Thursday, January 29, 2015

Book Review

I just finished reading Scott Thigpen’s “ Trail Magic and the Art of Soft Pedaling”.  This is Scott’s 1st hand account of his 2013 TDR race. It is basically a detailed 'section by section' account of his race. 

Get it here--
I would highly recommend this book to any rookie TDR racer.   Because of its ‘location detail’ there is a lot to learn. IE Scott mentions by name many of the establishments where he re-supplied (or tried to).  It’s easy to google up these locations/establishments and include them in one’s own list of possible re-supply or shelter places.

I would also recommend it as entertainment; Scott tells a solid, funny story with professional illustrations, a few of which really ‘grabbed’ me.  You might notice a few ‘minor’ miss-identified locations or events but these do not detract at all.
I would also recommend it as a somewhat cautionary tale.  Like all TDR racers Scott makes some mistakes (including mistakes about magic-see below) but rather than hide or minimize them Scott lays them out for all to see, laugh about, and perhaps learn from.  See if you can pick out the minor vs the major mistakes.  As I was reading along one of the things I wondered was how many days (days not hours) Scott good have shaved of his strong mid-pack finish had he been able to race with fewer self-inflected mistakes.  Kudos to Scott for sharing with us such an honest, open and entertaining account.

Perhaps more importantly, along with a comical array of miscues and mistakes Scott also gives us an exemplementry lesson in perseverance and determination.  Over and over he beats back things that would stop many.  Most rookies and many Vets, myself included can learn from Scott’s tales of determination and grit!!  If we can eliminate most of our mistakes and race with as much perseverance as Scott did we very well may approach a personal best!
Reluctantly I must offer up one very tangible criticism of Scott’s book and the manner in which he conducted himself during his TDR race.  The book’s title mentions Trail Magic.  And Scott’s book has many many accounts of real trail magic, hence the title.  However several times Scott mistakenly confuses his asking, begging or soliciting shelter, water, food, navigation or mechanical help etc from noncommercial and non-race related strangers or fellow racers for real trail magic. 

Real Trail Magic is not a complex concept, yes it is sometimes shades of gray but most times it’s not.  If you have to directly ASK or BEG or deliberately place yourself in a position to SOLICIT help it’s NEVER trail magic.  On the other hand if some form of help or support is offered unexpectedly or randomly then it most likely is real trail magic. 
Scott’s account has mostly real trail magic incidents, many of them in fact.  But while reading his otherwise excellent TDR primer, see if you can’t pick out some questionable non-magic events.  Ones where Scott forced or attempted to force magic to occur.

Of course whether one does or does not accept real magic is purely a matter of style and personal preference.  Some racers accept magic and some do not.  But either way, every TDR racer should strive to avoid winding up in situations that ‘require’ you to beg for help.
Trail Magic Qualifiers:
It shouldn’t need to be said but for any nitpickers—
·         Yes, I agree, at one time or another most if not all races, myself included, wind up in a situation where we feel the need to directly ask for help.  But hopefully few and far between.
·         If you truly need help then do what’s needed to secure it, even if it means begging on hand & knee.  No ever argued that we be stupid about securing required/un-anticipated help.
·         Emotional support over the phone—yes I understand the nitpicker’s argument here but get real and don’t be a nitpicker…phones are allowed so it’s a level field. Period!  Just get over it.
·         Just because your personal style might exclude you from accepting real trail magic doesn’t make you somehow more pure or your results any more legitimate than racers who for whatever reasons accept real magic.

Finally, please do not any criticisms as a reason to not buy and read Scott's book.  In fact I invite you to get the book, enjoy it and learn from it, and make up your own mind if my criticisms have any validity.  Because sooner or later all self-supported racers bump directly up against situations of real and false magic and you might want to think about and pre-prepare for how you are going to deal with it.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Power to Weight Ratio and other ramblings………

Training in AZ 1st week in Jan, yuck-pretty porky at 170

There are a lot of key factors for a successful TDR run, some mental, some physical.  One of the most important, if not the most important physical factor is one’s overall power to weight ratio……….  

The same day I scratched in 2014 was when I began seriously planning for 2015…………A few weeks ago, back in Nov, I had a long conversation with Matthew Lee about the Tour Divide.  Mostly we talked about rules and race organization.  But somewhere in our conversation my 2014 attempt and failure came up.  In the excitement of discussing 2015 plans and strategies I casually tossed off a comment about wanting to start 20 lbs lighter in 2015.  I can’t remember exactly what Matthews’s response was but it included a distinct 20 lbs?, wow.  And I suspect I heard, and correctly so, some polite incredulousness in his voice.   

As the TDR gets closer I am busily working towards making good on that somewhat impromptu declaration.  The 2015 TDR bike and gear are 95% finalized.  In 2014 the bike and gear were 42 lbs (dry).  This year the bike will be between 29 and 32 lbs.  

