We make holes in teeth!

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Beer is a Poison

No biking today. Enjoying a well earned rest day and saving up for the weekend. Feeling good today though a hair tired and my legs are happy to be off. Tomorrow I'm leaning towards an early Allamuchy ride of 3 hours, no stopping if possible. I put the Blue Grooves back on this morning so I may be pre-loading an obstacle there. Sunday is up in the air. I'm supposed to ride with Woody but I don't know if that's going to happen. He's pretty AWOL these days and I want to get another brisk 3 hours in if possible. Maybe Ringwood? Round Valley? Road? Don't know right now.

I said I wasn't going to link these anymore but it's a good weekly recap. Here are my 3 ride links for the week:

Tuesday (22.08 miles, 2128 vertical, 15.9 average)
Wednesday (22.07 miles, 2124 vertical, 16.1 average)
Thursday (19.64 miles, 1139 vertical, 16.4 average)

I'm interested in coming up with a ride metric where I use vertical/mile and my average speed to calculate a score to compare the rides. But I don't think it's accurate enough to bother pursuing. Something like (feet/mile)*average would yield totally faulty numbers I think. There must be something like this "out there" already. I just need to look for it. I'm sure I need some sort of normalization of the vertical/mile number. Maybe divide that by 100 since that's a sort of gold standard. But then if I'm just dividing every 'score' by 100 the ratio stays the same. Useless rambling.

Something else of interest is the ride map from the race last week. This is what mine looked like:

This is what it should have looked like:

Click the image for a link to the motionbased ride for each. The second is one of the MASS series guys named Rick Bullotta. Note he averaged 1 mph faster than me which is a pretty big difference. Is it me or is that full race loop one convoluted course?

Someone recently asked me if I would change anything about the past year of training and I said not really. I changed my mind and the one thing would be to do one very long mountain bike ride per month. That's probably an important element that's been missing in my training, enough 30-40-50 mile mountain bike rides, or for that matter any at all. My longest non-LM ride was 21 miles at Allamuchy a few months ago. It's hard to show up for these events not having ridden substantial miles very often and I don't really count the road though it works in a pinch. Starting now I'm going to add that to my training. In the next 3 months I have at least 3 events which fill this gap with the Darkhorse 40, the 24HOA, and the 50k (yes it's still 50 at this point). After October I need to keep that going through the winter, a task which could be a chilly proposition come February.

Third Party, obviously itching from the lack of drama recently, dropped me a line yesterday saying that the new MTBNJ colored titles make the member list resemble a gay pride flag. I actually LOLed at that. Good work, Third.


"Eat less - yes, that's really all it. It's all mathematics and ball bearings these days and eating less calories is, of course the answer. For me it's always bee true weight I keep off too. I graduated RU 235. Now I'm 205. I'm a sloth tho. I just eat less and hardly touch booze now. Such is life. Now if I wasn't such a sloth then who knows. Anyway, you were right about Avatars. I know it has nothing to do with your blog but it's my dime."

Beer is evil in this equation. I stopped cold for the first 3 months of the year and drink maybe 1-2 a week at this point. Other than the 7 last weekend and the Vinny weekend I haven't had more than 3 in any one sitting. That's probably what has kept me from blowing up into the 200s again. That and not drinking a cup of hot fat and eating the head of Alfredo Garcia every meal.

Avatars - yeah, it was worse than I thought actually.


"Yes, I agree, food is an enemy of mine as well. Guess that explains the 10 pounds in a little over a month. Isnt this riding stuff and working outside in 90 degree heat supposed to counter that. I dont know where I go wrong, maybe the pint of ice cream at 10 pm isnt as ggod as I think. Again, great read, thanks."

Glad you enjoy. I guess it's a myth that you can eat what you want when you ride so much. Even in the weeks when I ride 10-12 hours a week it doesn't work that way. When I'm going that hard, I tend to need a lot more "bike energy" such as pre-ride drink, calories on the bike, and post-ride drink. You're often adding 900 calories right there. At that point it becomes the difference in weight loss versus performance gain.

Oh and the ice cream doesn't help either. And polishing off your daughter's leftovers? Bad news man.


