Thursday, May 26, 2011

more 12 Hours of Tsali

Normally GRT Racing does most of it's movement in the field of teams later in the race. We try to focus on consistency and racing right up to the very end. It's the last 2 or 3 hours that some teams find the hardest. Either they can't handle the endurance part of the race or they went too fast too early and have nothing left in the tank once the sun goes down. Several times when Mother Nature has not played nice we kept moving even though the conditions were less than desirable while the other teams threw in the towel in favor of dry clothes and a beer.
At Tsali the course was perfect, fast and almost too easy. If you have never ridden Tsali's trails you should, it's probably some of the smoothest singletrack I ever raced on. We did move from 10th to 9th as the day turned to night but one position was all we got. The thought of calling it an early race did float through our camp but we stomped that idea quickly and continued on knowing we would regret it the next morning. Quitting early in the race has never been something I've liked. The last time I raced Tsali I went solo and although I didn't make it to the end I rode until my saddle sores said no more. It was my first ever solo 12 hr attempt and just signing up for it was a huge acheivement for me. I guess my no quitting attitude comes from the way my parents raised me. I tried every sport offered growing up as a kid and not all of them I enjoyed or was very good at but no matter what happened I was not allowed to quit until the season was over and that has stuck with me through my adulthood.

The one thing I did skip out on this year was the spaghetti, I really had no choice. Maybe the local Gone Riding admirers ratted me out because the food was not brought out until I was lining up for my 3rd lap. It was all gone by the time I pulled back into the pits, well except for the spaghetti sauce which must have been watered down since it stretched farther than the noodles. It always happens the other way around at my house. As I rolled back to my campsite I noticed an entire plate of noodles and sauce that had been dumped on the ground not far from the table it was served from. Either a mass horde of people ran over the person who was carrying that plate or they weren't impressed with the watered down sauce either.

Melinda has finished with school for the summer so we are looking forward to more road trips and more riding together. Her back pain has backed off to some degree as long as she takes it easy but that has not been easy for her. I'm looking forward to this summer and the riding plans we have, FATS is on our riding agenda somewher, not sure on the dates yet but it will happen.

At some point I really need to get some running miles in or I'm going to take a serious beating at the road races I have planned and when I say road races I mean running, not the skinny tires.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

12 Hours of Tsali - the race report

The 12 Hours of Tsali has officially come and gone and being that the course was super fast and not very technical I had an excellent time. GRT Racing held strong throughout the entire race keeping our lap times right around the 1 hour mark all day. We had no mistakes or mechanicals and everything flowed very smoothly.

The team unanimously nominated me as the lead man in the race taking the reins and running in the Le Mans start. I kinda wanted to lead us out normally leaving those duties to B-Rad but he was busy in Chattanooga laying waste to other runners on Raccoon Mountain. Two weeks leading up to the race I was pondering on my strategy on what to do. My plan of attack was to start out the run which I considered short, as fast as I could, place my bike as close to the start as allowed and ride by any runners who might have been faster than me.

As we lined up for the start I tried to get as close to the front as possible but ended up 3 rows back packed in with everyone like sardines. As soon as the race started I took off hoping to weave through traffic and get closer to the front. I got hung up behind a couple of slower guys before working my way around to the outside and moved up along side the front pack as fast as possible. I did fairly well with staying up front but several of the runners were faster than I had expected.

Yes I am completely off the ground, it's how I run.

Once I got to my bike it was a cluster of runners trying to pass and riders trying to get moving and not run over anyone. Once moving I jumped on some guy's rear wheel as we weaved through the swarm of people. Once free of traffic I stomped on the gas.

Mark kept telling me he's not a runner and would be walking but obviously that was not true.

One thing I forgot was the length of fireroad we had to ride before hitting the singletrack. I had over exerted myself during the run and paid for it on the fireroad accents. I got passed left and right. It was until we hit the singletrack that I was able to get my breathing under some what of control. Just before the race I had downed a chocolate gel which was trying to fight it's way back out.

I had to back off a bit while I got my stomach under control and once that happened I was able to get back on the gas and work my way around some of the slower riders. The longer we raced the better I felt, I hoped I was not pushing myself too hard as I didn't want to blow up before it was over but I couldn't allow myself to back down with three or four riders in front and behind me. I held my pace and hoped for the best. Once in the pits I checked my time which showed 51.47, I though surely I had brought us back in at least in the top 5, that wasn't the case.

