RAGBRAI begins!!!

Yesterday was the most difficult day of RAGBRAI for me - packing.  On top of that, it turned into a shopping for a new bike for Zack day that was totally unexpected.  He was breaking something on just about every ride with the old Allez.  Chain, bottom bracket, rear wheeil, seat post, etc... .  Concerns about his safety were shared from his mother, and a conversation led to this...


A new Tarmac from Rassy's.  Thanks Sterling and Adam for fixing his old bike and helping us with the new one!!!!  He went out on the maiden voyage after we got it home and loved it.  Bars are too high, so I will swap out to a flat stem tonight at our host camping spot, then he's good to go.  Our friend Corey Wilson arrived from Wisconsin last night, and we got all of our bikes and gear loaded up on the team truck.

Now that yesterday is over, we leave in 2 hours to the starting town of Rock Valley.  That gives me enough time to double check that we have everything we need for the week.  Last year I forgot my sandals and had to wear my biking shoes all week.

RAGBRAI - commence!


RAGBRAI #42 2014 - Pack the GEAR, because it's HERE!!!

We leave for the 42nd version of RAGBRAI - or better known in our household as RAGBRAI 2014 - early Saturday morning, so I'm getting the gear ready today.  Just a couple of tweaks from last year for me.  Since Zack is riding this year as well, I have to make sure he's all set with his bike and gear.

We had a 2 man Eureka Tetragon 2 tent I purchased a few years ago for one of Alexa's soccer camps, so we were set on a tent for Zack.  I set it up with Zack the other day to make sure it's good to go and it was.  It's actually quite a nice quality tent that is more than roomy enough for him.  We tall guys tend to take any tent size with a grain of salt!  So a 2 man tent always means a 1 man tent for us.


It didn't have a drop cloth, and I know contrary to many opinions on the need of one or not, I picked one up for $4.99 yesterday at Scheels.  It is pre-cut at 5' x 7' and fits perfectly under the tent without any overhang that could catch water and get things wet underneath the tent.  I also got a couple of 40 degree Mountainsmith sleeping bags on sale (this model called the Rollins is made exclusively for Scheels and fits up to 6'4" campers which will cover me as well as Zack).


I have two events this year (RAGBRAI and the Dakota Five-0) that I wanted to have access to some gear up front on the bike without having to stop, get off the bike and dig through the saddle bag.  After reading some great reviews, I picked up a Planet Bike Lunch Box at Rassy's which is one of those gas tank/top tube bags that fits my needs perfectly...


It's got plenty of room to hold a spare tube, CO2, my external battery pack(s) for the iPhone, GU gels, a Cliff Bar, my wallet, sunscreen, washcloth, and a few "whatevers" that I usually carry with me in the seat pack on RAGBRAI.  So I'm ditching the saddle bag this year for RAGBRAI (Zack will use it), and keeping everything up front in the Lunch Box.

I don't need the heavy duty off road Rokform that attaches to the stem for RAGBRAI.  Instead, I will use the lighter rubber version that moves my phone off the top of the stem to the side and attaches to the bar.  I can run the external battery with a short cable to the phone to extend my battery life in the iPhone to 3X's the normal amount.  I can usually get about 4-5 hours on the iPhone running my cycling apps on one charge if I do it right.  Having the external battery in the Lunch Box will give me double or triple that amount to cover any long days that need covering and allow me to run some apps in the foreground on the display instead of in the background with the screen asleep.


Favorable reviews led me to pick up the Challenge Bianca Strada tires which I have really been enjoying on the Roubaix.  So I will be riding them as "touring tires" for RAGBRAI.


If I get up enough energy today or tomorrow, I do have some new Lizard Skins bar tape I might swap out as it has been over a year on the original bar tape which is getting a bit worn and non-white.  It's not a necessity to change it out, but I might do it.

