Sunday, October 24, 2010

The Butte 50 Part 5: Race Day

After my terrible night of barely any sleep and many emergency jogs into the woods, I got up, got my junk organized, filled all my bottles and camelback, and went to the start line. Lining up at the start was 112 people for the 50 miler. I could immediately see I had the LEAST appropriate bike in the group. People seemed to be mostly on 26 inch 4” travel full suspension xc bikes.

I had made a critical mistake which was not preriding the course at all. This was to have a big effect on my race. The gun went off and the pack shot up the road to the a short ATV trail climb that had me at max heart rate immediately with tons of skinny dudes in spandex passing me. This is bad. Then there was a downhill right away that was about the scariest thing I have done on a bike due to all the yahoos around me that don’t know how to ride down hills. I thought I was going to be hit by, or run into, someone any second. Bad course design to have a congested downhill 2 minutes into the race. They need to start with a longer climb to sort out the pack.

Right away I noticed the TOTAL LACK of course markings as we rolled down a big dirt road to the flats. And then, I saw a marker that pointed straight ahead, but everyone was turning left!!! What the ....! I followed the group and started a good climb past some houses and into the woods on trail. Again, barely or nonexistent markers. This is the part where you would expect spray paint on the road with arrows. Nope.

Up this first real ascent I labored trying to not go too hard since I knew I had to do this for the next 6-8 hours or so. I saw a few marking flags at one point and figured they were saying I was on the right trail. At the top of this climb I saw a bunch of racers yelling and running around apparently trying to find the race route. No markers. No tire tracks. Three trail options. So much for the awesome course marking I heard about the night before! In the hectic mindset of the race start I followed a group up a trail I KNEW was the wrong way, but I had no way to find the right way. In hindsight, I should have backtracked the way I came up until I found the turn, which was at the flags I had seen earlier. In the heat of the moment I just felt I had to keep moving, and thought that we would get back on track pretty soon based on some comments from some of the group. It was pretty demoralizing to have this happen this early in the race. Anyway, it ended up that we did an extra hour and maybe added 8-10 or so miles to the race course, including a LOT more climbing. When someone had said “We can get back to the road this way” I figured they meant 15 minutes or something, not an hour plus. I was pretty angry at this point.

The misdirect really messed things up in my fueling plan and I didn't bring backup calories for such a contingency. My one bottle of Perpetuem didn't last the 3 hours it took to get to the first aid station. My water just barely lasted. So in the first leg I already was bonked. I refueled at that first station, ate a clif bar, took two Endurolites, drank two bottles of water, refilled my camelback, and mixed another bottle of Perpetuem. The second section was STEEP AS HELL right out of the gate and I was redlining hard. It was also hot as hell out like 95 degrees. It was 3 miles of mostly pushing up a sandy two track. During this section I was thinking I should turn around and quit. I was going SO SLOW and just redlining my system it was really ridiculous. The leaders in the 100 miler started passing me in this section, looking like machines cranking up this stuff that was killing me. Tinker Juarez, a mtn bike racing legend, and local endurance master Bill Martin passed me on the steepest hill of the whole course so far. Tinker was pushing his bike, which gave me a small bit of satisfaction, and close behind him was Bill cranking in the granny gear. "This is brutal...." croaked Bill. I kept pushing till the top of the sand hill/hell and then hit the Continental Divide Trail singletrack which was where things got a little better. Fantastic trail. Not as steep climbing. Somewhere in this part I started getting leg muscle cramps which was a new experience for me. Super painful. Had to get off and walk or pedal super slow. They went away pretty quick but scared me into going slower still. At 5 hours I kind of got a second wind and settled into a rythym for the rest of my race. I also ran out of water and Perpetuem at 5 ish hours. So for the last hour I had no water. Doh! It was rainy by then though and not quite as hot.

I finally made it to the second aid station. I was a little out of it but not too bad. I was cashed for any sort of steep climbing though, and the next section was called the 8 MILES OF HELL. All up. Steeply. I could have kept going but it would have been pretty dumb to push my bike for the next 8 miles at a snails pace. I had already done what I could tell was a TON of climbing with my 200 pound self. I decided to call it good as I had done 33 miles in 6.5 hours. I figure if I hadn't gotten on the wrong trail early and added a bunch of miles (6-10 depending on who you ask) and climbing I may have made it up the next 8 miles and THEN quit...haha!

