Racin’

Thus far today the snow and rain have held off, so I hope to begin some interval work on the bike this afternoon. Between hiking, running, and cycling in the last eight months I’ve built an excellent base, demonstrated by my rapid recovery the last three weekends. I’ve consistently gone from thrashed to solid in 48 hours

Now I need to build some resiliancy in my snap. During SSAZ, and to a lesser extent during the Red Hot, the push to get over hard rises and small obstacles dropped off, even as my steady state ability to keep the pedals turning was largely undepleated. Fast-twitch in general has always been an extreme weakness on my part. So, lets try to work on that.

Plans and focus turn towards the Rim Ride, which will I think turn out to be a good epic. Hairball warns us well about the final stretch, the ascent up to the Rim and the subsequent traverse will be brutal, especially after hours on the bike. I have no intention of riding it in the dark, if I don’t have a good 2.5-3 hours of daylight, I intend to bail down the Gemini road. I’ll have a good chance of making that cutoff, however, provided I set a good pace and don’t kill myself and my hands in the first half. Water is still very much a question in my mind; I may just be hauling a good two gallons from the start.

So the months schedule is the following:

3-4: M’s parents in town
9-11: likely trip to Moab to preride key sections
17-8: Arizona Spring Fling rides: Sedona on Saturday to get my ass kicked on the tech, I’ll be leading a circumnavigation of Granite Mtn on Sunday
22-26: days off for the Rim Ride and some canyoneering (provided I’m not too destroyed)

I have a hard life.


Stolen photo of Moab Randy at Old Pueblo. Those are some stick legs he’s pushing to a podium spot in solo SS!

Note the use of Oury grips on the drops, a very clever idea in my o so humble opinion. Also the intriguing shape of the new WTB drop bars, I’ve written before about how I don’t like the ergo bend, but this photo of Randy makes me rethink that statment. I like the much longer look of the hooks, and they’ll likely be on my list to try in the future. I have no substantive complaints about the midges, and am 200% sold on the concept of off road drops. The Snurly fixie will keep the red risers for a while, but may sprout some drops later this year.

M’s new ride


We’ve “needed” a second car for a while, America being the car-based society that it is. Hardcore holdouts like Mr. Nice aside (and you rock, sir) I find it hard to get around from home to work to trails to store and back without a vehicle. Ergo, Josey the Xterra will become mine on a daily basis, and the above fine piece of German steel will be M’s. That is, when she retrieves it from south Georgia.

It’s a ’77, diesel, etc, etc. I have a very happy wife, I even have one who will soon be reemployed! And right now she’s off at welding class while I hang out and drink beer, with only myriad forms of electronic media to keep me company. Whoa is me.


Also in the train is a set of these here classics, sourced from some clever persons dusty box across the pond. The XC version of these 94 bcd square-holed beauties go for north of a benjy rountinely on ebay. Crazy what planned obsolescence hath wrought.

Mine will be “pewter,” whatever that’ll be, and 165mm. Off-road fixie, methinks.

New Hance-Tonto-Kaibab

If there is any place where the abyss looks into the observer with ease, it is overlooking Grapevine canyon on the Tonto trail. The black schist is stark and vertical, the dull-pink granite intrusions laid diagonally. Huge and consistent stripes that blend the near wall into the far, without the river inlayed at the bottom all reference would be lost. I found it almost impossible to walk along the edge without ignoring the inner gorge.

So, why a Monday mysteriously off? Not the sort of thing that happens often for me. Ever, really. Indeed, in this case I fucked up. A student didn’t show second hour, was in the bathroom. I didn’t think much of it until near the end of the period, when I learned she had tried to hang herself and passed out. Reasons? Yes, she’s been on a medical order for months to have as much time in the bathroom as she likes, a bowel complication resulting from being analy gang-raped. Plus, I’ve got 95 students in 8+ grade levels, and do all my own paperwork, grading, curricula development, teaching, supervising, etc. Excuses? None. So, my head was on the block when it came time to make an example, and I got a free day off. Free for the company, that is.

Please note, I write this reluctantly, and only after vetting my whole blog. Most of you know what I do, a good number exactly where I work. The casual observer does not, and it has to stay that way.

I’ve never dealt with failure well, obstinancy and an overprotected childhood. So, I’ve got some demons from this one. The sort that make an attempt at “punishment” by the company laughable; I can assure you that out on my journey, physically sojourning alone with my demons, I did not sleep well.

The mission is I think accomplished. Rolling with dissapointment and failure has been a personal goal for a couple years, and this weekend I had a good and challenging trip, and today I kicked ass at work. So, next item.

