9/12/14

Biblical rains...

Noah loaded the ark this week to prepare for a massive rain that caused flooding in our area.  Even one of the dorms at Simpson flooded in the basement and made the news as a result.

Summerset State Park got hit pretty hard after the Middle River went over the banks and matched the flood level of 2008 (that closed the park for a long time).  Part of the park is closed again and the wait for the water to evaporate will take quite some time.  My guess is weeks to months based on how long it took in 2008.  2011 as well was a flood, but not quite as severe as this week was. 

IMBCS had a race scheduled for September 20th at Summerset, but that's not going to happen due to this...

BannerBridges

LikeABridge...

Bob's new bridge submerged

Photos courtesy of Bob Matthews

We are shooting for a reschedule later in October, but who knows.  There was to be a race in Iowa City at Sugar Bottom this Sunday as well.  And that was already a reschedule from prior rain in August.  They got 4 1/2" this week, and seemed to fare pretty well from that, but it is raining about 1/4" today.  The race director informed me the determination will be made on whether or not tomorrow's sunshine and wind can dry it enough in time for Sunday's race based on how much actually falls today. 

I never did hear the full amount of rain for the week here in our area, but I know it was in the 4.75" - 6" range.  Our basement has flooded in the past with any 4" rain during a wet year, but not this year which was the first test of it as last year was a drought.  Both sump pumps have been serious champs and we are as dry as a bone!  Hip, hip, hooray for a wise investment in our new basement system that has kept us dry now for several years.

It's Friday.  If and when the sun peeks out this afternoon, I'm pulling the road bike out and searching for some dry pavement to start the weekend.  What we could use is a few weeks of dry weather and some wind to help dry things out and get fall going.

9/3/14

Dakota Five-0 Race Report...

How to "Put the Labor back into your Labor Day weekend."


There is nothing like getting a chance to go home to the Black Hills and breathe the fresh Dakota air, see the bright blue skies, enjoy the mountains, visit family, and of course - throw it down in the annual Dakota Five-0 mountain bike race that begins and ends in Spearfish!

This was my third time to drive out and do this race since moving to Iowa.  My previous participation in the Dakota Five-0 was in the 2005 (the 5th Annual), and 2012 (the 12th Annual) versions.  2014 was the 14th Annual version of the event.  I was looking forward to getting back out to the Black Hills, and combining this with a visit with Dad.  It all seemed to be a nice way to round out the summer.  I spent a portion of my childhood growing up in Rapid City.  We moved away from Rapid following my freshman year in high school, and headed to Williston, ND.  My Dad lives in Rapid City - as does my sister Becky and my nephew Cody.  It's always great to get out there for a visit and marvel at the beauty of the Hills.

I drove across the Wide Missouri and the West River where I fought strong crosswinds through the entire prairie to arrive in Spearfish on Friday night in time to set up my tent at the campsite in the Spearfish City Park.  Low and behold, I ran into fellow South Dakotan Evie and her husband Tim Racette who had driven out from Wisconsin for the race.  Evie told me to set up the tent in their "neighborhood".  So I did...

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I thought about setting up right next to the creek...

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...but the ground wasn't flat enough for my liking.  And for anyone who has memories back to what happened in 1972 in the Black Hills - setting up a tent right next to any kind of running water is a difficult thing to do.  Anyway, by the time I got set up and unpacked, it was dark.  I headed out to get some food, and some grocery supplies for the cooler.  Temperatures dropped to the low 50's, and I managed to sleep more than 8 hours which I sorely needed after the long 11 hour drive.

Saturday was a beautiful day with blue sky, and temperatures in the mid-80's that afforded all of us spectacular views of the Black Hills.  I took a warm-up spin that included the first 20 mintues of the singletrack, and the opening gravel section which served as a nice reminder of reality for Sunday's opening few miles.  I checked in and picked up my race packet at 12 noon before heading down to Rapid City to visit with Dad.  We had dinner together at Ruby Tuesdays and watched a thunderstorm move through and dump a nice bit of rain on Rapid City.

After that had passed, I returned to the campsite where I set about getting the bike all ready, and packing my nutrition (GU gels, Perpetuem drink mix, and Endurolytes) in the gas tank bag on my RIP 9.

The bike as I ran it on Sunday with the gas tank bag (GU, Perpetuem packs, Endurolytes, external battery for the iPhone), and the saddle bag (spare tire, C02, tire lever, multi-tool)...

RIP9PostDakota50

The forecast for race day was for a high of 62, cloudy with rain - so I had picked up some knee warmers at a bike shop in Rapid to keep my legs warm.  No surprise that even the size small leg warmers barely stayed up on my skinny legs.  Such is life as a tall, lanky ectomorph.  Two years ago, temperatures were around 90 which is more to my liking (blue skies, sunshine, and beautiful Black Hills singletrack).

But it was what it was...and I would need the knee warmers (and my arm warmers) to keep warm for the race.

I woke up early on Sunday morning, ate my cereal, rode my bike downtown for a coffee, then came back to get suited up.  I got everything ready on the bike for a day of fun.  I headed over to the starting line which featured four starting waves that were labeled thusly...

