8/23/16

A Tale of Two Races...

...or something like that.

August 14th was the George Wyth MTB Race in Waterloo, Iowa. August 21st was the Sugar Bottom Scramble in Solon, Iowa.

Two races. Two tales.

Both had blue skies...

Blue Sky!

Both had sweet condition singletrack...

Sugar Sweet Singletrack

George Wyth is a flat course. Sugar Bottom has climbs.

My FTP for a flat course is lower. My FTP for a course with climbs is higher.

That's typical for my body type (tall, thin) which means a rider with more muscular mass usually trumps me when it comes to FTP on a flatter course.

I struggled at the George Wyth MTB Race trying to produce enough power to move along. I even fell in the mud when my bike jack knifed like an 18 wheeler which sent me tumbling down into the mud. I wasn't dead last, but right next to it coming in 5th Place in my age class.

I was in better form at the Sugar Bottom Scramble and although the course and race were longer, I did not feel as cooked at the Finish line and felt bike handling and my power output was much better throughout. Again, I was not dead last. but not far from it coming in 19th out of 23 (and two of those behind me were mechanicals). No twinges of cramping and I felt that nearing the end of my 2nd season racing in COMP, I am starting to adapt to the longer races over the Sport category distances used in Iowa, Minnesota, and Wisconsin that I raced for so many years. Nebraska's CAT II Sport is a longer duration equivalent of our COMP distance, so doing a couple of those races per season helps race stamina as well.

Recap: After wondering why I did so well at the Tranquility Tire Tantrum one weekend, felt I did so poorly at the George Wyth MTB Race, and then bounced back and felt like I did well at the Sugar Bottom Scramble - it reminded me of the reality I have two different FTP's depending on the terrain. I do better when there are hills involved.

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Last week involved a flight out to San Francisco to drive back with my daughter following her summer internship that she did with Honest Tea. Before leaving, she took me to Farmerbrown's in San Francisco where I indulged in some good southern cooking via a plate of chicken and waffles.

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(That's my daughter's Cobb Salad in the foreground which I helped polish off as well...)

We drove back in two marathon days taking turns behind the wheel with 3-4 hour stints. An overnight stop in Park City, Utah and a great pizza at Maxwell's which I highly recommend if you are in the Park City or Salt Lake City area. It was the only place open near our motel serving food late at night, and it turns out it was featured on Guy Fieri's Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives. They also had a great choice of beer to go with it. The drive across Wyoming and Nebraska are always tedious, but we made good time and rolled into Indianola about 12:30 a.m. after we stopped for dinner in Lincoln.

Monday was plumbing day to replace the kitchen faucet. We chose one at Lowe's on Saturday and it is now installed and working properly. Had to go from our previous 4 hole arrangement and use the included plate to turn it into a "two hole" configuration...

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Now it is back to getting the trails in shape, and everything lined up for this weekend's race at Lake Ahquabi that I host - The Mullet Fall Classic. My son and I hit a yellow jacket nest yesterday while trimming trail. He got nailed several times as he was ahead of me with the jet pack Stihl leaf blower, and I was behind him with the Viper. He started waving his arms and ran off, and I realized quick enough what was going on and only got bit twice. My left hand is all swollen and stiff this morning (not to mention the itch!).

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I should probably take some Benadryl and ice it.

My right hand to compare the puffiness of my left one with it...

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My son got a big one on his stomach that is swollen. Unfortunately, I have to locate that nest as it is right where riders will be riding their bikes. I've done it before out there when a nest was in a section of the race course, and it involves going out at night when they are all in the nest sleeping and pouring my concoction in their hole which takes care of the problem. But first, I have to venture back and find the actual location of the nest in the ground. It's actually only about 35 yards away from one I had to take care of three years ago. I think we'll carry an EpiPen with us today in case we get hit!

8/9/16

Bike handling woes figured out!!!