"a lot of my comments on your blog have been through mtbnj pms, but feel free to post them over here if they are relevant, which most are not."

I delete my PMs so I don't have anything on hand. But I'll keep that in mind. Does that include when we trash people behind the scenes like making fun of Terren's big ass and Jake's ballerina lessons?


"dear norm: i too suffer from the 'fat guy on a skinny bike' syndrome. it is not entirely my fault. 'tis genetics at is finest. see, us mid-european block types are built like barrels...kegs, if you will. low to the ground for the purpose of not bending down so far and stout for carrying heavy objects over long distances. unfortunately, these traits were fantastic for my grandfather who farmed in slovakia but not so good for the modern-day bonefish who needs to be lean to climb, fit into the new "european" sized clothing and escape hungy barracuda. so as you can see, i also fight the uphill battle since i'm like a XXXXXXXL in this new european garb and end up looking like a circa 1988 materail girl.."

Good show man! I always appreciate a good ramble of words. Yeah some people battle genetics for sure but you can get lower than you think. It's just going to take a long time. I think 10 pounds a year is about the most you can expect in a maintainable sense. I remember everyone used to tell me I "shouldn't" be under 200 pounds, that it was too light. Silly.

In the American version of clothing sizes I'm a medium. How does that work? I'm not a small guy yet I'm a medium? That seems crazy. What do the 150 and 160 guys wear? Petite? When I stumble across European sized stuff medium is like a handkerchief.


"Oh, I wish it was as easy as it might appear. I am hungry ALL THE TIME and my diet, particularly during the week, is befitting some sort of monk. I was actually 10 pounds heavier when I was in my late teens and twenties, playing soccer and drinking way too much. I love food no less than anyone else, I suspect, but I also dig trying to go fast on my bike, so I'm willing to make the sacrifices. As simple as that equation is, it's really the core of it all. On a side note, I've had excellent results using generic hydrocortisone ointment on saddle sores. And is it just me, or is "ointment" a funny word?"

I'll check out the hydrocortisone. Ointment does sound a bit silly. Kinda like a snigglet.

I'll take your word for the food thing but man you're thin. Seems like you have some genetic advantage going on but I will admit your eating habits do seem pretty healthy. I went back to the MTBNJ discussions on meals and looked at your posts. I do remember being impressed at the time. As a recap for the readers it was stuff like turkey on whole grain, whole grain crackers, yogurt, whole wheat pasta, veggie burgers, cous cous, pierogies, baked beans, and red meat only 1-2 times a month. Breakfast was more of the same. And you don't contribute to the beer thread very often which means you follow one of the basic rules of training which is: Beer is a poison.

My suggestion on oatmeal. Mix it dry with yogurt and maybe some raisins and sliced almonds the night before and let it soak. I feel that cooked oatmeal gives me digestion issues where the uncooked seems to work better for me.

I've basically cut out cereal at this point, except for a half cup before my early morning rides. It turns out to be too much simple sugar added to the diet.

Great comments everyone! I suppose it helps when I'm more interesting and throwing out expressions like "fat cunt". Notice how Terren remains silent on the matter? He feels the pressure, especially after he sees todays FGI. Come on, I'm not really going to parade around your house naked. Well not much at least.

Friday's FGI: 188
The weekly FGI average: 190.43

Good numbers to end the week. My friday weight is -6 from last Friday and the average is -2.57. This seems to verify that your body stores waste products and water for some unknown reason. I'm not starving myself by any stretch. Just eating sensibly again as well as not eating everything in sight.

Looks to be a hot and muggy weekend. Get out and ride early, drink lots of water, and remember to enjoy it all.

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Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Banana Taco

I love food. I really do. There's no other way for me to represent it than to profess my love for calories in all sorts of shapes and sizes. If it has calories, chances are I like it. If it has a lot of calories, chances are I like it a lot. Of course that explains how I was able to get up into the 280s in another life.

Thus I battle, something I've been doing on and off for probably 8 years now. And really I've pretty much won. I'm just about 5'11" and weigh 190 as of this morning. I have a reasonable muscle base, more like a linebacker than a cornerback. So I'm in decent shape, especially compared to the average American though admittedly that's like comparing your 40 time to a 2 legged groundhog's.

