Still Alive 2014

Although considerably worse for wear than last time we went to Sedona…

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Still Alive

Sedona Step-Up

Even if the blog isn’t. CX Season is over. MTBs are fun. But I’ve gotta play roadie this weekend to see if I remember how to sit on one of those things for longer than an hour…

Oh, and my last post about Captain is pretty irrelevant now, because he’s back. Just so you know!

(photo by Ali)

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Farewell, Captain.

MGTHB

Last night, Captain said goodbye…

Captain Says Goodbye

And then, minutes after these tweets, he was gone… Twitter and Tumblr alike.

Bye Captain

Until we meet again, Captain. I’ll be hoisting a Tecate and riding 2.4’s.

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2012 Annadel XC Race Report

Two weeks after Downieville (in a post yet to come), I made my way to Santa Rosa for the Annadel XC race (a Bikemonkey joint). I figured that it’d be easy after Downieville, right?

Dave Watt and I rolled to Santa Rosa on Friday night, after deciding that paying for a hotel was preferable to getting up at 5am. This was the right move, even though the free breakfast left a little to be desired. Rested and fed, we signed in and and rendezvoused with the SUPERPRO team bus. A huge crowd of soupies made it out, including our fearless ringleader Murphy and his partner-in-crime Emily, Zach, Scotty, Jim, CDB, Sasha, Kelleigh, Adam G and Adam H (finally back on his own working bike), Carrie, May, and a triumphant Sarah H, marking her return to racing in style. Support staff included Simon the dog, Xton the pirate, and Jason the cowboy. There was also a cast of hundreds of familiar and not-so-familiar faces.

AnnadelMap

The non-neutral rollout
650 racers lined up on 3rd street in downtown Santa Rosa. What could possibly go wrong? Quite a lot, it turns out, as the start was a very hectic place. I took it moderately easy and just concentrated on avoiding [everything]. Some weren’t so lucky, I caught a glance of the unfortunate intersection of a rider and a hazard board placed the middle of the road. Otherwise, it was a battle of concentration to avoid getting taken out. There was a police escort to keep us clear of traffic, and it worked at least 50% of the time. Yikes. “Slonie, use your roadie skills!” came the call from a teammate behind.
“I am,” I yelled back, “I’m still upright, aren’t I?”

Maybe that wasn’t such a good idea
The race hit the edge of the park and pavement quickly gave way to a wide dirt climb. But the field was still charging six-wide into the chute, and it was pandemonium. One racer dropped their chain and got of in the middle of a charging field, stepping backwards (!) down the hill as racers were riding up. I put my hand on their bar to guide their bike away from crashing me out whole assuring the owner that everything was okay. Some other random stuff happened, like a guy yelling “let the singlespeeders through!”

I understand what he was getting at, but… What are you gonna do? One problem is that the start didn’t have any separate waves, and even if it did, the singlespeeders had it tough on the flat road section leading to the first climb. I did see the full-face-helmet-cyborg dude fly past me, then drift back,  alternating between 200rpm and coasting.

IMG_0808
There’s me… Still in the easy part. (Also pictured: Full-Face Cyborg Guy).

There was also at least one part where a bunch of people were hiking, and so it was pretty hard to ride. I got off too, electing to save energy. Of course, this resulted in the groans and protests from the guys who were good enough to ride it. Whatever, get in front next time. On the other hand, I now realize, hiking might be contributing to potential cramps… But we’ll get to that later.

Racer Number 9
After clearing Howarth park (which had a cyclocross course feel), we hit Annadel proper. I found myself dueling with a 9 year old racer who was primarily concerned with (and succeeding at) dropping his dad. Future champion, that one. Otherwise, I had things under control. In a couple cases I had to get off due to people stopping in front of me (or to limit losses), but nothing much interesting happened. I got complimented on my lines by the guy behind me, so that was nice (my lines = Trying to avoid the rocks that bounce me around like a pinball, i.e. all of them). By then I had realized that my dark glasses were a liability on rocky singletrack that goes in and out of the trees, so I took them off and suffered through the sun and dust.

Clint Classen’s wife was shooting pictures on this trail, and I thought the one she caught of me accruately illustrates the visual acuity I had during the dustier sections of the race (and upon waking up the next day, as well)

Blurry Annadel

As a side note, this video from Murph is a good illustration of the lighting conditions… I was as blind as the GoPro when the light came through the trees. Luckily, I was traveling half the speed, so I didn’t get tossed off my bike when a rock or root came out of nowhere, just (further) slowed down.

We hit the Burma climb and I was starting to think about asking for a point-by from the guy in front of me, who seemed to be having issues with his drivetrain, or his pedals, or… His breakfast. He threw up off the bike without stopping. “Are you okay?” I asked, and his reply came quickly “Better now than I was before.” I went for the pass immediately after that. I’m putting that one down as a good one to have taken.

