Sunday, November 30, 2008

Turkey Burner/Foot in Mouth Disease/Further Ice Weasels Prep

I've been trying to do this frickin' Turkey Burner ride for years. Something has always happened which has prevented me from doing it though. Whether it was too much post-thanksgiving celebrating and the sleeping it off, having to work, or actually being in the country of Turkey, I have never made the thing. The Turkey Burner is an EFTA fun ride up at the FOMBA trails around Lake Massabesic in southern New Hampshire. Not only have I never made this ride I have never even been to FOMBA although it's just 45 minutes from my house. I really need to get out more.

Friday morning the forecast was dreary to downright miserable, luckily it wasn't raining in Somerville, otherwise I might have bagged it right then, instead I got in the car and drove for thirty minutes before I began thinking hard about calling 'er off. It was kind of sleeting, or Snraining, whatever it was doing it wasn't pleasant. I was almost there so I stuck it out, thinking I'd show up to an empty parking lot. Not so, there were hundreds of people there, getting ready to ride in the rain, and the cold, and the crap.

I rode around looking for my buddies Tom and Reenie, I didn't find them, but I did find regional Trek Tech Rep and local rider, Dave O'Connell. I asked if I could roll with him and his buddies and we were off.

The first few miles were fire road and jeep trail. At one point we came around a corner to find a rider walking toward us giving a warning of ice on the road. Some other folks wound up going down, it seemed too warm for icy conditions but it was indeed icy. When we stopped for Cocoa (courtesy of The Auburn New Hampshire fire department) the parking lot was glare ice. The Firemen had optional "Warming elements" for the cocoa. I'd had enough of such "elements" the night before so I stuck with straight up cocoa.

After that it was into the singletrack. It was good, all twisty and turny and rooty. Probably not too challenging when dry but an accident waiting to happen in the wet. No real big moves that I found, just miles of hypnotic, flowing singletrack.

Back up, as we were rolling over to the cocoa stop I was asking dave about "The Log Roll", I started telling him about how my now fiance' Miriam had wrecked herself on this stunt and ended up with Gangrene due to negligence on the part of a cocky and dismissive ER surgeon. At the stop a guy approached me and introduced himself as "The Surgeon who sewed that girl up". Did he hear the full version of my story? I don't know. If I were him would I have introduced myself to me. Probably not.

He demonstrated the kind of tact that informs his infamous bedside manner. "Did you come to the hospital with her?"."No". "Oh, she must have been dating some other guy back then, cuz she came with a guy". "Ya, that was her brother (dipshit)". This is going well.

We were never going to be friends anyway, something to do with the fact that he had sewed my girlfriend's leg up too tight causing Gangrene and with bacteria inside which caused an infection. Ultimately she spent a week in the hospital undergoing four surgeries and then spent six weeks hobbling around with a vacuum dressing (a small unit which helped drain and pull the wound together). Altogether this sucked pretty bad and sadly could have been prevented if things had been done right to begin with.

I ran into a couple friendly familiar faces out there, one was 29er Crew Rider Michael Patrick, one of my favorite rivals on the local race scene. Funny, I just linked to the 29er Crew page and Mike actually has a nice report up about the two of us riding together at The Landmine Classic a couple months back. Makes me even more eager for the upcoming season.

Then I ran into IBC rider Doug "Hill Junkie" Jansen out on his single speed. I chased after him and his buddy for a minute, realized that Doug is still in pretty good shape (unlike me), then sat up and waited for Dave and his crew. We rode for a little while more then my adopted posse opted to cut out. They directed me to some good trails, but me being me I got lost and wound up repeating everything we'd done plus the remainder of the thing they call the 15 mile "Hero Loop". After the getting fat fest of the day prior I hadn't eaten anything before the ride, hoping to burn off some of my "stores". I ran out of gas and went all noodle legs while there was still plenty of riding left to do.

The day did clear up though, getting better as it went on, I was actually too hot half way through the ride.

The Remedy was a little overkill for these trails, but it's still a vacation from the abuse of Crosscountry racing. Riding moderate XC type trails on the thing is like being on a rolling couch sitting on a water bed which is also rolling. It ain't a thing. And yes, it does corner like a mothersucker.

So yes, the infamous Log Roll that took Miriam out. You have to understand (three people that are still reading this infrequently updated in the offseason BLAWG) that when Miriam attempted this thing she was a huge rookie. She had never ridden her 80mm of travel hard tail down a set of four stairs, nor would she have tried it at that point. This was WAY over her head.