Wave One - The Pros (expected finishing time of under 4 1/2 hours)
Wave Two - The Joes (expected finishing time of 4-5 hours)
Wave Three - The Bros (expected finishing time of 5-6 hours)
Wave Four - The ______ (expected finishing time of over 6 hours)

I had signed up for Wave Three as my time in 2012 was 5:48:48.  Back in 2005, I lumbered through the event with a time of 6:44:41 which included my legs cramping, a torn sidewall that I had trouble booting and nursing through the final 20 miles, and took sheer determination just to finish.  This year,  I had a goal of trimming time off of my 2012 finish.  I had the goal of trimming off nearly 30 minutes - which I arbitrarily chose for the sake of choosing some random number I guess.  Realistically, I just wanted to best my 2012 time as the only goal - whatever that would be.

The Pros took off at 7 AM.  The Joes headed out at 7:10 AM.  And it appeared nobody wanted to line up in the front row of the The Bros, so Andre Rethman and I took a spot on the front row where we managed to get a fist bump with Smokey the Bear.  We rolled out for the neutral start behind the ATV at 7:20 AM.  I wasn't too keen on sucking in all of the exhaust fumes from the ATV, so after a few blocks of riding directly behind the ATV, I moved over to the side and drifted back for some fresh air.  I was watching the HR and figured I didn't need to be pushing an average XC race pace on the opening gravel climb, so I kept it at tempo.  Ron Cooney passed me as did quite a few others on the gravel climb.  Nearing the singletrack with about a half mile of gravel to go, I moved it up to Zone 5 for the final gravel section to get in front of as many as possible before heading into the singletrack. 

The first hour was a pretty quick tempo.  It was, for me, more akin to the XC race variety I am used to than what I considered a 50 miler endurance race pace would allow me to maintain.  I knew I couldn't push Zone 4 and 5 for 5+ hours, so after Aid Station #1 at the 10 mile point, I settled into a pace I knew I could manage for the duration. 

Heather Wince was doing bottle hand ups for a couple of riders (Lee Bueller and I think Evie Racette), and providing moral support for the Iowa contingent.  She snapped a photo of me as I rode through one of the Aid Stations in one of my many moments of pain.... ;-]

DakotaFive-0

Photo Courtesy of Heather Wince

I pulled over and downed a GU gel, and ate a handful of Endurolytes right after the aid station.  I motored on to the 2nd Aid Station and spent a nice chunk of time riding with Jerry Hoff who caught up to me and passed me.  He was riding really well.  I wished I could have hung on to that pace for the remainder of the race, but something just wasn't clicking with me.  So I had to let Jerry ride away as I settled into what I could manage at the time.  I passed Ron Cooney who had pulled over on the side of the trail with bad cramps.  I arrived at mile 22 for the 2nd Aid Station, got off the bike to make a 2nd bottle of Perpetuem for the next 3 hours, and fill the Camelbak with water.  I knew I could do that in under 3 minutes, but it was starting to rain and I was having trouble getting the Perpetuem packages opened, so one of the volunteers helped me out with his knife.  Drink mix made, Camelbak full - I was off to tackle the next section.

This next section was probably the only time I questioned my tire choice as the rain on the rocks was making them a bit dicey as we headed through the most technical section of the ride.  Somebody went down really hard in front of me on the rocks which gave me pause to slow up and take my time skidding over the rocks.  I followed a guy who claimed if we pushed it, we were still capable of turning in a 5 hour finish time.  Maybe for him, I thought - but not for me as I wasn't able to turn myself inside out at that point after being on the bike for nearly 3 hours.  The long stem flipped -15 on my RIP had been actually really great during the first 20 miles of climbing, but now I was descended so much that I was wishing for a dropper post as the reach was a bit of a pain in the neck as I hammered down these long descents that went on forever.   In spite of a bit of neck discomfort hammering down the descents, I managed just fine letting the RIP eat up the bumps.  It was much more forgiving than my JET would have been on these trails. 

My BB7 brakes with the 160mm rotor up front and 140mm rotor in the rear was more than enough for me - even in the rain - out here in the Hills.  One of the myths that surrounds these brakes on message forums include comments along the lines that they are something that one has to dismount and adjust the brakes every so often in mid-ride.  Not so for me.  Here I was screaming the descents, in the rain - and my brakes were just as strong and good at the end of the day as they were the month leading up to the event.  No tinkering.  No adjusting.  They just worked as usual like they have since I got them in 2002.  And here I was riding in the mountains.

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Photo Courtesy of Johnathan Karol

 Aid Station #3 came rather quickly thanks to the long descent.  I pulled in and immediately one of the volunteers topped off the water in my bottle with the Perpetuem mix.  I headed out to tackle the grinding granny gear steep climbs from there.  It's just about uphill all the way to the Bacon Station.  I was amazed by a guy we all kept calling the mountain goat who was scaling climbs the rest of us were walking.  He tended to not be too fast going down the hill where the group I was riding with would catch him, and then he would climb away from us the next set of climbs.  Once we finally finished the hike-a-bike sections and rolled into the Bacon Station - I said "What the heck, why not?"  I had never pulled over at the Bacon Station in my previous two Dakota Five-0's, so I decided to try it out this time.  I was handed up a beer, and 2 nice slices of bacon.  Yum!  According to my iPhone with the Wahoo Fitness App running, I spent a little over 4 minutes there chatting, drinking the beer and gnawing on the tasty bacon before motoring on to do the final section.  It was all in fun, and I'm glad I stopped this year to give it a try.