Going into the race I wondered if racing the sport class was the right thing to do. Some believe that if you have been on the podium you should move up to the next class. I think that if you win you should definitely move up the following year if you return to that same race. My pondering on whether we were sandbagging being in the sport class was put to rest as soon as the first round of laps were posted. Even though we were running fast and consistent laps we were in 10th place.

As I stood there examining lap times something caught my eye in the beginner category. The top 5 or 6 teams were posting sub 50 minute laps, faster than at least half of the sport field. Not only were the top beginner class riders running faster laps but the field was 3 times as big. I went from wondering if we belonged in the expert class to wondering if we belonged in the beginner class. The Gone Riding races obviously draw alot better riders from a larger spectrum than the races I'm used to but I have no doubt that a large portion of the beginner class did not belong there. I really wished there had been a co-ed class but I felt fine with our placement and settled into the race and concentrated on having fun.

Finally I was able to call on the JET to race knowing the course was really better suited for the hardtail bikes but I went ahead with it especially since I had seen several other JET9s and even a RIP9 on the first lap. I worried about being a bit slower on the JET but it was not by much. My second lap I turned in at 55 minutes 35 seconds. Unfortunately the entire lap was plagued by a creaking headset which I think was loose. I actually haven't taken the time to check since my Fox F29 is due in at any time.

For lap three I went back to the AIR9 to get a better feel of lap times since my first lap on it included the running portion. My third lap I felt awesome, the AIR9 felt like a rocketship. When I stomped on the pedals it immediately responded. My 3rd lap while not any faster than the second was only 6 seconds slower.

I never really thought the JET would be faster but I was pleasantly surprised at how fast it was. I plan to take it along with the AIR9 to the H8R race in Haw Ridge next month where it will be more at home with all the roots and rocks.

too be continued..............

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

no more water and the crossroads

I have officially lost interest in my strict training regimen, that and a busted water line down the road from my house today putting an end to my watering down the spaghetti in preparation for this weekend. Actually my dinner plans are looking like fajitas on the ECO's grill. How can I pass that up? I grew up in the great state of Texas and good Mexican food was a staple in my diet. I've never been a huge Italian fan so it's a no brainer for me.

In other bike related news I took the chainguide off the new MRP contraption to file down the insides a bit to alleviate some of the chain rub and managed to misplace it. After about an hour of panicking, thinking racing the JET along side the AIR9 just wasn't in the cards this weekend I finally found it in my hard hat at work. Yeah????

Both of the Niners are prepped and race ready, at least one half of this party will be. Me? I'm not too sure about being ready but I'll give it my all and concentrate of the fun aspect as usual.

From The Inside Out - First Look from SecondBase Films on Vimeo.

I wish I could ride like that.

While browsing the BR site I ran across these two videos, the Red Bull Crossroads. Kinda like CMT Crossroads where the take two different types of musicians and get them to play together. Red Bull has taken a freerider and a cyclocross racer and gotten them to ride together.


Tuesday, May 17, 2011

the watered down spaghetti, complaint free blog post

With the forecast for today looking grim at a 70% chance of rain and a couple of nightshifts coming up I decided Monday would be my best day to get a ride in and lay off the bike until the weekend. I was really wanting to get over to Warriors, the land of roots, rocks and all the fun techy stuff to put the new drivetrain on the JET9 to the test but it's rained almost everyday for the last couple of days and there are several trees down so I headed to Bays Mountain instead.

Bays Mountain is quite a bit different type of terrain compared to Warriors, much more climbing and alot less technical stuff. I hear alot of people who ride Bays on a regular basis say they don't like riding Warriors because it's too hard, I really don't understand this. Warriors is a really fun place to ride alot more fun than Bays, well for now. You see Bays has alot of fireroads that you must ride in order to connect the good singletrack. The potential for singletrack at Bays is HUGE and we're building as fast as we can and the as fast as the park will allow but it's going to take some time.

The newest trail which is currently under construction is the Chestnut trail, right now it's rideable and about 60% complete so in an effort to put the JET to the test I began there before climbing to the top.

The new MRP chainguide/bashguard worked well, there was a bit of chain rub but I'll be taking care of that with a grinder tonight.

I posted up a picture of the MRP on Facebox when in came in and I got a comment from a fellow rider about one of the other designs that just has the chain guide, no bashguard. I run a bashguard and always will, I'll never understand why some people don't. Well I guess if you don't ride in places that have alot of rocks and tech stuff to cross there is no need. I just don't like the idea of bashing my chainring and chain on the rocks especially since I have only one up front.