Then enter biking, where power-to-weight ratio means oh, oh so much. So 190 is no longer acceptable. I want to be lower, lighter, and stronger. I want to climb better. When it comes down to it there's no good reason to lug all that excess lard up the hill. And the battle continues.

One of the coolest tricks I have to lose weight is pretty ingenious really. I'm going to share it with you because my loyal readers, all 5 of you, deserve nothing but the best. I want to help all of you get where you want to be, weight wise, as easy as you can. So in the interest of being a benevolent blogger I'm going to share. My magic secret is this. Eat less.

OK maybe not that ingenious but unfortunately for the loads among us that's the straight reality of how we need to lose weight. For guys like ChrisG and Woody, they know nothing about these battles. For the rest of us it really comes down to eating less and getting used to being hungry from time to time.

The problem is, food tastes so damn good. Cooking, chewing, swallowing, and being a fat lard - all of these things just feel good. Few things feel as good as chowing down on a big fat block of cheese, at least short of going with a full wallet to a place like Chopsticks in Philly. But that's another post entirely.

Let me get to the real point. When I eat less I feel better. Sure there are times when I get hungry and my stomach wants food even though I know it doesn't really need it. But most of the day I just feel better. I sleep better. I ride better. I have more energy. Overall everything just feels better.

Speaking in a highly scientific manner, I feel like I get "gummed up" when I eat too much. Often times the calories I cut are useless carbs which seem to have an adverse effect on how I feel overall. No matter how good that bagel tastes, it's going to end up eating you in the end, like Pizza the Hut.

I've been using for a while and here is my weight chart for the last year:

Interesting that I seem to go in 6 month cycles where I bottom out then bounce back a bit. Actually this graph resembles an old carriage road running down a steep hill. Have you ever ridden a steep hill that has a bunch of tiny little flat areas? Those are from the horse-drawn carriage days, when the horses would need a flat area to stop and rest. So any road with those is an old road. Or you really live in the boonies.

I think this is fine and doesn't represent the typical rebound many people experience where they end up heavier in the end. Hopefully this particular rebound is over and I can make a solid push to the 170s now. I really want to see 179 on the scale this year. Of all the goals I have that would be the most impressive to attain.


"What's up fat guy. Daily measurements of my weight are pretty useless. I swear to you that one day last week I weighed 168.5, after a run, but also after a quart of water and a sandwich. The next day I weighed 176. I did however smoke over 4 pounds of crack in between, but you would think that you exhale most of that out."

Oh you fat lying cunt you're not 168.5. I crapped an alligator the other day and it sang the Star Spangled Banner in Farsi. True story!

I like weighing myself every day. It helps me see a pattern and prevents me from slipping too much. My Friday weight is often what I go by to see how I'm doing overall and my 7 day average on Friday is sort of my "official" weight.

176 eh? I guess I could threaten that. It might be really hard but I'll see what I can do. If I get close expect me to call you up and demand you get on the scale immediately. I'm pretty far away now but you just never know how it's going to work out. Nothing would be sweeter than to weigh less than you for one day. Well, ignoring the Chopsticks stuff again. If that happens I might be forced to parade around your house naked for the day with pompoms and shit.


"i spit water on my keyboard when i read the "this morning i was 212 comment" while thinking "no wonder norm wants me to bring hotdogs to the 24 HOA!! :)""

Oh I see you get pleasure from my being a big fat pig? I see how this goes. Man let me tell you that you really have no idea what screwed up things you want to eat during a 24 hour race. The later the race goes on the more the solo contestants are like a bunch of pregnant women. Hot dogs are the least strange thing on the menu.

"I said banana taco you shit! Where's my fucking banana taco?"

Steve and Jake, it could be a real fun night. Of course smart money is on most of us being in camp most of the night and just hanging out and so on. But you just never know how it's going to turn out. More than likely we'll have fun with it all.

So food. I like it. One of these days I'll have to scan a picture of myself from 8 years ago. You'll be appalled and disgusted to say the least.

