8/31/15

Seven Oaks MTB Race Report...

IMBCS #3 - Seven Oaks MTB Race was originally scheduled for May 31st. Due to the rainy weather and subsequent trail damage from a Gladiator event that was held at the venue in the mud, we had to scrap the original date to allow for rebuilding the trail. So it was postponed until June 14th. However, Ma Nature chimed in and the rescheduled date had to be scrapped. So, using the old proverb of Third Time's the Charm, August 30th was the final attempt for this race to be held.

Ma Nature toyed with us again leading up to the event. Is that even a surprise? Northern and Central Iowa were hit with storms on Thursday that dumped amounts of up to 9" in Dayton, 5" in northern Boone County and many reports were that the city of Boone had received around 5". That was never really confirmed outside of somebody's rain gauge they called into KCCI. However, at the Seven Oaks Recreation Area itself - which is just on the south side of US Highway 30 - rainfall amounts totaled less than 2". How that happened, we don't know? But, it left the trails in a condition - after it drained off and absorbed - that we could still hold the race on Sunday.

We used a 2 hour rain delay for the start of the CAT III and Juniors, but kept all other races as scheduled thinking that the forecasted sunshine all day on Saturday and Sunday morning would help make things perfect. Hmmmm....even though sunshine was forecasted - it never came. The original forecast going into the week was for 86 and sunny on Sunday. Then it got downgraded to a high of 80 and sunny.

Boone Weekend

Instead of seeing that forecast on Saturday and Sunday, it was overcast both days and temperatures were in the 60's to low 70's. Actually, those temperatures are just about perfect racing temperatures at Seven Oaks when you factor in all of the climbing. It's a tough course to race in the heat, so I think everyone who showed up was pleased we weren't fighting 86 degrees, sunshine and humidity. Not to mention - everyone was shocked that the course was in such great condition considering all of the negative weather reports, and footage on the news we saw of the carnage in other parts of Boone County on Thursday.

I drove up and arrived a bit after 9 to set up the banners, make the Hammer Nutrition Drink Mix (Hammer is our sponsor for the Endurance Events this season), and pre-ride some sections to help Derek out with final marking and to determine the routing. We decided, even though the lower section was able to be ridden, to keep the race on the top loop for all classes. The turnout for the marathon was so small, we opted for the upper half only and kept it there for the CAT II/COMP/CAT I as well. I volunteered to be the back up timer for the chip timing during the CAT III/Junior race and the first hour of the Marathon. Every single rider that crossed the line after their first lap were exclaiming how great the course was (again - out of shock due to all the weather news leading up to the race). The course was tacky and had only one 50 foot section of serious mud which was on the road, not he singletrack. So we cut an option line around it in the grass over the top of the ski hill. Riders had the option of plowing through the mud, or climbing the grass hill to avoid it.

A little after noon, Derek's wife stepped in for me to keep timing the marathon racers and I suited up to do a bit more warm-up and get ready for my 1 pm race. I did not have an ideal week leading up to this race as I put in a lot of time at Lake Ahquabi doing trail work, and capped it off with a 4 hour work day at Banner Pits to get that trail ready for the September 12th race. I was exhausted, sore and stiff from all of that. I also went to a couples wedding shower on Saturday night that involved gluttony, and way too much drink. So I had no high expectations, but wanted to race to enjoy all of Derek's hard work and effort getting this event ready. This was his first rodeo, so to speak, at hosting an event and he knocked it out of the park. He had built a nice start/finish area with a cyclocross style section before we rolled over the timing mat for every lap...

SevenOaksStart

He had a BBQ vendor there, free baked goods, really unique hand crafted awards. In short, he had done an excellent job getting all of this ready, set-up and my hat is off to him. Unfortunately, turnout was not very good. Any time you start rescheduling events (especially multiple times), throw in questionable weather factors, and add to the mix what seems like a lot of mountain bike racers in Iowa having just given up on racing mountain bikes this year with all of the weather issues, it was sad to see that we didn't have a larger crowd out at Seven Oaks to enjoy Derek's efforts, a wonderful trail in great condition and perfect racing temperatures. We did, however, have some new faces as well as a return of many new faces come to this event. Kudos to Derek and his family for all of their hard work. It did not go unnoticed by those of us that were there.

I lined up with the 8 racers in the COMP category that showed up and noticed they were all fast cats. Nobody of my talent level (as in lack of) was there, so I made sure to be near the back going into the singletrack. Pace was quick and one rider in front of me spun out on a root on the first switchback and had to stop right in front of me. I couldn't get around him with the line I had chosen, so I had to put a foot down and suddenly I was in the rear position of the group. About 3/4's of the way through lap one, my chain came off the front rings. I fiddled with it and got it back on the front ring, but the cranks weren't turning. I figured I had trashed something (hub or chain) so I walked the singletrack to the next open/flat section and flipped my bike upside down in the grass. By this time, the entire Sport field passed me as I was messing with my bike. The chain was stuck between the smallest cog on the cassette and the frame. WTF?! I have never had that happen before, so I took my rear wheel off, got it all straightened out, and was back on the bike. All in all, I think I only lost about 3-4 minutes and was determined to finish the race.