I do want to go backpacking more, now. My Granite Gear pack worked so well I wanted to buy it a beer early Monday afternoon; I brought too much food but not too too much. On Sunday I punched out 26 miles of rough backpacking, found a beautiful campsite, and drank deep from a unique place.

This year will I think continue to be a good one.

Weekend Fear

Through mysterious circumstances at work, I have Monday off. So, I’m headed off to the Grand Canyon tomorrow for a three day solo backpack. I haven’t been backpacking in ages, given that overnighting on the river last September to alpine-start Choprock doesn’t really count. And solo backpack, I can’t even recall.

Solo backpacking is freaky for me, not so much objectively but subjectively. I can deal with anything that happens out there, and have done so enough times so that emergencies aren’t a hesitation. Rather, the abyss inside my head yawns. As Nietzsche wrote: “Look not too long into the abyss, least the abyss look into you.” Nietzsche was talking about nihilism, and for me that is quite accurate. Being alone with nothing to do out in the wild gets me questioning why I do what I do in a way that running or cycling or canyoneering, with constant technical motion, does not afford. Perhaps a good thing, given the present circumstances. Also, it’ll be exercise without stressing the system too much; I feel fully recovered from last weekend, but it is I think good to be cautious.

The intended route: down the Tanner, and then across and up the Bright Angel. Ambition dies hard, and I still like to keep myself well and busy.

I took some more steps towards getting my fixie ironed down and built, ordered Open Pros on a Surly flip-flop and my old RX100 hub, tracked down a 26.6 seatpost, and got a 35c WTB Allterrainasaurus for the front wheel. I’ll need to file the front of the fork crown a bit to have adequate clearance. Also: pink brake cable housing for my front (and only) brake. I just need a bb (waiting for the wheels to determine length), chainring, and chain. I got a 18t Surly cog, so perhaps a 42 will do me up right. Funfunfun!

Off to ride, in the wind and blue sky. See ya’ll Monday evening.

Defeat

I gave up. Julie wins, and is back to a singlespeed. More filing the cog and messing with the chain yielded no results, and brought me up against my prolegomena to any future cycling: I am a poor mechanic with a limited tolerance for tinkering. A character flaw, yes, but so be it.

I’m going to kick around a 34:20 for a while, see how tall it feels out on the hills. A vague plan is to push in through some intensity work for the next month and see if I can push it through the Rim Ride and KTR. I want to concentrate on physical adaptation and not succumb to the singlespeed disease of gearing obsession. I should note here that not once during SSAZ was I asked what gear I was running.

So now I’ll be putting together the fixie as a town/pave/fire road bike. For a rear hub I’m looking at this:


Echo fixed cassette hub. Fits six nine-speed cogs, with no freewheel. Given my surplus of ss cogs and spacers, it would be cheaper than a Surly hub, track cog, and lockring. A trials hub seems like it would have no durability issues, either.

So, now that this is all done, I’m looking forward to heading out in the next three days and putting some nicks in that nice new Blackspire ring god.

Just registered for the Wahsatch Steeplechase in June, the weekend after the Kaibab and should be an excellent course for me, steep and technical up and down.

If anyone wants a 25t Endless cog that’s a bit modified but still I imagine perfectly useable, let me know.

La Fin du Monde

In February 1994, after 18 months of research, Unibroue launched La Fin du Monde (the end of the world). It is a 9 percent alcohol, triple fermentation beer. This type of beer was originally developed by the monks of the Middle Ages to be served on special occasions. La Fin du Monde is a deluxe beer made by triple fermentation and a unique way of straining the yeast. This method produces an unexpectedly subtle flavour. With its champagne-like effervescence, it has a vigourous presence in the mouth, which accentuates its strong personality. Slightly tart, with the balanced flavours of wild spices, malt and hops, it belongs to the class of great Trappist beers and, in this regard, is a North American first. At meals, it can replace white or red wines and enhances the flavour of most dishes.

This beer is brewed to honour of the great explorers, who believed they had reached the end of the world when they discovered America.
-unibroue.com

In summary, highly recommended.


M and I finally got around to using a gift card to a Prescott restaurant, Bin 239. Silly name, good food and one of the best beers known to man. Light(ish) beer that isn’t soporific or mundane. Those Quebecois know their stuff. So, I was able to come home, cut off all my hair, and pass out feeling mildly drunk and very happy.

This was a fitting reward for the agony of car shopping. I would like nothing more than for Josie our Xterra to last another decade. We did however find an ’01 Forester with custom deep purple leather seats and interior. Quite tasteful for the color really, but a bit odd. Our sense was that the Boogie Night’s-esque vibe was proving to be an impediment to sale, perhaps something we can use to our advantage.