A bit of technical stuff after the Bacon Station which I let the RIP plow through as I held on with hopes my tires wouldn't pop on the rocks.  Eventually, we hit the long fire road climb that I had cramped on in 2005.  2012 it was a grinding climb on this fire road in the heat.  This time, it was rather easy when compared to the previous two times.  The gravel was baked from the recent rains, and rather smooth and fast making the climb easier.  The "mountain goat" passed me again about midway up, and took off up the climb with a gal who had been hanging with us for about 10 miles.  I crested the climb and began the final descent of Tinton Trail to the finish.  The sun actually came out for the first time and it felt good.  This was actually my best riding and pace for the entire day.  I never really got it going earlier in the race - or at least it never really felt good as I was just grinding out what I could.  Now I had it going!  Where was this earlier in the day?  I caught back up to the gal who had pulled away with the mountain goat on the fire road climb.  She crashed on one of the corners in front of me.  She was okay when I asked, so I passed her and took off going full bore with the RIP's front fork eating up the chunk.

Post race RIP with mud, cow pies, dust, etc...that I will clean up this week...

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Coming out of the Singletrack and going full bore, I was maxed out in terms of gears with the chain on the 40T ring up front and the 11T in the rear.  I sprinted ahead and passed two riders on the gravel, but I felt the beginnings of cramps and twinges in my legs.  I managed to fend off the cramps - as well as the two I had just passed.  I sprinted all the way to the line and crossed with a finish time of 5:35:05.  Only 13:43 quicker than my 2012 time (should have bypassed the Bacon Station and banked those 4+ minutes!!!!), but at least I was quicker than my 2012 time.  No surprise here with my Midpackitis as I rolled across in spot #270 out of the 650 or so that registered. 

270 

Goal met in terms of shaving time.  Plenty of opportunity for me to drop more time with some tweaks in training, and managing my effort out on the course. 

Overall, it was worth the griding effort to enjoy the great ride and the beauty of the Black Hills.  Lots of riders were there from Iowa as a nice little tradition with this race has developed with many heading out to do it from Iowa.  I grabbed some post race grub, and joined them to share stories of our days out on the bikes.  I didn't get to stay for the Awards Ceremony as I had a dinner date with Dad down in Rapid City which involved a 40 minute drive.

We went to the new Dakota Steakhouse which he had never been to since it is not close to where he lives.  They had a section on the menu of local fare (buffalo, elk, lamb, etc...).  So I had some nice South Dakota raised lamb chops with apricot sauce, and a helping of bleu cheese mashers as my recovery meal.  We had a nice visit, and after dinner I drove back to Spearfish to my campsite.  I headed directly into my tent to sleep for a nice 9 hours in the cold temperatures.  I packed up my stuff early on Monday morning, said goodbye to Evie (4th overall woman in the race) and Tim (12th overall) who were driving to Watertown to see Evie's parents before I headed out for the long drive to Iowa.

My kudos to the entire Dakota Five-O team for hosting one of the best mountain bike events out there.  All of the volunteers were super helpful, encouraging, and cheerful.  The vibe at this event is nothing short of contagious.  If you have never done it, put it on your list to do and make a nice Labor Day Weekend out of it.  If you have done it, you know how much fun - and exhausting - the trip can be.  Yes.  It is worth it!  

8/22/14

Gravel and go anywhere rig...

Now this looks like something I could really enjoy from Specialized...

"When the road less traveled is still too crowded there's Diverge. Featuring an optimized endurance geometry for long, all day rides as well as clearance for up to 35c tires, your ride is only limited by your imagination. Diverge goes anywhere you do and is always ready to adventure more."

DivergeExpertCarbon

The Diverge Expert Carbon model above comes in my size HUGE 64cm frame.  It's got a bit more tire clearance room than my Roubaix does.  The Diverge is able to run tires up to 35mm in width.  That, combined with the disc brakes, and seatpost makes for a really interesting do it all bike that goes a step beyond what my Roubaix does - at least when it comes to riding in inclement weather.  Not sure I would really do much more with it than I already do with my Roubaix (I ride gravel, pavement, grass, dirt as it is on my bike), but it never hurts to look.  ;-]

I am back to work this week.  Yesterday and today have had me struggling through what I think is a result of riding with a Camelbak that had some bacteria in it on Wednesday when I tested it out for 4 hours.  I failed to clean it properly, and I am paying for it now with some abdominal issues.  Not fun...

I got the Dakota Five-0 bike fixed up today thanks to a new Shimano XT front derailleur (which replaces the one I couldn't find because I had sold it).

RIP 9 Triple Chainring

Gearing of 20/30/40 up front and 11-34 in the rear.

I'm running my Russ Anderson 30T and 40T middle/outer rings, and the Mountain Biking Hall of Fame 20T Ti granny ring I bought years ago to have a nice wide range of gearing for what the Black Hills throws at us.  I took it for a post-work ride today when I got home to make sure it was working well.  I'm happy to report that all is fine.  I might race it this weekend at Sugarbottom just to field test it, but it seems to be doing just fine as everything is the same as it was before when I ran it as a triple.

