Monday, June 25, 2007

Crashing While You Smile

Yesterday, we embarked on a series of shuttle rides in Downieville, CA. It has been some time (five + years?) since I've done the popular trails up there, so the experience was fresh for me. I wanted to refresh memory of the trails before the race. See our rides in Google Earth.

First run involved Sunrise > Butcher Ranch > Second Divide > First Divide. This was fun, but I took a nice endo when I wasn't paying attention the first time I tried the big rock outcropping on Butcher (I had success the second try). It was one of those surprise endos when you don't expect it and go down fast. The result was sizable bruise on my forearm :-(

Second run was Sunrise > Pauley Creek > Third Divide. Again, I took a stupid, very painful spill on Sunrise that left me cursing at myself. I managed to gouge my shin and slam my hip into the ground :-( Regardless, I tried to shake off the negative thoughts and keep focusing on having fun. We loved the Pauley Creek trail. Like everyone else who rides 3rd Divide, we believe we both set world speed records on this section of singletrack (actually, I hit 36MPH).

We ended up back home at 10PM very sore and tired. I spent Sunday nursing my wounds and puttering around the house, which is all I was good for after my crashes.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Next Up: Downieville

The Earthlings will stray a bit from our usual kind of event next month when Dave B and I race up the Sierra Nevada mountains as part of the Downieville Classic. This isn't a team effort, but an individual race.

Downieville is a small, isolated town that was discovered as a mountain bike destination some ten years ago. It features some fun riding and the annual race. Downieville's claims to fame include its consideration as the state capitol when California joined the Union in the 1850s (wikipedia). If you visit Downieville now, you'll chuckle to think about this tiny town as the capitol of the most populous US state.

The cross country race course starts in Sierra City, ends in Downieville and in the process, climbs some 4400' and descends 5600'. The challenging race is infamous for causing flat tires and severe muscle cramps. Sounds fun, eh?

Friday, June 15, 2007

Meet Bob

I feel just terrible. How could we have told the tale of Laguna Seca without mentioning the newest Google Earthling Bob. He joined us when Tasha learned that she could not make it last week.

Bob is an accountant here at Google and rides a road bike but in spite of that, he is a very cool guy ;-) Actually, he has a lot of experience on a BMX bikes, which makes hims a bike-handling fiend. But then again, he annoys me by having the same exact bike as me, but this year's model. He also has a singlespeed like me, but again, the color of his is nicer. And he has better posture. OK, maybe I don't like Bob all that much.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Bringin' it back like Jerome Henry

Well it's been a couple days since the race and I think we've all pretty much recovered. After a total of three hours of sleep during the 48 hours leading up to and including the race, I made it home, slept for about 15 hours and managed to get up and make it into work on time on Monday, proudly wearing my 24 Hours of Adrenalin shirt. I think at that point all the Full Sail Ale was out of my system and a double americano was way overdue to hit my bloodstream. As a matter of fact, it still owes me some interest.

The campsite was all but the polar opposite of Moab. Dry, sheltered, powered. All in all quite civil and not resembling a Jurassic dinosaur-killing mudpit in any way. We camped next to three other friendly teams from the Bay Area, including the women's team "Tits of Steel" (no kidding, that is what they named themselves) who managed to take first place in their division. I think they're sandbagging though, word has it they're actually titanium, which we all know is way faster than steel.

Shannon, our group cook, kept us well fed with pasta, cheese, salami, bagels, tea, fruit, trail mix, and all sorts of other delicious snacks to be stuffed in hungry mouths at all hours of the day. And all the volunteers who came did a great job keeping us company throughout all hours of the race.

The race itself was great and team Google Earthlings rode every single lap on singlespeeds. David kept it old school riding the first lap on his fully rigid 29er. On his second lap, his freewheel exploded and he was forced to hike to the next checkpoint and cancel his lap. He borrowed and critiqued bikes for the rest of the race. And volunteered to ride the very last lap of the race after we had each ridden 4 apiece.

Even with the lost lap, we managed to score 12th place in our division, which isn't too shabby. Had David completed that lap, we would have been top 10 and beat our good friends and arch rival 24-hour-race-veterans, the Velonerds. But hey, it gives us something to look forward to for next time.

