10/20/14

Red Wing Race Report...

Knowing that it was near peak weekend for fall colors, Tara decided to join me on a fall drive up to Red Wing this past Sunday.  I know we did that at least once when we lived in New York City and headed up to Vermont for a weekend.  Peak colors can vary 2-3 weeks depending on the weather, but this year they are a bit later than normal.  So the timing worked out perfectly.  I wanted to race in the rescheduled Minnesota Mountain Bike Series event that originally was supposed to be in July, but rain in the forecast caused a postponement back in July.  I like the course a lot, and saw that I had Sunday free to travel to the race, so that's what we did.  A road trip for fall colors and racing.

We left the house at 6 am and Tara got a picture of the sunrise as we headed north...

Sunrise

Thanks to sharing driving duties, I was able to work on a flat tire my rear bike wheel had while we motored up I-35.  I added sealant, and pumped the tire back up (which is not easy while sitting in the front seat).  We arrived a bit later than I would have liked, but I got dressed, made my drink mix, and headed to the registration table to pick up my number plate.  Then I headed out for a 15-20 minute brief warm-up in the blustery fall morning, that was filled with beautiful sunshine and fall colors every where one looked.

I lined up about 10 minutes before the start and noticed that the 2nd Wave would be all the 40-49, 50-59, and 60+ racers.  Usually we are near the rear of all the start waves, but this time we would go second. 

Tara snapped a shot of me with my game face starting to develop...

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I got some final tips and directions from a fellow racer in my group before we took off...

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After the call ups for our combined wave of three age categories had been completed, I was lined up back in the bunch at the line.  On the "GO!", I was able to move up to the top 10-12 quite easily in the opening meadow section as my legs were feeling good for racing.  I knew that this race was going to be a lot longer than the typical 60 - 70 minute version of a Sport race due to the number of laps we were slated to do - 3.  So I didn't want to get too excited right off the bat, and thought about pacing to remain strong throughout the race.

I recognized a racer (Steve Kapaun) in front of me that is usually near or on the podium, and managed to settle in behind him.  By my count of who had lined up at the start, Steve was the final podium spot with Craig Brown right in front of him.  I remained on Steve's wheel and when we came into the final open meadow section after a long climb, I really thought about passing both he and the rider in front of him as my HR monitor said we were just cruising along in that meadow at Tempo, rather than in race pace.  Again, my strategy was to follow these two riders, pace myself well, and the strategy developed - whether it was good or bad at the time - to making the decision I would attempt to make my move in either the 2nd or the 3rd lap at or around that same spot.

As we came around the start/finish area for the 2nd lap, Tara snapped a shot of me which shows the vivid fall colors we were all fortunate to experience out there...

RedWingColors

In that opening meadow section where I noticed Steve had slowed down during lap one - he took off, and I gave pursuit to stay in contact.  So, that adjusted my strategy to wait until the 3rd lap to make my move.  Lap three had some of the faster racers from waves that started behind us catching up and asking to pass.  Other than that, it was going according to plan and I was hanging on the wheel of the rider in front of me.  I was riding my Dos Niner which has wider handlebars than my Niner bikes, and negotiating between some of the tight trees was going fine, but took good timing, balance and coordination at this race speed.

About 2/3's of the way through lap three on a tight tree section that didn't give me any troubles before, I snagged the right side of my handlebar on a tree.  That stopped me dead in my tracks and threw me as well as the bike into a tree on the left side where my helmet smashed into the tree.  My chain also flew off and the 2 guys behind me screamed at me to "Get out of the way!!!".  There were no "Are you okay?" sympathies shared from what they had just seen.  So I moved out of the way and it took far too long to get my chain back on than I would have liked.  I fumbled with it in 3 or 4 attempts to get the chain on and get going again.  Rats!!!  "Game Over" I thought, but there was no way I was going to go down without a fight.

So digging deep, I gave chase in hopes I could make up a 20 second deficit before we ran out of singletrack real estate.  I pushed my heart rate higher than I thought I could take, but was heroics or nothing at this point if I wanted it that bad.   I was slowly crawling my way back into it, but was still about 11 seconds or so behind where I had been before hitting the tree by my count.  Since we were already nearing the 90 minute point, I was in a deeper pain and suffering mode than usual, and the extra effort spent trying to catch up was draining my tank.  I just didn't have it in my legs to catch back up to Steve who finished 8 seconds ahead of me for the final podium spot.  I gave it my all though, and had the tree hit not happened, who knows if I would have had enough left in the tank to pull off a pass and make it stick?  Regardless, I was happy with my effort at this level of competition. 

