Friday, April 23, 2010

Ain't He Cute?

This is Hal.



He is a sophisticated medical simulation mannequin. He's cute, but don't make him angry. You wouldn't like him when he's angry.

He'll do things like breathe, cry and shake. He has heart and lung sounds; his chest moves up and down. He has a pulse.

He'll turn blue or red.

I'm writing a grant so we can adopt him and his 3, progressively older, brothers. Heck, while we're at it we might as well ask for 2 adults that convulse, bleed, diliate their pupils and do a whole host of other creepy things. They're not as cute.



I hope we get the grant, adoption ain't cheap.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Bone Bender (Not a Racer) Race Report

Ha, me filing a "race report".

Ha.

I'm not a racer, really I'm not.

I mean - I like to go fast but I can't see being able or willing to dedicate the time and pain necessary to be truly competitive. The whole sprinting for the start, rubbing wheels thing isn't my style either. Still, I love to ride hard and challenge myself, so endurance style events are more the ticket.

The Bone Bender 3/6 hour enduro race was held this Sunday at Smithville Lake just north of Kansas City. Me, Nick and Courtney loaded up at 5:00 am and headed out of town. The venue, organization, weather, trail were all perfect.

I had a few goals for this race:

1. Finish - my only other 2 races ended in DNF's, so simply making it to the end would improve my finishing rate by 100%
2. No hard crashes - Always a good goal
3. Not dead last - ambitious, I know
4. Get to the 3rd lap - if you couldn't do the first two laps in 3 hours you couldn't go out again.
5. Finish within 20 minutes of Nick

Turn out was great with somewhere between 250-300 racers. The only drawback to such popularity was a heck of a bottleneck at the beginning of the race where slower, technically timid riders that were holding up the line. Bone Bender was billed as beginner friendly, but I don't think that was quite right for the true novice. As it was I rode with Nick, Courtney and Maria as we warmed up and passed who we could on the first lap.

The trail reminded me a little of Sugar Bottom outside of Iowa City. It was twisty HARD packed dirt with roots, rocks, ruts and creek crossings. There were a couple of technical trickies led by a side angled rock drop that might put you in the lake if you messed it up and another stair step where I saw people crash on both laps 1 und 2.

There were no killer steep climbs but it did meander up and down quite a bit more than I expected. It was a really fun course, but 11.5 definitely seemed long for one lap. The mixture of intermittent rough rock sections with baked hard dirt and roots really pummeled me. My hands/wrists, followed closely by back/neck took it the worst. I ran high pressure in my tires because I didn't want to flat, so I guess that's the price you pay. I also ran my rear shock at the firmness pro pedal. It was probably more jackhammering than I needed to take and I should've adjusted the shock and/or let some air out the tires at some point, but things were going well so I didn't mess.

Passing someone on the first lap I sucked a stick into my rear wheel and broke a spoke. Courtney, who was behind me, kept commenting on the wobble of my wheel. They're only 28 spoke rims and I'm a bigger fella (should have at least 32 of those buggers to ride rocky techy stuff). So I was careful and concentrated on picking clean lines and descending out of the saddle from then on. I cut the broken spoke between laps 1-2, asked God to kept my wheel form folding up on me and kept on ridin'; cuz that's what John Wayne woulda done.

The first lap took longer than expected due to traffic jams and my pit stop was longer than I wanted due to wrestling with a broken spoke. Ergo, I needed to do a good second lap in order to get the third. I actually felt pretty good during lap 2. Settling into a good rhythm, I was passing and getting passed but not much and not until late in the lap. Mostly I was riding by myself. I'd spot someone and ride to catch them. Once I reeled someone in I don't think I got repassed, which seems like a sign I was keeping a steady pace. I was confident in being ahead of a slew of people that wouldn't be doing a third lap so my goal of not being last was looking attainable.

Speaking of that - you know, self-doubt is a funny thing. Before the race I was walking around looking at people - fit, serious looking people - and thinking this could be a disaster. I'm probably slower than all these people, I'm going to be in the way and its going to be turrible (which is way worse than terrible).

Well, I was wrong. I'm not fast (because I'm not a racer) but I'm not totally inept either. In fact, I'm a hella lot more 'ept (?) than lots o' those folks. My bike handling is pretty good and I'm unslow on downhills. If'n I weren't so hefty I could be.....I don't know.....something. But it doesn't matter anyway, because I'm not a racer.

When I pulled up to the timing station to end lap 2 the Timer said I was at 2:50 and the "good news is you can do another lap if you want." I said, "I think I'm supposed to be happy about that."

I took a little longer break this time, working on stretching out my lower back which was taking a beatdown. The beginning of the 3rd lap was ok but the gas gauge on the ole' funmobile was running on fumes for the middle 2/3rds of the lap. I was never really miserable but I knew I didn't have a whole lot more to give either. The the short stretches of paved trail toward the end of the loop brought me back to life a little. I was finishing.

Nick and I left together on the last loop but he quickly jumped out in front of me. I thought I might catch up on a downhill or some rough section but I didn't see him again until somewhere around the 8 mile mark where the trail bent back on its self. Then I knew I was only a few minutes behind him. To tell you the truth it never really dawned on me to try catching him (see, not a racer) I guess I was most concerned with self preservation at that point.

I finished at just over 4 hours. I think I was only 3 minutes behind Nick in the end. There were a ton of 6 hour people dropping out with 3-4 laps, so it was pretty brutal for everyone. Even the mighty Blackford looked pretty wiped out after five, but he still had enough in the tank to offer a powerslide slidmark to thrill the crowd.

