(I wrote this one somewhere around 2005, originally published on the now defunct, but still legendary, Aspect Journal….)

The first quick click-spits of raindrops snap-pop off my bedroom window. The clock radio illuminates the obscene hour of 4:36 AM as the first storm of the season begins like a firefight in staccato bursts. Its Morse Code clatter quickening now, sizzling like bacon, sputtering and blistering in the night. Irreverent and insolent, not the typical soothing patter of rain.

But then many things sound different to me lately: this low rumble in my chest, the gauche thunk of my crutches on the linoleum floor, the empty clacking of the clock in the kitchen where the making of breakfast once calmed me. Like knowing she was there. Like the rain.

I reach across the empty bed and the robotic tin voice of the weather-band injects its sick resin into my heart:


This morning’s rain falls like fists.
Lefts. Rights.

Liquid hammers beating a drunken march on my eardrums.

I duck and weave, back into a bruised corner, and dive under the sheets, laced more like stitches than fabric, searching for solace only to find taffeta on the memory of my skin: her layered sheets of silken hair shrouding my face, the furnace of her fiery skin, the subtle bed of honeysuckle in the hollow of her neck. These nights are filled with phantoms now, sensory ghosts: the whir of CD trays and the whisper of our thighs, refrains of sultry saxophones and syrup-steel guitars, tricot sighs, pastels on the sunrise, and the musky gauze of forever in my arms as she slept.


My alarm wails signaling the second round. The rain attacks with renewed fury switching to southpaw keeping me on my toes, socking me in the gut. Roiling waves of nausea overwhelm me as I sit up and swing my swollen, reconstructed knee off the bed and onto the floor. I get dressed and limp out to the garage to initiate my latest winter ritual.

I open the garage door revealing the morning tempest. The hard rain in pellets stings my skin. The wind is a banshee spitting breaths loosed from the snakes of Medusa whipping in coils. My eyes water, my hands redden, and I gingerly swing my new knee over the seat of the cycle trainer and settle in.

I rock the pedals back and forth for several minutes before I can make a complete revolution. The trainer’s freewheel sings an airy hum with each half-stroke. Back and forth. Forth and back. It sings our first kiss under stars spread like spilt sugar on a smoky violet night. Forth: it hums a new tattoo on my knee, six months of rehab, and a missed winter. Back: it sings our first walk down College Ave. in late-October dusk, our cheeks fired with the first cold kiss from autumn. And forth: it hums a sad ballad blasted from a shotgun, point blank to my heart, and an empty house.

It groans: pedaling full revolutions now, as slow as ice shifting through time, eroding the memory of anything else, and leaving a glacial till of her in its place. It’s humming now and I’m drifting off into my terminal disease, blacking out the noise, and settling into my frigid moods. Dancing alone to the slowest songs in white rooms tilted to about 45 degrees. And in the distance, the mountain range extends, the rolling hills, the peaks and valleys, my thoughts stretch out to infinity. Reminders of how we thought it could be: so clean and quiet, so charmed and never-ending. Like the rain.




Thank you for letting me sleep with you last night.  It’s always warmer and cozier for me that way when you just fall asleep with your headphones on and don’t bother to take me out.  I can never hear what you’re listening to, but whatever it was, it must have been good.   You don’t often dream of being young again, but last night you did and I got to see people from your past that I hadn’t seen before.  I’m not sure what they were saying to you, but I could feel it make you warmer. Sponge Dog was in there too, I think he was standing watch over something, or someone, but he was keeping an eye on you like always does.  There were shadows of other dogs running all around him, and they eventually lay down beside him and watched you too.

When you close your eyes, you project your thoughts and memories onto your eyelids like a movie screen and I have front row seats.  As you drifted toward sleep, it was fun replaying the course over and over again that you took me to see the other day; I couldn’t wait for you to ride it faster, full gas, like all those other rides you’ve taken me on.  Those rides where everything except for the trail becomes a blur.  Those rides where you stare right through me with even more focus and vigor than you usually do.   Those rides where your green iris’s supernova, let it all in, and I can look back and see the fire burning bright as ever behind your eyes.

These past few days here have been sweet.  That chill ride along the coast you took me on Saturday was something special.  You were taking it all in.

Cypress Tree

When you blink you’re snapping pictures into memory and I can look back through your eyes and see them get piled up in the corner with all of the others.  You placed these on right on top.   And then watching Tofor do so well in his race today was killer.  It was a bummer that he flatted, but hey that’s racing.  Even I know that. Hopefully people saw what he’s capable of before that happened.  Hopefully he saw it too.  That was a great sunset out there today too…maybe the best one you’ve shown me yet.

It’s almost like you knew it would be my last one.


You probably didn’t see it coming, but today was my last day.  I had it planned for awhile.  We were together what, like three months, and I knew it was just my time to go.  I’ve gotten a little rough around the edges; and was doing you no favors with all of this springtime pollen around right now, and I could tell you’ve been a little irritated with me.

You’ve been wearing your glasses so much these days.

From how much I’ve watched you think about these trails, I’m thinking that today’s race might be important and maybe it’s not the best day for me to jump ship like this.  But I know you can handle it.  And it’s not like I’m going very far, I’ll still be right there watching.   I just need to go out on my own terms and this is the best way I know how.  I’ve watched you consider such things yourself so I know you’ll understand.

Yet you always seemed to just look right through me.

I probably could have picked a better place to jump off, but I had to wait until things got moving…at least until you got off the paved racetrack and onto the dirt.  When I knew you would just react and leave me be, and keep on rolling.  Besides, from watching you stare at the trail maps, I knew that fast rutted dirt road descent was called Lookout Canyon Rd, and I just love the obscure irony in that.  I be all like “Ha! LOOKOUT!”.

When I jumped and landed perfectly on the inside of your sunglasses, I looked back at you and boy did you look surprised! It was FUNNY! I had to do it in a spot where you wouldn’t be able to take your hands off of the bars. Your eyes got so wide I could still look back through them and I saw connections firing that you didn’t even know you had.  But I knew you had them.  I’ve seen them fire before.

But then I saw all those other guys pass you and I felt kind of bad.  For a while there it really seemed to affect you.  You just stayed behind that one guy on all of that fun looking singletrack! You weren’t even riding it much faster than you rode it the other day! And that group of five other guys just took off! Like they were gone in a real hurry! I kept waiting for you to chase them but saw that you needed a moment to yourself.  It wasn’t long before even I couldn’t see them up ahead anymore and believe me; I can see a lot better than you.

I kind of wanted you to stop again at those cool looking rock formations that you took me to the last time we were here, but I knew you couldn’t.

Course Rock Formation Trek

That was where you finally moved around that one guy you were following and I started to really feel the wind through my pores.  This is what I was waiting for! I looked back and saw that you said something to that guy, but he just stared back and I watched him slowly disappear.  I looked up into your eyes and they were full blast.

I wondered if you knew I was still there watching.

I didn’t know if you could see it or not, but I started to see a dust cloud just ahead from that lead group.  You seemed too busy to notice; you were trying to straighten out the turns in the trail and were just bashing your arms and bars through the overgrown branches like they weren’t even there and I’m really glad you didn’t go down.  Did you even see all those erosion ruts all over the trail? That got a little intense there. The dust cloud ahead billowed bigger, closer, thicker; and then there they were.

