Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Back to BPW

It had been a month since I'd been to Bay Park West and I started to miss it. This morning I took some vacation time and rode there.

I messed up a few hill climbs, but I also made excellent progress on others. And I finally made it up the trail from the old trolley tracks up to Homewood!

The trail crew has made some changes to a few of the log overs. Some of the old ones were just downed trees that crossed the trail at the angle of the hillside. Hopping over these would be very trick because I'd have a tendency to roll or slip downward. The new log overs are nice and level, but unfortunately they're just a bit too big for me. In time I hope to have the skill to get over these without having to step off.

For the past three or four rides, I found my left knee has given me trouble. I get a sore joint pain on the outside of that knee. It was occuring about an hour after I rode, but today it was during the last third of my ride. Though, I rode more at BPW than I probably ever have in one outing. I found myself limping a bit when I walked, but riding was better. The determination and concentration when riding probably helps mask it too. Hopefully ice and ibuprophen will fix it for now, but I'd like solve the problem more permanently.

My cycle computer says I rode 7.3 miles. That's big for me at BPW.

Muni at Bay Park West - 2011-08-30

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Neighbor Unicyclist

A neighbor of mine has joined the world of unicycling!

It probably helps that he works with Mj, one of the few local riders, and he sees me out riding all the time. He bought a 24" Torker LX and has been learning to ride for the past few days.He stopped over yesterday and practiced a bit with me in the driveway. He is very persistent and is making good progress. It won't be long before he's making it around the neighborhood!

Welcome to the club!

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Continued Trail Work

There were five or six of us working on the IMBA trail this morning at Tryon. We continued benching and connected the far end of the trail to an existing trail.

A large tree prevented us from digging down or back into the hillside, the standard way of making a bench-cut trail wider. So in about an 8 foot section of trail we used a log on the trail edge to hold back additional dirt. This allowed the trail to be wider.

This trail will probably get fully connected and be online with one or two more work sessions.

Friday, August 26, 2011


Last year I remember being at the Muni Only Race in Albany and mentioning my fatiguing back muscles to some of the other riders. I felt like I got a bunch of blank stares. This year at the Fat Tire Challenge in Pennsylvania, I got the same response. My lower back continues to get fatigued on many of my rides, and most other muni riders aren't having this problem.
Although I generally push through, it feels like it's my number one limiting factor. In one of the Fat Tire Weeknight Series races this year, I did not finish due to lower back fatigue. It's a problem.

To help, I did some extra stretching exercises here and there, but I've never gotten into a regular routine.

About a month ago, I started to get a slight sciatica feeling in my hamstrings. It wasn't anything too crazy, but something to note. I think it showed up in both legs at different times. I just felt it once in a while and it never lasted long.

About three days ago, I got a much stronger sciatica pain in my left leg, or at least what I've been calling sciatica. It was only in the hamstring and didn't go all the way to my foot. Certain movements seemed to cause it. I noticed it more when I swung that leg forward while walking, when no weight was on it. Sometimes when I bent over while seated I'd feel it more too. Just shifting my weight in my chair might give me a zinging feeling. I iced my lower back a few times, but it wasn't making a big difference.

I figured it was most likely from the Singletrack Stampede race I rode on Saturday. That's a tougher trail. Or maybe lifting something heavy caused it. Or maybe it was from the fall I took at the race, though that was just a typical tuck and roll. I haven't had any specific events that caused me sharp pain.

Whatever the cause, it didn't seem like it was going away, so I made an appointment with a chiropractor.
The day before my appointment I woke up and was frustrated to find little improvment. Sometime in the morning, at work, I shifted in my chair and felt some kind of a pop in my left hip joint area. That happened twice during the morning. I didn't feel any noticable improvement in my sciatica though. But in the afternoon I started to notice a marked improvement. I don't know if that popping had something to do with it or not.

This morning things were even better. I can still feel the sciatica a bit once in a while, but it's way less often and less intense. Still, I went to my chiropracic appointment with the hope of understanding the problem and improving my low back fatigue.

After telling him my story, he started with the TENS therapy. After a lower back massage, he adjusted my back. I heard and felt a good amount of crunching. He also adjusted my neck, though I didn't hear or feel anything. I don't feel like a new person, but it's good to know things are closer to where they should be.

I have another appointment in a week for a follow-up adjustment and to talk about stretches and exercises I can do. He didn't want me to start on any specific exercises until after the next appointment to avoid confusing any soreness from my first adjustment with soreness from exercise. Still, he said to go ahead and keep up with my normal exercise, including muni.