I mentioned in my recap of the Tranquility Tire Tantrum the bike handling woes I was having - even blaming it on the Schwalbe Racing Ralphs in the dirt conditions. Suffice it to say, I was puzzled because when I first got the Yeti - things were ripping great.

I messed around with my Yeti and my JET 9 in the driveway and neighborhood yesterday and just couldn't understand why the Yeti was wallowing in the corners compared to my JET. It was perplexing to me and as you read in my post yesterday, I had chalked it up to me needing more time to groove the geometry and handling of the bike.

I had been hearing creaking on my Yeti frame the past couple of weeks, and after reading numerous posts on the Yeti forum, I assumed it was what others had described as my main pivot bolt needed to be removed, greased, and reinstalled. I had decided to set this task aside when I was good and ready, and went into the TTT this past Saturday with a heck of a creak. Enough that three people in the parking lot during warm ups asked me about it. I said the main pivot needed greasing as if I was some expert on the subject just by reading a few threads at MTBR.com. In spite of my expertise, my bike was squirrely in the corners at the race. I figured it was the tires and loose dirt.

Well, today I went for a training ride and after 8:27 minutes into it, I suddenly got massive tire rub in the rear which caused me to immediately brake and see what was wrong. Did I break a spoke and the rear wheel was suddenly out of round? Nope. Was the rear TA not tight enough to hold the wheel firmly in place? Nope. What was it? I flipped my bike over and checked everything which seemed fine. So I got back on the bike and the tire rub was immediate. I stopped again. Upon closer inspection, I discovered a bolt that holds one of the upper pivots had fallen out. WTF?

I turned around and scoured the trail looking for whatever pieces I could find. After about 10 minutes, I found a washer and a bolt that had fallen off. How about that? So they had been loose enough to cause the creaking, and the bolt had backed out enough to give me about 1/4" to 1/2" of play in the rear end. No wonder it was squirrely!!! I needed two same size allen wrenches to reinstall the bolt (one for both sides). So I hiked back to the car and got the tools I needed. It takes quite a few turns to get the male bolt tightened into the female receiver - enough to realized that my rear end of the bike had quite a bit of play in it during the race this past Saturday. I was fortunate the bolt didn't fall out in the middle of that race!!

Once the bolt was installed and tightened back up to torque, suddenly the bike was just like it was when I first got it. Knifing through the singletrack again, and checking the handling - I realized it was not my handling or adjustment to it that was off at all. All the woes were on this loose rear pivot bolt and the play it was giving the rear end.

Moral of the story - at least in my case: check your pivot bolts every now and then - especially if you hear creaking - to make sure they are snug.


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8/7/16

Crawling back into racing form...

I say crawling back into form compared to all the road biking I did this summer, and how I have felt since July 12th with two surgical procedures and a bad tooth (that is now gone).

I had a pretty good ride/race at the Tranquility Tire Tantrum yesterday in Omaha.  The pain from those two recent July surgeries had all dissipated and my body is crawling back to having better energy levels. I'm not surprised that pain and surgery (not to mention all the pain meds) takes a toll, but I felt like I've climbed out of that hole compared to two weeks ago as I lumbered around the Ingawanis Race course feeling mentally and physically like I was in a trance.

Going into the race yesterday, I only had 5 days to recover from last weekend's Raccoon River Valley Trail ride with Tara. So I treated the week appropriately by following the week 12 peak week per LWCoaching's recommendation. I did some trail work as well, but made sure I front loaded the week with the heavy leg trail work, and did work on Friday that was less lower body intensive. The result was my legs felt good on Saturday during the race, and I was able to hammer the climbs to take advantage of that strength.