Your eyes filled with soft relief when you saw them but you stayed on it.  I saw you thinking about how you could potentially make up a little time on the sandy run-up and sure enough you were able to pass that one guy and it seemed that was when all the other guys realized you had reattached yourself.  That was cool, glad I was there for that.  Those two guys who wouldn’t let you pass on the singletrack while the front three powered away was a little worrisome but holy crap, when the trail opened back up you sure did start smashing!  Just like those loopy neighborhood lunch rides you’ve taken me on. That fire in your eyes now was FRIGGING BRIGHT.  I thought you were going to let up after passing those two, but then you bridged up to the lead three and  snuck in front of them too just before the next singletrack started.  That made me smile.

I looked back and saw that it made you smile too.

It was pretty sick being on the front for that. Even closer to the action than I normally would have been.  You were moving pretty well but I did get a little worried when you eventually waved the other two around.  Your face relaxed a bit when you were following their tires on the downhill stuff.  The way you relax when you take me out.

You probably needed to relax a little anyway.

When you guys merged with all those other riders, things sure kicked up a notch and that dust was intense.  I really don’t know how you were able to see.  I could barely see a thing, and that’s saying something.  That one guy riding the black hard tail really seemed to pour it on here.  I think I saw fire in HIS eyes.  I kept waiting for you to climb back to him but you never did.  The fire was still in your eyes, but now more  crackling campfire than funeral pyre. The third rider behind you slowly disappeared.

As you pedaled off the dirt and returned onto the racetrack, I looked back up into your eyes and saw you replaying the terrible crash that you had here last year over and over. I don’t think I had seen that memory yet.  The one that cracked your helmet and broke off your saddle.  The little room where you kept that memory has always been a bit smoky, but it seemed to be clearing out a bit now; as if someone finally opened a window.  You took your hands off the bars and soft pedaled the entire home stretch. I saw you replaying all the rides we did together this year.  The fast ones.  The hard ones.  The lonely ones.  The long ones that brought you here.  The ones we both know you really don’t have the time for.

You were smiling.

And now my last memory:  You finally take off your glasses and see me still sitting there.  YES I’M STILL HERE! I’m cold, dusty, and brittle; I’m done. But the soft glowing coals in your eyes warm me one last time.

I think now for the first time,
instead of looking right through me,
you are finally noticing me.

Contact Lens

Cost Plus Ten Percent

Skiing—it’s in your blood. Or is it the other
way around?

The cut was deep and long. The heat of the slash cauterized the capillaries and they held their breath to bleed. In half a blink the box cutter slipped on the hidden staple below the thick folds of cardboard, caught my forearm, and carved a deep white trench into my soft summer-tanned flesh. The box cutter flew end over end through the air as I grasped my lacerated left arm by the elbow and held it aloft.

The pasty slash penetrated just below the inside of my wrist, arced deeply downward and toward the outside into the meat of my forearm, and then gradually carved back inward becoming shallower where the sharp blade finished its work. A slender half-moon trench. At is apex and at its deepest, I noticed that the outside edge of the cut was raised higher than the inside; a translucent flap hung over the side of the wound like a wave about to crash, or the cascading sluff from a steep, powerful powder turn.

The box cutter finished its descent and clanged on the concrete floor like a headache. The noise seemed to wake up the sleeping capillaries and they released their pent-up torrent of heat and pain. Thick red blood filled the deepest part of the trench, flowed past the unweighted point of the turn down to my elbow, and dripped off the edge. The entire cut, point-to-point, a perfect, painful portrait:

                                                     As quiet as
                                               the grave.

                                         No screams or yells.
                                     Let the wind
                                 speak while
                               you descend.
                             Muted calm.
                           Graceful: No
                          awkward flails.

                        No panicked
                      reaching or
                    desperate grabs.
                   The calm of the
                 mouth echoed
                 in the body.
                 Limbs held
                 with no tension for
                  the bottom could be
                  six inches under.
                    Or seven miles down.

                      Be loose be ready for
                       anything. Peaceful:
                           You may die.
                               You may not.
                                   Accept this now,
                                         and be peaceful for
                                                 the sudden stop
                                                           at the end.

The thick maroon stream dripped off the precipice of my elbow like a leaky, rusty faucet. Tap. Tap. Ta-tap. Tap. It pooled into little puddles around my sandals. Some of the puddles joined and formed ponds. It splashed and spackled my exposed feet and toes with tiny red freckles. I turned to see where the box cutter landed and my rotation splattered the red paint around me in a half-circle. I turned back and swore I heard the faint chict-chict-chict of a lawn sprinkler on its return. It echoed off the dimly lit walls of the shop basement. It dripped onto the freshly unpacked skis.

I picked up the skis and gently slid them out of their protective plastic. I held them aloft and admired their girth. Tap. Tap. Ta-tap. Tap. They were fat. Obese even. Vertical laminate. Swallow-tail. They were the fattest skis I had ever seen and I instantly fell in love-lust. I caressed them. I flexed them. My blood smeared over their shiny newborn skin. I flexed them harder and harder until my blood splashed and flicked onto my face. Onto the walls. Onto the workbench. The shop manager, Andy, came barreling down the wooden steps and his jaw slammed to the floor.


Tap. Tap.


I showed up at the shop with a hot, steaming cup of watery gas-station coffee in one hand, and a lesson waiting to be handed into the other. Andy looked up from behind the counter and smirked, “Only one cup?” His disgruntled tone implied that I was not to return his friendly good morning.

“The first rule of working here,” snarled Andy, “is that if you stop at the Chevron across the street, you bring coffee for everyone else as well.” And here I thought the first rule of working in a shop was to take a vow of silence about shop-form perks. Clearly, class was in session.

“See that wall over there?” he said, pointing to the back wall of the shop into which evenly spaced wooden pegs were driven about four feet above the floor in regular sequence.

“Which wall?” I snottily answered. The spindrift steam from my oily coffee drifted between us, and caressed the exposed rafters above the loft.

He threw a shiny box cutter into my free hand. “Go on downstairs, start unpacking the new skis, bring them up here, and then arrange them on the wall. This needs to be finished today.”

Greetings and pleasantries aside, I was happy. What better way to start a job, and the season, than being the first to ogle and fondle freshly minted sticks? I slurped a sip of gassy java as I walked past the manager and snagged a copy of the latest Powder from the magazine rack at the end of the counter. I paused at the top of the stairs, then looked over and made eye contact with him. “Good morning!” I sarcastically beamed as I slurped again (he frowned jealously when he saw my cup) and stamped down the wooden steps. A coffee contrail of whispery white steam flowed over my shoulders as I descended down deep.


Tap. Tap.


What in the hell happened here?!” Andy demanded as he surveyed the bloody scene. I continued to stare at the fatties.

“What did you do to those skis?!” I must have looked bloody well like Carrie on prom night.

“It looks like you murdered something down here! A bloody massacre! How the HELL are you going to clean up this mess?” Was someone whispering in the distance?

“You don’t have anything to say for yourself?!”

The blood from my wound smeared over the shiny newborn topsheets. It seeped into the microscopic spaces where the edges joined the sidewalls. It saturated the cores. It bound with the resins.

“Nothing at all?!”


Tap. Tap.