Everything else will be the same as last year in terms of our gear which I defined pretty well in this post.   In addition, I look forward to this year's 42nd route and ride with full knowledge - just like I wrote about in my recap of last year's 41st version of RAGBRAI- that everyone's ride and experience on the event is unique as we all are able to make it what we want to make it.  No doubt this year will be entirely different for us as well.  The weather looks favorable in terms of temperatures staying in the 80's for highs, and we are really looking forward to riding this year.

Now, to pack...


IMBCS #3 Race Report - FORC Side Thrill Ride at Sunderbruch Park...

Sunday was the third race in our Iowa Mountain Bike Championship Series for 2014.  The venue was Sunderbruch Park in Davenport and the event name of Side Thrill Ride Race was more than aptly named and hosted by FORC with Michael Vittetoe serving as race director.  Kudos to Michael and the entire FORC crew for once again knocking it out of the park just like they did in the IMBCS #2 race a few weeks ago.  We are very fortunate to be racing on such nice trails in the series this year.  Racers were presented with plenty of technical challenges on the Sunderbruch course to keep them focused and battling the entire race loop.  Just as it should be!!!

The amount of rain hitting on Friday, and Saturday evening threatened not only the IMBCS weekend venue, but also the WORS and MMBS venues in their respective states.  Watching the chatter on Facebook one would believe that all racers in the upper Midwest were spending plenty of time eyeing the radar and wondering if racing would even happen.  The good news is racing did indeed take place in all 3 states at their respective venues.  Michael made the call on Saturday evening to delay the start of the race on Sunday by 2 hours to allow for enough drying time to improve the dirt for racing.  This allowed everyone to sleep in a little bit more and worked out well.  Turnout was down a little bit from IMBCS #2, but maybe that had to do with weather, the delayed starting times, the more challenging singletrack at Sunderbruch, the World Cup Final, family vacations, etc... - who knows?   

I drove over on Sunday morning and arrived at Sunderbruch Park around 11:45 in time to check in at registration, and head out for my warm-up.  The sun was blazing and temperatures had climbed up into the low 80's making for a bit of a muggy day, but it wasn't stifling humidity.  Tires and bikes on the CAT 3 racers didn't look too muddy, so I was optimistic things would be just fine for all the races.  Michael gathered the CAT 2 racers for a pre-race meeting to go over the number of laps, conditions, the start, the finish, and had us line up for our mass start.  I got up in about the third row in the grass right next to Andy Peterson.  By the time we finally got started, it was about 1:07.

The opening sprint was on a mixture of pavement and grass before we entered the singletrack.  I jumped off pretty well at the line, but Tony Branch went flying by me like I was standing still!!  It didn't take long for me to feel like my legs had cooled way down after my warm up and I couldn't "get it going".  As soon as we turned into the wet grass, my legs felt even more zapped.  Quite a few passed me before we got up to the singletrack entrance where things bunched up and we had to wait in line to enter the dirt.  I saw Landon Beachy in front of me and tucked in behind him.  To make a long story short, Landon and I went wire to wire the full race with me on his tail.  There was another guy that was in the mix who started behind me, then moved in front of both of us, then dropped back behind us.  Regardless, the 3 of us pretty much raced as a small pack for the full two laps.

I should just point out how fun, challenging, and sweet the singletrack is at Sunderbruch Park.  Creek crossings, roots, wooden berms, log overs, bridges, off camber, twisty turns, switchbacks, and enough to keep everyone on their toes - especially at race speed and with some greasy spots!!!  However, the key take away word for Sunderbruch trails is this:  FUN!  

Here's some nice video courtesy of Rob Cook....

Landon was on a hardtail and I noticed that some of the technical challenges were having him bounce around a bit, and slow up for things I wanted to blast over with my full suspension.  A couple of times, he slipped and an opportunity presented itself for me to pass, but I was being cautious in the tacky conditions, and wet roots.  So I was content to ride his tail and not risk an unsafe pass.  I was feeling pretty good in the 2nd lap and moved a little closer to Landon's rear wheel hoping an opening would present itself.  He bobbled and actually leaned over and fell to the left on a sidehill in some roots and I used the chance to pass and open up a gap.

