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In the heat, I suffer. At 6’5″ and almost 200 pounds, I’ve got a lot of surface area and my heart has to work harder than an average 5’8″ rider in order to get blood to all my appendages. I’ve found myself suffering in the heat to the point where I thought that if someone were to hand me a gun, I’d blow my head off. My first AZT 300 was like that. My final day found me in the hot box between the Gila and Picket Post. Temps were in the 90’s. I know because I use one of these. I remember running low on water with about 18 miles left (at least 2 hours), and passing a Polish guy who was out of water. I just stared at him as I kept moving by. No way was I going to risk running out of water in that desert.
In grad school I was the only test subject to complete all three trials of a heat study. Ride in a small room filled with heaters and hot plates with boiling water for 3 hours at 50% max VO2. Esophageal temp probed shoved up my nose and down my throat, blood draws every hour, and 5 minutes in the mask every 20 minutes. The seat killed my prostate and if I had to pee, I had to do it on the bike into a graduated cylinder….once with a boner…very difficult and a tad bit embarrassing with more than a few coeds checking things out. The fridge holding the blood samples lost electricity for a weekend and all the samples were lost.
My third AZT 300 found me early into day 1 with a missing chainring bolt. I rode really fast trying to catch up to people who were a good 20 to 30 minutes ahead of me after that. I blew up in the heat a couple of hours before Kentucky Camp. Hiding under a tree trying to escape the heat, I quickly realized my attempt at a 3rd consecutive finish was done. Day 2 found me going through so much water there was no way I’d make it to the next water source before running out. I turned around on Reddington Rd., spent an hour at a Safeway, then took the road to Oracle eventually being swept up by my ride.
Tour Divide found me in some heat too. I went north opting to take the heat early. Near the end of Day 1 I rolled out of Silver City with a full bag of ice on my back. I really didn’t see heat like that again until Canada. Yeah. 92 degrees just north of Butts Cabin. Luckily there were clean water sources everywhere. Since my 2014 Divide Ride, I haven’t done much serious riding other than the Puzzler 50.
I have a neighbor that is into hot yoga. She convinced me to do a Bikram class with her….in her little yoga room with a enough heaters to keep a public housing complex comfortable during the worst El Paso winter day. An hour and a half listening to some Indian dickhead that calls(ed) himself a Yogi bark instructions and insults putting me into positions I’d never been in before. I was pretty sore the next day despite doing many of those poses on a daily basis under my own terms for several years. I wasn’t sure what to think. I later attempted an Ashtanga class….normal temps….but the video instruction we watched just went on and on with the guy basically showing off how awesome he was at doing handstands.
Still not a fan of a structured yoga class and much less a fan of doing it in a room that is 100 degrees, I was convinced to go to a real hot yoga class as part of my neighbor’s yoga training certification process. It was pretty good…only an hour. It wasn’t that hot, but hot enough to get me really loose and into some good poses. The scenery was really good so I decided to tag along with her to some other classes eventually winding up in a studio in Las Cruces for a hot flow class (some call it Bikyasa) that lasted 2 hours. The temp hit 102 and the humidity was at 57%. I would have made it all the way through if I didn’t have to pee. It was by far the hottest thing I’ve ever done. Kuwait in full battle rattle had nothing on this. Sweat dripped onto my towel covered mat sounding like the rain in that section of Forrest Gump when he was in Vietnam.
I was getting most of the poses and trying not to pass out every time I stood up and reached upward…..toward the heater just above my head. Seeing the rock bodied and tattooed Meg to my right and the creamy skinned Maria to my left kept me motivated. I thought about my hottest bike races and they didn’t come close to this horror. People were dropping out left and right. Child’s pose was being practiced by more than a couple folks as the rest plowed on. Warrior 1 to warrior 2, eagle, warrior 2, warrior 1, foward fold, flow high to low, downward dog, yada yada yada, more flows, sweat, drink water, wipe sweat off of hands, focus man. Focus!
