With full dryness setting in last week, the taco ride was on in full force. Nearly 20 of us rolled out from the shop at 6. I had run 1 loop of Denmans before meeting up with everyone so as to get a little extra action in. After that, we rolled a nice brisk pace through Denmans before stopping for trail beer courtesy of Jacob. Thanks dude!
We finished up with various laps of Hillside and Rollercoaster. My massive power afforded me my first broken chain experience on Hillside. With Squirrel hot on my tail (and barely working), I was powering my way through when the chain starting making some not so friendly grinding and popping noises. Squirrel wisely advised I back off and sure enough, on the next little grunt, the chain popped. All was good as I had tools and a quick link with me. Funny enough, it was just the quick link that broke. I figured it must have just been a bad one, replaced it in about 10 seconds, and hopped right back on the main group like nothing had happened. The chain still made a few grunts and groans the rest of the night, but nothing like before, so I didn't think much of it.
Thursday night we took in our first Cubs game of the year and the first ever for C. She had a blast and did remarkably well throughout the game and watched a good portion of it. She even got to meet Cubby Bear. We stuck around for the free fireworks and I was a bit surprised that she didn't enjoy it quite as much as I thought she would. All in all, a great night with the family.
With Friday off, I opted out of doing the coffee ride and took off with Squirrel to get my first full laps of Boone under my belt. The 24 hour race is looming and having never ridden a full lap there, I thought it might be wise to get a preview while I could. The original plan was for 6ish laps, but we shortened it to 3 with weather looking to move in. The first lap was filled with various grunts and oh shits as I got to know the varying undulations of the trail and what gears to not be in. My chain started making a little noise and skipped a time or two on this lap, but nothing too terribly. We stopped after the first lap to do some more inspection thinking I'd missed something when checking out the chain and cassette after Wednesday's mishap. Still nothing jumping out at us, we headed off for lap 2.
Squirrel cranked up his pace a bit and I followed suit though not nearly as fast. I managed along a lot better on round 2 with only a few dabs here and there and 1 or 2 dismounts/falls to go along with. Almost done on the upper trail getting ready to hit the descent I hit one of those downhills that runs up to a small ascent you can really hammer up. Sure enough, I hammered it and my bike hammered me back. The chain popped from the middle ring to the little and in the process I pulled something in my left knee and slammed that quad into the underside of my shifters. Youch! I had a perfect bullseye the shape of the screw clamping my shifters onto the bar tattooed on my leg now. The chain was still good, so I limped my way back down the trail to the truck. Once at the truck a bit further investigation had the problem jumping out at me. The middle chain ring (where I spend most of my time) was looking pretty well worn. When hitting the climbs, I'd shift to the bigger cogs in my cassette and put strain on the middle ring. Enough strain or enough chain line difference and the chain would be pulled off the middle ring into the small ring. Nothing I could do in the field, but I was determined to finish out my laps.
I headed off with my new knowledge for lap 3. I knew the middle ring was now dangerous for most area of the course as I wouldn't have time to downshift to the little ring and upshift in back to maintain the needed momentum for the quick up and downs. I dropped it to my baby ring up front and listened to the grind on the front derailleur as much as I could stand and would alternately slow down and downshift or temporarily put my faith in the middle ring when it became too unbearable. I made the lap about 2 minutes slower than previous laps, but without any chain slippage or further injury which I considered a success. I felt decent about my 3 laps up there averaging in the 49 minute range for a first time through. I've definitely got a lot of time left in the bank with a higher effort and more comfort on the course so things are looking good. The IMBCS race should be a good gauge of my timing as well.
The 4th was pretty low key with the rain and cool temps not being too conducive to a lot of outside activities. I got up early on Sunday and thought I'd spin my legs out a bit with a nice run down to Martensdale and back. Somewhere I got it in my head instead to put in a personal TT effort to see what kind of time I could turn for the down and back. After all the climbing and knee strain from Friday, my legs felt like total junk at the start of the ride even after having ridden almost 20 minutes to the start of the trail. I got the pace cranked up though and headed off for Martensdale. I made pretty decent time down there and almost bonked once I got there. I was quickly running out of energy so a gel and a quick sit under the shelter canopy was in order before blasting back. I felt a bit better on the ride back once I got my legs under me again. Downloading the info showed a pretty big surprise that my out and back times were within seconds of each other. I averaged 20.5 mph for the out and back so I was pretty happy about doing that for 33 miles on my own.
During lunch on Monday I decided to have some fun and did a little recon of the south end of the Sycamore Trail. All looked good a rideable from my vantage point on foot. The bugs would carry you off if you stopped for more than a second though. The wildlife was out in full form as well. I snapped a picture of this guy and thought better of snapping the 2nd one as he coiled up into a strike position.
Monday night I headed out with the Bike World gang in the form of Tom, Courtney, and Joe. They had been riding the Neil Smith most of the year and were getting pretty tired of the nasty surface and various hazards found along the way. The option was to run the TNWC route, so away we went. I proclaimed I was mostly there for a recovery ride, but knew that was only half true in my head. I have a hard time staying off the front and pushing pace when the opportunity presents itself, so I took my share of pulls, but I did manage to set in for a bit as well. I was watching my heart rate pretty close and it was fun to watch my heart rate go from 173 BPM (middle of Z4) where I'd end my pulls and drop 30+ BPM as I'd jump back in line. We ended up right at 40 miles since we didn't hit the Slater loop, but overall a great ride.