At this point, we were in the final 1/2 of the last lap.  I passed another rider and saw one up ahead that I set out to catch.  I had just about reeled him in when I lost a little focus and leaned the wrong way going through some roots and tight trees.  I slowed way down and did one of those embarrassing Keystone Cops/Arte Johnson routines where I slowly fell over sideways.   My bike stayed on the trail, but I fell off the bike and rolled down the hill doing a couple of somersaults landing in a bunch of wild thorn bushes.  I scrambled back up the muddy hill, uprighted my bike and was passed by the one rider I had passed after Landon.  I followed him to the finish and was able to hold off Landon by about 18 seconds as I crossed the line in 2nd Place for my age class. 

IMBCS#3 50  Results

FORC had some nice unique trophies for this event.  Here's the one I received....

Unique Trophy from IMBCS #3

I swapped race stories with Landon, Tony Branch, Andy, and a few other riders.  I chatted with Katherine Roccasecca who had to pull the plug before her race even began due to a stomach ailment she was experiencing on Sunday morning.  Sorry about that Katherine!!!  I told Michael the course was great and how much fun we had getting beat up out there.  After that, I headed back to the car to get cleaned up.  There was a nice BBQ vendor in the parking lot, so after I cleaned up and changed clothes - I partook of a nice pulled pork sandwich before the awards ceremony. 

I drove back through a bit of rain around Iowa City and got home before 7 to have homemade pizza with the family.  Next up - getting everything ready this week for RAGBRAI!!!!


Back home in Iowa....

Random thoughts concerning our vacation to California...

• I'm going to have to hire a new travel agent!!!  My wife booked us on flights that had us drive to Omaha at 2:30 AM to catch our early morning flight to San Francisco, and on our return - we landed in Omaha at about 11:30 and hit the road at 12 Midnight to drive back to Indianola.   Needless to say - driving at those hours is stressful, but we made do and saved $400 because of it.

• US Airways rocked!  Nice leather seats that are plenty wide, great service and thumbs up from us for this trip.  Now that they are merged with American Airlines, time will tell how it all pans out.

• It's nice to be back home to fire up the Big Green Egg.  Tonight was grilled green tomatoes from our garden, grilled onions from our gardern, grilled Iowa chops, and grilled peaches for the Nachspeise.

• Mowing and trimming the yard is not my favorite chore.  Today reminded me of that as I had at the 10 days of growth with the Toro and Craftsman tools.

• We are deeming this vacation a full out success.  Lots of bike riding, good food, good visits with family, activities completed, and future thoughts of retirement location options confirmed.

Cruising by our old house in Walnut Creek...


What was that old rule about "knee high by the 4th of July"?  The corn on July 10th around here is pushing 7-8 feet tall already!!!


• As nice as the Trek Domane bike is....


....my Specialized Roubaix trumps it for me!  Not that the Domane is not a good bike, but there are things that bothered me about it - saddle, toe overlap, a bit cramped in the 62cm for me, stock 23mm tires (what's endurance about that?), a high rise stem to get the bars where they need to be, and handlebars that are too thin and not as comfy as the Specialized bars.

In short, it's nice to be back on the Roubaix...



Our California preparation riding for RAGBRAI is complete...

Tara and I rented two Trek Domane bikes from Encina Bikes for 5 days so we could do 5 days of consecutive Bay Area riding as our final preparation for the upcoming RAGBRAI.  More importantly, it was a nice vacation that she and I wanted to do together as we intermingled our riding with visiting family, and doing things with the kids.  Due to the rental arrangement, it was more cost effective to ride for 5 consecutive days and turn the bikes back in when we were done, so that's what we did.