Today's post is focused on food and weight but there is bike stuff to talk about. My Kentucky saddle sore didn't get a break today because I'm going with the "hammer it home" weekly routine so I can take next week off with good conscious. Actually it got a little better yesterday so I'm optimistic it won't engulf my ass in the coming days.

I put on my diaper shorts with the extra thick padding and set out for a more tame loop around the swamp. I didn't have the same power as yesterday but the route was flatter so I kept a faster pace. It struck me on today's ride that this 'tweener' pace probably doesn't do me any good at all. By Thursday I'm sufficiently spent that I can't go hard and I don't have enough time to lay out 3-4 hours of steady tempo to help my endurance. But as weight loss aid it works great so it's not a total wash.

Today is also more validation that less food means more energy. Usually I'm really dragging by Thursday but I woke up at 4:49 and was on the bike by 5:11. I have to imagine that since I sleep better I don't crash as hard when I skimp on sleep during the week. Hopefully tonight I can get a solid 8. Right now at work I feel really fantastic. So in this case, less is more.

Thursday's FGI: 190.

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Lessons Learned

After trading messages with ChrisG yesterday I'm going to ride the DumpTrucker (Stumpjumper) for the Darkhorse 40. Otherwise it begs the question, did I learn any lesson at the Rattling Creek race? Why I would ride another bike 2 weeks before the 24 hour race is certainly questionable. So I'm going to ride my race bike at the race, as opposed to the much less sensible alternate.

Now on tire selection I'm not sure. I'm going to try to find a thorn or defect in the Blue Grooves. It's probably a bit premature to give up on them so I might consider giving them another run. I still have the Resolutions. Even if they're not in mint condition they're in decent shape. I can always fall back to them at any time. If I'm satisfied the BGs are usable I'll take them out for 2 rides this weekend to make sure they're not just flat prone. Otherwise I'll split the weekend between a big road ride and an off-road ride on the Resolutions.

One late contender is the Small Block 8 but really it's such a low profile tire that I doubt it will be a realistic consideration for the 24 hour race. If I had a pair I was using on and off I would throw them on for this race. I may still but I'm not sure if it's worth the risk. Too many other things to contend with to gamble on that I think. Another option is the BG in the front and SB8 in the back. I have to check the tire profile again this week.

One problem with starting the post on the train ride home is that the "developments" overnight sometimes render my initial thoughts useless. Well not useless but uninformed. I found a thorn in the tire last night. It was buried deep in the tire and I couldn't feel it just running my fingers along the inside of the tire. I took the tube out and remembered where the 2nd hole was so I felt in that general area. Nothing. I took the tire off, folded it inside out, and pinched the questionable area and sure enough the little bastard stuck out.

Maybe that's another lesson learned the hard way. Instead of trying to swap out the tire as fast as possible, take your time and try to find the problem. Also, why wasn't I carrying a patch kit? Maybe I was, I don't even know. Flats are so rare I don't have a routine. If I had a patch kit it might have inadvertently shielded the thorn from doing more damage though you know I would have flipped the tire and gotten a hole in the opposite side.

Every lesson the hard way. Every single one.

Brett dropped off a boat load of stuff last night including a Trek 8000 frame, a fairly light suspension fork, 3 wheels, maybe 5 tires including 2 studded tires, plus a box of components which I have to explore yet. He said he's done with the 26er thing so it's pretty much useless to him. I just need to figure out what it's worth to me and give him something for it. Starting bid is a plate of potato pancakes.

The frame and fork are pretty light so I hope use that to setup a hardtail race bike. The big question is, how close to 20 pounds can I get it? First order of business is getting some ball bearings and a stem so I can get the fork on. They may be in the Magic Box, I don't know since I haven't explored it yet. Both the fork and frame are disc compatible so I may explore both. Maurice is letting me test drive drive the tubeless rims so maybe this is a good place for them. The DumpTrucker could be in serious trouble.

This morning's ride was the reverse of yesterday. Today was one of those days when I feel stronger on the back end of back-to-back days. My legs felt good from the start and never really faded. I didn't hammer at the end like yesterday but I still ended up slightly faster for the ride by about a minute.

