5/28/16

Ripping on a new-school 29"er...

What set it all off - my Wanderlust to wherever it would take me on a new full suspension bike - was my rental of an Ibis Ripley LS in Utah back in March. The Ripley LS is one of the new-school 29ers that has grabbed editor's accolades and awards.

Well deserved, I might add...

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The main downside for me with the Ripley were the pedal strikes. Luckily, after my research and narrowing the search down to the Yeti ASRC, there is not a pedal strike problem. The Yeti has also received the pedigree of accolades and awards from editors of industry magazines and I at least have enough time on this new-school 29"er to prefer it over the Ripley for my needs here in the Midwest. The beauty of the Ripley was on the big rock ledges - both going up and down - in Utah. That bike would eat it up! Not sure about the Yeti as I have yet to throw it into that kind of terrain. With less travel in the rear on the Yeti, I'm going to say it probably wouldn't be as forgiving on the big chunk.

While that is okay, the Yeti shines it speed, maintains the plushness coming down the hills, pedaling efficiency on the flats and going up the hill, light weight, cornering, and being much more of a jackrabbit out on the trail than I was able to push the Ripley on dirt no matter how hard I tried...

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The longer fork travel up front, with the slacker HT angle, wider bar, shorter stem, new-school geometry of the Yeti ASRC and other companies offerings simply nailing it certainly has surprised me compared to all of the good riding on various 29ers I have been doing over the years since 2003. Sure, it's been happening slowly over the years with the small changes, but I think this past year or two is really when it all came together - or rather, to fruition for getting it right from many companies. For sure, if anyone bailed from the platform for all the reasons we heard ad nauseam over the years has not yet tried one of these new-school geometry bikes, run - don't walk - to the nearest demo or rental or test center to try one out. The difference is nearly as beneficial as the jump from the kiddie wheel 26" bikes to the 29"er platform was back in 2003 for me.

What's interesting to me - and has more or less come full circle - is that Yeti was one of the companies that pooped on the idea of 29"ers way back when with all the usual ad nauseam commentary. And yet, here it is 2016 and they have nailed it. I mean really nailed it! And I own a product from a company I remember reading were - back in the day - dishing up a lot of negative 29"er commentary.


I love the custom DT Swiss 240 Yeti Turquoise stickers on the hubs as a nice touch...

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Here's to the discovery of new-school 29"er Wanderlust bikes! I'm interested to see where it will take me over the years...

5/24/16

Sugar Cubed Race Report...

This past Sunday, May 22nd, was the IMBCS Special Endurance Event: Sugar Cubed Marathon put on by ICORR and Goosetown Racing which was held at the Sugar Bottom Recreation Area.

The format of having a separate marathon race at the Sugar Bottom venue instead of holding it on the same day as the Sugar Bottom Scramble in August is what race director Mike Frasier thought would work best. He wanted to allow us to ride on the entire trail system at Sugar Bottom which we are not able to do during the scramble because of our requirement for winning times being capped at 60/90/120 minutes for the various divisions.

I have to say, what Mike came up with is a great idea. It allowed many of us who do not normally participate in the marathon category to give it a try as we wouldn't be missing out on doing our regular XC CAT I, II, or III shorter races since they were not on the same day. Because of that, 74 racers showed up and toed the line to get a little taste of the full Sugar, only this time we rode the trails in the reverse direction of the usual posted flow (Sugar Bottom Trails are directional). From my standpoint it was a huge success and we have already discussed it for next year to keep it as separate. Noel Kehrt and I discussed this for the Beverly Fat Tire Frenzy having a separate marathon race (he suggested their new trail system at Squaw Creek for that) next year. So we might have something in the making for the future here in Iowa if we could get a few separate events lined up.

I drove over early Sunday morning after a night of being awakened at 3 am by the bright full moon and not being able to fall back asleep. I pulled in the parking lot around 10 am and picked up my number plate, and immediately started chit-chatting with people I know. It was good to see such a big turnout as we had no idea if there would be 30, 40, or more. 74 was a nice bonus - and some regulars who usually show up for our marathon races were not in attendance. Two more were signed up for a field of 76, but didn't start (Stephen Gaston and Darvish Shadravan). We certainly had potential for a field of 80+, but with high school and college graduations going on some were most likely not available to do this race.

Sugar Cubed was also my first race on the new steed...

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My goals going into this race were to do 3 full laps as I wanted to see what happened with my bike handling on the third lap when one is tired. Like the BikeIowa.com's Renegade Gent's Race, I also wanted to use this race as Dakota Five-O training. I would pace myself much like I do when I race the 50 miler in the Black Hills. I also had a bail out plan in case I just didn't have it in the legs, or if the bike wasn't working like I wanted it to work. Outside of that, I didn't really have much of a goal but to have fun on the mountain bike for a nice epic day on some great trails.