Post race posing...

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I think Kyle Williams (who raced Sport in the 30-39 age class, and got 3rd in that group) said it best.  Something like "COMP in Minnesota is like Elite in Iowa, and Sport in Minnesota is like COMP in Iowa". 

However one says it, any time I make it to the top 5 in Wisconsin or Minnesota is a good effort for me as the competition is really high.  After the race and results were posted, we took off to find a suitable lunch spot in Red Wing.  We wandered in at Marie's Underground Grill and Tavern which turned out to be a nice local spot for lunch.  Then we hopped in the car for the return trip.

Full color in Red Wing...

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567 miles round trip was a bit much for the day when you add in a 90 minute race, but seeing the colors on or near the peak weekend made the trip worth it - as did the always well run Minnesota Mountain Bike Series events.  I'm glad they were able to have the race as it was a fun one - as always.  Kudo to all those involved in the MMBS and to the local crew at Red Wing for getting the course ready and hosting the event!!!

We rolled into Indianola about 7:30 pm tired and tuckered out...


10/6/14

What a weekend!!!!

It is no wonder I slept for 9 hours of uninterrupted sleep last night after the busiest week of the year for me.  Not even the dogs could stir me before 7 am this morning!!!!

Services on Friday night (2 hours), Saturday morning (2 hours), Saturday afternoon (4pm, 5pm and 6 pm - which morphed into the 7 pm service) singing with this excellent group of musicians...

TempleChoir

...made for a spiritual and musical highlight this Yom Kippur.  Not being Jewish, it is pretty easy to follow along with all the Old Testament stuff due to the similarities to my upbringing in the United Methodist Church.

Tara awoke long before the crows were up on Sunday morning and I think was out of the house at 4 am on her way to the airport and California.  I managed to sort of stay awake, then get ready for The Mullet Fall Classic race day which had me out of the house by 6:30 am with my U-Haul behind the Element to drive down to Lake Ahquabi and set up shop.

Bob Matthews pulled in about 15 minutes later and we went to work to make The Mullet happen.  Lake Ahquabi at 7 am...

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The trail was groomed to perfection and in perfect condition for racing.

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Bob and Andy built a nice zig-zag style maze at the start/finish area to please spectators and provide for plenty of heckling and teasing that went on during the racing...

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160 racers toed the line this year (down from last year where we had 168) and enjoyed sunshine, fall weather (high was 64), potluck, a beer garden, a generous prize table (ended up with 134 prizes)...

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...awards, fun, and frivolity to end the 2014 IMBCS season.   I had a tremendous group of volunteers that handled registration, timing, course set-up/tear-down, marshalling duties, prize table distribution duty, potluck, gopher duty, and could not be more pleased with each and every one of them.

After the long day, and very successful day of racing - I rolled out of Lake Ahquabi State Park at 7:12 pm confident we had left the park in a better condition than we had found it 12 hours prior.  I got home, had dinner with Zack and was sound asleep by 9 pm.  The High Holy Days singing, the lead up to the race, and the race day itself took a lot out of me.  All good, but combining the two on the same weekend was more draining than I thought it would be 10 months ago when I scheduled everything.

Since I did not race The Mullet this year by choice so I could focus on being an actual race director, I went out after work today to ride 2 laps at race speed.  I wanted to jump start the legs and just see where I would have stacked up on my home course.  It's always difficult to emulate true race conditions when riding by yourself, but I tried as best I could.  I had turned 32:16 laps the prior weekend on Sunday and Monday making sure I had the course set up right for this year.  Not having ridden since Monday, and without any warm-up after work -  I turned two laps in 1:04:35.  My 2nd lap was a minute quicker than my first lap as I was warmed up and in the groove.  Not a fair comparison, but had I rolled a 1:04:35 if I had raced on Sunday it would have been good enough for 3rd overall in CAT II Sport, and 1st in my age group.  At least it was good enough for my peace of mind.  More importantly, I got to see the course in the counterclockwise direction in the same conditions all the racers saw it yesterday.  It was perfect and really, really fun. 

