8/21/14

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

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

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

165

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

165ThresholdZones

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

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

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

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

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

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

8/18/14

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

GWMTBPodium

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

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

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

8/13/14

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WyethTootleMansion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That could mean some golf...

8/6/14

Minnesota Mountain Bike Series Border Crossing race report...

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

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

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

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

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

BorderCrossingTents

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

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

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

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

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

BorderBattleClimb

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Border Crossing Results

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

7/30/14

RAGBRAI 2014 Recap...

We thoroughly enjoyed riding RAGBRAI last week with Team Simpson from Rock Valley to Guttenberg.  The week seemed to flow well, and actually was a very enjoyable journey for us.  It was nice to be away from our normal daily routine, and replace it with a daily routine solely focused on cycling, eating, setting up camp, packing up camp, and living in the moment.

As I mentioned in last year's RAGBRAI report, even though there are 20,000+ of us on the ride - each, and every rider comes away from it all with their own unique experience.  Sure, we share many similarities of pitching our tents, riding the same roads, standing in lines, dealing with the weather, etc... .  However, no two riders experience the exact same experience throughout the week.  Even if riding 10 minutes earlier or later than another rider - the experience is different.  We came away from the week with our own unique versions.  My version.  My wife's version.  And our son's version.

Our first host camping yard in Rock Valley was a bit crowded with all of Team Simpson gaming for level yard space...

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Day one of RAGBRAI riding began the reality of standing in line all week.  It also began our Quixotic Quest of looking where we could for short lines - even no lines - and searching for what looked good, was local, and interested us.  Here is Tara's first - and just about last time - she stood in line for the KYBO before resorting to the Iowa corn for those duties...

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Tara got her fill of baby pigs beginning on the 1st day riding from Rock Valley to Lake Okoboji...

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As we rode through Sheldon, I stopped by my birth mother's former H&R Block tax office for a selfie...

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Our host was one of the owners of the famous University of Okoboji clothing line which we could purchase at their 10,000 square foot store 2 blocks down the street from our camping spot...

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The Milford camping spot (just 2 blocks down from The Three Sons) was much "sweeter and neater" than the previous night as the yard was huge and we all had plenty of space to snag a good tenting spot...

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We had plans to hook up with my birth mother, sibling, and step sibling.  After the 70 miles, setting up camp, and showering was all said and done - we hopped on the Simpson Shuttle and headed to The Hutt to meet everyone for dinner and a visit.  After dinner, we went over to Lori and Terry's boat for some refrehsments and to visit in Arnold's Park...

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Bruce, Darcy, Nedra, Lori

The Outside Scoop Ice Cream Truck from Indianola was working a couple of RAGBRAI stops, and my daughter was hired to help out in the truck at Arnold's Park.  Here's Alexa serving in the pink truck...

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Of course, we all enjoyed some ice cream!!!!

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Our friend Corey from Wisconsin, Lori, Darcy, Tara, and Nedra

We chatted with the guys from Primal (designed the BikeIowa.com kits as well as the Simpson jerseys).  Zack with the Primal crew...

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Tara met a friend outside of the Hairball concert...

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The Hairball concert was well attendrf and filled up Arnold's Park...

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Day 2 was a shortie in terms of mileage.  However, the 40.8 miles demanded more than everyone desired due to the howling head winds making it no rest day by any means.  I had a flat tire (my first flat on RAGBRAI - ever).  No debris, no signs of what caused it, but I swapped out tubes and was good for the rest of the week.  Combined with the humidity, we were spent by the end of the day.  Lots of fun along the route, though.  We sought out free things, short lines and scored pretty well all day long.  Free corn, free water, free cookies, free energy bars, and had sort of a low budget day - if there is such a thing possible on RAGBRAI!!!

Free sweet corn...

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The ubiquitous farm implement shot which the city girl always enjoys...

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And, of course, the cornfields as public restrooms became our no standing in line mantra for the week in terms of certain daily bodily functions...

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We stopped to split an Iowa Craft Beer from the tent set up in the yard of a farm...

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And we split a Smoothie to help cool ourselves in the heat and humidity...

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It's great to see 20,000+ out there riding bikes, and we were not even one bit frustrated this year with the walk throughs required in the pass through towns.  One has to be in the right mindset from the get go to just enjoy the experience and take what it gives you.  We met people, visited with them, and talked plenty ourselves during those times of walking through the small towns...

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We were staying right on the edge of 5 Island Lake in Emmetsburg for the night.  Being on the lake allowed us to jump in the lake and cool off a bit.  It was a bit chilly, but felt so good!!!!  The humidity was at its peak for the week on this day and night.  The evening was a tough one for sleep with that humidity, and the trains running all night long tooting their whistles kept one tossing and turning.