This was the grunt climb of the day for me on every lap...

SevenOaksGruntClimb

I stepped on the gas and caught back up to the back of the Sport Field and passed Jeff Reimenschneider, then Rob Cook, and settled into my race pace. Lap two felt much better for me, but I was tired from the week of trail work. As others had extolled, the trail was in great shape and it is always fun and challenging to ride at Seven Oaks...

SugarBridge

Each subsequent lap felt more difficult on the power climbs. My times were consistent in lap 3, 4, and 5, but the effort was too much as lap 6 and 7 were pure survival mode. Those last two laps were a minute to two minutes slower than previous laps as I was struggling and grunting on the climbs. Even though I mentioned after Sugar Bottom that I guess my goal was not to be dead last in COMP, this group was a fast COMP field. Had my chain not fallen off costing me a few minutes, and had I not done so much trail work this week, I still would have been in last place out of this group. I got the effort under my belt clocking in a time of 1:52:31.

The "old man" brought up the rear today...


SevenOaksCOMP

I only felt muscle twinges on the last lap, so that was an improvement over the previous week at Sugar Bottom. I didn't bobble anything out on the trail, didn't fall, kept my cool, even stopped for a second bottle of water. Fun was had, but I can tell I am not anywhere close to last year's fitness and form that I had going.

I weigh more than I desire at the moment (8 pounds more than last year at this point in the season which shows up on the climbs), did not get a very good 12 week build, peak, and race period completed due to vacation, my father's funeral, and the fog I have been in after that. So I take it all in stride. You have to pay your dues to reap the rewards. I am in excellent fitness, but not the kind of fitness to go as fast as I can. Going fast is an entirely different ball of wax. I was in much better fitness to go fast in May and June, but was not able to do the structured work to build on that as prescribed in my training plan. Those effects are catching up to me now competing in longer events against stronger riders. We have 4 more races to go in the IMBCS (3 for me as I will not race the one I host at Lake Ahquabi). I would like to think that with 2 weeks to recover from Sugar and Seven Oaks, the training effect from the August race efforts should kick in and leave me in better form for Banner.

Enough of that. Fun was had by those who showed up at Seven Oaks and it was nice to wrap up a rescheduled event that Race Director Derek Brewer handled so well. Kudos to Derek and his entire team (namely his family, and one or two other volunteers). We certainly rode the Seven Oaks trails back into great shape yesterday with all of the laps.

Now on to classes which start tomorrow at Simpson...

*All photographs courtesy of Eric Roccasecca

8/24/15

Sugar Bottom Scramble Race Report...

Yesterday marked the midpoint of our Iowa Mountain Bike Championship Series with our 6th of 11 races being held at Sugar Bottom Recreation Area just outside of North Liberty, Iowa. Sugar Bottom ranks as one of Iowa's favorite mountain biking venues and races. In fact, it is the only venue and race that has been on the IMBCS schedule every year for all 13 seasons in the IMBCS history. Traditionally, it is one of the top 3 races in Iowa in terms of turnout and yesterday did not disappoint. We had 190 racers toe the line to take on the 2015 Sugar Bottom Scramble.

To accomplish the season running as planned with the weather we have been dealt, we are trying to do a better job of managing Ma Nature when she throws us some overnight rain - or on the morning of the race rain. As long as the rain amount is not too much, the trails are in good dry condition going into the rain, then we can utilize a 2 hour rain delay to allow the water to soak in and the sunshine and breeze to work their magic. Three of our events had to be postponed earlier this year as the rainfall amounts and soil conditions going into the event were just too wet. Getting all of the side growth trimmed back really short and to the ground helps with drying and draining as it removes shadows and allows the sun and wind to get in there and go to work following a shower or rain. Opening up canopy so sun can hit the tread also contributes to getting trails to recover quicker after showers.

In terms of the Sugar Bottom Scramble, we used that 2 hour rain delay yesterday and announced it early (6:20 am) to give racers enough time to adjust to the starting times, and travel plans. Based on the forecast, we had even alerted racers two days before, as well as the night before to be prepared that a delay may have to be used to pull off the event without having to go to the next step of using a postponement. Sugar Bottom postponed last year, and the make up date resulted in only about 1/2 the usual turnout that race receives. Yesterday worked out perfectly with the delay, trail conditions, and still resulted in a strong turnout. The weather delay is used wisely in Wisconsin and Minnesota when needed, so I am glad that we have been able to pull of the Hin und Zurzück TT and Sugar Bottom Scramble by using it.

After accounting for the two hour delay, I made the drive over early to set up the IMBCS banners and signs, as well as deliver the Hammer Nutrition sponsor goods to Race Director Mike Frasier. I was doing my usual in the car, hydrating, eating - which is my normal routine on the way to a race that involves driving a couple of hours or more. I even had to stop and use the rest areas twice, so I figured my hydration was on track. Mike and his team of ICORR and Goosetown Racing were in full swing with everything set up perfectly when I arrived, and a historic Kids Race of 40 kids was just about to take off. There was lots of excitement in the air with the sunshine, breeze and Fall like temperatures that greeted everyone on race day morning. That fresh feeling after a 1/4" rain when met with sunshine was improving everyone's mood. The relief that the event was going to go on as planned added to the positive mood. No doubt about it - I know I felt relieved as did Mike.