The bike, as pictured, weighs 27.91 pounds for the size XL outfitted like I have it outfitted.  It was 27.2 pounds in the 1 x 9 configuration that I have been running.  So, not too much of a weight penalty hit to have the wider gearing choice for the 50 mile mountain event.

Summer has finally arrived as the heat index was 102 out on my 73 minute spin just now.  It actually felt pretty good compared to the "summer that was not" this year with all of the 70's and 80's we experienced.  Sunday is supposed to be 92 with high humidity which should make Sugarbottom a sweaty affair.

8/21/14

New threshold HR value, and final taper for Dakota Five-0...

I've been tracking my workouts and races with the iPhone and Wahoo Fitness gear (application and HR strap) this year.  I upload the data to TrainingPeaks.com, and it automatically resets my training zones based on any progress I may be fortunate enough to experience.

I guess I put out enough effort to receive this email on Sunday after the George Wyth race due to being able to sustain a higher average HR than previous races...

165

Which resulted in my zones being automatically set to...

165ThresholdZones

None of that is anything anybody needs to worry about in terms of competition.  ;-)

I'm sure a lot of it had to do with the particular course which included no descents where HR drops on other courses between the efforts experienced on climbing.  Regardless, TrainingPeaks.com noted the data and it is what it is.

Yesterday was my final long training taper ride for the Dakota Five-0 which gives me 11 days between.  It was more a test of my hydration/nutrition than it was of race pace.  And I did it on the road bike thanks to 2 1/2 inches of rain that fell in the morning making dirt off limits.  At least I earned some high caloric mexican food for dinner last night!

Nutrition and hydration wise, I will use the same formula as I did back in 2012 when I last did the Dakota Five-0.  Camelbak with water, and a multi-hour bottle of my Hammer Nutrition drink mix, energy gels, and Endurolytes.  It all worked well yesterday for my 3:40:25 training ride.  I made one stop at the 1/2 way point to practice mixing a second bottle of drink mix, and filling the Camelbak.  I left the computer going and hit the lap button to see how long it took me.  It was just a few seconds under 3 minutes which I can live with for an aid station stop.  My only goal at this point for this race/ride is to trim time from my 2012 showing.  I'm carrying less weight this year, and my fitness is in a bit better shape - so we shall see.  I certainly have no grand illusions of being a threat to the sub 4 hour, and sub 5 hour racers.  My target is the sub 6 hour group as I crossed the line in 5:48 and change last time.  I would like to undercut that this year and think I have the formula (training, weight, and different bike) to accomplish that barring any mechanicals/flat tires/cramps. 

I got bumped around in that race a lot in 2012 on the JET 9, so I'm taking the RIP 9 this year in hopes it keeps me more comfortable.  I still have to get the RIP ready for the race as I am waiting on a new front derailleur to handle the duties of running a triple chainring for the race instead of a 1 x 9 that I have been running this year.  I need the gearing for the Black Hills, so I'll be running a 40/30/20 set up instead of my 34T chainring that it has been sporting.  The JET had a double chainring that I used in 2012 and gearing was not quite low enough on some of the steep, long climbs to prevent me from muscling a lot.  I am hoping to use the gearing on the RIP to spin and work the heart more than the leg muscles on some of those climbs this time around.  If I get the front derailleur mounted and sorted out in time, I have the chance to race it this weekend at Sugarbottom to get everything dialed in, but I have been riding the RIP all year on my training rides - so I'm ready with it.

Now, off to the Simpson College Faculty/Staff kickoff breakfast for this year...

8/18/14

IMBCS #4 George Wyth State Park Race Report...

Yesterday was the 4th race in the 7 race series for the IMBCS 2014 Season.  This event was a return visit from last year to the very scenic George Wyth State Park on the Cedar River in the Waterloo-Cedar Falls area.  Race host Lee Geisinger and his CVAST crew promised to deliver.  And let me tell you - they did!  Great trail.  Great sponsors.  Great food.  Great chip timing.

In fact, it was an overall pleasure to participate from online registration all the way to the end of the event.  Our series can be proud to say that it was yet another huge feather in the IMBCS hat.  Kudos to Lee and CVAST!!!!

Lots of rain pummeled Central Iowa on Friday and Saturday, but not a drop made it up to the Cedar Falls/Waterloo area so the race was on as scheduled.  I headed up on Sunday morning (driving the speed limit, of course, now that I'm on probation), and it was very foggy with sunshine until I got near Marshalltown.  Then things cleared up and it was a nice Sunday morning drive rolling through the rural areas between Marshalltown, Grundy Center and heading into Cedar Falls.

I rolled in a bit later than I had originally intended due to a train that had stopped across the crossing on highway 14 (waited 13 minutes for it to get moving again), and my slow driving.  I usually like at least an houf to get ready, but I only had about 30 minutes to check in, get dressed and warm-up.  So I went into efficency mode to do all of that and prepare myself for the race as best I could with only 30 minutes.  I hit my numbers in a shortened warm-up, got my fuel mixed, and headed to the line where everyone was already there and waiting for the start.  A bit more than 100 racers had turned up for the day's racing which is great.    Those that didn't make it missed out on a great event for our series.  Maybe next year, turnout could top 125...