My forehead found the low-hanging light bulb suspended at the bottom of the stairs. I reached up, found the chain and pulled. It swung softly and gave light and motion to the shadows of the basement. I set the coffee-like grog and the magazine on a workbench and surveyed the scene: a windowless, dank catacomb of a room with a long ski workbench along the near wall, an ancient hulking Winterstieger stuffed into a dusty corner, and a cobweb-filled rental ski rack that stretched and disappeared into the darkness. At my feet were piles and piles and stacks and stacks of thin, elongated, coffin-looking cardboard boxes.

I studied them. It looked as though someone had arranged them by ski type. Kids’ skis on looker’s right, then beginner, then up into the mid-fats and racing skis, and then finally the fatties. I figured I had best get started. I rolled up my sleeves, unsheathed the box cutter blade, and got to work.

The kids’ skis went first and fast. I quickly sliced through each layer of corrugated cardboard and found myself buried ankle deep in disgorged skis and packing waste. An hour or so later I was ready for the mid-fats, racing skis, and powder boards, working right to left.

Wait, the powder boards. No, they deserved to be opened next. I stomped and waded through discarded cardboard and plastic wrap while muttering to myself Powder boards, powder boards, powderrrr, powderrrr, powderpowder…


My forehead whacked the hanging bulb and the box cutter rocketed out of my hand and bounced on the concrete floor. The bulb swung back and forth again, and as it did it cast new light into the nooks and crannies of the room. My eye caught a lone box standing upright in a darkened corner.

I ambled with the shadows into the corner and eyed it suspiciously. It was longer and slightly wider than the others. I picked it up. It was heavier by a few pounds at least. Somebody had set this box aside for a reason. I dragged it to the middle of the room beneath the light bulb and there, within the pyramidal yellow glow of the oscillating bulb and among the scattered remains of destroyed ski packaging, I bent over, driven by curiosity. Should I open it, or leave it be? I picked up the box cutter…


Tap. Tap.


It was the one word that could bring me back. Suddenly my arm was searing with pain. “What do you mean, fired?” I cried. “You can’t fire me now. Look at my arm for chrissakes, I’m bleeding to death over here!”

“Well, look at those skis! Do you even know what those are? Do you even know who those are for?” Should have known. Somebody’s special order. Someone important no doubt, or at least with big pockets. “We can’t deliver them now!” Andy looked terrified.

The skis were a pair of blood-caked medieval cavalry jousts left over from the Braveheart battlefield. Sweat dripped down my spine. A creek of blood flowed down my arm. My eyes traced figure eights on the floor.

I looked up at the skis, my skis. Clutching them to my blood-spattered chest, I offered sheepishly, “Cost plus ten percent, right?”

Robbie from TBB.CX swung by with a sixer of Sierra Nevada and stuck a microphone in my face….we chat about all things single speed from SSCX to SS MTB endurance racing and a bit about Independent Fabrication. Check it out here:


Sixty-six miles in and thirty-seven left to go, the coil tightened it’s grip on my femur, a double stranded helix of pain that was DNA deep. It crushed to the core and finally stopped me in my tracks, frozen in the heat; hunched, hysterical. This was the worst one I’d ever felt; raw, relentless and instant. It was one thing to pedal through the small fleeting dull ones. The shallow shadowy ones that would flare up slowly and say hello, fire the first warning shot through my nerves, then slide silently back down into my fibers. But this one was something else, an electric eel that slithered by my defenses unnoticed, wrapped and coiled itself up around and through my quad, then wrecked and wrenched down with the strength and surprise of a rogue wave in the middle of the dark open ocean.

Yeah wow, I sure didn’t see that one coming. I better get to the Michigan Bluff aid station soon.

The cramp of a lifetime probably would have been avoided if, forty-two miles earlier, I hadn’t crashed on the singletrack of Red Star Ridge. It was a small crash, a simple stuff of the front tire into some too soft dirt with too much speed trying to make too tight of a turn, but one that had large consequences: It ripped the Garmin GPS off of my stem. I didn’t even noticed it until a few miles later when I exited Red Star Ridge, began bombing down to the bottom of the Glen Mine climb, looked down to check the time and it was gone. Shit. Riding and flying blind with about seventy-five miles and eight hours of riding ahead with no way to check the time of day, no way to check how my pacing was going, no way to be sure of how far I’d ridden nor how much farther the next aid station would be, and thus no way to exactly know if my electrolyte consumption and fueling schedule was on track or was falling off the tracks. Needless to say, it fell off the tracks. More accurately, it got smashed head on by a bullet train then blown off the track in bits. Commence cramp of a lifetime.

When I made it to the small town of Michigan Bluff, mile sixty-eight, I was confused. I thought a street fair or carnival or something was going on. I heard music. “Here, let me take your bike”. I smelled bacon. I thought I saw someone dancing. “What do you need?!”. There were people riding bikes. There were people putting wet rags on the back of my neck. “This is gonna be cold!”. There were people handing out drinks. Is that someone playing a flute and charming a snake? Wait, I know these people. “Do you want your chain lubed? What do you want in your bottles??!”. Aha! I’m at the Mad Cat aid station. It could have been a dusty vendor street in downtown Marrakech for all I knew. Sure yeah, I’ll take all of that. Oh and a jar of pickle juice. And that little baggie filled with the sorta crushed up endurolytes, how much will those be? I’ll take those too.

I had always wanted to visit Marrakech but I had to be on my way. Next stop Foresthill.

As of that Saturday morning, at 6:00 AM while on the start line in Soda Springs,

the only sign that there was a massive forest fire that had just torched 2,000 acres in three days burning just to the North of the Tahoe-Sierra 100 race course was the gentle scent of a distant, sweet white smoke that was just barely there. Then as we pedaled off the pavement

and onto the dusty, rutted out portion of Soda Springs Rd,

climbed up to the first water station (mile 14)

and watched the sunrise splash on the Granite Chief Wilderness off to the left on top of Lyon Ridge,

descended off the backside, then pedaled toward French Meadows Reservoir, climbed up to Red Star Ridge (mile 24)

and picked up the Western States singletrack,

then descended a short bit on Mosquito Ridge Road to the loose and technical Glen Mine climb, then climbed past the Folsom Bike aid station (mile 39)

upwards and onwards to Cavanaugh ridge and again more technical Western States Trail singletrack, to Dusty Corners aid (mile 52),to contouring singletrack past Pucker Point,

then plunged straight down to the swinging bridge,

hiked and crawled back out the other side, refilled water bottles at Deadwood (mile 62), descended into El Dorado Canyon, hiked and crawled again back out the other side, visited Marrakech Bluff,

then flowed down some more fun technical twists and turns before one last final climb to Foresthill (mile 73), the scent slowly faded away and disappeared. Funny how that can happen when you’re focused on other things with the wind on your side. But while in Foresthill, the evidence of the Robbers Fire burning just to our North was in our faces: Evacuation centers, the Red Cross, large flame retardant tankers and water drop helicopters buzzing overhead.

We got lucky.

At Foresthill, a volunteer told me that it was 2.5 miles along Foresthill Road to the left hand turn on the south side that would lead us to the flowy Todd Valley trails. Then it was roughly 7.5 miles of downhill flow and fireroad descending to the bottom of the Ruck-a-Chucky rapids on the North Fork of the Middle Fork of the American River. This left me, on my singlespeed with an extremely spinny gear

with nearly 10 miles of relaxation. There’s just only so fast that you can go on a “false flat downhill” on pavement on a bike with one gear. So I took this opportunity to rest, recover, get passed by a few guys chugging along in their big rings, and refuel along the way in order to avoid any additional cramping episodes in the 20 miles or so that were left to the finish (especially since there were still 2 major climbs and lots of rolling singletrack ahead.