KidsWave1
Photo Courtesy of Adam Bumpus

There were about 40 kids separated by various waves...

KidsWave1Too
Photo Courtesy of Adam Bumpus


I took a few pictures of the CAT III and Juniors start, then went out for my own warm up.

CATIII:Juniors
Lined Up and Ready

CAT III Start
CAT III Men's Start

Turnout looked really, really good. The FORC races, and Sugar Bottom have always been our largest events. If any event is going to cross over 200 racers, history has shown it is Sugar Bottom, Sylvan Island, etc... that can attract such a crowd draw. Historic numbers for IMBCS always have the races in the eastern part of Iowa doing much better than the rest of the state. We just can't field a turnout like that in Central Iowa at all of our events in spite of what one would think is quite a good number of Des Moines and Central Iowa area mountain bikers. Regardless, it looked like numbers were going to be solid based on the CAT III and Junior fields, as well as the full parking lots and all of the people milling around.

I have not raced much this year due to being in Germany all Spring, the weather postponing events, and directing the Hin und Zurück TT. However, I do have 4 races under my belt along with some sporadic training that was peppered with a 3 week vacation, the trip to the Black Hills for my father's funeral, and what seems to me physically like tons of trail work I have be doing at Banner, Center, and Ahquabi. I felt good racing last week at the George Wyth MTB Race, and did my typical in season training week this week to recover and get myself ready for Sugar Bottom. I figured it would be a much more strenuous race on me due to the climbing, length, and my lack of racing on such a course going into it compared to the last two - Peterson Pits and George Wyth which are both flat trails.

Tara had come along and spent the morning with Alexa who starts classes today for her Junior year at U of Iowa, so they were there to cheer me on and see me suffer.

PreRaceSugarBottom

We had a pretty huge COMP field of 28-29 racers, including usual CAT I racer and Psycowpath Director, Ryan Feagan. I went over to line up next to Ryan so we could chit-chat and talk about a possible joint venture next season at White Rock. I have booked it for the 4th of July weekend and want to make it a real festival as well as family oriented weekend that will include plenty for everyone. Talk quickly led to our fascination with the Light Bicycle carbon rims and the wheels we had built with the Light Bicycle rims. I got called up to the front based on the points I have at this juncture in the season mainly by attending all but one of the IMBCS races, not because I was faster than the rest. That's for sure!

On the opening sprint and climb, I was quickly rearranged to my rightful place (near the back of the COMP pack) going into the singletrack as my HR hit my high of 180 on the climb to the singletrack. I can't do more than that for very long, so settled into the line and the eventual was spit out the back of the crowd as we wound our way through the south side of the excellent, and beautiful Sugar Bottom trails. The bike felt good, the dirt was hero dirt, my HR was pegged at my usual race pace - I just can't compete with upper half of the COMP crowd. Not a problem, as it reminds me of my early days when I was always one of the last 2 or 3 in the Sport Category when I first started. This is my first season racing at this distance and I knew I had another hour and a half out on the trail, so after the opening 10-15 minutes at the pegged starting pace, I settled in for the duration.

As we came out of the south section, a fellow COMP racer passed me on the gravel climb to the north side and told me, hurry up, the Sport racers are coming up behind us. That didn't phase me, as I expect - at my age - to get passed by the top CAT II Sport racers. It happened last week at George Wyth as well after the first 30 minutes. Not to mention, the first two racers in Sport are super fast. One of them started the season in COMP, but moved backed to Sport. Anyway, the top 3 or 4 eventually caught up to me and passed me as I stuck to my pace. After the first loop of the north side, I was feeling pretty gassed. However, I was really enjoying the excellent trails and their condition. A couple of new bridges have been added which were fun and the entire trail system was in tip top shape. Better than I've seen it in years.

I felt like my hydration/nutrition was off a bit and I downed a GU and started taking on water which I quickly learned was too little, too late. I also only had one bottle and realized that I had misjudged the duration and length of time I would be out on the bike. I had no second bottle. Uh-oh! I passed Tara and Alexa and Alexa caught me in profile as my legs were still pumping and feeling good even though I had another hour to go and I knew something was off with my hydration...