She came off it, looped out, went sailing into the rocks and underbrush on the side of trail and came out with a 10 inch long, six inch wide, and three inch deep wound. Her shorts held the fascia and skin together as she rode the two miles to the trailhead.

The kid in the photo was hesitant to do ride it. An older guy went up to coach him through as a photographer situated at the bottom heckled "Ya, he's coached millions of kids through this...and only like 7 of them ended up breaking any bones".

The kid rolled it just fine. As I prepared to ride away I commented "Probably a good thing I didn't tell him about my girlfriend who ate it on this thing and ended up with Gangrene". And who was standing right the frick behind me when I uttered this statement? That's right, the ER doc who "Sewed that girl up"...too tight and with bacteria inside. If he didn't catch the trash talking the first time he sure as hell did this time. I told Miriam this story, she enjoyed it.

In other news, The Ice Weasels prep continues. Here my Auntie Neil as we call him, does some mowing of the course. It's looking good, getting more packed in, seems like we might even have a small section of mud if it's at all wet that day. It's gonna be go sign up. Do it, do it.

Monday, November 24, 2008

All The Umbrellas In London Couldn't Stop This Rain
(From Sucking Wicked Bad)

Two mouthfuls of gutter water, that's a good morning. I don't know how many years I've been commuting, how many times I've ridden in the still comes as a shock when you venture out on the first low-forties, rainy day of the year. I guess it's like expecting to get used to being kicked in the nuts, it probably just isn't going to happen. Like some weird, freakball fetishist you just have to learn to like it.

In a better, far less wetter time, my buddy Jason and I went out to to work on The Ice Weasels course. We decided to reverse the course so that we didn't have to call in The Army Core of Engineers to re-sculpt a gnarly embankment. The reversed course is approximately 25% more awesome. I have a gauge that measures such things.

Since we saved ourselves many manly hours of work, we decided to go ride out of the house and hit some of the trails in Wrentham State Forest. Most of these trails were made by motorcycles, they can be challenging on an XC bike. On a Six Inch travel bike, they are a rip-roaring good time. I clean-ded stuff I ain't never a-cleaned afore.

We finished up by climbing up the old, abandoned ski hill and then descending down the insanely steep, rutted out face. During the couple years this thing was open in the eighties I actually skied it. The J Bar must have been terrifying, the pitch it goes up is incredible, and it's right next to a massive precipice. I don't remember being scared, I wish I was still so brave...or ignorant of what kind of pain a body can be put through.

This here (the thing above) is an XT Disc hub converted to a bolt on Fixed Gear Hub with a Surly Fixxer for a project I'm working on - Miriam's Super-Commuter. More on that as it progresses.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Ice Weasels Cometh Course Recon

Went down to Wrentham this morning for a little course recon. I had the course mapped out in my mind but I was anxious to actually ride around the place and get a feel for it.

I brought Cross expert Colin Reuter with me, he may have three fingers but what he lacks in fingers he makes up for in brain cells. I just have lots of fingers. One time I counted eleven.
The next day I counted ten.

Todd Downs came along as well. He will be running the MAVIC neutral support
at the race. Yes, we have Mavic neutral support, just like The Le Tour De France and like The Le Tour De France we will have a caravan of follow cars chasing the riders around the course. We may only have barriers for one lap of the first race, but we will have lots of damaged follow cars which we will sell for a huge discount at the end of the day. One part of this is a joke, the other part isn't, you decide which is which.

One of the Follow...tractors. What else do you think would follow racers around a farm?
Lapped riders get the mower blade. This is a high stakes race.

I took this photo from the official Camera Helicopter.

And by that I mean I climbed up a rickety ladder, onto a bowed out platform of ancient planks,
and squeezed through a tiny opening into the cupola of the barn, which was full of pigeon crap.

We will be mowing the course. And by we I mean my cousin Christy. The women in my family were taught to run heavy equipment, the men were taught to text message really fast on their cell phones and design really killer Myspace pages.

Phew, that was scary. I wrote "Myspace" and it didn't get flagged by Spellcheck as if it had been added to the English language. Spellcheck was off, all is well, proceed.

Hell's Garden. It's going to be fun tearing through this bit.

A couple barriers to the right of the wall and hedges will make a nice run up.

I'll be getting married under this tree this summer...after we fix the lawn.

Pickles tells me how she feels about rigid 29ers. She rides a Session 88 and wears shin guards. Four of them.

Ya, we gotta move this pile of stuff. The planks on top will be fashioned into really awesome hoppable height barriers. If you want two sets of hoppable barriers (or really easy to run over barriers) raise your hand.