After climbing the hot and extremely hard (for me) Ruck-a-Chucky climb to the Drivers Flat Aid station where Folsom Bike and my wife and friends were volunteering, I knew I was nearly done. In fact in my head, I pretty much was done. From here on out, I knew the trails like the back of my hand. It wouldn’t matter anymore that my Garmin was gone and I had no idea how far along I was, I knew these trails well, and I was going to rip them to the finish. North side of Foresthill Divide, Westbound Connector trail, past the green gate and up the Oak tree, down the new-and-improved Culvert Trail, cross the road, fly above the river on Confluence Trail, pop under the bridge, speed on by and wave to the volunteers at aid station mile 98, and continue one last grunt up the 2.5 mile Stagecoach climb that by this time of the day was 100% in the shade and just fucking glorious, top out, then a couple of last meandering neighborhood roads to finish around 11 hours and 30 minutes. Good enough for 1st Place Singlespeed and 10th Overall.

Now a few days later, one recovery ride, a flight to the East Coast and several days or so of not riding, and my legs are still store. Jim Northey, the tireless organizer of this race calls it, “The Race of a Lifetime” on his website , while I can still feel the damage from the “The Cramp of a Lifetime” in my left quad. It hurts.

But damn, it hurts really good, and it feels like I did something.

(**Nearlly all 😉 photos courtesy of Jeff Barker — THANKS BRO!)

Seven of eight hours in, I begin knocking against the wall.  I am deep inside the verdancy, a canopy of green cradled beyond the sound of machines.  Riding along the pulsing hummus veins of an old forest, I know for the seventh time, the second of two heinous climbs is fast approaching.   I ride along the margins of the trail, savoring every last inch of sinewy singletrack, before the trail spits me out on the fireroad and I’m forced to make the ninety degree right turn up the series of punishing inclines. 

I pump my front tire down along the undulations, twists, and folds of this ridge top traverse feeling the rhythms; the ups and downs, of this track, of this lap, of this race as it reverberates throughout my hollow bones.  A vital ache pinched in my lower back that spreads like radiation, echoing off the soreness in my triceps and the burning in my legs.

 I pedal and race on, the wind and the trauma upon my shoulders argue to sway me over the edge, but one last flow section of rollers moves me to momentum and carries me up the last short pitch to the fireroad.  I turn my rig to the right and look up from the bottom of the never ending climb with an exhausted grace. Minutes without end. 

I can feel the
age of this world collapse like
faith upon my shoulders.

Now near the top of the climb, I’ve risked like a lunatic and in a colicky stage of despair become a threadbare man: a herniated heart and two bloodshot red green eyes.  I press down on my single gear and continue to kill myself by writing small verses, mantras, in my head.  My labored breathing stands on its last legs just as I crest the top and begin the long, fast descent to the next singletrack section.  It’s about 7 PM and I’ve given up hope of trying to squeeze an eighth lap out of the daylight, so I settle in content with all the climbing at my back and nothing but fun fast singletrack all the way home. 

Time to relax and focus on the important things.

The Sun: Earlier the nuclear eye of a candle, is hanging lower in the sky a furious furnace-orange and drips its filtered light through the mesh of pine boughs in waves of searing mango light.  

The Trail: A living pigment sculpture chiseled out of the forest, slides into shades of velvet and brushed lavender shadows. 

The SeasonIt’s the first day of Summer but as the evening wind picks up, it feels like the first night of Fall.  My nose runs and my cheeks are cold gleaming with sweat.   Accelerate on the straights, lean the corners, trail the brake, and repeat; a welcome fifteen minute repetition to the finish.

Darkness fell fast, shadows rush in and the beer flowed freely.  We retreated to the warmth of our campfires as the winds increased.  Twenty-four hour riders continued riding through the forest under a broken bone-white crescent moon.  And we sat together until the ritual of our fire faded and disappeared; a maze of coal, fat red globules not worth the trouble of flame, changing lines on our faces, and we were left treading the murky waters of the night.

Photo by:  Cabot O'Callaghan

This is a loooong race report (the product of a 4.5 hour flight with WiFi access) so here are some tunes to listen to while reading

Warm and thick like fresh candle wax, blood flowed down my held aloft arm and dripped off my elbow. Sprawled out on my back; feet and ankles contorted, twisted and still clipped into the pedals, sharp gravel pressed into my shoulder blades. I pondered aloud:  “how in the world did that just happen?”

This was the scene about a week and a half ago, between the 2nd and 3rd laps of the Prairie City Mountain Bike Race Series (aka, the Greater Sacramento Area Wednesday Night World Championships), when feeling completely burnt out on the format of quick, intense, short duration mountain bike racing, my eyes caught the enticing gleam of sunlight reflecting off a cold Coors Light silver bullet that was being dangled in my direction.  “oh yeah sure I’ll take that”.  Wrong move:  Eyes on gleaming shiny beer can with an unbalanced reach plus front tire rolling into unseen patch of soft fresh gravel equals front tire unweighted and washed out and a trip to Urgent Care for a slow 10-day tattoo of something resembling railroad tracks via 6 black nylon stitches.

I’ve always primarily been a single speed mountain racer, followed by some dabbling in cyclocross, and then in a very distant third…road racing.  However, given my current state of burnout on mountain bike racing, the crash and stitches in my arm were enough cause for me to give in to my friends urging that I skip the Mountain Bike Stage Race at Folsom Cyclebration and sign up for the Cat 5, er I mean, Elite 5, Road Bike Omnium with them instead.  For the past several years, I’ve done the Mountain Bike Stage Race, which consists of an individual time trial (which is actually REALLY fun), a short track event, and a traditional cross country race over 2 or 3 days, sweeping the single speed expert categories in all three events for the past 2 years.  So I figured it would be good timing to step outside of my comfort zone and sign up for the Road Omnium instead which consists of an individual time trial on Friday, a criterium on Saturday, and finally a Circuit Race on Sunday.

After signing up for the road omnium, I looked closer at the schedule, and realized that despite signing up for three road races, there would be enough time in the schedule to also race two (out of the three) mountain bike events:  the Pro Open Short Track Saturday morning and the Pro Open MTB time trial on Saturday afternoon (both of which I would race on my single speed).  Five races in three days sounded like a recipe for a great time…so I went for it.

The Independent Fabrication Ti Deluxe 29’er single speed, and the Independent Fabrication SSR MAX, would be my weapons.

And the race would shake out like this:

Friday:              Individual road time trial

Saturday:          8:00 AM – 30 minute Elite 5 road criterium

9:00 AM – 45 minute Pro Open MTB short track

4:30 PM –  approximate 20 – 25  minute Pro Open MTB time trial

Sunday:            8:50 AM – 45 minute Elite 5 road circuit race

A lot of racing, but not a lot of cumulative time, so I figured it would be doable.  Here’s sort of how the racing went down:

Friday:  Elite 5 Individual road time trial

Not too much to say here, except it really freaking hurt.   Being a single speed mountain biker, my strength is usually throwing down watts up short punchy climbs, and not consistent long leg searing power output staring at open flat stretches of hot shiny pavement.  I don’t own any aero bikes, aero wheels, aero shoe covers, aero anything…but I figured since it was the 5’s, perhaps not many others would either.  I was able to borrow a friend’s aero helmet that he used for Race Across America (RAAM) last year, so at least I’d have some assistance from a mullet vector helping me along.

