Monday, September 13, 2010

Do Not Look Here Any More

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Friday, September 10, 2010

Moonies on the beer!

We're heading into what looks to be the final weekend of mountain bike racing for the year. Morgan and Carrie are heading to the Tahoe-Sierra 100 while Krishna, Chris, Derrick and maybe some others are hitting Santa Rosa for the inaugural Annadel race.

Although she's in her Clark Kent roadie gear here, Lina was profiled in the Examiner.
“It was a really rainy and terrible race, very cold. I would’ve skipped it, but my parents were here from Sweden,” Martensson said. “I knew that I wasn’t going to win it, but I had to put on a show for my parents.”

My mildly silly fixed gear cyclocross article appeared on Cyclocross Magazine's website.
After the awards I head home, empty handed, dirty and bruised, but satisfied that I achieved something very few other people would be silly enough to try. Which is as good a description of cyclocross as any, isn’t it?

And Velominati has an excellent article about beer.
Your beer should not make your ride casual; rather, it should demonstrate your confidence that you are a fucking badass who is not afraid to put a little bit of depressant in his body while tackling Mont Ventoux in the rain. When you feel the hurt, your beer will help you hurt the hurt back. As a general rule, beer should not accompany rides under an hour unless they are uphill time trials, in which case they should be shotgunned at the starting line, the empties handed nonchalantly to the starter when he begins his countdown.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

SoNoMas race report, or how I learned to stop worrying and love the hardtail

Garmin record for the race

This has been the slacker year. I've raced three times this year, not counting the 1st Grasshopper. I guess four times. All have been long, steady distance kinda races; Old Caz Grasshopper, 1st Boggs 8hr, 2nd Boggs 8hr, now SoNoMas. I'm registered for Tahoe-Sierra 100 so it all sort of fits, and it's been a stressful year off the bike (work) so I'm just riding for pleasure. Haven't done an interval since 2009. Cyclocross season will be interesting.

The week before SoNoMas we were at Northstar, and I got a really fun Rose-Armstrong 12hr ride in with my friend Hyland and some other people. It was a relaxing week otherwise, and I think it made me faster somehow.

The morning of the race I set my alarm for 4:30AM. I woke up, panicky at 5. I guess I turned it off in my sleep. Threw my stuff together, food and coffee in me and I was on the road at 6AM. The race is 1:40 from my house, and there was a "mandatory racer's meeting" at 7AM. #%*(! I drove too fast, got a speeding ticket for 80 in a 65 one exit before the 101 -> Dry Creek Rd exit, but I got there at 7:30 and I was on the line at 8 when we were off.

I am not fast, just steady. I lined up at the middle-back, next to Jan Ludwig. Will I ever get that right? I could see my friend and teammate Carrie ahead of me. The funny thing is that Krishna wrote of the front group riding at a "talking pace" up the road climb to the bridge. I was in the 2nd group, not quite on the rivet, but holding myself just below threshold! No talking for me. I caught and passed Carrie, which was surprising. She's fast, but I think she had a hangover. :) Once on the singletrack, it really was a case of position-is-destiny. There was some nervous riding and some iffy bike handling, but luckily most people know that, when walking the trail, to get out of the way if someone calls out "rider" behind them. I was able to make up some spots where people walked steep ups and steep downs. Otherwise I was pretty much fixed in position between people.

The terrain around Lake Sonoma is somewhat reminiscent of Henry Coe; dry chaparral, narrow, side-hill singletrack and steep grades made before the days of IMBA. But that's where the similarities stop, becase Coe also has flow, and the Lake Sonoma trails rarely develop flow. They are either steep, granny-gear climbs or loose, steep, twisty descents. Or maybe it's just me, I've only ever ridden there twice, and both times were races. This time I was on my lightweight hardtail. It's a 22.7lb Niner AIR 9, and I had my tires just a little too hard. They measured 28-29psi on my Park pump, which I think reads low (i.e. they had more psi than that in them), and for the terrain I was on, they were too slidey. FWIW the tires were 29x2.25 Schwalbe Racing Ralph Snakeskin tires set up tubeless on Edge Composites (now Enve Composites) XC rims with Stans tubeless rim strips. I could have let 2-4psi out and had a much better ride, but I didn't want to stop and take the time. Once the first long series of climbs were over and we hit a ridge top, quite a few guys passed me, including some I'd already passed. This is ironic because I'm 215lbs, I think I'm a decent bike handler, and I am usually the one doing the passing when it flattens out or goes downhill! I was braking way too much. Skiddy tires. I am thinking about running this bike & wheels in the Tahoe-Sierra 100, but I am leery of losing a bead. These tires were hard to set up tubeless. Maybe I'll try a test ride with some meatier tires, less air and some rocks and see how it goes, before 9/11/10. Tubes are just not an option at my weight.

I held it very steady for the entire race. I'm a diesel. After the single speeds got in front of me, I didn't let more than 2 or 3 people pass me, and I steadily caught riders. I never had cramps and I did my best to eat and drink. This is a two-hands course, so it was hard to drink and eat enough, and I ran dry for the last 7 or so miles. I should have taken a third bottle at the third, Camelbak station (where Murphy & Arena were) but I didn't think to do it. Next time I think I'll bring a hydration pack, or maybe a third bottle.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

SoNoMas 2010

Carrie Edwards on her way to winning the Pro/Expert field. Photo by Nick Gaetano.

Bike Monkey provides us with a steady stream of fun grassroots events, but SoNoMas adds some new ingredients: national-caliber competition, a large prize purse, and a wild, memorable course.

The competition: you probably already know Levi Leipheimer won it, but it is worth pointing out that Levi crushed both the current and previous national XC champions at Leadville a few weeks ago. Also present was Christopher Jones, a national-caliber road and cyclocross pro, and our local boy-wonder Menso de Jong.

The course: riding a single 30-something mile loop around the south arm of the lake was really neat, and the terrain on the back stretch is wild and beautiful. The course is not particularly rocky, but the endless succession of loose corners meant that bike handling was still key. The start/finish was on the immense lawn near the visitor center, and was a great place to hang out and enjoy the free beer post-race. It didn't hurt that the weather was perfect.

I don't know why Carlos didn't publicize the prize money more, but he put up a total of $4,500, with equal amounts for men and women. Levi donated his entire $750 to the Friends of Lake Sonoma. Fast ladies take note: there were significant cash payouts all the way to 10th place, but there weren't even that many women in the Pro/Expert field. You could have gotten paid just to show up!