The Butte 50 Part 4: Pre Race

Picked up Team Muleterro member E-Mule and we headed for Butte on Friday PM for the registration at the Outdoorsman, a bike shop which I think happens to be owned by top American road racer Levi Leipheimer’s older brother Rob. Got registered, got our resupply stuff put in the aid station bins, and heard the organizers spouting off about how the course was marked “so much better than last year!” Hmmm. This would prove to be an interesting statement later on....

We staked out a campsite up on Homestake Pass about a half mile from the race start. Some other friends showed up and we made a big fire, cooked a bunch of food and had some beers and stories around the fire. I made the mistake of trying to “carbo-load” and ate about 2 pounds of pasta with sausage and a burrito. I was also trying to “hydrate” and drank at least forty two water bottles before going to bed. This overindulgence produced all sorts of problems for me that night. I had to get up at least 5 times to go to the bathroom in the woods and had to pee every 15 minutes it seemed. It was terrible. My stomach was totally freaking out and I barely slept. Of course this is after I proclaimed haughtily at the campfire how “I NEVER get stomach issues like all these delicate XC racer types....” HA! So it was up early on no sleep and still having digestive problems all morning.

E-Mule was doing the Butte 100 and was decidedly more prepared than I was. He had done a lot of 24 hour races this year and trained specifically since like January for this type of event. His bike was a full rigid Niner Air 9 set up 1x9 running tubeless tires. I took it off my bike rack when we go to camp and was astonished at how light it was. I think it weighed as a complete bike as much as my wheels alone did on my bike. Uh oh.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

The Butte 50 Part 3: Training

After I decided to do the race, I think I had three weeks or so to tune up my training for the event. I had been splitting my time between road biking and mountain biking and continued to do so. I knew the course would have a ton of climbing: around 9000 ft for the 50 miler. Every Tuesday I ride the road bike up Bozeman Pass from Livingston on the frontage road. It is a 12.5 mile climb at a pretty mellow grade. I usually get up it in about an hour. I kept that up, and added going down the other side of the pass to Jackson Creek and got another half hour of climbing in. I also made sure to do some moderate intensity intervals on the long climb. I was doing 4x6 minute cruise intervals and then going real hard up any of the shorter steeper sections.
I also did some 2-3 hour road rides. The weekend before I did big mtn bike rides back to back on Saturday and Sunday. From my house I rode the highway to Suce Creek and then up and over and came out Livingston Peak Road to Swingley and then home. That was about 25 miles and three hours and 3600 feet of climbing. I felt good and strong for the most part. Sunday I did Bangtail Divide as a loop from Brackett Creek. 4:20 ride time, 31 miles, and 4000+ ft climbing. I felt pretty good on that one too. I had done it in June and gone 40 minutes slower, so that was good improvement.
In a colossal failure of judgement I decided NOT to preride the course at all. In hindsight this was a major error, given that it is only a 1.5 hour drive away. I was relying on course maps and descriptions, both of which proved to be woefully inadequate.
I felt I had basically done the bare minimum amount of training to be able to survive and perhaps finish an event like this.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

The Butte 50: Decision and Bike Setup

The Butte 50 Part 1: Decision
Sometime in early July 2010 I decided I would do the Butte 50 portion of the Butte 100 endurance mountain bike race. I had been riding and training from 5-12 hours a week since May and I decided I had enough fitness to warrant a try at this type of race. I knew I had NO chance of doing well, and also a big chance I wouldn’t even finish but I figured regardless of outcome I would know if this type of racing is something I wanted to do. I had a bike that was totally wrong for this type of race, I was over 200 lbs in bodyweight, and the longest I had ever ridden any type of bicycle was about 5 hours. But I wanted to do it, and I had been riding more than I have in years in the spring and summer.

The Butte 50 Part 2: The Bike
I had one mountain bike at this time, which is a 07 Santa Cruz Heckler full suspension bike with 6 inches of travel. It weighs about 35 pounds which is ridiculous for any sort of race bike other than for downhill. Using this bike for this race is like racing a bobsled in a XC ski race. You basically push it uphill, but the downhills are pretty fun! But it is my only bike so I am using it. I decided to prep it as best I could for limited funds and time.