After getting some professional number pinning advice from fellow Folsom Bike team mate and Pro/1/2 racer, Mary Maroon (thanks Mary!), it was off to the start line where we’d go off in 30 second intervals.  It was hot.  It was hard.  I put myself in the hurt locker.  I caught and passed the three riders who started ahead of me and hoped that meant I’d snag a decent time in my category.  Ended up getting 4th and my friends and team mates Dave Brandeberry and Pat Murphy put down solid times as well.   Weekend was off to a decent start.

Saturday – Elite 5 criterium, Pro Open MTB Short Track, & Pro Open MTB Time Trial

I was surprised to find myself looking forward to the criterium.  They’ve always kind of freaked me out and I’ve only ever done one other where I finished basically dead last.  This time however, I had Pat and Dave to work with as a team and we agreed to maybe take just one or two pulls at the front to hit the legs, then mostly chill out and conserve energy for a run at the win on the final lap.

Talking race strategy with Dave on the start line (Photo by Alex Chiu)

With three team members, Folsom Bike was one of the smaller groups out there with a few other local teams such as Rio Strada, Victory Velo, Synergized and Bicycles Plus having a few more.  Race started and things went really smooth.  Most riders were riding safe and I really didn’t see anything sketchy or pick out anyone riding particularly erratically, which was nice.  After settling in after a lap or two Dave, Pat, and I found each other and agreed to go to the front to take some turns pulling.  We put in some efforts, then settled back in and I had fun floating around the pack, trying to get a feel for what it’s like riding from the back of the pack, the middle, taking the inside on turns, then taking the outside, and generally trying to learn as much as I could about this particular racing format.  One thing I learned was how surprisingly quick and easy it could be to move from the back to the front of the pack in certain areas of the course when the group would tend to bunch up and mushroom.  Experience noted, filed away.

With two laps to go the pace finally began to quicken.  A few started pulling hard, and some others reacted by grabbing wheels and driving the pace, but I floated toward the back 1/3 and regrouped with Dave and Pat.  We made our plans on how to drive to the front on the last lap, and once the bell rung signaling one to go, we were together and in position.  We wound our way from the back third to the middle, and with half a lap to go, I swerved out of Pat and Dave’s draft, moved to the far outside of the group, and started making my way up to the top 5 riders as the pack mushroomed a bit allowing me to quickly gain ground.

My original plan was to be in the top 5 or 6, as we sailed through the last turn and into the finishing sprint.  But as we were still 100 yards or so away from the final turn, I realized I had a ton of momentum as I came up on the outside of the front group and they had no idea I was there.  Seeing an opportunity, I dropped down a gear and started sprinting hoping to get to the last turn with a crapload of momentum and surprise on my side.  It worked.  My momentum carried me into first about 30 yards before the last turn, and I swung around the outside setting up for the apex, a gap quickly opening up.  Stayed off the brakes, accelerated through, full power down, and I looked back and saw absolutely no one giving chase.

Pat celebrating the win..

I was surprised to see a huge gap, and for an instant, as I crossed the finish line, I actually wondered if I jumped one lap too early and we had another to go.  But then I saw everyone else sitting up and taking their hands off the bars, so that’s when I realized I had won.  Holy crap…never thought I would win a crit. “How in the world did that just happen?”

Crossing the line (Photo by Alex Chiu)

I couldn’t stick around for the podium as after a brief conversation with Ken Todd from BP, I had to bail straight to my car to get over toRodeo Park for the start of the MTB Short Track (Photo by Alex Chiu):

MTB Short Track – Pro Open

I arrived at Rodeo Par kwith 15 minutes to spare.  Just enough time to lock the road bike on the roof, grab the mountain bike, hustle on over to registration to grab my number plate, and then pedal around half the course to get a feel for how it would go, then head to the start line still wearing the race number pinned to my jersey from the criterium.

Turnout for this race was fairly low (probably due to a few other high profile MTB races going on closer to the Bay Area keeping those riders from making the trip to Folsom), but the competition in Pro Open would be extremely fast.  Pro roadie, Paul Mach, was here taking a break from his road bike (kind of the opposite of what I was doing).  Paul rides for the Kenda / 5-Hour Energy team and has raced in the Tour of California and other high profile races around the country.  I believe he won the overall GC at theMt.Hood Cycling Classic a year or two ago.  Also on the start line was Dan Garcia from Victory Velo who has been tearing up the Prairie City races lately, and Kass Feurhelm from Folsom Bike.  I’ve never met Kass before, but as he introduced himself and mentioned that he “rides with Jared Kessler a lot”, he instantly went from unknown soldier to my favorite to win the race in an instant.  If you’re hanging and riding with Kessler on a MTB, you are fast by default.

Kass gunned it from the start and I never saw him again.  Just as I thought, he was fast and skilled. He won.  For the first 3 laps, I had a nice gap on Mach, but each time we’d go through the flat and wide open section around the baseball fields, he would gain back a ton of time.  I was totally spun out on my single speed, and this flat section was really sucking the wind and life out of me.  So with two laps to go, Paul caught me and there was no way I was going to be able to hold his wheel.  Impressive speed for sure.  With a lap to go, and knowing there was no way I could catch Paul, I sat up and cruised thinking I should conserve some energy for the MTB time trial later in the afternoon.   I wasn’t able to match Paul on this short track course, but I had a feeling that the time trial later in the day would be better suited to my strengths as there were no wide open flat sections where Paul could use his gears and superior flat-out power to ownerize me. And I could use my single-speed power up all the punchy hills and quick corners that peppered the track.

I skipped the short track podium to head home as quick as I could to eat some food, kick my feet up and relax a bit before the time trial.

MTB Time Trial – Pro Open


I love the MTB time trial.  Being a former competitive skier (mogul competitions way back in high school and college, then big mountain free skiing events more recently), I’m pretty familiar with the anticipatory vibe and nervous energy that can build up in a gated start-house format (see here):

It’s always a shot of adrenalin when the rider in front of you goes off, and you have the next 30 seconds left to count down and get your last visualizations of the course straight in your head and mentally prepare yourself to just rip the crap out of whatever is in front of you.

There were only three of us in Pro Open class for the time trial.  Paul Mach would go off first, then me on my single speed (34×15 gear 29’er), then Matt Obregon 30 seconds behind me.  Last year in this event, I was able to put down the fastest overall time, and this year my goal was the same.  So as Paul pushed off and pedaled away, I focused my thoughts on making up his 30 gap and catching him within the first few miles.  I knew if I could do that, and he suddenly saw me on his tire, I might be able to get in his head a bit helping to neutralize some of his speed and power.  “5 seconds Ron”.  Yeah catch him.  Don’t just beat him.  Make up the 30 second gap.  “3” Catch him. “2” Then pass him.  “1”.  Then I’ll have it.  “GO!”