We had our one and only church meal for the week at the United Methodist Church.  The wait was long and at one point in line after we had been there for a good 20 minutes or more, a lady came out and announced it would be another 45 minutes due to the dining hall in the basement being full.  We were given a ticket with a number on it and told to sit in the air conditioned sanctuary to wait it out.  They had tons of tables set up outside under tents, but nobody was sitting there.  Finally, the man at the pulpit announced all those who didn't mind sitting outside to go to the basement and get served.  The entire sanctuary stood up (as none of us cared if we ate inside or outside) and descended into the basement for what turned out to be a really great meal.  Lasagna, cole slaw, two sweet treats, garlic bread, and a drink.

After dinner, and walking along the usual row of bike shop expo tents, we ran into some former Simpson students (Nella Thomas, Alicia Suschena, and Lucas Murga) before heading back to our host yard for a hot, and humid evening of sleep.  Yes, I pulled out my camping fan and turned it on full blast to help cool me off a smidge.

Day 3 was all about Zack and I doing our first ever Century.  The mileage for everyone was 80 miles, but they always offer a "loop" on one day for any crazy nut who wants to turn the pedals over for 100 miles.  The "loop" on this hot day was to be a total of 108 miles which Zack and I were anxious to do.  Tara would ride on her own, so Zack and I set out early to take it on before the heat got miserable.  There was quite a wind blowing any time we were headed north, so Zack and I made our own pace line all day and took turns pulling.  We stopped to fuel, and hydrate early and often as we were riding this thing at the edge of and in steady state tempo just to say we could power through that distance.

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During the "loop" portion of the ride, the Register hands out a patch to each rider as our reward for being crazy enough to throw in a 100+ mile ride in the middle of RAGBRAI.  Here's Zack getting his patch...

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Our host family was a bit out in the country from Forest City, so just when we thought we had made it there, we had about 3 more big climbs to get to our camping spot.  The humidity had vanished, and the wind blowing from the north had brought cooler, and dry weather for us.  Since we had burned about 5000 calories on the ride, Zack and I celebrated our 108 mile tempo ride with lots of snacks and a beer before setting up the tents and showering...

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We had a great spot for our tent right next to a cornfield.  We left the vestibule door open for a nice breeze through the tent and needless to say, I slept soundly after the day's effort.  Tara enjoyed her coffee in the morning sitting next to the field before we packed up...

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Wednesday was the shortest day of the week with a mere 38.x miles to pedal into Mason City via Clear Lake.  We felt no need to rush off at the crack of dawn and took our time piddling around in the morning and eventually leaving about 8:30 or so.  We started as a trio of Mom, Dad, and son.  However, son separated from us after about 10 miles as we were riding too slow for him.  No problem, as Tara and I really enjoyed rolling along casually after the previous day's grind.  Tara found herself in pig heaven...

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It was a clear, beautiful day with low humidity and a very easy ride...

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We enjoyed rolling through and around Clear Lake.  So much so, we would like to go back and spend a weekend there to take in what it has to offer.  We stopped for an awesome hot and spicy Bloody Mary and ended up dancing on the street with a bunch of people to the live band that was playing.  Clear Lake was our favorite pass through town this year.

Tara on the shore of the lake...

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We stopped in downtown Mason City before going to our hosts to grab some lunch (yes, we were in the next overnight town by lunch time since the day was so short!!!).  We talked to some locals about the best restaurants in town to make a reservation for a good evening meal.  One grows tired of the food fare and by this time of the week, we were craving greens.  We were told 2 great choices, and I made a reservation for 7 PM at one called Chop 11.  On our way to the host family, and Mason City being the home of The Music Man, we stopped by the footbridge that inspired Meredith Wilson to use in his quintessential American Musical The Music Man for a smooch...

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We set up in our host camping yard in Mason City and managed to do a load of laundry so we would have fresh kits for the rest of the week.   After we did that, showered, and took a nap - we headed downtown to check out the museums for local boys made good Meredith Wilson and Bil Baird (puppeteer did the puppets for Sound of Music and many other projects). 

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Zack played the roll of Harold Hill in The Music Man his senior year in high school, so he was really interested to see it as well.  Here he is in his pose of Trouble, right here in River City outside the Billiard Parlor...

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Tara standing in the recreation of the movie set for The Music Man...

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Then we mosied on over to Chop 11 for a table of 7 to enjoy ribeye steak, fondue, green salads, wine, Saganaki, and a great visit with Corey, John, Jeff, and Peg as dinner parnters.  After that, we wandered downtown for some ice cream from The Outside Scoop Pink Truck and caught a bit of the Bret Michaels concert.  Then it was back to the tents for another nice cool night's sleep.