I'm sorry not more could experience it, but I realize people are busy, some are under the weather, and a myriad of reasons always leads to who shows up and who doesn't show up.  In spite of that, I was really pleased with how the event turned out this year as I thought it was my best effort of the 7 years I have hosted this race.  Ma Nature has been more than kind to me each and every year.  For that, I feel very fortunate....

10/3/14

Singing tonight, and all day tomorrow...

Tonight at sunset begins with the Kol Nidre service to usher in Yom Kippur....

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I'll be singing the service tonight, as well as starting tomorrow morning at 10 am with continuous services until a bit after 7:00 pm when the fast is broken.  Yes, that is a big, long day tomorrow with lots of great music on tap for me to sing.

Special thanks to my colleague at Simpson - Jamie Poulsen - for the arrangement of Avinu Malkeinu with organ.  Hey, when two United Methodist Minister's sons get together - we can do great things!  ;-)  It's quickly become my favorite prayer to sing this year.  It mirrors the version Sherrill Milnes recorded with Jon Spong.  Milnes sang in Janowski's Temple Choir in Chicago in the early 60's and nailed the style in his recording.  I'm sure working with Janowski would have been fun.  I have to assume that Milnes sang it in the style Janowski taught it to him, so of all the versions I've listented to - I keep going back to the Milnes version as a reference. 

In honor of Yom Kippur and the great prayer, here's Jan Peerce singing the great Janowksi piece as originally written...



9/29/14

The Mullet Fall Classic week is here...!!!

This is the week, and....

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A trail work day on Saturday morning yielded 22 of us to take on the grooming, raking, trimming, tree cutting, erosion spot filling, etc... of the 6.5 mile loop we will use this year for Sunday's race.  Three more erosion spots will get attention this week, and then everything is good to go.

A few shots from Saturday...

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I mowed the grassy areas on Friday, worked with the crew and made breakfast for them with Tara on Saturday, did more work on Saturady afternoon, and tested out the trail Saturday late afternoon before setting up the camping site.  Tara and I camped out on Saturday night, then I did more trail work on Sunday before doing another lap to really figure out what still needed attention.  I hated missing the Night Cap up in Des Moines with BikeIowa.com, but this was the only weekend I could set aside to get the race course in shape.  Usually, the Oakley Night Cap has been held after The Mullet Fall Classic.  This year, however, they scheduled it a week before my event which meant being in two places at one time is simply not possible.  

In terms of the course at Ahquabi, a few spots could use a bit more trimming if I am being picky, but they are fine as is and won't hamper the race.  My time is limited this week with work, Yom Kippur rehearsals (singing lots of great music this year), and last minute details of picking up a trailer, the P.A. System, going over final to do lists and checklists, loading everything up so it is ready to go for the weekend.  In short, there are not enough hours in the day this week that I would like to have at my disposal.

Somehow, I managed to mow our own lawn this weekend, go to Yom Kippur rehearsal, have a meal with Tara at Centro, and get some sleep.

Although the forecast is a week out and I don't trust a forecast more than 24 hours, Ma Nature does look like she is going cooperate this weekend with sunshine and a high of 71 for The Mullet Fall Classic on Sunday.  Rain on Wednesday/Thursday in the forecasted amount of .6 - 1.3" which should dry out well on Friday with cool temperatures and wind before sunshine and warmth on Saturday and Sunday finish the course off into perfect conditions.  I may have to trim some of the grass again as the rain this past Friday, and what is coming mid-week will ignite the growth a bit quicker than I prefer.  Time being the issue to get everything done...

Enjoy National Coffee Day and drink up!!!

9/22/14

Fall Begins....Oktoberfest....Birthdays....and IMBCS Summerset Shootout Race Report!!!

I just had one of the best weekends of my 53 years to close out the Summer of 2014.  Saturday was my 53rd Birthday, and the family had plans for a unique celebration (which was all kept as a surprise to me).  Alexa arrived home on Thursday night for a 4 day weekend.

Friday night, Tara and I went to La Casa and joined up with Ron and Barb Albrecht for a nice visit and meal sitting outside on the patio enjoying the late summer weather.  A pair of Margaritas began my weekend festivities, and Saturday was a scheduled IMBCS mountain bike race at Summerset State Park.  Unfortunately, a storm brewed up in the early morning hours and dumped enough rain (1/2") to force a postponement to Sunday for the race.