Lee gave us the low down on the trails, lap counts, passing etiquette, and welcomed us to the race.  The start waves began at high noon.  My group took off after a bit of chit-chat between several of us lined up and waiting.  I met a fellow MyFitnessPal friend who was lined up right next to me.  He is also doing Sugarbottom and the Dakota Five-0 in the Black Hills, so we had that in common.  And Rob Cook, along with Andre Rethman, gave me a bit of a rundown on the course and conditions since they had taken a pre-ride on it.

On my wave's start, I couldn't get my left foot clipped into my left pedal.  So I just pedaled with my foot on top of the SPD pedal until I could finally manage to get it clipped in a few hundred yards later.  I had no idea what the trails were like outside of hearing that they were dry, and pretty much flat.  I also didn't know who all was here in our group outside of seeing Landon, and Andre.  In spite of not getting clipped in right away, I at least was close to Landon's wheel.  I tucked in a couple of riders behind Landon Beachy and Andre Rethman with his menacing legs was right behind me.

This is what we were greeted with in the forest filled with non-stop twists and turns....

GeorgeWythTwisty

Good stuff, for sure.  Due to the course being flat, one pretty much was on the gas non-stop for this race.  I had my iPhone mounted on my handlebars as I am glancing down occasionally to make sure I'm not "just riding along", but indeed cranking out the effort I have been capable of doing in training rides.

To make a long story short, the race for lap one and lap two looked just like this...

TailingLandon

Landon leading the way, with Andre on my heels...

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That's how we rode until we were getting to the last segment of lap 2.  I passed Landon and bumped my effort up a notch to open up a gap.  I was wasting a lot of energy trying to fly through the tight and twisty, but I had some in reserve to spend and kept at it with every corner, and every acceleration.  Heading across the finish line to start my third lap, I kept the hammer down to make sure I was flying through anything that might be considered difficult (rocks, roots, sand, jumps).  Great looking forest to fly through.

Here's TJ Fort rippin' it up on this sweet singletrack...

TJ
About midway through lap #3, I was surprised when Anthony Branch passed me on the left without any warning on one open stretch at warp speed.  I tucked right in behind him and had at it as he was flying.  We caught up to Katherine Roccasecca who cheered me on to go catch Anthony (which I did).  Jason Dal had schooled me earlier in the week on Riverside at Banner Pits on how to push my heart rate up to 179 on the flats, so I turned it on and watched the HR climb up.

Anthony and I battled to the end with me amazed at how he could accelerate out of corners where he actually was going so hard his back tire would spin out.  Come to find out after we crossed the finish line, he had lost his rear shifter which meant he was not able to shift and had to use a big gear that had him standing and cranking out of corners where the spin outs were taking place.  He looked really strong and had a great race.

I crossed the line at 1:00:03 good enough for 1st Place with Andre just a bit behind me, and Landon was about a minute back at 1:01:10 to round out the 50+ podium.

GWMTBPodium

I ended up 10th overall for the day...

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Kudos to Andy Peterson and Ryan Betters (hotwheels Kevin's son) for charging our category into sub 1 hour.  In spite of the flat course, plenty of people went down, hit trees, had accidents as we surveyed the carnage at the finish line.  Ron Cooney face planted.  Andre Rethman went down and had some abrasions on the arm and leg.  Heather Wince did a face plant.  I don't know who else, but plenty of stories of wiping out were shared at the post race hang around.

I went out for a cool down ride, got washed up, changed clothes, and then headed over for a bowl of delicious pasta.  This was our first "warm" race of the season, and it really wasn't that warm as it was only in the 80's.  The humidity made it feel a bit more closed in than it really was.  Awards were handed out, schwag was given, and everyone thanked Lee and his crew for a top notch, and well run event.

8/13/14

Driving, pedaling, socializing, and moving through August...

August is here and moving right along to close out our vacation months.

Speaking of moving, last week we took Alexa and all of her STUFF in a 14' truck to Iowa City for apartment move in day with her roomates.  Last year she was mortified that I rented a 5'8' U-Haul trailer to pull behind the Element with her stuff.  This year, thanks to having purchased a used sectional couch that is HUGE, she suggested we upgrade to a truck...

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We got back from that and I was scheduled to spend two evenings in what the Iowa Department of Transportation calls a Driver Improvement Program.  I did.  And I completed the program.  Now I have to be without a moving violation for 1 year.  The 3 violations that got me into the program to begin with were turning right on a red where it was not allowed up in the Twin Cities; 35 in a 30 in Indianola; and 64 in a 60 on the way to Des Moines from Indianola.  The class was actually rather interesting using an approach of behavioral psychology.  Time will tell if I am able to reign in my temperament - or understand it enough - to alter my behavior of those massive speeds I was clocked at going when I got the tickets.  I found myself jealous of others that were in my class with such offenses as drag racing; going 95 mph in a 55 mph zone; drunk driving; etc... .  At least they had some FUN with their infractions compared to my rather mundane violations.  Oh well.  Now I've got to pay attention behind the wheel to avoid getting another ticket - or my license may be suspended.