The next day I injured myself doing a not so heavy lift of an empty shelf and my weekend went to shit after that. Three days later I was still guzzling water, hitting the foam roller, and doing several drugs. I started thinking about why so many people are doing this crazy shit. I remember when Willow Koerber (Rockwell)….damn she’s still so fucking hot… was trying to continue racing after having her first baby (I think she has 2 kids now) and she blogged a bit about doing Bikram. It sounded like a surreal experience for her. Kind of like going into an opium den and participating in whatever craziness happens in an opium den. I also thought she was a wack job searching for answers. Recently I started to wonder if maybe there was something more to this. Maybe there was something that could be applied to my competitive mindset. Maybe there is a physiological training advantage happening.
I won’t get nerdy with Aldosterone, but it’s the “sweat hormone”. It controls internal temps by causing you to sweat. It’s affected by hydration status and whether or not you are “heat trained”. I can tell you right now, I sweat more than anyone in those classes. You can hear my mat…it sounds like a rain storm. You don’t hear it from the others. They don’t have the surface area I have. Maybe this is a “fun(ner)” way to build that tolerance to heat – lots of hot girls sweating and bending their bodies into all kinds of fascinating positions. Maybe the mental aspect of pushing your body to complete all the flows is a great form of mental training. Maybe it can translate to someone’s ability to make it through the hot parts of the day during a race. Maybe hot yoga stimulates the production of Aldosterone. I really hated doing research when I was in grad school, so I’ll just speculate and let you do whatever research you want to do. If nobody has done any research on this stuff, here you go.
I do know that anything that flips a switch in your brain causing you to push yourself harder, focus more intently, and drive yourself to complete a difficult task is something that will help you be a better athlete. I’m still not convinced that hot yoga is safe or even that awesome, but it is surreal and it does weird things to your brain. I’m always down for stuff like that.
Back in 2008 I thought I was going to attempt Tour Divide. I figured I’d kit up the Racer X and hit it, but I had never done any bikepacking and I was still ripping fast in XC races, so I put that idea behind me and never really thought about it again until a couple of years ago when I did the AZT 300 and CTR. I thought, “No way in hell would I do TD…..too much road. Yuck.” Then I started Nuke Sunrise and I started thinking about things I’ve accomplished….and haven’t. TD was back on top of the list.
At the start of last summer, I made the decision that 2014 would be my year for TD…..northbound as it would be stupid to fly my ass up to O’Canada just to ride back home to a place I prefer to escape every summer. Soon after making the commitment, I contemplated a new ride. I really wanted to do it on a Fargo style rig since JP’s last attempt was done on one and he mentioned that he had no hand issues during or after…..something I’ve been battling for a couple years. So I looked up some of my favorite frame builders….and saw that Walt Wehner of Walt Works had moved to Salt Lake City where I was visiting at the time. I made arrangements to meet up with him and I gave him a deposit….a whopping $200. Just before my Christmas break, he started building my frame….a severely upsized Fargo.
So all these build shots made their way into email and I was really hoping to have this beast ready to roll by the time I left for South Carolina, but that didn’t happen. It didn’t show up until a couple weeks ago. I got it built that night (despite over an hour spent rummaging for all the parts I needed) and rode it the next day to Mundy’s Gap….a burly rock fest of a climb. I cleaned everything up and down and was thoroughly impressed with the short stays and general fit. The ride down was a hoot on running a Knard 3.0 up front on the fat bike fork.
I ditched the Knard after one commute. Those things are tanks and I really am thinking speed. I think I can achieve plenty of comfort with a carbon fork and maybe 2.3’s front and rear. I think I may even ditch the Moxey post…..mainly so I can more easily run a seatbag. This bike is so comfy that I really don’t think I’m going to need it. I’ve got a Thomson on the way. I’ll put some miles on it to make sure. The Selle Anatomica is pretty sweet.
Eventually I got this thing made. What a freakin’ puzzle. Now I need to start working on the tanks that will bolt on to the top tube….and ride more.
I also bought this bad boy.
That’s a Shutter Precision thru-axle dynamo hub. I had it laced up in less than an hour to a Velocity Blunt SL (420 grams). This will be the first blunt I’ve ever rolled…..seriously. I’ll be charging batteries with this bad boy so the only batteries I’ll have to purchase will be AAA Energizer Lithiums to power my Spot….which I don’t plan on using 24/7 like other racers.