I figured the drivetrain was most critical and had to be basically new to ensure no problems out on the course. I go through bottom brackets pretty quick being 200 lbs and my current BB was toast and making bad noises. I had crappy Shimano XT Octalink cranks/BB but they never seemed to last or not make noise in some fashion. So I got a whole new setup with Truvativ Stylo GXP’s, and a new chain and cassette. Also I redid my shifter cables. The Stylo’s with the outboard bearings felt solid as hell, but time will tell if they last.

I got some new ODI Rogue Lock-on grips, which are softer large diameter grips which are good for my bigger hands. I had ODI Ruffians on before, but they are too hard. I replaced my 90mm stem with a 120mm I had lying around, as the size Medium Heckler frame is actually a little short in the top tube for real XC riding. I have dealt with it for years but any steep extended climbing was pretty unpleasant. Downhill of course was super fun having a shorter bike to whip around so I had always tolerated the less than optimum fit. The longer stem stretched me out over the front more and weighted the front wheel enought to really help the climbing. The final cockpit modification was some bar ends. I got the smaller Serfas type which really helped by giving me alternate hand positions during climbing. I have issues with carpal-tunnel and hand numbness and need all the help I can get to be able to move them around during rides and not keep them in the same position for too long.

Tires: My rear tire was a slow rolling Maxxis Minion 2.3 which is kept on there. I had a Maxxis ADvantage 2.4 on the front which I replaced with a WTB MutanoRaptor 2.4 which is actually like a 2.2 in width. In hindsight I really should have replaced the rear but I didn’t want to spend any more money than I already had. The WTB front I had laying around from when I did the 24 Hours of Rapelje, a fantastic event, a few years before which was also the last time I had raced my bike.

The Butte 50: First Time Endurance Racer

I raced in the Butte 50 endurance mountain bike race in July. I plan to review my experience of being a novice racer in such an event and the steps I took to prepare. This event significantly changed my approach to mountain biking and has become a singleminded focus and goal for next year. I will try and break my entries into sections to make it easier to digest as I have a lot to say on the subject....Thanks!

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Back To Basics

Well, having not posted in LONG time, I have decided to start again. I am changing my blog title from back to LTrainStation. This is because I haven't ridden any dual sport motorcycles in the last 6 months...and have really gotten back to riding mountain bikes instead. It is much better for me physically, and financially, and more effective time-wise. I have wanted to do some entries in this last time period but I felt it did not fit the theme of my I will change the theme and start posting away, I hope!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Monday, May 10, 2010

Deck phase 2....

I set Steph up on the welder so she could give it a try!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Updating MTDS headquarters....

So the deck project is underway.
First we pour some concrete piers....

Next is some steel fabrication including welding the legs to the main beam.

Here we have the main beam in place.

After that we start with the rim joists, which are 10" steel C-channels. Steph is checking for level here.

At the end of the weekend we had this much done.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Pipestone: First Dirt, 2010

Sunday morning came for me at 10:00am, foggy from the previous nights festivities, with a phone call. Its Lincoln.
"Want to go do some moto today?".
I ran through the checklist of things to do, and realized that a possible moto ride trumped the IRS, work, and a chance for clean clothes. But what about his moto? Last time I saw it, it had some very important parts laying on his workbench.

"Yea! ... But isn't your bike in pieces?".
"Nope, I put it all back together".

I realized then that he'd been up since the wee hours of the morning, wrenching on his bike to ride. He had already eaten, showered, and done something productive with his day. I hadn't even made coffee yet.

In the time it took me to drink a pot of coffee, I managed to wrangle up all my gear packed away from the long winter, and do some quick checks on the moto to make sure that nothing was going to explode. As if on cue, as soon as I had the truck loaded up, Lincoln pulled in. Motos on truck, people in truck, truck on the road. Arriving at Pipestone, it was pretty busy. Quads and bikes loitered around the parking lot, and we got a pretty impressive wheelie show while putting on all our gear. Bikes warmed up and ready to ride, we hit the trails.

A good majority of the section is closed off this time of the year, due to the snow still melting. The south facing, more open and fast section was open, and I was suprised at how dry it was. Once we moved into the foothills, things got a little soggy in places. On a few trails we simply turned around. Mud is one thing, but adding snow and ice is the slippery-condition trifecta.