That actually turned out well for us, as Alexa took me to a wonderful Birthday breakfast at La Mie.  Zack had work call for the opera, and Tara was getting her hair cut.  I ran into Fred Lorber at La Mie and we visited for a few minutes before Alexa informed me we needed to "be out of the house for a few more hours".  So we headed over to Rassy's to get my rear wheel spoke fixed and get the wheel trued.  Adam dug around and actually found a derailleur hanger for the JET 9.  Greg ordered a replacement derailleur that would replace the one I was about to steal from my wife's Air 9.  Then we headed over to Jordan Creek to see the new iPhone 6 and 6+ (very nice, by the way).  There was a line outside the store for those waiting to buy the new iPhone that had well over 150 people standing in it.  Alexa and I moved on to other stores and she bought me a nice new pair of cold weather riding gloves as a birthday present.

My cousin Marilyn reminded everyone on Facebook it was my Birthday with a photograph she had of me as an infant...

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Since the race was postponed a day, I flip-flopped what I had planned for Sunday morning and did it Saturday afternoon instead.  That was to do several hours of trail work out at Lake Ahquabi.  I was told I needed to be home, showered, and dressed in a nice clothes for a 5:30 pm departure.  I didn't want to wear myself out too much doing trail work, so I chose to trim the canopy which means I would be moving slowly and conserving energy.  I got the Mickey Mouse ears section of the trail trimmed and cleaned up, as well as two connector sections, and removed two fallen trees.  The mosquitoes didn't seem to care that I was lathered up in bug spray as I guess they knew summer was about to end.

I got home, showered, dressed in my suit and was ushered into the dining room area where I was presented with a surprise gift of a two temperature wine storage cellar unit (top for red wine, bottom for white wine) that was full of 12 premium bottles of select stuff from around the world.  Wow!  That was not expected at all and is quite a gift.  Bottles from Austria, France, Napa Valley, and beyond filled the storage unit.  Then I read the birthday cards and was told we needed to leave for our next step in the process.  I was informed that Zack and Alexa would not be dining with us.  Yet, they were all smiles about it.  Hmmm....

Off I was whisked in Tara's car and we headed south out of Indianola which I thought was odd.  I wasn't sure where we were going, or if there was some restaurant south of town or in another town that she had discovered via a recommendation.

Low and behold, we pulled into Lake Ahquabi State Park and there stood Lisa Seidenkranz and her son, the chef, Tyler who had prepared our first course of the evening's meal and set up a romantic, candlelit table in the shelter overlooking the lake.  Once we were greeted, they left us to enjoy our first course.  I left the suit jacket in the car as temperatures were in the 80's as we arrived.

The view...

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The setting...

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The date...

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Enjoying the Cakebread (one of my favorite wines)...

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This was a unique evening to say the least.  There were three young girls that had been swimming in the lake that kept walking by us where we were sitting.  We heard one whisper to the other "I think it's a date!" which tickled us.  After we ate the wonderful appetizer, and had a glass of wine, Tara took it an emotional step or two deeper than I was expecting.  Suffice it to say, she really touched me on a level that left me in tears (all in a good way).  We made a commitment to each other, and that will be symbolically carried out in December.

As beautiful as the setting was at Lake Ahquabi, and the time we were enjoying with each other - she had me on the move again at 7 pm to make the next stop in our evening's journey.  So we packed up and headed to Des Moines where we landed at the 801 Chophouse for the main dinner.  Much discussion and fun was had between us - along with some wonderful food.

It had been a long day for me since I awoke in the very early am thinking I would be racing, then the day out and about with Alexa, the trail work, the emotional release, and needless to say a few glasses of wine and good food led me to a bit of a nap on the way home in the car.  Thanks to my loving, wonderful wife - this was one of the most memorable birthdays for me that I will cherish for years to come.