Dave Zabriskie volunteers to re-enact at the Tour of Colorado

And there goes my group…
When I reached the split between the short and long courses, all the people around me turned right and disappeared. They were the smart ones… Another racer caught up to me on the doubletrack, and I asked him for tips on what was coming. He said there’d be a fast descent, then a road climb, then a two-step dirt climb, and that was it for the climbing. Cool.

Got your Bak
Free insulated water bottles! I wish they had electrolytes in them. But at least plain water meant I could dump it on my head. That was the best. But the road immediately turned upwards yet again, on pavement this time. A few roadies on mountain bikes motored away as I tried to once again conserve a bit… I had eaten all the enduralytes that Dave gave me and was trying not to cramp. But I was still passing people whose spirits had been crushed by the heat.

Speaking too soon
As we got back on dirt, the rocky slightly-technical climbing continued. I started to think, and speak, about that free beer at the finish. Big mistake. One moment’s inattention and I had to unclip my right foot. Whoops. The cramp hit me, and I had to get off the bike. A few riders passed and asked me if I was okay. I told them I was suffering from  “The C-Word,” careful not to invoke its actual name lest I get it even worse. Shortly thereafter I was able to get back on the bike and get back on it.

Mergers and Acquisitions
The long course merged back up with the short course soon after, and traffic started to pick up again. The short course riders were really good about getting out of the way, which was nice of them. I guess they’d already been softened up by the entirety of the fast folks plowing through their ranks… I even managed to reel in the guys who had passed me while I was cramping. Yay!

Of course, they may have passed me again at the final aid station, where I made half a banana and a handful of kettle chips disappear in a blink. Whether the salt and potassium would truly help with my cramps or not, it didn’t matter. They was glorious. With my newfound power, I

I ended up cooped up behind a guy on a Santa Cruz squishy bike, who was really taking it easy on any section that was smooth and/or flattish. But there really wasn’t anywhere to pass him, and he was actually going fast on any part of the trail that was tricky. So I yoyo’d behind him until the road opened up, and lit it up. Never saw him again.

The Last Mile Problem
I was big ringing it down the fireroads towards the finish and didn’t know quite how close I was. Now the twinges of cramps on my calfs and quads were making themselves known again, but I had things under control. Then I saw a Superpro kit up ahead. It was Adam H, and he needed a 26″ tube. Nobody has those anymore, right? Except me! Since I knew we were close to the finish, I stopped an handed him my whole Camelbak, then clipped back in ad hammered towards the finish. Oh, right, that means I unclipped again. My right leg immediately started to cramp up again, but I backed off and favored my left leg to until I could will the cramp into submission.

Finish!
It turns out that I was only a mile or so from the finish… The giant Bikemonkey arch was a welcome sight! I ended up “sprinting” it out with a Luna lady for whatever place. (turns out I actually got 14th in U35 sport, at 2:54 or so)

Epilogue
Back in the finish village, all was not right. Dave came up to me with bloodstains on his elbows and thighs. It turns out he went down near the finish and cut his elbow pretty bad. The medical tent bandaged him up, but strongly suggested that the next stop should be the ER. Caitlin and I attempted to hitchhike back to the start, but neither of us were successful (neither a sob story, nor a cute bike racer would do the trick, apparently), so we rode back to the start to get the cars.

Dave emerged from the hospital a bit over three hours later, with two stitched up lacerations on his elbow, prescriptions for antibiotics and painkillers, and a little souvenir that the X-Ray tech had initially identified as a bone fragment, but was actually a razor-sharp substantially-sized rock shard that had hitched a ride from the race to the hospital inside his elbow. Ow.

PS: Here’s the race report from race winner Clint Classen, which not only covers the details of the course much more accurately and in much better detail, but was probably written and posted before I crossed the finish line on Saturday.

And here’s his Strava file for the race, in case you want to see what it takes to go 50% faster than me.

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Subaru BRZ Post on Jalopnik

Jalopnik asked me if they could syndicate my BRZ Manual post. And just as with Norcal Cycling News, I said hey,why not?” It’s the same post, except that 13,00032,000 people (and counting) have seen it, and there’s a lot of good captions in the comment thread… Make sure you click on “All” to see ‘em!

15 seconds of fame!

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I decode the Subaru BRZ / Scion FR-S / Toyota 86 Owner’s Manual

Recently, it came to my attention that the Subaru BRZ owner’s manual has made its way online. There are several complicated diagrams and lots of technical information inside, so I thought I’d provide my readers with a guide to some of the most important points about this new and exciting car.

Remote electrocution ability prevents Mr. Game and Watch from stealing your Subaru BRZ.

OMONOMNOMNOM!

Do not let your guard down. Subaru BRZ is very hungry.

While not required for operation of the Subaru BRZ, be aware that every girl’s crazy ’bout a sharp dressed man.

