Monday, August 29, 2011

'Bout Damn Time Pumpkin Ale

Been throwing a fall festival at my house for years and never brewed a pumpkin ale.  Not sure what that's about.  Hopefully this batch will make up for things.

Base is a fairly run of the mill Amber Ale.  About 6lbs Amber malt extract and 1lb of Pilsen, 1oz of Cluster hops and 1oz of magic pumpkin powder added at the end of the boil.  There is something about those pumpkin pie flavorings (cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, etc.) that go so well with beer.  The wort smelled so good while I was cooling it I wanted to drink the whole thing.

I also plan on adding a bit more of the pumpkin magic when I transfer it to secondary in a about a week or so.  Shouldn't change the flavor much but it should add a nice pumpkin pie aroma to the finished product.  I'm hoping the result is equal parts:

Sad to see Summer go, but I dig Fall real hard and I have a feeling this year is gonna be a good one.


Homebrewer's lesson #3,973: Be sure to count not only your bottles but also your caps.

I bought a big bag of caps eons ago that I have been using for a long time now.  Long enough that I just got used to them being there and figured they would just never run out.  So I'm just about to start sanitizing all the bottles when I remember I need to throw the caps in the sanitizer as well.  I pull the bag out and do the classic..'uh oh'.  I'm about 10 caps short of what I need, which with the big boy bottles is about 20 beers short.

Luckily I have a few flip top bottles that I could use to supplement but they aren't as big so I still needed to figure something out.  Didn't want to waste too much of the batch so it was scramble time.  Gina got home as I was pondering what to do and came up with a smashing idea:

Beer in Ball Jars...I'm OK with it

They may or may not seal but they have a sporting chance and they'll be guzzled down in about 2 weeks anyway.  And even if they don't really condition at all, beer in Ball jars is perfect for Squamtoberfest.

I tried a bit and I'm pleased.  The pumpkin aspect is subtle but there.  Its a bit more like a Long Trail Harvest than a really pumpkin'y ale like Shipyard's Pumpkinhead.  I think peeps will like it and if they don't I will.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

NH100 2011

 It's Business Time

Another year in the bag!  And another evening of having weird stomach issues and strange body temperature fluctuations while I try and replace the 6,000 calories I just burned up.

I was pretty excited about this year edition.  The race picked up a lot of cred since last year and got itself added to a few Pro Series and it attracted some pretty big time names: Manuel Prado, Tinker Juarez and lots of local hot shots looking to mix it up with the big boys.  Field was quite a bit larger this year as well which is nice to see.

Camping set up was nice and eventually it ended up getting pretty crowded.  Nice little tent city going.  It was a great afternoon to just hang out and mentally prep for the big day.  Lots of lounging by the tent and eating.

a-very niiice, yes?

Got to chat with Maz as he rode around with his 666 number plate.  The man is a character and great to have around the local race scene.  I actually slept fairly decent.  About as good as you could expect to when you forget your sleeping pad.  Luckily I had a big beach blanket to put down.  Up at 5:15 to start getting things situated, loaded up, stashed, dialed, etc.  I went with a fairly hilarious/ingenious(?) method for transporting and delivering my no-cramp pills.  Actually ended up working really well although the first time I went to grab some I dropped two on the ground.  Good thing I knew that was going to happen and brought extras!

and now I'll already have one for when I get REAL old

This year I went without the camelbak and just rode with two bottles and stashed two bottles each in the two drop bins for feeds 3 and 5.  I figured between that and getting water and gatorade at the other feeds I would be fine.  And I was right.  Plenty of fluids and ditching the weight of the pack made a HUGE difference.  I actually was very pleased with how I managed my nutrition this year.  I'm getting pretty familiar with what my body needs and how it reacts and I'm starting to get better and noticing weird feelings early and trying to head them off.  I had a 1hr repeating timer set on my watch to remind me to take pills which worked out well.  I was also telling D-bone when to take his pills which probably sounded funny to anyone riding near us. **beepbeepbeep** Dustin take your pill...OK.

