Big Bear Grizzly 100 NUE

I was on the fence about this race up until the last minute  but decided it would be a fun long race at elevation that would help me prepare for Leadville. The course looked tough on paper, 100k with over 10k climbing, a starting elevation of close to 7k a drop down to 3.5k and then a climb out to over 8k. Everyone kept blabbering about how hard the Radford climb was but for some reason I thought I’d done it before on one of the US Cup endurance races a few years back. Boy was I wrong.

The pre-race meeting was mandatory and I arrived up in big bear a few minutes after 7pm and just caught the tail end of the speech about how tough the Seven Oaks descent was, again I thought I’d ridden it before a few years earlier and wasn’t too concerned.  It was my first race on the Moots and I’d decided to leave the Rocket Rons on the bike. They were light and from the two rides I’d done they seemed super fast. Big mistake.

The race started climbing right out of the gate. I was trying to hang with Tinker and Julien Bourdevaire. Jason Seigle lead the group until the end of the climb but John Nobil took over on the Seven Oaks descent and I lost major time. The trail turned into an 8 inch wide sandbox with full exposure and I lost my nerve. My tires were squirming and I couldn’t get any traction. I feel off the main group and that’s when Jason overtook me. I saw him again once and passed him at the fire road at the bottom but he got me again during tire change number one. I was feeling great at the bottom but was about 45 seconds off the main group by now. We hit the rolling single track and it was beautiful. I was finding a groove and flowing over the rocks when at mile 24 there was the sickening whoosh of air, flecks of Stans on my legs and no rear traction. I’d just torn a two inch gash into my rear tire. It was Idaho all over again. I pulled over, used my spare tube and C02 and was passed by Jason and three other riders. By the time I was rolling again about 6 or 7 minutes had elapsed and I was pushing hard into the red zone to play catchup.

By mile 35 my legs were feeling soggy and I was starting to bonk so I squeezed a gel as we looped back to do the single track section again. I was more than a little cautious and trying to pick my lines carefully when, BAM. My rear wheel went skidding all over and I was forced on the trail. No more tube. I flipped my bike upside down and luckily by this point the 70k riders were hitting the trail. An amazingly nice rider offered me his tube and about 10 minutes later, after fiddling with the pump I was back in action. Now I was really moving carefully. Every rock was a potential land mine but I was determined to stay in the race and not have a repeat of Idaho.

By the time hit the Radford climb I was demoralized and just looking to finish. It was pure pain. I crawled up, spinning the granny gear and trying to avoid any rock that looked remotely sharp. It was torture.

I finished in just over 6 hours. Not a great performance but all things considered I was happy to cross the line. After all, this was a training race. The real prize is two weeks away.

Mandatory pre-race meeting at Nottingham's before the NUE Grizzly 100

Mandatory pre-race meeting at Nottingham’s before the NUE Grizzly 100

Flat number two. I can't believe it held like this for 60 miles.

Flat number two. I can’t believe it held like this for 60 miles.

Post race. She needs a bath.

Post race. She needs a bath.

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Moots!

Thanks to my amazing sponsors at Pedalers Fork/10 Speed Coffee Calabasas I’m now living the ti dream. Just picked up the Moots MOOTO X RSL. They threw on a SID XX and a full XTR build with DT wheels and I’m beyond excited to race it at Big Bear in a few days.

Moots MOOTO X RSL Pedalers Fork

Picking up the Moots MOOTO X RSL at Pedalers Fork in Calabasas

Moots MOOTO X RSL Santa Monica Mountains

Hitting the trails a few hours later

SSWC14

Anchorage, AK 7/18-20

It’s hard to put the Single Speed World Championship weekend into words. Race? No. Fun? Possibly. Frustration? Definitely. Shit show? You bet. I’d been wanting to “participate” in this event for years and it finally came back to the USA after stints in New Zealand, Ireland, South Africa, and Italy. Based on what I’d read it sounded different than your average race: mandatory beer stops, whisky shooting, costumes and full frontal cycling nudity. Awesome. I booked my flights in April and kept a vigilant eye on the SSWC14 Facebook page.

Based on the registration the event sounded like it would be held on Friday or Saturday with a weekend full of shenanigans. I couldn’t wait. My dad has been looking for an excuse to get back up to Alaska for the last 4 years so he took this as the perfect opportunity to meet me in the…icebox state? I’m not sure what I was expecting but Alaska is more beautiful than I ever could have imagined. Take Hawaii, cross it with Colorado, throw in some Big Sur and top it off with a little Maine and you get the picture. I started to get nervous a few weeks before the race when I emailed Dejay for a race schedule. His reply was “plan on staying all day Sunday.” But when will the event be? “Sometime over the weekend.” Where was it? “Pedaling distance from Anchorage.” Uh-oh. Posts like “No ‘costume’ no chance of winning” didn’t come as a huge shock, it seemed to fit within the SSWC theme but how were we supposed to plan our trip if we didn’t know when or where we needed to be ready? Fishing trips were made and rescheduled. Hotels were booked and rearranged. We’d be stuck in Anchorage from Friday until Sunday night. My dad’s not exactly a go with the flow kind of guy be he was surprisingly cool with everything. My wife was wondering why I was leaving her and 5 month old Rex for a week to go ride around half naked in the wilderness. Easy, “race resume” and I wanted that tattoo.