The weekend came and on Saturday we packed our bags to head down to St. Joseph, Missouri for the Keedy family reunion.  I am adopted, so this side of the family is from my biological mother's side.   The gathering was also to honor one of my uncles, Kurt Keedy, who passed away earlier this year due to complications from Alzheimer's.  Here we are at dinner with my birth mother Nedra (Keedy) and sister Darcy...

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Visiting at dinner on Saturday night, I got some clearer focus and information on the Keedy background.  Pictures were passed around, and it was fun to learn more about the family as we sat with Treva and Balbir (who live in Wichita) and Pat and her husband who lives in Rockford, Illinois.  They had some good memories and information on my great grandfather and mother.  My great grandfather was the minister at the Iowa River Church of the Brethren in Marshalltown, Iowa.  Believe it or not, several of the relatives from this side of my family share the last name of Brown!!!!  Of course, it's not hard to find a Smith, a Brown, or a Jones in the USA.  But we all got a big kick out of that.

Sunday morning we attended a brunch at the Wyeth-Tootle mansion to honor Kurt Keedy.  St. Joseph is an old river town, port to the west town with some beautiful mansions and buildings.  Here's where we had our brunch...

WyethTootleMansion

Everyone shared their fond memories of Kurt, and since I had only met him on one occasion in the summer of 2000 in Breckenridge, CO - I offered some impromptu verses from the hymn How Great Thou Art when Balbir and Sarah (Kurt's daughter) asked me.  We all said our good-byes as some had to get on the road to return home.  We really enjoyed meeting members from the extended family that we had not met before, as well as reconnecting with some we haven't seen since the summer of 2000.

On the way home, hunger struck after the brunch buffet had worn off.  We stopped at Lamoni where I devoured a loose-meat sandwich from Maid-Rite and we goofed around on the outdoor furniture...

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Zack drove us home from Lamoni in the rain.  We got home in time for Alexa to finish packing all of her small items (clothing, electronics, and whatever we had not hauled to Iowa City earlier in the week) so she would be ready to head out Monday morning with me to get all settled in her new apartment.

I drove with Alexa to Iowa City on Monday for the final move-in.  Yes, I managed to drive the speed limit the entire time!  We rented an annual parking spot for her car near her apartment, I hung things on the walls, fixed a couple of broken things in the apartment, got the television hooked up to Mediacom, went grocery shopping, bought her school books, and we ended the day having a nice sushi meal while discussing the news of Robin Williams' passing.  Alexa remained in Iowa City, and I headed home on my own.  It was so nice having her home for the summer vacation from school.  I do miss her already...

Tara and I enjoyed a bike ride and caught a beautiful view of one of the pits at Summeset State Park where the water was very calm in the evening...

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Tuesday had me hit up a group mountain bike ride at Summerset that Jason Dal had organized on Facebook.  It was to begin at 5:30 and when I pulled in the parking lot at 5:25 and saw all of the cars - it was odd that everyone had already headed out except for Jason who was getting his bike ready.  A few more showed up and we headed out for some delicious singletrack.  I ended up doing a pair of hot laps with Jason.  I have to credit Jason for pushing me to ride it at race speed at times as my heart rate jacked up to 179 on a few of the climbs as we traded turns who was leading and only let up to visit a bit on the pavement connector sections.

I had already ridden a lap at Lake Ahquabi in the morning to check the status of the trails, so after 2 laps my legs were telling me enough was enough and any more would just tear me down.  So I hit up the usual apr├ęs ride party in the parking lot while Jason headed out with Ron Cooney, Kevin Betters, and a few others for a 3rd lap.  Checking the profile from my workout, I hit all the numbers and durations I wanted to do for a day that my structured training called for some taper reps in Zone 3 and Zone 5.  I got quite a bit more than was called for, but I will recover for Sunday's race.  It was a fun group gathering which, weather permitting, we really need to do more of here in Central Iowa.  Everyone enjoyed socializing, and the only reason I left when I did was that I had promised to meet Zack for dinner while Tara was enjoying a girl's night out up in Des Moines.

I have a rather long to do list that I need to dive into today, tomorrow, and Friday with regard to work, things at home, the October race, and some IMBCS business for the remaining races this year at George Wyth, Sugarbottom, Summerset, and Lake Ahquabi.  I also need to dive into creating a new syllabus, attend the Iowa State Fair, and paint two more rooms.  Then again, today's weather forecast - according to KCCI - is for a nearly perfect day.

That could mean some golf...

8/6/14

Minnesota Mountain Bike Series Border Crossing race report...

Several races stand out in my mind as my favorites to try and attend in the Minnesota Mountain Bike Series.  Mt. Kato, Red Wing, and the Border Crossing at River Falls.  This year - due to weather conditions at Mt. Kato causing me to not race, and the rescheduling of Red Wing - River Falls Border Crossing was the first event in the Minnesota Mountain Bike Series that I was able to race in 2014.  It's always worth the 4 hour drive up from Iowa to hit the sweet trails at Whitetail Ridge where the race is held.  KORC does an excellent job with the trail system and hosting this race.   

I went solo this year as Tara was "camped out and traveled out" from RAGBRAI.   She enjoyed the trip last year when we camped at the race venue, and she brought her road bike to hit some of the country roads in the River Falls area.