Trail conditions at Tranquility were very dry and dusty. I found myself fighting in the corners and dust with the Racing Ralphs more than I wanted to be doing. Squirmy would be the definition I would use to describe how they were performing. Talking to Michael Maney after racing was over, he too felt the same thing with his Racing Ralphs. We both felt a Renegade on the rear would have been much better in the conditions. I'm still struggling a bit with bike handling with the Yeti compared to the 8 year groove I have with my JET 9. I think it will iron itself out going forward, but for now - the bike and how it handles is still in the newness column for me as I don't have that many hours or miles with it yet. Wider handlebars, shorter stem, slacker geometry all combined has me fighting a bit to the point that what used to be a strength for me handling my bike through the tight and twisty as well as technical has now become a mind block- and a weakness. However, the climbing, the flats, and the bumpy descents shine with this bike.

I am not all that familiar with who is who in my age division at Psycowpath as I had only done one race this year back in June at Lewis and Clark on my Salsa Dos Niner. I bobbled that course on the Dos Niner like I had never ridden off road before, but recognized the rider (Mark Paulsen) who had bested me there for 1st Place as I took 2nd. Mark was on my tail using the strategy to let me pull and hold back until he was ready to pull around me. That didn't bother me. Even though I knew there were 6 signed up in my age class, I figured he was "it" in my class to worry about not realizing there was another racer ahead of us that we should have been chasing. That's my bad as obviously the same 6 of us were not at Lewis and Clark. In spite of that, I was riding a good pace during lap one trying to keep something in reserve, and near the end of the lap got a bit confused at a section that had lots of orange paint, some spectators, and a jump. I did not pre-ride the course, so my quick confusion and what to do led to a bail out on the jump and Mark who was still right on my tail passed me.

Right after the bailed jump frustrated I couldn't get my foot clipped back in right away...

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Soon after that, I fumbled my water bottle because the cage is so low on the Yeti that I was having trouble retrieving it, and getting it back into the cage while keeping the tires on the narrow "cow" path trails proved to be enough of a challenge that I slowed way down just to get a dang drink. So another rider passed me. That's how quickly something can change in a race, and I got caught with my pants down so to speak. Prior to yesterday, I had been using a Camelbak pack because of that. I may go back to that as it is much easier. Following the bailed jump and bottle fumble, I hammered to catch up. I passed the one rider who had gone around me during the bottle fumble, and hooked on near the tail of Mark who had passed me at the jump. He was able to create a gap on a section that pointed out a weakness I was having on the Yeti with the wide bars. As I went across the finish line to begin the second lap, I saw that I had some time to make up as Mark was a few hundred yards in front of me. I kept my cool thinking I could hammer the climbs to make it up during lap two.

Coming across the line after lap 1...

TTT Start:Finish area

I got stuck behind a slower rider on the first set of switchback climbs, and unfortunately waited way too long to make my move around him allowing more of a gap to build between myself and the rider I was chasing in front of me. Once out in the open section, I hammered the climbs and saw the rider I was chasing had about a good 30-45 seconds (or more) on me. I knew that was going to be hard to make up, but I at least let myself go a bit in the sections that I felt weak in and was rolling a better lap in lap two than I did in lap one. The rider who had passed me during the bottle fumble, and I had passed back, caught up to me as he went around me right before the jump and caught some big air. I kept strong and managed to not bobble the remainder of the course crossing the line feeling strong. It was good enough for a 3rd Place finish with a minute separating me front 2nd, and 2 minutes from 1st.

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Podium antics including the 2nd Place finisher, Mark Paulsen, missing the award's ceremony as he was somewhere in the parking lot...

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I know I have it in me to put up more of a fight if I can get the bike handling down with the Yeti. I may have to trim the bars and swap tires to my favorites, but all in all I felt pretty good with my effort - especially coming off the surgeries in July. HR data looks rather normal for an XC race for me...

TTT HR

8/2/16

Whew, 9 pounds gone...!

Amazing how the combination of Ibuprofen, the IV for Friday's surgery, and pain medications contributed to water retention weight gain.

I hit my peak on Sunday morning at 177.8 pounds which was a bit shocking to me based on prior weight. Okay, it was really, really shocking! Thankfully, I was back to 168.2 pounds today without changing anything except knocking out the pain medications and Ibuprofen as I allowed the body to adjust and get back to parity. Hmmmm....that's a 9.6 pound swing and explains why I looked and felt bloated.

