Friday, December 30, 2011

Seven Sisters

Slideshow from last night's ride.  Charles and I did 35 miles of mostly gravel in a little under three hours, with the highlights being a horror movie B road I knew existed but had never ridden, comfy weather and maybe a little trespassing.  No one in that truck bothered to yell at us though, so I'm guessing we were ok.

Edit: Click here for the direct link to the photo album.  I've had a couple people tell me the slideshow wasn't working for them

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Lessons Learned

Now that I've had some time to decompress from and reflect on Tuscobia, it's time to get down to what's important.  What went well?  What didn't?  What did I learn?

What went well:
  • I had my best result of the year, 6th out of 18 starters.  I went in to this without any real expectations since it was mostly just training for Arrowhead.  I ended up "racing" most of it after getting myself caught up in a cat-and-mouse game with a couple other guys, which left me feeling like crap for the second half.  Still, I was pretty damn proud of that result since I'm usually in the back half of the field.  In fact, sometimes the only thing separating me from DFL is alphabetical order.
  • My tires. Sweet baby Jesus, those Nates were awesome!  Up til now I'd been second guessing my decision to buy those over a pair of Larrys because the Nates suuuuuck on gravel and hard pack.  My opinion, I know, but without anything to dig in to you end up riding on top of some very rubbery knobs which add a lot of rolling resistance as well as give you the feeling that you're pulling a sled on a bungee cord.  Not so in the snow (or sand for that matter).  This is a tire that feels so much better when the knobs are digging in and doing what they're supposed to do.  Out on the trail I found they rolled slow on the hardpack and ice, but they rolled solid and true.  There was absolutely no sliding whatsoever.  I studded the front with 1/2" #6 pan head sheet metal screws, but I'm not sure I needed to.  I left the rear unstudded with the tread reversed and didn't have a single issue over 15 miles of patchy ice.  Once I hit the soft, crusty snow they floated a lot better than I thought they would (with the right air pressure) and rolled great.  When I did break through, the knobs did their job and I had absolutely no squirm.  Where you point these tires is where you go.
  • This was my first time riding snow on a fatbike, so the Stormtrooper finally got to show me what it could do.  I loved being able to float over snow that I barely would have been able to plow through on my old hardtail.  Once the snow got soft, I actually found it much easier and faster to ride on the untouched sections than in the packed tracks of others.
  • My clothing and pack gear did it's job well.  I'll need to move stuff around a bit before Arrowhead in order to optimize, but I was expecting that.  I was dressed a little on the warm side, so when I left Winter I was cold for a bit longer due to my base layers being pretty wet from the sweat.  Still, I didn't get all that cold the couple times I had to stop for mechanicals in the dark, so I wasn't too far off optimal.  Boots/socks worked well and kept my feet toasty.  The couple hills I had to walk were no problem and I had plenty of traction.
What didn't go well:
  • Obviously, the mechanicals were an issue.  My bottom bracket kept unthreading throughout the race, first on one side, then the other and back again.  I had to stop three times on the trail to fix it, plus once on the roadside when Deb brought me my tool.  Chalk this one up to me not using the right tool to install it when I built the bike.  I didn't want to get the special tool for the bottom bracket that I was expecting to ditch at the end of snow season, so I worked with what I had.  This meant I probably wasn't able to get the proper torque on it, leading to the issue in question.  
  • I bonked halfway through the race and was never really able to recover.  Part of this was me riding at a higher intensity level than I typically train for, part was me trying out new foods (it was a training race after all), and part was how I physically placed my food in my pack.  I had fats and proteins in a much more accessible part of my pack, so I kept grabbing those over the carb rich foods.  I switched it up after I bonked, but by then it was too late.
  • Once again, cramping legs were an issue.  They were a minor issue that I was able to control on such a flat course, but they were an issue nonetheless.  I attribute this to the level of intensity as well as poor pre-race nutrition and hydration.  I'll work on this for Arrowhead since it'd be a much bigger problem there.
  • My bike position wasn't great, and during the race I had some back, hand and wrist soreness.  After the race I had sore knees for a couple days.  The knees were caused by the lack of float in the pedals.  The back could be fixed with a higher rise stem and the wrists/hands could be taken care of with a handlebar that has more than a 5 degree sweep.
  • Speaking of pedals, I'm still getting used to the platforms.  This is just going to come down to practice.
What I learned:
  • Food placement is going to be an important part of setting up my equipment.  I added string cheese and summer sausage to my race diet, which tasted great out on the trail, but I need to make sure I have carbs readily available as well.  I also need to make sure I alternate between the different foods.
  • That 6-8 hours total that I spent riding my bike before the race wasn't enough.  I had planned to do a four hour ride the weekend before, but ended up having a little too much fun the night before and skipped it to nurse my hangover.  A good, long ride may have flushed out the bottom bracket issue.
  • Use the proper tool for the job.  I know...  Duh, right?  Chalk this one up to me being a cheap ass where I shouldn't have been.  The sad thing is I usually jump at the chance to add a new tool to my arsenal.
  • Two straps on my sleeping bag.  TWO!
  • Dial in that bike position.  This is another "Duh" item, but I knew what I had was good enough for this length.  I will need to address the cockpit before Arrowhead, but the pedal are just going to come down to practice.  Well, I may be able to adjust the pins somewhat to help with the knee soreness.
  • I should load the bulkier stuff in the drive side pannier and try to keep the other side slim.  When I had to push my bike my leg would sometimes hit the bag, which was slightly annoying.  It'll be a lot more annoying at Arrowhead.
  • Arrowhead needs to be ridden and not raced.  If I race it, I'm going to spend a lot of time being miserable.  I'm going to have to practice telling myself "I'm in this for the experience".
  • I had the option of riding with others.  In a gravel race I would have, but on the snow I prefer to be alone with my thoughts.  It's just a different world on the white.
  • I'm going to have to really think about what I want to carry for tools at Arrowhead.  I don't want to bear the weight of an entire toolbox, but if I hadn't gotten my hands on that bottom bracket tool then I would have had a very long walk ahead of me.
  • Strap that bike down good when it's on the rack.  Thankfully (for me, anyway) I had Matt Maxwell there to really burn that one into the brainpan.  His bike fell off the rack on the way to the start and ruined his front tire.  He had to wait two hours for a new wheel to be delivered.  He still came in just a half hour behind me...
There's probably more stuff I could add to this list, but I think that covers the important stuff for now.  With that, Tuscobia is now in the books.