Who needs Oktoberfest when you have a unique evening like that?  However, Oktoberfest was ushered in on Saturday with the opening celebrations in Munich.   The Summerset Shootout race was scheduled to usher it in, and The Mullet Fall Classic is scheduled to usher it out with the 9/20 - 10/5 dates bookmarking the festival.  Sunday morning had a nice breeze, full sunshine, and temperatures that were 10-15 degrees cooler than Saturday.  So the race was on for Sunday with an additional hour of drying time to make sure that the trails were in good hero dirt condition after Saturday's thunderstorm.  I had a nice relaxing morning at home with Tara as there was no need to drive two hours or more to this race as it was 10 minutes north of town.

I went out in the garage to tinker with the JET 9 and get the hanger and derailleur installed.  That went smoothly, but I soon realized that the SRAM X.9 derailleur required a longer cable than my destroyed X.0 - and I didn't have a spare derailleur cable in my parts bin!!!  OK - so the Dos Niner would be my bike of choice for the race instead.  No biggie as I had thrown the ST Thudbuster on there for a bit of extra cushion and have done more races on a Dos Niner over the years than any other bike.
 
I arrived at Summerset around noon, got registered, and went out for a 30 minute warm-up on the Summerset Trail.  My legs did feel stiff from all the bending over I had done on Saturday picking up the limbs I cut from the canopy.  Luckily, the warm-up helped flush all of that stiffness away.  I headed to the line to visit with everyone and get ready for the day's effort.

My wave lined up, and I got in the front row with Anthony Branch, Andre Rethman, and a younger rider who was wearing a full face mask helmet.  When Steve Fuller told us to go, I sprinted off the line pretty hard with Anthony content to sit in behind Anthony for the first part of the race.  I was surprised that the kid with the full helmet, shot around us before the singletrack.  Anthony went in behind him, and I was in the third spot.  Andy Peterson had moved up to the Comp race since he leads the Sport Class in points for the year and has that wrapped up.  And we were missing a few other usuals as well, so I was only up that far in the pack due to who was there (or rather not there).

It wasn't long before the kid with the full face helmet slowed as his match was burned out.  So 4 of us went around him.  This group of 4 of us traded places off and on throughout the first lap.  Finally, coming out of the Extra Credit section at the end of the first lap, I passed Anthony Branch to take the lead and never looked back. Everyone latched onto me for the start of lap two, but I slowly started to build a gap, and just kept adding to it refusing to back off.  This was the highest my heart rate had averaged for any race this year, and I was really breathing heavily as I hammered through what I have to consider one of my "home courses".  The Dos Niner was doing great and it felt good to race on it again.  It's quite a bit more flexy than my Niners, but no adjustment was needed with all the miles and races I have under my belt with the bike.

Eric Roccasecca captured me flying down the last section of Corner Pocket...

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I kept pushing myself all the way to the end, passed a few riders in the Comp Class, and crossed the line in 1st Place for my Age Class and in 1st Place overall for the Sport Category.  Again - that had more to do with who showed up to race and who didn't show up to race than anything different from me.  However, I did feel really strong in this race as I did in the prior two races.  Almost like I had hit a second peak in the season with the way I structured my training for mid-August until now.  So I ended the season (not sure if I'll race again this fall) with three 1st Place wins at George Wyth, Sugar Bottom, and Summerset which is a nice way to close out what has been an improved year of racing for me.

One of my favorite sections of Banner on top of the piles of whatever remnants are left from the coal mining days...

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Photo courtesy of Eric Roccasecca

Plenty of beers, chit-chatting, and fun was had in the Oktoberfest climate after the race as we all hung out post-race.  Kudos to Rick Blackford and the Rassy crew for hosting one of our signature events in the IMBS.  Having to deal with the weather and pulling off a postponement adds plenty of stress to the race director and crew - but it worked out well for everyone with the better weather and trail conditions on Sunday.

That's how my summer ended.  A great birthday, a wonderful wife, a caring family, good friends, and mountain bike racing.  If I could have a do over for the weekend - I wouldn't want it to be any different than it was.  Thanks to all!!!

Fall arrives this evening around 9:29 pm making the transition into cooler weather, fall colors, riding for fun, eating, and what not begin in earnest tomorrow.

9/19/14

Race Bike damage...

"When you least expect it, expect it"....I guess.

My schedule this year at work is overloaded which means I don't have time to hop on my bike until 6 pm or later this fall semester, so I try to get what I can when I can.  Yesterday, I wanted to head out early before school to see what conditions the trails were in at Lake Ahquabi due to the upcoming race I host out there on October 5th.

