4/27/16

Semester Ends!

And just like that - Spring Semester 2016 ends!

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Sure, I have some major ends to tie up tomorrow and grading to do, but then I am on to May Term 2016 teaching opera workshop and have plenty to prepare in the next few days to get ready for that.

4/25/16

Tweaking Tara's Niner Air 9...

I did some tweaks to Tara's Kermit Green Air 9 which she has had for quite a few years.

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She likes the bike a lot, but my assessment while out riding with her and watching her on various sections of singletrack led me to believe that a bit more aggressive set up for switchbacks and cornering was due. Especially now that she is taking on some of Iowa's tighter singletrack. The bars have always been pretty dang high, so step one was to pull the cockpit down and in to get more weight on the front wheel and improve the turning with a bar that had more sweep, was a bit wider, and mate it with a 20mm shorter stem. All of this quickened things up quite a bit immediately.

A frame and fork clean up, a wheel swap from the 2002 DT Swiss/Hügi 240 hubs laced to Crest rims to the Light Bicycle carbon rims laced to American Classic disc hubs, a swap from Ikon 2.35's front and rear to 2.3 Renegades front and rear, a swap to a newer pair of Avid Ultimate Levers (from an older pair), some new cables & housing got the bike in better tip top shape and shed over a pound. I'll swap the pedals out later this week to the Xpedo Mforce 8 Ti's to shed another third of a pound.

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It sits at 20.83 pounds as outfitted in these pictures, and certainly has potential to drop down to 18 and change if I threw some money at it with 1 x 11, new cranks, new brakes, new saddle, new bars, new wheels, etc... . However, the goal was to use what I had laying around and on other bikes to get it set up to improve her performance and handling. It's hard for me to test a size small bike, but at least when I threw my tall drink of water body over it to do some test riding in the neighborhood, it felt much more nimble to me with quicker turning, and a better weighting over the front wheel.

A couple of test rides for her in the neighborhood, then steerer tube cut per Niner's instructions on no spacers above the stem with this fork.

She'll give it a test on dirt tomorrow...or maybe not thanks to rain.

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Steerer tube properly cut (removed 37mm) and expansion plug installed (cut 30g off with tube and spacers for a weight of 20.7 lbs as pictured)...

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4/19/16

IMBCS #1 Illiniwek Abermination Race Report...

Opening weekend of the IMBCS for 2016 was what has become our traditional joint race with the Illinois series at one of the FORC trails in the Quad Cities area. Tara and I drove down to pre-ride on the day before and spend the weekend. We saw the campground had a lot of RV's and tents with mountain bike racers who were camping along the Mississippi and in town to do the race.

The trails were in tip-top, super fast shape. Baked goodness is what I would call it.

Going fast is fun and there is nothing like a cross country mountain bike race to remind you of the fun factor of higher speed riding and bike handling!

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The sun was setting, but we got enough time in to settle into the course.

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The mental aspect for Tara was to clear her fears of berms, switchbacks and bridges. I made her go back and try sections a few times until she could clear them...

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We ended up pre-riding a lap and a 1/2 before deciding to go back to the motel to get showered and head to a nice dinner at a favorite restaurant of ours - Thunder Bay Grille.

We probably like the comfortable chairs and low tables in the bar area the best - more so than the food. But the food is fine as well. Tuna steak for me, fresh trout for Tara. Yum. We discussed if Tara should do the CAT III or the CAT II race and she felt more comfortable with the CAT III since this would only be her third mountain bike race. We went to bed early knowing that Tara would be racing the CAT III race at 9 am, and I wanted to get there before 8:30 to set up the sponsorship banners. I knew I would wake up early based on my pattern the past few months, but I set the alarm for a last ditch bail out time slot just in case.

Well, wouldn't you know it! The bail out 7:35 am alarm was needed as we both slept long and hard. Quick showers, packing, and breakfast at the motel before we were on the road to make it back over to the Illiniwek Forest Preserve to check in for Tara's race at 8:27 am. Cutting it close, I know, but c'est la vie.