We didn't get in quite as many "big mileage" days as we had intended to, but we got enough in to complete the endurance training effect - especially when you consider we did 3 days in a row of climbing the Pinehurst Road climb up into Oakland which is a heck of a climb that had me averaging 167 - 175 HR on the final 1 1/2 miles each day.  It's a gradual climb from Walnut Creek all the way up through Lafayette, Moraga and then onto Pinehurst Road with the final 4 miles being the icing on the cake through the redwoods, switchbacks, and glorious views one enjoys once they arrive up top on Skyline drive over looking San Francisco.

Tara snapped me on Skyline with San Fran and the bay in the background...


And of course, the descent was a blast to hit those switchbacks as fast as possible!!!!!  Riding around Rossmoor has some killer hills as well which tested our legs.  I wish we had hills like this in Iowa, but we don't so I'll have to fantasize about all the hillclimbs we got in out here on this trip.

The miles we did get in....

Wednesday = 46.1 miles
Thursday = 54 miles
Friday = 26 miles
Saturday = 31.2 miles
Sunday = 36 miles

Tara and I managed to squeeze in a nice dinner date on Saturday night at Il Fornaio...


A family of wild turkeys hang out in the back porch area of Joe's house.  So we've enjoyed feeding them some bread and goodies...


We turned the bikes back in Sunday night as we had other plans for Monday and Tuesday.  The weather has been absolutely gorgeous out here on this trip.  Even on the hottest days, it feels pretty cool thanks to the low humidity and breeze.  We've worn jackets and long sleeves most of the time.

Monday had has make a trip down to Santa Cruz where we toured Rachel's University of California Santa Cruz campus...


Alexa, Rachel, Tara, and Zack with Santa Cruz bay in the background.

Then we had wonderful sushi with fresh fish for lunch downtown in Santa Cruz.  After that, we headed to the Boardwalk for roller coaster rides, walking on the beach, dipping our feet in the ocean as the tide rolled in, and a little local IPA...



Enjoying Santa Cruz boardwalk...

Our visit and California vacation is winding down to a close.  Tonight, we have dinner at Chow's in Lafayette with Tara's sister and her family.  I did a long walk this morning and then lifted weights - so I'm plenty hungry!!!  Tomorrow we take Sara out for coffee/lunch.  Then we will clean Joe's house, and pack up for our journey home.

See you all back in Iowa...


Happy 4th!!!

Tara and I started the 4th off pretty well with a beautiful bike ride on Pinehurst Road through the redwoods out here in California that are between Orinda and Piedmont/Berkeley/Oakland.  BBQ is to follow this afternoon over at her sister's house in Walnut Creek at 3:30 Pacific Time.

Here's Tara in front of one of the redwoods on Pinehurst Road this morning...


We spent about 12 hours in San Francisco yesterday from hopping on BART in Lafayette into the city and back.  We took in a Giants vs. Cardinals day game and were blessed to have perfect weather of 70 degrees and sunshine...


Of course, it's not a Giants game without hitting up the Gilroy Garlic Fries...


What's a Giants game without a nice little walk up to Pier 23 Cafe for some fresh fish?


We hooked up with Tara's cousin, Heather, for dinner.  Waiting for our table outside of Pier 23 Cafe...


 Pier 23 Cafe was featured on Guy Fieri's Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives back in 2009.  It's a fun spot to grab a meal....


Heather took us over to North Beach to Cafe Greco for some espresso after dinner...


More to come later.  Have a happy 4th of July


WORS #5 Red Flint Firecracker Race Weekend Report...

I had the great pleasure of being able to make it up to Chippewa Valley this weekend to camp overnight on Saturday, and participate in the 5th race of the WORS season in Eau Claire, Wisconsin.  This was to be my 4th time attending the Firecracker event as I previously raced there in 2008, 2009, and 2012.  Back in 2008, it was my first ever WORS event and I was hooked on how well the WORS vibe radiates!!!

