Friday, December 19, 2014

Out of Shape

It's been over two months since my last ride, and even that was more about trail clearing than riding. I've got a lot of excuses: busy with work and home, wet weather, cold weather, wet trails, leafy trails, snowy trails, less daylight, and the bigger the gap between rides, the more I know the next ride is going to be hard.

Just as in previous years, I'm looking for some motivation to get exercising and back in shape.  The Singlespeed-a-Palooza is it.  This year the bikes are doing 32 miles and the unicycles will still do 24.  Plenty for most of us, and we'll start at the same time, instead of an hour early.  There's no way I could ride that now, but I've got just over 3 months to get in shape.

Tonight I started exercising.  I did Fitness Blender's Comprehensive Total Body HIIT Cardio and Core Workout.  I assumed it would be too much but I could slow down and take longer breaks.  But it's hard not to push and I ended up close to using a bucket.  I'll be feeling it in the morning. Actually I'm feeling it now. lol

I'm also going to start eating better.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Another Clearing Ride

I rode again in Webster Park to clear some trails of fallen trees. There were two trails I vaguely recalled needing attention so I targeted them and found some work to do.

A few before and after shots:

The second one was big but thankfully only required one cut.  Its diameter was over 12", but the Silky Big Boy 2000 could handle it.  At first it cut fairly quickly but after a few inches it was slow going.  Once it was cut I could see the top few inches looked quite different, so maybe it was rotting or the wood grew differently.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Trail Clearing Hike

I didn't feel like riding but I still wanted to get out and continue clearing some trails Webster Park. Syd joined me in a hike and we found a few trees to work on.


Friday, September 26, 2014

Silky BIGBOY 2000

In my last ride I stopped to cut fallen trees in Webster Park with my new Chainmate saw.  I found the Chainmate wasn't so great, so I researched and purchased yet another saw:  the Silky BIGBOY 2000.

It's a folding saw with a blade that over 14" long and just barely fits in my CamelBak Lobo.  I rode back to where I left off and began cutting. This saw is the best saw I've ever owned.   My first cuts felt effortless and the saw ate through the wood quickly.  I did a lot of work and by the end of my outing I was fatigued and cutting seemed more difficult, but still faster that any hand saw I've ever owned.

I made a total of 18 cuts, clearing 8 locations.  Most cuts were 8" to 12".  At one point I got my saw pinched badly and it took me 35 minutes to get it out.  I had to use my Chainmate to cut parallel to my Silky cut and kept trying to rock the log.  I learned my lesson that it really matters which side of the log you cut on!

Before and after pics:

Here's a video of my work:

There are likely more trees across trails that I don't frequent.  Maybe on my next ride I will hunt them down.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Chainmate Saw

I stopped to clear a few small fallen trees/limbs during my last ride, using my folding pruning saw, but with so many larger trees in the way, I looked for another solution.  I found and purchased a Chainmate "survival saw" made by Green Mountain Products.  It's basically a chainsaw chain with a handhold strap on each end.  It comes in 24", 36", and 48" lengths.   I went for the big one and I thought it was reasonably priced at $17.55 on Amazon.  In the case of a fallen tree, the general approach is to pass the chain under the tree and then, standing over it, hold a strap in each hand and alternately pull each hand.

Today I rode into Webster Park again and gave my new saw a try.  Overall I was disappointed.  I read many reviews and watch several videos showing the Chainmate in action.  I knew it would be tiring.  Indeed it was, but more than expected.  I had hoped to clear half a dozen trees, but I only managed two by making three cuts.  I had a similar experience with each cut, so I'll describe them in general.

Many videos show cutting a limb that's 3 or 4 inches in diameter without too much problem, but I'm targeting 6 to 12 inch diameter trees.  I found I could only cut for short bouts; about 30 seconds.  In the first 30 seconds it felt like I was making great progress ripping through the tree and was about halfway.  But there's an illusion because the chain may work up the side of the log to halfway or more, but of course the cut doesn't go parallel to the ground but rather in an arc.  So in reality I was significantly less than halfway through.