I love the feeling of jumping out of an individual starting “gate”.  It reminds me of past skiing competition and puts me right into my happy place.  The first mile or two of the time trial course is the most technical.  There’s some rocky, narrow singletrack that I have a difficult time carrying momentum on my single speed so it can be very easy for me lose a lot of time here.  Following the singletrack are a series of STEEP banked, switchback climbs that I need to punch at 110% to stay on top of my gear.  Then after the steep switchbacks it’s a gradual straightaway climb which leads into a densely wooded tight singletrack section before hitting the wide open rollers and punchy ups and downs of the prison property proper.   After gunning it up the steep switchback climbs, I already caught a glimpse of Paul’s helmet cresting the hill in front of me. He’s right there, it’s go time:

He’s in sight and doesn’t see me yet.  Don’t’ let up, keep the power down, keep the power up, only a few more minutes of legs and lungs burning and you’re on his wheel.  Don’t worry about Matt, just catch Paul.  It freaking hurts.  Stay on top of the gear. It HURTS!.  Shut-up.  It’s only 15 minutes of your life, suck it up, don’t let up, more power, less brake, DON’T brake, eyes up, elbows out, wait better brake there or you’re gonna fly off the damn course!, I said eyes UP, block out the searing, breathe.  BREATHE. 


As we crossed the 3rd bridge crossing and entered the prison property proper, I was 5 seconds behind Paul.  I caught him, asked to pass, then moved around.  We chatted briefly how fun this course can be to ride fast and we rode together for quite a bit.  I led us around the majority of the course, but with one last steep puncher climb to go before the long downhill along the prison entrance road to the levee, I yielded to Paul and told him to feel free to get around me if he wanted as I was absolutely redlined trying to stay on top of my gear.  He moved around, gapped me by about 10 seconds as he made the turn onto the downhill, and I had to put in my biggest dig of the day as I realized that this was a moment where I could lose the race.  At the bottom of this downhill was the one flat section where Paul could really put his awesome power to work.  And I knew my top speed on the flat levee would be limited by my 34×15 gear, thus it was the one threatening spot where I could lose those 30 seconds that I worked so hard to make up at the beginning.  Once again, it was go time:

Head down and spin your ass off.  Rap it hard.  Then coast.  Rap it hard.  Then coast.  Paul’s ahead but he’s pulling away.  He just passed that gate.  How far is the gap?  Start counting.  Spin hard.  5 seconds.  Spin harder.  8 seconds.  Oh crap don’t spin that hard.  10 seconds.  Pass the gate.  15 second gap.  That means I’m still virtually 15 seconds in the lead.  He’s pulling farther way.  Spin harder!  No, wait, spin smoother.  Shift.  You idiot you can’t shift.  Shit, spin harder AND smoother!  Looks like a 20 second gap now.  Shit.  How much freaking farther is this damn levee!  Oh there’s Frank standing on the side of the trail.  He must be at the turn that signals the turn back onto the singletrack.  This is almost over.  Inside voice: “Hi Frank”.  I can’t breathe.  Frank yells “20 seconds”.  I throw up in my mouth a little.


One last rocky climb to the rodeo and I dig hard again and absolutely punch it for all I’m worth with all I’ve got left.  It sucked, but it worked, as I entered the rodeo infield only 10 seconds behind Paul.  At this point, there was really only a minute or two of racing left so I knew all I had to do was manage this little distance between us and I have it.  Punch the last pavement, sprint through the finish.  Done.  I’m done.  Folsom Bike / Independent Fabrication takes the overall win with the fastest time of the day in the time trial.  Paul Mach second.  Matt Obregon third.

Day Three, Sunday – Elite 5 Circuit Race

At the start of the day on Sunday, I was in an interesting position:  With a 4th in the time trial, and a win in the criterium, I was sitting in 1st Overall for the Elite 5 Road Omnium overall title by a margin of 13 points.  At the same time, with my 3rd Place in the MTB Short Track, and the win in the MTB TT, I was tied with Paul Mach for 1st Place Overall in Pro Open in the MTB Stage Race with 38 points a piece.  Oh man it would have been sweet to try and win the overall for both!  But unfortunately, I had to make a choice as the Circuit Race started at 8:50 AM and the last race in the MTB Stage Race, the 24 mile Cross-Country started at 9:00 AM.  Impossible to do both, so I went with the Circuit Race following through on my goal of trying to do something different this year.

With a nice 13 point gap in the overall Omnium standings, I felt I didn’t need to risk much in this race.  It would be nice to try to win, but figured I would just need a top 10.  Dave and Pat said that they were going to work for me to help keep me at the front of the pack and chase down any breaks.  They did exactly as they said, and were a huge help in keeping me out of trouble, and telling me to back off from time to time and reminding me to let others drive the pace.

Photo by Alex Chiu

Race went smoothly, and with no successful breakaways it came down to a massive bunch sprint.  Jon Hyatt from Bicycles Plus ramped up the pace HARD as we exited the last time through the tight round-about and led the charge around the last right-hand turn onto the finishing straight.  Through this turn I think I was top 10 and just put my head down and started sprinting.  I wasn’t really sure what was going on as I started passing riders but could also sense other riders moving up and passing me at the same time.  The chaos of a bunch sprint.  I crossed the finish line in 6th and just as I cross, I look up and see Dave just slightly ahead of me and off to the side.  Dave nabbed a 3rd and earned a podium spot with a massive effort to sprint onto the podium coming from about 15th position through the last turn.  And Pat ended up right on my wheel in 7th.    Three Folsom Bike riders in the top 10 and my 6th place was enough to hang onto 1st Place for the overall Omnium win.

Felt damn good.  1st in the Elite5 Omnium and ended up in 2nd Overall in Pro Open for the MTB Stage Race. But like my crash at Prairie City at the beginning of this write up, I asked aloud, “How in the world did that just happen?”.  Thanks for reading.

Photo by Kasea Hutchins:

Music for this post is the by the band “Gypsy” from near my old hometown in Wilkes-Barre, PA.  Formed by members of hardcore bands Cold World, Mother of Mercy and others, Gypsy’s style is a bit of a throwback to the early-to-mid ’90’s post-punk sounds of Jawbreaker, Quicksand, and their ilk.   Definitely a bit of an old school sound.   And “throwback” is the segway into the topic of this post…as the stainless steel tubes of the I.F. SSR MAX is definitely a bit more old school when compared to all the carbon bikes floating around these days.

I first laid on eyes on an Independent Fabrication SSR MAX at the 2012 North American Handmade Bicycle show a few months back when it rolled into Sacramento.  I was able to “work” a few days in the I.F. booth at the show which allowed me to stare for hours on end on their beautiful SSR show bike which they brought along with them to display.  Something about the classic thin tubes (in contrast to the wildly shaped and manipulated carbon that you see everywhere else) and the ovalized stays for increased power transfer spoke to me.  As my current road bike was showing it’s age, I knew it was only matter of time…..

…and now  a few months later, there’s a new road bike in the house.   Custom fit, custom geometry, built up with 2012 SRAM Red and Ksyrium SL’s for day-in/day-out training.  Columbus XCR stainless steel drawn on the Max tooling that ovalizes the tubes for increased stiffness.

Thanks to Jesse, Ryan, and the whole gang at Indy Fab for creating this for me (and especially for the surprise on the bottom of the BB shell).