I'm sure it will take a few days for it all to settle out, but the fear of what that kind of water retention can do to my heart, and my kidneys had me concerned. I trust that the surgical site in my mouth for the oral surgery last Friday continues to heal and not require any sort of medication going forward. It's still a tad tender, but I am coping with it.

In other developments, the rain has cleared out so I can get back to trail preparation for The Mullet Fall Classic on August 28th at Lake Ahquabi State Park. There is plenty to do here around the house as well, so there will be no dull moments during the month of August for me.

One day at a time. Advice to all: enjoy each day as it unfolds.


8/1/16

Wrapping up July!

I'm happy to say that my planned and unplanned surgery sessions are now all finished! (Knock on wood...)

After returning from our vacation in Italy, it seems my body went through an overhaul of procedures to fix this and that. The final surgical procedure of the month was to deal with tooth #31 to round out the month of 'hey, let's overhaul what needs fixing'...

Along with surgery comes the residual pain during the healing and the need for pain medications, Ibuprofen, and in the case of the tooth - antibiotics as an infection had settled in around the tooth and neck. Thanks to the tooth pain that began during our vacation in Italy, I have taken more Ibuprofen than I would ever care to take in a 6 week period. So the bloat from water retention had me feeling puffy. I forced myself yesterday to tough it out and go without any pain medications for the first time in weeks. I made it through the discomfort, and a nice long bike ride with Tara helped occupy my mind on something else besides the mouth pain.

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We took advantage of the cloud cover and mild temperatures to knock out our annual Raccoon River Valley Trail ride. It seems that every time we go, we ride it in the opposite direction from the previous time to help keep it interesting. It's not the most challenging ride as there is very little elevation change, and the trail is seemingly straight for the entire 72 miles. The only variety or challenge comes from the wind, and the temperature. However, we do enjoy riding it at least once every season as it is just one member of the excellent basket of trail options we have here in Central Iowa. We figured it would jiggle my teeth the least amount of where we ride.

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We rode from the Waukee Trail Head due West on the southern portion first with a plan to lunch in Panora. Tara had a nice burger and I enjoyed the daily special which was a brisket sandwich (and proved soft enough for me to be able to chew). Following our tasty lunch stop, we had a nice tail wind heading north before turning back East at Herndon, and facing a side wind/head wind all the way back for the 2nd half. Maintaining the same HR meant about a 5 - 6 mph difference going against the wind compared to going with it, so I bumped up our effort during the 2nd half which resulted in our legs feeling nice and spent as we rolled into the Waukee Trail Head parking lot. Rehab work on my right shoulder had been going well, but when I reached in my jersey pocket to retrieve some pocket change I was reminded I have a ways to go yet and let out a nice loud YELP. There's a good chance all of the Ibuprofen and pain meds have been masking the shoulder discomfort quite well, and that's why I noticed it yesterday without the meds as I have increased the mobility of range quite a bit in the past two weeks.

Back at home, and a nice nap was followed by pizza and wine to recover. That was before we hit Dairy Queen to take advantage of all the calories we burned leaving us with room in the tank to indulge a bit. We drove out to the balloon fields to see the Night Glow that was scheduled, but were too late. It wasn't even dark yet, and the event was over. The Guest Guide schedule for the National Balloon Classic said it started at dark. I guess their definition of dark is different than mine.

Nevertheless, the balloons are in town and the dogs are barking at them...

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I'm happy to report that just 24 hours later of getting off the Ibuprofen and pain meds, at least 2 pounds of the water retention has been shed, and I expect a little more after another day or two of avoiding taking any more. Suffice it to say, not all of my recent weight gain has been water retention alone as I have been packing in the calories (packed on about 5 pounds!!!), and have not been able to ride as hard as usual, nor have I been lifting weights due to recovering from surgery. C'est la vie, I hope to turn that all around during August.