So I grabbed the JET 9, loaded up the Element and headed out for a lap.  About 7 minutes into the race course loop on a benign corner my ride ended thanks to a twig that hopped up and in a brief second ripped my rear derailleur into the spokes.  "Ya gotta be kiddin' me!!!!" was my immediate response considering I really only have about 1 more race to do this season on that bike.  Why now?!!!  I guess running over thousands of twigs all season long for several seasons, I was due.  No way to get it fixed in time for tomorrow's race as I can't get all the parts in time.

I suppose this is about the 3rd time in a dozen years I've had that happen to me - and it always surprises me how quickly it happens and how fragile things are down there on the drivetrain.  The snap and break takes place quicker than you can "HEY!", so there is no stopping it from happening once the process begins.  The last time it happened to me (a SRAM X.0 rear derailleur on my Karate Monkey), it led me to choose lower end, lower cost rear derailleurs for the sheer sake of dealing with replacing a $75 part being less painful than a $200+ part.

Well, low and behold - I have been running a SRAM X.0 Black Box medium cage carbon derailleur on my JET 9 for quite a while now - and there is some serious $$$ pain involved in this loss.  The hanger was bent sufficiently...

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...and that is the low cost portion of the fix.  The hanger is $12, but the pain involved is that I have to order it which takes time - so there is no chance to get the race bike ready for Saturday's race unless by some fluke, somebody in the Des Moines area has a spare one sitting around.  I could cannibalize a rear derailleur from another bike if I had a hanger, but the good news is I have the RIP 9 and the Dos Niner I can race on Saturday.

The expensive part of the loss was the weight weenie rear mechanical SRAM X.0 Black Box Carbon bit...

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Ouch!!  I know that photo is way out of focus, but that's how everything looks to me these days without my reading glasses.  ;-)

Looks like I'll be on eBay scouting around for something comprable - or give in and purchase a lower end, lower cost SRAM 9 speed rear mechanical like I have on all my other bikes due to my previous history of having this happen that I mentioned above.  The cable housing also got damaged, so a little fix back there with the final segment of housing run is in order as well.

My ride cut short, I hiked back to the car and drove home to get ready for work.  I snuck in a ride after 6 pm at Banner Pits to make up for it on my RIP 9 to get a race speed lap in on the RIP to adjust.  It doesn't handle the same as the JET, but I am used to riding it out there so all will be well in spite of my JET being in the sick bay until all the new parts arrive.  I managed to continue breaking things at the dinner table.  I was trying to give the dogs a bowl to lick after I had finished my dinner and managed to drop it on the floor where it broke into a dozen pieces.  One of those days, I guess.

Alexa is home for the weekend and will help celebrate my 53rd Birthday.  We sat at the kitchen table last night until the late hours (she had a paper due by midnight) and I was catching up on emails, recommendation letters, school business, and what not while fighting to stay awake.  I'm not sure what is planned or on tap with the family this weekend outside of the Summerset Shootout Race, and a 1 - 5 pm rehearsal I have on Sunday.

Bon Weekend to all!  Try not to break things.  ;-)

9/17/14

IMBCS #5 Sugar Bottom Scramble Race Report...

The Mulligan version of the Sugar Bottom Scramble went off without a hitch on Sunday at the Sugar Bottom Recreation Area.  Originally scheduled for August 24th, it was rained out and slotted in for September 14th.  Rain threatened to cancel it again as more than 4.5" fell on the course the week of the race.  Luckily, things dried out enough to reward all racers with tacky conditions, cool weather, and sunshine for a perfect day of racing.

Yes, for Midwest racers it was a very busy weekend with the Chequamegon Fat Tire Festival in Wisconsin taking place, cyclocross racing in Pella, and who knows what else going on in addition to the rescheduled Sugar Bottom Scramble?  Numbers were down from last year's 200 or so racers, but I want to thank Mike Frasier and his entire crew for pulling this one off to keep our series intact.  Kudos to everyone who got the bridges reset, the course marked, and all of the volunteers who were able to find a weekend to make this happen.  I know all the racers join me in thanking everyone for this.

I rolled out of the driveway at about 9 am for the 2 hour ride over to Sugar Bottom.  I probably should have given myself an extra ten minutes now that I am required to drive the speed limit at all times, but I got there in time to get my number plate, do about a 25 minute warm-up, and hit the starting line.  Alexa drove over from campus to watch me and hang out for the afternoon.

