Sunday, February 17, 2019

Rock Cobbler 6.0

Over a week after the event you have probably seen and read enough Rock Cobbler 6.0 Race Reports to have a good understanding of how it was the mudpocolypse of 2019 and how this year we got to ride through Race Director, Sam Ames, house! But if you haven’t here’s mine.

I’ve been fortunate, I think that is the right word, to have ridden 3 out of 6 of the last Cobbler’s, my streak was broken last year with pesky work getting in the way and making adult decisions.

Each year the race gets weirder which is French for harder and this year was no different…and to be honest what would you expect from a race whose marketing tag line is “it’s stupidly hard”! So with that said, on with the show!

I had driven up Friday afternoon and gone through packet pick up without any issues, availing myself of some fish and chips and some liquid courage at Lengthwise, the host brewery! All good races start and finish at a brewery right, Hotel parking lots are so 2012! Becca had opted to stay at home as her hip injury is painful at best and the thought of spending the day in the car was not appealing. Other than some spotty traffic, the drive was uneventful.

Unless you’re not local Southern California has been having some rain and the week leading up to race we had rain early in the week. That left 3-4 days for the course to dry out but there was one day of rain in the offing. As we neared the weekend the forecast went from rain Friday day, to Friday night and as we woke Saturday morning the roads were dry and skies were heavy.

Folks were milling around in the Lengthwise Parking Lot putting on and taking off clothing, depending which way you looked we were riding into Mordor or the Emerald City! As usual I was a Pactimo walking model and I was able to break out some custom Lynskey kit that I had designed and had made up through the Pactimo Custom Program (ping me for more info) in the end I went with bibs on the bottom. A winter base layer, jersey, arm warmers and a light weight rain jacket and full fingered Louis Garneau gloves and Helmet, and my usual helmet liner from Headsweat, zero cover up top requires some protection from the sun (reinforced by my Dad’s recent melanoma removals) and it keeps me a bit warmer and soaks up the sweat on a hot day. The jacket folds down to nothing and actually fits into a jersey pocket or can easily, which is what I did, be stuffed up under your jersey in the back. In the end I think this was the best call, I wad definitely a bit chilly at the start but the jacket kept my dry and kept me warm at the end of the day.

I also stuffed my pockets full of Honey Stinger waffles and had a King Size Pay Day which would be a treat towards the end of the day. Pro tip; I’ve learnt now to snip the tops off everything, I don’t have to worry about opening things while riding. This makes eating so much easier and even more so with full fingered gloves.

So, with the national anthem ringing in our ears and the first drops of rain landing on our sunglasses we rolled out.

The first 15 or so miles are a neutral rollout, new this year was the route which took up through a quiet residential area. This minimized the break up of the peloton due to traffic lights and other than getting a little hairy going through wet “four corner crit” corners we were fine and in good spirits. After making our way to the usual bike path which funnels everyone to 2-3 abreast we were pretty strung out. The rain hadn’t eased either, the smooth but somewhat dirty bike path and pace meant that we were all getting a good face-full of splatter from the bike in front. Added to which I was regretting leaving my Ass Saver as home as my backside was slowly but surely getting damper and damper….oops! For future RD reading this, they make excellent Swag Bag gifts!

We finally exited this section and started the first off road part of the ride. Mostly single track this strung folks out quickly as they realized they were in the wrong gear riding up and just hadn’t brought enough gears to the party, see my thoughts below on this! Even with the current drizzle the surface was very ridable and we rolled around basically getting our bikes dirty and our heart rate into Zones 4/5.

The following short section was a little less rideable….but fortunately very hikable…and was really only the threshold to the first long climb. The key, for me at least, is knowing when to ride and knowing when to walk. Riding is, generally speaking, always quicker, more comfortable and more efficient. Pushing a 20lb uphill in the mud generally sucks. So, most folks, walked, rode and took pictures. Once you were on the top it was a nice double track trail that was very rideable and gently descended over 5 miles.

I saw the first Aid Stations and rolled by, I had no need to stop. We were spat out onto the road. From here we directed into a residential area. A short climb and we were at the end of a cul-de-sac?!? Where to go from here; up Sam’s driveway through his backyard, into his kitchen, passed his lounge and out the front door and down the red carpet…of course!