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Tara got registered, I got her bike ready, and she went out for a bit of a warm-up while I talked with Race Director Mike Corbin and got the okay to set up the sponsorship banners in ideal locations. The weather was perfect. Sunny, warm, no wind and the turnout was looking good. Final numbers were 178 XC racers, and 19 kids did the Kids Race. Not bad for our opening weekend. We had good representation from some parts of the state, and there was a nice dozen or so from Des Moines who did turn up to race the Abermination.

I hooked up with Andy Peterson and Cheryl Dralle to get our World of Wheels sponsor's cash prize awards ($500) stuffed in their respective envelopes, and sponsor Zoom Performance's $100 bike fit award with Liz Van Houweling meeting to discuss how we were going to award that.

Tara did really well in her race. She was in the top three on both laps and as she passed me I yelled at her to stomp on it.

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The course is filled with dirt and wooden berms - hence the name Abermination!

Smiling as I yelled at her to step it up as she was in third place...

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She ended up 1st in her age category (50+), and was 2nd overall for the CAT III Women which earned her a nice trophy and a $30 cash prize!!!!

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After her race and all the congratulations were celebrated, I went to snap a picture of the CAT II Sport start.

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After that, I suited up and went out for my usual 35-45 minute warm-up. The Dos Niner was shifting great, the brakes were perfect - as it was the day before in the pre-ride. I felt good and after 35 minutes headed back to the car to get my nutrition and hydration final preparation done. I realized I needed to head down to the registration tent to take care of one item of business with regard to the awards and rode my bike from the car down a grass embankment off-camber to the registration tent. I back pedaled a bit to get my feet in descent position and the chain jumped over the largest sprocket into the spokes and a loud grinding/crunching noise was heard by many in the area with lots of "ooohhh's and ahhhhh's and un-oh's....". I braked as fast as I could to prevent the most damage as possible.

RATS!

Broken spoke and bent derailleur hanger - just like that. I figured my race was over. I hauled the bike back up the hill to the car and Nickolas Eckermann offered tools, help - whatever I needed. I asked for the aid of Tara. I took the wheel off, cut the broken spoke off, somehow got the chain in about 3-4 different curly Q's, and with plenty of curse words managed to get it all straightened out and the wheel back in place. The broken spoke knocked it enough out of true that the tire was rubbing against the chainstay. I said to hell with it and rode down to the start line where consensus was that due to the carbon rim, I would be fine - more or less. Not a great way to start a race with a missing spoke, out of true wheel, bent derailleur hanger and the thought of gingering it all through the race.

So began my first mountain bike race of the 2016 season.

Tara captured me coming through the finish area after lap 1. The wheel and bike were holding together and I kept riding not knowing what would unfold with the rear wheel and the tire rub...

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I am not going to put any blame on any tire rub as I was able to push myself all 4 laps with twinges of cramping not entering the equation until lap 4...

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In addition, my seat post bolt to hold the saddle in place was obviously not tight enough to hold my saddle level. It kept tilting backwards on bumps requiring me to stop 3 - 4 times per lap to bang on the saddle with my fist to get it level again.

Oy! Not an ideal race for me from the bike's mechanical side.

The wider - for me - bars and short stem had zero issues racing through this course. I really liked how the Dos Niner was handling in spite of the rear wheel being out of true, the tire rub, and the not so smooth shifting due to the hanger being bent...

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During lap 4, the top three CAT I Men racers caught up and passed me. First up, was somebody I didn't recognize. It turned out to be "thee" WORS star Elite racer Nathan Guerra. This guy was fast and smooth. After he passed me, I tried to latch on just to get an idea of what it was like to ride that fast. My heart rate jumped up to 177 and I managed to hang with him for about 1 minute, 32 seconds at that speed and heart rate before my legs, lungs, body, and mind said "NO!".  It was nice to see one of our events draw a WORS Elite to venture down and toe the line with our Iowa best.

A minute later came Iowa star Kevin McConnell out of Iowa City who was also flying. Once again, I latched on for the ride for a about a minute or two. Then came the big tall drink of water out of Iowa City, Nate Kullbom, who was about 3 to 3 1/2 minutes behind leader Guerra. Again I latched on to Nate and was able to hang for nearly 2 minutes before my legs, lungs, body, and mind said "ENOUGH!!!!"