Otherwise it was old parade of half-duplicity and false cheer, adding up to some of the traits in humanity I loath the most.

Riding around this morning, I still have a hiccup in the 20t, but not in the 16t. I don’t get it.

The day after the day after

My legs are feeling quite good. I can bound up and down stairs as normal. All signs that hiking was the right choice, that no real damage was done. About that I am very happy.

I got distracted from filling the Endless again and messed with my project frame, an old Specialized mountain bike I got at a thrift store last year for $20. I hacksawed off the canti bosses, painted it purple and green, and fitted a long reach Tektro road brake to the hole in the fork crown. I can probably fit a 35-8c cross tire up front, and maybe a 42 out back (loooong stays). At Rim Cyclery on Sunday I snagged a $2 1″ threaded headset, and fit it in today with my sophisticated headset installation and removal tool (a big ole adjustable wrench with a rubber coated handle) and a stump. Beautiful.

Then I got really carried away. Fitted the old stem back on, added my red Titec risers, leftover bar tape triple layered, the old Shimano canti-lever with one of my precious ebay pink DiaCompe non-aero road brake hoods, and an old yellow bottle cage and bolts scavenged from the parts baggie.

I still need:
seatpost
chainring (38t Surly, 110 bcd please)
track cog (17t) and lockring
wheels
front tire

For the wheels I have:
32h RX100 front hub, just repacked with Phil Wood greenie goodness
cheap 36h rim
nice 28h rim with no reasonable braking surface

Still working on the wheels, though the theme has become “cheap as possible.” Can you lace a 32 hub to a 36 rim? I aim to try, if my scavenged spokes prove the right length. Perhaps a 28h disc hub and a bolt-on cog?

Eventually, ie tomorrow, I’ll get the Julie back on her feet. As you can tell, right now I’m a bit burnt on the 3 speed project, though by this weekend I’ll be able to start training again and should therefore get off the couch.

My official Red Hot write-up

I’m beginning to look at how far I can go, and it looks good. When I commence my course of full force strengthening and rehab next week, I’m going back to the Red Hot next year, and going sub-6 hrs.

And there I go fucking it all up by attaching a goal. Weak.

I love running, and I’ll love running more because it slams me straight up against a major character flaw: I am not good at sustaining a goal in the face of pressure and the lack of instant gratification. Thus the need in these cases to use goals judiciously. While running the Chicago marathon in 2002, I had serious knee issues. A tight IT band coupled with weak abductors (inner thigh muscles) create tracking irregularities in my knees (visible in the patella going outward) brought on under muscles fatigue. A year of procrastination, chiropractors, orthotics, and physical therapy got me back to square one, and the last two years of hiking, biking, and occasional running have not stressed the knees enough in the right way to bring the hurt. Until two days ago.

I did everything right. M took over driving around 2100 in Kayenta, and I slept for 3 hours in the back of the truck until we pulled over on the Anticline Overlook road and crashed until 0500. The stars were unreal; the milky way to most visible I’ve ever seen. I got up and drove 30 minutes into Denny’s, drank lots of coffee and ate lots of calories, crapped twice, and registered early. I spent an hour cruising around looking at cars and people, getting prepped, and using the head. I hydrated well but not excessively. I brought exactly the right gear, including a couple very unobtrusive emergency items I didn’t use. I had no chaffing, no blisters, my feet were never even sore (brand new socks and good shoes). All the details fell in together perfectly with just enough and not too much attention.

I smoked the first 17 miles in three hours flat, slowing down intentionally on numerous occasions. Life was good. I chatted with a Brenda, a 46 year old mom, physical therapist, tele skier, and ultra runner from Steamboat (of course) who’s 14 year old son is on the Freeskiing Junior Olympic team and is sponsored by Moots, for the first hour. I dropped her on the big climb when she stopped to pee. She would later diagnose my knee issues in 6 sentences when she caught me late in the race, and prescribe treatment in 4. Lamentably, she did not come to the post-race gig.

I plugged in the artificial moral-booster (iPod) going up the first grinds on Gold Bar, as per schedule. I was beginning to drag, and my knees were starting to complain on descents (heretofore I had been dropping everyone going down), and I was all alone. NBD, I wrote it off to the lull before the second wind, and concentrated on pushing up the hike (now) at a steady pace. The four miles from aid 3 to 4 (the summit of GB) took 80 minutes, and I still caught a couple guys near the top.