My stomach did eventually turn on me at about mile 53(ish) and I almost puked at the top of a long steep climb.  All of a sudden it went on me and I was leaning over and it almost came up.  I tried to stay quiet a bit and drank and ate much slower and in smaller amounts and luckily it came back around and I was able to finish without bonking.

 off to see the wizard!

the wonderful wizard OF PAIN

The course was in really good shape considering all the precip we got earlier this week.  Weather was actually fairly ideal as well.  Overcast and high 50's low 60's to start and it didn't really start heating up until about the powerlines at mile 25 or so.  For the rest of the day it was just fine in the shade but the direct sun was brutal.  Dustin and I stayed together for a pretty long time, shared the work a bit.  Definitely took your mind off the suffering having a partner in crime.  The actual racing wasn't super eventful.  I took a rock in the shin at one point.  Got kicked up on a descent and got me pretty good.  Decent gash and when I looked down about 10secs after it happened it looked like it had been bleeding for several minutes.  Luckily it got gummed up with mud and crap shortly after and eventually went numb so no big deal.

The SS class started in the last wave with the other 'specialty classes' (clydes, tandem, first timers) which wasn't really ideal but it was kinda nice for the mental game to be catching and passing people all day instead of the other way around.  We were on a really good pace early on (most everyone is) but we caught some high finishing SSers on the powerlines and at one point might have even been top 5 on course.  But those wheels eventually got away on the back half of the course.  Thinking back now I think I made some tactical errors and should have put a bigger emphasis on holding at least one or two of those wheels but we lost one on a pee break (had to happen if not then, later so no big deal) and the other snuck away when we missed a turn and went a tiny bit off course.  Closing gaps in a race like this is risky though.  Even a few hundred yards can require a TON of work and if you go too hard too many times too early that could be it and if your body goes, even 5 mi out from the finish you will lose a lot of time.

Could we have gotten that wheel?  Maybe. Would the effort have been too much and hurt us later?  Hard tellin'.  I'm not too worked up about it, there were a lot of wins today.  Dustin and I had decided to stay together as long as possible and if something eventually happened or if someone bonked and turned into a boat anchor that we would do our own thing.  That 'thing' presented itself as a cramp for Dustin at about mile 52.  I rounded a corner and looked back and he was not in sight, I slowed a bit and eventually I could see him but it was pretty obvious he had lost his punch.  When it goes, it goes not much you can do except wait it out and hope things work themselves out.  I trudged on ahead and was actually feeling quite a bit better than I thought I would at that point.  Then I almost puked (see above) but luckily I was able to get that under wraps.  Still couldn't get much in my stomach but luckily the mileage was ticking off and I didn't have much farther to go.

Cruised through the last feed, got a gatorade and took off for the last 5mi or so.  I gassed it a bit remembering mostly downhill singletrack to the finish.  I remembered wrong, go figure.  There were still a few kicks to the nuts left out there but not quite enough to put the final nail in my coffin.  I had really wanted to get that 7h milestone but it was becoming apparent I wasn't going to make that but 7h15m looked plausible but I was gonna have to hurt a bit.  So I went at it, trying to steal speed whenever and wherever I could get it.  I tried a few times to run/jog the hills but that pretty quickly cramped my calves.  It was coming down to the wire and I knew I was close.  I was gassing it as hard as I could around the final parade lap but my Garmin ticked over 7:15 and I stopped it at 7:16 and change when I crossed (good for 9th out of 12 or 13).  Timers said I got 7:22 but I'm not sure I buy it.  I'm hoping that was the unadjusted time based on when the Pro's started.