Back the way out and back onto the dirt.

Rolling our way along minding our own business and doing our best to find the best lines. We entered the section of trail that runs alongside the Kern River. This section was well churned up and more like some of the run ups you may see in Cyclocross, albeit taken to 11 with tree roots and low hanging branches…oh and new this year (vs. 2016) the Barb Wire fence had been broken was being held back, so you didn’t have to throw your bike over and climb through it. I saw one poor soul walking back out the way we had come in with a broken rear derailleur.

More ups, downs, lefts and rights and we were directed into the Private Orchard section. It’s at this point I would like to introduce our Sponsor for the next 5-7 miles…Jiffy Peanut Butter! As you would expect the orchards are very well irrigated add to that the aforementioned rain and we were in for a treat.

I was able to roll through most of it without issue and when I surfaced onto the road I saw a large group of riders with TacoMan standing by the entry to the next section. I was lucky enough to have avoided the worst of it and with riders grouped on the side of the road scraping thick mud off their bikes or breaking chains to try and remedy mechanical issues I joined a group and followed TacoMan on a minor detour onto the road and back onto the route a half mile or so away. At this point we were only 40 miles in, so less than halfway and had the big climb to come, elapsed time 3:23! A short day it is not!

Again from 2016 race the “climb” was about 9 miles with a small drop after the summit. Ride and push were order of the day. There’s no point complaining you paid good money to do this! At the second summit your treated to roughly a 10 mile descent so I took the time to stop and put on my jacket, while the rain had stopped some time ago it wasn’t especially warm.

Some rolling along at the bottom and we finally hit the last “shenanigan” of the day, the Hike a Bike section, it’s only half a mile but tops out at 49.5% grade…so the clue really is in the name!

At the top there is an Aid Station and this would be my only stop of the day, a mini can of Sprite and a bio break and I was on my way again.

From here we had about 5 miles of dirt left and we were back on the river path for the ride to the finish. I leveled up my skills and was able to put my jacket back on without stopping…much easier on 33mm tire vs the 25mm on my road bike.

As usual the Finish is not at the start and you have to keep your eyes open for arrows to guide you there. A lot of people miss this detail (or don’t bother) and as such don’t pass through the Finish Line and a awarded a DNF. Once at the Finish I was too cold and too tired to linger. I buddied up with two other guys and we retraced our steps back to Lengthwise…and like that Rock Cobbler 6.0 was in the bag!

Some awesome finish line food, one pint of beer was pretty much inhaled…so I had another plate of food; Pulled Pork, Mac-N- Chees, Salad, fresh bread…this time I savored it!

I grabbed my Cheese/Cutting Board said some farewells and was on my way home!

Some final thoughts on the race and the day;

All in all I had a solid day. As noted it was wet and cold and I wasn’t sweating. I managed with two (yes just two) bottles and skipped all but the last Aid Station. I stopped a couple of times on my own time; jacket on, AltRed (ping me for my Ambassador code) swallowing a couple of times and once to pee. My ride time was 7:38, my elapsed time 7:47. Only 9 minutes of not moving!

The Lynskey (as always) was great; I had no issues with the drivetrain mudding up and the Wend Wax worked without issues through all the different types of mud, dust, sand and cowshit I threw at it. I do have a couple of follow up items; I need new brake pads, I was running out of grab on some descents. I need to switch out my 3T Wheels for my Stan's Tubeless wheels and ride Tubeless, I think this will be a much more comfortable ride and obviously the sealant speaks for itself.

Don’t bring a knife to a gun fight! Lots of mechanicals this year, mostly drivetrain related. Choose your weapon wisely! Yeah, my cassette looks like the serving platter on a Cunard Cruise ship…but it’s a bad day when I run out of gears! For the record, it’s 50/34 with and 11-42. That’s way more gearing than a 1x which is often a 42 with 10/42, I may be a bit slower, but I am moving.