No other CAT I racers passed me as the gap was too wide between Nate and the next rider before I crossed the line. How did I do? Meh. 14th out of 19 overall, and 5th in my age group of 40+. I was pleased that I pushed the heart rate as high as I did and only had about 4 minutes of the race spent in Tempo or Zone 3 heart rate. The rest was in Zone 4 and various levels of Zone 5.

Perfect!

We hung out for all of the awards, words of thanks, and to tear down and pack up. I was pretty happy to have finished the race with a bike that was for all practical purposes in a bit of a bind. I'm not in the best of shape to push at that much effort for nearly 2 hours, but as the weeks progress - I should get stronger and stronger. Both of my legs seized up on the way home - not due to nutrition/hydration - but due to the amount of watts pushed throughout the 4 laps.

After kudos and thanks to the entire FORC crew, race director Mike Corbin, and USAC Officials - we packed up and were off to meet our daughter at Atlas in Iowa City for dinner. Mike and FORC did a great job with our season opener. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

This was really one of our premiere events for the season on a trail system with some of the best and most fun flow available in our region. Temperatures topped out at 81 degrees with perfect super fast trail conditions. It does not get better than this in the IMBCS!! Glad for the 178 who showed up and got to experience it. I know we have more out there!!!! I just wish we would have had another 15-20+ or so to bust through some goal numbers. Everyone seemed to be pretty excited about the World of Wheels Cash Sponsorship for the COMP, CAT II and CAT III overall podiums as well as the JUNIOR entry fees being free. Hopefully we can build on the momentum of both of those for the rest of our season.

Next up - May 1st is the Beverly Park Fat Tire Frenzy in Cedar Rapids!


4/15/16

Salsa Dos Niner FINAL CUT!!!

Ah, the cut that must be made is FINAL.

You know the drill, right? You know - the measure once, twice, thrice and double check to make sure you have it right - drill. Along with all of that comes the testing to make sure it is good going up the hill, and going down the hill.

The final day of testing took place last night after work with Tara at Center Trails in Des Moines. After several days of riding Banner Pits, the trip to Center Trails solidified my choice of bar, bar height, stem, and spacer stack...

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At some point, the FINAL CUT simply has to be made. And it was time.

I went through all of the experimentation and testing this week by trying various stem combinations, angles, spacer stacks and settled in on a good balance. This is my first ever shorty stub of a stem on one of my mountain bikes. A 70mm Thomson Elite 4 stem with a 10 degree upright angle, and a 7mm Chris King spacer. Measure once, twice, thrice and then the cut that must be made to the fork's steerer tube...

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Then, the FINAL CUT to the front brake line had to be made followed by the subsequent bleed.

After trimming my own body down to race weight, the trimming of the bike ended up at 21.62 pounds for my size XL Salsa Dos Niner!

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I can live with that...

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A few more impressions with a week of riding under my belt on all the local singletrack...

• CG-R post from Specialized - love it!

• WTB Volt Carbon Saddle (skinny version at 130mm width) - love it!

• XTR Brakes - love them!

• XTR Shifter and rear derailleur (1 x 11) - love, love, love!!!!

• Specialized Enduro size XL lock on grips - WOW!

• Race Face Next Carbon Cranks and BB - not much new to notice here except their light weight.

• Easton  Carbon EC90 720mm bar with 6 degree sweep - already adjusted and love the torque!

• Fox 32 with remote - it's so good, I don't even notice it! That's good, right?

• DT Swiss RWS rear axle/clamp system - firmest rear I've had to date.

• Specialized Roval/DT Swiss carbon wheels - 2nd pair of Specialized Rovals, but lighter and very lively on the trail.

This upgrade required dipping into some inheritance funds to finance all of the parts.

4/12/16

Dos Niner upgrade...

Season Seven for my Slippery Silver Salsa Dos Niner commences on Sunday.

Wow, try and say that 10 times fast!!!!

The last image that Salsa posted on their website of the Dos Niner before they pulled the plug in 2010 on this frame as a product they make.

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Many of us still love the frame and handling of this bike on XC singletrack for races. It's got a special something, something that very few other bikes have. Because of that special something, something - I decided it was worthy of a rejuvenation. Purchasing parts I could use on another bike in case the Dos Niner frame gives up on me, I sallied forth into the project.

I stripped the parts off the frame down to just the frame, seatpost collar, bottle cage, and Chris King headset.