I drove up on Saturday to set up my tent and take a pre-ride lap before it got dark.  I started the lap a bit after 5:30 PM and the trail was in absolutely perfect condition.  About 1/2 way through the lap it started to sprinkle very lightly, but the canopy the trees provide had very little of it making it down to the ground.  As I finished the lap, I pulled over to use the forest facilities and a huge clap of thunder startled me.  Immediately, the light sprinkle turned into a sideways torrential downpour.  I ran for cover under a tree with my bike debating if I should get back over to the car, or wait it out in the forest under the trees.  I chose the trees even though the trees were providing no shelter from the rain after about 5 minutes.  Needless to say - I was totally drenched.  The lightening and thunder so close overhead while out in the forest reminded me how defenseless we all feel when Ma Nature strikes.  The singletrack turned into raging streams and I was reminded of that scene in Bull Durham when Kevin Costner's character turns on the baseball field sprinklers the night before a game to cause a rain out the next day.  I was standing there soaking wet, cold, shivering and watching the singletrack rage with the water flow thinking I was going to have to drive back home due to a race cancellation.

After about 30 minutes, it let up enough for me to ride over to hang out under the registration tent until the rain fully subsided.  Temperatures had dropped into the 60's and I was shaking due to being wet and cold.  My teeth were chattering, and my core was really chilly.  Finally, it stopped raining and I hopped on the bike to head back to the car to dry off, and change into dry clothing.  I headed into River Falls for dinner to kill some time as I waited it out a bit to set up the tent to make sure the storm had passed.  I set the tent up around 9 PM as it was getting dark and settled in for a humid evening.  I checked the Facebook post that mentioned the Whitetail Ridge trails could handle that amount of rain and things would be fine for the race.

Race day was sunny, humid and sure enough - everything was in great condition despite the torrential rains from the previous evening.

BorderCrossingTents

Checking the tires of the Citizens racers after their race, very little dirt/mud was on their tires as the trails had absorbed the moisture.  I got breakfast, went to the local laundromat to dry out my kit and gloves from the soaking they received during the pre-ride, and headed back to the race venue.  I did my warm-up, got hydrated and went to line up with all the others for the 11 AM race.  In spite of doing RAGBRAI the previous week and feeling the effects of a 7 day ride across Iowa, I didn't feel too bad and was able to hit my numbers in warm up.

Quite a crowd of racers has assembled for the 40+ groups wave start.  There was much joking about it being so large because we were the only age group that could afford to be there in such strong numbers.  There was not a WORS race going on this particular weekend, so chances are that this event had racers from both states in attendance - especially since it formally was a dual event for WORS/MMBS.  That's one of the reasons I wanted to attend - due to the number of competitors in my age group.  Anyway, there were 24 guys in the 40-49 lined up, 20 in the 50-29, and 5 in the 60+ group.  That made for at least 49 of us in our wave scrambling for position at the line.  I'm not sure if the Clydesales were in with us or not.  After call ups and we all did our best to jam together in the crowded chute, suffice it to say I was near the back of the pack.  No worries, as I had my strategy for the opening sprint, first climb, and passing section in the meadow before we entered the singletrack all worked out in my mind, and felt prepared.

One of the caveats that I have spoken about before at a race is that in spite of all the prepartions, goals, conditioning - there are certain things that remain out of your control that you cannot allow to get you down if and when they happen.  I have come to accept it as part of the fun of racing.  Some days are simply not your day, and some are - whether it is due to a flat tire, a competitor who falls in front of you and blocks your path, a mechanical, a crash, etc... .  I have been fairly fortunate this year with only a locked handlebar crash, and tire burp at Tranquility altering my day with things that might be considered as things being out of one's control.

The opening sprint is in a mowed grassy meadow at the base of the Whitetail Ridge forest which takes us over to a nice climb up a rutty and rocky fire road climb.  Having raced this venue 4 times before, I was well versed on what can happen on that climb in terms of jockeying for position that could lead to causing one to get stuck way back in traffic.  Like any race, the best strategy is to march to the front of the group on the climb to be in a good position going into the singletrack.  The Border Crossing bumps that up a notch by causing you to redline on the climb right at the start to be able to do that.

Here's a shot when I had my best opening climb at this venue when I sort of got bumped over a big rut at the base of the climb and decided to just stay over on the right edge and climb out of the traffic (and over the spectator's toes....!)....

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Much of the ruts have been filled in and repaired with some large water bars having been added over the years to prevent such erosion from taking place on a trail that goes straight up the fall line.  So that secret line to the right no longer exists, but there is still some rutting in the center that nowadays is rideable.  The rut erosion was not so friendly back in 2011 when that photo was taken by my kids.

For this year jumping off the staring line, I sprinted and passed as many as I could before the climb started.  I followed the line I wanted on the climb and moved over to the right as I passed a few more.  There was a guy directly in front of me in my line that was going slower, so I reached for the shifter to shift and pass him on the left as I called out to him.  I clicked the shifter and moved over to pass, but my gear did not shift.  Hmmmm.....