I was going to try to ride 3 days this week in an effort to put in a lot of volume 3 weeks out from the 24 race but I have a saddle sore the size of Kentucky and it wants the 2 days off. I'm taking all of next week off so I may still ride tomorrow but I don't want it to hurt too much over the weekend. I think I have to trash my old cheap Performance shorts as they're just about over the hill.

Today's FGI (fat guy index): 190


Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Was It Fun?

I want to address Maurice's comment first because I wasn't clear at all about one aspect of Saturday's race.


"Hey Norm. Did you have fun during what you rode? How did you feel while riding? Mechanicals suck, but they happen (tubeless? I've got a pair of XT/816 wheels laying around, I'll do a nice price for you). I tackled NMBS #6 and my rear der. shifter kept getting stuck the entire race. Then I did the short track and the effect was that of getting my lungs ripped out of me. But I had a heck of a time. Wouldn't change a thing. I'm way tired from the driving/racing/riding but what a blast. Plus what an inspiring moment watching the pros race. 4 seasons ago I weighed 180# and thought Chimney Rock was not a place for bikes. Then I entered my first race..."

Without question this was the most fun I've had at a race yet. I felt good, no cramping though the legs were working hard and getting tired. But that's racing. You ride, you get tired, you sweat, bleed, vomit, shit yourself - it's what you do. Coming down the big fat bomb of a downhill where I got flat #3 was just absolutely fantastic. Pure unadulterated good old-fashioned speed. Good stuff. So when I wipe away the disappointment of the mechanical, it really was a good time out there and to use a cliche, I can't wait to go back. But, you know, maybe with those tubeless rims next year.

One thing I didn't mention yesterday was after the race, I was hanging out with Jay Dodge and Tim Dickson. Jay was first in the vet class and Tim was 3rd SS. When I went to get changed Tim was sitting on a picnic table resting and he gave me the thumbs up as I walked by. It was as if, by finishing, I was being accepted into this fraternity of "real bike riders". Quite frankly it made me feel like a poser, as if I had no business being there at all.

So I didn't enjoy the post-race as much as I should have. Jay and Tim are fantastically nice guys but I honestly felt like a total loser hanging out with them. Reflecting on it, there is now nothing I want more than to finish a race like that because I don't want to be the tool who can't ride a bike without having something go wrong. So it really serves to motivate me more.

After my brief foray with trashing the whole season I was once again looking at the race calendar yesterday to see what the next race is. For better or worse that would be the Darkhorse 40. So all indications are that right now I'll be there. But on what bike?


"your welcome to the fuel or the mary. as for the DH40, i've also decided to call it. my reasons are similar to fitness level just isn't there to do it. and i'm 200lbs."

It looks like I'm going to grab the Mary and run it for a bit at LM this weekend at some point. If it all feels good I may very well jump in the SS class for this race. Am I an idiot for entering the SS class on a bike I'm going to ride once or twice? Almost surely. But to be honest this race holds no appeal to me so I need to make it interesting at some level. Jake has a 32/20 on it which might be a bit light for Stewart. But then again do I want to push a gear that's too big for me? Who knows. Maybe I ride it this weekend and decide the old rigid Trek or the Stumpjumper are better options for me. Totally up in the air right now.

Another option is to go for a big ride at Allamuchy instead. Too many conflicting thoughts. Completely undecided but something that nags at me is that I hardly have room to be disregarding a race of any kind. 40 miles is still 40 miles. I have all week to think about it.

Here are some thoughts I sent to someone in a message this morning:

"I'm probably an idiot for even considering a new bike for that race. But I have to be honest I'm just not stoked about that race at all. But then who am I at this stage to shrug off a 40 mile race of any kind, even if it's all downhill? The sensible thing to do is to probably put the Resolutions back on the bike I'll be riding 2 weeks later at the 24, pump them up to 50 PSI, and stiffen up the rear shock quite a bit.

"Hmm, that's the kind of nonsensical rambling I usually put on my blog. But that probably makes more sense than running new tires on the Stumpjumper, riding a totally new bike, or riding my old full-rigid Trek with gears."