My race:
For a lot of the summer I've only been riding 2-3 times a week, and rarely for longer than two hours. Because of this my endurance is terrible: in longer races I'll start well, only to disintegrate after the two-hour mark as people swarm past me. So I was approaching this event with a certain amount of dread and a "damage control" mentality.

I lined up a few rows back, and was happy that Levi started at an easy pace up the road. By the time we neared the bridge we were still at a talking pace, but a gap had opened to the main group behind us. Miguel made a signature attack just after the bridge, which of course triggered the heavy hitters to stretch things out and establish position. We hit the dirt in a polite conga line, with me sitting around 11th. From there it was a wild roller-coaster of pain: up and down, up and down. I traded places with Clint a few times before he hammered off to eventually finish 4th. I had quite a few white-knuckle moments during the first third of the race as I picked bad lines on rutted downhills and unexpected technical bits, but came through OK after some ungraceful high-speed dabs. At that point I still had Shane in sight for a while, but he was well away by the time I dropped down to the lake. I rode alone for perhaps the next hour, but finally passed another rider around nine miles from the finish.

A little while later I saw Roger (a.k.a. The Godfather, a.k.a. The 50-Year-Old Who Always Beats Me) just 30 seconds up the trail. I was convinced I would reel him in, but he was feeling chipper and I was carefully coaxing my legs above an abyss of cramps at that point, so he vanished into the distance.

The last stretch of dirt seemed to go on forever, but finally it was onto the pavement, where CHP and a course marshall where stopping traffic so we could blow through the stop sign at the blind left turn. Down the main descent I tried the 'sit on the top-tube' technique, which seems to be pretty aero. It puts your knees close to the front tire though, and I discovered it is easy to loose a little skin if you aren't careful. Thankfully that little tire-kiss was my worst injury of the race.

I finished 9th, which I was happy with given my recent performances. Carrie Edwards put in an awesome ride to win the Pro/Expert women, and Morgan placed second in his age group.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Carrie has Crushed

Third place at TR3.  Amazing.

Carrie Edwards grabbed fourth on stage three to confirm third place in the overall standings, holding off a hard-charging Heidi Volpe

Totally bad ass.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

More crushin' by Carrie

After Stage 2 of 3 of the TR3 stage race, Carrie's clawed her way up to 3rd place. Awesome.

Looks like 2nd place is within reach, too. Go Carrie!

Monday, August 9, 2010

A successful Sunday

Yesterday marked the kickoff of the Transrockies Challenge stage race, as well as its little sister, the TR3.  Our own Carrie Edwards is racing the TR3, and turned in a more-than-respectable 5th in the opening day's time trial, garnering her first UCI points!

Congratulations Carrie! 

Yesterday was also the annual Howell Mountain Challenge in Angwin, run by the same folks who put on the Napa Valley Dirt Classic. Perhaps because the latter race was such a tough event this year (pouring rain, biting cold), the turnout for Howell Mountain was somewhat thin. Only two Moonies, Chris K and myself, turned out for the race.

Chris was doing the race for the first time, and turned in a respectable 5th in his division. I took advantage of Carrie being out of town and borrowed her fancy titanium singlespeed, and managed a repeat of last year's 3rd in the Sport Single Speed class.

I realized that I've now raced 6 different bikes this mountain bike season. Perhaps it's not surprising that I've only had one race with truly dialed-in equipment.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Epic Stupidity

While we Moonies have typically refrained from political commentary here on our blog, recent developments in the Denver gubernatorial primary have forced my hand.

Behold quantum stupidity from the tea party candidate that simultaneously exists in an uncollapsed state that will make you both laugh and cry.

Yeah sure, on the surface cycling looks like a great way to get exercise, reduce emissions, ease congestion and more importantly, have fun, but NO!!11!1!  Below the candy coating lies a liquid center of caramel like evil - an insidious plot to erase our American freedoms and kow-tow to the despots at the UN!

In future UN controlled America, bicycle rides you!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Soil Saloon

July's traditionally a slow month in Norcal mountain bike racing. Other than Downieville, there are very few official races. Fortunately, for the last couple years a local band of miscreants has organized some unofficial races in parks around the city.

These races, which have a cowboy vs dinosaur theme, are called Soil Saloon. We've talked about them before, I think, but this July's series was quite excellent.
Copyright Pamela Palma © 2010
Three races in Golden Gate Park, followed by a finale in McLaren meant a great chance to flex our competitive muscles and drink some beer.

Congratulations to Krishna, who won two of the races, and to Moonies including Murphy, Mark, Marko, Xton, Derrick, Ted, May, and probably others I'm forgetting for participating.

Derrick won an award for breaking his derailleur (which I compounded by smacking right into him as he tried to fix it), and Marko's photo contest entry won an honorable mention.

Pamela Palma managed to catch a few pics of various Moonies in the series. Her sets from the series can be seen here and here.
Copyright Pamela Palma © 2010

All in all, a damn fun series, even if I continued my 2+ year streak of never even winning a consolation award.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Downieville: Classic for some

Early July sees one of the highlights of the summer: the Downieville Classic mountain bike race.

There are two parts, Saturday's cross country race and the downhill on Sunday. Mosty of us just do the cross country course, but a select few put together both days to challenge for the All Mountain title.

I did not have a classic Downieville. I managed to get sick in the days before the race, and went to bed Friday night convinced I was not going to race. On Saturday morning, however I woke up feeling somewhat less terrible, and figured. "to hell with it. I'm racing!" Racing might have been an overly dignified way to put what I ended up doing, but so it goes.

I started the big climb taking it easy. I was lined up pretty far back to start, so even at a very moderate pace I was passing quite a few people on the first segment. Any time I crossed the 85% effort threshold, though, I could feel my sickness lurking. So I continued to moderate my effort as I ground on up.

Maybe it was that I was not pushing it, or maybe it was the slightly cooler weather, or maybe I'm just in much better shape than last year, but the climb didn't seem as brutal this time as it has before. I got to the top in pretty good shape, having ridden every bit of the climb except when I was blocked by people walking.

Murphy and crew put together a pretty spectacular aid station at the top. I grabbed a margarita and some electrolyte drink and just headed on. As I left, Mat was pulling up to the top, and he'd shortly pass me on the way down the first stretch of trail. He and I diced back and forth until we hit the top of the Babyheads section of Pauly Creek pretty much simultaneously. I know where I stand with Mat on the downhills, so I got out of his way. He was out of sight within seconds, and I'd not see him again until the race was done.