So here’s a run down of the build:
Walt Works frame
Salsa Enabler Fork (will upgrade to Niner RDO carbon TA fork)
Chris King headseat
DT Swiss 240 S rear hub w/ Stan’s ZTR355 rim
WTB SS rear hub w/ Stan’s 355 rim on the fat bike fork (will upgrade to SP Dynamo TA on Blunt SL rim)
Shimano Ultegra front shifter/brake lever
Shimano 105 10 speed rear shifter/brake lever
TRP Spyre cable discs w/ Yokazuma cables
Shimano XT 9 speed rear derailleur (new 10 speed dynasys won’t work with 10 speed road shifters)
Shimano XTR front derailleur
Truvativ X9 180mm cranks (28/42 rings)
Crank Bro’s Candy SL pedals
Sram 1050 10 speed cassette
105mm generic stem (upgrading to Syntace 100mm stem)
Salsa Woodchipper bars
Lizard Skins 2.5mm thick bar tape on with one layer of fake cork foam tape under the “tops”
Moxey Pro seat post
Selle Anatomica X seat
As for tires….right now I’m using some old WTB semi-slicks. For TD, I’ll use something like the 2.35 Kenda Slant 6 or the 2.3 Maxxis Ikon. Those are a bit bigger than what most guys run, but I do want some comfort on all that washboard.
Currently, my during the week training consists of riding it like this.
I’ll post more after I get the new fork. I ordered an orange one, but when I pulled it out of the box, I saw it wasn’t even close to matching and Jen thought it was pretty lucky. So I’m sending it back for a black one. It will drop some weight for sure. I’m more curious as to how it will feel. I’ve never ridden a carbon mountain fork and my road bike fork is 14 years old so I really have no idea how it’s going to feel.
In order to have a bit more confidence in my rig for the Arizona Trail Race 300, I did some part switching replacing parts that needed some love with parts that have been just hanging around the garage.
So off went the 5 year old Reba and on went the 4 year old Fox which hasn’t seen much use. It’s a bit stiffer which is probably one reason why I was using the Reba….which probably makes no sense at all to some of you. With that switch, it included a different caliper due to the post mount of the Fox fork. This included a newer and longer brake hose which replaced a hose that was cracked. I also switched out my 175 Race Face cranks and BB for the 180 XT cranks and a Chris King BB that was sitting in my junk box. The XT cranks have BRAND NEW rings!!! I also took the newer style Crank Bro’s pedals off my Superfly 100 race rig and replaced the really old plastic Candy’s.
With all these changes, I added a sweet thermometer from Stem Captain. This thing is really nice and will help me make the decision whether to keep riding when it’s hot or to seek a bit of shade and take a nap.
Some of you may also notice that the frame bags are a bit different. Last week I decided that I needed a bit more room since I’m not using a large seat bag or seat post rack. After going over my list a few times, and not wanting to use a large seat bag, I made new bags with a few tricks I’ve been wanting to apply to my bags. They turned out pretty good and both hold a bit more. I still need to make a nice thin bag to go in front of the seat. I tried one that was as wide as the gas tank, but my thighs rubbed on it.
And finally….a trip to The Bicycle Company to borrow their rivnut tool and the dually now has 3 water bottle mounts. The first two of course have been taken by the frame bag which easily holds a 100 oz. bladder as well as a day’s worth of food, Ayup batteries, and other gear.
So now it’s very easy for me to carry 224 oz of water and I have plenty of room in jersey pockets and my camelbak for more bottles if necessary. I may even make a couple bottle/food bags to go behind the bars next to the stem. This would make it easy to carry a cup of coffee or a stash of almonds.
Just over one week left. I still need to construct my Tyvek bivy and a couple bags for the bike. Everything is coming together….last minute!
This past weekend I took part in my second race of the year. The first race was a duo with Jen in Ruidoso back in April. We were the 3rd place team overall that weekend thanks to the help of my mom.