I'm Guessing Not A Lot of Work is Getting Done Today

I was peer pressured into it...
It's the day before our holiday shutdown.  Nobody seems all that productive today.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Tuscobia Post Race

Gearing up...

6th Place in the 75 mile race nets me my best result of the year.  Total time was 12 hours and 30 minutes.  All together there were 18 cyclists that started and 15 finished.  I wasn't all that fast on the hard pack and ice, but made up a lot of ground on the soft and crusty (there was plenty of soft and crusty).  I had three mechanicals on the trail and probably skirted a fourth by a few miles (bottom bracket kept unthreading).  I bonked about half way through and was never able to really recover from it, regardless of how much I ate.  Oh, and just for the hell of it I dropped my sunglasses in the toilet in Winter (pre-flush, of course).  But hey, I'm pretty happy with how things turned out in the end.

Also gotta say I'm very impressed with how well this event was organized, especially when you consider it was cancelled by the original director and picked up by another pair about a month or so ago.  Big thanks to Helen and Chris for taking over and doing an excellent job!

I'll get some more pics up in the next couple days, and may go into more detail on the race at that time.

Edit:  Corrected the number of starters and finishers

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Ready for Tuscobia

Well, there's my setup.  Studded the front tire last night but I'm leaving the rear au naturale, with the exception of reversing the tread direction for more grip.  It's looking like it's going to be pretty icy up there, but I have a lot of confidence in the Nates I'm rolling on.  Rim strip was swapped out for a more festive red velvet while I was messing with the wheels, and she's freshly scrubbed down...  Mostly.  Bags are packed with everything but some clothing that's still in the wash and a couple minor odds and ends.  I've done a few test rides with this setup, so everything should be good.  I hope, anyway...

I probably shouldn't have said that last part.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Three Nights, Three Rides

Midnight, clear skies, moon almost full.  No lights needed to follow the white ribbon of gravel as it wound through the hills.  Seven degrees and I couldn't be more comfortable.

When was the last time you chased your shadow in the moonlight?

Thursday, December 8, 2011

The Good Hurt

 The landing zone from my perfectly executed Flying-Squirrel to Inverted-Turtle

Last night I went out for a two hour night ride with my new training partner, Charles.  I've done three rides with him in the last week and a half and I've left each one beat up for a different reason.  The first one was a 70 mile gravel ride two weekends ago that had us in a good headwind for the first half.  I fought cramps for the last 40 miles and was ruined for the next couple days.  The next weekend we planned a route around a long section of continuous B roads and stuck to it even though it rained the entire day before.  We walked at least three miles of the six mile stretch of B road muck, our bikes slung over our backs.  Once again, I was ruined for the next couple days.

So anyway,  back to last night.  The highlight of the trip was a frozen B road.  Lesson of the day: don't outrun your lights on sketchy terrain.  I hit an iced over puddle, my front wheel broke through, and I went ass-over-handlebars for the first time this year, landing on my back in the icy puddle.  My entire back side soaked in the sub-freezing weather, we figured this would be a good time to head back.  Luckily most of my gear stayed warm even when wet, the exception being my bibs.  My right sleeve even froze stiff within a couple miles, but for the most part I was ok.  Surprisingly, this was the ride that didn't leave me hurting...  Much.

It sounds like we'll be doing a weekly gravel night ride throughout the winter from now on, and we even talked about opening this up as a social thing that extends beyond gravel after the first of the year.  Think longer distance cyclocross type action...  Gravel, pavement, snow, etc.  Other than that, it's time to start shifting my focus over to the Stormtrooper and the snow.  Tuscobia is only a week away...