Monday, May 5, 2014

Cranky Monkey 2014

This past weekend the majority of the team took part in the 9 Hours of Cranky Monkey race at Rocky Gap State Park, located just East of Cumberland, MD.  JR got down to the park early and started setting up the team site on a little knoll out behind the bathhouse. This is a break from our usual camping area, but because we had Nathan Clair camping with us, we thought it would be in everyone's best interest if we set up camp away from the usual ruckus that is the Pittsburgh Mountainbike Community. Mind you, they always provide a ton of laughs and stories to tell around future campfires, but we were going to be a little more laid back this year, but still planned to have a lot of fun!

Since Amber had to work and Stephanie Lamb had taken the day off from work as well, Nikki and I carpooled down to the event after work. We rolled out of Pittsburgh and were headed south for an unknown adventure. The shenanigans started unexpectedly as we stopped to grab our last minute provisions in Lavale, MD. As we pulled into the parking lot Nikki noticed Shawns car in the parking lot, so we decided to "steal" his bike and watch what would happen.  Just minutes after completing the heist, Cara walked out of the store, went to the car, grabbed her purse and walked back in. She looked like she noticed something was wrong but really didn't know what it was.  So while Nikki and I laughed hysterically, we had to stay in hiding while we waited for the rest of the crew to come out and hopefully notice the missing bike.  A few minutes later, we weren't disappointed.  Almost immediately Shawn noticed his bike was missing and for the first time that I can remember, cursed out loud. We burst from our hiding spot and yelled "surprise". I don't know if the look on his face was one of relief or anger, but it was priceless.
Shenanigans started even before we got to Camp!

Smores Gernert style (toasted marshmallows on chocolate chip cookies)

A blined Stephanie  and Shawn Hilty

Campfire with JR, Cassie, and Shawn

Nathan snuggling with a foot stool(?!?) and Nikki Bee with a smile to start the weekend, even though she was freezing

Saturday morning was on the chilly side as we started our race day preparation. I got a fire going in the firepit as I hoped to make pancakes over it. I modified a grill rack with aluminum foil to cook my pancakes on, but after 10 minutes of sitting over the flames and still not being cooked enough to flip, former Pathfinder of WV mechanic offered up his skillet to use. I got another fire going in the grill and went down to the registration desk to sign in while the charcoal was getting ready. When I got back to the campsite,I started making pancakes for anyone who wanted one, because I knew I had plenty to go around. The second or third pancake turned out with a hidden surprise baked into it.  Sitting on the plate in front of me was a smiling monkey's face. This was surely a sign of great times ahead of us!
9 Hours of Smiling Monkey!

Nikki and I were signed up to race in the Co-Ed Duo class, against JR and Stephanie, Shawn and Cara, and Nate and Angelina (TOP Gear).  Since Nikki had only ridden a MTB 1 other time, I tried to reassure her that I had no expectations, other to spend the day with a smile on our faces. I was going to take the first lap which included a LeMans style running start, but while thinking about the race as I was supposed to be sleeping, I realized it kind of  made more sense to let her start. While not the strongest mountain biker, I knew I was stronger than alot of other people doing the race and that those teams that were in close proximity to me when I finished my lap, would likely be trying to pass Nikki early on in the areas of singletrack she'd be seeing for the first time during her first lap.  By doing the first lap and taking a slow start, she could essentially ride the first lap without feeling the pressure of riders trying to force their way past her in tight areas. And with the exception of a few of the fast 3 hour racers who started 20 minutes after our field, she was able to ride her own lap.
Deep in thought before the LeMans style start.  I missed getting her picture while she had her head down and appeared to be praying .
Moments later she was back to focusing on the point of our weekend... and was all smiles.

Nikki did her lap and I went out to do 2 to give her a little break. Just under the 3 hour mark, Nikki started her lap and I went back and put a new kit on, clean up the bike, and get a little food in my belly. I went to the free bike wash service and asked what their procedure was and was instructed to just hang my bike on one of the stands and they would get to it in turn. I was free to go do what I needed to do and they would move my clean bike to a stand on the other side of the cleaning station. Good deal and I did as I was instructed.  I dropped my bike off and headed up to the team area to find clean dry clothes.  After 16 miles of mud and dirt, I had forgotten how good clean dry Swiftwicks feel. It was honestly like someone flipped a switch and I went from tired to happy. So... Thanks to Swiftwick for again being a sponsor. I. LOVE. YOU. For REAL!