Day 5 of riding began with everyone getting up really early for whatever reason.  I ride better sleeping in, but for some reason our group - even though the rule was we had to pack our stuff on the trucks by 9 AM - liked to get up starting at 5:30 to take down their tents and ready themselves for the day.  Even though I wanted to sleep in, Tara was on my case to get up and get going.  I knew we had 5 hours of riding to do for the day, but was in no hurry to hop to it so early.  Regardless, we were the last tent in the backyard to come down and one of the last to leave for the day even though it was 7:30 AM.  Our hostess had baked fresh cinnamon rolls for us, and a nice breakfast was had by all to help fuel the first leg of the 66 mile ride to Waverly.

Suffice it to say, it was a day of riding with Tara and dealing with gear shifting issues on her bike.  The chain fell off the front outer ring and got all tangled up, so I had to take the rear wheel off and untangle the chain to get things back to normal.  I didn't have any tools with me, but her derailleurs needed some adjustment.  That night, setting up our tent in Waverly in the wind, we sat down to visit about the day's events when a gust of wind flipped our tent over before we had a chance to stake it in the ground (my bad!!!).  We heard a snap and the tent footing pole had broken one of the sleeves.  Duct tape to the rescue, but that didn't work.  So it was time for problem solving.

We took the tent down and I rode down to a True Value store and bought an 8" piece of 1/2" PVC pipe to use as a temporary sleeve for 37 cents.   It fit perfectly and with some duct tape - we were back in business.  Special thanks to the man from the Mormon Church that was across the street.  He greeted all of us with a plate of cookies as we arrived and invited us to use the restrooms in his church.  In the morning, he did the same with cinnamon rolls.  Although it seemed odd at the time, it was nice and using his restrooms was a nice change of pace from our KYBO that we had set up every night next to our camping spot.

Tara showed off her unique tan from the Keen cycling sandals...

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We got the tent set up, showered and decided to eat locally rather than head downtown to the main flux.  There was an Applebee's across the street and up the hill, so Zack, Tara and I walked over and grabbed a nice table before literally about 150 other people showed up.  Sweet!  We had a great meal and downed the sampler appetizer, salads, salmon, wine, and all 3 split the ice cream cookie dessert.  Yum and yay for Applebee's being so close and our choice of eating early before the real crowds developed.

As predicted, storms hit at 4 AM with heavy rain, thunder and lightening.  One crack of thunder was so loud at 4:20 AM - we all sat straight up in our tents as it sounded like something got hit in our camping spot.  The wind was howling and the tent was bending and shaking in the wind.  I stayed awake worried that my temporary PVC pipe would not hold.  Luckily it did, but the rain continued for several hours.  Some took refuge in the team van, others in the garage of our hosts.  We stayed in our tent hoping the tent wouldn't snap.  I checked my radar on the iPhone and noted that it looked like Mason City was clearing up and blue sky was headed our way around 10 - 11 AM.  I told Tara there was no way I was going to ride in the howling wind, rain, lightening, and cold temperatures as waiting a couple of hours for blue sky and dry conditions would be worth the wait and we would still arrive in Independence before dinner.  After multiple attempts, I finally convinced her.  I wasn't able to convince too many others in the garage of our host family as I talked to other team members who were bundled up and headed out in spite of the storm.  I managed to convince Tara, John, and Jeff to wait it out in the garage.

We got our stuff packed up in the truck by 9 AM (most everything was soaking wet of course as we were packing in a torrential downpour), and I headed down to Hy-Vee for breakfast.  An employee had experienced what looked to be a heart attack and did not look good as they took him out on the stretcher to the ambulance administering CPR.  His color looked really bad (as in grey) and word was it was a back office manager.  I never heard the outcome, but it didn't look good that they were still pounding on his chest an hour after he took ill.  What a day for Hy-Vee to have hundreds of RAGBRAI riders sitting out the rain in their store, and for the manager to have to handle the tragic situation of possibly losing one of his employees!!!  All the best to employees, family and friends of the man who was stricken.  It certainly sombered all of us chowing down on bacon, sausage, fried eggs, etc.... at the Hy-Vee kitchen!!!

I walked back to our host family under my umbrella in the pouring rain and continued to sit it out with Tara, John, and Jeff.  Finally, around 10 AM the rain stopped and the skies turned blue.  Just as the radar had indicated!!!  We thanked our hosts and headed out for a dry day, and blue sky for us.  The 10,000 that took off in the rain didn't have a very good day being so wet and cold, but the 10,000 of us that hung back certainly did.  In fact, riding later in the day meant short lines.  No waiting.  Warm.  Dry.  And Iowa road cycling at its best.  ;-)

Who could pass up a meal on Day 6 of RAGBRAI after seeing this sign?