I tried again, and again.  It wouldn't shift.  Oh, well.  I changed my cadence and heard a poing, poing, poing, bling, bling, bling, flop, flop, flop and thought "that doesn't sound good, I wonder who is having such bad luck with their bike so early in the race?"  As I passed a spectator on the side of the trail, she heard the racket coming from my rear wheel and said "that doesn't sound very good".  It was then I realized the racket was coming from my bike!!

I figured I must have broken a spoke and wondered what I should do.  I couldn't stop on the hill as we were 2 - 3 abreast and powering up in whatever manner we could.  And I was in a gear that was far away from being my first choice of gear for that climb.  But I had no choice but to power it up in whatever gear I was stuck in at that moment.   I also could not look down to see what was going on back there as I had to focus on my line and who was on either side of me as we made the climb. As we approached the top of the climb, I put it in the big ring up front and jumped ahead of three riders going into the connector section through the meadow to the singletrack.  Again, I tried to shift the rear derailleur to speed up and got nothing.  Even though I could shift the front, I basically had a choice of spinning like a hamster or spinning like a hamster on the flats.  ;-)  I finally looked down and saw something sticking out of the rear of my bike.  I asked the guy behind me if he could see what it was and he informed me it was a big stick stuck in my derailleur.

Hmmmm.....I knew if I pulled over to dislodge it, I would be passed by many.  I went with the hope that eventually it would jiggle out, break or dislodge on its own as I entered the singletrack.  By now, my original plan of using the opening sprint, climb and the meadow passing lane to sprint ahead of as many as possible had been foiled a bit by the stick in my derailleur and I was stuck in traffic with our big starting wave as we entered the singletrack.

I kept up the high cadence (felt like I was spinning 120-130 rpms to keep up).  Once we finally hit the first series of bridges that have some rocks around them, the shaking and bouncing of going over that section dislodged the stick from my rear derailleur and I could shift as normal again.  Phew!  Nothing broken and the bike was okay.  Who knows what the odds are of me, and only me picking up a stick in the grassy meadow on the opening sprint?  I'll just have to file that one away in the things out of my control in spite of all the excellent planning and strategy I had for the opening of the race.  Luckily, it didn't ruin my race.  Now it was all about how I recovered from that and used the rest of the race to bounce back.  I don't think the stick really held me back more than a few positions in the traffic as I was able to pedal and keep it going up the climb and into the singletrack.  It just wasn't according to plan.  C'est la vie...

I had my iPhone and chest strap to log the ride and glanced down to see the traffic I was stuck in had my heart rate staying down in the 148-152 range.  Not going fast enough for an XC race.  Usually I'm in the 161-176 range most of the race, so I knew I was falling out of contention just riding along at that effort, but could not get by so many in the lined up traffic.  I used the passing lanes to power forward and got passed by somebody in the 60+ group on the passing lane descent just as I was negotiating myself around the one and only mud bog in the trail.  The rider did not call out to inform me he was passing on my left, and I almost took a tumble trying to avoid hitting him at top speed.  That got my dander up, and off I went with another rider in front of me in pursuit of him.  Two of us locked onto his wheel and noticed that on the climbs, the 60+ rider was slowing down and losing his flow.  I told the guy in front of me we needed to get around him before the next climb.  Unfortunately, we couldn't get around him until the 2nd big climb in lap 1.  We came flying out of the forest and with about 5 cranks on the big ring I passed both of them and muscled my way up the hill at a 176 heart rate (that's good!). 

Now I felt like my tempo was up to the racing speed I can maintain this year and let it all out from that point to the end of lap one.  I kept it up on lap 2 and was playing catch up as best I could to make up for the stick in my derailleur and resulting poor start.  It was good to see Steve Stillwell out on the course as a volunteer and we exchanged a hello on both laps at the wooden berm (covered in chicken wire).  I passed a few in my age group in the 2nd lap, so I knew I was slowly clawing my way back into the race.  However, without a third lap to give me more time to work my way up - I ran out of singletrack real estate to make any more progress than I did.  I was able to really enjoy lap 2 as I was flying and really pushing myself to keep the motor revved up.  The trail has great flow and enough variety to keep one interested as they fly through it at race speed.  Even though it didn't matter in terms of results, I managed to cap off the final lap by outsprinting somebody in the 30-39 class from the cyclocross spiral section to the finish line.  There was a rider in my age group right on my tail (separated by 9/10th's of a second at the line), so the sprint actually did turn out to be worth it for me to hold off Jack Ellefson at the line (who beat me last year).  I crossed the line all smiles knowing that one of those things out of my control had happened at the start.

I ended up in 8th place out of the 20 racers in the 50-59 age group, and 40th out of the 99 in Sport.

Border Crossing Results

That's the exact same placing I had last year when I was 8th out of 18 with a slightly faster time of 1:06:49, and 57th out of 117.  In fact, I have a lot of 8th place finishes at the Border Crossing/Border Battle.  I would like to think that my improved racing weight and conditioning maybe could have yielded a slighter better result this year had the opening not unfolded like it did, but who knows?  That's racing and it is what it is.  Fun, fast, and a joy on such a great trail system as the one at Whitetail Ridge.  Kudos to KORC, and MMBS for making the drive well worth it from Iowa.  I hope to be able to make it up for another race or two this season, but we shall see...