 There are still people around!

this about sums it up

Either way my time last year was 7h58m so I'm pretty pumped on the improvement.  Two different bikes though.  Which is harder riding a rigid SS or a rigid geared bike that is 10lbs heavier?  Finishing times seem to solve that one, but I'm sure I'm also stronger this year.  I remembered to hit the lap button at each feed (sort of, a few times I hit it just a bit down the way when I remembered to) and its funny to see the average speeds during certain sections.  The elevation profile tells the story buts its interesting to see just how slow we were going for awhile.  Really fast early, coming down to more normal, and then barely faster than a walk after mile 44 or so until the last 5 miles of singletrack.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Final NH100 Shakedown

One week out and I'm still messing around with gear...uh oh.  Hopefully it won't backfire on me but I don't have much choice.  This weekend ended up being a shakedown of sorts both for my fitness and for my setup.  There have been pluses and minuses with both but I think I'm probably the best prepared I have been for this race in the the 3 years I've done it.

Ive gotten in a really good chunk of miles starting from the last week in July, about 200 in 2 weeks at one point.  This weekend I felt good on the bike but my mix of fitness is different than it was 4-5 weeks ago.  I've lost a bit of my top end and explosiveness and my acceleration feels pretty sluggish on singletrack.  Luckily I don't really need much of that for the 100.  Leg strength feels good and my recovery rate is probably the best its ever been.  This weekend I have been trying to sit and muscle climbs at a slower cadence.  Went better than expected because I prefer to do the opposite.  Being able to stay seated will help on the loose stuff we'll be on and it also helps me stay aerobic.  With my slow twitch fitness I have right now I feel like if I keep my heart regulated and try to just tempo ride I should be able to go for a pretty long time at a constant (hopefully decent) pace. Climbing like that hurts but my legs have been clearing lactic acid really well lately so I'm going to try and go that route.  It feels slower but in the long run I think it will pay off.

Unfortunately I think I'm going to have to ditch my Ergon grips for this race.  I've been having issues keeping them from slipping on my new carbon bars.  I have tightened them down as hard as I am comfortable doing with carbon (and hard enough to blow some threads out of one of the lock rings) and they are still slipping under harder loads.  Can't risk that on those fast washed out descents.  Not excited about changing grips 7 days out after being on them all season but I'll be able to deal with any blisters or hot spots, I might not be able to deal with whatever happens if they spin and I crash.  Not sure what I'm gonna go with, probably at the mercy of local shops inventory because I won't have time to get something shipped.

Gonna drop the rear wheel off this week to get tightened up.  It's still true but a lot of the spokes feel flexy and I don't want to risk taking a hard shot and having several spokes fail all at once.  Other than that the bike is working well.  BB is smooth, brakes are dialed.  Only thing left to figure out is the nutrition plan for this year.  Been having thoughts about racing without the camelbak this year.  I think I can do it, its just a matter of figuring out what to drop at which feed station.  I'd really like to keep that weight off my back if possible.  I've also been trying to think of a way to manage and easily distribute my 'no-cramp' pills during the course of the race.  It came to me on today's ride...

I pill per slot taken once an hour with maybe a few extras in the last slot in case things get ridiculous.  Should stow relatively nice in a jersey pocket.  D-Bone you want me to pick you one up as well?  I got plenty of pills to go around...PILLS ARE GOOOOOOD.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Monocog 'Comfort' Model

The Monocog needed some love pretty bad since Moody Park it also needed some mods to prepare for the NH100 coming up in a few weeks.  This is the first year I'll be trying the 100 on my 'daily racer'.  First go at it was on the Kona in a 9 speed config and last year was the 34lb fully geared Monster Cross.  I'm looking forward to seeing how my body handles such a long hard effort on the SS.  I have been avoiding riding the 100 on a SS because I wasn't sure if I was up to it.  But this season I have been putting up results and pulling off rides that I was not sure I was capable of, so here we go.

So what mods were made to prep for this suffer'fest?

First I dropped off my saddle with Eric from Chainline Cycles to have him reupholster it.  The liner was starting to fray and I was worried the foam was going to start going.  Eric has done a few of his saddles that I have seen and they come out pretty nice.  He, like me, found a model of saddle that is super compatible with his particular grundle and is never looking back so he just relines them over and over.  He uses this synthetic material that they upholster boats with.  Waterproof, durable and you can heat shrink it a bit for a nice snug fit.  And its available in all kinds of colors.  He asked me what I wanted and I said he could pick...mistake?  I'm gonna try and swing by this afternoon to see if it's done.