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Then I put all the new kit on the bike: Roval Control SL wheels, new Renegade 2.3's, XTR race brakes, XTR shifter, XTR rear clutch derailleur, XTR 11-40 cassette, Shimano 11 speed chain, Race Face Next carbon cranks, Xpedo Ti pedals, Easton 720mm carbon bar, Specialized CG-R seatpost, WTB carbon saddle, Specialized Enduro size XL lock on grips, Fox 32 fork with remote, custom stickers for the Fox fork, Race Face BB - and well, here it is....

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Weight Weenie right out of the box from industry standard kit available for all to purchase. Gone are the days of digging through global websites looking for Ti bolts, odd stems, pieces that were weight weenie approved but hard to find. It's much easier these days - and everything I bought was on sale!!!

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21.73 pounds out of the box for a size XL shed nearly 3 pounds from how I was running it the past few years. Well, actually 2.63 pounds, but that is significant once one has trimmed the body down for racing.

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Custom stickers...

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Silver to match the frame (and the FOX orange stickers went right in the trash where they belong)...

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Experimenting with stems and bar height (this configuration as an option was removed after two turns and I slammed the stem - much better)...

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I tried a 75mm stem yesterday. I will flip it negative and try it today. This has been the hard part for me to figure out on paper since I went from a 660mm bar with more sweep, to a 720mm bar with less sweep. So I simply have to experiment to find what works the best. Final weight of the bike will be determined by the stem, but it won't be that much less weight than the Thomson 110mm that is on there. At most, up to 40-50 grams less. Or I might just stick with the Thomson 110 (10mm's shorter than the 120mm I've been running for years).

Too many new things are new on this bike to compare apples to apples. Suffice it to say, on the initial singletrack ride last night, the stiffness of the fork and 15mm TA made a noticeable difference over the older 2008 REBA Race fork (was a well known noodle). The climbing is, as I suspected, well supported and very efficient at this weight and with this build.

I've spent time on a 1 x 11 (and a 1 x 9) - so that is not new to me, but is to this bike. XTR is sweet. Really sweet. I like all matters SRAM and Shimano, but this XTR kit is special. I mean really special. Super smooth shifting, great lever feel and the spacing on the rear cassette is excellent.

The wide bar is fun and only gave me issues that required slowing on the one tight spot at Banner down in the low Corner Pocket the first time through, on the second loop - no problems. The 75mm stem was angled too upright yesterday to make that particular one I had (from my parts bin) the chosen. Flipped it negative and voila! Paydirt!!! Front end stayed down. Bike knifed left and right through the tight singletrack.

I can get that sweet spot with a Thomson 70mm and depending on the degree of rise, with or without spacers to match this configuration...

Close Up

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Trial Stem & What to order

More later, but the Dos Niner lives on with this makeover. A few more tweaks to dial it all in and say it ten times fast...

Season Seven for my Slippery Silver Salsa Dos Niner commences on Sunday. 

4/5/16

Renegade Gents Race 6.0 race report...

Kudos to the the BikeIowa.com Team for doing it right once again in version 6 of the Renegade Gents Race. Bruce Reese, Kyle Sedore, Rob Versteegh, Paul & Christy Varnum, Jesse Gerlits, and volunteers of Nick Wooley, Jeff Stegeman, and Patrick Schoolen all helped to pull off what has quickly become a great Spring tradition here in Iowa. The format of riding with a group of 5 on Iowa's gravel roads using whatever bike you want (singlespeed, road bike, cross bike, gravel bike, mountain bike, fat bike, tandem) makes this event accessible to all.

I was unable to ride last year due to teaching in Germany, but teamed up again with fellow BikeIowa.com team members Scott Sumpter, Mat DenHartog, Andy Zeiner, and this time Jim Coady. Matt had sent out an email the day before of our strategy of taking turns pulling, riding in formation to fight the wind, and what to bring or not bring so we were all on the same page from the get go. In the end, I chose the Dos Niner with the big Renegade 2.3's to deal with the sandy gravel and wind as the wider handlebars gave me more stability. Sure, I was a major windsock because of it sitting up higher, more surface area for the wind to catch on my chest, Camelbak,wheels and tires - but I was comfortable. The Roubaix was fine two years ago, but we weren't fighting wind back then.