I went back to pick up my "clean" bike and was a bit surprised at how dirty it really was. Sure, the heavy crud was gone, but I could have cleaned my bike with just a garden hose just as well, and I wouldn't have had to waste all the cleaner that they did.  I wish I would have taken a picture, but there was still all kinds of gunk in my drivetrain and as I pedaled up the hill to the team site, I knew I still had some work to do to prep my bike before heading out for my second laps. I literally spent 30 seconds with ProGold's foaming degreaser and let it set for a bout 5 minutes, then went back and rinsed the chain and derailleurs with less than a water bottle's contents.  I took a dry shop towel and dried the chain and it was like I had a whole new drive train.  A little Extreme Lube and I was ready to rock my second set of doubles.  If you haven't ever used ProGold lubricants and cleaning products, you owe yourself the simple pleasure of trying it. I bet you a cold beer that you will be impressed, they really are that good.

When Nikki finished her second lap, and she told me she was done. We were sitting in 6th place and out of a podium spot, AND since this weekend was about having a smile on our faces, I was OK with that. I went out and rode two more laps and as I finishing up my segment, I saw Gina running down the hill from the team area towards me. She told me she had talked Nikki into going out for one more lap and to wait at the exchange area and Nikki would be over momentarily. I finished my lap and decided to ride back to the team area to see what was up with Nikki. We met half way and I asked her if she was sure she wanted to go back out... I was fine with her being done and was probably close to being done myself.  The most I'd ever done was 4 laps and I was more than wiped out from that and I had already matched my 4 laps PR.  The rocky nature of the course really takes it out of you and I was feeling the effects of the estimated 1.2 million "baby heads" I'd already hit out there. I told her to not do it if she wasn't going to have fun, because that's what the whole weekend was all about. Nothing more.  She confessed that she was going back out because she didn't want to be hear it from the rest of the team.  So with a little apprehension she went our and did a 3rd lap of the Cranky Monkey.

With that, I headed over to the bike wash station, and following the instructions I was given earlier in the day hung my bike up and started to leave. The guy washing the bikes snapped at me that I had just passed all those kids who were waiting in line to have their bikes washed.  I explained that I was in no hurry and that I was only doing what he told me to do 3 hours ago but he still got pissy with me.  I then told him to forget it, I'd just go wash my bike with stuff that worked and he could keep his crap for himself and waste all the water he wanted. "no matter how hard you try, you're crap will never come close to comparing to ProGold's cleaning products anyways".  Ok, so I might have used a different 4 letter word in my actual conversation to describe their product, but I hope you get the picture. Its bad enough that their product is inferior, but when an employee of the company is rude... well I have no problem saying publically: that neon green stuff is a Wicked Waste.

So back at the team area, I hit the drive train with a quick shot of  blastoff degreaser to dislodge the heavy stuff, then a healthy dose of foaming degreaser, and then washed it off with another bottle of water. Yeah, ProGold might coast a little more than some other products, but since you don't have to use as much, it really ends up saving you money in the long run. Again, I dried the drive train and and finished the process with some more ProGold Extreme Lube, and the bike was running like new.

Across the lake I spotted the familiar blue and white kit through the trees and started trying to figure out who it was... Yep it was Nikki finishing her lap, so I grabbed my gear and headed for the exchange area. We were back in 6th place, so I thought I'd give it one more lap and call it a day. About a mile and a half into lap 5, as my Kenda Karma tire crushed yet another rock and made another ear splitting sound that I swore should have resulted in a blowout, it dawned on me that I didn't have my tools with me. Since Nikki is a MTB newbie, she doesn't have all the little tools you should carry with her, so I decided to just put mine in a ziploc baggie and share.  It worked good until my last time out when I failed to remember to get them from her. So naturally, this would be the lap that the rocks would wreak havoc on my tires, since I had nothing to reinflate them with. Since I was tired and feeling the effects of the day of racing, I had lost a certain amount of sharpness and skill as I continued to hit bad rock after bad rock. Each time I expected to hear that unexpected sound of air bursting free from your tube (yeah.. I still haven't gone tubeless).  But as I finished my 5th lap (flat free) I was relieved to see the team area and know that my tools were close by. (Thank God Kenda makes such reliable tires. Its the 3rd year in a row that I have ridden the exact same set of Karmas and have yet to have a tire related mishap)  I veered off course to pick up my tools because while I was out there, I had moved us back into 5th place and back onto the podium. I was OK if Shawn and Cara caught me and beat us, but I'd be damned if I was going to give them a step on the podium because I decided to quit. And since Nikki had stepped up and did one when she thought she was done, I drew from her inspiration and was going to attempt to the same thing.