I made this little gem a couple of weeks ago when I was still planning to go the singlespeed route. I always ran a bell on the Karate Monkey so I figured I would do the same on my new SS. Since the SS is out of the picture for now I decided to go ahead and put the bell on the JET9. The JET is my fun bike, the bike I like to play around on and try not to be too serious with.

A few days ago I was bombing down Bear Run at Bays Mountain when I came across this hole in the trail and had to slam on the brakes. The picture really does not do it justice but I don't think I could ride across it.

The tree that took away the section of my trail, it's root ball is easily the size of a small car.

Again this picture does not do it justice, I thought about propping my bike up against it to have a reference point on the size. It's freaking huge.

Other than the chain rub that occurred when I was in my granny gears the new drivetrain ran smoothly. It will definitely see some action this weekend at the 12 Hours of Tsali.

Speaking of Tsali I've been having some fun lately at the expense of Gone Riding and evidently there are some local folks who have taken it a bit personally. It's not the first time I've poked fun at them nor the first time someone has taken offense to it. The fun I've been poking is about the spaghetti they served at the last race Gone Riding race I attended, the 12 Hours of Tsali, two years ago. It was cheap, watered down and all we got for our hefty entry fee. Most races at least give you a t-shirt or pint glass, we got watered down spaghetti. Now if I was really that upset about this I would simply just not attend anymore of their events but I'm not, I'm just having some fun at their expense. This year we are getting a t-shirt with our entry fee so who knows maybe this year is different. So AC, in honor of you I will not complain about the watered down spaghetti the folks at Gone Riding served us and I would like to dedicate this blog post to you. I shall title it, "the watered down spaghetti, complaint free blog post".

Speaking of Aaron Casey and Gone Riding, he did podium at the most recent SERC race, so congrats to you little buddy. Job well done!

Well since I promised no talk of watered down spaghetti I guess that's all I have to say.

Tomorrow, I'll be back to talking about watered down spaghetti as I continue my quest in training to prepare myself if watered down spaghetti is served again this year at the 12 Hours of Tsali.

Oh yeah I did manage to get the Bike @ Bays footage together and edited.


Sunday, May 15, 2011

Bike @ Bays and GRT Racing takes on Tsali

After some serious planning organizing and fretting all the small details, the 3rd Annual Bike @ Bays was a great success and the day rolled on flawlessly. NTMBA's annual picnic that originally started out as a 12 hour race for it's members evolved into a 6 hr race and then finally just a picnic with nothing but fun riding. As the year went by people stopped taking the racing so seriously and were having more fun just hanging out and riding with friends. A decision was made as the race attendance dwindled to concentrate just on having fun and boosting mountain bike awareness in our area.

Three years ago we took it to the next level and invited the local bikes shops to come out and bring their demo fleet. No one likes to test ride a bike they are interested in buying in the bike shop parking lot, the trails are the best way to know which bike is best for you.

This year we decided to bring the competition back in a small dose to up the excitement level and give some of the more experienced riders something to look forward to. This year we created the Chainless Bike Race, an all gravity race down the Azalea trail where riders were unable to gain momentum with the use of their drivetrain. Congrats to Ben Appleby who took home the winnings.

If you missed this year's Bike @ Bays I feel sorry for you it was a ton of fun and hopefully next year you'll make it out. We had a huge turnout and everyone really seemed to be enjoying themselves. I shot a ton of video footage and plan to put a re-cap video together so maybe it will make you feel like you were there somewhat, either that or make you more jealous. I chose not to participate in the Chainless Bike Race in favor of helping run the event and getting some great footage of riders as they bombed down Azalea. I did give my Go Pro cam to one of ETSU's finest downhillers Thomas to shoot footage of the race from the riders prospective. I think his footage will be much more interesting than mine would have. He's a bit faster downhill than I will ever think about being.

I did get a chance to get out and do some riding yesterday on two different bikes, both full squish 29er's. First I hopped aboard the Giant Anthem X and wow was I impressed. It handled, climbed and descended nicely. There were only two things I can think of that I didn't care for about the bike. One was the tires, it was sporting Maxxis tires, Aspens I think, and in the wet I felt them loosing traction in the corners and climbing in spots, the other complaint was the amount of time I got stopped to answer questions about the bike I was riding. Despite some of the negative comments I read about the Giant's looks I thought it was a good looking bike and so did everyone I passed. I could easily see myself riding the Anthem X.