Last year, we had about 60 racers start in the CAT II Sport wave which was quite a dusty mess up the opening gravel road climb.  This year we were around 34 or so in my starting wave, so the dust was less of an impact.  My heart rate monitor/iPhone combination was giving me funny readings during my warm up with things like my heart rate being 678 beats per minute and what not, so I handed my phone to Alexa before the start and would go on perceived feel only which I am used to doing.  On the start, I was in the back of the pack.  I pedaled my way into the middle of the pack rather quickly, and then was surprised on the climb that those in front of me were not going harder.  So I passed quite a few and went into the singletrack at the top of the climb in pretty good shape.  Looked like I was in the top third at least.

The opening section is my favorite at Sugar Bottom on the south side of the gravel road.  Like last year, we were only scheduled to go through it one time and I miss doing it twice.  There were moments where I was able to jockey for position and pass a few riders, and be passed by another rider or two as we tooled through the beautiful woods and singletrack of the south side.  I was tailing Tony Branch as he had a good pace going and we had finished neck and neck at George Wyth where I raced really well, so I felt confident I was in a good spot right behind him.  We caught up to Katherine Roccasseca from the COMP wave and I said hello as we passed her.  The first time through the north side loop (that we were doing twice) I was chatting with Jody Gorsh who was behind me about when Cyclocross Hill was coming.  I figured I would fly down the hill leading into it to get up as much of the hill as possible to keep it in the big ring and muscle out the top of the hill.  The hill has been my nemesis the past few years with me blowing a hub, having to change lines in the middle of the hill due to a rider in front of me, and poor gear selection.

Round one went fine this time and I made the climb without issue...

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Photo courtesy of Angy Snoop

Jody congratulated me at the top of the hill and went around me.  I gave chase not wanting to fall behind.  I tailed Tony Branch through the finish area as we started our second lap of the north side.  We passed a few riders that we had caught up to who had run out of gas and I noticed Tony starting to slow a little bit.  Not long after that, he pulled over to let me by (said his hands/arms were cramping).  I was right behind a group of 3 riders that included Jody Gorsh as we approached Cyclocross Hill for the second time.  I had the same plan this time and came flying down the hill.  I was wearing my old worn out Specialized shoes that have a rip in the mesh, and the cleats are - needless to say - pretty well worn causing my right foot to come unclipped on the slightest pedal strike or any abnormal jolt.  Sure enough, just as I bounced through the middle rut on the hill climb, I started muscling my pedal stroke to make the climb and my right foot bounced out of the pedal and came unclipped.  Angy Snoop caught me right at the moment with a big grimace on my face as I realized I was going to have to put a foot down and hike the hill...

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Photo courtesy of Angy Snoop

 I didn't run up the hill, but in frustration climbed up the slope, remounted and took off as I saw the three riders in front of me ride away.  Nobody passed me due to the unclip, so nothing was lost there.  But I guess it is time to start wearing my new shoes that I am slowly breaking in to take advantage of the new clips which will prevent my foot from bouncing out so easily.

I managed to work my way back up to one of the riders from the group of 3 in front of me and got on his rear wheel.  I stuck with him through the final section and decided to sprint to the line to try and pass him.  When we hit the open field sprint section coming around the final corner, I called out that I was on his right and out sprinted him to the line to move into 8th Place Overall for CAT II Sport, and got 1st Place for the 50+ age class.

Goals met.  1st Place in my age class, and I made the top 10 overall for our category in Sport.  I feel like I have finally recovered a bit from the Dakota Five-0 and was pleased with my racing effort throughout the race on Sunday.  Age information was not included, so I had to get all of that organized to upload the results into our IMBCS spreadsheet.  Here is the overall Sport wave...

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I visited with Alexa while we waited for the awards ceremony and won a free oil change plus tire rotation for her in the raffle.  I talked with Mike Frasier about the event and we discussed some possibilities for next year.  After I thanked everyone, I headed out to lunch with Alexa.  It was nice to see her and visit for a few hours.  And she'll be home this weekend for my Birthday!!!

Bottom line:  Kudos to ICORR and everyone at the Sugar Bottom Scramble.  Great race and fun was had by all in near perfect conditions.