This race was the 12 Hours of Old El Paso and I decided to try it again after a year off by nutting up and going solo on the single speed. I was a bit nervous as I haven’t really been doing much riding much less on the SS. I didn’t even get my bikes ready until Tuesday night and the full suspension Superfly was questionable due to some slight skipping. I set it and Dirty Girl (my custom ti hardtail) up with a 32×21 gearing, worn out Nanoraptors on the front, and fairly new Small Block 8’s on the rear.
I took the RV out to the venue on Friday and scored a sweet spot on solo row….about the same location I had in 2009 when I suffered like a dog to finish 13 laps. I headed back home for the evening and I loaded a cooler with 10 big bottles of Cytomax, 6 bottles of water, a couple Mexican Cokes, and topped it off with ice. Luckily the race didn’t start until 10 Saturday morning so I got to bed early and slept in until about 7:15.
I got out to the venue and did the final touch ups to my pit and headed to the start. Jen rolled in just as we were starting so I didn’t get to familiarize her to the set up of my pit.
First 3 laps were on the Superfly and the skipping started to get worse. Not sure if it was alignment or wear differences on the chain/cog interface. After 3 laps I switched to Dirty Girl and told Jen to adjust my left grip and flip the cog over hoping it would solve the problem. I came back in after lap 4 and had to change shoes because my left foot went numb and it kept pulling out of the pedal. I switched back to the Superfly, but it skipped worse. Came back in for the pit and changed socks and went back to Dirty Girl for the remainder of the race.
I was up about 20 minutes on fellow SS’er Lenny Goodell and down about 10 on Sem Gallegos, the only other solo rider ahead of me….but he was on gears. It started getting really hot laps 5 through about 8 and I remember drinking 2 large bottles on all those laps. Lap 6 I came through and saw Sem in his pit. Sweet! I was leading the entire solo field and I felt really good while climbing.
Jen brought me a sandwich from Subway, some pound cake, and cooked up a cheese pizza. I consumed pretty much all of the food she brought while out riding. She had to fill more bottles for me as I was getting pretty low.
Lap 10 rolled around and I had to run the lights. It appeared that I had the single speed category in the bag. So I made sure I put some nails in the coffin of the next solo rider.
I ended up with 13 laps in well under 11 hours and got to remove the grime with a hot shower and still had time to socialize before awards. A set of decent commuter or backup lights for the win and the satisfaction of still being able to race my bike for a long period of time a bit faster than everyone else here in El Paso.
This post is a response to JHK’s article in singletrack.com.
As a long time racer (first Norba sanctioned XC event in 1989), I’ve seen our race scene change quite a bit. While I’ve never been a “world cupper”, I have been the overall winner at many races over the years. I stay as a fit as I feel like staying in order to remain competitive and not make a fool of myself. Prior to the mountain bike, I raced ABA bmx. Over the past 10 years I’ve taken racing much more seriously competing in short tracks, xc’s, marathons, 100 milers, and even a stage race. I still do road races about once a year. I participated in the Mercury Tour and Team Big Bear’s King of the Hill way back in the 90’s, so I think I’m a pretty good judge of what our racing scene in America is and was all about.
Two years ago a buddy of mine and I decided to put on an endurance event, the El Paso Puzzler. We had 28 competitors in v.1, v.2 had 68. This year is v.3 and we are expecting around 125. Not bad for the middle of winter in a dirt town like El Paso, TX.
As a race promoter/director/organizer, my goals are simple: make sure everyone has a great racing experience (however difficult our event may be), raise awareness of the trails in El Paso, and raise some money for our bike club, the BMBA. While I strive to get better riders to our event, the last thing on my mind is helping world cuppers get UCI points.
The UCI charges an enormous amount of fees and requires that the promoter subsidize drug testing costs at any event that has UCI points. No thanks. Toke a blunt on the course and shoot up some amphetamines at our race if you want. We don’t really care about that stuff. If you can afford that stuff, you definitely shouldn’t be whining about prize money or UCI points.
