Last Day of Summer and the Solstice Slam Race Report...

Today, September 22nd is the last day of Summer 2015 as we know it - or rather - knew it. The Fall Equinox arrives tomorrow morning at 3:22 a.m. in the Des Moines area to officially launch us into Fall.

Ma Nature continued taunting us (so what else is new?) for the IMBCS 2015 season with a nice 2" rain on Friday in the Des Moines area. That amount of rain put the Sunday race in jeopardy at Ewing Park as a result. The race was originally scheduled for June 21st and called the Summer Solstice Slam. Wet weather and trail conditions prevented it from taking place in June, so Race Director Nathan Cline and Team Sakari came up with the date of September 20th to shoot for the tail end of summer since the beginning didn't work out. We have had 3 rescheduled events this year, and this was the second of the three. The final one will be on October 11th at Sunderbruch Park in Davenport.

Luckily, going into Thursday and Friday's rain, things were bone dry around here in terms of the tread. That, combined with a Saturday that was filled with sunshine, a breeze, and cooler temperatures helped to dry things out in time that the race could take place. To be sure, we utilized a pre-announced 2 hour delay to allow the morning dew on Sunday to dry with the cooler temperatures and by modifying the race course a bit to remove the lowest areas that would still be too moist for racing without preventing trail damage. The loop was shortened by about 1 - 1 1/2 miles, and the number of laps were adjusted to account for it. The racing lap for CAT II, COMP, and CAT ended up being about 3.25 miles which was enough to spread things out and still give us an excellent race course.

I had no option but to put in a 5+ hour trail work day at Lake Ahquabi on Saturday since I am running out of weekends and I work until 5:30 every day. It mainly involved clearing debris from the sickle cut along the trail side on the west side of the lake. This meant a lot of bending over, and heaving the brush deep into the woods to get it away from the trail. Needless to say, my hamstrings were shot and in pain when I woke up on Sunday. My back and arms hurt, and my hands were numb from the usual carpal tunnel issues of doing lots of trail work. Recovering from trail work is not as easy it was just 8-10 years ago. It really zaps me now and leaves me in a physically wiped condition. However, it had to be done and I was going to race in spite of it. Yes, I knew fully what I was getting myself into this time around based on the Seven Oaks and Sugar Bottom races where I had done a lot of trail work going into both of those events as well. The 20th was my 54th birthday, so we celebrated at 801 Chophouse on the night of the 19th as I had an evening rehearsal on Sunday. Let's just say the 2 hour delay was welcomed so I could recover from the trail work and Saturday night's consumption of adult beverages.

Sunday was sunny, and mild temperatures in the mid-70's made for an ideal racing situation. I arrived at Ewing Park, set up the IMBCS banners, chit chatted and watched the CAT III/Junior race.


The parking lot had a good crowd for the CAT III/Junior race...


The course had been set up so that between the singletrack, we would start and finish by taking on a chunk of grass in the park that was mainly uphill. One could tell it was quite a grind as everyone labored up the grassy climb to the finish area...


I am glad I was there to be watching, as I noticed the USA Cycling Official was pulling certain racers off of the course as they rode by...


...the Official told me anyone that was lapped was being pulled. I informed him that we don't do it that way in Iowa for our mountain bike racing as it is based on your finish time of doing all laps and there were many age classes within each category that were racing for series points. So I quickly told those that had been pulled to get back out on the course to finish their race. It all worked out fine in the end.


Anthony Branch was there with a group of youth from Iowa City to race...


It was good to see them as they have not been able to make all of the races this year. I extended an invitation to him for The Mullet Fall Classic on October 4th and hope they can make it.

I've never ridden at Ewing Park, so after the CAT III and Junior races were finished, I headed out for a pre-ride of the course. The dirt was in perfect "Hero Dirt" condition! On the first climb, I immediately felt the pain from Saturday's trail work going against me and knew it was going to be a bit of an arduous day for me on the bike. I got lined up with the 13 of us in COMP and on the start, sat in for what was going to be a longer race due to the 5 laps (about 20 minutes each for me). I went into the singletrack in 11th place out of the 13 and settled into what I could muster in my condition. The extra 10 pounds I am carrying up the hills this year, and lack of much racing is all setting me up for next season as a "do over". ;-)

Oh well, it is what it is, and I will race the FORC Side Thrill Ride as my last event for 2015. The next two weeks getting the trails ready at Lake Ahquabi for The Mullet Fall Classic will wear me out as well, but I want the course in super fast and excellent condition.

The Ewing course was a blast! Lots of variety and fun stuff.

