October 26, 2011

CPT Nationals the Non-Race

So why do I call it the non-race, because for me that’s what it was. If you have read my previous blog post you would know that I broke my tail bone, just six days prior to Nationals. So for six days I laid on the couch taking pain pills and crying every time I thought about missing nationals. If you know me, you know the entire time I was crying I was trying to find a way to go to nationals, and I finally found a way. No there was still no way I could compete because I could barely walk, but I did find a way to be at the race.

I emailed Jason, the race director, and asked if he would have a volunteer spot open where I would not have to walk much, and he quickly replied that he had a spot for me at race headquarters, which was the start and finish line along with CP 4. Next I had to find a way to get there, I couldn’t ride with Chuck because his family was going and there was no room, so we planned on him stopping at my house and me following him, and if I couldn’t drive, we would pull over and he or his wife Lori would drive my van. It was a good plan and it worked out well.

We made it to Lake Barkley in Kentucky and although I had tears in my eyes a few times because I wanted to compete so badly, I keep thinking at least I’m in the middle of all the excitement. Lori was my stand-in for the race and this would be her first adventure race and it was 30 hours to boot. So I would be the cheerleader and team photographer at this race.

We all signed in Chuck and Lori for the race and me as a volunteer. We checked into the hotel which was fantastic, my room looked out onto the Lake, it was beautiful.

We all headed to the pre-race meal it was the best meal I have ever had at a race.

Next we went to the racer meeting where the racers got their maps and instructions, then were sent off to plot points before the race start.

I stayed for the volunteer meeting where I got my instructions and found out that I would be working with Jollett and Beth at race HQ. We would be recording times as the teams came through CP4, and then when they finished. We were also in charge of making the coffee, hot chocolate and chili for the racers when they finished the race. Lucky for us, Beth’s husband Martin helped out also, so we had plenty of backups if anyone needed to leave during the race.

At 6:00 on race morning I was at HQ helping with setup and strategically placing my lawn chair to see all the action. I was sitting out on the beach with the bikes to the right of me and the canoes to the left of me.

The race would start with a run across the beach to grab the paddling gear and run out to the canoes where they would do a quick paddle and land back on the beach to start a trekking section. The racers took off and made the first paddle loop really quickly then headed out on foot.

After an hour teams started coming back in, so I had to put down my cold diet coke and get to work.

I would yell the time and team number, while Beth would document it.

Jollett was busy using the cow bell to try and lead the racers to the tent, so she could punch their passport.

A few hours later we sent the last racers out on the second paddle, we tried unsuccessfully to call the lodge to turn in times so we had to change the plan and start texting the times in. Since that was one thing I could do without much movement, it became my job. Once we had all the times reported, we had many hours of nothing. Jollett took a drive to the airport to pick up one of the racers girlfriends, and Beth and Martin took their son into Murray to do some skateboarding. I had nothing pressing to do, so I just hung out at HQ and watched the guys move truckloads of bikes to the bike drop. I also spoke with random people who wondered what was going on. I spent a lot of time explaining adventure racing. Most people thought it was crazy, but they wanted to know everything about it. I might have even converted a few non-athletes into adventure racers.

At almost midnight I went back to the hotel for a few hours sleep before the racers started finishing. When I came back to HQ at 6 am Saturday morning, two teams had already finished, Wedali, a four person team and I soloist, who I happened to know, Bill Stevens.

So I went back to sitting and waiting, my tail bone was killing me so I also spent some time laying on the picnic table.

It was really foggy out and we could hardly see the water, but we kept ringing the cow bell hoping the racers in the canoes could hear us.

Soon a few more teams came in and then I saw them, it was Chuck and Lori and they were smiling, I was so happy for them, I thought I might cry. They ran up through the finish line and I knew they had fun, they weren’t yelling divorce threats or anything, they were just two happy racers, finished with a long hard race.

While Chuck and Lori ate baked potatoes and chili, I continued logging in times and reporting them via text messages. Chuck and Lori headed to the hotel for a much deserved shower and nap, while I stayed and waited for the last racers to appear. The fog had finally cleared early in the afternoon and I took a few pictures of the beautiful scenery.

So race day ended and I got some really great schwag for volunteering, actually more than the competitors got. I was given a pair of HI-TEC running shoes, a cool fleece jacket, a pair of Swiftwick socks and a really great Checkpoint Tracker ball cap. I made out like a bandit. Maybe I should think about being a volunteer instead of a racer in the future. Well… maybe not, I could never give up adventure racing, no stupid broken tailbone will stop me.

October 18, 2011

Warrior Dash 2011

I decided that there was no way I could possibly write a blog post that could give the Warrior Dash press that it deserves. So this will be a video blog dedicated to the race that beat me. Oh, so you want to know how it beat me. Let me try and give you the story before my keyboard explodes due to the tears flooding it. Yep, you read that right, the tears. When I say the race beat me, well it really did.

I entered the race to run with my daughter China, who is a cheerleader not a runner, but she can really run, so this would be a piece of cake for her.