Next was some general maintenance, namely a full bottom bracket rebuild.  I did a lazy one a while back but this time I went to town.  Pulled everything out, thorough cleaning and regrease and then snugged everything back up.  Happy to report its spinning like new again.  Haven't been able to hop on it yet to see if the creak is gone but I'm 90% sure it will be.

Parts swaps were next.  Re-geared back to 32-19.  For now I'm happy that I'm strong enough for the 18 in just about all scenarios but I definitely prefer to be at a higher cadence than I can manage with the 18 currently.  For now the 19 is still my magic gear.  18 is probably a better choice for the 100 with the fast first 10-15 miles and I would imagine most other SS'ers will be racing that.  I think I would lose much more time walking more of the back half of the course with the 18 than I'll lose spinning out early with the 19.  I also threw the Thud Buster back on.

Hopefully it will Bust some of the Thuds

The only reason I stopped using this post was because of the annoying rattling and clicking sounds it would make.  I was constantly worried my entire drivetrain was about to fall off when riding it.  But I do really like the action on it and it's great in the chattery stuff.  Just enough give to take the sting off but not make you feel all bouncy.  I have some things I'm going to try to alleviate some of the sounds coming from it hopefully they work and I won't spend the whole race looking between my legs trying to figure out what is about to fall off my bike.

Also went with the double bottle config.  Groundbreaking, I know.  But I've been thinking about nutrition for this year and I'm trying to figure out ways to do this without a camel back.  The 100 has offered the ability to drop care packages for yourself that will be trucked to certain rest stops.  I have never taken advantage of them in years past but I'm thinking that might be the way to go to try and keep some weight off my shoulders.  Just seems a bit will also probably depend on the weather that day.  I'll continue to ponder for the next few weeks.
Finished things off with an upgrade.  In an effort to increase the comfort a bit and take away some of that sting that I have come to love so much I got myself a nice carbon bar upgrade.

Easton's EC70 is a nice wide flat bar that was almost the exact same width and sweep as my old bars.  I've read all kinds of reviews that they are great at absorbing vibration, I'm hoping it's true.  They are nice and light too (not that I care that much) but I'm sure I more than gained the weight back with the Thud Buster.  I'm more concerned with smoothing out the trail a bit anyway.

I'll get some pics of the saddle up as soon as I get it back, hopefully in a pink leopard print colorway.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Cyclo-Tour to Andro'fest

Kind of strange typing this up so matter of fact now having only really come up with the idea to do this ride maybe a week or two ago.  I've wanted to do a bigger loaded tour like this ever since I started building weird monster cross bikes for that dirt road ride a few years ago.  Most of those weird bikes were never really ideal until this latest build and these kind of rides are difficult to pull off, especially with no experience.

When Joe mentioned this weekend was gonna be this year's Andro'fest and his last weekend on the east coast for awhile I figured attendance was a must.  Trying to ride my bike there almost immediately popped into my head.  Scenario seemed perfect: definitely a long challenging route, and I'd be arriving to tons of people making tons of food, and I'd have a ride home.  Might as well hang a curve ball right in my wheelhouse...c'mon.  I mapped a route out that seemed pretty doable on paper (or on the computer screen as it were) and basically just decided I was doing it before I even checked to see if I had everything I needed or if I could even really load my bike up realistically.  Ask Joe, all he got was a weird email shortly after he told me about it asking if he could give me a ride home and if he had room for a bike.