Thanks to Adrian at Ikon Cycles on J Street in Sacramento for the fitting.

And thanks to the entire crew at Folsom Bike (Andrew, Scout, Justin) in Folsom for the build and final fit adjustments…you guys rock.

Fresh out of the box, this view captures the oversized PF30 BB shell in contrast to the thin stainless tubes.   The chainstays are slighly ovalized for improved power transfer.

Custom painted ENVE Road 1.0 fork:

The nickname my friends here have given me.  I originally thought it would be cool to paint this on the top tube, but then after thinking about it, I decided that I am just not the sort of guy to put his name across the top tube, so just in the nick of time, I told the guys at  I.F. not to do it.  But then when I’m unpacking the bike, I find this thoughtful touch on the bottom of the BB shell instead where no one can see it.  Total surprise and I’m stoked that they did it….thanks guys:

The green saddle is a demo until I get that sorted out, and the steerer tube needs to be cut one last time while I finalize the bar position:

King stainless bottle cages, handmade in Colorado, were a must to match the frame.  Carbon or plastic cages just wouldn’t be right:

2012 SRAM RED 53/39 crankset:

The integrated chain catcher of the SRAM RED front derailleur:


You can learn a bit more about the Indy Fab SSR right here (you’ll have to call them to chat about the MAX option):
-SSR Overview:  http://www.ifbikes.com/OurBikes/Road/SSR_(Stainless_Steel_Road)/

And you can browse photos of other SSR’s over at the I.F. Owner’s Club website: http://www.ifrider.com/category/register/ssr/


It’s not often that you get to race tire-to-tire, back and forth, constantly switching leads and positions, for 1st and and 2nd place in a normal XC race, let alone an 8-hour endurance MTB race.  Most races you end up riding along alone in the woods, unsure of where you are in relation to your peers.  But that’s what happened, and it was fun as hell, until I cracked.  Which wasn’t as bad as it sounds.  Because cracking in an endurance race is a beautiful, rare thing.  Meaning, it’s not that often that you completely detonate, but then rather than turning around and heading home, you just keep racing, holding off the ghosts chasing you for hours on end.

The Bogg’s 8-Hour MTB race is one of the premier endurance MTB races in NorCal (the others probably being the Tahoe-Sierra 100, and the 8 and 24 Hours Against Cancer both held a bit later in the year).  Bogg’s happens to be the first of these on the calendar and attracts alot of racers…this years edition was capped at 700, and it sold out quite quickly months in advance.  It’s a race.  A tribal gathering.  A party.  A camping weekend with hundreds of new friends and dozens of old ones all gathered together under the pines at Bogg’s State Demonstration Forest a bit north of Napa, CA all rolled into one.

I tossed a spinny gear on the I.F. Ti Deluxe 29’er SS, and signed up for Solo Pro Men Single Speed.  Here is out it played out:

I got to the line late but found a comfy spot near the front over on the edge ahead 700 other racers.

Then I nearly missed the actual start as the contact in my eye went all screwy and blurry and flipped up inside my eyelid during the race announcements.  Luckily, my wife Jen was right there and said that she had some spare contacts back at the campsite (luckily we have the same prescription!).   So she promptly RAN back to camp, ran back, I tossed out my old contact right there, and smashed in the new one…just as the field began to surge forward.  That was a close one!

Rolling now with a slight delay in my start due to the contact lens change:

As is typical with endurance races in NorCal, it was a giant mass start, with solo riders mixed in with and starting at the same time as the team riders.  Naturally, within the first few hundred yards a separation occurred as the team riders more or less gunned it from the start; whereas the 8-hour solo riders began to settle into an all day sustainable pace.  As a one speeder, it’s a bit easier for me to pick out my competitors and just 20 – 30 yards ahead of me was fellow Pro single speeder, Yuri Hauswald.  Yuri has had a lot of success over the years as a single speed endurance racer, so he was one of my marks from the start.  Also, nearby was Mike Harrison…another top Pro single speed competitor and the other guy I knew I would have to keep an eye on.  I wasn’t sure if there was anyone else that I needed to be aware of (there ALWAYS is!), but these were the only guys I knew, and we seemed to be at the front of the SS field so once we settled into the singletrack and the solos and faster team riders began to separate themselves, I was quite content to ride with these guys and pace each other.  I knew as long as I wasn’t riding over my head, and was still in close proximity with these guys, I should be doing ok overall.

The first lap was awesome.  It’s been 2 years since I rode the single track at Bogg’s and it is just simply stellar.  Fast, twisty pine needle strewn narrow trails with just enough rocks to keep you on your toes and keep it fun without it beating you up over an 8-hour period.  For the first lap Yuri, myself, and Harrison all rode tire-to-tire keeping pace with each other.  We all cross the first lap basically at the same time.

Second lap was the same.  The three of us swapping out leads and positions here and there as the terrain and traffic dictated, but no one making any significant moves this early in the race.  At one point in the lap, Mike and I got to talking that we thought we were the 3 lead Pro single speeders, but then Yuri mentioned that he thought there was one other single speeder alone ahead of us…Dan O’Connor from Santa Cruz.  Hmmm….I wasn’t aware of him, but figured Yuri knew his shit so I assumed that he was right.

Third lap and I noticed that Yuri was pitting briefly between each lap.  My strategy was to pit and swap bottles / food every 2 – 3 laps, so while we would cross the into the pits together, I would get a slight gap as I continued to ride and Yuri would do a quick bottle exchange / refuel.   Yuri would always eventually catch back to up to me much quicker than I’d expect and it was here I began to realize that our SS gear choices were definitely a bit different.  Yuri seemed to be geared a bit “harder” and I seemed to be a bit spinnier….he was catching back up on these long fast fireroads after the pit area where I was spun out.    Once Yuri caught back on to me (actually “flying past” is probably more accurate as he was in the draft of a geared rider so I had dig in to catch on to their wheels), I noticed that Harrison had dropped off a bit.  I was surprised as he was riding really strong so far in these early parts of the race, so began to wonder if he had a mechanical…I figured he’d catch back up eventually.

After 3 laps, Yuri and I once again cross through the finish together.  Same thing for the 4th lap, and I think the 5th and / or 6th as well.  At some point, my GPS lost satellite reception so I began to lose track of the number of laps, but at least it was still tracking total time and picking up my heart rate monitor.  While I began to lose count of laps, all I knew is that Yuri had been riding tire-to-tire swapping out positions here and there for about 4.5 hours.  Which was super cool…it’s not often that you get to race that long and that closely with one of your competitors.  However, somewhere around this 4.5 hour mark, Yuri must have gotten tired of my sucking his wheel and decided to punch it and drop me up the last major climb to the finish area.  As he pulled away, I nearly dug down a little deeper to give meaningful chase, but with still a lot of racing left, I didn’t want to overexert myself to early, so sat in, and kept the pace that I had been going at.  I also thought that maybe Yuri’s seemingly harder gear might cause him to slow down in the later laps, so I was content to stay put.

After getting dropped by Yuri, I basically didn’t see many other solo single speeders the rest of the day and tried my best to keep up the same pace that I had been going at, but I couldn’t help but slow down a bit.  From here on out, my lap times went from the low – to – mid ’40’s and crept up into the low- to- ‘mid 50’s as I lost motivation on some of the flatter sections of the course to really “spin out” my 36×22.  I began to look more over my shoulder for Mike Harrison or Dan O’connor (who I had gotten word that indeed he was ahead of us for the first few laps, but they moved ahead of him at some point…I wasn’t sure where so thought maybe he took an extended pit or something) coming up behind than looking ahead to catching Yuri.