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And the pork was as good as it sounded.  Not to mention, the proceeds went to the fire and rescue squad at Sumner.

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We were also in Amish country.  I have to say, they certainly chose the most beautiful part of the state to settle in here in Iowa.  The northeast has nice hills, views, woods, river valley, fertile land, etc... .  Their gardens were immaculate.  It seemed rather strange that all of the children were lined up in formation as if they were at church or in school watching us go by.  I didn't take any pictures out of respect, but saw a lot of riders stopping to chat and pose for photographs.

I did manage to snap this without falling off my bike as one buggy passed us coming the opposite direction...

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We stopped for some Amish pie (I had blueberry, Tara had peach) and a stop.  Wow!  It was from scratch and very, very tasty!!!

Once we arrived at our host family's house in Independence, we found everything just as we had left it in the morning - soaking wet!!!  So we got busy hanging up things to dry out and use what amount of sunshine was left in the day to dry out the tent fly, tarp, and our gear that had gotten wet.  We had stuffed everything in whatever we could as fast as we could that morning in the torrential rain.  Luckily there was enough of a breeze to help with the drying out process.  Zack's tent was so wet that those who had arrived before us tried to help out by setting up as many tents as possible to help them dry out.  Unfortunately, they snapped two of his fiberglass poles in doing so, which meant it was time to problem solve and fix his tent.  I managed to get it duct taped together for the last night (and have subsequently ordered the replacement parts from Eureka for only $15).  We went for a swim in their swimming pool, got cleaned up and headed downtown in quest of a restaurant.

We found Bill's Smokehouse and ended up on the side of the restaurant that was featuring a buffet pizza, salad, and pasta bar.  There was a 2 hour wait for a table and a spot at the bar (come to find out), but somehow the hostess said we could sit at the bar and order a drink while we waited.  There were about 6 empty spots (or so we thought) and we took 3 of them.  Next thing you know, the bar tender said we could go to the buffet.  So our 2 hour wait was only 2 minutes.   Not fair to the others, but hey - we were happy.  I ate back more calories than I had burned and then some, but such is the lure of an all you can eat buffet.  After a hearty tip to the bar tender for "sneaking us" ahead of everyone else in the 2 hour wait line, we headed back for our final night's sleep on RAGBRAI.  Everything had dried out perfectly and we slept soundly.

Day 7 of RAGBRAI riding was the most beautiful and enjoyable ride as we finally had some hills!  You don't realize how much you miss them until you have been riding on nothing but flat for 6 days prior. 

Me pausing for some goofing off in Strawberry Point (and of course some very nice strawberry shortcake and a custom made sandwich at Casey's)!

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Great climbs, and bomber descents were had on this day.  I hit my highest heart rate of the week (176) as Tara let me go on my own so I could fire up the climbs and bomb the descents to get a challenge.  We met up at a fresh peach and blueberry stand about an hour later and enjoyed the peaches.

I managed to wrestle the iPhone off of my handlebars and snapped one more buggy that rode past...

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The tradition is for Team Simpson to meet just outside of the final town, take a group picture, and then ride in formation with our Team jerseys to the dipping site.  We were to meet at the Guttenberg Country Club at 2 PM for the photo and to get in formation.  Tara and I got there about 1:30 (not last this year!!!) and had some pork on a stick, and relaxed on the side of the ditch watching the mass of humanity head into Guttenberg proper on their bikes...

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Tara, Bruce, and Zack made it to Guttenberg!!!

Arriving at the dipping site for the Mighty Mississippi...

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Zack dipped and then raised his bike 1/2 way in triumph!

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Tara and I dipped, but didn't hoist our bikes in triumph as there was too much stuff in our bike packs to lift them at this point in the week...

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We packed up on the bus, headed out of Guttenberg with 20,000 other people which made for a massive traffic jam.  We stopped in Marshalltown for dinner (where I inhaled a salad and large order of fries, and a Frosty at Wendy's) and were back in Indianola about 9 PM to wrap up our version of RAGBRAI 2014.  We said our goodbyes to other team members and headed home for our own bed to sleep soundly.  All in all, it was another great year on RAGBRAI for us.  Team Simpson does it right and we felt no stress all week long (outside of the tents breaking).  RAGBRAI remains a unique experience no matter how you crack it.  A big thanks to all of the overnight towns, and pass through towns for knocking themselves out with all of the planning, set up, and clean up.  You were all great!  Thanks to each and everyone of our hosts who opened their yards and homes to us for camping and showering along the way.  You all rocked!

And finally - HUGE Kudos to Andy English, Bob Lane, Chris Goodale, and Kelley Bradder for organizing Team Simpson and managing the team so well throughout the week.  You all deserve a vacation!!!