July 4, 2004: A whirl of adrenaline and lactic acid

Methuselah, Blue Blossom, Gordon Mill, Timberline, Steam Donkey, . . . -- they're all a whirl of adrenaline and lactic acid. Skeggs is a benchmark, a workout, a killer, a bitch, but you'll never be bored and you'll never be better than these trails.

With the exception of a couple of a ridgeline trails, it's either steep up or steep down. And that's often technical steep too, meaning you've got to be on exactly the right line to make it. You cannot come to Skeggs and hope to coast through, rest, or nurse your hangover. The downhills force you to dial it in immediately. You'll know within the first three minutes whether you're ready or not. If the answer is not, and you're not acknowledging this as you inspect your newly acquired raspberries and count your teeth, you better pull up and get your shit sorted out. (See June 12, 2004: 20 miles and a Steam Donkey wake-up)

Sitting atop the coastal cordillera in a razor's edge of brilliant sunshine, flanked on both sides by thick, pillowy fog, we threw the Charger ball around to wake up and loosen up. After absorbing a good helping of fortifying solar energy, reviewing procedures in a safety meeting, fighting off the mosquitos, and dialing in the membrane, we jumped in with both wheels.

Thursday's hat handing from Romulus and Bonzai (See July 1, 2004: These guys are good) had me concerned that I might once more be overpowered by their "bigger-gear" technique. This is where riding with two guys this good really helps me. Knowing I needed to do something different to be able to keep up, I resolved to spend some time today trying to pull the lesser hills in the middle ring. It worked out pretty well. I held my own today with some nice long-uphill leads, made some really steep and challenging technical pulls, and even lead down the Steam Donkey. I thought I might tear the Donkey up this time, now that I knew what to be ready for, and for about half the descent I was thinking, "this isn't so hard. Yeah baby, who's yer daddy." But the Donkey is the daddy. I accept that now. This second trip down confirmed that the bushes crowding in on the narrow track, the treacherously deep ruts, the loose babyheads, and the violently twisting course conspire to make this trail a real tester. The Steam Donkey kicks ass.

Of course I was not alone in my quality cycling today. All three of us were motoring around Skeggs, or at least motoring as much as Skeggs will allow. As we toiled furiously up one incredibly steep, tough section, Sweep got some props from a fellow cyclist who was moved to verbal exclamation by our tenacity and ability. Saw about eight other serious riders out there today, which is alot for 9 AM on a three-day weekend Sunday.

So that's the good news. On the buzzkill side, there are only two mechanicals that I really worry about in race situations. Chainsuck, with which my troubles have been well documented, and flats, because of how ridiculously hard it is to get tires on and off my Bontrager Race wheels. Today, both happened. The flat happened for no apparent reason. Bonzai and I were waiting for Romulus, just sitting on our bikes. Romulus swept past us and as I stood up on the pedals to go, pssssstttt, the tire instantly goes flat. Instantly. And it was a slime tube too! Ah, but with my liquid soap trick, I had that bad boy changed in under five minutes.

The chainsuck continues to confound me. I think I've got it figured out and then it goes and changes on me. This time the chain wedged itself between the swingarm and the small ring as I was shifting up from granny to middle. Not supposed to happen. Previously, it had only happened going from middle to granny. May have something to do with the new narrower bottom bracket Rich recently installed. This fucker was wedged in there good, and the master link was in a place to which I could not get the chain tool. Fortunately, Romulus was there to push hard on the wheelstays of the upturned bike to flex the rear triangle enough for me to yank the chain out (and more than a speck of paint). I think the main key now is to remember not to shift rings while the rear suspension is significantly flexing. Yeah, that'll be easy to remember in the heat of the moment.

Waiting for us back at the Skeggs parking lot was buzzkill number three: Chuck, President of Trail Builders International (TBI), some quasi-legal "trailcutting" outfit. Chuck, an older dude in a huge motorhome, instantly began peppering us with questions, criticizing Romulus's routes, and generally treating us like greenhorns. He definitely had a practiced rap going and it was very reminiscent of the kind of rap that salespeople and cons have. Bonzai and I both were independently reminded of Richard from Deep Creek. Chuck had latched on to Romulus and was grilling him for information on where he worked, what building, what address, what was his title. That broke up the party and we quickly bailed, leaving Chuck's disapproving countenance in our rear view mirrors.

The only animal I saw today was a beautifully plump, bright yellow banana slug. No worries though, I zipped past him before he could lunge at me to spew forth his deadly venom.


Mileage: 18.20 Time: 2:18:47 Avg: 7.8 Max: 28.3 Weight: 171

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