The course was fast; 12 miles in just about an hour. Starting with a series of steep climbs and fast, hardpack, singletrack descents, the course finally peaks atop Hurl Hill, a short steep fireroad climb with an aid station perched at the top. After Hurl Hill you breathe a little easier and rest your legs as you cruised down a gently rolling fireroad. After a couple of miles, a right hand turn dropps you back onto twisty, rolling, sandy singletrack as you pick your way past riders and around bushes. Dropping back out on the fireroad and another aid station at around mile 8, the course is pretty much done, the only thing left is The Grind, a 3 mile fireroad climb back to the Laguna Seca Racecourse. From the top of The Grind you drop in and cross a bridge over the raceway, ride down the stairs to your teammates cheering you on, do a lap around the track, grab a free beer from the guys on Team Hamana, and run the bike into the scoring tent to pass the baton on to your teammate who's awaiting anxiously for his lap. All that's left after that is to tell your buddies how great the lap was, grab a Full Sail from the keg, and repeat.

There has been a lot of posting about David's pot-lap dancing antics that won him a new lighting system. And I don't want to beat this dead horse much longer. However, although a lot of attention has been paid to the simple fact that he performed the act, not a lot has been paid to the artistry in which he did so. If you're easily offended, under the age of 18, or David's mom, you might want to stop reading and go here instead.

Now those are authentic, San Francisco hipster dance moves folks, no doubt about it. Congratulations, David, and congratulations, dear readers. Next time you're using those moves in a club or to win some fabulous prize, give credit where credit is due.

And, with that, I bid you all adieu. Until the next 24 hour event, I'll be working hard to keep your Gmail up and running and chock full of cool bug-free features.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Smooth Moves

Word is that we left Laguna Seca without any victories. Not true! Dave B landed first place in the prestigious post-race dance contest. And just to prove it, we have both this video and picture. Boogie down Dave!

Dave may or may not be embarrassed, but he walked away with a high end bike night light for his efforts. He left the rest of us wishing that we had smooth moves like him.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Lap of Fear

We have a lot of amusing anecdotes to share from this race. Given our disorganized nature, they will appear on this blog non-sequentially and perhaps without sufficient context. Bear with us please. Some of us were drinking a bit much through all of this (see picture).

The Earthlings raced four laps each at Laguna Seca. My final lap occurred at about 4AM in the morning. At this point, I was dead tired and cranking up the hills on my singlespeed had reduced my leg muscles to quivering balloons of lactic acid. So when I approached one tricky descent about 1/3 of the way into the lap, I let my concentration lapse and tumbled off the trail where my bike lay on top of me. I twisted my ankle pretty badly and thought to myself: oh this is great... I can't even walk back now. So I waited a few minutes, contemplated my options, sucked it up and kept riding.

This was definitely the strangest lap. I was half awake and the nighttime brought enough critters near the trail that I started to wonder if I was hallucinating them. I witnessed a snake, rabbit, countless beetles and I think I saw a bobcat. But eventually I made it back to the finish and collapsed into my tent for the night.

Saturday, June 09, 2007


I'm due for my first night lap in about 1 hour. It's 9:00pm or so, so that leaves me with a 10ish to 11ish lap, under the moon and stars. Being 8 or so miles from the ocean, it gets cold here damn fast once the sun is gone. The sun is gone and it's damn cold here.

So my 2nd lap was amazingly inspiring and amazingly frustrating. Birdsong's cousin offered me some Ginseng + B12 cocktail right before I hit the trails, and it really gave me an energy buzz to that got me all the way from the start to the top of Hurl Hill (aptly named) before I was really feeling tired. However, I was absolutely plagued with mechanicals from about the top of Hurl Hill all the way until I got back. My chain must have fallen off at least 10 times, always at the worst times as I was bombing down single track or down fire road. I was really frustrated by this as I was on target to make an absolute killer lap time, probably 1:03 or so. But it wasn't meant to be, as not only did I drop my chain a bunch, but I actually lost my rear brake about 4 miles from the end. Ugh...