So I hope to get a ride in this weekend.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Singletrack Stampede II

Today was the Singletrack Stampede II mountain bike race at Sprague Brook Park.
I had gotten permission to ride over a month ago, and tried the course out a few times. It's a super rooty 7+ mile loop.

Like in many races, Beginners do 1 lap, Sport 2, and Expert 3. There classes for age, gender, and for single-speed bikes.

I registered in as a Beginner. The weather was good, and the race went fairly well. My stomach was bothering me in the first couple miles, but I don't think it slowed me down. I had eaten a bagel with jelly about two hours before the race. Maybe that was the problem? I guess I need to work on my pre-race nutrition.

For a good portion of the race I saw a couple of the volunteer riders who were there to help anyone with medical or mechanical problems. They'd pass, then rest, then I'd pass, etc. I passed a few riders who has issues like a broken chain or a flat, but later they passed me. It must have been at about mile 5 that some experts and sports started passing me.

I did well. I'd say I rode about 98% of the course, but had to dismount for some steeper hill climbs.

My time was 1 hour 35 minutes. The top mountain bikers were doing laps in less than 50 minutes. So I'm going about half their speed.

My lower back muscles got sore, but not too crazy. But I was glad when my lap was done. It's a tough course with the constant battle of roots. My left knee started feeling very sore hours after I was done riding. I was on the edge of limping once I got home. Ibuprofen and icing helped a ton. This happened to me last weekend too. It's something I need to figure out.

Once all the racers came in, we had pizza, pasta, and salad. Then the top three riders of each class got medals. Depending on the class, some of the top riders got money too. For example, the top beginner got their $30 registration fee back, and the top expert rider doubled their money.

At the very end of the awards ceremony, Scott, the race coordinator, asked if they had forgotten anyone. Someone yelled out something like "UNICYCLE CLASS!". Earlier, Scott had hinted to me about an award so I made sure to stick around. So I think he had it planned. He called me up and gave me a medal and my $30 registration back! Thanks Scott!
Pint glasses were also given to all the racers.

I talked to a lot of riders while I was there. It's surprising how many of them either own a unicycle or have tried one. Most who have tried haven't stuck with it long enough to get very comfortable. I hope seeing me out there encourages someone to work their way into muni.

There were plenty of cameras around, and it looked like someone had some serious video equipment to document the event. I'll have to look for the footage online.
Actually, Peter, one of the volunteer riders took a quick video of me on his android phone. Nothing overly exciting, but here it is:

I'll add more pics and video if I get some.

Click here for the race results.

Of course, I tracked my ride:

Singletrack Stampede II - 2011-08-20

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Suicide 6

Today I "raced" at the Suicide 6 mountain bike race at Harriet Hollister Spencer Park at the south end of Honeoye Lake. The race is 6 hours long and teams, sending one rider out at a time, do as many 7+ mile laps as they can. Riders can ride as a team of one, which is what I did, on my muni of course.

About a week and a half ago I did a test run of the race course. Based on that, I knew I'd have to push just to do two laps in the race. So my hope was to do one at the start, and one towards the end, with a good few hours to chill in-between.

Unfortunately there was a 70% chance of rain today. Still, that left 30% of no rain. I like those odds. So I went for it.

I arrived and learned it had rained over an inch overnight. So the trails would be at least somewhat wet from the start. From early on there was significant thunder in the distance.

The rain held off during my first lap. The course was marked very well and had mile markers. I felt ok at the beginning, but somewhere around mile 5 the course gets more difficult with many rooty and rocky climbs. My lower back muscles got painful quickly and I realized this would probably be my only lap. But somewhere near the last mile I found my back was improving. There were more downhills and flats to recover from the pain. I finished my lap, and chilled and snacked for a bit. The park only has one shelter, an open sided lean-to, where the race officials were stationed. Many riders/teams had canopies set up with chairs and coolers. The guys next to me were from the Sprague Brook area. And one of them was actually Scott, the race director of the Singletrack Stampede II that I hope to attend on Saturday. So I hung out in that area for a bit. Thunder continued to rumble in the distance and a few drops were falling. It had probably been about 30 minutes since I came in from my first lap, and my lower back was feeling fine. With the threat of a downpour soon it seemed wise to go ahead and head out for another lap sooner than later. So I did.