On that note this year clothing and tires played their part, I don’t think anyone was running anything less that 30mm if you were you probably had a bad day. I did see plenty of 650b with MTB tires and some solid DK style 40mm gravel tires. Basically, whatever you selected you were probably right for 25% of the day and wrong for the rest. I was using IRC Serac Sand CX Tires, they’re file tread and worked well enough for what I needed, I did slip on a couple of climbs and I did slide down a couple of descents but I had no real issues.

As for the event, this is a Class 1 event, it’s well organized and well presented, despite Sam’s underselling it of as a “Shit Show” it’s far from it. From start to finish including pre and post event communications it’s buttoned up.

Yes, it’s stupidly hard, but also stupidly fun! Unless you’re at the pointy end look up and take in the view, enjoy the company around you. Misery loves company after all!

So that’s that for another year, 5 weeks to Spndx Stampede!

Monday, January 21, 2019

Rivet Raid

Rivet Raid in the bag.

Not a race but a ride to raise money for the Santa Monica Mountains Restoration Trust. There would be one timed segment and what a doozy it was; Puerco Canyon from PCH, 2.95miles 1500' gain average grade 10%! But I am getting ahead of myself. The original ride was cut short due to all the rain this week so we were all riding the shorter 50 mile loop, which would have approx. 5000’ of gain.

The day prior I had felt a sore throat coming on, it’s my Achilles Heel, and with one of the kids in the house sick during the week the odds were pretty good I could catch something. I stopped on at a Pharmacy on drive to the race and picked up some DayQuil and Ricola. A good swig on the former and a pocket full of the latter saw me through the day.

80 or so riders left Peddlers Fork restaurant in Calabasas Sunday morning. The roll out was easy enough and there was plenty of chatting, Unfortunately the group got split by traffic lights very early on and I was at the front of the second half. As the lights turned green a few hardy souls tried to bridge and I was happy to let them go. An uneventful 4 miles brought us to the bottom of Dirt Mulholland and we started the climb up. Recent rains had left the fire road soft in parts and there were the remains of some flooding but if you choose your line carefully you could miss all the standing water and keep a clean pair of heels. The route steadily climbed up and I found myself chatting to a couple of riders, one a local and another from a San Diego team. I recognized the kit and know a couple of BWR peeps who are on it. “You must know, Joe Schmoe” is always a good ice breaker and the conversation was easy from that point on. The local rider pulled away and then suddenly pulled over and dismounted. His rear derailleur had exploded and was wrapped around his cassette. I asked if he needed assistance and he declined saying he would limp back home without issue. I saw him later at the finish and he had indeed made his way back to the start/finish and was having his bike fixed by the VeloFix Van that was providing support.

The trail topped out and we had the easy roll down on Sullivan Ridge Trail towards Santa Monica. I had last ridden these trails over 18 years ago on a hardtail 26” mountain bike shortly after moving to the US. To top half of the trail is gravel and the second half is concrete.

Memories kicked in, mostly, and a safe roll down the broken concrete road that was littered with potholes and hikers was the prudent choice, Another rider I know, Chris, caught me and we rode into Santa Monica together keeping one eye on the route on my Garmin and another on the traffic. The course wound its way through the blocks of Santa Monica. Some how we managed to miss the first Aid Station, I wasn’t worried as I had plenty on me but Chris turned back to find his original starting buddy. Other than multiple stops at crossing, junction, traffic lights and my expressed disappointment at one lady who rolled through a stop sign as I was mid-junction crossing, this section was uneventful.

The course dropped us onto Pacific Coast Highway (PCH). As you would expect there is plenty of traffic, but it ebbs and flows as the traffic lights catch and hold cars. There is no real bike lane but enough of a shoulder to make it ok.

Shortly past Pepperdine University was the right hand turn onto Puerco Canyon. The first half mile or so is road, then a gate and then the trail. This was the second Aid Station. I stopped to fill my bottles and asked had they seen any riders, as I, surprisingly hadn’t. I was told I was in the Top 20???

But then looking over my shoulder I saw the lead group, who had stopped at the first Aid Station had caught me, I went from Top 20 to top 50 in 2 minutes as they all caught and passed me!

