Thursday, May 27, 2010

doing the dirty work

Sorry for the delay, after writing the post about the race I was drawing a blank on what else there was to say about Hungry Mother and the Night Owl. If you've got something important to do go ahead you won't miss anything exciting here, if not read on and hopefully I'll entertain you.

Last weekend was was a first for a couple pieces of equipment for me. One the Magicshine LED light that has been super popular mainly for it's bright light and really low price. I attached the MS to my helmet and threw the tiny battery in my jersey pocket. Normally I run a camelbak on my night rides b/c the Niterider batteries I own are twice the size and weight of the MS and the weight really pulls on my jersey, something I hate. The MS battery is so light it's almost like it's not even there. The MS light itself is super light compared to the Niterider headlamps, something else I'm super picky about. The Nightrider over time would pull my helmet forward driving me crazy b/c I was constantly adjusting my helmet throughout the ride. Once I had the MS light in place I was set and there was never a time during the race that I had to make an adjustment. Just prior to the start of the race I rolled onto some singletrack in the park lit my lights and made sure everything was pointing in the direction I wanted them to.
Not that I needed another light I went ahead and mounted the Niterider to my handlebar because I could. I figured the more light the better. The MS out shined the NR by a long shot. At first I though my NR wasn't working because I had both beams focused on the same spot. I can't believe I used to race with only halogens, how did I see anything? I might just sell the Niterider and buy another Magicshine, that would almost be cheating with that much light. I could turn night into day.

The other piece of equipment tried out was the new Yakima Bow Down kayak racks on the truck. Loading them was quite a bit easier and it left alot more room on the rack for our bikes which took less time getting everything adjusted. I did have one boat come loose on the way back but not so much that I lost it on the road. It stayed put thankfully, it could have been bad had the boat slipped off the back and hit the camper or road at 70 mph. The reason for the boat coming loose was not really a defect but more of a miscalculation on the mounting. I mounted the Bow Downs exactly according to the directions but now I know there is a need for adjustment. I think Yakima might need to rework their directions. One plus of the Bow Down was the bottle openers that were on the end. You can never have enough bottle openers, especially when camping.

The past couple of weeks leading up to last weekend I discovered a clog in the ECO toilet. I think a roll of regular toilet paper might have snuck into the camper somehow and hid itself among the RV friendly paper. I tried just about everything except Drain-O which was my last resort. I filled the "black water" tank up with water and enough chemical for a whole summer of camping in hopes that it would break down whatever was causing the problem. As soon as we hit the campground I made a b line for the sewer dump station, a place that has generated many good stories for me, and unloaded the tank. As it dumped I heard and felt something move through the line hopefully a wad of tp and ever since we've been clog free.

Everytime I dump the "black water" tank Melinda gets nervous, we had a rather bad experience the first time we did this. Evidently I didn't have the hose clamp screwed on tight enough and once I opened the valve all hell broke loose. I'll skip the details and leave that to your imagination but that was the first time I ever saw Melinda get over her fear of driving the truck with the ECO attached as she was so embarrassed she decided to get out of there before someone realized what we did. The problem was, she left me standing, I thought for a minute I was going to have to walk home. Now everytime we purge the demons Melinda runs me through her mental checklist and stands over top of me to make sure I don't screw up. She must be feeling better about the situation these days since she took the time to snap a pic of me doing the dirty work.

This weekend we are off again with the ECO in tow headed to Chattanooga. Unfortunately we were not able to get into a campground due to it being Memorial Day, so we are setting up camp in a friends yard. No big deal, the campground is nothing special and we're really only going for the riding which more than makes up for it. Raccoon Mountain with the ladies on Saturday and Sunday while they're going shopping we're going to hit Tanasi, should be a good trip.

Monday, May 24, 2010

I should have bought the monopoly game........