As I sat, keeping company with a full mormomesque family of 20 in six jeeps, enjoying the view and some garlic bagel chips (placing them at that aid station, but not the others, was unintentional genius), it seemed that my knees weren’t quite right. It was a murky yet unmistakable tightness and twinge. And I was done. Stubbornness of any magnitude aside, I was not going to make this worse and fuck up the rest of the year and my plans. Then again, it was 1230 on a gorgeous day, and the hike back to the beginning was almost as long as the rest of the course and would allow me only to hitchhike to the Poison Spider trailhead to wait for M. I elected to view the rest as a 13 mile hike, and relish the very real possibility that my fast start had even now put my 8 hour goal within reach. I tanked up on water and Cytomax and pushed off.

I had warned a couple folks earlier that the second half would be way harder, and the 7 miles along the Gold Bar rim fulfilled that. In the last three years, I’ve put in many many miles over rough rough terrain, and a multitude of cross country canyoneering approaches served me well. The many dips and returns to the rim got a bit old towards the end, but in the midst of that I caught Quentin from Salt Lake, who had simply bonked hard and was dragging along for the finish. I felt and looked (I hope) quite chipper, in spite of the enforced hike, and chatted a bit before he fell off the pace. I was still able to push the ups hard at a hiking pace, and power-walk the flats, but going down with any dynamic movement was quite uncomfortable. I rationed my one bottle of dilute Cytomax, did what I could, and tried to not be frustrated at moving slower than I was aerobically capable off, familiar territory from Chicago years before.

My patience was somewhat tested when at the beginning of the descent towards the wash south on Gold Spike a big pack caught Quentin and me. Brenda was among them, and seemed to be orchestrating a 50/50 jog/walk pace. I yoyoed off the back as we segued into steep slickrock domes, getting dropped on the descents and catching back on with every climb. I had to beat down the ego a few times, but the one occasion I tried to trot along in the sand affirmed that patience and moderation were good things for me.

When we began to see motos, jeeps, and two cyclists I knew the last aid station and Poison Spider were close. Brenda et al grabbed fluids and moved out quickly, I abandoned haste and sat down with water and pretzels to chat with the two ladies from the Moab 4×4 club manning the station. Quentin limped up and joined me, and the ladies complemented us on providing them with “an excellent excuse to go wheelin’.” A sorry excuse indeed. The trap of lethargy loomed large, and the carrot of the 8 hour barrier. I was off at my race-walking pace, though not without stopping to watch a couple jeeps burn rubber on steep slickrock slabs. It was the first day I’ve ever had the leisure to pay attention to such things, and combined with the “highlight reel” playing at the brewery that evening I’ve concluded that jeepers and fucking nuts. Just what geared riders say to SSers, SSers to fixers, and any cyclist to a runner.

I suffered the indignity of getting dust-blown by the aforementioned jeepers on the flat miles of PS, but had the nobility of suffering in silence, as Brenda and her crew were far out of sight. I eventually resorted to the iPod to break the monotony, and just as I was realizing that 8 hours was indeed within reach, “Sunday, Bloody Sunday” came on and I reached the first descents on PS, the fun steps down the cliffbands. At that moment I rationalized that the psychological boost was greater in the grand scheme of health than moderation, and with a whoop tore off.

This is why I run. I passed everyone. All the jeeps, all the runners who had passed me in the last hour. With ease. I love technical running, and descending is absolutely a skill (bit of a change from cycling!) I have. For 5-8 minutes I was rocking it in nirvana, though when I hit the sand I decided to slow down and walk and not get carried away. It taxed the knees, but my assessment was correct. The last two miles passed easily, Brenda’s group caught me, and I finished as a foursome in 7 hours 46 minutes.

Mission accomplished.

I’ll be back, and THIS TIME I’m coming all the way.

Notes:

-Anxious to know how Chris fared at OP with the DNF. Hope you’re ok!

-Race schedule will be revised soon. Zane Grey and Transiowa are both off the slate, I’m concentrating on knee fixing and the Rim Ride and KTR until the Kaibab MC in June.

-Pike’s is getting the boot, too many people, too much BS: I’ll do a solo run this summer. The logistics don’t merit the fee, unlike this weekend.

-The road section along 313 of the Rim Ride has me all confused, as does the water situation. Looks like we’ll be hauling it all, which is a lot if it’s hot! More likely now to make the trip in a few weeks to check things out.

-Snow tonight! M and I had a killer Thai dinner in Prescott, and drove back with a good inch on the ground. Happy.

-I’ve been a bottomless pit of instant gastro-gratification in the last 48 hours: when I’m hungry I need to eat NOW!

-I used a trekking pole as a cane to get around at work today, the usual quad ache makes going down steep hills very problematic. The girls were amused.

-Salute the founders, yo.

Fin