At about that point I found the chain started binding.  I don't think it was getting pinched but just required wider arms or some change in technique.  I made some further progress by varying my technique, usually standing off to one side, but in the end I used my folding pruning saw to finish the cut.  I don't think my pruning saw is particularly great so that took a lot effort.

I'm going to research a long fast cutting folding saws.  Though I still might give the Chainmate a try with another person.  The picture of Green Mountain Products' advertisement shows two people using a single Chainmate by working together on either side of a huge tree.  It makes sense that this is a good technique because it seems to work much better at a less acute angle.  Also, I've read it works better on live wood.  I know the big second tree has been there for at least a year.  Unfortunately most of the downed trees in Webster park aren't new.

Here's a video of me working:

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Back in the Saddle Again

The last time I rode, it was 3 weeks since the previous ride.  Now I managed to have a 4 1/2 week gap between rides.  I'm not sure why but I just didn't feel motivated to ride.  But today I felt the urge and took a few hours off work to ride at Webster Park and Whiting.

I remembered to bring my folding saw with me in case I could clear any small downed trees or limbs.  I got the opportunity several times.  Here are some before and after pics:

There were also a good number of big fallen trees the could use a chainsaw.  Most I've seen before.

It was about 60F out which was a nice riding temperature.  It's a good time of year to ride.

At the end of the Green trail at Whiting I found a bench that wasn't there last time.  Since Green is a down-and-back trail, it was nice to have a spot to rest and refuel. And it's positioned to sneak a view of the lake across Lake Rd.  Pics:

I assume it's another Friends of Webster Trails scout project.  I forgot to read the plaque before I left. 

Despite not having ridden in a while, I made the short but steep climb at the end of the Green.   Yay me.  Overall I felt pretty good riding, but I could tell I fatigued quicker than normal.  I need to get back in shape.

My GPS failed to record my ride from the bench back to the parking lot.  I rode about 5 miles.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Forced a Ride

I haven't been riding for three weeks because of weather and work.  Mostly work.  Today I forced myself to get out and ride.  That's kind of lame because I'm supposed to be enjoying this sport, not forcing myself to do it.  But I didn't have any real destination or goals, and riding the usual trails holds only so much excitement.  Not to mention the sport is a big workout and after a three week break that can hurt.

There has been some recent trail work at Bay Park West lately so I decided to go there.  I've referred to BPW as Big Punishing Workout, so it didn't make a whole lot of sense for me to go there, but I figured I'd take breaks as needed.

Photo: A new fence to keep the mountain
bikers from flying off a cliff
At the start of my ride I felt like I was having trouble balancing.  I quickly discovered I had a low tire pressure problem and not my brain.  I didn't have a pump with me so I kept riding, hoping I'd be able to get used to it or find a mountain biker with a pump.  Thankfully within my first mile I encountered a mountain biker doing some repairs on his broken chain.  He let me borrow a pump and from then on my unicycle rode nicely.  That was a lucky break because I didn't see any other mountain bikers for the rest of my ride.

I actually rode fairly strongly, making a lot of climbs and technical sections.  But it was hot and I didn't need to push it, so it wasn't my longest ride at BPW.

I saw some trail improvements, like regrading and a safety fence at a turn along the edge of a cliff.  Nothing too exciting, but positive improvements nonetheless.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Unicycle science - Why so many wheel sizes?

Roland explains unicycle wheel sizes in this video.  I thought it was well produced.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Trail Work at Four Mile Creek

Work has been busy and we've been getting so much rain.  Those are my excuses for not riding since the race two weeks ago.  Maybe tomorrow.

I also haven't done any trail work so far this year.  But this morning I went to the monthly Friends of Webster Trails work day at Four Mile Creek Preserve.  We cleared a new trail on the east side of Salt Creek.  Most of the ~10 people were cutting vegetation away and raking.  I took the job of chopping out the ankle-twisting sapling stumps.

At the end of out work we hiked to Salt Creek where a group has been working for over a week on a new bridge.  It's coming together nicely.