In the first hill climbs I was questioning my decision. My quadriceps were burning. But I pushed on. The lower back pain came quickly, but didn't seem as intense. It began raining, but the trails didn't seem to be changing much. There are enough flats and downhills in the first half of the course to manage my pain. But again, once I hit the 5 mile mark my lower back muscles started to hurt bad. The rain began falling harder and the trails were getting very wet and much softer. I found myself dismounting earlier on difficult uphills, and remounting later. I still was riding a whole lot more than walking, but certainly walking a higher percentage than I prefer.

Some areas had thicker fog. Unicycling on difficult trails with low light levels, fog, and thunder is other-worldly. Some sections also had a thick tree cover, and the light levels were insanely low. Riding down a greasy, twisty, rooty, rocky trail in these conditions was feeling crazy. In the latter half of lap two, my quads were giving strong hints of cramping. Anytime I pushed hard up hills, my quads felt like they were on the verge of having one the those charlie horse cramps I have had recently in my right calf. I was even feeling it as a walked up hills. I downed energy gels and extra water to help. But with this kind of fatigue and the deteriorating trail conditions, I was sure this was my last lap. I finished and was glad I was done.

As usual, all the mountain bikers were super nice and many gave encouraging comments. Of course, I dismounted whenever I heard them on my tail and got out of the way. I tried to return the positive support too. Anyone riding in those conditions has some serious will power and skill. The bikers are more likely to catch up to me when I'm moving slowly, so I think I see them more often when I'm walking up the remainder of a hill. The bad part of that is they see me walking and not riding, and I feel a bit like a loser. The good thing is I see that these hills ARE climbable... at least on some machine. I'll keep working on it.

After my second lap there was still a few hours of riding left in the race. But with the rain coming down steady and nothing for entertainment, I decided to call it a day.

The trail mile markers went up to 7 miles with plenty more trail before the finish line. I put my two rides together and only get about 13 miles. But with all the many twists and turns, it makes sense the GPS would cut corners and show less distance. So I'd say it was about 15 miles of riding. Given the caliber of these trails and the conditions, I'd say I did well.

Suicide 6 - 2011-08-14

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Tryon Trail Work

I worked for about 2 1/2 hours today with the GROC crew in Tryon Park. We continued work on the trail started a few weeks ago with IMBA. Lots of benching was done.

I received a GROC work shirt for my continued support.

It was a typical work day. A lot of good work was done.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Sprague Ride With Tom

In an online unicyclist forum, I posted about the upcoming Singletrack Stampede II mountain bike race in Sprague Brook Park, south of Buffalo. I don't know of any muni riders particularly close to that area, but I was hoping I might get a bite. A rider, Tom, from Berkeley, California responded. He couldn't make the race, but he would be visiting family just over the Canadian border. So we planned to meet up at Sprague Brook and ride together, a few weeks before the actual race.

Despite the threat of rain, we met up today. It rained quite hard just as I entered the town of Glenwood, where Sprague Brook is located. Tom was running a bit late. About 10 minutes after I arrived, it stopped raining. I rode my uni around the park roads until Tom arrived about 15 minutes later. After the introductions, we prepared to ride. Tom's wife Nancy would be hiking along with us.

Just before we set off, I realize I had locked my CamelBak in my car, and my key was in it!! Ugh. Thankfully I had a spare key hidden under my bumper. Unfortunately, the screw and wing-nut holding it on had rusted and were not cooperating. The wing-nut broke off, but the corrosion on the screw kept up a fight. It took Tom and me nearly 30 minutes to get the key off, but we finally did. Tom and Nancy were both very patient about the whole thing and said it added to the adventure. They're really great people.

Despite the rain, the trails weren't all that bad. The many roots were more slippery in some places, but it was all totally doable. There were puddles here and there, but nothing much longer than a few feet. Most of those puddles were benign, but a few of them had a hidden root that were an unpleasant surprise.

Tom and I would stop riding occasionally to rest and chat. We also tried hill climbs and difficult trail sections multiple times until we succeeded or had enough. During those delays, Nancy would catch up and sometimes pass us. On several passes she brought us raspberries or blackberries she had collected. "Nature's Cliff-Shots!"

Into the ride a breeze picked up and kept us cooler. But at one point the breeze tried to kill Tom! We had stopped to rest and Tom's unicycle was on the ground. All the sudden we heard a cracking sound from above and a 3" diameter tree branch fell, landing right across his uni! The odds of that happening were certainly slim. We joked about it, but then Tom grabbed his uni and rode over the offending branch, breaking it. I think it learned its lesson.