“I’ve Fallen and I Can’t Get Up”

Every cyclist at some point falls victim to the Scylla and Charybdis of bike racing: bonking and cramping. I was no different and soon became wise to dipped Mojo bars, shot blox, endurolytes, electrolyte powder and other examples of better living through chemistry.* But as in the ancient myths, sailors would steer clear of one danger only to face another and so to it was with me at Downieville.

I did not bonk but I cramped like… well… like a very bad word. How about mother fucker?

Early in the morning Derrick drove me, Matt, Caitlin, Chris and Wheeler into town so we could pick up our race packs and numbers.  To pass the time Matt asked who had ridden Downieville before - turns out that Caitlin, Dustin and I were the only ones going in blind. When Chris hears this, he gets all concerned, Matt on the other hand is jealous that we are about to pop our Downieville cherries. As you can imagine, I found these diametrically opposed viewpoints both terrifying and exciting. 

After collecting our packets we stood around a course map while Chris, Matt and Wheeler pointed out various parts of the course. Names were tossed out and favorite portions of the course were mentioned but it was a little like when friends start yakking on and on about people you’ve never met - none of it stuck. And little black lines on an 8.5x11 sheet of paper, no matter how graphically described, fail to do justice to the wonders and horrors that awaited. Sometimes you need to see it for yourself and as we headed back to the car, Matt pointed out the start line and then to the top of the mountain “the climb ends up there”. Yikes!

Back at camp and resplendant in my team jersey and new pink lightning socks (color matched to the team kit and my bike!) I made last minute adjustments to my beloved Specialized hardtail 29’er (admittedly not the right weapon for the job). Since I had finally broken down and bought a camelbak I decided to save some weight by removing my bottle cages (I probably would have saved more weight by burping or farting - I'll admit, this was crazy behavior). Chris saw me engaged in this insanity and cautioned me to keep at least one since running out of water would be pretty easy. I was at first dubious thinking that my 2L Camelbak would save my bacon but in the end caution won out and I put one back on.

At the Skyline race (link) I had hit upon a new strategy for consuming electrolyte pills - I would pre-open my shot blox packages and smoosh a capsule into the first piece. That way, as I ate up the blox I could also get dosed at the same time. As an added bonus, you don't have to struggle to open the packages and you are less likely to litter the results on the course, an act of such lazy carelessness that it never ceases to vex me. Some poor schmuck has to pick all that crap up kids.

After a quick nosh I downed 3 bottles of water and rode over to the start with Derek. Since I was early I took the opportunity to warm up on the highway. I can not stress how much better I feel when I get the chance to do this before a race - highly recommended.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Here's the start of the Skyline race. Pro men just into the deep gravel dip near the top of the fireroad climb at the start.

Skyline 2010 - The Agony and the Ecstacy


Photo by Nick Gaetano

The weather forecast predicted temperatures in the 90s in Napa for Sunday June 13th, and sadly, they weren’t wrong. But even though we were destined to fry like pretty pieces of be-flowered bacon, the Sheila Moon Team was there in force to represent at the Eagle Cycling Club’s Skyline Park MTB race. Riders that day included Chris, Dirty Mike, Dustin, Krishna, Michigan Matt, Sasha, Scotty, and Yuri as well as myself. 

Murphy too was on hand to proffer hand ups, mid-race hippie showers and presumably, scorn on the competition. But since I didn’t hear about any post-race fisticuffs maybe his heckles were merely set to fun? 

Thanks to Sasha’s driving and pre-registration, Scotty, Yuri and I all arrived in plenty of time for the start and I enjoyed a rare opportunity to actually warm-up before the race. As I toiled part-way up the fire road that we would hit just after the start I thought “heh, this ain’t so bad”. As you can guess, I would soon be chewing and re-chewing those words like cud.

At the start line, and only after an interminable preamble, the organizers divided the herd into the crazy and the sane. Err… I mean Pros and Sport/Beginners (or if you want to be all elitist and shit, the Cat 1s from the rest of us slackers). While I have to compliment the organizers for their hard work, dedication and generally excellent race management I still have to think (and not for the first time) - couldn’t you just explain the start order before we line up? This would be a great way to avoid the inevitable reverse gear shuffle where no one wants to move backwards lest they give up a precious foot of their space at the front.

As the countdown for the elite start began I tried to prepare myself by mentally running through the course. I had mercifully pre-ridden twice before and I knew exactly where I had eaten shit (ie. rocks). Even experienced riders agreed that Skyline Park is no cakewalk and indeed there are many parts of the course that are fraught with peril. Despite Murphy’s encouragement to view brakes as a luxury or weakness, I elected to embrace my inner chicken (in GOB Bluth style) reasoning that walking is slow, but crashing is even slower.

All too soon the elites were off and perhaps because he’s just that hard-core (or more likely because he had wanted to race with them and couldn’t because of licensing issues), so too was Mike. Hilarity ensued as he was called back.

And then shazam it’s five seconds to go and boy I’m wishing I had remembered to hit the porta-pottie. Blink and it’s go-time. Instantly we are surrounded in clouds of dust and recalling lessons seared into my brain after a season of cross I hit the gas like I was being chased by the Chechens*.

Just up ahead Mike was leading us out and somewhere just behind Sasha was starting his day with a crash but I blocked out the heat and the dust and focused on turning cranks and wondering how many people I could get ahead of before the inevitable single track made passing more difficult. Damn if this plan wasn’t working!

Powering up the fire road climb I was feeling pretty good and reclaiming positions I had given up on lower portions of the climb when I finally looked ahead and saw the tail end of the conga line. “Surely it’s rideable” I silently protested as I jumped off the bike and started hiking. 

Actually - no, although I saw at least one rider gamely try. And so we walked. And walked. And then walked some more. This went on for what felt like so long that I don’t even remember how or where I got back on the bike and finally hit trails I had actually ridden.

Now it’s on! I know that every climb ahead is rideable and I’m eager to stay on the bike and make up for the inevitable sections of downhill I have to chicken out on. But here comes my personal frustration with MTB racing. I am relatively new to mountain biking in general and I would be the first person to admit that my cross remounts are pretty sub-par, but it is fair to say that I am not completely without skill in getting on and off the bike. The same could not be said of many of my fellow racers that day. And more to the point, when I hear the huffing and the puffing of the faster train breathing down my ass I let them know that they just have to ask if they want to get by.