Luckily I did have all the gear I would need...maybe not the most ideal gear weight and functionality wise but it would definitely due and I made my first attempt at loading the bike up earlier this week and things seemed to work and felt solid.  I took a quick 5mi ride around the house with the tent and sleeping bag loaded on and it seemed just fine.  News Flash: some clothes, tools, food and water add a lot more weight.  When the bike was finally REALLY loaded up for the trip it weighed quite a bit.  I never actually weighed it to avoid the mental anguish of actually knowing what I was hauling but ask Pog he got to try and pick it up still fully loaded right after I arrived.

just before departure 5:30am loaded to the gills

The clearance to the fender on that downtube mounted bottle was pretty nice, 1mm at best.  Hit the road with the sun to ensure I got to work with the maximum amount of daylight if needed.  But I mounted a light just in case I needed more than 15hrs (good god).  It also was nice to have it flashing first thing in the morning.  For the few motorists on the road they probably were not on the look out for a cyclist at that hour on a Saturday.  Got off to a nice easy pace, riding through the morning fog/haze.  Temps were nice for riding, although I did rock a wind vest for the first hour or so.  That vest almost caused the first major mishap of the ride only 20 or so miles in.  I attempted to take the vest off on the bike while riding, something I have done before on many occasions both on this bike and my road problem.  However, unless you are a highly experienced cyclotourist who has loaded bikes many times and is skilled in the art of perfectly balancing your gear when you let go of the bars they will turn.

At least part of my brain was half expecting this so I was able to save things before I went down but it must have looked pretty funny to anyone watching.  Decided to come to a stop and get the vest off safely before continuing.  Besides that incident the early portion of the ride went great.  I was keeping a great pace, much faster than expected and everything felt good.  Great views of Chocorua heading into the Conway area.  I hit some heavier traffic in the N. Conway area as all the early risers tried to be the first ones to the outlets.  I also hit a solid wall of wind that didn't quit for the rest of the ride.  I'm not the best at gauging wind speeds but if I had to guess I think it was easily a sustained 10-15mph with stronger gusts for the final 80mi of the ride.  JOY.  I had been hoping for a nice gentle cruise from N. Conway to the base of Pinkham Notch, instead I got to battle the wind the whole way.

Pinkham Notch was about what I expected.  Never very steep but long and relentless.  Starting at about the turn onto Rt. 16 in Glen to the top is just about 10mi of sustained climbing.  The wind made a few of the slopes feel a bit steeper than they were and I was definitely feeling the additional weight.  But man those views.  It's different on a bike than in a car.  Plenty of time to take it all in when you are climbing at 3-4mph.  Finally made it to Pinkham Notch and my glorious 10 straight miles of descending into Gorham and some lunch.

Got to ride with a guy for a bit heading over the top and descended with him a bit.  Nothing like a friendly conversation at 35mph.  Highlights were his comments about how my friends are pussies for not riding with me and meeting me at the campground instead and asking whether I thought my wide handlebars caught too much wind.  I told him they didn't catch any more than the huge sleeping bag mounted between the drops.  He laughed and then promptly dropped me.

Stopped in Gorham to grab a quick lunch, stretch and replenish my water.  There was a gradual climb into Berlin and once I got past that Rt.16 is fairly remote and hugs the Androscoggin so it stays fairly flat for the rest of the way.  Cell service pretty much ended at that point so most people probably thought I died shortly after Gorham because I went Twitter silent.  The last 40mi or so were basically just a grind.  Lightly rolling terrain that I just tried to tick along.  My speed had normalized to about a 13mph average after Pinkham and that seemed doable so I just kept things right there.  No need to try and push any harder.  I was on schedule with plenty of daylight to use if needed.

I was getting a bit uncomfortable on the bike but honestly I was expecting it to be much worse.  I did my best to stretch on the bike and change my position regularly.  Some of the light rolls in the road past Errol in the last 12mi turned into 'massive climbs' but I have plenty of gears on that bike and I used them all.  Rolled into the campground at almost 10hrs ride time flat.  Immediately spotted the circus tent and b-lined it.  Pog was the first person I spotted who handed me a Coors that had magically exploded/opened itself in his cooler just before my arrival.  Thanks Universe.  Got the tent set up, changed and took a sweet sweet ice bath in the Andro.

Then I fished for bubble gum in a bowl of whipped cream with my face but that is a story for another day...