American mountain bikers, at least the ones who have been in it for over 20 years, are looking for something more challenging than the 1.5 hour lapper at a ski resort or broken bottle riddled city park. They want adventure. They want to push themselves to a new level. They want to go beyond the bonk, sit down on course and eat 1000 calories, run out of water, crawl to a feed zone, finish refueling, and ride another 20 miles to the finish with a knog led lighting the way. They want cool venues where they can camp and gather around a bonfire while their teammates slog out more laps during a 24 hour race. They want to use the same bike in a multi-event race where pads and full face are worn one day and two camelbak bladders are packed the next. The demand for diversity is out there. However damaging this diversity may be to UCI point seekers, that demand far outweighs the benefit of hosting a UCI event. I’m sure the Angel Fire promoters will agree with me on that one.
American mountain bike racing has become incredibly diverse and promoters of these diverse events are not complaining. In fact, many of them are capping the number of participants. Entry fees range from nothing to thousands of dollars and people show up from all over to try out whatever new fangled adventure awaits over the next pass.
Big money competitive mountain biking in America has been dead for longer than most care to admit. Even the Chevy Truck days were weak compared to European world cups today. American world cuppers need to do just like the roadies did….nut up and spend A LOT of time in Europe. If you really want that front row start, prove that you deserve it with the best XC racers in the world. The list of American road racers that have done this is too long for me to publish on my pissant blog. They are doing it for a reason. Racing in Europe is a spectator sport. People pay to sit in grand stands and enter parks where the events take place. Do that in the US and you’ll be lucky if half the stands fill up. Try it at a city park mountain bike venue and the neighbors will be pissed that they won’t be able to walk their dog that day.
Keep the UCI out of American racing. American promoters should keep pushing the limits of the support with challenging events. Dare to be different. Make that feedzone just far enough into the race where a camelbak AND bottles have to be carried. Provide bacon and burgers in the feedzones. Serve beer and margaritas for free at the awards ceremony. Charge camping fees to raise money for a youth cycling program, not prize money or promoter profit. Utilize paydirt programs to get more trails.
American mountain biking has soul. That soul is getting better with age. The UCI has done little to promote the soul of mountain biking in the US. Let’s keep it that way.
Sorry it has taken me so long to update my blog. Things have been super busy with the scene here in El Paso. This past weekend’s 12 hour race confirmed that we have an awesome scene and it also helped further solidify my reasons for racing. It’s all about helping to put our scene on the national radar. Winning the Breck Epic was to legitimize the trails in El Paso as it was for my own personal goals. The fans at both the Epic and this 12 hour were awesome and I got huge cheers during awards and throughout the event. Mike, myself, and Brent have been putting in some serious time to make the mtb scene here in El Paso better for everyone. I just wish more people would get involved with the grunt work or volunteering with trail building or race marshalling.
I knew this weekend’s 12 hour race would be harder than most people thought it might be. Yes, it’s in my backyard and I know the trails quite well. I ran a 21 t on both bikes. I was hoping everything would go well, but damn…where that wind come from?
The 12 hours of old el paso was a hit! It’s gonna get big in couple more years. It’s gonna be big next year. This year’s event only cost $40 a person. They had food, music, beer, and fireworks. Lots of my buddies were out marshalling the course and the state park guys were making some laps to check everything out.
Here’s how it went down for me. Not wearing a costume…like Brent, I had settle for a longer run to the bike.
The run wasn’t bad, but I definitely need to run more if I plan on doing more LeMann’s starts. I started out on the FS with the YESS tensioner, 32×21, nanoraptors front and rear. The first lap was a bit faster due to a bypass of the first section of single track. I was sitting in about 5th or 6th and moved up to about 3rd or 4th at the end of the lap. I rode the first 2 and half laps with eventual solo winner Adam Hoppe. He was geared and had much more fun on the climbs than I did. First lap was 38 minutes. Second lap was just as fast considering the additional single track….42 minutes. On the third lap, I switched to the hard tail so Jen could let some air out of my tires. I pitted so fast she didn’t hear what I said and ended up adding air.