Lap highlight was barreling down some single track and hearing my name called out. Turned out to be none other than Forrest Arakawa taking pictures of the riders. He made a point of screaming to the 3 people behind me that they were 'riding behind a legend, an absolute legend!'


Anyway, I'm in my tent now, well fed, hydrated, and hopefully prepared for a lap in the dark.

Here's a picture from earlier today. Possibly our competition, though who knows at this place.

And here's Bob + Birdsong, doing something that I am unsure of.

And We're Off

We are four laps into our race at Laguna Seca. As in Moab, I started the race by volunteering to complete the first lap. This is a somewhat thankless, unfun task. It involves starting the race by sprinting on foot several hundred yards to your bike. Then you get to get stuck behind clusters of riders who have.... ummmm, less than ideal bike handling skills.

But I have to say that it is great to be out here. The weather is gorgeous now that the morning California coastal fog has burned off. And we have a lot of Google-supplied goodies: a keg of Full Sail beer, snacks, energy drinks and bars.

Thus far, all the Earthlings have ridden single speed bikes. These rigs put us at a disadvantage on the downhill sections where we can't pedal. But they do force us to ride faster on the some of the hills where there is simply no other option but to crank away other than getting off your bike.

Stay tuned. And btw, that flask is not on our bikes, I swear.

Running Laps on Empty

So it's 1:53pm and we've completed 3 total laps, with Birdsong about half-way through his lap now. We arrived last night, setup camp, tapped the keg, and relaxed. Oh, and we pre-rode the course.

About the course: fast, picturesque, windy, frustrating, tame, fun. The headwind is tough...right in your face throughout all the climbs. But the single track is really sweet - swooping, fast, tight corners, everything you'd ask for in a trail. But then the course takes a turn for the worse, and the last 5 miles or so consists of a miserable fire road climb out.

My lap wasn't breaking any records, sadly. I think I pulled about 1:10 or so, while Cohen pulled 1:05 or so and Gardener pulled about 1:10 including the lemans start.

It is hot here - really really hot. And there are Skip Barber race cars riding the race track.

Some photos, for the visually unimpaired:

Here's me starting my lap - there's this bridge over the race car course you need to run across:

And here I am coming back down the stairs, finishing my lap:

And here I am about to deliver the baton to Cohen:

With hours to go before his first lap, Bob is understandably relaxed, hanging with his wife and talking smack about my lap time.

Cohen riding like its 1942:

No idea who this guy was:

John's a better man than all of us for volunteering to run the Lemans start:

Friday, June 08, 2007

Sea-shell Things (an ode to Youtube greatness)

Last night a group of us went night riding up in an undisclosed Marin country location. We left the parking lot around 9:00pm, and got back around 11:30pm. In the intervening several hours, boys evolved into men as we each grew individually and collectively, emotionally and existentially.

Two of us rode our single speeds. I love single speeds. They rules. I like single-speed things, like bikes with only one gear, and placemats and tablecloths with single speeds printed on them. I want to throw a single speed party and invite you.

Whose single speed is that? I ain’t never paying for no single speed ever again. Not once, not never.

I am Mr. single speed. If you need single speed things sorted, you come to me.

However, in spite of my amour for single speeds – their zen-like simplicity and almost meditative quality - I often times think that it would super cool if they made single speeds that, at the flick of a thumb-mounted switch, allowed one to swap out rear cogs from, say, 16 to 18 teeth. That would be super cool and would make me love single speeds even more.

Lighthouses rule.

Breath With Me

While riding hard, pushing yourself, having fun, and ‘getting at it’ are all important qualities to pursue whilst racing mountain bikes; equally if not more important is looking damn good whilst pursuing them.

Admittedly, this isn’t that much of a challenge for me. However, I have made some moves lately to assist with my already graceful on-trail style and grace.

The first of such moves was to replace my old CamelBak with a new one that matched my hazel eyes, appreciation of fall in New England, and that would provide me with the confidence needed to enter any room and/or trail looking my best.

As you can see, a dramatically significant change from what I used to use for hydration purposes. I’m not even certain my team-mates will recognize me.