But hey another comment popped up so let's forget that for now:


"Another spin on the idea of being in over one's head is being ambitious. My take on things is that you are categorically NOT screwing around, the organization and focus you demonstrate is evidence of that- but you're still just getting started as a racer, so there is an interesting relationship occuring between your training, your mindset, and your race experiences. I think you're setting yourself up for a lot of satisfaction in the long-term, but that will mean weathering the steepness of the learning curve you're currently encountering on race day."

Good thoughts, and great usage of the expression "learning curve" there. This is something I've come to realize lately as I find myself inching up that curve, much like I was doing in the first 5 miles of the race Saturday. It's kind of neat to see the progression, like "hey check it out I think my pacing and calories are actually right today. Can you believe it?" I've gone through these things in other walks of life before, with hiking for instance. Experience is the best teacher, as they say. Or the best lessons are the ones we learn the hard way. Having said that I haven't learned anything in a particularly hard manner yet. Let's hope that doesn't change.

A lot of these guys have 10 times the races I do. Some of them literally 50 times. When I line up at the LMC any number of people who don't really know what they're doing will be there. Saturday, every single person out there knew what they were getting into. When they staged the racers into expected finish categories (honor system) I just moved right to the back. There weren't many of us back there. Most of those guys have been there before and are ready to lay it on the line. Right now I have to realize I'm just out there for the ride. Maybe I actually race the bottom of the Bell Curve someday. Not today.

Without question I need to step back and realize I've only done 6 races ever. I have a bunch of charity rides in there but really they amount to little when you compare it to the races. It's going to take time to learn a lot of valuable, and sometimes painful lessons. The guy Jay I mentioned earlier told me he's 47. There's a lot of riding and racing for me between now and then and it would be silly of me to blow up when I'm really only just getting started.

Good stuff all. Thanks for the comments. Some more random ramblings from an email I sent to someone else. Yes it's sad that I'm quoting myself but hey, full disclosure you know? Some of the comments are repeated:

"What is fun is certainly subjective. Some people like brutal pain but you need to do well. I like pain if I make something out of it. If I trash myself for.a DNF that's silly. I agree a lot of it is when you look back. It's why I keep going back. Now I just want to train harder. I want to hit 35 miles before I DNF. Then 40. Then I want to finish. I also think it evolves. But some people aren't having fun. And I have to not do that. It's unhealthy.

"The guy Jay Dodge won the vet class and he told me he's 47. Man that's a world of riding from now until then. The point is to be riding still then. Not to blow myself to the point I quit before I'm 36. So a lot of this is me saying to myself, OK I gotta make sure I don't burn out. I'm not smelling the roses by any stretch but I'm also not puking on them. It's a good mix for me right now.

"Hey I know I'm not going to win anyway so why not do it slow and steady?"

The smelling versus puking on roses comment sums it up nicely right now.

I did get on the bike this morning. I was going to do my Warren 35 loop but once I got going I ran to the hills. Then I ran for my life. I don't know any more lyrics than that. It's been a long time.

Holy shit the guy who just sat next to me smells like he's been drinking all morning. You don't usually get that from the button-down shirt and tie set. Goddamn he stinks! And he needs a shave to boot, not that I'm one to talk on that front.

Anyway I did my favorite up-down-up-down route this morning. 22 miles with about 100 feet of vertical per mile, including 2 monster climbs. At the top of the last climb I was at a 14.1 average. I finished at 15.8. I think we can get caught up with averages sometimes but on the other hand, a ride like this can end up being too easy if you don't press the pace on the rollers and flats. I think hammering for the last 20-30 minutes to bring up the average helps keep the ride as a solid training ride as opposed to a too-casual morning spin. It's also like "in session" intervals.

I'm making a push to drop weight again. To hell with this "performance eating" horse shit. So I'm going public with my daily numbers in an attempt to embarrass myself into not eating like a cow. This morning I was 212. No no, not really. It was 191. I need to be in the 180s consistently by the 24 hour race though. I'm carrying too much useless fat up the hills.