Photo credits: Loretta Kessler and Breakaway Velo
Back into the woods for my sixth and final time. Shawn and Cara were running their laps a little differently and I knew that Shawn would be chasing me on my final lap. He's a much better mountainbiker than I am, so the whole lap I was looking over my shoulder expecting to see him ready to attack me. My only hope was that I was going to be able to go deeper into the pain cave than he was. I knew from past rides that when he started to fade he tended to fade really fast.  I was fading as well, but because I had kept up a steady supply of easily digested fuel, I wasn't crashing just yet. Thanks to Honey Stinger Smoothie flavored Fruit Chews. I ate a pack every time I hit the paved road after the 3 mile aid station. It was just in time for to give me the energy I would need for the long climb up out of the campground. I don't know what Shawn was eating, but for me, the Honey Stinger products were just what I needed for almost 50 miles of mountain biking.  When I finally got to the top of the climb for the last time and I still couldn't see Shawn behind me, I started to believe. If I could get down the big rocky descent ahead of Shawn, I thought I might be OK. But because I hate that stretch so much, I knew that this would be where I would ultimately get caught. Its the difference between being a roadie(me) and a mountain biker(Shawn).  I did my best to just let the bike roll down hill, but inevitably I'd be on the brakes trying to keep from destroying myself. As I hit the bottom and passed the aid station at mile marker 6, I started to stoke the fire. I was digging deep and giving that 5th place podium spot everything I had. And when I exited the woods for the last time, I could hear my teammates on the knoll cheering me on. I looked over my shoulder one more time and knew that I good to go. Even if the wheels fell completely off at that point, I was close enough to the finish to run the bike in and not let Shawn pass me.

8 hours  and 45 minutes after starting our adventure, Nikki and I were done with 9 Hours of Cranky Monkey.  I was cold and dirty, but most of all I was exhausted and aching. I headed back to the knoll and wanted nothing more than to put on clean dry WARM clothes. It turns out that Shawn had called it quits prior to going out for his last lap.  At first I was disappointed that I had pushed myself so hard trying to stay in front of him even though he had opted to not go back out. But then reality set in and I was proud that I was able to dig so deep and test my true mettle.  I would have been happy for Shawn and Cara if they had podiumed at our expense, but I was proud of Nikki for stepping up and pushing her limits beyond anyone's wildest imagination and proud of myself for being able to go where I had never gone before.  We had drawn inspiration from each other and at the end of the day, stood on the final spot of the podium with a smile on our face.
2014 9 Hours of Cranky Monkey Co-Ed Duo Podium

2014 9 Hours of Cranky Monkey 3 Man Podium
JR and Stephanie finished in second place of the Co-Ed Duo class, with Nathan and Angelina in third.  Nikki and I were 5th and Shawn and Cara just missed out on the podium as they finished the event in 6th place.  Derek Clark and Chris Jones teamed up with CER's Travis Olson to win the 3 person team category.  I want to thank JR & Gina, Shawn & Cassie, Cara & Pat, Stephanie, Derek, Chris, and Sean Hilty for the all the cheering, heckling, helping and basically making the weekend great.  I also want to thank some of our wonderful sponsors like Kenda, Pathfinder of WV, Honey Stinger, and ProGold, who without their support and products could not have happened.  And lastly, I want to to thank Nikki Bee for agreeing to team up with me on this adventure and for pushing me ride further than I ever have on a mountain bike before.
Anyone up for splitting a Growler from Morgantown Brewing to christen these glasses properly?
 I am so thankful that I decided to stick it out with DPT for one more year!  This is shaping up to be the season of a lifetime for me!