It was good to get out and help with the trails.  I should have taken some pictures and mapped the trail with GPS.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Fat Tire Festival Follow-Up

A short write-up of the Fat Tire Festival appeared in the "Daily Messenger" and the Victor Post.  Just like two years ago, one of the photos in the article is of me.  I guess I stood out again.

Screenshot for safe-keeping:

I had been taking Hammer Endurolytes electrolyte capsules before most rides to try to avoid cramps and post-ride headaches.  I ran out of Endurolytes and two local bike shops didn't have any.  Wanting something before the race, I settled on Nuun electrolyte tabs, lemon-lime flavored.  They dissolve in water like Alka-Seltzer.  I haven't been using anything in my CamelBak except water, but since these tabs don't have any sugar I thought it would be acceptable.

During the race I found the lemon-lime tasty, but it left me wanting nice clear water.  I also started to feel the onset of cramping in my third-lap.  So at this point I'm not convinced this product is for me.

I didn't have to pee until maybe an hour or more after the race, and it was minimal.  Maybe I wasn't drinking enough, and that's why I started to cramp.  Even with my 100oz CamelBak I get nervous about running out of water while I'm still riding.  I had some water left after the race, though not much.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

2014 Fat Tire Festival

Today was the Fat Tire Festival.  I was nervous as it approached.  My two lap ride a few days ago left me sore in my lower back and quads.  It wasn't until this morning that the soreness was mostly gone.  I was also concerned with riding 3 laps, the trail conditions after the rain yesterday and this morning, riding a unicycle at a mountain bike event, and my usual race jitters.

It was about 70°F, but the humidity started high.  Despite racing Sport class (3 laps), I started behind the Beginners (1 lap) to avoid them all passing me.  I passed a few within the first climb, but they passed me soon after.  In my first lap I had a few more UPDs than I did in my test runs.  I blamed it on race jitters, the humidity, and wet trail.  There were a variations to what I expected the course to be, the most significant being the climb up Helix.  I think they somehow connected Helix and an adjacent trail or something, adding more length.  For a switchback climb that might be better: more horizontal distance up the same vertical distance means less grade.  But in this case the additional trail had significant ups and downs.  So I was outputting more effort than expected and found myself having to hike more than I like, though still not much.

Lap two was as I expected.  The fatigue was hitting my lower back and I questioned why I was there.  At some point I was considering my excuses for not doing a third lap.  I passed by one of the race marshals standing out on the trail, who knew I was doing 3 laps, he said something like, "Keep going, you got one more lap in you!"  That and the other encouragement helped.  At the start/finish line I sure got a lot of attention each time I came through.  Jonah, the announcer, psyched up the crowd for me and I got much applause and praise.  That also helped me push on.  I felt like the humidity drop some, so that was good.

A moment that stands out to me was on lap 2 when I was going down West World.  It's a downhill and has several log steps and tight technical turns.  After the steps, a mountain biker was approaching from behind.  He exclaimed his amazement that I was actually riding this all on one wheel, and we conversed for a few seconds as I successfully rode it.  I'm not out there looking for attention like an entertainer, but I very much appreciate someone who genuinely praises the skill I've worked at, because they are on the trail and can understand the difficulty.  I got a lot of praise from other riders as I let them pass.

Lap three was painful.  The fatigue doesn't just hurt, it makes my reactions slower and I get sloppy, making stupid mistakes.  My quads were threatening to cramp on the steeper hills.  Towards the end I had to give up a few intermediate climbs to avoid it.  I got an especially loud greeting as I crossed the finish line.  I think I was the last to cross, including the 5 lap Experts.

My laps were about as expected, 45-50 minutes each.

Amy came with me and helped volunteer at the finish area.  It's always nice to have my own podium girl waiting for me at the finish.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

2014 Fat Tire Festival Test Run #3

This Sunday is the Fat Tire Festival race and I'm preparing. Yesterday I was going to ride the course again but I was exhausted and decided it best to wait until today.  I have been staying up too late and getting up too early.   I tried to get to bed earlier, but I'm still pretty tired today, but nevertheless I rode at Dryer this afternoon.