Lap1ExhaustedSugarBottom

I actually felt bad enough thirst wise at this point, that I felt like pulling the plug on this race. I knew something was wrong - or at least felt wrong. I thought I had hydrated enough on the drive over, but why was I so thirsty? There were a couple of riders on my tail as I entered the start of the north loop at the Finish area. One of them marveled at the smart line I took on a sharp corner to avoid one of the few greasy spots that was out on the trail. He followed me for quite some time. I asked if he wanted around me, but he said he was fine and started chatting with me. Being that I was not riding at a HR that allows chatting, I didn't say anything in return as I was in Zone 5. He eventually asked to go around me on a climb, and I let him by. Not long after that, I saw him pulled over messing with his bike and stretching his back, so I don't know what happened, but I didn't see him again. I kept the pace I could going and more Sport riders caught up to me and passed. Jason Uhlenhake went around me and I could not keep up with him, but knew I had one more lap to turn than he did - so I just stuck to what I could maintain at the moment. I was feeling the effects of not enough fuel, and man was I was thirsty! Not good. HR was way up and the harder I pedaled, the more I felt like I was going backwards. Legs were starting to feel the twinges of wanting to cramp which meant my hydration was out of whack as I suspected. I had brought along my CamelBak pack to wear and was going to use it, but figured I was hydrated going into the race and the large CamelBak water bottle I was going to take on the bike would suffice instead. In retrospect I think it had more to do with my hydration/nutrition not being on point at the start of the race. Whatever it was, I felt like I was flailing at everything and not riding strong and smooth.

I rounded the Finish line area to begin my final lap which meant all that were out on the trail were COMP and CAT I racers. I passed a couple of COMP riders which surprised me considering how I felt - and that I was out of water and panting like a thirsty dog. At this point, I was just going to finish knowing that my effort was going to be near 2 hours. Nathan Kullbom (CAT I Men's winner) passed me with words of encouragement. Then Kevin McConnell flew by a bit later, followed by Michael Maney. Cyclocross Hill was painful as usual, but I cleaned it on all laps this year. I actually overshot it on the final lap and barely made the turn at the top as I was in such a tall gear that I just about pedaled into a tree instead of turning.

I was deep in the pain cave and on a mediocre corner that really was not technical at all, my tires slipped out from under me. It felt like one of those slow motion falls where I quickly tucked and rolled and landed right in the middle of the singletrack. No harm done. I got right back up and took off. It wasn't one of those crashes that makes you timid and slows you down for a few minutes as you shake from the pain. This was just a silly lack of attention combined with fatigue falls that only got dirt on my leg and jersey. No damage done. Ryan Van Houeweling came up behind me and gave me some final words of encouragement that the race was almost over.

And over it was a few minutes later...

FinishingSugar

Exhausted, spent, dehydrated, but pleased that I ground it out to race for nearly a full 2 hours...

SugarBottomFinishLine

I guess my new goal for 2015 is try and not come in dead last at a race in the overall COMP category as that is about all I am going to be able to muster at this point on a good day. I ended up coming in 21st out of the 28 or 29 of us that were in COMP. My hydration/nutrition was off, but in spite of that - when I study my power and HR file from the race - I kept it pegged right where I have in other races no matter how bad I felt. The legs felt like they wanted to cramp, but they never did even though I felt plenty of twinges on the steep power climbs during the final two laps. I just kept pushing through the pain and probably was suffering more from the duration of this race, length, and power climbs compared to the other 4 venues where I have raced this year (Platte River, Beverly, Peterson Pits, and George Wyth). I have not felt this wiped after a race this year, but the extra distance, time and terrain all combined to make me feel like I had just survived. I was yawning immediately when I crossed the finish line. Wow!

If using races as training is good for you, this one stressed my system and I will have to recover wisely this week to take on Seven Oaks this coming weekend. A visit to the bathroom confirmed I was out of liquids in my body. I started taking on fluids immediately to cool off and hydrate.

At least with heart rate, I was right where I need to be for an XC race and hit my Zones...

SugarBottomProfile

I could have eaten anything that wasn't nailed down afterwards, but after the awards and salutations to Mike and his crew, I went to Hop30 with Tara and Alexa for Brussel Sprouts, Truffle Oil Fries, Filet Mignon, lots of water, and a couple of  Czech beers. We wanted Carrot Cake to split between us to round out the meal, but they were out of it. Oh well. We got home a little after 8, fed and walked the dogs, showered and fell fast asleep from the effort. I will pay closer attention to my hydration and at the very least have a spare bottle on the bike, or in the drop zone for these longer races. No doubt that Seven Oaks will be warmer, and the hydration/nutrition equation has to be figured out to survive a bit better.

Again, thanks to Mike Frasier, ICORR, Goosetown Racing, and the officiating by USA Cycling. The event, after expenses, raised $2500 that will go to ICORR and get put right back into the trails.

8/20/15

Iowa State Fair Fun!

We made plans last weekend for our daughter to come home for a couple of days and attend the Iowa State Fair with us on Wednesday. The weather was not as ideal as some other days, but family plans had been made so we were sticking with them no matter what Ma Nature was going to be throwing at us. We bundled up and headed up to Des Moines for our annual Fair Fare Day yesterday afternoon/evening.

Our first stop was for a grilled in the husk ear of corn, Mac & Cheese with Brisket, and to try the #1 voted new food hit item - The Ultimate Bacon Brisket Bomb. In preparation, I had to reach for the red rice yeast, cinnamon, avocado, olive oil, oats, red wine, dark chocolate, red apples, carrots, beets, green tea, salmon, walnuts, legumes, garlic, and spinach just to get my cholesterol numbers down enough to enjoy a day at the fair!!! How was the bomb? GREAT! I love bacon, brisket and jalapeños. So no worries there as it satisfied all three of us as we shared one. Maybe a bit small for the $7 price, but we enjoyed it and moved on to our next item.