The 1st Annual Night Owl went off without a hitch. It was my first race @ Hungry Mother and also my first ride using my new LED headlamp, the popular Magicshine. I had my reservations about racing the Night Owl early on since a majority of the course is double track with very little in the way of technical features. This being the same weekend as the 12 Hours of Tsali I was torn between the two. Just about all of my friends went for the Night Owl due to it's lower costs, close proximity to home and local folks organizing. Tsali is at least 2 hours farther, about $50 more in race fees and put on by guy from Florida and by the conditions of the trails in the previous years it doesn't look like he really gave back much.
With all my options layed out I decided to do something different and support the local guy by racing the Night Owl. I knew the course would not be as fun to ride and the race would be alot shorter but the weekend as a whole was much more fun I'm sure of that. I attend races more for the fun of the whole experience than the glory of winning races. If I was just in it for the glory I would have given up long ago.

We hit the road early Fri and arrived just after noon to find a majority of the campground empty and any site we wanted. We ended up scoring a spot right next to the creek perfect for two dogs who like the water no matter what the temperature. The campground was excellent, nicer than many I've stayed in. The only thing I can think of that was annoying was the unusually nosey campground hosts. An older couple who took it upon themselves to try and attempt to be best friends with everyone and give them all sorts of worldly wisdom. Saturday morning, just after breakfast as Alan, Andy and I were discussing race strategies they came tooling through the campground on their golf cart just like they did every 30 minutes looking for someone to talk to. This time they were armed with Monopoly board games from the gift shop which they tried in vain to sell to us. I told them I was broke after paying $20 in fees just for my dogs to stay with me.

Enough about the campground, I know your really here to find out how the race went. The weeks leading up to the event we were sure that the turnout would be low since it was the first year for the Night Owl and the fact that it was sharing the same date as the 12 Hrs of Tsali. The day of the race were only 10 pre-registered riders and 8 of them were camping within the 3 sites surrounding me.

The NTMBA wrecking crew.

As we rolled into the starting area we were pleasantly surprised to find close to 40 racers, a majority of which were entered in the sport class. My plan was to stay put in sport and see what I could pull off. I knew with the big climb half way through the course I needed to stay ahead of most of the pack including mountain man Chris Dillow. Hungry Mother is kinda known as a roadies' mountain bike race course with double track and very little in the way of roots & rocks.

As we lined up behind the expert class I positioned myself right on the front line, something I normally don't do but I decided to throw caution to the wind and go for it. My plan was too go out hard get up front but not so hard that I blew up before I reached the climb.
With a quick word and a go we were off like a bat out of hell. I stomped it hard but some cat on my outside stomped it harder got around me and lead us all out at the most blistering pace I've ever ridden in a race. I had a very bad feeling right off the bat and I had no choice but to continue because everyone of my friends and half the field were breathing down my back. The first mile and a half circled the lake not really doing much other than making us spend alot of energy. I really wish I could have seen it on video. Right before we hit the first bridge I heard and felt Chris make an attempt to pass but the bridge proved to be too narrow and rather than go for a swim he backed off but only for a moment. In less than 50 yards he was around me and pulling away. I knew right then this was going to be a tough race. I managed somehow to catch Chris again and regain 2nd but in the process Fat Tony & some other guy got by us both. Great, even more people to race hard with. As the trail got a bit more technical I somehow managed to pass Anthony and then I heard a crack of rock against aluminum followed by an OH SH*T! come from Fat Tony. I looked back saw that he was ok and took advantage of the situation and put some distance on them and attempted to catch my breath.
As we reached and began the climb I knew it would only be a matter of time before Chris caught me and he did, and once again he passed me. Not long after that we caught the guy who started this craziness and that ridiculous pace. Evidently his gas tank was running dry but I didn't trash talk him one bit as mine was feeling the same. Twice in the past 2 weeks I did this same climb and stayed in the saddle the whole time. That night I was out of the saddle standing and mashing a 1x9 as everyone else was spinning their granny gear. The further we climbed the more the lights ahead grew closer, we were catching 1st place I thought to myself. As I proceeded to pass I realized we weren't passing 1st but we had caught the tail end of the expert class.
I tried my best to get by Chris the whole way up the mountain but it was all I had to stay on his wheel. I just stayed put looked for an opening and hoped one came before we reached the top. None came but we did catch another expert rider just before our turn off. I know what you're thinking, we should have been racing expert but we had a shorter climb so we were able to spend more energy climbing faster and if anyone was sandbagging it was our leader who was no where in site.
As we reached the top and started descending I was all over the back of Chris's rear tire trying not to be pushy but I could feel another rider getting antsy behind me as well so as soon I had the chance I gave it all I had and sprinted by hoping no one followed. The guy behind me must have done the same because he was on my back in no time. My sprint past Chris left me with nothing as the trail turned back up hill and the guy was able to get around me.
I knew my chances of regaining 2nd were getting slimmer so I chased hard down the mountain keeping him in my sites until my handle bar light decided to drop and point at my front tire. I thought seriously about just letting it hang the rest of the race since I still had my Magicshine but my bar light was mounted to and open ended mount and it would have never stayed put. I slowed down managed to unplug the light with one hand, remove the light and shove it in my jersey pocket all without stopping. That move alone moved my chances from regaining 2nd from 50% down to 10 or 15%. I hit the gas and decided to keep as much distance between me and fourth as possible.
As I rounded the lake I felt like crap but I pushed on looking over my shoulder everytime I heard the slightest noise thinking 4th was gaining on me but I never saw any lights. I finally realized what the noise was that kept me looking over my shoulder. The cable that was running from my battery up to my handlebar light had unraveled and was now flopping wildly against my tire and once again rather than lose valuable equipment I slowed long enough to fix the situation.
Even with 2 slow downs I still managed to maintain a respectable 3rd, actually my first podium in a solo mountain bike race.