So what happened all too many times is that you’re catching some dude’s wheel when for seemingly no reason he washes out, stops, and forces you off your bike. You gamely jump back on and try to keep moving but now that they’ve robbed you of critical momentum you have to stop as well, screwing the rider behind you. And so on.

Of course it’s true that I inadvertently screwed some people in similar fashion on harder parts of the course but it would be accurate to say that I had to suck up more than I dished out. And damn now I really have to pee!

But enough complaining!  When I remember to hydrate (got to get me a camelbak) I’m having a blast. Hey look - there goes Sasha!

We hit the end of the first big climb and I know there’s some sweet, sweet downhill and rollers coming up - add in a little breeze and I’m feeling great. Through the creek past the other suckers caught up in the rocks and onto the slabs - yeehaw.

All too soon I recognize the sandy trail that leads up to the sharp turns and big steps that were my downfall in the pre-rides. I don’t hesitate for a second - I’m off the bike and running down the steps in big strides. Ahead of me a rider fucks up and makes a spectacular endo - miraculously he somehow bounces off his head (or something) and is back on the bike. Although I have never seen the like, this is only one of many epic wipeouts I will see.

Another technical climb and boom - two more sections I know I can’t do. There’s a lot of traffic coming down those steps as riders gingerly weave their way down. As I run down after them I swear I pass at least three of them. Maybe some of you math-geek types can work out the formula for when RUNNING != SLOWER THAN RIDING. There can be only so many variables.

But now it’s clear sailing ahead and all too soon I’m powering up the last climb before charging down the gravel road with all the logs in it. 1 lap down, 1 to go. If I believed in a God this is where I might say a small prayer for the poor bastards out there with two more laps to go.

As I begin the torturous climb back out I pass Murphy’s handup station and decline the proffered bottle. All of a sudden there is the most awesome cascade of cold water running down my back as he runs alongside me and squirts the bottle’s contents at me. Thanks Murph!

I keep grinding up and am soon joined by Chris and Matt. Up ahead we can see Sasha toiling away in single speed hell. And so the grim slog goes on and stuff that was perfectly rideable before turns into walking nightmares. Despite the three Advil I took before the race, my back is killing me. And on we go.

Once again the climb gives way and all too soon the big technical descents await. I run through as fast as I can and because another rider is holding Sasha up, I manage to catch up to him and Chris as we hit the last descent.

Over the bridge and that’s it - one more climb. Somehow I managed to save some gas for the end and I sprint out the finish so that in typical Moonie style Sasha, Chris and I finish within seconds of each other. We collapse onto the grass and it’s over. Dustin and Mike are already home, here comes Matt, and now there’s nothing to do except wait for Carrie, Krishna and Yuri. Crazy bastards - they’re doing three laps.

Wait a second - what’s up with Scotty? Ruh-roh, he’s got an ice pack wedged on top of his shoulder. Evil trail gremlins stuck a rock under his front tire somewhere up the first climb and knocked him out early - boo hiss. The non-expert prognosis - broken collar bone. Unfortunately this experts will agree and throw in a broken scapula to boot. Damn their oily hides! On the bright side I pointed out that he will be all healed up and ready to go for cross season, so it’s not a total loss.

But he takes the injury in great stride and if there was a podium for awesome attitude Scotty would definitely win it. Chris also gets an honorable mention for driving him out to the hospital. 

Soon we are rejoined by Krishna, Yuri and Carrie and our sadness for Scotty is perhaps somewhat mollified by the excellent team results.

Although Carrie was the only woman in her class and guaranteed the win, this clearly wasn’t enough to satisfy her lust for gold so she also came through to snag the fastest woman’s time of the day thoroughly wasting the competition in true Crushin’ BItchez™ style.

And the results kept coming. Yuri grabbed a third place finish, Krishna was 4th in his class as was Sasha, while Dustin and Mike scooped up 2nd and 3rd in theirs. Full results can be found here.

All that remained was to polish off some recovery beverages and scoop up some prizes at the endless raffle.


* If you haven’t hear about the Ride Across America racer (and sometime winner) Jure Robic, do yourself a favor and listen to this Radio Lab episode about limits.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Tamarancho Dirt Classic

Hopefully, folks will chime in with more detailed reports, but the Tamarancho Dirt Classic was something of a success for the Sheila Moon/Big Swingin' Cycles team.

We fielded 5 riders, I think: Chris K, Dustin, Carrie, Krishna and myself. I was riding a monster cross bike I'm reviewing for Cyclocross Magazine. Alas, Tamarancho's reputation for rockiness is pretty deserved, and I was taken out of contention (for mid-pack) by a series of flats. It was a shame, because that bike was actually very well suited for the course, and the (unfortunately discontinued) MutanoRaptor 44s hooked up really well.

On the more positive side of the ledger, Carrie was victorious in Cat 1 women, and Krishna second in Cat 1 men.




All photos by Nick Gaetano.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Bikepacking to Big Basin: Part II

In Part I Stephanie and I enjoyed a leisurely and scenic ride from San Mateo on our way to camp at Big Basin. On Gazos Creek Road, a few miles short of our destination, a catastrophic rear hub failure brought us to a halt.

I was profoundly bummed. We were 55 miles from home, up a deserted dirt road. Darkness was approaching, and there were plenty of mosquitoes. We had two options: limp back towards the coast or push the bike the last few steep miles to camp, maybe stopping earlier to pitch the tent illicitly if we saw a good spot. Although this would put us further from help, being a stubborn bastard I felt it was the best course of action.

This is when I realized some of the drawbacks of a tandem: with two solo bikes one person can ride to fetch help or spare parts. If someone comes to bail you out, a solo bike can fit in most passenger cars, while a tandem requires a large vehicle or a special rack. And spare parts? Any shop anywhere would have been able to sell us a 700c rear wheel to get moving again, but good luck finding a tandem wheel, much less at a reasonable price.

Postscript on the hub failure: At the time I thought we had stripped the freewheel threads on the hub, and I cursed Phil Wood's name. I discovered later that the failure was even more spectacular: the hub core had separated from the flanges. I contacted Phil Wood about it, and they said "oh yeah, we see a few of those older hubs do that each year", but made no offer to repair or replace it.

So there we were, pushing the tandem up the dirt road, when a large flatbed pickup pulled up. The back was filled with water tanks, gas containers and power tools, while the cab was carrying a rancher and several day laborers. The rancher, Erik, was driving down from building fence on a piece of property on the ridge near Big Basin, heading back to his ranch near San Gregorio. After a little discussion we accepted his offer of a ride. We squeezed into the cab, as Erik shoved aside handfuls of this and that, including the little rubber bands used to castrate lambs.