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Monday, July 30, 2007

Title Goes Here

Today's generic title is brought to you by the fact I have no one expression that precisely sums up my weekend. A lot of different things come to mind. Here are a few:

Shit Happens
Out Of My League
My Cat's Breath Smells Like Cat Food
There's Always Beer
Something Will Always Go Wrong

All of them convey some thought of how my weekend went. I think of all of them, I keep going back to the last one. No matter what, it seems like something doesn't go the way I had planned or hoped. Enough of the vague language. Let's get to specifics. First the (half) ride link:

I arrived at 7:15 Friday night and things went well enough from the door. Did my registration, talked to a few people including Mike the promoter, then found my way to a cabin which cost all of $5. The cabins at the girl scout camp were nice, recently built structures with mattresses and electricity. The girl scouts here have it better than the boy scouts in Allamuchy. I slept well.

Woke up at 6:00 which gave me plenty of time to eat breakfast, have coffee, and get ready for the 8:45 meeting. Nothing of note, everything fine to this point.

At 9:00 we started, the second MASS race I've done with a start as expected. The course started with a huge climb up a fire road. This was one of the 2 major climbs of the course. I think the majority of the first 5 miles was fire road, much of it climbing, and some of it excessive because the course was poorly marked and many of us missed a turn. You can see the nub on the map of the ride. When we finally hit the singletrack it was nice and tight, albeit rocky. At the first real technical section I almost went OTB as I was too tentative. I managed to catch myself and was OK after that.

This course is made for my bike, for a change. A lot of rocks on the singletrack which is made easier with the dual suspension. I still stood for a lot of it because I try to be on the more aggressive side with this stuff. That would come back to hurt me a bit later.

At around mile 11 we hit the first checkpoint. I was averaging maybe 7.6 at that point which was as I had hoped. The goal was 6 hours which would be an 8 average. The big climb to start pulled that down and I was also looking for a negative split on the day. So I was well within my hopes at that point. My stop was almost exactly 5 minutes, also as planned.

Somewhere at mile 8 or so I ran through a yellow jacket nest and got stung twice, once on the left calf and once on the right ankle. After that my left calf was doing all sorts of fucked up things. Half-cramps and half-twitchy, it didn't like the sting though it seemed to settle down after about 30 minutes.

At mile 13 I got my first flat, front tire. Kenda Blue Grooves. I had changed out the rear tube the day before which I found flat when I was getting ready. I was running 40 PSI. This added 10 more minutes of down time, total of 15.

At mile 16 I got my second flat, front tire again. At this point I assumed my race was done because I was going on my last tube at the 1/3 point. I checked the tube and found a small gash. No snakebite pattern so it wasn't a pinch flat. I ran my fingers on the inside of the tire. Nothing. The first flat was a slower leak. I felt it getting soft for a while and it eventually got sloppy so I had to change it. I didn't look for the hole because it was a slower leak. The second was much faster. Having lost a little juice here, this stop cost me more in the 15 minute realm. Total stopped time 30 minutes, already double what I had planned for the day.

So I got moving again, trying to take it as easy as I could on the rocks. Coming into checkpoint 2 there was a 2 mile downhill which you can absolutely bomb down. Absolutely. Bomb. Not even thinking about the flats, since I had gone 9 miles flat-free, I did what begged to be done. I bombed.

Enter flat #3. I didn't find it until I had refilled my bottle, my camelbak, and had a few snacks and drinks. I got on the bike and it was flat again. Front tire again. Who flats the front 3 times in 1 year, let alone 1 ride? In the 16 months I've had the bike I've gotten 4 flats before these tires. All of them in the rear. In 42 miles I've gotten 4 flats on these Blue Grooves, 1 rear and 3 front.

So I stared into space for a little then admitted my reality and threw in the towel. Some days it works for you. Some days, well it just doesn't. This day just didn't. That's the way it goes.

So how did I feel? Well with all the standing on the technical stuff my muscles right above my knees were really starting to get tired around mile 15 so I had to take it a bit easier on the technical and try a little more smooth and steady through the rocks. That seemed to work as I felt better after that. I didn't cramp, though my legs were pressing at various points.