In laying out my new CamelBak last evening, I had the pleasure of selecting which of the items that I would be riding with would go in which of the two pockets available to hold them. While to many this might seem an overwhelming and perhaps daunting process, with a degree of decisiveness not seen since Napoleon’s determined march on Russia despite the harsh climate, I quickly placed the items where they most naturally belonged, and where they were most likely to best define me as a person.

Here is what I decided upon (with a swiftness) :

Your feedback, my analytically pedantic readership, is most appreciated.


Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Race Course

This team being sponsored by Google Earth and all, I thought it was time for me to post a Google Earth (KML) file depicting the race course at Laguna Seca. So here it is. Note that this GPS track only shows an approximate depiction of the course.

The course has about 1600' of climbing and is a combination of fireroad and singletrack. Word is that it is suitable for single speeding, but the jury is still out about penny farthings.

Risotto for the Race

Last night, Shannon and I spent some time discussing how we will keep the Earthlings well nourished during this weekend's race at Laguna Seca. Shannon is one of our team's volunteers, a great cook, and my partner. She is very conscious about diet and the role it plays in mental and physical health. In fact, following her recommendations, during the past year, I have lost a lot of weight and gained plenty of muscle. This has mostly come about by avoiding wheat gluten (bread, etc.) and dairy.

So for this weekend, Shannon is planning on preparing a large risotto dish and having lots of fruits and quality high energy food for the racers. This will be addition to the keg of beer that my teammates have spent much time discussing. Personally, I can't imagine drinking any until after the race is over, but perhaps that is just me and my crazy ideas about... ohhhh dehydration and needing to concentrate.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Gearing Up

Or gearing down? That is the question. You see, there has been a debate on our team whether we should do this race on bicycles with many gears on one gear. One gear would undoubtedly be mas macho. But this is a loooooong race for each of us (+50 miles with +9000' of vertical climbing), so riding one gear might be a bit much for us.

I converted one of my bikes to single speed late last year and have really dug this ride since. Riding single speed is something like having a wrestling match with your bike, especially on the hills. It can take everything you have to get to the top and it works every part of you, including your upper body.

My friends who don't ride SS wonder how it could possibly be fun. It is just one of those experiences you have to have before you comprehend. Pain is just part of it all. It isn't fun because it is easy, but because it more often difficult. Which reminds me of my favorite quote about riding a bike:
Cycling is like church
Many attend, but few understand

Taking the metaphor a bit further, riding a single speed is like leaving church and enlisting in a monastery. Yeah kinda like that. Sorta.

Friday, June 01, 2007

1972 ABM Treaty

It is my unfortunate journalistic responsibility to inform you, my most loyal readership, that founding Google Earthlings team member Tasha has withdrawn as a member of our proud organization. Commencing immediately, she will bear not affiliation nor association to our team and/or the moniker under which we’ve collectively united - at least with regards to our forthcoming race.

I think there must be some kind of rock band analogy I could present to you in an abstract sense; something about a member of the band leaving for lame reasons and then seeing the band rise to greatness. I'm not clever enough to think of one, however.

You might wonder why such a drastic maneuver on her part? Why the sudden career suicide with respect to corporate athletic-sponsorship in the name of fun? Why one would purposefully withdraw from such a well recognized, well respected, and well organized group such as the Google Earthlings?

Email snippets to the team by Tasha dated May 17th, 2006 provides but only a small clue as to her true rationale:

so sorry to be lame, but I am exhausted from traveling…and I'm not bailing b/c of the fact, I already sold the tickets.

Apparently, 7 weeks prior to the race, Tasha feels that she is too tired to compete in the event and that 7 weeks time isn’t sufficient for her to catch up on sleep such that she would be physically capable of joining us for 4 or so 12 mile laps over the course of 24 hours.

I almost fear for her general well-being given her concern over not being able to rest up for the race. I just read that Lindsey Lohan withdrew from the cast of a forthcoming film due to ‘exhaustion’. I wonder if her and Tasha are similarly afflicted.

On a brighter, less betraying note, we’ve quickly made moves to spread the world throughout the industry and have recruited a new member to our proud team.

Please take a minute to welcome our newest team member: Bob Mohan. I’m sure Bob will take a minute soon to introduce himself to you, our most excitable readership. Bob is a stand-up guy who wears a size L jersey and rides a red Spot single speed.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Next Up: Laguna Seca

The Earthlings will race again at the 24 Hours of Laguna Seca on Saturday, June 9th. This is a different adventure for us in that it is practically in our backyard here in Northern California.