to be continued...........

Friday, May 21, 2010

race preparations gone all wrong

How many things can I possibly do make myself not ready for a race? It's 4:37 am on Fri morning and I've been up all night. This week has been a bear at work, lots of work going on. I planned to let my legs rest all week in an effort to be strong for Saturday's race at Hungry Mother but instead I'm sore all over and I feel like I've got shin splints from standing on concrete all week. Hopefully I'll be able to turn it around in the next 2 days and be ready for that nasty climb half way through the course.

Yesterday afternoon I was getting everything ready for a weekend of camping and an just before I was supposed to leave for work I decided to take my hitch rack off and replace it with the hitch for the ECO. The last time I did this, two months ago, I found that the stabilizer bolt/hitch pin had gotten rusty and was difficult to remove. I should have replaced it but I didn't and so guess what, this time it didn't just stick. When I tried to free the bolt the piece, (not sure what it's called) inside the 2" tube broke instead allowing the bolt and it to spin freely while not allowing the bolt to come out. I ended up having to break out my hack saw and cut the head of the bolt off just to remove my bike rack. I guess now I have to replace the bolt and the part that it screws into.
As long as next week runs smoother than this week I should have a full race/camping report complete with pics. Still no video, I've yet to purchase a new Hero cam, but Hungry Mother's trails are that interesting anyway.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

greenbelt on steriods?

What can I say about the trails at Hungry Mother State Park in Marion VA. They're definitely not singletrack trails but they are fast, steep when the going goes up, and loose. It kind of reminds me of a greenbelt on steriods minus the pavement. Had they gone the singletrack route, Hungry Mother could have been a very popular place to ride.

I met up with Alan yesterday morning in Ingles parking lot and he rolled in with yet another new to him bike. I think he has had more bikes in the past 2 years than I have had in a lifetime. How he switches bikes so often as a full time college student I'll never understand.

We decided a change of scenery was needed so we headed up to HMSP to reacquaint ourselves with the trails before we show up for the Night Owl race in two weeks. I'm glad we did, the trails really aren't that technical but at 30 miles an hour the descents can be very sketchy, especially with loose rock scattering the trail and blind turns that if your not careful can send you flying down a steep embankment. No worries there are plenty of trees to stop you before you reach the bottom. The course starts out with a semi flat doubletrack trail that circles the lake before entering the woods. Once in the woods the course winds around for a couple of miles doing nothing really spectacular and then you begin the climb and it sucks in sections. Steep in sections and long especially if your racing the expert class. I was able to climb everything on the sport class section but we opted to see how nasty it got if we stayed on the expert course. Some of the sections on the expert course were so steep I had to walk for loss of traction. I was running a 1x9 setup so there was no spinning for me. 3/4 of the way up my left knee was beginning to protest because of lack of a proper warm up and pushing too big of a gear climbing. Several times I thought surely we've reached the top only to round a turn and find yet another climb that went further than I could see and I started having my doubts about upgrading to the expert class. Currently I'm registered in sport but I'll probably wait till race day to make my decision of whether to stay put or not.