Erik joked, told stories and teased us with boundless energy, in spite of the fact that he had been building fence since six in the morning. It turned out he and his wife run a grass-fed livestock operation, something of a nexus between traditional ranching and new-age permaculture. The truck we were riding in was a biodiesel conversion they had done themselves, but it also carried the obligatory deer rifle.

Erik suggested we camp at a private beach near San Gregorio that he owned a share in, and was even kind enough to offer his barn for storing the tandem. While riding in the truck we heard a cow bellowing, which turned out to be his ringtone: we were making him late for dinner. When we arrived at the ranch, we discovered that the barn contained Erik's motorized hang glider, and he was talking on the radio with someone in a helicopter that we could see flying overhead. Erik is a study in leading an unusual and ambitious life.

We had a nice evening on the beach, and ended up pitching our tent just below the condemned mansion of singer Chris Isaak. Who knew? The next morning Stephanie's brother and his wife drove out to rescue us, which turned out to be a fortuitous excuse for us all to have brunch in Half Moon Bay.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Bikepacking to Big Basin: Part I

Stephanie and Krishna ride their tandem from San Mateo to Big Basin, whereupon disaster strikes.

Sheila Moon fields a strong presence at races, but we also pursue the many non-competitive facets of cycling, from tweed rides to mountain bike tours. The following story was my first and so far only foray into bikepacking. It took place a year and a half ago, but I'm only now getting around to posting it up. Hopefully I'll do another trip soon.

I had always been dismissive of the idea of loaded touring/bikepacking, since I figured it would entail lots of riding on unpleasant, dangerous roads. However, I recently discovered that we could reach Big Basin Redwoods State Park from our house by following scenic back roads that I would actually want to ride on. Thus the plan was hatched.

View Larger Map

Our tandem is a fillet-brazed Jack Taylor from around 1969, which has been in the family since it was new. It was built as a touring tandem, with beautiful front and rear racks painted to match the frame. In preparation for the trip I stripped all the parts, cleaning and lubricating everything. The only exception was the bottom brackets, as the old TA cranks require a different puller than standard cranks. After I was done I double-checked the torque on every bolt, and we took the bike for a 12-mile shake-down ride the Thursday before our trip. We only had one real pannier, so we also used Stephanie's rack-compatible Basil handbag.

As the trip approached, I was beset by doubt. My wife hadn't done any serious riding for several months, and a 60 mile day with more than 4,000 feet of climbing was sounding rather ambitious. The tandem's frame flexes too much for standing to be practical on climbs, and I was worried our gearing wouldn't be low enough to haul a full load of camping gear up the longer grades. Then there was the final section on steep dirt roads, which I had never seen before.

We left San Mateo around 10 on Saturday, making a leisurely ascent of Crystal Springs and Polhemus, then taking the bike path to Cañada Road. We stopped for a snack at Woodside, watching the usual mix of kitted-up roadies, motorcyclists, and stuffy-looking shoppers. From There it was Mountain Home, to Sand Hill and the base of Old La Honda. This was my wife's first time up this climb. I had to work a bit on the steeper parts, but managed to keep my heart rate below 170. We arrived at the top feeling strong, having climbed it in 37 minutes, which we were quite happy with.

Descending Old La Honda on the other side was spectacular as always, and we were soon flying down 84 towards the coast, with a top speed of almost 40 mph. The bike handled fine, though the frame flexed a lot under hard cornering. I was feeling parched and hungry by the time we reached San Gregorio, where I quickly demolished a chocolate milk, a fruit smoothie, a muffin, a hard boiled egg, some chips and a few other things I ate too fast to remember what they were. After a pleasant rest we headed south on scenic Stage Road.

In Pescadero we bought more snacks and a fresh bell pepper for dinner. At the end of Cloverdale we turned right to detour to the beach. It was stunning: bright sun, blue water, dozens of kite surfers. After a quick nap in the sand we turned and headed back up Gazos Creek, for the final climb of the day. We were both feeling great: strong and well rested, with plenty of fuel in the tank. The grade was gradual as we wound through redwoods next to the creek. Then the pavement ended and the dirt road climbed abruptly.

I could tell this would be a moment of truth. Would our smooth 32 mm tires have enough traction on the steep, loose dirt? I felt the bike surge forward as Stephanie began digging in. No problem. Our speed was holding. We weren't losing traction. This steep section was almost over. And then my heart sank as the cranks suddenly spun forward without moving the bike. I hoped desperately that the rear tire had slipped on the dirt, but we tried pedaling again, and this time it was unmistakable: the cogs in the back were turning, but the wheel was not.

To be continued.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Moonies in the news

Our fearless leader Murphy was in Bicycle Retailer and Industry News (see lower left), leading Gold Sprints at Sea Otter.

And Caitlin was featured with her sister in the Women Who Bike web series.

Finally, Arena, Murphy and Jason snuck into a Bike Magazine photo on the Soil Saloon series.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Lake Sonoma #1

photo by Nick Gaetano

After a cold and miserable Boggs V, I got sick. And stayed sick. I was sick for the Napa Valley Dirt Classic. I was sick for Sea Otter. Three weeks later I was finally well enough to get back on the bike, and I've been slowly rebuilding my fitness.

Having missed every XC race of the season thus far, I was quite excited about the fun singletrack of a Lake Sonoma race. And it looked to be a real race, with some intimidating competition. There were 6 of us in the Pro category, including Jason Moeschler, Brian Astell, Glenn Fant and Shane Bresnyan. We started up the paved climb at a relatively controlled pace, and an amusing dynamic emerged. No one seemed to really want the hole shot, but no one wanted to be last either. I apparently wanted point position less than anyone, so I entered the singletrack dead last. Probably not the best plan. I was surprised to see Shane (winner of the first Grasshopper this year) right in front of me, and passed him halfway through the first lap. A little while later only Brian and Jason were ahead of me, but they continued to extend their sizable lead for the rest of the race. And that's how it ended up: Brian won with Jason second, and I came in a distant third, with Glenn chasing close enough to make me nervous. Congratulations to Brian on the win!

The Lake Sonoma course was fun as always, with the trailwork put in by Carlos & volunteers making a big difference. I chatted a little with Brian, Shane and Glenn, and have to say I feel lucky to race against these guys. Of course we try to rip each others' legs off while racing, but everyone I rode with was friendly and courteous on the trail.