The Start/Finish chute.

Some tilled field we won't be using.

Another View.

What we are calling "The Belgian Section". It just feels kinda Belgian.

I'll be posting more photos of the course as it develops. Remember, this race is December 13th, just a few minutes from the Wrentham Outlets. So come down, do some racing or some spectating, then do some last minute shopping for anyone who might have late December birthdays or something.

Another important thing to know is that this is private property and therefore people can imbibe any sort of beverage they would like in plain view. They can also hand any sort of beverage to riders who request it, so long it is in a plastic cup or can. Riders accepting drinks in large glass boots will be given verbal warnings.

Monday, November 17, 2008

SWANK You Kindly
The SWANK 65

Man, it’s easier to write these things Monday morning when the stuff is fresh in your brain. It’s just that I’m out of race, write, repeat mode. I’m more in eat, sleep, eat mode.

Here goes something like a race report. Saturday Chris and I went around the corner to Johnny’s to pick up Brian Plaster. He wasn’t near ready but we passed the time eating pastries and drinking coffee at his shop, it was terrible, like Guantanamo for me. Brian was somewhat reluctant to get in my Subaru. I guess it’s a southern thing. McQueen had expressed a similar apprehension, suggesting we take the Jeep, saying that people around Asheville “Don’t take kindly to Subarus”. Of course I did insist on keeping my pink helmet in the window for good measure. We were all horribly beaten to death with Axe handles, the end.
Turns out folks out that way are more likely to drive a Prius than a Subaru. Grr Priuseses.

Art Bike by Brian. I'd ride it to the bar.

Don't you know I'm minsane in the sembrane?

The drive out Black Mountain was a nice one. We were going to try to stop and ride at a spot called Kitsuma (I Googled it, never did find the correct spelling) but daylight was waning so we pushed on to the home of Tal and Jess Ingram. Ah, almost forgot about the most crucial-est part – we stopped at Chic-Fil-A. McQueen had talked this bible-thumping, closed on Sunday, we sell nothin’ but chicken and chicken by-products fast food chain until he was blue as the state of North Carolina in the face. Hey, y’know what? He was dead right. Those are some fine chicken sangwiches, just buttered buns, pickles, and a real hunk of nicely seasoned chicken breast. Allegedly this was a strictly southern chain, turns out they exist in Burlington and Peabody Massachusetts. I’m gonna bet you northen Chic-Fil-As are open on Sunday. I smell another civil war a-brewin’ “The War of Southern Indignation (Over Northern Chic-Fil-As being open on Sunday)”.

So glad I bought two of these puppies. So sad they weren't made with real puppies.

Chic-Fil-A may have infiltrated the north but a very northern chain has also infiltrated the south – Dunkin’ Donuts. Thank Gods. Chris and I decided to indoctrinate Brian into the world of “LAAHGE Reg-yuh-luh caw-fees as white as a (Caucasoid) bike-racer’s leg above the short line and full of enough sugar to put every diabetic east of the Mississippi into Hyperglycemic Shock. We even got him to wolf down a Boston Cream Donut, the worst of the worst. He had the standard reaction “Mmm this is GOOD…I feel kinda funny…now I don’t feel so good”.

"Uncle Thom, this Donut has yogurt inside" - My Nephew, Noah Sneed.

Late in the day we got to Tal’s, we were greeted by Cooper the dog or as Brian referred to him “Kitty Man!” or “Shanaynay”. We rolled into Down-smalltown Black Mountain for some food and beverages. Did some openers rolling up the substantial hill back to the house, and hit the hay.

For whatever reason I was up before dawn, totally unnecessary, but I didn’t feel too bad considering. We rolled over to the race venue, about an hour away. It was cold, like 30’s, we were scrambling to find our warm stuff. I discovered that I’d left a leg warmer back at the house, double embrocation saved my ass/legs. Brian wound up with an IBC jersey and a pair of arm warmers fashioned from socks by Cannondale rider Matt ‘Macgyver” Lee.

A Prius tried to follow us through this but it shorted out and electrocuted all the occupants. I laughed until I peed a little.

They lined us up for the Lemans start, I’m so used to SSWC Lemans starts that I didn’t bother even trying to figure out where we were going or what we were doing, so I got parked in badly. You gotta understand, I went into this with my race mentality somewhere far behind me, I think I may have left it in Vermont…in September. It’ll be back in late April 2009. I haven’t done a race with so little concern for preparation, game plan, or outcome since my first couple ‘Cross races in 2006. It’s a good time.