I had a ton of fun, met all my goals and then-some. Racing can be fun, but I'm still not a racer.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

That Goose Be Cooked

After surviving the sharp rocks of Bootleg Canyon Matt and I trekked north east to St. George Utah and the venerable Gooseberry Mesa.

I've read much about riding slickrock and seen mucho pictures and videos, but somethings you just have to see and feel to believe.





It's a little like God squeezed a tube of toothpaste out and it turned to rock. The rock is coarse as rough grit sandpaper. Even a little crash here would take some
serious skin with it.



While taking a break out on the point Matt munched on a granola bar. In a moment of weakness he let the wind grab the empty wrapper and carry it off the cliff. "Yeah, I'm that guy." He said in disgust as his trash swirled off the mesa. Several minutes later when we had finally moved on from what a deplorable litter bug he was that same wrapper came flying back over the top of the cliff. Unfortunately we were still unable to nab it because you don't go chasing stuff around 5000 ft above the valley floor.



The only thing that would have made that better is if it would have hit it him right in the face. That would've been truly cosmic.

Just a few miles into our skateboard park ride I noticed my Green Lantern mojo was going with the heavy metal, arm raised, fist pump action going on. He had always been fully poseable, but he apparently never felt the need to break with decorum until now. Rock on GL.



The riding was a blast. Countless dips, steps and gullies to play on. The rock gave you amazing traction to get over things you would never think possible. After awhile you start to feel like you can ride over almost anything.





Matt telling himself double red diamond (instead of black) and "Extreme Difficulty" can't really be as bad as it sounds. For once, he was right, it was exhausting but it was sawright.



Saturday, April 10, 2010

Bootleg v 1.2

As for the rest of our first day at Bootleg Canyon...

After resting a bit we headed out Mother, the first trail built at Bootleg. We hadn't been climbing very long when Matt stopped and said, "If I remember right, this next part is completely terrifying."


Greeeat.

He was right. There's two 2 foot drops carved into the rock between me and Matt below. The notched out nature of the drops would've made it easy to catch a peddle. You can't really appreciate the exposure from this angle, but it would have been a disastrous place to fall - along way down to some nasty looking rocks. We walked it.



Check out the vidiyah of some place on the trail.

video

Connecting to Mother we found the long swoopy downhill of the POW trail. That was definitely the highest speeds of the day and some of the most fun.



After another break we climbed the road that leads up the canyon (that was a serious grind) and rode down East Leg and then Girlscout again. Here's a cool helmet cam video of GS. I watched so many vids in the weeks leading up to the trip that it was like I had been there before. It was definitely a weird feeling.

(Not me)



Before calling it a day we headed out of the Middle and Lower Lake loops which criss crossed a bunch of downhill runs while dipping in and out of gullies and cruising along ridgelines.



It was a very auspicious start to the trip. I capped it off with some well earned ZZZ's next to my pal Louie.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

And Yes, I'm Still Alive

Almost everyone I told about my up-coming bike trip to Vegas and Utah said the same thing: "Oh...ah...uhm........please be careful." (grimace).

I wasn't sure how to take it. I mean, sure, I've had a misfortune or two....but c'mon people - have a little faith.

My-buddy-Matt-and-me arrived in Vegas on Friday with just enough time to put the bikes together and plan our attack on Bootleg Canyon for the next morning. My buddy Darren and his wife Kristen were kind enough to take us in so HUGE thanks to them.

If you don't know about Bootleg Canyon, its just outside of Vegas and it boasts some of the most renowned downhill trails in the world. Its cross country trails are highly thought of as well, having been named an IMBA Epic, and the huge Interbike trade show holds their demo days here. More about the trails here.



Ride everything (or almost everything) XC was the plan. The next day we got out there early and, in typical Brian fashion, I discovered my bike computer had not charged. Oh yes, it was plugged into my home computer to charge, but see, when the computer goes into sleep mode it doesn't charge through the USB.....and hahahaha.

No computer numbers from the first day.

I'll tell you this - it was about 6-7 hours and, by my guessitamation from the map, about 21 miles. Elevation? A pantload, that much is assured. I can't even hazard a guess.

This is the first picture of the trip. We referred to it several ways - "the before photo" the "have you seen these two?" photo.



We asked a local in the parking lot for advice. He recommended a route that started climbing the steep rocky West Leg trail first. When I said we thought most people rode up the Girlscout trail, he said "Girlscout is for girlscouts."

It might sound a little jerky, but I really didn't take it that way. He seemed like a nice guy and I was in a good mood. We decided to ditch the mas macho attitude and look for the easier Girlscout trail.... Well, we ended up on West Leg anyway. So much for easing into a groove.

Looking down at Girlscout from West Leg. Yeah, it does look a little less rocky.



The breath....it needs catching.



There were a bunch of these sketchy rock step ups. I rode a few, I passed on a few more. It was tough to gauge how much the tires were going to stick to the volcano rock (the answer is alot). The penalty for failure was often quite high. There's no shortage of sharp rock at Bootleg.



After a bit we did join Girlscout and wound our way up the canyon. GS is a twisty ribbon of bench cut trail and most of its turns are bermed, at least a little, on the outside which helps with climbing but really shines when ridden downhill. Oh yes, this Girlscout sells downhill cookies and they are tasty...but that was for later in the day.



Basically, we just kept climbing the west side of the canyon and when we got to the top of the Caldera trail I think were at the highest point of the day.



Matt preparing to do what Matt does.



From there it cruised ridgelines for awhile gradually descending to Boyscout.



That's only about 7 of the 21 miles we did that day. I will tell you more when I can think straight.

.... So, Yes, I'm still alive. My arms are full of lead and my legs have been dipped in concrete. Tumbleweeds blow through the space between my ears, but I still know I had a great time.