In spite of all the procedures for my July overhaul I went through, I did manage to get some time in on a bike - in some shape or form - to not be too far out of the loop.  About 1/2 of it is due to our riding in Italy, and yesterday's ride.

Miles and time on the bike for July.

July Total Miles: 382.48
July Total Duration: 34:43:26

And that's a wrap for July! August has arrived with what appears to be a morning Thunderstorm and yet another inch or so of rain....

7/30/16

Bye - bye tooth #31!

The dreaded tooth #31. Last molar on the right side of my mouth on the lower side. 6 weeks of misery. I couldn't wait to get it yanked.

Friday was the day of surgery. No food, no drink, no water, no coffee on Friday until the scheduled 1 pm surgery at the Oral Surgeon in Ankeny to pull the tooth was complete. Luckily, I managed to stay in bed as long as I could Friday morning to help the day go by.

Tara drove me up at noon to Ankeny and we arrived at the surgeon's office in time to fill out the paperwork. I was drowsy from the infection and the lack of my routine three cups of coffee, but managed to spring to life when my name was called by the nurse. The surgeon was very nice and briefed me on what he was going to do, and told me about the options I had of a local anesthetic with laughing gas, or an IV which would pretty much knock me out.

I took the latter!

About 1 1/2 hours later, I was loaded up in the van and driven home by Tara. I slept the entire way.

A bandage on my head to hold the heating pad over the infected area...

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Looking real pretty and defeated in that picture! I had numb lips and a numb cheek which lasted until about Midnight.

Soon after that picture, I slept for a few more hours. Tara made me an avocado and spinach smoothie, some mashed potatoes, and ran some ham and bean soup through the blender. I downed it all and even had some ice cream with Hersey's sauce after that to round out my mega-calorie dinner. Back to bed I went to sleep it off.

I awakened on Saturday morning feeling much better. Tooth had been extracted, antibiotics for the infection had been consumed, heating pad for the swollen infection area had been worn - and suddenly I could swallow again. Yippie!

I am easing my way back into food today being careful to eat only soft things. Tomorrow, I might be able to venture into some other food by the end of the day that is not quite as soft, but I will continue with the soft and not hot regimen while the wound heals in my mouth.

I think I should feel even better tomorrow and ready for a bike ride.


7/28/16

Oh my aching tooth!

There is simply nothing quite as irritating as a toothache! I've felt like the character Tom Hanks played in Castaway who finally used an ice skate and a rock to knock out the bad tooth. I have been tempted!!

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Finally, after 6 weeks from feeling the initial pain, my back lower tooth which has a lateral crack is going to get yanked out by the oral surgeon tomorrow. A bit of a damper for the summer to say the least with all the pain medications I have had to use to keep it at bay. An infection developed this week requiring antibiotics, but Friday brings relief.

Now on to more of my hodgepodge post...

We have started to enjoy some of the fruits of our trip to Italy such as this bottle of olive oil one of our hosts gave us in Italy.

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It's got a bit of a "kick" to it on the after taste - as in that nice, Tuscan olive oil burn. Very nice stuff. Some cases of wine that we ordered while in Italy arrived recently, so there is that to look forward to as well.

This week, I wanted to take advantage of some lower temperatures by trimming as much trail as possible with the Viper using the one good arm I still have (my left arm)...

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Lake Ahquabi is in good shape with all of the mowing and trimming. The race I host is much earlier this year (being held at the end of August instead of the usual month of October), so I am trying to get the event organized and ready on an earlier time schedule than I am used to doing. A bit of gravel work to do next week with the DNR Volunteer, and one more tree to remove. The rest is ready to go, and getting race quality ready day by day as I cover each section with the trimmer, and hedge clippers.

On top of that, getting some things done around the house (painting, staining, some new window replacements, etc...) will keep me plenty busy this final month of my academic year summer vacation. Toss in a couple more trips (one to Chicago, and one to San Francisco) and the next 4 weeks will absolutely fly by quickly.

Now to get this damn tooth yanked out!