Plastered. He rode it on a 40Lb, Ellsworth Moment, with flat pedals, and his seat down. Props.

So we ran around in a big circle, I didn’t break my ankles, I got on my bike right behind Tal and we began riding up a hill into The Pisgah. I’m not your guy for specifics such as trails names and whatnot, if you want some of that, go HERE for a local rider’s take. At first I was content to sit in, but as the legs warmed up and the trail bit, staying on top of my gear meant passing riders. My gear, I went with a 34 X20, lighter than I normally run and ultimately too light for this course even with 7,000 feet of climbing over 38 miles. The way the climbing was broken up made it not so bad, lots of long, steady gradients. Not saying it was bad having a nice, comfortable gear like that, it was just a little slow through some of the course.

Johnny's in the AM

I can barely remember what happened through most of the race, or in what order the things I can’t remember happened in…if they indeed happened at all. I may have sat at the start/finish drinking beer and eating chips all day, who knows. OK, the climb went on for a while, a few stream crossings, things you had to hike over on small logs in, as Brian Plaster calls them “Dancing Shoes”. God, how long is this report? Is it already too long? My fingers are tired, my brain feels like it’s bleeding, I think Karate Kid Six is on where a 65 year old Christopher Walken plays The Karate Kid “I’m ordering a Buckwheat Kill on those Cobra Kai Fuckers”. Focus.

Jess and Tal's place in Black Mountain and some pre-race prep

Then we go down this rooty descent and I pass this guy that had made a bad pass on me earlier. How bad? He had a two lane dirt road, the whole thing, and he brushed my left elbow as he passed me on the inside. At that point he was my new nemesis, I really didn’t care about doing well, in the grand scheme of The Swank 65, I just had to beat that guy. I went by him with my rigid fork, now that I know how much it sucks to descend with a rigid fork if I EVER get passed by a guy sporting one, I will run, not walk (or maybe even ride) to the store where they sell balls (BALLMART) and ask for my money back.

McQueen finishes up strong and happy.

We did a lot of riding through rhododendron groves, they were gorgeous. At one point there was a climb which was up a sort of rocky gully, covered in leaves, I started playing “Stay on the bike” seeing if I could just make it to the top. I gave up when my cadence hit single digits and my knees started to sound like the woman at the end of this video. Turns out I was about ten yards from the top, god I suck!

Subarus, the new pickup truck.

The most remarkable part of the course was Farlow gap, it was a climb that went and went. Here I caught the leading single speeder, he had been climbing like a goat on fire earlier in the day. I also came up on Marshall Hance, local strong guy who I’d met at SSWC Scotland last year. We had Fish and Chips after the race, big style. I had no idea what I was getting into. The descent began, it got crazier than a conversation between Wesley Willis, Tracey Morgan, and Charles Manson. Eventually I was riding down an incredibly steep rock slide, covered in leaves, my arms crying out in pain, four fingers gripping my rear brake lever, until I had to give it up before I got broke up.

Johnny's again

It didn’t end either, I have never walked so much of a descent in my life, I have never yelled “You are a horribly failed experiment!” at a bicycle component (my rigid fork) before. I have yelled that at one of my children. “It” was taken away shortly thereafter.

Descending upon Black Mountain.

Marshall blew by me on Farlow, he was rockin’ it. I was amazed no one else came by, I even caught someone, only to lose them on the much less challenging run out from the descent. My arms would never recover, I was a rolling rag doll waiting to happen. I hit the final aid station and kept on rolling, entering a high-speed semi-downhill doubletrack for what seemed like miles. Bad-passer was back there somewhere, that rude bastard with his clicky, clicky gears “Click, click, here I come in my big ring, gonna bad-pass you again fatty”. That’s right, I got fat, McQueen would threaten me with bodily harm every time I said so, but seriously, I have gained nearly ten pounds in a month and a half. Wow. I was often transfixed by my gut as it lolled from side to side on the climbs. I had to tell myself that my strength to weight ratio had improved so much that it didn’t matter, that my “Meat Legs” would carry me through. They kind of did, I never felt that bad out there.

Tal's country bike stand.

Just as I exited the singletrack and started to head up the paved road, a geared rider materialized behind me, reeling me in, was it DB Bad-Passer? He came right up to me as we began the final climb, the penultimate climb, it wasn’t DB, it was a nice guy I’d ridden with earlier. I still decided I wanted to drop him so I spun that little gear like spinny thing that spins so fast it’s nuts and I went up and over that climb with a gap.

Cold Mountains. Registration. That's Tal walking in the background.