The rules regarding finishing your last lap in 8-hour races seem to differ for every race…and for Bogg’s, the rule was that you had 45 minutes past the 8-hour mark to finish your last lap (which for us meant 4:45 PM).  As I approached the 8 hour mark, my laps times were in the 52 and 53 minute range.  After my 10th lap, I rode into the pit area at about 3:55, which would have given me 50 minutes to get in one last, 11th, lap….doable, but very tough considering my last two laps times and my current state of fatigue.  Knowing that Yuri was out of reach (and that he was out ahead busting out his 11th) and that Dan O’connor wasn’t going to catch me at this point (and that he most likely wouldn’t have time to fit in an 11th and thus, wouldn’t pass me in the standings), I made the decision to pack it in, and start drinking beer.   Beers, food, and lounging in the shade watching your friends finish their races, and knowing that you just wrapped up a 2nd Place in Pro Solo Single Speed, is a nice way to finish off the race.  I cleaned up, changed, and gave Yuri a high-five as he crossed the line after his 11th lap with a bit of time to spare.

2012 Bogg’s 8-Hour Men’s Pro Solo Single Speed Podium (l to r: me, Yuri, Dan):

Super fun race and weekend and now feeling a bit burnt out on racing.  Luckily, the next “A” race for me isn’t for a few months (Tahoe Sierra 100) so am looking forward to some rest before ramping the volume back up for that one.

A little race report music for you:

I break bike stuff.  Lots of it.

When I walk into my local bike shop, rather than being greeted with a “Hi” like a normal person, it’s usually, “What did you do this time? ” followed by a moment of pin-drop silence in the mechanics back room as the numbers of component manufacturers warranty departments swirl above their heads. For example, I present to you Exhibits A, B, and C.  Three 3 XTR cranksets in 3 years.

Exhibit A (2010):

Exhibit B (2011):

Exhibit C (RIP March 9th, 2012…2 days before the 20th Annual Cool MTB Race):

It sucks.

Especially when stacked up along side, cracked frames, loosening suspension fork uppers, destroyed wheels (usually the rear) and headsets hanging on for dear life. The fact that I exploded yet another crankset (along with my beloved Rotor Q-Ring….new and improved! now with more ovalization!) just days before the 20th Annual Cool MTB Race (held in the town of Cool, CA) was ominous.  Mainly because the Cool race has never been Cool to me.  Rather than go on and on about why, and because pictures are worth 1000 words, I present you with Exhibit D.

Exhibit D (yes, this is me):

I’ve never felt compelled to ride through that bog again….

So despite all of this bad race history/juju for me at Cool, despite all this broken shit and the bad timing of it all, I had an inkling in the back of my head that maybe, just maybe, for the first time ever, I could do well at Cool.  I’ve had some decent results in some early season training races, felt strong, and with a borrowed set of too short XT cranks (175’s whereas as my normal albeit broken ones were 180’s), I was ready to rock.  I was feeling pretty good and pretty confident.  That was until, I unloaded the car at the morning of the race and noticed the following, Exhibit E.

Exhibit E (a cracked carbon seat post…yep):

People say when that happens to carbon, especially in a seatpost, bad things can happen.  (BAH! WHAT COULD POSSIBLY GO WRONG?!??)  Let’s race.

The single speed race went like this:

About 40 of us one-speeders took the start line.  We mashed out and spun out and freaked out (Anthony Clark reference) into the first corner.  After the first straight I was around 5th, but quickly shot to the front on the first little uphill tick and led us for the first mile or two into the first downhill where I was overtaken by Chuck Ross with a guy I didn’t know in blue not far behind (let’s call him ‘Blue Guy’ from here on forward).

Here’s a sweet aerial view of the start waves:

On the lower section of the climb, Chuck jumps off and starts running.  I stay on the bike and pass him (take that!). But not long after that I’m forced to get off the bike as I get bogged down behind some geared Expert guys that we had caught on the climb and I’m off and running too (oh shit!).  And as I’m running/pushing/walking, I get passed by the Blue Guy on the Salsa that is staying on his bike and climbing this hill of suck like it ain’t no thang (uh-oh, this guy’s a force).  

We crest the first climb and it’s Blue Guy, then me, then Chuck.    At some point I pass Blue Guy and take the lead (KAPOW!).  Then at some point he passes me back (DAMMIT!).  Then Chuck passes us both and leads most of the first lap (SONOFA!).  And THEN at the last hill with the yellow house on top, I pass them both and take the lead after the first lap (YES!!!).

It quickly went downhill from here though…

Second and last lap, Me and Chuck seem to pull away from Blue Guy (WOOT!).  Then Chuck blazes by me on the downhill and opens up a significant gap on me (uh-oh).  We hit the hill of suck once more and I look up and see Chuck is up by about 10 seconds but he’s walking (yeesssss).  So I smack the power down and instead of gaining on him, I really don’t go anywhere and am forced off the bike once more (nooooo).  Turns out all the bike riding I’ve done this winter has done nothing for my walking ability, and I’m quickly caught, munched on, and spit out the back behind Blue Guy as he passes me spinning up the hill of suck and making it his bitch (i hate him…well, not really, but sorta do right then and there).  Then he does the same to Chuck and takes the lead as they both dissappear out of my view (will i ever see them again?).

I never see those two again.  The remainder of the race I’m in single speeder no man’s land.  Don’t quite have the power to catch back up, and hoping I have the power today to keep whoever is behind me, behind me.  And luckily, I was able to keep everyone else behind me, that is, until the last 2 feet of the race course when as I’m shouting out my number plate and about to raise my arms in 3rd place glory, I’m passed AT THE FREAKIN LINE  by another single speeder who I never even knew was there (COME ON!).  But luckily, this sneaky guy was in the younger SS age group, so it didn’t matter (that’s what I tell myself anyway so I can sleep at night) and I still ended up in 2nd Place for the old guy (36+) SS group (turns out eventual overall winner, Blue Guy, was in the younger group, while Chuck was in old guy class with me).

Exhibit F  (Old guy (36+ SS) podium.  Chuck Ross, then me, then my teammate, Joe McKeen):

So that went fine…and my borrowed cranks survived:

And a note about Blue Guy.  His name is James Harmon and he’s a really nice guy.  And he crushes it.  He was visiting our area from his hometown back east in Connecticut, realized there was a race going on, and came on out and destroyed it.  Keep an eye for him at SS Nationals this year, and perhaps some of the bigger 100 milers as well.  It was fun to race against you James, maybe see you later in the year.  Check this video, where CyclingDirt.com called him the Baddest Single Speeder In The Land, to learn more about him: http://www.cyclingdirt.org/coverage/247601-New-England-Regional-Cyclocross-Championships-2011/video/541563-James-Harmon-Baddest-Single-Speeder-In-The-Land-NERCC-Day-One

After the podium, I finished my beer, then changed, stuffed up my pack with rain gear, and rode back home to Folsom.  My seatpost is still cracked, but it’s cool.  I’ll take it into my bike shop and see what they say…..


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