The other steed I tried out was the Niner RIP9, Hampton brought one out but everytime I tried to ride it someone else was riding off on it. Mark graciously allowed me to hop aboard his brand new all black anodized RIP with a bit nicer spec'd components. I was expecting the RIP to be a slug climbing especially on the fireroads from some of the locals reviews of it but needless to say I was impressed with it. I didn't really get to rip up the downhills with it like I wanted to because the duties of running the show yesterday took priority. From what I did get to ride I have no doubt Mark will really enjoy his RIP, it was one of the sweeter looking bikes at the picnic. He spared no expense in building his bike.

Coming up this weekend is the 12 Hours of Tsali, GRT Racing is bring a 4 man team to the fight this weekend, or should I say a 3 man 1 women team this year. Andy, Abby, Anthony and I will be giving the other Sport class riders a run for their money. Maybe I should change my name to something that starts with an "A" like the rest of my team, Adam, Archie, Abe, Arnold?

All week this week I will be training for the race. Train the week before a race? Yep, every night I will be eating watered down spaghetti to prepare myself for the stuff the Gone Riding folks will be serving up. There actually might be a chance they won't have spaghetti this year because we are getting race t-shirts but I don't want to be taken by surprise if they do so I am planning to be fully prepared. We'll see if they are truly giving a little back or just trading one for the other.

Which bike will I race now that the JET9 is sporting a better drivetrain set-up? Probably both, I'd say I'll do my first lap on the AIR9 and then breakout the JET and compare lap times. I have a feeling they will be close. Speaking of drivetrains both of the bikes I demo'd yesterday at Bike @ Bays, were sporting the new 10 speed drivetrains. Talk about easy climbing, I think I could climb all day with a 10 speed cassette. Maybe next year I'll upgrade to the 10 speed stuff.

Melinda and I are going to hit Tsali a day earlier than the rest of the crew in an effort to get the nicest spot in the campground and take advantage of a bit more time camping. The ECO hasn't been called into action since the 6 Hours of Warriors Creek so I think we are ready for a few days of roughing it. Yeah I said roughing it.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

riding with 2 old friends and the infamous "Trixie" crew

Yesterday after some back breaking trailwork I loaded up the two white squishy bikes for some singletrack fun at Warriors with Melinda. Upon our arrival I notice all the Trixie riders gearing up for a spin through the woods. So rather than ride with the ladies I opted to ride with the guys so they could talk all girly and stuff.

Mike T. aka the "Local Cult Hero" had texted me earlier, something along the lines of "Rodney Warriors 6". Infamous for his one liners that take a few minutes to decipher I pondered a minute or two and then forgot about it. Upon our arrival at the trail head I realized he meant "Riding Warriors at 6, come out if you think you can hang".

As we suited up and the normal trash talking began, I noticed not only were all the Trixie riders in attendance but a couple of old friends of mine were there as well. One of which I used to hang out with alot. We spent countless hours at Warriors together cursing singing and making others look like chumps on a couple of occasions. Speaking of Trixie riders, Mike I want a Trixie t-shirt dammit! All the good deals I've given you on my old bikes and the $20 you shorted me on the Karate Monkey sale, it's the least you can do.

It took me a second to recognize the Monkey with it's new fancy wheelset. The white rims, wow very nice! It almost made me throw down an offer to buy it back. I'm still pondering that offer Dirty so hollar at me if you decide to sell.

Although we didn't spend a whole lot of trail time together the Mary did hang out in my bike room for a year or so until the Local Cult Hero finally conned me into selling it to him for a ridiculously low price. Both bikes were in good shape and made me proud to see them run again.

Kind of like it's time with me the Mary doesn't see much trail time either, I'm not saying the LCH doesn't ride much... well yes I am but even if he did, he has so many freaking bikes he could ride a new one everyday for two months before any of them see a second ride. I would say he easily has more bikes in his basement than some of the local bike shops.

The new NTMBA T-shirts are finally in, no funky colors this time. Get one while you can, $15. Here today, gone tomorrow.

Today is the day that the Lord has made, it's also the day where I will make the JET9 pedal like a dream. Easier? Heck no, Smoother? Yes! Hopefully there will be alot less chain droppage as well.