Photo courtesy of Eric Roccasecca

Everything was going fine until lap #4. The CAT I eventual winner, Nate Kulllbom passed me in the singletrack and as we approached the first pile of logs to go over, he yelled something out to me. I didn't quite hear what he said, but as I rounded the corner at my top speed and pulled my wheel up to go over the logs I noticed why he had yelled. The log on the descending side of the pile had rolled out about 2 - 2 1/2 feet from the pile. Normally, this obstacle had been rather innocuous for me in the previous laps, but I came down and my front wheel did not clear the log that had rolled away and suddenly found myself in the middle of an end over end tumble at full race speed. Not much time to think as one summersaults in mid air attached to a bike rather than have a quick "oh crap" moment. Somehow, I managed to tuck and roll as best that I could and WHAM! My head hit the dirt with full force, and my back slammed onto the ground. Then I muttered some words in pain and did a quick body check as I moaned on the ground making sure I could wiggle my fingers and toes. My neck and back took it full force and I was very fortunate I didn't break my neck with the force of the slam that I hit the ground - not to mention the odd angle that I hit.

I laid there for quite a bit hoping somebody would come along and help me up, but nobody came. Finally, after at least a minute of catching my breath and moaning on the ground, I managed to get up off the ground. I rolled the log back into place so somebody else wouldn't suffer like I did. I hopped back on the bike and took off at a timid pace akin to one of shock and surprise - both of having crashed as well as surprise of having not broken anything. Needless to say, the rest of lap 4 found me battling the post crash demon of fear while trying to shake it off. I thought about just walking it in from there, but kept going and managed to launch myself into lap 5 being careful enough to respect the trail a bit more. The final climb in the grass section by the finish line had me fending off cramps in the legs. It didn't matter if I sat or got out of saddle, both options hurt.

Photo courtesy of Eric Roccasecca

I crossed the line beat up and spent. I had rolled across the finish line in the same position I had gone into the singletrack - 11th out of the 13 of us, and 8th out of 9 for my age class. Nate Kullbom came rolling up and asked me how I had faired over the pile of logs that he warned me about. I told him I heard him yell something, but he was too far in front of me to hear exactly what the warning was and I had done a big endo over the logs.

Post race beers and chit chat (thanks Al Boone for the birthday beer!), followed by the awards ceremony rounded out the afternoon. Nathan said he had a total of 75 racers which was pretty good considering it was a reschedule. In terms of our regular IMBCS XC categories, the number of 75 racers just barely met our goal of 75-100, but hopefully word will get out how good Ewing Park Trails are for a race course and if an event is held there again, we can achieve that goal. I saw nothing but smiles, happy racers, and everyone sharing great stories about their race. That's what it's all about and is the best testament to a well run event on a great course. The beautiful weather puts the icing on the cake of course, and both Summerset and Ewing have had great racing conditions on the day of the race. Kudos to Nathan Cline and Team Sakari for hosting a really great event. Hats off to all the trail work, led by Brian Sheesley, to get this trail in shape for the event. I know a lot of work is involved, but I will be the first to say we all appreciate it. Now that I have ridden the Ewing Park trails, I will be back for more as it is only a 15 minute drive from my house.

I woke up Monday stiff as a board from the fall with a neck and back that hurt like a SOB. I made it through the day without having to take any pain medication. Today I feel even worse, but am hoping a hot shower will loosen things up a bit and I can avoid taking Ibuprofen (it is not good for the singing voice at all) and I have to sing tonight and all day tomorrow. I'm not as torn up as I was a few years ago when I did an endo at Tranquility Park (bad whiplash, separated shoulder, broken teeth), but this one will take a few days to heal for sure.


Summerset Shootout Race Report...

Saturday was another race for the 2015 season. It was IMBCS #10 - Summerset Shootout. Believe it or not, it was actually only the third race in our eleven race series to date that has not had to use a rain delay or was not rescheduled. Ma Nature played nice and provided us with dry weather, sunshine, and temperatures in the 60's - 70's for perfect racing conditions. That's something that would not be hard to imagine during some years here in Iowa, but it is sort of hard to imagine this year with what we have been through in terms of weather, rain, and frustration.

Race Director Rick Blackford and the Rasmussen Mountain Bike Team had everything set up well and hosted a wonderful event.


The early morning crew had Steve Fuller snap one of our local balloons launching over the Banner Pits on Saturday morning...


I drove out and set up the IMBCS banners around 9 am and then headed up to Des Moines to pick up the CITA trailer for the organized trail work day at Lake Ahquabi on Sunday morning. I dropped the trailer off at the house, showered up and then headed back to Summerset State Park for the 2015 Shootout event. It is one of my "home" courses, so I felt comfortable doing the three laps knowing what that feels like on this course. I got registered and went out to warm up on the pavement and hit the section of Riverside we were to do. I ended up doing more chit-chat with various folks than I did warm-up, but that was okay with me. My legs felt pretty rested from the week of recovery I had been through.

The COMP category has proven to be very popular this year and once again, we had 16 toe the line in the COMP category. Although my name was called up to line up front due to the series points, I was happy to stay in the back for the start.