In the past moth or so, I have largely forsaken my mountain bike for the skinny tired road variety. The idea is that some quality time on the road bike will up my fitness for this event. None of this has won me any respect from my team mates, who call me unspeakable names for not joining them on more fun local trail rides. But what do they know... maybe I really am a weanie.

This is not to say that I have not done some great dirt rides of late. Check out these pictures from our recent ride on the Tahoe Rim Trail. Can you guess which one of us is shown wrecking in this picture?

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Moore Fun

Yes, that is the name of the trail: Moore Fun. Apparently, this is in reference to the person who helped forge this trail. On Saturday, Dave, Shannon and I embarked on this aptly named route.

I love riding very technical, slow trails. Getting your bike over and around rocks and obstacles is less about strength and endurance than it is about finesse, concentration and fear management. Sometime a lot of stupid luck helps too. Watching the best riders I know, I've learned body language (throwing your weight around on the bike) can make an impossible section of trail suddenly become rideable.

Or not. At one point on Moore Fun, I looked ahead to inspect the formidable rock pile ahead that was supposedly the trail. I looked up long enough to miss the small-but-big-enough-to-stop-my-front-wheel rock in front of me. So I went hurtling (or is "hurdling" a better description?) over my handlebars. Fortunately, I landed on a rare smooth, soft spot on this otherwise menacing trail and was left unscathed.

At that moment, I could have collided with some sharp rock, absorbed some intense pain and become fairly useless the rest of the ride. But, no, I laughed and kept on my oblivious way down the rest of trail. So it kept being Moore Fun and not Less. See what I mean about stupid luck?

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Monkey Wrench Gang’in

While it’s true that often times when filming and/or shooting photographs of yourself and friends riding seemingly steep and/or otherwise precipitous trails, the resulting media doesn’t seem to do the trail and/or riding skills demonstrated justice? Thankfully this action shot of myself in Fruita, CO during the Fat Tire Fest managed to eschew this typically unavoidable cinema graphic fraudulency, and conveys the sickness with which I hit this jump with not only a high degree of accuracy but with a still photographic astonishment that is in a word, prodigious.

In its purely unaltered form, you may see for yourself the staggering awesomeness that I refer to:

However, despite the grandeur of this photographic achievement, I do feel compelled to highlight several possibly non-obvious elements that can only provide clarify to the possible dissonance established by the brain’s skepticism at comprehending just how ill this jump really is.

Allow me to provide you with further details:

Note the distance between each of my two wheels, and further note the presence of an active rock slide not more than 20 feet behind me.

And as final annotative evidence, I would like to elaborate, if only ever so slightly, on the complete spatio-temporal trajectory undertaken by me as I “droped-in” to this somatically treacherous, naturally-formed half-pipe from hell:

You'll notice the severity of the initial drop-in with respect to the near immediate upwards slope that I have launched off of. Please don't hesitate to comment on the ridiculousness of this maneuver if you would like me to pontificate upon it any further.

And yes it is true, that is a single-speed steel Kelly you see me on. I will expound more on my new two-wheeled Pegasus later, once I’ve had time to collect my thoughts and calm myself.

Monday, April 30, 2007

Fried After Fruita

I will tell the tale of our trip to Fruita in reverse. After five mountain bike rides in three days, I decided to spend our last day away from the bike and enjoy the incredible terrain on foot. Shannon and I dropped into the Colorado National Monument on the Monument Canyon Trail.

This trek yielded some amazing scenery, as depicted in the photos here. We were rather fried after so many days in the sun and in the saddle, but the mind boggling scenery of this park made us forget about all that. Incredible natural beauty always melts away our myopic, self important views of the world.

Enormous red rock canyon walls surrounded us as we explored the life on the canyon floor (see green lizard) that inexplicably thrived in such an intense environment. It is always impressive to see how tenacious nature is in its ability to survive in crazy conditions. And to think that this poor lizard had neither Clif Bars or a Camelbak, let alone sunscreen.