The finish was actually a lollipop of what we came up at the start, at least I knew there was no more arm-pumping, potentially teeth-smashing descending left. I rolled in just under four hours in 13th place. People were stoked on my first place single speediness and the fact that I had driven down from Boston. I was stoked to eat three cheeseburgers and drink free beer for a couple hours while I waited for Chris and Brian to come in.
Thanks to Chris, Tal, Adrian, Ann, Dex, Brian for hanging with me in NC. See y’all in the spring for The Cohutta!

The videos I took of me singing along to Haircut 1oo and OMD to pass the time are only for Miram to see I'm afraid. I hope to hell you're not still reading this.

Friday, November 14, 2008

We Interrupt Our Regularly Scheduled Program...

to bring you this important message. International Bicycle Centers and are putting on a 'Cross race:

It's short notice, it's insane. but it is happening and it is going to be a hoot, I guaran-frickin'-tee it. It's all official like, we even got it on The Bikreg, check it out, all the registration info is HERE.

Basically it's December 13th, the weekend of Nationals in Wrentham, MA, right by the Outlets (I've never been...but I hear they're awesome...if you like to buy stuff...which I don't...except for bike stuff...but they don't have that stuff I will probably never go).

We're going to put together a crazy course with everything and anything short of a Shark Pit. Other awesomeness includes a kids course which will be open all day, great vendors like TT Buds Popcorn, and Organic Treats from White Barn Farm.

So come on out for one last race before you put the bike away for the winter and bust out the trainer, you won't regret it.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Some Last Minute Training for The SWANK

Friday morning, two days before the SWANK I went up to Durham to meet up with another Boston transplant, Adrian Fletcher. We used to work together at Ace Wheelworks in Somerville, MA. Before that he was the guy who worked the parts counter at IBC Boston and made fun of me when I was attempting to build up my first fixed gear. "Um, ya, I need a chainring...". "What bolt circle diameter?". "What, what?". "Come back when you know what bolt circle diameter your chainring is (dumbass)". Now he works as an EMT in Durham. "I'm having a heart attack". "No you're not, it's indigestion, come back when you're having a heart attack (dumbass)".

He goes to coffee shops and doesn't drink coffee. This is like going to the crack house and not smoking crack. He is a freak.

He got his-self a Kona Unit 29er. For some insane reason he's running IRC Mythos 700 X 44 hybrid tires. The only thing they're good for besides getting flats is picking up poo. I figured this out while test riding it around his yard. At least there's no tread on them so the poo washes off easy.

Chris doing his best Dexter "I am totally stoked photo-face" in front of his place Carrboro.

We headed over to Brian's house to pick him up for a ride. At one time it was a run of the mill little ranch house. The darker areas of the facade are all textured steel plates. They look cool and serves as good bulllet-proofing in case of drive bys.

More shots of Brian Plasters' house.

While we waited I took more photos of his stuff. Hope he doesn't mind.

McQueen and Adrian.


There are killer trails about five minutes from McQueen's house in Chapel Hill North. Real tight, swoopy singletrack with optional little gap jumps and log jumps. It's a whole lot of trail packed into a real small area. I had a super good time out there.

Adrian's wee tires caught up with him quickly. Luckily Brian also runs bolt on axles with 15mm axle nuts, so he was carrying a 15mm wrench. While he fixed the flat a plane buzzed us on the way to the airport right next door...I was totally freaked out. I might have a phobia - an irrational fear of planes crashing directly into my head.

The gauntlet got thrown down, it hit me in the foot and I was like "What the hell, who did that?" and Chris was like "Dude if you don't ride over that big, pointy rock and probably smash every tooth out of your face you are a huge pussy". Adrian concurred and told me that I had too many teeth anyway so I threw myself over the thing.

You can see me redirect my front wheel off of the kind of wheel trapping slab of rock at the top. That was the moment when I said goodbye to my numerous teeth. It really doesn't look that scary, but it was.

Adrian informed us that we were going drinking after the ride. We started at The Milltown where we spent only the most cursory amount of time drinking quality beers before switching to large quantities of PBR. The place was cool but the hostesses made us feel like we were in a foreign country, they didn't speak our language, and they hated Americans. Maybe they were just racists and could tell Adrian was an Octoroon. And North Carolina went to thanks to these two racist hostesses.

We stopped at The Lantern a place co-owned by Mac Mccaughan of Superchunk. They serve excellent cocktails and Japanesey type food. I had my first Sake-Tini. It may be my new favorite drink.

Next time: My First Chick-Fil-A Sandwich or How I Am Continuing to Get Fat At An Alarming Rate.