This was the timed section. I had never ridden this trail, but I had run, well, walked it. It’s a long steep slog. The recent fires had taken its toll and the landscape was stark. That said the recent rain and sunshine was already making a difference with new green growth showing everywhere. I sat in and pedaled up. As I was waving my camera around someone asked me for it and took some great photos of me! Yay!

The first section of the climb was a series of ridable switchbacks, the higher you climbed the better the view. Until these ended and you got a reminder of what was to come…

I’ll spare you nitty gritty. The climb took 44 minutes, there was some walking, some cursing, a few downs and plenty of camaraderie from others suffering. Oh and the sun had come out too…temperatures rose to 80f!

Still at the top we were treated to a nice view for all our hard work!

The roll down the back side was no cake walk either, again I had run this fireroad as part of 50km runs from previous life as a runner which gave me an insight into what to expect….I am not sure this was a good or bad thing?! As before there was some washout and the channels made it somewhat challenging, as on the climb there were a few sections walked but mostly my Lynskey took everything in its stride. The third and final Aid Station was at the bottom and I stopped again to fill up my bottles and fill up from the cheese board that was on offer! Salty cheese and meat….yes please!

After a short stretch on the road the final section was a series of twisty rolling single track nothing too onerous other than a couple of short sharp climbs and some greasy muddy sections.

Of course with 300 yards of trails left I took my eye off the ball and toppled over in an unceremonious pile in the mud! A nice two mile roll back to the Finish generated enough speed to throw most of the acquired mud off of my bike!

A couple of right hand turns, and I was through the Finish Line.

Plenty of food was on offer and folks were milling about swapping war stories from the day. I was feeling pretty crappy and my throat was sore, so I scoffed the brisket burger, grabbed my bike and headed home.

All in all this was a grand day out and a good test of both my fitness and the bike. Both need a few tweaks but nothing major. My fitness is pretty good, there’s definitely room for some improvement but that will come as the season opens up more. The bike is rolling along nicely but there are few creaks that need some attention. Switching out my Eggbeaters for Shimano XT SPDs has removed the annoying squeak and I had no real issues in clipping or unclipping. I am still on the fence about switching out my 3T wheels for my Stan’s Tubeless, I’ve had no real issues to date running self-sealing clinchers…of course this may well turn into famous last words! I need to shake off this stupid cold/sore throat thing before digging back into training.

The event was well run, the Aid Stations well stocked with goodies and volunteers, Both of which I have seen fall short of the mark on other events. The course was challenging and got me, at least, riding new trails. Like many of the events in Southern Californian (BWR, Cobbler, etc.) the Rivet Raid is not a pure “gravel” ride. It’s a far cry from your Mid-West minimum maintenance roads that are wide, rolling, straight and…gravelly! That said, and in fairness. the descent along Sullivan Ridge Trail was gravel. So as long as you have this in mind when signing up you’ll be fine, and the challenges you may encounter along the way will only improve your bike handling skills!

Here is the Strava File if you’re interested.

So onwards, Rock Cobbler in two weeks…shenanigans aplenty await!

Sunday, January 6, 2019

Writing & Reading!

So, you may have noticed that the dust was blown away from the blog with a pressure hose. Seven days, seven posts! My goal is to write a post every day. Some short, some long, some good (hopefully) and some bad (inevitably)! Have I set the bar too high…well time will see? I’ve been listening to Seth Godin’s podcast and he’s a great believer in just write. Just start, get going, get on with it. So here I am again, just under 11 years from when I started! It’s certainly had its ups and downs in that time. The internet, social media and interconnectedness of us all is light years away from what it was then! But I do still harbor the hope that when I am gone and dust that my kids will stumble onto this and think that Dad was actually a pretty cool dude!

In addition to writing I have set the goal of reading! I used to a lot and then work and smart phones and blah blah blah so let’s just file that under BS excuses and like the writing get on with the reading!

I have set myself a goal of 12 books in 12 months. It’s not an overly lofty goal. Others I know will inhale a book a week, but I would sooner set myself up for success and exceed the goal than get too far behind and never catch up! I have plenty of reading material and possibly the first 6 books teed up.


All I have to do is don my reading glasses….now where did I put them?!?