I was able to get two laps in.  Again I had minimal dismounts, though in the race I'll likely have to dismount to let bikes pass.  I'm fairly certain I won't be able to climb a steep section of Helix in race conditions, but I'll do my best to give it a try on my first lap.  I expect I'll be too fatigued after that.  In my second lap today I was certainly more fatigued, but I was able to push through, but I'm still worried about a third lap on race day.

Once again I found few opportunities to use my high gear, favoring the low gear while my breathing and heart rate recovered.  Again I rode out into the sport field to simulate the race start/finish line and again decided the high gear wasn't worth it.  So I'm leaning toward swapping my much lighter non-geared wheel back in.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

2014 Fat Tire Festival Test Run #2

With some apprehension I signed up for this year's Fat Tire Festival in Sport class, which is a week away.  Sport class means three laps, like I did a few years ago.  I'm concerned for several reasons: I haven't been riding quite enough to say I'm training, the course is different than past races and I have yet to complete three laps in practice, and racing always makes me nervous.  Being the only uni racing with hundreds of mountain bikers doesn't help.

So this morning I rode the course again.  Last weekend I rode the same course with Dustin and we stopped more than I normally would.  This time I rode with more urgency and tried to keep moving.

I'm proud to say I made it 2.7 miles of the 3.5 mile course before my first dismount, near the beginning of Helix, which is the final significant climb of the course.  I rested for a minute and continued, but had to dismount again further up Helix, again because of the climbing difficulty.  I finished the lap with only those two dismounts.

My thought was to ride 3 laps, though I knew it'd be hard work.  Thunderstorms were likely today, but less likely in the morning, so I got up early to ride.  There was some light rain before and during parts of the first half of my first lap, and then it started coming down harder.  The trail was getting slick in places.  I'm not sure I could have done three laps today, so I was kind of content with getting rained out.  I only did the one lap.

Should I try to ride a three lap test run before the race next Sunday?  Maybe two?

I ride my 24" at Dryer.  Last night I swapped in my geared wheel.  I've been enjoying the lighter weight of my non-geared hub, but I figured it might be worth having for the segment of the course around the field at the top of Dryer and the sport field at the start/finish area.  But after the climb just before the top field I was content to concentrate on staying mounted, conscious, and breathing.  It wasn't until the last 20%, before reentering technical trail, that I actually used it, for like 30 seconds.  Today I didn't ride into the sports field but I'll have to in the race.  I know this area is the typical grassy, flat yet bumpy terrain that I despise.  I'll probably feel like staying in low gear, but with an audience I'll feel like I'm going too slow and so shift to high gear for the minute or so before I am back into the trails.

Should I lug around my geared hub for two or three minutes of a 50 minute lap?

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Dryer with Dustin

Today I went to Dryer Road Park with Dustin.  It was my first time there this year and Dustin's first time ever.

We rode the 2014 Fat Tire Festival race course.  The race is in a few weeks, it's different than the other years I rode, so I carried a map.  Dryer is hilly and pushed Dustin's muni endurance, but he did well.  We stopped a lot more than I normally do and certainly more than in a race.  I may need to go back and do some more riding there if I want to do the race.

After the trails we played at the skills area.  With its odd angles, uncomfortably tight turns, and disjointed features, it's not that great, but we did have some fun.  I worked on a log skinny but sadly never completed it.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Tryon with Dustin

I went to Tryon with Dustin today.  It was too hot and humid so we took lots of breaks.  Tryon is more fun when it's cooler out, but we still had a good time.

Although I had easy access to my camera (phone), thanks to my new holster, I didn't use it very much.  But when I did use it, it was not a big hassle, so that was cool.  Since it stayed in place and didn't bother me, I'd say the holster is a success.

I took a quick video of Dustin coming across a boardwalk.  He's a pro!

I also took a picture of this downed tree. A skilled chainsaw operator could make it into a real nice skinny, as I clearly outlined.  I think I'll ask the local trail crew to consider it.