In terms of the driving time from Central Iowa, I think it is one of the closest races in the WORS series for me to get to on a weekend.  Previously, it was the Border Battle in River Falls, but that event is no longer on the WORS schedule.  In terms of the Eau Claire WORS event,  I really like the trail mix of singletrack and ski trail connector sections linking it all together of the Lowes Creek County Park.  Hence, I try to make the drive up to Eau Claire in years that I can.

I've missed out on 2 planned events in the Minnesota race series due to weather (Mankato was too muddy for me and I didn't even suit up), and last weekend's Red Wing race being cancelled by the local club due to an unfavorable forecast.  So I was itching to partcipate in a race outside of the Iowa, and Nebraska series races for this year.  The itch also included the end of week 12 of my structured training that has led me into race form for the season.  Missing Red Wing the previous weekend was difficult enough to bear being in peak form, so I was really hoping that the forecast and rain would allow me to race this weekend.

I packed the car Saturday morning with my camping gear, bike, food, and headed out the door at 12 noon with plans to arrive in time to get a pre-ride in before setting up camp.  Drive time was around 5 1/2 hours and it was raining with cloudbursts as I passed through the Twin Cities.  Once across the Mississippi River, skies cleared up and things looked dry and good all the way to Eau Claire.  There was a strong wind blowing out of the south that had the car shaking.  I pulled in around 5:30, got registered for the race and camping.  Then I suited up and headed out for a lap.  The course was dry and running well with a few tacky spots which all pointed to a great race for Sunday.  Following the pre-ride, I set up my tent (quite a challenge in the wind), changed clothes and decided to go over to Grizzly's for a little grub.

Who needs a menu when you walk into a restaurant and see a wood fired spit with rotisserie chicken on it!???!  I told the hostess who was taking me to my table that she could just keep the menu, I wanted one of these...


...well, 1/2 of one that is.  ;-)

As I was in the restaurant, the skies turned very dark and I pulled up the radar on my phone.  Wow!  A big storm was about to hit.  I didn't look forward to sitting in a tent for a major thunderstorm, so I decided to catch a movie I wasn't even aware of called Chef.   Going into the movie, it was raining hard enough to please Noah!  After the movie, which was really a charming movie to see, the rain had tapered off to the gentle variety.  I got back to my tent around Midnight and was pleased to find everything dry and fine inside the Kelty tent.

Sunday morning, we were greeted with sunny skies, and a nice breeze to help dry out the rain.  It seemed like a lot of rain had fallen during the night, but the soil soaked most of it up.  Enough so that the reports were a few greasy spots, and some mud puddles, but the entire course was still in play for the race.  Sweet!  I ate my breakfast, and watched the start of some of the kids and Citizens groups.  Then I suited up and did my warm-up.  My legs felt good and I was ready to go by the time I headed to the starting line.

There were about 35 lined up in my wave.  By the time the call ups for series leaders were done, and the rest of us rolled up into position, I was at the back of the bunch.

Same position at the start line as last time in 2012 when Tara snapped me smiling...

2012-06-24 11.38.45

Anyway, no biggie as there is a big roll out at this venue with plenty of time to go cross-eyed, endure the pain and move up in the pack before the first singletrack section.  On the word "Go!", that's what I did.  I was able to move from the back of pack to mid-pack rather quickly on the opening sprint, and I kept at it during this opening section sprint.  I guess from my account and looking ahead at the corner leading into the singletrack, I was near the top dozen to 15 going into the singletrack.  It's a critical move at this race, as are each and every connector section as the singletrack at Lowes County does not provide ample opportunity for passing.

Catching up to groups of slower riders from previous start groups happens throughout the entire race due to the sheer number of racers that participate at a WORS event.  The good news is that everyone you are competing with in your age class has to deal with this, so sometimes the "luck" of how many you are able to pass or not pass in the connector sections can make or break your race.  Two years ago, I didn't have the legs to hammer in the connector sections like I needed to, but I did back in 2009.  I found myself hammering pretty well on Sunday.  I tried to take advantage on every connector section to pass a rider or two or more - depending on the length of the section and how many were in front of me.  Thinking back on it all, maybe I could have turned myself inside out a few more times than I did knowing how much recovery I was able to garner in the singletrack with the traffic.  