Off we went...


...and I tried to gauge a bit better where I belonged in the line up before heading into the singletrack. I went in about 12th out of the 16 and was comfortable in that position. As we worked our way through the opening Coal Miner's Daughter section, I eventually passed the guy in front of me to put myself into 11th place overall for the group. Lap one was uneventful for me as the trail was in primo shape. Tom Anderson was acting as a course marshal as we came out of Corner Pocket and yelled out some words of encouragement to me.


My legs and overall oompf felt better this race than the previous two because I laid off the trail work and allowed myself to actually recover before this race. Big difference for me and I was glad. Lap two had the top Sport racer catch up to me and pass me in Corner Pocket. Three others caught up to me going into Riverside and they went around me as we headed to Extra Credit. That was it in terms of being passed for the duration. I held my own on lap 3...


I rolled across the finish line feeling pretty good that I did not lose power or speed and turned three consistent laps (all within less than a minute range of each other). I came in 10th out of the 16 and 5th in my age class. Not dead last in either like I was at Seven Oaks.

Fun was had by all with beer and small talk after the race. I was happy to see 84 racers toe the line on a beautiful day at a well run event. The tread was in perfect shape and it was Central Iowa MTB Racing at its best. Kudos to Rick and the Rassy Team - not to mention all that put time into trimming and maintaing the Banner Trails (including yours truly).

Nebraska Pro Brad Auen, Nathan Kulbon, and Ryan Van Houweling took top honors in the CAT I men, while Liz Van Houweling, Jamie Johnson, and Joanne Schmidt took the CAT I Female Podium...


All in all, a great afternoon of racing and hanging out before we all went our separate ways.

Next up is the Solstice Slam race which is on a new trail venue located at Ewing Park in Des Moines this Sunday (my birthday). It is a make up race due to being rained out earlier this year in June.

Photos courtesy of Eric Roccasecca, Jacqueline Maney, Ron Cooney, and Steve Fuller


Fall weather rolls in just in time for mountain bike racing & the Jewish New Year....

It looks like Ma Nature is going to treat us kindly this weekend in IMBCS land for the Summerset Shootout which is what is on tap at Summerset State Park (Banner Pits) tomorrow. Two out of our seven races to date have gone off with good weather, excellent conditions and no need for a rain delay or postponement. So it will be nice to finally have a third in the bag with no hitches.

The forecast (after a gorgeous Friday that was sunny with nice wind to dry out all the trails) for tomorrow's race looks Fastastic! Yup, not fantastic, but FASTastic!

Summerset Weather

Hopefully, even though our race is up against a cyclocross race in Pella, we will have a good turn out tomorrow. Banner trails are some of Central Iowa's finest and well worth the drive to come and race on them. The trail is in excellent shape, groomed and really in primo conditions. I would love to see this race take off with an explosion of participants compared to the past few years.

I have a busy weekend on tap with the Saturday race, a Saturday wedding, a Sunday trail work day (excellent weather forecast for that as well) at Lake Ahquabi, and the start of Rosh Hashanah where I will once again be singing services on Sunday night, and Monday morning. We've been rehearsing all summer and had 3 evening rehearsals this week in preparation - so I hope we are ready!

Have a great weekend everyone! Grab your bike and race. And Happy New Year to all of my Jewish friends. I will do my best to do justice to the music on Sunday and Monday.


Labor Day Weekend & Fitness...

A hot and humid Labor Day Weekend in Iowa for sure!

I certainly put the labor in my Labor Day weekend on Saturday and Sunday with trail work out at Lake Ahquabi. The act of raking the tread and clearing debris stirred up plenty of dust and pollen. Add trimming tall weeds on the side of the trail that are in full bloom and covered in pollen to that, and well....it got the best of my allergies. After sneezing about 40 times each day, I managed to still ride the mountain bike on both days. I even went to a rehearsal for 2:30 hours Sunday night and the voice kind of - sort of worked.

Depending on the weather, Monday may have me doing a little bit more work outside.

Speaking of fitness, I used the past week to do a much needed Rest & Recovery week. My body was full of aches and pains from prior trail work (lifting heavy trees and logs, chainsawing, trimming, debris removal, pushing the walk behind trimmer, etc...) as well as 3 consecutive weekend races.

For kicks, I took an online fitness test to calculate my "fitness age" HERE and had to laugh at my results...



Sure. Whatever. Now, if my body only felt 28 after doing trail work and doing some laps on the mountain bike! Instead, it feels difficult to get out of bed with all of the aches and pains I feel in my muscles and joints.

Laborious at times...


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...


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...


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...


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...


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


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.

Photo Courtesy of Adam Bumpus

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

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.

Lined Up and Ready

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.


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...


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...


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


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...


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.


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...


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.


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...


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...


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.