Stop number two was some Iowa Craft Beer to quench our thirst and head over to see the Big Boar, the Master Champion Bull, the Clydesdales, the goats, the dairy cattle, the "unusual" breeds, and what not for the livestock. Moving north and west from that section of the fair, we hit the produce to see how our garden should have looked. Actually, our cucumbers could hold their own with the winners we saw, but everything else was gorgeous. Clearly, our gardening skills need improvement. A stop at the Butter Cow moved us on up the hill for our next stop.

The gals goofing around for a photogenic moment...

StateFairFun2015

We stopped at Top of the Vine just as the clouds opened up and dumped a shower. Tara ordered a wood fired oven Pizza Margherita, I got some glasses of Iowa wine in hopes it would be okay. We tried the Snus Vineyard's Edelweiß. Well, at least the pizza was good.

351165

After the rain stopped, back down the hill we went after a nice stop to see all of the old relics and antiques. I thumbed my way through a few cookbooks and this caught my eye...

MayonnaiseCakes

Yup, Iowa likes to down the mayonnaise. So surprise, surprise - digging through several cookbooks included recipes for various versions of Mayonnaise Cake. Reach for the red rice yeast, cinnamon, avocado, olive oil, oats, red wine, dark chocolate, red apples, carrots, beets, green tea, salmon, walnuts, legumes, garlic, and spinach to get the cholesterol numbers down after that!

Eventually, we narrowed down the best pork chop on a stick to share, sweet potato fries to share, and had to end our food quest with another award winning new item this year - Toasted Coconut Caramel Cluster. Yum...

image

We moved on from there to try out some beds, furniture, see the sights until the buildings were closed, then moved on to hear Get the Led Out! - which is a tribute band to the music of Led Zeppelin. Or rather, music from way back in my era. The lead singer has a crystal clear and healthy singing voice which was great to hear, and I enjoyed what I heard a lot.

Our afternoon/evening came to an end and we drove back home to sleep off the 2015 Fair fare. We had a fun time walking around, eating, and seeing the sights at the 2015 Iowa State Fair.

8/14/15

Commute time is about to begin...

The Simpson Fall Semester officially begins on September 1st this year, but we have meetings and workshops that actually start today for me. What? Two weeks before school in the midst of my summer vacation I am supposed to attend meetings today? Ah, yes - meetings set up by those who hold 12 month contracts who expect those of us who hold 9 month contracts to "come on in to work" during our 3 months off. Such is academia. There have been a multitude of articles written about this over the past few years in terms of expectations, cultural norms at various institutions, the difference between 12 month and 9 month contracts, tenure vs. non tenure, summer 3 month research grants vs. duties related to the other 9 months, and on and on. Regardless, I am off to a meeting this morning involving content about the other 9 months because I am in town and can attend.

C'est la vie.

I'm still in my full vacation mode struggling to catch up with everything that needs to be caught up with having spent only a total of 10 weeks at home this year. I will admit my surprise of how the grief has hit me following Dad's passing. I'm not sure I was expecting the residual effects to hit as hard as they did hit, but I am happy that I seem to be crawling my way out of the worst of it. Trail work, IMBCS work, and directing the recent race at Center Trails at least got me into a bit of a routine to take my mind off of the loss. I was talking to Tara the other night and I think the addition of officially being empty nesters now that Zack is in Oklahoma, and having a beloved family pet who is on her last days also contributes to how I am feeling.

I imagine the upcoming routine of the Fall Semester in 2 weeks will contribute to moving forward. Routine tends to help in that way. That being said, the lethargy and fuzzy confusion has not been fun on the worst days, but is a normal part of the grieving process. Imagine my surprise the other day at Home Depot when I couldn't even recall the name of the street we have lived on for 12 years when the salesperson asked where they would be delivering the product I was ordering! That one blew me away, but it was that kind of day. I haven't been able to predict those days when I am down, and fortunately they are less frequent than the good days. The loss of the second parent can be compounded with the reality of being without parents. An orphan if you will.

Speaking of routines, I enjoyed my commute routine in Schorndorf during the Spring Semester, so with my Messenger Bag, I am looking forward to doing that this Fall as well.

SchordorfBikeCommute

This TIMBUK2 bag has been one of my best purchases to date. I used it every day in Europe, not only for commuting, but it was my carry bag on the flights and on the trains. I also hauled my groceries and goodies from the bakery with it in Germany. I picked it up last December on sale at Scheels for about 35% off and couldn't be happier with it. When I first purchased it I figured I would not use it as I had two other solutions (a Kensington Computer Bag and a rear rack storage solution that cost me an arm and a leg). However, it quickly became the bag of choice for my needs.

MessengerBag

Although we have 2 rather steep hills to descend and climb between my house and work, a brand new bike trail along Highway 92 is about to open that has the potential of allowing me to get to and from work without fighting those hills. Not a big deal for me in a cycling kit, but when wearing a suit or nice clothes - it's hard not to work up a sweat climbing those hills. Going the longer, but flatter route has the potential to make my commute more enjoyable without having to worry about my choice of attire. It looks like they have at least another month or more of construction to complete that, so I will face the hills until then.