The race started and all went well, we were having a great time, the obstacles were so much fun, even though they were too high for my liking. China went first and coached me over all the tall obstacles since I’m afraid of heights. Telling me not to look down and telling me I could do it. This is the funny part, I got over all of them only shaking a few times too. We ran to the finish line, making it through the fire pit without catching ourselves on fire and slid right into the mud pit.

Lori and Chuck were with us with Michelle not far behind.

We all swam through the mud pit and slide down the muddy hill to the finish. Of course Beer Man and Beer Girl had already finished because they had an earlier start time than we had, they were already in the Beer tent living up to their names.

The WWF wrestlers finished just in front of us also, they looked awful tough, and there was no way I was going to pass them.

I know what you’re thinking what could have gone wrong, well, during that last ten yards when I was sliding down the mud hill, guess what, there was rock sticking out of the mud, it wasn’t big and I didn’t even see it until it was over. Yep, I hit my butt right on that rock, while I was sliding along pretty fast, it hurt so bad I was not sure I was going to keep my breakfast down. I got up and put a smile on my face and got my medal and a few pictures. You would think with all the junk in my trunk there would have been no way this could have happened, I still can’t believe it, this will go down in “Robin Stupid Things” history. In just a few minutes it started hurting so bad I could hardly walk, it almost killed me to jump in the lake to get the mud off. With China’s help I got some dry clothes on, but it was all downhill from there.

After I was home I took a shower to get the rest of the mud off, then went to urgent care, where I asked the doctor, to please tell me I was being a big baby and just to buck it up. Stupid doctor, he just said “sorry, but you have a really bad break in your coccyx, which is the bottom of the spine otherwise known as the tailbone, and you need surgery.

So I had to wait until Monday to see an orthopedist, where he told me the same thing and told me how lucky I was and that there was NO WAY that I could race at Nationals on the next Friday. So my crying from the pain turned into uncontrollable sobbing because I would have to miss Nationals. I tried every way possible to talk him into letting me race, but it was a BIG FAT NO . So right now, I’m in the middle of a pity party, tears and all, still trying to figure out a way to go to Nationals. I know one day I will laugh about this, but for now I’m trying to estimate the number of tears I have lost, since that’s about the only thing going into my workout log for a while.

October 5, 2011

Trek Superfly 100 Review

It may not be love at first ride, but it will end in LOVE
By Trek Mountain Girl

Superfly 100

I LOVE MY SUPERFLY! But it was not love at first ride for me. Since the Superfly doesn't come in a model designed specifically to fit women, I had to make some modifications. I swapped saddles for a women's specific saddle, and swapped the Bontrager Big Sweep handlebars for one more specific to my size and last but not least the Bontrager 29-2 tires that came on the bike were not suited for the Midwestern trails of mud, roots and large river rock, so I swapped them for knobbier tires and made them tubeless so I could ride with lower air pressure.
My favorite bike shop made all the changes possible and had me back on the trails in no time. If you ever make it to Edwardsville, Illinois, you should stop at The Cyclery and Fitness, I'm sure you would like it as much as I do.

I had to get over a learning curve going from Shimano to SRAM shifters, but now that I have gotten used to the push-push activation, I love it. The shifting is smooth, solid, and predictable. On my previous bike I had to 'feel my way' into the gear changes. With the new SRAM, I just click and it's there. This leaves me focusing on the trail and the competition instead of shifting.

My hands are pretty small so I really appreciated the adjustability of the Avid Elixir R hydraulic brakes to let me set up the reach from the handle to the bar so it was customized to my finger length and angle.

I got the Fox F29 fork and Fox Float RP-2 rear shock dialed in on air pressure so I float over trail obstacles without ever losing the feel of the trail. I love the 2-position pro-pedal option on the rear. I can let it soak up big bumps when bombing down hills or flick it to pro-pedal for more stability on climbs.

The frame is stiff in all the right places. I never feel flex when leaning into a tight turn or when really applying power to the pedals. I think the stiffness comes from the giant E2 head tube with the large diameter bottom bearing.

The 110/100 mm travel in the suspension is just right for the cross country racing and the adventure racing that I do. Any more length would just add extra weight, and any less would impact my comfort level (which gets to be very important in 24 hr races).

I am also happy that for the 2011 year Trek added some carbon armor on the down tube in front of the crank, and along the chain stay. Both of these areas are so easy to damage on the rocky trails in eastern, MO. I know mine have taken some good hits and there is no damage.

I know you are waiting to find out about my final thoughts on the Superfly. This is why I now LOVE my SUPERFLY in less technical terms.

1. It rolled over every rock and root, like they weren't even there.
2. I flew up and down the hills like I was riding the flat, it just rolled smooth as butter.
3. I never once felt the saddle, it was like I was sitting on air, thanks Andy!
4. The handle bars felt like they were made specifically for my build.
5. The tires grabbed the dirt and just took me where I wanted to go.
6. After banging the down tube on more rocks than I want to think about there was no damage to the bike.
7. With the float dialed in just right, my lower back was not sore at all.
8. My hands felt great because I wasn't reaching for the shifters and the brakes, they were right were they needed to be.
9. It was the bike that everyone told me it would be. I was almost too happy for words by the end of the ride.