To end this post on an even sappier note, my 9-month-old son has reached an age where he's overjoyed to see me at the end of a race, which makes me feel like a superstar no matter how I'm riding.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Boggs 8 hour: it only hailed a little

This weekend was the traditional season opener for the Sheila Moon/Big Swingin' Cycles team: the Bike Monkey 8-hours of Boggs.

This being an El Niño year, the weather was, um, active. Two days before the race it dropped a couple inches of snow on the course. The day before, it rained all day, replacing the snow with a couple inches of mud. By the time May Woo and I showed up on Friday afternoon, the sun was peeking through a little.

Still, it's never encouraging to wake up for an 8 o'clock race to find your bike covered in frost.

Fortunately, I had a plan: the Marin Bikes guys were there in force for the weekend, and although they resisted my encouragement to race, they were willing to lend me a Nail Trail 29er, in an almost-small-enough size.

My teammate, Retrotec's John Blackwell, was recovering from illness, and I knew he was going to show up late. When, exactly, I was not sure. He claimed by the end of my second lap, but I knew the fate of best intentions.

It was around the second lap that I started to bonk. When you're bonking on your second lap of what could potentially be an 8-hour solo effort, it's not a good sign! I figured, though, that I could finish the lap, and if Blackwell was there, I'd be fine. Otherwise, I'd keep going and stop halfway around the course, where it ran up against our campsite.

When I got to the end, I started looking around for Blackwell. In unison, Murphy, Justin, and someone else shouted "Blackwell's not here!" I put my head down and headed out on lap 3.

Over the next half lap I entertained myself by listing the ways I had screwed up the preparation for the race: Skip Breakfast? Check. Fail to bring any food? Check. Miss filling up my water bottle with electrolytes? Yep, that too. Neglect to apply chamois butter? You bet.

My lack of prepraration was only made more obvious when I got to camp, on the backside of the course halfway through the lap. I took something like 10 minutes to wolf down food, grab some grease, and generally get my head together. When I got back to the start/finish line, of course, Blackwell was finally there!

I ended up doing two more laps over the course of the day, while John did three, putting us solidly midpack (18/53) among two-man teams.

The Nail Trail was a great bike let down by tires that weren't really suited to the slippery mud we were riding. I switched to a 26" bike after lap 3, and suddenly the intermittent big rocks on the course were something I actually had to pay attention to, while the 29er swallowed them right up without me even having to notice. The latter bike, though, had WTB Exiwolfs, and they were pretty much the perfect tire for the course, particularly as it dried out over the course of the day.

The team had three podiums: Matthias won Pro Singlespeed, Krishna was second in Pro Men, and Uri and partner were first in 2-person Singlespeed.

fire time
We closed the day with a feast for 30 people, including home-smoked meat, macaroni and cheese (from scratch) and veggie skewers. We also managed to knock down a half-dozen or so cases of Spaten, along with a few bottles of more warming liquor.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Big Sandy Race, where have you been all my life?

Last year at Lemurian, both former Sheila Moon team rider John Blackwell and former Sheila Moon employee Barb Howe raved about a little race called the Big Sandy. These are two very different people, so when it came time to put together our Team Sheila Moon schedule, we highlighted this race.

So worth it.

It was kinda pretty,
big sandy pre-ride

and the riding was top-notch. There was a 15-mile short course and a 23-mile long course. The latter was advertised as 5300 feet of climbing, which turned out to be wildly overstated, but still brutal.

And we're not talking junk miles here. There was probably 200 meters of paved road, and maybe that much fire road. The rest was pure grade A singletrack.

We started out Saturday afternoon with a preride of the climby (and descendy!) stuff, which started and ended on a bridge over the Joaquin river.

big sandy pre-ride

This was the loop that started the long course: 2+ miles of technical ascent, followed by 5ish miles of fast, intermittently-technical descent back down to the river. The downhill was fun. Hard enough that you had to keep your mind on the job at hand, but not so hard that you wanted to stop to take a mental break.

In the race, the first loop was followed by the entire short course, which we did not preride, but which was 15 miles of rolling territory along the river. This second part was pitched as "easy", but was definitely a struggle on top of the first loop.

We had a good crowd of Moonies there.


Sport men

Emily and me

My race went pretty well. I miscalculated my nutrition slightly, and had problems with drinking from my bottle, which had my electrolytes in it. So I fought off bonking and cramps to finish 6th of about 20 in my category.

Spot the CX racer in the MTB race...

Other people had better races,

mark wheeler - 1st place!
Like Mark Wheeler,

uri and isaias
Uri (and his sidekick Isaias)

and Carrie.

This was a great event. My only regret is that I did not take the time to take pictures!

millerton lake
All photos by May Woo

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Grasshopper #3: Super Sweetwater

Summary: was riding well, came apart like a piñata 30 minutes before the finish.

As the neutral start rolled through Graton, I was greeted by my own family cheering/heckling squad. Mom lives there, and was out blowing a conch shell for the riders, while Stephanie was yelling and doing her best to embarrass me.

Nothing exciting happened until we hit the steep section of Sweetwater, when Shane, Roger and Mysterious Roadie Guy (hereafter referred to as Mysterio) started turning the screws on us. It hurt bad but a group of 5 of us crested the climb together, with Mysterio up the road. Shane led the ripping descent, and once on the flats we rotated a little, but apparently didn't keep a strong pace, because a large group chased on when we hit River Road.

Once the Old Caz climb was underway, the predicable happened: Mysterio went up the road, the chasers went backwards, and Shane & Roger put the hurt on what was left. The Butterfly and Frog feed station was great to see, even through my fog of pain. I had taken Miguel's comment about the self-supported ideal of the Grasshoppers to heart and started the ride with four full bottles, so didn't go for a hand-up.

There was still a group of us together near the top, but then Shane and Roger attacked. I wasn't able to ride their wheel through the rollers along the top, but kept them in sight and pulled away from all the others.

Just after the gate I blew past Mysterio, who had been waiting and wondering where to go. This was the first and pretty much the only time I was happy to be riding a mountain bike. Shane and Roger were a little ways ahead and bombing the descent, but I put the CXR to work and was with them by the creek. When we reached the town of Cazadero we still had a good gap on everyone else. This was the highpoint of my race, and the time when things started to unravel.

What was it? Was my lackadaisical "training plan" of short rides two or three times a week catching up with me? Should I have eased up on the climbs, taking the gamble that I could get in a group that would chase back on? Had I not been eating enough ice cream and beer? (I don't think so; I'd been sure to have a Boont and à la mode the night before).