8/2/15

Once in a blue moon...

We won't see two full moons in a month again until 2018, but the blue moon was indeed spectacular this past week to round out July 2015. It just so happened that we had a break in the weather pattern from all of the rain that we could actually see the moon. Even last night it looked wonderful as we were driving back from Iowa City. Clouds covering the moon? Yup, the month of July saw nearly 12 inches of rainfall in Indianola.

My July riding ended up being a little short from my original intentions due to Dad's passing. I pretty much was off the bike for a week. Following that, I had plenty of aimless riding, but in spite of being aimless, the exercise felt good and therapeutic.

I mainly just kept things going with the legs and lungs on the bike, and also did quite a bit of trail work at Banner Pits and Center Trails. When I add into the mix teaching a week of music camp at Simpson, directing a race coming up this weekend and all of the time spent with event organization in getting that ready, it's a wonder I got as much time on the bike as I did in July. Flooding and rain kept me off on some days, or shortened others.

July 1 - rode 9.8 miles for a duration of 1:07:02
July 2 - rode 10:84 miles for a duration of 1:35:19
July 3 - rode 5.53 miles for a duration of 00:31:13
July 8 - rode 5.8 miles for a duration of 00:45:35
July 10 - rode 29.1 miles for a duration of 1:52:10
July 11 - rode 20.8 miles for a duration of 1:27:51
July 13 - rode 7.61 miles for a duration of 00:59:06
July 15 - rode 11.7 miles for a duration of 1:38:15
July 16 - rode 46.23 miles for a duration of 3:15:35
July 18 - rode 17 miles for a duration of 1:30:30
July 19 - rode 7.25 miles for a duration of 1:03:41
July 21 - rode 8.41 miles for a duration of 1:00:19
July 24 - rode 7.55 miles for a duration of 0:41:01
July 25 - rode 71.4 miles for a duration of 4:51:45
July 26 - rode 8.68 miles for a duration of 0:45:39
July 28 - rode 31.2 miles for a duration of 2:00:13
July 29 - rode 12.7 miles for a duration of 0:56:12
July 30 - rode 18.1 miles for a duration of 1:20:12

July Total MIles: 311.6          July Total Hours: 27:21:38

Moving forward....

Number plates and award medals arrived on Thursday...

image

Friday I spent 6 hours doing trail work at Center Trails before I ran out of trimmer line, met with the chef at Strudl Haus to pay for the final order of food at the race, met with the meat manager at the butcher for the sausages, and then ended the day in a flurry.

Flurry?

The U-Haul I had reserved a week ago to use to take Alexa's stuff to her new apartment was no longer available. 15 minutes before my scheduled pick up time in West Des Moines as I was driving in the car, I got a text from U-Haul HQ telling me I now had to pick it up in Ames. WTF? The Ames location closed at 8 and we would just barely make it. We ended up racing to Ames to make it before they closed. The gal at the counter informed me that I couldn't pick it up until Saturday morning as that is what her computer screen was showing. WTF? Long story short, we did get a trailer, got a $50 rebate back from U-Haul for our troubles, and rushed back to Homemakers to pick up her new furniture. Homemakers closed at 9, and we arrived at 8:50. If only the rental pick up had worked out as planned for the original scheduled 6:45 in West Des Moines, things would have gone smoothly and there would have not been a mad dash at the end to get the trailer and the furniture. However, the once in a blue moon month of July certainly aided the old adage that nothing ever goes as planned.

Once we got her new bed and nightstand loaded in the U-Haul, it occurred to us we had not eaten. So we stopped for a bite to eat in Des Moines and finally got home in bed around 11 PM. That was a 15 hour day for me of non-stop activity/movement.

Saturday was spent moving Alexa into her new apartment. This included lots of heavy lifting, and assembling things, but we got everything done before driving back home. Actual move in time took about 6 hours of work which wasn't too bad. My body feels exhausted after the physicality required of the two back to back days I put in. I may have to reach for some Ibuprofen today (which I hate to do) based on how I feel this morning. We will have the same moving routine with Zack this week in Oklahoma.

Now that the blue moon is gone - I hope there are no snafus with the rental truck!!!!

7/29/15

Salsa Dos Niner with big meat!!!

The Schwalbe Racing Ralph 2.35 tires grew overnight after mounting them yesterday. Today's measurement registered a casing width of 61.4mm even with the psi down to the 20-22 range. They are BIG!

I moved an 11-34 cassette and my 160mm front/140mm rear Alligator rotors from an older wheelset over to the new wheels. The first test on tap of these new wheels will be on my Salsa Dos Niner. At the width they are displaying, that is about as wide of a rear tire that the Dos can handle without rubbing.

IMG_1857_2

I raced the Dos with Ardent 2.4's before, but the rear tire tread would rub on the inside of the chainstay under hard pedal efforts as the wheel flexed. However, these carbon rims are stiff. So we will see if I get rub or not. As I said, this is the initial test. There is plenty of room on my JET 9 and RIP 9 if the Dos Niner proves to be too flexible and tight spaced for these new big meats.