Tom was a strong rider, having started 10 years ago. He rode a 29" guni, and I of course rode my 24" guni. We used our high gears in only a few short places.

Tom and Nancy took some pictures. Thanks!! Here they are:

After our ride, we drove to a pizza shop called The Pizza Glen for pizza, wings, and beer. Good times.

Here's the GPS record of our ride. You can tell where Tom and I stopped to rest or retry some features.

Muni at Sprague Brook Park- 2011-08-10

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Benching a New Trail at Whiting

Today was the monthly Friends of Webster Trails work day and a Tryon work day. I decided to work with the FWT group because they have fewer work days and would be working on a new trail I'm very interested in.

There were groups clearing the trail and groups benching. I helped with the benching.

In my trail work with the GROC crew and in the IMBA training, full benching has definitely been encouraged over partial benching, though I didn't know why. Today's trail work got me to look closer.

Here is what the IMBA Trail Solutions book says (page 140-141):
A bench is a section of tread cut across the side, or contour, of a hill. A full bench is constructed by cutting the full width of the tread into the hillside. The entire tread is dug down to the compacted mineral soil. This design creates a consistent and stable tread, but it takes time and effort, since the organic matter that normally covers mineral soil must be removed. In the end, all this effort pays off in the form of a trail that lasts indefinitely with very little maintenance.

On a partial bench trial, o­nly part of the hill is cut away and the soil that has been removed is placed at the lower edge of the trail to try to establish the desired tread width. There are serious downsides, however, to the partial bench design. The section of trail made of fill soil is soft and rarely compacts consistently. As a result, the fill portion of the trail either gradually slips downhill or it compacts unevenly and creates a berm o­n the outer edge of the trail, which traps water. Partial bench trails usually are not sustainable and we rarely recommend this design.

The are a few occasions in which it's simply impossible to build a full bench trail, and you must utilize the partial bench design. It may be impossible, for instance, to dig past tree roots or impenetrable rock in order to place the entire tread on mineral soil. At times like these, you're stuck with the partial bench.
While this logic makes sense to me, it's also logical that no solution is best for every situation. Hal, the president of FWT, pointed out how previous partial benching has held just fine, and suggests that our soil type allows for it. And it is certainly faster to build, so why not take advantage of this technique if we can.

Hal's comments make a lot of sense to me, and the partial benches we did today sure look great.
Anyway, I wasn't sure why full benches were generally considered better than partial, and now I "know". Really knowing will come by observing how our work holds up over time.

Great work today! I'm looking forward to riding this new trail once it's completed.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Suicide 6 Test Run

I took a vacation day and went to Harriet Hollister Spencer Park just south of Honeoye Lake. I had never been there and I wanted to see what the trails were like. This should help me determine if I am attending the Suicide 6 mountain bike race.

The trails were not marked all that well, though I occasionally found a sign with a trail name. There are double-track dirt roads weaving throughout the park and the trails intersect these. Normally single track is preferred, but some of the race is on these double-track roads. Knowing when to turn off the double-track was tricky, but the route should be well marked for the race.

I did have two maps with me. One was the race map, which is not to scale, and another was a trail map with more trail names on it. My ride roughly followed the race map, but it looks like I did the southeastern Sidewinder trail backwards and bigger. I think part of that deviation was a long downhill followed by a long hill climb, of course. I had to walk much of that climb, so it will be great if it's not actually part of the course! I also missed a turn and had to backtrack a bit, shown in the middle north section of my trail map.

Each race lap is said to be 6.7 miles, and I did about 7.5. Those deviations add up.

I got a charlie horse in my right calf about 80% into my ride. It was just like I had at a race a few months ago. I rolled around on the trail and moaned for a minute before I could stand up and start walking. Those things are excruciating! I was soon able to ride, but I was cautious not to stress my ride calf. I think I may have tilted my right foot down too much during a climb. I was drinking a lot of water, so I don't think I was dehydrated.

So the big question is, will I race? Hmm. There were plenty of times during my ride that I leaned towards not racing. But once I was done, it felt like it was possible. To race and finish in the S6, I have to start at the start, and be out riding at the 6 hour mark. It look like it would take me about 2 hours for a race lap. So, at that speed I could theoretically do 3 laps in the 6 hours. But that would be suicide! Instead, it probably would be smarter to do 2 laps, one at the beginning and one at the end, with about a 2 hour rest in-between.

I need to think about it some more. The upcoming weather forecasts for August 14th will also help me decide.

Muni at Harriet Hollister Spencer - 2011-08-05

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