Bike @ Bays this weekend, hopefully we won't see any rain but if it does I'll still ride. Those trails with their sand based composition drain better than any in the area. Yesterday while working on the new Chestnut trail I was amazed at how well it held up just after two big storms, no mud.

Chainless bike race? You better bring it!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

giving a little back and a greasy chain

Things have been slacking around the blogosphere not just here but everywhere. I guess people are spending more time outdoors rather than blogging about being outdoors. It's 12:41 am and I'm stuck at work so I'll take a minute to see if I can come up with anything entertaining to say.

Rather than spend a bunch of time putting in miles on the mountain bike in an effort to boost my summer racing I've pushed alot of my focus to giving back instead of always taking. What I'm trying to say is I've been doing some much needed trail work. In the past 2 years my commitment to doing trailwork has been kinda slim, mainly due to my work schedule but I've finally found a way to work around this. I've been doing most of my trail work during the week and I've even found a few other folks with odd ball schedules to help out.

Trailbuilding can really be enlightening and fun, especially when you get to reap the rewards of your hardwork.

We've really made alot of progress with the new trail that's being built at Bays Mountain. Even though the volunteer turnout has sucked the excellent soil conditions have made thing flow smooth and very efficient.

Not only does trailbuilding make me feel good it's an excellent workout. It's not quite as fun as mountain biking but it is free and the reward for your work will last for many many years.

I can really only think of one negative thing about trailbuilding and that is the lack of help we get. With the HUGE potential that we have here in NE Tennessee for building trails and the large mountain biking population it's really sad to see how little others give back. We have a ton of opportunity for new trails right here in our backyard but we are moving at a snails pace taking advantage of it because the few who do show up can only do so much.

I can think of 3 separate projects that need our attention just at Bays Mountain that we could be doing but will have to sit on the back burner for a while. Just the other day I had to turn down a request for help building a totally new trail system because I knew we are to understaffed to do the work. I don't want to promise anything I can't follow through with and I knew it couldn't be done and I felt bad for saying no but it had to be done.

Enough of the negativity, this weekend should be a good one to stick around town for. Bike @ Bays is back again and this year will probably be the biggest yet. Really it gets bigger and better every year but this year we've gotten even more support from the local bike shops than we have in the past and we've added a new event, the Chainless Bike Race. A gravity fed race down Azalea where riders see who can get down the mountain the farthest without the aid of pedaling. Costumes have been encouraged so the spectator's view should be entertaining. I think a video recap will be a must for sure this year.

There has officially been a change in the tide in my bike room. A official attempt to sell the JET was made and the out come has been declared a failure. Some will say it was because my asking price was too high and that may have been the case but it was probably for the better. After 2 weeks on Ebay and a few decent offers one which I almost took I decided to pull the plug and keep the JET. I never disliked the JET in any shape or form, it's a great bike I just had a yearning for the singlespeed life again but I think those days may be past for me or at least on hiatus. With past back issues and Melinda's recent back injury it has gotten me thinking maybe the singlespeed gig just isn't what I need right now. The JET is a ton of fun and some of my reasons for trying to sell it where due to some drivetrain issues its had. I finally put in an order for a new rear derailleur and a chain guide to remedy any and all of the drivetrain issues I had. Another thing that kept me from truly falling in love with the JET was the lack of a proper fork, one that was meant to be on that bike. The JET is sporting a tapered head tube but since it's birth in my bike room it's been running a regular straight 1 1/8" fork. Today I officially ordered a new fork with a tapered steer tube and I went ahead and went for the thru axel. Why not go full bore and make this one bad ass bike. No more half ass building here. Vanna White is officially going to be sporting nothing but the finest duds I can afford.

I've always been a Rock Shox kind of guy but this time I went with Fox, I've heard good things about them and rather than buy a new wheelset to accommodate the 20mm Reba I'm keeping the Mavics and converting the hub to a 15mm which is what the Fox fork uses.

I looked around trying to find a good chain guide since I refuse to be normal and use a front derailleur. I run all of my bikes 1x9's which tends to hurt more on big climbs but makes me look tougher when I clean them. I gotta do something to be a little different.

The complexity of the JET9's frame due to a rear shock mount makes it difficult to run a simple chain deflector so I went with some a bit more fancy with the bottom bracket mounted MRP G2 mini. They come in a wide variety of cool colors but I decided to stick with black since I like my chains greasy.