My legs felt leaden whenever I would pull, and hurt even while riding Shane's wheel as he dieseled us toward the coast. I was disappointed not to be able to contribute much to our group of three. The first chase finally caught us at Highway One: Mysterio, Carl, and Miguel, who had been riding strong on his road bike all day.

When we got to Willow Creek I knew I was in trouble. Mysterio attacked before we reached the dirt, taking Roger and Shane with him (not surprisingly he went on to win). I couldn't respond at all. That left Miguel, Carl and myself riding much more slowly up the climb. I can't remember the last time my legs felt this bad. It was as like being stuck in a slow-motion dream, except it wasn't a dream and I really was going in slow motion. Carl had some pep left and pulled away quickly, while Miguel and I began an epic battle, trading places repeatedly, keeping a pace worthy of two obese, drunken asthmatics. I passed him on the steep bit when he had to walk his road bike, but he motored past just before the finish. That put me in 6th place among those who did the official route, with two riders who came up Freezout ahead of me.

Riding the Grasshoppers is always humbling. Shane was hurting all of us on the climbs and pulled like a diesel truck on the flats. Roger is always an inspiration: nothing like being soundly trounced by a 50-year-old. Brian Astell wins a hardman award for riding full-size knobbies on his MTB over all those long miles of pavement. Miguel put in a great performance, validating his decision to ride a road bike.

And Mysterio? It's good to be reminded that there are people who can easily accomplish the things we struggle for, just so we don't take it all too seriously.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Enduro II: Krishna's report

Summary: paced myself terribly, navigated poorly, had a good time.

Part I. Sprint, Get Lost, Repeat

Twice around the statue, grab the first map, jump on the wheel of some locals: sweet! Uh, oh: red light, major intersection. The front of the pack goes through, I don't. Interminable wait. The leaders disappear into the distance.

Go! Burn some matches! The Marin CXR really didn't help with pacing at this point: with ultralight semi-slick tires and the fork locked it feels almost like a road bike. "Stomp those pedals!" it screams. So stomp I did.

That was pretty much how it went all the way to Mt Tam: push way too hard trying to bridge up, loose more time getting off-route, and go hard again, passing the same people I had passed a few minutes earlier.

I had a small hope of getting the KOM, but Chas took that down in style. We milled around in the East Peak parking lot wondering where the checkpoint workers were, so the first 15 or so people to arrive all left together.

Part II. Rocks and Golf Courses

Eldridge was just as rocky as I remembered. I should have played it safe, but was having too much fun on the new bike, so of course I got caught by an unexpected section of knife-blade flakes and flatted. Passing the lakes was new terrain for me, and since I was mostly riding solo I was looking around and appreciating the scenery. Most of the leaders were still at the start of the Pine mountain climb, so I had company while grinding slowly up the rocks. Only DFL Brad was up the road, several minutes ahead.

Part III. The Dirt Kaiser Express

The next few hours were a wild ride on the coattails of Matthias, a.k.a. Dirt Kaiser. We quickly dropped our companions descending Pine Mountain. Tiny semi-slick tires are not the weapon of choice for fast descents on gravelly fire roads, but the new bike was loving it and I was able to hang on.

Rip the Pine Mountain descent, pass Brad fixing a flat, get passed by Brad, pass him fixing another flat. Look out for that guy this year! More beautiful, dry, rocky terrain. In Tamarancho the semi-slicks had nice traction on the tacky hardpack, and good thing, since Matthias was really killing it. On the final stretch of B-17 the rocks caught up with my little tires again, so I sat down and pulled out my second tube. As I was leaving Tamarancho the guy with the aero bars on his road bike was dropping in. That made me smile.

Sasha guided me down to the water drop under the bridge, where I picked up some much-needed liquids. To my surprise I saw Matthias again-- he had hung around at the water stop for a while. So there was a big group of us chatting and pushing our bikes slowly up Gunshot. This is when I realized something was wrong with my right cleat. One of the bolts had sheared off, leaving the cleat to pivot on the remaining bolt, making it very hard to unclip. Not good!

After some discussion, no one from our group went for the Big Rock time bonus. I could provide my long list of reasons, but they can all be summarized as general wimpiness and lack of fortitude. So we turned our backs on Big Rock, and once again Matthias was ripping the descent, leading me away from the others.

Matthias had been an amazing guide ever since Pine Mountain, so once we were back on the pavement I tried to repay this a little with some hard pulls. They felt hard anyway... I'm afraid they were probably feeble.

Now that I was finally hydrated with the water from under the bridge, I realized I hadn't peed since leaving my house in the morning, and this was rapidly becoming a problem. It was past the uncomfortable point and starting to affect my outlook on life, so I finally said goodbye to Matthias where the bike path crosses under 101 and took an extended piss. Ah! I feel human again! So much happier and faster on the bike.

Part IV. Mr. Twiggy the Impaler

My spirits were good and I was motoring along with a faint hope of catching Matthias, but the bike path had other plans: my front wheel nudged a 4-inch stick, flipping it perfectly on end, whereupon it impaled my rear tire. Instant flat. Ah well, good thing I brought patches.

I lost more time with an inefficient route through the Presidio, but finally made it back to Murphy & Emily's place, barely ahead of DFL Brad, which turned out to be third place overall.

Part V.

As expected, Murphy and Emily put on an awesome after-party, and the prizes were really impressive. A huge "thank you" to all the volunteers and sponsors!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

East Bay Alleycross: Hell. Yeah.

For the second year in a row, Evan put on a rippin' alleycat-style mixed terrain ride through the hills of Oakland. Last year, I wrote an interminable post about the ride. This year, I'll try to be a little more concise.

Here we are on the BART. Hmm, why is my cassette all wobbly? This is not good.
I haven't lived in Oakland in almost 20 years, but I seem to remember a bike shop near the BART. iPhone confirms it.
Hank and Frank's comes through with a quick tightening! And does not even charge me. Class act.
Roll up to the start, Wow, lotta Moonies here.

Mark Wheeler and me, with Moonie and race co-organizer Jason.

Mike and Liza

Le Mans start: Go!

Climb Climb Climb. Holy crap this Tunnel road stuff is steep.
Here's the turnoff for the spur at the top, and there're the leaders. Only a minute back!

Marko's right close at the top. Wait for him. Now jump on Dirty Mike's wheel. He lives here.

Sleighride! Watch that guy push past me and Mike only to wipe out directly in front of us. Don't run over him. Bye!