We explored some new trails in the area that we previously just roosted right past. I've learned now to trust Lincoln's gut on trails that look challenging. I'm usually game for anything, but I end up with lots of stories that are funny in hindsight, but usually suck pretty bad in the moment. Lincoln has an uncanny ability to detect right at the start if things are going to go pear-shaped.

One of the new trails we rode, took us up to the top of a hill, with a spectacular view, and we had to stop for a photo op.

This was easily the earliest off-road riding I've ever done of any motorcycle season. The trails we're in great shape, and the weather was spectacular. 58 degrees! The ride was an absolute success. No mechanical break downs, no crashes, and no flat tires. 2010 is shaping up to be a pretty good year already!

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Acerbis Gas Tank Repair

This is the situation. Two brass in-molded inserts ripped totally out of a 6 gallon Acerbis Xr600R gas tank. This happened in a stupid fall on a double track where my wheels found themselves in different ruts. I lowsided and the bike slid about 15 feet on it's side. I am not sure, but I think the handlebars pushed into the front lobe and leveraged it away and ripped the inserts out.

Step One

Order G/Flex epoxy from Hamilton Marine from near home in Maine

Step Two

Take down tank from where it's been hanging in the garage since last fall when I fell down on the XR600R and the inserts ripped completely out of the plastic tank on one side.

Step Three

With a knife, carefully cut off the in-molded ridge around the insert hole that previously held insert in place.

Step Four

Thread a 2" long bolt into the insert for a handle. With pliers, try and dry-fit the insert back into the hole to see if you removed enough material.

Step Five

When Step Four is a failure, repeat Step Three and Four about twenty times until the insert finally goes in.

Step Six

Clean out inside of insert holes with q-tips and rubbing alcohol.

Step Seven

Sand the brass inserts with 240 grit sandpaper

Step Eight

Mix up G/Flex epoxy in a little plastic cup

Step Nine

Using an old knife from the surplus silverware box in the basement, scoop the epoxy into the first hole, filling about half full.

Step Ten

Using pliers, grab the bolt with the insert on the end and press the insert into the epoxy-filled hole. Watch the epoxy spooge out around the sides. Wipe away excess with paper towel.

Step Eleven

Repeat Nine and Ten for second hole.

Step Twelve

Set tank in a position so that the inserts are flat and upright and allow to cure for a few hours.

Summary: I have been waiting to do this procedure for around 6 months. Finally ordered the epoxy last week. I wasn't about to spend 250 bucks on a new tank, so this had to work. I think it did, but I won't know till I swap the big tank back on to the bike.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Pre Season Maintenance

So what we have here is a bike in the middle of rear shock removal. This past weekend I finally began work on the bikes. The XR600R here needs a rear shock spring of the correct spring rate for my weight so off came the wheel, the muffler, the airbox, and soon the rear linkage. Up here in the high country, a few 45 degree days do a lot for the melting of snow in the yard and for the itch to ride motorcycles. I invited fellow MTDS author Alex over for this inaugural event, and we had a few PBRs, changed a tire, and got the XR to the state above. Being a noob motorcycle mechanic, I am proceeding slowly and carefully every time I do something I have never done before, which is just about anything beyond an oil change.

I have an extensive list of items to take care of on the XR including:
rear tire change - done
rear shock spring change - 1/2 done
oil change
rear linkage check and lube
valve check and adjust
fork spring replacement
super duper general clean and inspect and lube
tighten steering head assembly. I installed new bearings last year and they loosened up quite a bit right away.
replace choke plate in the carb with solid plate

In addition to the XR I have the SV and the KLR to check over, and the Ninja 250 to get running for the lady...she wants to learn to ride, so I better get to it...

Sunday, January 17, 2010

First Ride of '10....

How the heck do you write or say 2010 in short form? I guess it will just be "ten" but it seems wierd. Anyway, it was around 50 degrees yesterday here in Livingston, and Alex called me up from Bozeman and said he was heading over on the Guzzi. I ran out to the garage and scrambled to get the charger on the SV's battery so it would start by the time he got here. Luckily about 3 weeks ago I charged it up and started it, so it didn't take long. While I was out in the garage I also replaced Steph's headlight bulb in her car. Then I rolled the XR600 out and proceeded to take what seemed like 15 minutes of kicking before it caught. I just wanted to start it and run it around the block to make sure it was still alive after months of dormancy. Sitting on the XR in my crocs, I was just about to take off when the familiar notes of the Italian twin came down the alley with Alex close behind. I took off and did a lap of my block, tried to do a wheelie, failed, and pulled back into the driveway. I am sure the neighbors were really happy that I was braaping the throttle with glee the whole way. The XR is loud with the FMF pipe that is on there...