The Dos is about to get some upgrades and weight weenie treatment to get it up to bike technology 2015/2016 for XC racing this year, but I rode it with the 2 x 9 drivetrain and at the weight before any upgrades were added (started upgrading on Monday, but more on that later).

Weighing in at 24.36 before adding the top tube pack, and saddle bag...

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A little extra cushion in the back with the Thudbuster ST to absorb any washboard chatter...

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In spite of the grimace, I was comfy out on the gravel riding the Dos Niner...

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We had gorgeous sunshine and wind that reminded me of those days I would go for long rides on the prairie in South & North Dakota as a teenager and in college back in the late 70's early 80's. I used to hop on my Browning ten speed - no shirt, no helmet - with my Sony Walkman and ride for 50-75 miles in tailwinds that would sometimes take me too far too fast making me hitch hike back home. And the crosswinds on a "calm day" in northwestern North Dakota has an average of 23-25 mph.  On windy days, well forget about it. The force of Ma Nature on those plains in terms of wind speed makes playing golf a sport that requires some serious skill. Try kicking a field goal in a football game against that kind of wind!!! Or how about raking leaves on a Fall blustery day? Or trying to shovel snow in those winds? And it always makes for fun tumbleweed watching in the Dakotas. Saturday was a reminder to me of growing up in all of that.

I ride the Summerset Trail from Indianola to Carlisle quite a bit and have been out in wind like this several times to be accustomed to the off camber lean required to maintain your line in strong crosswinds. None of that was a shock to me on Saturday and I was dressed perfectly to not feel chilled with my Pearl Izumi gloves, arm and leg warmers, and base layer under my kit. The warm BikeIowa jacket kept my core nice and toasty. That doesn't mean the effort required isn't shocking, just to say that I knew what I was getting myself into and it wasn't going to be easy. It was going to be what we always called a "bad hair day" in the Dakotas with steady winds in the 25-35 mph range, and gusts of up to and over 45+!!!

Riding it 4 years ago on the Dos Niner as well. Only two of us finished in the group that year as weather was tough with cold, and wet conditions. There was lots and lots of fresh gravel that year which contributed to the challenge. Julie Sedore snapped a picture of that group back in 2012...

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I used the Camelbak for water mainly because I need to get my water bottle cage mount bolt holes fixed on the Dos Niner so I can hold two bottles. The one bottle cage that does work had a 5 hour bottle of Hammer Nutrition Perpetuem mix slotted into it to provide the lion's share of calories for this kind of a ride. I forgot my Hammer gels on my dresser, so stopped at the local Casey's in Slater and picked up some honey roasted nuts, and some Snickers (which I never eat, but oh well) to help add some sugar. I had a peanut butter sandwich in a zip-lock bag that went in the drop bag for our lunch stop at Snus Winery at the 1/2 way point. So I was prepared.

Our group rolled out at 9:36 am and like everyone else, immediately encountered the wind. We got into our formation to deal with what Ma Nature was throwing at us and motored into it. I mentioned to the group that two years ago we rolled out from the start line and were immediately rolling along in Zone 4. In contrast, I hoped we would take some time to get warmed up first this year. Well, we were rolling along in Zone 4 by the 5th minute and kept it there until the turn to the tailwind that led us to our lunch stop. I never once felt I couldn't make the distance and handle the wind, but I did feel I would be unable to sustain the effort we were pumping out. So I had to ask the group to back it off a few beats per minute a few times during the day as although I race at that heart rate for up to 2 1/2 hour durations - I can't hold it for 4-5 hours.

Our team was officially called the BikeIowa Stepdads. Here we are enjoying the day out on the Iowa gravel...

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The peanut butter sandwich went down easily at the Snus Winery lunch stop, I refilled the Camelbak, relieved myself and we were off again after a nice 10 minute break.

Luckily, the tailwind sections dropped us back down into Zone 2 and 3 where I could recover. But anything against the wind was brutal in terms of the pedal effort, bike control with the cross winds and head winds, as well as the higher heart rate hanging out from 166-173 most of the time for those sections. How strong were the winds? How about cruising along at 27-28 mph on gravel pedaling pretty easy in Zone 2/3. That's a strong tailwind!!!

Here was our effort from Saturday...