Wait, where's Mark? Oh, look, now Mike's letting me by. OK, I'm sure you'll catch me.

Through the gate, now for the steeeep, slow grind up to Sibley. Glad I have gears. Although it turns out they don't work so well when covered in mud.

Hmm, now I've collected Surly Jon and Kathleen Hannon. We hit the next checkpoint, then grab on to Kelly's wheel. She lives here too.

Looks like I'm with the leaders! Unfortunately, it's the leaders of the women's field.

Down the scary slippery part of Pinehurst. Dude, you're in an SUV. Can we just take your manhood as assured and get you the hell out of the way? Ooh, stop sign. Done.
Paceline! Hey, I'm feeling pretty good, This drafting stuff really does work.
Hmm, there's some guy on a singlespeed cross bike. Guess he's in the race? If not, he's jumping on the train anyway.

Road goes back uphill, paceline does not survive. Singlespeed guy and I get to the top first. East Ridge!

Singlespeed guy might have only one speed, but it's faster than any of my nine.
I really wish my waterbottle cage would stop rattling. Maybe I oughtta stop and tighten it. No! Cannot stop!

Up. Down. Up, Up, down, down. Hi doggie. Nice Doggie. Up, Up, down, down, mud! Splash! Up, Down, Up, Up, Down. Ooh, I think we're getting near the end. And who's that back there? Kelly, Jon, and Kathleen!

Finally, the checkpoint.

Shawno and Jenny and Uni!

Oh, and look, a ranger bitching someone out. Perhaps lollygagging around here would be the wrong move. And here's my crew again, rolling straight through. Grab Kelly's wheel. She knows where we're going. She's muttering something about Cinderella. I dunno, I'm just chasing!

Look, there's Mike blowing by us! Oh, shit, did you just call me out? Fine. I'm on it. We're not going down Cinderella? But I thought that was the fast way? Fine, you're the local.

Down into the trees. Hmm, some of this stuff is sketchy at speed! Wait, there goes someone else. Mike: "is that the way?" Dude, you're supposed to be knowing where we're going!

Last checkpoint. What's Evan doing here? GO! Back to Lake!

Oh, yeah, traffic. Ooh, please do not pull out without looking! At last! Back to the park. Not quite tacky enough to try to sprint it out with Mike, who's been leading me around.

Hey, crap, how'd Kathleen, Kelly and Jon get here? Damn. We musta took the long way. and veggie chili. 25th, it turns out.

Matthias was first singlespeed, new team mate Carol got 1st Klunker.
Kathleen and Kelly rochambeau'd for first -

Awards done. Wait, where's Scotty?
(insert half an hour of worrying)
There he is! Two flats and an extra 10 miles of getting lost later.

It was a dirty job, but someone had to do it.

Yet again, this race was great. Huge props to Evan for putting together an other great event. It's especially great that it's an event I have no problem recommending to people just trying out racing. Can't wait til the next one. I'm taking Cinderella next year.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Grasshopper '10 Chileno Valley

Team roster: Murphy Mack, Matthias, Myself, Emily McLanahan, May Woo.

Murph ready to rumble

The ride started with 200-something people headed immediately up Coleman Valley road. I lost sight of Murphy in the crowd before we made an 1/8th of a mile. Coleman Valley was a fairly nice climb and despite my cold there were not too many complaints from my body (yet). After two climbs and some rolls it breaks out of any tree cover completely into beautiful coastal California rolling hills with cattle grazing and peeks at the ocean. The last 1.5 of downhill is ripping and beautiful. The sun was out and it was the warmest it would be the whole ride. I was coughing so hard at one point that it was forcing my head down and I couldn't see the road ahead while descending. It was scary.

People ebbing and flowing congealed into a small group by the time we touched down at Rt. 1 and we got a little pace line going and picked up a few people. Curtis and a teammate or two was in there so I'll call it Grouppo Inglis. Also in there was Jay (sp?) of DFL/butter lap. Just before bodega there was a touch of wheels several riders back on an uphill and I believe someone went down. By the time I could look back it was way back and people were stopped to make sure it was OK. I believe everyone caught back up, but I didn't really notice any scrapes so I hope the rider was OK. Had to take a deep breath and remember that this is (for me at least) a training ride and I don't have to perfect my rusty pacelining today, just do what I can and be safe.

Headed towards valley forge we picked up more riders and a strong group was formed. We sat up for a bite at the beginning of Valley Ford School Road. Food was not working well for me - caused more mucus and more coughing. Banana-in-mouth, I noticed the grade start to pick up again and looked up to notice I'd left a little gap. I shoved half eaten banana back into the pocket and spent the next few miles attempting to close that gap, while hacking coughs. The elastic stretched. A team car gave me a bit of a swoop but I never caught on. The elastic snapped. By Tomales grouppo Inglis was gone and my Tifosis were all Jackson Pollock with dried sweat.

I was in serious no-mans land and would ride the next 20 miles almost completely alone. Marshal Petaluma Rd was beautiful, though I would have liked some sun. My knees began hurting which really has never happened to me on the road before and I was a little worried. My feet were cold, my neck sore, by back stiff, and despite eating and drinking, I was beginning to tire. The symphony of pain was tuning their instruments waiting for the conductor's baton to drop.

Turning to the race's eponymous Chileno Valley Rd, the sun broke out but it wasn't warm. Twisted, knurled and burled California oaks dotted the roadside and fields. California IS beautiful. The sun went away. A terrible, unrelenting wind bore down on me. The conductor dropped the baton. This was suffering. There were some whitecaps on the tiny Laguna lake - a horrible wind. Within a few miles I was joined by grouppo Lynz [Freewheel] and was able to hang on and rotate for a while but eventually... well.

Low blood flow was preventing the formulation of negative thoughts. The slightest hunger pang on Fallon-Two Rock prompted me to reach for my Pro Bar rather than a maintenance shot. If you've ever reached an epiphany - transcended space, time, or the limitations of the human brain, then I can begin to explain to you what eating this pro bar was like. I was transported. Chewy crunchy vibrant fruit and nut shook loose synapses in gustatory synesthesia. Grey-green agony gave way to blueberry strawberry cashew pineapple. I wanted to linger in this other world for the rest of the ride. A splashing sound shook the illusion and the rude sight of a roadside cow heeding the call of nature tore me from my special place back in to reality. Brutal, brutal reality.

The final 15 miles was unmemorable, possibly because remaining brain function was limited to motor skill and reptilian survival. I vaguely remember Joy Rd. They saved the steepest climb for last. Something about hurting.