Grinning with joy at my short ride, I ran inside to get dressed for our real ride. I put on old snowboard pants over my jeans, my moto boots, my big moto jacket and a windproof neck thing. We saddled up and headed South for East River Road.

It was windy as hell as is frequently the case here in Livingston, and we were riding straight into it. We saw some Harley guys with some MC club vests on at the gas station, sans helmets of course, and I wondered how far they were planning on going in this cold air with no gear on. I found out one minute later when I saw them turning around in the parking lot of the Pop Stand restaurant about 2 miles south of town. So much for being hardcore! I laughed in my helmet as we whizzed by.

The Paradise Valley is a place of incredible beauty which surrounded us as we arced along the road. The Yellowstone River runs through the middle of the valley and all sides are dominated by the Northern Rockies towering above.

It was strange to be on the SV again. There was a lot of gravel on the road in spots that made me very watchful as we cruised along. Our speed was held in check as well due to months of not riding, and the poor surface conditions. I was heading for the Old Saloon in Emigrant which is about 22 miles South of Livingston. Montana has all these great old places to check out, and I wanted to show Alex this one.

It was a cold ride, but really only my hands suffered. It had been sunny when we left the house and it was cloudy in the Valley, which makes a big difference when you live at elevation. Sun often makes the difference between tolerable and not tolerable at marginal temperatures.

The Old Sally as it is locally known has been a bar for over 100 years and was recently featured in Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations episode on Livingston. It is old and dark inside, filled with numerous ancient dusty antlered animal mounts, a wood stove, a pool table, and lots of old saddles hanging from the ceiling. It is one of the Old Greats of the Montana bar world, and I place it alongside such grand places as the Pony Bar in Pony, and the Lumberjack outside Missoula.

We pulled up, de geared, and went inside. The bar was full, at 3pm, with what was obviously the regular crowd. I long ago learned that in places like this, just get a Bud, which is just what I did. The regulars are ususally upset enough that dressed in our spaceman gear we are interrupting their good time and the Budweiser serves as a statement that we are not interested in upsetting the status quo, or do anything Wierd while we are there. Of course I really dislike Bud, but usually they taste tolerable and appropriate in a place like this. We sat and sipped and talked about bikes and riding and how good it was to be out in the middle of January even if for a short ride. The woodstove was cranking, and our hands thawed out by the time we finished the beers, and it was time to head back.

As we re-geared ourselves and started the bikes, two patrons came out and shuffled over to us, and asked a few questions about the bikes, including "Which one is faster?" and "Do you have Harleys too?" I like that about motorcycling. No matter what you will always get people who talk to you wherever you go which would never be the case if you were in a car doing the same thing. It is somehow a bridge for people to connect during travelling. Bikes raise peoples curiousity enough for them to reach out even just a little bit beyond the normal public insularity of our modern society.

The ride home was better than the ride down, as the wind was at our backs, the sun lighting up patches of countryside as it peeked thought the cloudcover, and I wasn't quite as nervous for lack of riding lately.

Back at the house I parked the bike in the garage, went inside and made a nice mug of hot chocolate to rewarm myself. It was an eminently successful Winter Ride!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

First Post 2010

Two weeks ago it was a warm 40 degrees out and rolled my XR600 out of the garage into the sun, just to look at it. It was a nice feeling and I thought "Hey! That's my DIRTBIKE! Sweet!"

Just the other day I remembered finally to get some Sta-bil to put in my bikes which is only about three months late! I never seem to be able to do it before New Years anyway, perhaps because I always believe there will be some warm day which I will be able to ride before the winter "really sets in."

On the television last night after a dinner of homemade pizza I found the season opener of the AMA Supercross series. It made me start thinking about motorcycles again after the last few months which I haven't thought about them much at all. I started having visions of last spring, before the snow had melted, trolling ADVrider incessantly for any and all items of interest, unable to think of much else besides how soon the mud on the dirt roads around here would be dry enough to ride on after the spring rains.

We do have a few more months before that can happen, and hopefully we will get some more frequent snow for the balance of the winter so I can put my Bridger Bowl season pass to more use.