So it might not have been Love at first ride, but it is definitely LOVE now.

October 4, 2011

Crest ZTR Review

I've always got my eye out for a good deal, especially when it comes to race gear and bike parts.  I've bought parts and frames from Ebay, Craigslist and from individuals in bike forums.  I've met sellers in parking lots, movie theatres, trail heads and gas stations.

So when I seen the ad for a pair of Stan's ZTR Crest 29in wheels, I immediately set up a meet at a local gas station.  They were in such great shape, I could have been convinced that they had never even been ridden on.  We agreed on a price and I took my new treasure home.
A few days after the Berryman Adventure race I pulled the Bontrager wheels off of my Superfly 100 and started the swap.  The first thing to do was remove the disk brake rotors.  They are held on with six T-20 Torx head screws. 

The next thing up was to remove the 10 speed Shimano cassette.  Easy to do once you have the right tools.

A cassette removal socket with guide pin:

And a chain whip:

Then it was simple to transfer the removed parts to the new wheels.  The only things to watch on the brake rotors are to keep them clean and pay attention to the direction of rotation.  I torqued each screw in a star pattern with a new application of blue Loctite.

Be careful when moving the cassette, it is a stack of spacers and rings that could get confusing if you mix them up.  I lifted the stack off the old wheel and moved it to the new wheel without setting it down. I put a light coating of synthetic grease on the rear wheel hub to prevent it from seizing over time, and installed it with the same tools I used to removed it.

The Stan's yellow rim strip and tubeless valve looked great.  They were in perfect shape and had been installed perfectly. I got my hopes up that I wouldn't have to fight with getting the tires to seal in a tubeless set-up.  While I was doing this I noticed that the ZTR's have 32 butted (1.7 / 2.0) black stainless spokes per wheel, the Bonty's I was replacing only had 28.  This is cool.  I get a much lighter wheel set (1575 grams) with more 4 more spokes per wheel (more spokes = stronger and easier to straighten when I eventually bend one).
I pulled the Kenda Slant Six tire off of the Bonty old rim using a couple of Park Tool tire levers.
I got them fitted onto the new ZTR wheels without any hassle.  Remember these tires are directional, so check before you install them or you are going to make a mess with the sealant when you have to take them off.

I put two cups of Stan's sealant in each tire, after shaking the bottle good to make sure the rubber particles were well suspended. 

I should patent my invention for seating tubeless tires.  In the picture below you can see it.  The 1/4 diameter automotive vacuum hose and small hose clamp work great with the nozzle on my air compressor.  The tires popped onto their beads and sealed instantly.   The other two set of wheels I've set up tubeless before this leaked for up to two weeks before finally sealing.  (As I write this - a week after set-up- I still haven't had to add air)

Now with the work completed it was time to ride!  I took the bike to Indian Camp Creek.  It is a fairly easy local trail with a good mix of creek bottom flats and easy climbs.  It is a great trail to ride fast.  I took off through the winding tight turns in the creek bottoms and I could tell right away that the wheels were light and fast.  My confidence in the wheels grew fast and soon I was leaning through the dusty corners trying to feel any flex in the wheels.  There wasn't any.

While I was riding, I noticed that the tires looked fatter on these wheels.  They are the 29 x 2.0 size, but they looked fatter than some other 2.1 tires I have ridden.  I looked on Stans website and found out why:  ZTR wheels use Bead Socket Technology, which is a fancy name for a lower bead hook height combined with a wider rim (24.4mm).  The bead design allows the tire to stretch out to a more natural rounded shape and reduces sidewall flex.  No wonder I was feeling so fast in the corners!

I rode over to the smallish climbs these trails have and rode up them easily.  I was able to lift the front wheel over obstacles without a problem.  I can't wait to get these wheels out to some trails that have some real climbing (ie Matson Hill).

The tubeless Kenda Slant Six tires were hooking up incredible!  I had the tire pressure at 28 rear and 26 front.  It felt just right for my 170 lbs.  I didn't expect to feel increased traction from a wheel change, but it's there all the same.  It must be from the reduced rim height/increased width combination.

Both hubs are Stan's 3.30.  The rear has a different sound than any previous wheels I've ridden on.  When freewheeling it sounds like a rattlesnake.  Kinda funny, I guess I'll get used to it.  For now I'm going to take it to mean that I'm getting good multi-point pawl engagement.

The ZTR Crest wheel is really light weight so it is recommended for cross country and light trail use with a maximum rider weight of 190 lbs.  Sounds perfect for adventure racing where a lot of the riding is gravel/dirt roads.  I'll get a few long races on them this fall and find out what they will be like long term.  So far they look like winners!