The singletrack traffic was as I expected, heavy and at times slow enough to barely even be in Zone 2.  Some of it was related to technical challenges for riders, and some was due to riders in slower racing condition.  No worries, as I said - it was a challenge for all.  I settled in behind a couple of riders in my age category about 3/4ths of the way through lap 1.  At first I thought they might be podium material and was hanging with them, but then realized they were not as fast.  I passed them on the connector section as we completed lap 1 and headed out for lap 2.  I hammered all the way through the pavement section and passed quite a few heading to the start of the singletrack.  Then I got stuck behind a train of about 8 or 9 riders in front of me until we got to the next connector section where I hammered again to move forward.

Lap 2 was all about hammering and passing slower riders on the connector sections.  It was fun blasting through some of the mud puddles that were left over from the previous night's rain, and we all had squeaking breaks and creaks from the water and mud.  One mud puddle was so deep, 1/2 of my wheel actually was submerged and I nearly did an endo when I hit it!

Grinding out one of the rocked climbs...


Photo Courtesy of Extreme Photography Unlimited (WORS official photographer and sponsor)

I felt good throughout the entire race, but knew precious seconds were being lost every time I found myself behind slower traffic.  I had to dismount 3 times due to riders in front of me walking sections rather than riding.  Those are precious seconds.  As I mentioned, it's sort of the "luck of the draw" who you are behind and when you come up to the technical sections.  In spite of that, I kept taking advantage of every connector section and possibility to pass in the singletrack when I could.  Coming out of the forest, I outsprinted a younger age class racer to the line and rolled across in 5th Place for my age group with a time of 1:14:25.  In fact, the top six riders in my age class all rolled across the line within a span of 59 seconds.  I missed the podium by 16 seconds.  That's pretty close competition to all be bunched up within "striking distance" and is why I wanted to test out my season form at Red Wing last weekend and Eau Claire this weekend.  We don't have as many CAT 2 racers in my age class in Iowa or Nebraska, so it's nice to toe the line with those in Wisconsin and Minnesota for that reason alone.


My time and placing pretty much matches what I did there back in 2009 (in the 45-49 year old age group) when I was also in peak form, so I was pleased.  It was my highest placing at this event - both in age class and in overall.  It's always a great venue and hats off to WORS and the local club that hosts it - CORBA!!!!  This was their 10th Anniversary of the event and as usual - it was GREAT!!!!

I headed over to the bike wash area and sprayed off my bike, legs, and shoes.  Then I packed up the tent and bike to make the drive back to Iowa after a stop for a burrito at Chipotle.  Yum! 

I was a little tired from a shortened night of sleep in the tent due to the rain.  Post race fatigue, and the warm air all added to being tired at the wheel (maybe the food coma from the HUGE burrito as well).  I stopped at rest stops to walk around and use the facilities to stay awake, and got some coffee along the way.  I hit a big storm going through northern Iowa.  Things turned pretty ugly and black with heavy rain, hail, wind.  Suddenly my phone and radio were both beeping a tornado warning and to seek shelter immediately!!!  There were hundreds of cars pulled over under bridges with lights flashing as they were taking immediate shelter.  There was no room for me to get out of the hail (dime size) and no exit in sight, so I tracked in behind another car and drove through it all about 50 mph to get out of the stinking hail.  Two tornadoes were spotted just west of the Interstate a few miles where I was in Webster County (6 tornadoes total in Iowa were spotted).

I rolled on home getting there after dinner, and caught up with the family on everything we all did for the weekend. 

More severe storms are due here today!!!  Oh well, tis the season...