Once we finally reached the top I told Alan to go ahead, his descending skills are way better than mine and with that he disappeared from my sight. I've really got to work on my downhill skills, I guess you can say I'm a bit of a chicken. Throughout the descent there a several dips in the trail meant to divert water off the trail but at high speed can easily divert you off the trail. With the loose rock, everytime I hit one of these I would leave the ground get squirrely and come very close to the edge. The turns have absolutely no banking whatsoever so once again the loose trail made it difficult to stay on course. Don't get me wrong it was alot of fun but add darkness and multiple riders to the equation and I can see it will make for some interesting stories around the campfire later that evening. New brake pads are a must before this race.
This is definitely will not be a singlespeed friendly course with the steep climbs and long flat runs the geared bikes will leave you in the dust. If there was a singlespeed category I would consider it but their isn't.

If you don't get a chance to pre-ride the course or are not even able to attend keep your eyes peeled for a video on Alan's blog as he's the only one with a functioning Hero cam right now.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

wanna be the coolest kid on your block?

I've got so much going on right now I've had trouble putting together anything for a decent blog post so if I tend to ramble a bit this morning I apologize. Nah forget that.

Our AC has been out for almost 2 weeks here at the house but luckily Mother Nature has been nice to us and kept the temps down while we entertain estimators with dancing girls and drinks trying to get the best deal possible. So far everyone has given us a quote but one and I'm about to go ahead with the decision process without him. If I have to wait this long for him to give me a price how long will I have to wait for him to install a heat pump. I guess the dancing girls weren't a good idea after all.

In other cycling related news I heard that the Bays mtn race this year will finally include some singletrack. I know, I know we heard that same story last year but we have to think positive here. If the course is not what the rumors say it will be then I may just lead a boycott and go rogue off the course and hit the singletrack anyway. I'm tired of gravel road racing. If the rumors are true then yeah for us. I took it upon myself to ride what is rumored to be the course and I really enjoyed it. Maybe because the singletrack was a ton of fun and I had a hand in building it. It really makes it that much more exciting to ride trails you help build. The course will be tougher this year because instead of the roadies big ringing it down a gravel road they'll be fighting through the twisty stuff with me breathing down their neck looking for a place to pass. At least that's the way it's playing out in my head. I clocked the course at just a mile and a half longer than last year and the fun factor much higher.
I don't plan on stopping there, next year I'm going to push for even more singletrack.

If you haven't already made plans for this weekend go ahead and sign up for the 2nd Annual Bike @ Bays put on by the fine folks of NTMBA. It's going to be another huge success this year with a ton of door prizes, demo bikes to ride that you've been gawking at online and don't forget free food catered by Texas Roadhouse. So go ahead and visit the website to get signed up and get your free pass.

It looks as if the rumors were wrong and the Bristol Challenge is back. A triathlon/duathlon held at Steele Creek Park in Bristol. I did this one 2 or 3 years ago and scored a 3rd place finish right behind Mr. Dillow who is a much faster runner than I am. Did I mention that it was my first ever duathlon? Maybe I'll get to do it again this year if my schedule will allow, currently all of my vacation is accounted for. I'd like to give Mr. Dillow another run for his money. Or I might just let it all hang out and go for the tri since I now own a kayak. Maybe

I know you've probably already seen the t-shirt all over the internet, ok maybe just the local forum or FB but they are in. The big ole box is currently sitting on the guest bed directly behind me. You know you want one, you'll be the coolest kid on your block I promise. $15 is what it takes to own one of these bad boys and don't dilly dally around thinking you can wait till we're hurting to sell the last 10 and score a deal. These things are going fast, I've already sold half of them and I just picked them up yesterday. So if you want one act fast, send me an email, call me, send smoke signals, whatever it takes but trust me these baby's are a one time run. In other words I won't be making anymore, once they're gone they're gone and if you wait you'll be sorry you did. Don't worry I won't say I told you so, I let Alan do that.

Friday, May 7, 2010

don't miss the boat!

