short), only on my single speed and only mountain biking, two kettle bell sessions, some yoga, a hike and /or the occasional walk per week and log it all on my special TSS spreadsheet.  TK noticed all the SSing I was doing and said, "You're not thinking about doing Cohutta on a SS are you?", like I was crazy or something.  I said if I was doing it, it would be on my favorite bike.  He said I could put gears on it.  I said "Uh Uh".

When I started, I was on a 34X22 and North Slope was darn tough,

I added Lower Sycamore for a little fun.  That first ride was 11 miles and it was rough.
Was I nuts even considering doing 10 times that much in 10 weeks?!  I added Upper Sycamore the next week.  In a month, I replaced Upper Sycamore with Thrift Cove and then switched out lower Sycamore for Upper. It was a good month and a half before I changed to the 21t cog.  10 more days I was on the 20.  Finally Thrift for an FTP two fer

I had been adding about half an hour each week to my long ride.  April 1st came along and we were hosting at Cascade Lake.  I had been thinking about riding up the 6.5 mile Cascade Lake Road to Dupont from camp for my long rides.  I was not relishing this on a SS.  Long and gradual and then the reverse coming back down with that steep last nut heading up Little River Road.  Tammy kept asking me geared or SS.  I said "I do not know".  At the last minute I decided to stick with the SS game plan.

Along with the kettle bell strength training, I had been working on standing a lot.  My average speed started just below 9 MPH.  11+ hours for Cohutta then!  My AVG MPH slowly climbed to 9.5 over the last few weeks.  Better but still 10+ hours for Cohutta, if I could hold it.  My rides did seem to have more climbing per mile than Cohutta, but still.  I had hoped to go to a 19t cog, each tooth meant more speed but harder to turn over on the steeps.  It was getting close to go time.  I had to switch wheels because a bearing went out on my older Powertap hub.

It meant a tire switch, so I put on the steeper cog as well and went for my last long ride.  Five hours, tapering down from six the week before.  I felt faster and slower all at the same time, it was weird.  I thought my wheel size setting might be different between hubs, but my AVG speed seemed up.  Later, the down load would confirm the 10 MPH AVG.  Now I have a shot at 10 hours.

Compared to the 20t the 19 gave me a little trouble on the steeps, but not much, and some steeps seemed easier.  I could pedal in more situations.  I could stand more effectively on lesser grades, 4% and up instead of 5% and up.  Seemingly contradictory, I could stay seated and maintain momentum, instead of coasting and then standing on rollers.  That is where I picked up half a mile per hour from the same ride (except in the wet, plus a bonus climb) as 2 weeks ago.  Even with some training effect and I had my Black Sheep titanium fork back in place of my Salsa steel fork, some of it has to be the 34X19.  Don't ask me which elevation is correct.  Just trust me there was more on the 4/17 ride than the 4/4 ride.

After the Little River Crossing

Monday, February 23, 2015

Fatty Fat Fat

Just when it seemed like the bike industry was moving towards standardization, Mountain bikes splintered into several specialized niches.

29ers, Single Speeds, DH, XC, Endurance, Enduro, 650b, each shines (or gets dirty) in a different aspect of Mountain Biking.

There is definitely nothing standard about a Fat Bike.  100mm Bottom brackets, offset forks, 4 to  5 inch tires.  Even though technically based on a 26 inch rim diameter(559 ISO), you can't call them  a 26 inch tire though, with those super swamper rubbers, they measure more like 29 to 30 inches!

I like most bikes and don't really hate on any type of bikes, even Road bikes and Penny Farthings!  The internet is full of "My bike is the best and yours S@#ks".  Sort of an, "If you don't ride like I do then you are not where it is at".  Now it is great to love the riding you do but don't knock it until you try it, is what I say!  I have more of an X+1 philosophy on bikes.  The only limits I have are financial and space.

My good friend and the "Terminus of the Buck" at Cycle Craft in New Jersey has a fleet of Salsa Mukluks and was generous enough to hook me and a teammate up for a trip to the New York/Vermont boarder.  The guys used my birthday as the excuse.  To get a feel for the fatties we rode the small town park of Pine Hill.  Three of us brought our 29ers.  Our Fat bike guy only rides Fat bikes.

I had to be careful not to whack trees with the wider handle bars (I am Really old school in the HB width department).  The wider bars help fight the extra turning friction, off center brake pull and greater gyroscopic effect of the bigger wheels.  Two of us were Fat virgins and were getting more pedal strikes than usual, even though the bottom bracket height was really not that low.  The pedals just needed an wider swath, due to that 100mm bottom bracket width.  You do have to adjust your lines, you know, 4 inches just won't fit between the same rocks that 2 inch tires do.  This is just the same learning curve I went through picking lines way back when with 2 inch knobbys anyway.  We had a concern of riding the wider Q factor for so many miles all in one weekend, because I had spoken to a rider that said he hurt is back hitting the Fat bike to hard and not getting acclimated a bit more slowly.  But neither of us neofats had a hint of a problem.

The most important thing was to get the tire pressure dialed in to your weight and riding style.  For my nearly 200 pounds 8 psi rear and 7 psi front worked well.  After that, learning just how much you can rock crawl with all that traction was really an eye opener.  It is pretty amazing!  They definitely did not seem slow either.  We really flew through some sections.  

Us neofats originally were going to ride our 29ers some, you know in case we hated the Fat bikes, but we soon changed our tune and stayed fat for the rest of the long weekend.  We took on Green mountain in Vermont the next day and Seneca Springs in New York the day after(ended in the rain).  All three destinations had very different terrain, from tight twisty fast, to big climbs and fast switch back descents to dry, then wet rock crawling. 

As someone that lamented the headset standard changing and all the new bottom bracket configuration, I am really glad that we are not still riding 30 pound 26 inch rigid bikes with a 3 by 6 drive trains, 28/28 low gear and cantilever brakes!  A fat bike is definitely on my X+1 list!

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