These are certainly big tires for XC racing and riding, but talk about some nice cushion for a hardtail or softail!

IMG_1858_2

I've got the big Ralphs on my Karate Monkey SS as well. In fact, I have been enjoying them so much on that bike that it led me to trying the same RR tires on the new wheels.

IMG_1475

Unfortunately, Indianola had nearly 6" of rain last night and 2" the day before for a grand total of around 8" which has caused major flooding and turned all of our Central Iowa dirt into soup. Including today's beautiful sunny weather, we have about 4 days of sunshine, dry and cooler temps along with wind to start working magic to get trails in condition for bikes again. This means I will have to wait to test these new wheels and tires on dirt. I did, however, ride around the neighborhood hopping curbs, piles of rocks and any bumps I could bash into to get an idea of the big cushion tires on the wide rims. I have to say they feel pretty damn good.

One issue is that the casing is wider than the tread with these wider rims which alters the intended transition of the knobs engaging for leaning over in corners. Time will tell on dirt how that works out, but with the advent of wider rims, I must say it seems to beckon for the alteration of tire tread in relationship to the overall casing design in an effort to account for the wider internal rim widths. At the very least, some sort of design that places the tread for enough "out" to still engage on the dirt where it was intended to on narrower rims. On all of my other Racing Ralphs, the tread (knobs) measurement is slightly wider than the casings. However, with this wide rim, that relationship is in reverse.

On another note, I went for a road ride with Tara after work. As expected and after studying the data available, we hit flooding down at Summerset State Park. By my eyes it is the worst flooding received this year as the Middle River was really high, over the banks, and raging as it filled the park. According to a rider who had crossed the flooded sections, if we had gone across the flood waters it would have put water up to our hubs. That was enough to cause us to turn around. On the way back, I ran over a pile of big rocks and gravel on the paved trail from the flooing. I caught one rock pretty hard which subsequently shot out sideways with a very loud PING! A must have had a pinch flat as a few moments later my rear tire was deflated. Since the mosquitoes are the size of 747's at the moment, rather than spend the 5 or 6 minutes in the woods changing the tube, I had Tara ride home to get the car and come get me as I kept walking at a good clip for about 1.5 miles to avoid all the skeeters. I made it home and immediately started up the fire to grill chops, veggies and peaches for dinner.

Here's to dry weather and no flooding for the next couple of weeks. Our basement is fine this time around, but hundreds of residents in Indianola had flooded basements last night with all of that rain. Our two sump pumps are working non-stop to clear the drainage making me happy we had all that basement work done a few years ago. Before that work, our basement would have flooded as well.

7/28/15

Light Bicycle carbon rims and Schwalbe Racing Ralph 2.35's!!

First things first, yes it has been difficult to move forward since July 2nd with the loss of a loved one. I haven't posted on the blog for that reason, but I'm starting to peak out from behind the dark shadows now...

New Hand Built MTB Wheels

The new wheels that I had built by Mike Curiak at LaceMine29.com arrived this month. My choice of new tires to mount on these wide rims from Light Bicycle (35mm external/30mm internal width) arrived yesterday in the form of Schwalbe Racing Ralph 2.35's tubeless easy tires. Both tires weigh in exactly at 660g's on my digital scale.

I had ordered the new rims during the Spring while I was in Germany as replacement rims for my original AM rims from Light Bicyle that had served me well. My original Light Bicycle rims had a broken spoke/nipple that I had taken to the bike shop where they had been built a few years ago to see if the rear could be fixed. The rear wheel was diagnosed by two people at the shop as having a pull through the rim and I was told the rim was shot. So I went with that and believed the diagnosis. Thus my order for the replacement rims. I figured why not go wider and try out a pair with the new non-bead groove technology while I was at it? Hookless rim wall I believe is the proper terminology for the newer style of bike rims being built in carbon.

When I got back from Germany, I looked really closely at the broken spoke/nipple and the drilled rim hole on the old Light Bicycle wheels. Before I started to take the wheels apart to reuse the hubs, I wanted to be sure the rear wheel was toast. So I took them up for a second opinion to fellow BikeIowa.com team member Steve Fry at Bike World in West Des Moines. Steve said the hole was fine, popped on a new spoke and nipple and presto - the wheels are fine. OK, sometimes second opinions are worth getting. Not the result I was expecting and here I was with two new beautiful rims. What to do? Build them up which would require an additional set of hubs, or try and sell the rims? I decided to go with the former knowing the age of all my other wheels and anticipate a replacement set if and when another set gives up the ghost. So, I now have plenty of wheels, 3 sets with carbon rims. One set on the RIP 9, one set on the JET 9, and now this new set which will spend time on those two bikes as well as my Dos Niner.