I got to Anchorage on Tuesday afternoon and pedaled around Kincaid park, where I’d heard rumors that the race was going to be held. My dad arrived Wednesday and we drove down to Seward for some sightseeing. How often do you get to go to Alaska anyway? There were puffins, glaciers, whales, eagles, halibut the size of wheelbarrows, but still no details about the race…and this was Thursday. All I knew was that registration was Thursday and Friday evening at a bike shop in Spenard. We drove back up to Anchorage on Friday and made it to the abandoned store front that was being used as a registration tent. “I’m here to pick up my schwag and get my number.” “Whoa, whoa, whoa.” Said Dejay. “First, you need to drink a beer, then you need to pick up a 6 pack from the pile over there.” Sweet, Old Chub! My favorite. Still no word of the race. We’re just told we need to be at a party at a Mexican restaurant that night. By the time we arrived (after a classy dinner of reindeer and Cayuse) the restaurant was packed, there was a naked guy riding a bike through orange fencing in a “decider round” and the manager looked pissed by the time bottle rockets started erupting in the parking lot. Still no word.

On Saturday we were told we had to be inside Carousel Lounge by last call and be ready for anything. There were costumes, music from a few local hardcore bands (the crowd looked decidedly split on the talent) with the Europeans looking particularly confused. There was another decider round that involved drinking and dildos but it was too hard to see the stage. By last call at 3am I was exhausted. My Niner was in a huge pile of bikes outside, it was pouring rain and about forty degrees. Dejay lined us up and gave us a bead for our dogtag necklace (apparently we couldn’t race without it) and we gathered in a mass in the parking lot. If you forgot your necklace you were out of luck. No race for you. “You guys want to race now or should we meet back here at 7am?” The course wasn’t even marked. There was yelling, a coin was tossed and it was decided that we’d meet back in the parking lot in three and a half hours. Not much time to rest.

At 6:45 sharp I rolled into an empty parking lot and felt like I’d been the tail end of a horrible inside joke. I was the only person. My anxiety lifted as a handful of other riders began to show up, but by 7:15 there were maybe only 20 singlespeeders: about 300 less than I was expecting. By 7:45 there were a few dozen and by 8 we began to pedal out to Kincaid park where we were met by other groups, who had somehow been privy to the knowledge that 7am at Carousel meant 9:30am at Kincaid. Most were still drunk.

We “lined up” around 10 and were split into three different groups. There was a pink group, an orange group and a blue group. Apparently there were three different courses. We each had to ride each course once and our assigned color was our starting lap- after that we could choose which order we wanted to ride. And we were off. The trails were banked, packed and puddled from the rain the night before but I’ve never ridden such flowing single track. My rabbit jockstrap kept getting caught on my seat every time I stood up and sat down. I yelled to the Kiwi behind me “how you enjoying the view?” “Honestly mate, yours was not the wheel I wanted to get stuck behind.”

After some jockeying for petition I was third wheel behind a Canadian and the Kiwi and the pace was quick. At the end of the first lap they mistook an orange arrow for a pink arrow and took a wrong turn. I yelled but by the time they realized their mistake I had gained about 50 yards and was headed up the hill to the gong and off to the blue lap. While pink had a massive hike-a-bike sand dune, blue had roots beyond roots. Pink involved tossing a rock into a bucket in order to continue but blue had a mandatory whisky stop and a slingshot target practice session. I passed both and flew around for orange, which proved to be the most insane race lap I’ve ever done. There was beer, whisky, a two food deep fording of the ocean, a ride along the sandy beach, and a hike up a massive cliff in waist high weeds. I’d completed all my tasks and flew back up to the gong in first, I was pumped. I’d just won. My enthusiasm faded when I Dejay checked off my items and told me that I’d need them later. What? I wasn’t done yet?

After two hours keeping warm by huddling around a grill all the riders were done and the plan was announced. “Everyone circle up. If you have three playing cards and two beads pick a bike that isn’t yours and get inside the circle.” I grabbed the closest bike I saw with Crankbrothers pedals. It was a Niner but about 8 sizes too small. We all rode around in a circle, bumping and grinding, and if you put your foot down you were out. I made it until the final 4 when some joker toppled over and took me out. It was a heartbreaker. I’d come all that way just to be knocked out by some hairy drunken guy on a fat bike. I guess that’s just SSWC.

SSWC14 registration

SSWC14 registration

The decider round. So close I could taste it...

The decider round. So close I could taste it…

Fishing in the Kenai river post race.

Fishing in the Kenai river post race.

Waiting for the race announcement after last call at Carousel Lounge

Waiting for the race announcement after last call at Carousel Lounge

Dejay and the whole attitude of the weekend.

Dejay and the whole attitude of the weekend.

Waiting until last call at Carousel Lounge

Waiting until last call at Carousel Lounge

The kitchen sink

The kitchen sink

The best salmon I've ever eaten.