Just finished the 2010 NTMBA jersey design. I tried to make the changes small to appease those who don't like change and make it a bit fresh for those who do. If you want one let me know ASAP. All jersey orders must be paid in full prior to placing the order, I can't afford to pay for them myself. The deadline to get yours will be June 7th so get your check book out now.

See the price list here.

click pic to make biggie

In other cycling art related news the new T-shirts will be ready for pick up this coming Monday. I'll only have 55 and some folks have already reserved their's.

$15 will get you one of the coolest shirts to hit the street or trail.

They won't last long so be quick like a rabbit.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

mom and dad tackle the creeper

Last weekend my parents rolled into town and planned on bringing their bikes along just in case there was a chance to ride. I guess it runs in the family so I decided this would be a good time to expose them to the VA. Creeper trail which up until the day before my Mom though was paved. The weather forecast was looking good and everything appeared to be in our favor. Instead of the usual round trip ride we opted for hiring one of the local shuttle services to take us to the top of the mountain and ride down. We had quite a crew with 8 adults and 4 little ones sharing 2 carts pulled by their Dads'.

As we loaded up in the shuttle a few rain drops began to fall on the windshield of the van and I heard a few uh ohs. The whole drive up we looked east, west and in the direction of our destination trying to figure out if we were going to get wet.
As our luck would have it we arrived to find the parking lot dry but as soon as we took off down the trail within minutes the rain began to fall. Everyone tried to remain positive but as the rain soaked us I had a feeling this might be the first and last trip to the Creeper for most of our crew.
After a while we could see a break in the rain and we managed to ride out of it. The only problem was we couldn't stop and enjoy the scenery because every time we did the rain would catch back up to us.

One of my biggest concerns before the ride began was how will the kids do. For the most part they seemed to really enjoy themselves despite the bad weather.

My Mom actually had a smile on her face even though her legs were covered in the infamous Creeper trail grime. She even stated at the end of the ride that she would like to return and do it again.
While we were loading up our bikes in the shuttle parking lot I was checking out my Dad's really cool antique Schwinn cruiser when I noticed not only was the bike an antique but so were the tires. They were so dry rotted and cracked I was afraid we were going to spend a long day walking instead of riding. Of course I jumped at the chance to return the lecture he gave me when I turned 16 and got my first car, just like an automobile regular maintenance on a bike is a must. There will be no doubt what to get him for Father's Day this year. My Mom even threatened to buy him a new bike.

Although most of us were soaked and some covered in grime to my surprise everyone agreed a return trip was definitely a must. We ended the day with dinner and drinks at Bella's Pizza in Abingdon and luckily for me the famous Bourbon Barrel Stout was on tap and it definitely lived up to the hype.

In other non cycling related news my cycling friend Jason, also one of Johnson City's finest had the opportunity to pull over the Mayor of Johnson City for speeding recently. Unfortunately the Mayor was not on her best behavior and some of her comments to Jason as he cited her were a bit uncalled for. Props to Jason for standing up to her and doing his job regardless of her threats.

Monday, May 3, 2010

zzzzzt... zzzzzzt..... zzzzzzzzzzzt.. zzt.. zzt.. zzzzzzzzzzzt..

It's been 2 years since the last time I went under the needle and had some new artwork done by my good friend Tom. The last time I went to see him he was the owner of 2TonTat2. Since then he sold the business and went out on his own to slow things down a bit open up a new shop and focus more on his art and riding his bike.
For a while I have been thinking about completing the piece I've had on my left shoulder and upper arm. The space left was the inside of my bicep. My plan was to keep with the cycling theme but keep it simple. I've seen alot of cool stuff lately as more and more pro cyclists are sporting full sleeve tattoos. I've been thinking about a script font tattoo for a while so I called up Tom told him what I was thinking and the place I wanted it to go.
Of course Tom did not disappoint me when I walked into his new tattoo/bike shop to inspect what he had drawn up for me.
I thought I had a cool bike room but Tom really took it to the next level with several bikes ranging from a custom cruiser a sweet dirt jump rig & various other dirt machines.

About an hour and a half later I walked out with a brand new tattoo and a big smile on my face.
I think Melinda was a little skeptical at first but once she saw the finished product she was impressed.