My fueling was good as I was taking in about 250 calories per hour. The Perpetuem works so well that for 2 hours after my ride I still felt really good, like getting on a bike wouldn't have been a chore at all. After that I started to fade a little. But I think I had enough of the right calories and salt.

Water was still low. I did the ride, then drank a quart of water on the ride home, and still weighed 4 pounds less when I got home compared to when I woke up Friday. I sweat like a monster, more than anyone ever. When people say they are heavy sweaters, they haven't seen me. I literally lost 3 pounds yesterday mowing my grass for an hour, and I drank a quart of water. So I think my water intake needs to be better still.

But I think pacing, calories, and salt/electrolytes were all good. I just need to work on the water a bit and go from there. When I called it quits I was at a 7.9 average on the day (according to my bike computer not the GPS which seems to estimate low in the woods). So I was sticking to my pacing plan very well. My overall time would have suffered because I added 25 minutes changing flats and would have tacked on another 10 at the next stop had I kept going.

At this point I have to consider tubeless tires. While it's not a slam dunk I do need to think about it. I'm concerned that it just won't hold up to the way I ride. Then again, neither did tubes this weekend. But before now it was fine. Something to think about.

So even though I think I would have finished, I really don't know. On Monday morning I'm still disappointed. The course profile showed that coming out of CP2 there was a huge climb then it gradually went down for a long, long time. I really wish I could have stuck around long enough to see how it all would have worked out.

So yes I'm disappointed. But I also know that this is the way it just goes sometimes. If I don't get another flat all year I will have paid my dues all in one weekend, though I suspect that I'm going to find a thorn or defect in the tire. It does seem like something always does go wrong. But at least this time it was mostly out of my hands. Sometimes all you can do is throw up your hands. And drink beer.

Another thing that strikes me is that Maurice was being really kind when he said something to the effect that you need to get better at the short XC-type stuff before you tackle the enduro stuff. Translation: You're out of your league. Nothing could be more apparent on Saturday morning as I stood around with these guys. I have more body fat than any 3 random guys there combined. Sure there are a few loads like me that try but bail after 20 miles. But for the most part the guys that finish are all really, really strong riders. Even the guys who come in 50th are far, far stronger than I am. So I need to fully understand this when I go out for these, that I'm really riding totally solo, not against the field.

What does this mean for the rest of the season? Well I drank beer Saturday and took yesterday off the bike. Then I drank beer last night and I'm off the bike today. On the drive home I asked myself what I was doing it for: classic disappointment questions. Without question this was the most fun I've had at a race yet, at least up until the run of flats. And even after the second flat it was still really enjoyable. But when you get it sucked out of you by a wrong turn and 3 flats, it puts a damper on the whole memory.

I decided on the ride home that the Darkhorse 40 was a silly race to bother with. I don't know what my reasoning was at the time but it didn't seem to make sense then. But then yesterday I took apart the headset and fork on the old Trek and adjusted it because it was too tight. I raised the handlebars so the cockpit is almost the same as the Stumpjumper. Now if only I could get a wider set of handlebars I would be all set there. I'm going to swap out the WTB Velociraptors and put on either the Kenda Small Block 8s, the old Specialized Resolution Sports, or the pair of Panaracer Fire XC Pros Kirt gave me. I'm leaning to the Resolutions right now.

Then I'll take that out Saturday and see how it feels, probably at LM because that resembles Stewart more than any course around here. Meanwhile I'll probably put the Small Block 8s on the Stumpjumper and run them at like 50 PSI, then I'll firm up the suspension and maybe take that out Sunday to see how we do. Or maybe I'll pester Walter or Jake into letting me borrow one of their bikes for the race. Then I'll make a decision on which bike to run. I may wait until race day to register just so I have the option to bail if it rains.

Yeah so I guess I'm not giving up entirely. I gotta say I'm seeing more and more 29ers out there these days. I'm really starting to get interested in that now, I have to admit. My wife guaranteed I would have a new bike within 2 years. She may just be right after all.

So yes I was disappointed but I'm not giving up on the sport. At least not yet.

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