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Here was our effort from more or less the same group back in 2014...

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Not all that different in terms of average heart rate - 150 this year compared to 151 two years ago. Highest heart rate was 173 this year compared to 177 two years ago. But you can see in the calorie burn difference and the TSS that the hurt was on more this year than two years ago with 1400 more calories being burned and the TSS quite a bit higher.

As usual, I felt the best from hour 2 - 4 (aided by a nice King Size Snickers bar!!!!). At least two or three times when we made a turn, or I got caught up in some sandy soil trying to hold my line in the group formation, I fell off the back for a bit. Matt would always come and pull me back up to the group and then I would be okay. Matt and Scott were the big motors for the day, and the latter half of the day had Jim, Andy, and myself hunkering down to put out what we could to get through the event. Scott is riding the Trans Iowa event this year and is in good shape. All said and done, we rallied and knocked out the final 12 miles in good formation and rolled back into Slater with big grins on our wind blown faces.

One of our other BikeIowa Team squads out on the route (Kyle Sedore, Bruce Reese, Christopher Maharry, and Rob Versteegh)

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It was only when I went into the Night Hawk Bar and Grill to get a pair of PBR's for myself and Scott to celebrate that I began chatting to other riders who told me they had bailed out of the ride. Some within the first 10 miles, some made it to the lunch spot, and others made it to the 40 mile or so distance before deciding to pull the plug. It was that kind of day with Ma Nature making it a challenge for everyone with the wind, the temperatures, the soft gravel and lots of stories to share about the experience - all well worth it no matter if one finished or not.

Version 6.0 is in the books. I have no idea where we finished in the handicapped standings, or how many teams that started actually finished. That will all be posted at some point in time.

Edit: For the teams that finished with all 5 riders and based on elapsed time alone, we were 10th place. However, with the handicap system based on the ability of each time and their assigned start time, we rolled into Slater in 14th place. Results are HERE. Looks like only 18 teams out of the 63 teams that signed up finished the course as a quintet. So the post race chit-chat in the bar was telling indeed with the day's carnage thanks to Ma Nature.

All were winners in my book for just getting out and giving it a go to spend time with friends, take on Ma Nature, enjoy Iowa's gravel, donate to the Animal Rescue League in honor of Julie, and toss a leg over a bike.

Now, on to upgrading the Dos, recitals at school, and the IRS deadline beckons.....!!!!

4/2/16

March Madness wrap up! -- (on the bike that is...)

March 2: 7.53 Miles -- Duration 0:54:35
March 3: 20.6 Miles -- Duration 1:06:00
March 4: 2.36 Miles -- Duration 0:30:3
March 5: 31.0 MIles -- Duration 2:16:47
March 6: 42.49 Miles -- Duration 3:06:48
March 8: 16.3 Miles -- Duration 2:24:13 (Hurricane Cliffs, Utah)
March 9: 15.9 Miles -- Duration 3:12:43 (Gooseberry Mesa, Utah)
March 10: 33.2 Miles -- Duration 3:48:42 (Bearclaw Poppy, Utah)
March 11: 21.54 Miles -- Duration 3:28:42 (Little Creek Mesa & JEM/Dead Ringer, Utah)
March 13: 25.1 Miles -- Duration 1:49:16
March 15: 19.5 Miles -- Duration 1:00:00
March 16: 5.95 Miles -- Duration 0:30:28
March 17: 18.2 Miles -- Duration 1:18:42
March 18: 4.2 Miles -- Duration 0:30:00
March 19: 11.5 Miles -- Duration 1:16:12
March 20: 41.92 Miles -- Duration 3:15:17
March 21: 3.94 Miles -- Duration 0:24:05
March 22: 21.6 Miles -- Duration 1:42:22
March 25: 29.3 Miles -- Duration 2:05:33
March 26: 26.5 Miles -- Duration 1:30:00
March 27: 32.9 Miles -- Duration 2:41:00
March 28: 3.92 Miles -- Duration 0:26:17
March 29: 22.2 Miles -- Duration 1:51:17
March 30: 2.88 Miles -- Duration 0:30:19
March 31: 20.5 Miles -- Duration 1:33:25

March Total Miles: 463.58
March Total Duration: 43:13:22

That's a wrap for March, 2016!!