Do not roll the Subaru BRZ onto its roof. This will enrage the Subaru BRZ.

No cutesy shit.

Subaru BRZ should not be used to tow horse trailers.

Not even if you push the trailer, smartass.

Eh, suit yourself.

Toyota and Subaru love you and want you to be happy.

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Today’s Search Terms

Proof that this blog isn’t only about bicycles.

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Cyclocross 2011: The Bitter End (Race Report Roundup #4)

I intended to do just one more Race Report Roundup for the season, but the Coyote Point report ran long, so I figure I’d separate the “peak season” into its own post. Except that for me, it was anything but peak. And in any case, inspired by the master-class in race reports provided by Donut over at the latest addition to my favorite bike blogs, I’m going to knock out these last few reports.

Surf City Cyclocross #2: Watsonville Fairgrounds

Surf City CCX December 2011 659

I love the Watsonville venue. I also love Surf City Cyclocross’s sensible starting time of 12:45pm for the B’s. So I managed to roll out of bed for the first race that people who think the season ends in December don’t show up for. Sweet. I actually don’t remember too much from this race, besides that it was super-duper bumpy. I think they imported some cobbles from Roubaix and stuck them underneath the grass sections. Bumpy bumpy bumpy. There was plenty of time to appreciate the bumps, too, as the course designers sent us back and forth around several 180-degree bends on the grass. I remember that part, because the guy with reindeer bells on his bike and I passed each other in opposite directions at least a hundred times during the race (have you ever heard the sound of doppler-effect jingle bells? It’s pretty memorable. And no, I couldn’t catch him). In any case, I was bouncing all over the place off those buried cobbles it must have shaken all the memories of what else happened during this race out of my head. I came in 13th out of 26 riders.  Mid-pack lifestyle, and further evidence that my prospects for anything better this season were slipping.

I do remember other stuff, like stuffing my foot in my mouth for the second time I ever talked with Brian Vernor (the first time was in Japan a few weeks earlier), crashing a party at Paul‘s house, and going with Jason to a place called Burger (but ordering a pizza). You know, the kind of fun interesting shenanigans that I’d write about if I wasn’t super-boring.

Surf City Cyclocross #3: Watsonville Fairgrounds (the other direction)

So a few weeks later I found myself back at Watsonville Fairgrounds. Deja vu? In more ways than one. I had actually been off the bike almost completely for two weeks coming into this race, and had kinda gotten myself into a serious funk by conflating the amount of riding with self-worth (which is pretty bad when you’re not riding, not to mention going through the holiday gluttony). Anyway, getting my ass out and racing was a good antidote, so I got down to it. Slowly. Very slowly. Actually, I had already decided on the opening line of the race report before the race was done, and that was: I rode like shit. Pedaling squares, bouncing all over the place on the bumps (too much tire pressure? Well, I still managed to bust a hole in a tube and noticed my rear tire was flat after the race)

The course was somewhat similar to the previous Surf City race, but run in the opposite direction. There was a pretty cool section of off-camber slippery-dry-grass 180s on a hillside, which served to show how bad I am at off-camber corners. But I appreciated the gesture.

Surf City CCX 2012 January 8 511

I decided to represent my buddy Enopy at this race, by pairing up Team Ichigo‘s jersey with my 2009 Sheila Moon skinsuit. I figured that if I was racing like shit, I could at least look fabulous.

Unfortunately, I managed to bloody up that skinsuit and tear a hole in the the leg by going down on a gravelly corner at the start of the second lap. Whoops. That took the wind out of my sails further (as if there was any to begin with, given the lack of training and general pity-party that the previous couple weeks had become). I hobbled into the finish in 12th out of 16 riders, and got one ruined skinsuit for my efforts. So now I’d moved from “top third” to “mid-pack” to “bottom third” within a few short weeks. Oh well.

Afterwards, I used the self-serve “medical tent” at the race, which to quote one of my Twitter friends, “made CCCX’s medical tent look like Stanford Hospital.” It was literally a bunch of bandaids and cotton balls, and a couple bottles of iodine and alcohol. Luckily, I had my stash of Tegaderm at home, so I was patched up in style an hour later. Of all the cheeky sponsors to have for our team, I would love to have Tegaderm (3M). Because I need it. While also hopefully never needing it. Er, you get the idea.

I missed the last Surf City race (because it was the day after the Old Caz Grasshopper, again), but apparently placed 6th overall in the B’s this season. Put that on the list of palmarès that I don’t keep! Put another way, attendance counts, even if you only do three out of four races.

ONE TO GO!