The hardtail was a bit slower feeling with a 2.55 Weirwolf up front and a 2.3 Exiwolf in the back. 3/4 way through the third lap on the hardtail, I stopped to pee and started to feel some cramping. 4th lap I was back on the FS. I was drinking 2 full bottles every lap. About half way into the 4th lap, my legs cramped so bad I had to get off the bike, which made it worse. I pitted a bit longer the next couple of times through and ate some solid food and took some more salt tabs and sportlegs. Eventually I was taking one or two of either salt tabs, sportlegs, or ibuprofin from lap 5 and on. My pits were still pretty quick with my longest at probably 5 minutes. My lap times stayed around 50 -55 minutes.
On my first “night” lap, I grabbed the hardtail with lights and a helmet with lights. I didn’t want to sit around putting on lights when Jen could do it for me. I ended up not needing the lights as I was able to finish it before it got too dark. Back on the FS I was lit up and rollin’. I love night riding and the laps seemed much faster though my fastest night lap was only 52 minutes. I kept rolling laps as hard as possible and finally stopped cramping on the climbs at about lap 10. Sometime in there I saw that Lenny, my challenger in the SS category, was done and hadn’t left his pit in a couple of laps. I decided to go for 13 laps and finished at 9:30.
My lap count was good for 2nd place solo overall. I won the SS by 3 laps, 2 if you count Karen Rishel who rode well after the 10 pm ending to complete 11 laps. She ran a huge gear on a sweet new Superfly. Props to the solo field. The sign in posters looked to have about 30 spots on them for all of us nutbags.
I had no flats and only came close to crashing once. That was on lap 5 or 6 when I was feeling absolutely stupid with my legs cramping on the descents. My pit spot was probably the best in the race and my pit bitch did a great job even though I rushed through way too many and could have slowed down just a little in order to think things through a bit more and communicate better.
After awards, I crawled back to the camper with my cool trophy and a check for $100. Hopefully this thing won’t rot away anytime soon.
The Catholic School girls (they’re really MILF’s in disquise) brought back memories of high school.
My pit area….you can barely see the trail between my 10×10 and the tent in the background.
I didn’t look nearly this good at 10 pm.
My dog had a field day checking out lots of new smells and being in her natural “race” environment.
I’ve been wanting to pull off something brutal and fun this fall and I think I’ve got it. Am I a masochist?
Check it out here.
The course is going to be pretty sick.
I doubt it will include the new northern pass trail, but we’ll see. The current configuration goes over Mundy’s twice….once in each direction. This will be a good preview for the shorter Puzzler which takes place in January.
The camping in Breck has been interesting. We are now surrounded by a Texas Wheelchair (ATV) convention and the rain has been pretty steady. Downtown Breck is PACKED with cyclists and 4th of July drunks.
Jen is racing tomorrow and I’m hanging out giving her a feed. She’ll be on the hardtail rolling the Pacenti NeoMoto in the rear and the Nanoraptor in the front. Her ride today was rippin’ fast. She should do well as long as we don’t get sick from the lake water we put into our camper. Yeah….long story which I will spare you from.
Luna has a new boyfriend. His name is Koa and he’s awesome. He really loves Luna and they play together well. Koa belongs to Pua and Ron Sawicki. He’s absolutely hilarious.
Ron and Pua have been awesome to hang out with. Ron is very generous with his stuff. So far I’ve borrowed his Nomad bike wash and his bench grinder. He’s also kicked down some Infinit nutrition and some Okole Stuff…which absolutely rocks. It will definitely be nice to have in a 6 day stage race…which I start Sunday.
I hope it rains a lot! I love riding my SS in the slop. 6 days of slop would be even more awesome.
Today was the BMBA Poker ride and Jen and I rode over the mountain to meet up with everyone. It was cloudy and cool enough for arm warmers.
Then we railed down from Blue Rock….so fast that I caught a huge rock that put two sweet puncture wounds in my shin. Yep…it left a mark.
The new BMBA socks came in this week. I think we are selling them for $13 a pair. They turned out really nice.
The Poker Ride was a blast…other than the fact that you had to clean a bunch of sections to get a chip. Ryan Cody won it with a full house. There were 4 straights to take the other prizes.
My meager pair didn’t stand a chance. I knew something was up when Ryan put back an Ace and a Jack.
Adrian G. took home a sweet bottle of Boone’s Farm schnapps for his worst hand. Why do I get the feeling that it might actually get consumed?