The best salmon I’ve ever eaten.

singlespeed world championships 2014 anchorage

Making friends with Japan… and as it would turn out, the future SSWC15 hosts.

singlespeed world championships anchorage

Waiting for the start

It's official

It’s official

The costume

The costume

Massive halibut. Yum.

Massive halibut. Yum.

Checking out the Kenai glaciers with dad.

Checking out the Kenai glaciers with dad.

The bike pile at Carousel. My Niner will never be the same.

The bike pile at Carousel. My Niner will never be the same.

Singlespeed world championships anchorage alaska

Midnight decider round one.

 

USAC Marathon National Championships

Ketchum, ID 7/05/14

What the hell am I thinking? I pull up Apple Maps and out of curiosity check the distance from Los Angeles to Ketchum, ID. 15 hours and 32 minutes-885 miles. Totally drivable. I want to throw a national race on the calendar and Marathon Nationals are on the 4th of July weekend in Sun Valley, which sounds like an amazing road trip. It’s a great chance to line up alongside Jeremiah Bishop and Todd Wells. The course is 50 miles and how high can Sun Valley be? Piece of cake. I rent a car, decide on the Tenopah/Wells route through the lonely Nevada dessert to avoid any Vegas holiday traffic, secure an Air BNB a few hundred yards from the starting line and load up my electrical taped Niner in the car and hit the road at 4am to make it to the preface meeting by 7:15. There’s something empowering about watching the sun rise over the Mojave. I’ve got plenty of time. At some point near the Idaho border I check my watch, feeling smug that I’ve made such great time, and then check my phone only to realize I’ve just entered the Mountain Time Zone and have lost an hour. Balls. I’m cutting it close. Time to step on the gas. Small towns roll by as the Sawtooth mountains come into view and begin to grow larger. I roll up to the meeting with above 5 minutes to spare. Turns out attendance was totally pointless. I did learn there were Cokes at the third aid station and a bunch of team managers asked asinine questions about the course. I stubble back to my room. 15 hours in the car has wrecked my ass and legs. Balls again. I’m trying to hydrate but the morning of the race I wake up with a pounding headache. Normally altitude doesn’t do much but the dryness and the road hypnotism have taken their toll and that’s not to mention the heat. It’s in the upper 80s by the time our field assembles after noon. I make my first rookie mistake before the gun even goes off. They call the Pro field to the line and I enter from the wrong side, walking over the starting line with my timing chip on my shoe. Beep beep go the computers. Shake shake goes the USAC official’s head. He is very displeased. I just started my lap according to the timing system. After a few conversations and a few more head shakes it’s all sorted. I feel out of place at the starting line, I don’t have someone standing next to me holding an umbrella over my head to keep the sun off. The gun goes off and I’m having a blast. We scream down the bike trail start, one giant peloton all sitting on wheels and pushing the big ring. All I can think to myself is “you’ve got Todd Wells on your right and Jeremiah Bishop on your left. Don’t overlap their wheel and take them out. It’s probably not the publicity Pedalers had in mind with a sponsorship.” We hit the climb about 4 miles in and it’s straight up. Five miles and about two thousand feet. I haven’t pre-ridden the course so when it narrows to singletrack I’m caught out on a bad line and have to jump off and push. It’s exhausting and I watch the field blow by. I hop back on to the tail end but at that point my heart rate is way higher than it should be. My lungs burn and I have about 45 miles left to race. Balls. We get to the top and I’ve fallen off the back of the main group. We hit the descent and I start to reel a rider in when I feel my back end slipping around. It’s all jagged granite and loose rocks but this feels different. I look down and have the horrifying realization I just sliced my sidewall and have lost all my Stan’s. “Fuck!!!!!! Fuck damn” I scream at the top of my lungs. There’s no where to pull off and there’s a drop to my right of about 500 feet. “Rider back, on your left, coming up on your left” riders navigate around me as I flip my bike and try to put in a tube. I blow through my C02 with sickening speed. The tire swells and deflates. I haul out the pump. Nothing. Now I’m really stuck. I’ve passed an aid station a few miles back but there has to be a closer one. I begin to push. Two hours and five miles later I reach a few guys with some water bottles and a pickup truck. “Wish we could help” they say. Wait? What are you doing here then? “We can call you a ride if you can get down to the bottom.” They point down the mountain. Somewhere there’s a spec that looks like the bottom of a chairlift. I’ve still got some hiking to do. After another half an hour I reach the bottom of the run and start looking around for a ride. I’m deep in the grief and self-pity state of mind when John Nobil comes strolling up behind me pushing his bike. “What’s up John!” “Double flat.” “No way! Me too.” Misery loves company.

The long and lonely drive from Tenopah to Wells, NV

The long and lonely drive from Tenopah to Wells, NV

This is what a double flat DNF looks like.

This is what a double flat DNF looks like.

USAC Marathon Nationals number plate

USAC Marathon Nationals number plate

Marathon Nationals Pre-Race Meeting in Ketchum

Marathon Nationals Pre-Race Meeting in Ketchum

Pre Marathon Nationals Selfie

Pre Marathon Nationals Selfie