Bakersfield. Norcal vs. Socal. The important one. Would I continue my backward slide into the “off-season,” or would I buck up  and put together a decent race? I’ll get to that next time… For now, why not read my report from last year, which I assure you will be far more entertaining than my forthcoming report of the 2012 edition. Until then…

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Cyclocross 2011: Coyote Point Special (Race Report Roundup #3)

When we last left off, I was regaling you with the tale of my failure to actually race SSCXWC (which was followed by Team Rapha‘s failure to respect the only rule the race has). Oh well. The day after, I hopped on a plane to Japan, and even raced my bike twice while I was there. But I’d like to address that in the context of the trip (i.e. put it off), so I’m going to pick up with the first race I did as soon as I got back to the states, which was…

Bay Area Superprestige #4: Cyclocross Coyote Point

I came back from Japan fatter, slower, and more jetlagged than ever. What better time to do the final race of the big series in these parts? This is one of my favorite courses (though perhaps not as much as the hilltop Coyote Point course, which was, sadly, not used this year. Almost as sad as missing both races in Golden Gate Park this year, but I digress). In any case, resplendent in my orange bubbles, I lined up and tried to make myself invisible behind the first few rows of Serious Business B-tards. I mean, look at these guys:


(Photo by Jeff Namba)

Let’s take a closer look, shall we?

So we’ve got Jason “Chasing the Podium™” Ferrier, a 12-year-old that doesn’t feel pain, the usual Above Category Hit Squad, and a Cal Giant Rider. I didn’t think they allowed those guys in the B’s. Anyway, I knew this was going to be a punch in the balls, but there was no turning back.

The whistle blew, and we were off on that paved straightaway leading right into the main climb of the course. Thanks to Nate K’s awesome video, I have documentation of (my ass at the) the start of the race:

That's me in orange. That's you, getting mooned by me.

I didn’t take off like a rocket, but at least I didn’t do too badly on the pavement, which then led into the dirt climb…

P1170995

Note that John Luk is here, executing his patented “line up early start in the front of the B race then get passed by everyone” technique. This photo is of course illustrative of how far I had moved up going into the climb, or how far he had dropped back in the first 30 seconds. For the sake of both of us looking better, I’m going to go with the former.

Things actually got super-hectic on the climb. Even though the speed was reduced, it was still a case of 80 guys trying to get onto the “good” line, so there was a lot of bump n’ grind going on. I stayed upright and managed to not get bogged down or stopped behind someone.

We make a bottleneck even where there isn't one

In any case, back to the video. I actually GAINED positions on the climb. Whoa. Then at the top, I actually attacked and got even further ahead, after utilizing my “almost hit a lightpost” riding style. Amazing, right?

I was having a good race, technically-speaking. I kept it together on all the technical sections, rode the gravel and steep parts, and all that good stuff. Of course, every few minutes I would be passed by a few guys, which conclusively answered Steven Woo’s question of “Where’s your Japan fitness?” (the answer, by the way, is: Back in Japan, by gorging itself on ramen and pastries). But I wasn’t stressed over that, I just didn’t have the speed to run at the front of the pack. Fine. I was still enjoying myself!

There's no smiling in 'Cross!

Then, on the last lap I found myself locked in a battle with another rider. Now, some people might battle for the win, or the podium, or even a top ten finish. But one of the nice things about ‘cross is that you can be in the middle of the pack there’s always SOMEBODY to race. Well, I had found my man and caught him up the climb, then made a move to get ahead of him right before the first part of the descent. And that’s when I decided that I needed to open up a bit of a gap to last me for the rest of the lap. So when I got to the second descent (the bumpy, hardpacked rooty one, as opposed to the swoopy loose slow one) I got into the drops and off the brakes…

And then, that sickening sound. Pshhhhhhhhhhh. Whether it was the extra speed, extra weight on the front wheel from being in the drops, or my general lack of finesse, the result was the same. I had pinch-flatted my 32mm tire on this mountain-bikey descent. And as my tire rapidly deflated, so did my hopes for the top-half finish I was headed for a moment earlier. I think my common sense leaked out too, because I was soon running down the middle of the track on the descent, running afoul of Captain Morgan, before realizing that I needed to get the hell off the racing line.

On the other hand, the “racing line” happened to also go directly past my lovely team tent, where all manner of handups were on offer.

20111211_basp_4_0071
(I’m the only racer to have appeared in two consecutive photos by David here, and if you look carefully you’ll noticed that it’s not the same beverage in the other photo).

So I decided to enjoy my forced march… After my spirits had been sufficiently lifted, somebody helpfully pointed out that the Ritchey neutral wheel pit was 10 meters ahead. So I went and got a wheel and rode out the rest of the race. If I hadn’t flatted, I would have probably finished in the high-30s or low 40s, but I ended up 58th, out of 79. C’est la vie.

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Foolproof method for rating Korean restaurants

Tonight’s Korean restaurant scores a 6.

20120112-210242.jpg

I’ve been to places that score as high as 12… Anybody have a recommendation that scores higher?

Posted in Random | 3 Comments