These new wheels are laced with SuperComp DT Swiss spokes to DT Swiss 350 hubs. I chose those hubs after Mike showed them to me in his shop in Grand Junction. I had stopped at his shop to drop off the rims on vacation as it was on our route of I-70 to begin with and it saved on shipping. I was amazed how easy the front hub converts between 15mm TA and QR. It is a bit different conversion than my Specialized hubs which convert by changing the end caps, but the DT Swiss 350 is just as quick and easy with an axle that pops in and out in a second or two. I need this option because of the bikes I own use both standards and I swap wheels from rig to rig quite often. The DT 240 hub also converts, but requires tools and time to swap (much like the American Classic and Chris King hubs I now have and use that also require tools and time to swap).  So the 350 hubs were chosen (not to mention price is a bit less). I have to say, they are sharp looking!

Rims out of the box...

IMG_1425

IMG_1427

Untitled


The wheels out of the box...

IMG_1833

IMG_1834

The new Racing Ralph 2.35's mounted up without any issue. I expected things to be wide on these new rims, but I didn't want to go too wide due to clearance issues on all of my bikes. I debated between all kinds of tires, but know what works well in the soil conditions where I ride. I was also pleased with how well the Ralphs did out west in Arizona, Utah, Colorado, South Dakota, and California to know that if I wanted to head out to the mountains the Ralphs would be fine for my needs there as well as XC racing and riding here in the Midwest. The tires measured up at 60.37mm and 60.40mm right out of the gate (2.37") and look great on the wheels.

IMG_1849

Casing width measures out at 2.35" and change right out of the box...

IMG_1850

Now it is time to move over a pair of rotors and a cassette from an older set of wheels so I can ride these new gems and see how they do out on the trail!

Keeping busy...

I did a lot of trail work at Banner Pits and Center Trails trying to trim back the jungle that is growing this year from an El Niño weather pattern. The purchase of a new tool to help speed up the side trimming of trail takes a lot of pressure off of the hands and arms from using one of the hand held/strap over the shoulder gas powered string trimmers. It also prevents me from taking our Toro lawnmower out into the bush to possibly ruin it!!!  The idea being I can use it on Banner, Center, Lake Ahquabi and get some trimming/maintenance work done without my hands going numb. Then I can reach for the hedge clippers and the over the shoulder strap, hand held string trimmer to get to spots that the push behind string trimmer cannot reach.

One of the banes of doing trail work is all of those tools really cause carpal tunnel syndrome which doesn't help with sleep at night when you keep waking up with numb hands. And it makes riding a bike painful as your hands fall asleep a lot while riding. I usually get that syndrome leading up to the race at Ahquabi during the month of September as I trim the canopy and trails, but it appears I have reached that point quite a bit earlier in the season with the hours I have been devoting to trail maintenance. Hand held non-motorized trail work is nice, green, and what not - but it is hell on one's wrists, forearms, and hands.

The Earthquake Viper 173cc engine, 22" cutting path does good work - but I fear this model is going to be high maintenance for me. On the second outing, the tire peeled off of the cheap plastic rim and the rim's plastic spoke bent making it non-fixable (the wheel). Also, one of the trimmer height bolts was stripped out of the box. Adding 2 and 2 together, I exchanged it for another one. Out of the box, the replacement was outfitted with sturdier wheels! I guess Earthquake identified an OEM wheel problem and figured it out. Glad to have a better wheeled model. The trimmer line and the way it attaches is excellent. Other models I have used seem to all be a constant pain to always have to replace the trimmer line as it breaks or flies off. Not with this Viper! The trimmer line stays put and only wears out after hours of trimming. That's a plus. A huge plus. I have also rigged up my hand held string trimmer using an odd stringing method and zip ties with overlap to keep the strings in place so I can get a few hours of trimming time in before having to replace. If I don't do that, the string flies off every 10 or 20 seconds leading to nothing but frustration.

The second Viper out of the box also encountered issues during its maiden voyage. The drive pulley was not engaging very well - or at all - by the end of a 3 hour session. Dang! These are supposed to be high use, heavy weed cutting machines which is why I purchased it! I need to take it apart and see if I can fix that, but was waiting on an email response from the company first to make sure that it is adjustable before I take it all apart and monkey around with it. Hopefully, I can get that up and going so when this current bout of rains moves through I can get out and trim more trail.

First model that lost a wheel...

IMG_1840

Second model with the better wheels...

IMG_1845

The above picture was following a 3 1/2 hour stint at opening up a section of singletrack called J-11 at Center Trails in Des Moines. The area had been flooded, so there was a lot of debris to clear from the trails, and the grass/weeds along the side of the trail was all very tall. The belt started slipping about 5 minutes into the job, but I managed to get done what I needed to before coming out of the woods and leaving the mosquitoes to devour someone else besides me.

I hate things that don't work or break down on such short and proper use. So this story may not yet be finished unfolding as if I cannot get it fixed, I plan on taking full advantage of the warranty and the extended warranty that I purchased.

Hopefully I can get it up and running today with a simple adjustment (or a new belt).

Edit: I took it apart to see how it all functioned and tightened up the cable. Cleaned everything up while I was at it. After a few adjustments and playing with the cable pull, it seems to engage properly. The real test will be out in the woods taking on the growth along the side of the trail.