So let’s see, 20-11=9lbs. Ie: come Banff I need be about nine pounds lighter.  This is going to be very difficult,in 2014 I was as light as I have been in at least 20+ years.  Basically to meet my weight goal I need to get back to my high school size.  So while not impossible it will be very difficult. The actual numbers you ask?  I hit Banff last year at 157lbs.  My goal for 2015 is to reach 148.  (Realistically I would be ecstatic to just crack 150)    

Health considerations you say?  Pretty simple really, as I work to lose weight I will monitor my % body fat and general energy levels.  By simple calculation I ‘could’ reach my goal if I get down to the ‘lower % fat limits’ for a man my age. And I am talking recognized/acceptable numbers, nothing extreme or excessive. “Adult males 40 to 59 years should strive for 11 to 21 percent body fat and those 60 and over want to have between 13 and 24 percent body fat.”  So from a % body fat perspective I need to get down from a current 162 lbs at 18/20% to 150/148 at 12/14%.   

How?  Always so simple on paper, always so very difficult in execution. Just simple exercise and nutrition.

I will ride the bike as much as I can.  I usually train fully loaded and mix it up between single track and bike path/gravel and truly love the smooth & steady 4+ hour rides.  As days get longer and warmer I will work in some overnight trips etc. I will cross train a modest amount.  As I travel (50-75% of the time) as conditions and time allow I will strive to hit the hotel gym, run the stairs, whatever to burn calories.

I will habitually use the calorie counter app on my smartphone to help motivate me to stay at or just below my allotted calories.  And I will use the same app to balance out my intake for a healthy ratio of carbs, fat and protein etc. No latest craze fad diets for me as a part of my system is to be able mostly to replicate my training diet while on route.

Side Comment on TDR food:
Ha, I usually (always?) chuckle just a bit when I read TDR blogs or reports that incorrectly imply you ‘have’ to live off of sugar and hamburgers to race the TDR.  No, you just have to know the on route options and be willing to make the effort to secure it to have a fairly healthy calorie intake.  Vegans, vegetarians and other food non-conformists have all successfully completed the TDR.  If they can make do, (admittedly with extra effort) then someone who eats a more traditional diet need only pre-plan and hence ‘know’ where to find a good balance of both fresh and processed items.  This is not to say every day is equal in nutritional choice but the false idea you cannot routinely find fresh fruit, vegetables, pasta, non-hamburger protein or whatever on the TDR route is just that, false.  However I also think as the days pass food becomes more and more just ‘fuel’.  I think this food=fuel phenomena makes it easy to simple use what’s most convenient, rather than make the effort to balance out one’s diet.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Progress Report

Almost done---with the bike & gear that is…..

I never stop tweaking till my final pack out.  Still need to clean up the bags a bit--re-sew some straps etc--but unless some ‘later in the year’ overnight testing or trial racing pushes me to change something major- this is pretty close to what I will have in Banff come June.

Quickly, off the top of my head it includes:

Scott Scale 900 frame, carbon rims with SP front xx1 DT 240 rear (thanks MC –so far I am liking them! Serfas E-Gel Cruiser Bicycle Saddle, ‘china special’ carbon fork, Relevate Ermine Seat Bag , top tube bags from --I removed the zipper from my oversized front bag and just use the rain fly to seal/open it—this is the cats meow for top tube food bag!!  If I was a bag maker I would refine this concept—no zipper to gum up/wear out easy on-the-fly access and rain proof, Handlebar bag from Bedrock I am liking this design—might get a second one for the left side

Front bag—mostly empty—for stuffing food, occasional extra water and depending on the weather/time of day on-off stuff that I don’t want to ‘stop’ and repack in my seat bag things like like gloves, rain jacket, leg warmers etc

Sleep Bivy--Blizzard Survival Bag inside stuff sack—I ‘think’ I am going to like this system.  Yes its noisy but some 15 deg F testing in my garage indicates it will be warm –real testing to come in March on real rides/races

SP dyno hub, Exposure Revo light, waterproof buffer battery, Etrex 30, Sinewave USB, Ruggedized Kyocera Duraforce Smartphone, Diablo helmet light, have ordered a light/off/USB switch with pre-made wiring harness from klite!product/prd1/1992209975/top-cap-switch , a jersey clip on and frame rear blinkys

In the Ermine seat bag--Rain pants, rain jacket, thermal rest sleep pad, leg warmers, gore tex socks, wool socks, thin baklava, go-lite down jacket, go-lite thin gloves, warm over gloves, SPOT on top and about 2 spare 'twists' of the seal flap of extra room for more stuff as needed.

In small bag on the back of the seat tube-- inner tube, tape, hanger, sew, boot &patch kit, odds & ends

Here and there--First aid/elastic wrap, kinsio tape and various pills.  Personal-the usual stuff, wipes lotions etc, chain oil, multi tool, small Leatherman, water filter w/ 1 L collapsible water bottle, bear spray—still deciding if I will use a light ‘running’ style backpack as the spray carrier or maybe a chest strap, or as shown on the bike

I am sure there is stuff I forgot just now. 

As shown above, dry, it weighs in at 30.6lbs.
My general goal was to be 'just' sub 30 and I might still get there come Banff.