Ma Nature was very kind to all of us by giving us blue skies, no wind, 82 degrees and there were no mosquitoes. Perfect!

We all assembled in the beach parking lot for the start and pre-race meeting.

SugarCubedMeeting
Photo courtesy of Jennifer Horn-Frasier

I didn't bother to do any warm-up as I figured I would warm up at some point in the 4+ hour endeavor. It was a Le Mans style start where we all laid our bikes down on the pavement, and had to line up down on the beach - or next to the beach - and then run up the sand or alongside the sand in the grass to our bikes for the start. I joked with teammate Kurt Benson that one of us should carry the other piggy back as neither of us were itching to run. We got a 3 second countdown and off we went for the day's fun.

I jogged lightly - and obviously in no hurry - up to my bike. I didn't want to hurdle over anyone's bike for fear of twisting an ankle or somebody picking up their bike just as I attempted to jump over it. Suffice it to say that out of the 74 of us lined up, by the time I was on the bike and going, there were only about 5 behind me. Yup, that's my Le Mans style start. ;-)

I caught up to Rob Cook on the pavement climb and we chit-chatted a bit before my legs said "go" and I started to move my way up at least a half dozen spots before we entered the singletrack. As to be expected with any mass start of that many people going into singletrack, it quickly became a slinky of stops and starts for every little tight turn or what might be considered 'technical'. This lasted for the better part of the first half of lap one as I was bunched up behind folks. No worries, though, as I knew it was a long race and my goal of knocking out 3 laps was not in jeopardy.

SugarCubedLap1
Photo courtesy of Janice Jedlicka

I had Perpetuem tablets, and Espresso Love GU's for my nutrition. I was wearing a Camelbak and had a second Camelbak in the cooler in the drop area. Each lap was 12+ miles, so I knew I would need to stop after the 2nd lap and swap Camelbak packs.

The new bike is a blast! This type of event was perfect for it. It climbs great, and going down the bike eats everything up with no worries as a rider. This was the selling point for me over the Niner RKT which I had read is not so sure footed on the descents. Both bikes are crotch rockets, and the Yeti did not disappoint.

Lap one was uneventful outside of the traffic. Well, it was eventful in terms of enjoying the perfect trail conditions and riding the trail system backwards! I was grinning ear to ear to be out enjoying this format in such good weather. I was eating a GU every 30 minutes during lap one, but at the drop area following lap one, I stopped to take some Sport Legs and a SaltStick tablet, as well as open up my Perpetuem tablets to get ready to switch to them as my main form of nutrition. They are not so easy to get out of the bike frame pack while riding, so I quickly arranged them so I could get to them one handed.

I hit my stride in lap 2 and was feeling pretty good. I passed a few along the way that had gone out a bit harder in lap 1 than I had. Teammate Kurt Benson was pulled over on the side just before the Cyclocross Hill descent having a snack and a rest. Rick Blackford was sitting at the side of the trail in the woods taking a break. When I asked him how he was, he said he didn't feel very good (stomach issues). I was careful to try and maintain a solid Zone 3 pace with an occasional dabble into Zone 4 on climbs, and recover on the descents in Zone 2. I didn't want to burn too many matches so I had something left for the third lap. I was running a Racing Ralph 2.35 up front, and a 2.25 in the rear. I only slipped out one time during the race up front and that was on a pile of loose pine needles a couple of inches deep when I took a corner pretty hot. That slip kicked in the pucker factor, but I managed to stay upright for the entire race.

At the end of lap two, I pulled into the feed zone to switch from one Camelbak to the other with fresh cold water. I downed a bottle of pickle juice sports drink to fight off cramps, and heard Joe Schmidt say something to me before he set off for his 3rd lap. I ate another GU, and got some more Perpetuem tablets out of their container while I chit-chatted with Michael Vittetoe who was taking a breather from his 2nd lap. After two or three minutes in the feed zone, off I went for my third lap. I have to say that after the snacks, I was actually feeling pretty good. It had been 3 hours up to this point and as usual, in longer events, I feel pretty good in the third and fourth hours of these longer duration events. I'm not sure why that is, but it is what it is.

I was curious to see how my bike handling would hold up during this lap, so I didn't hold back. At some point, I noticed Joe Schmidt up ahead of me and figured, what the heck - why not try to catch up to Joe. I lost sight of him for a bit in all the twists and turns, but on one switchback I heard Joe let out a big belch from whatever nutrition he was taking on (stomachs tend to go whacky with all of the stuff we eat in combination during these events). The belch gave me a clue as to where he was and how close I was to catching him. I put the hammer down to catch up. He had started a couple of minutes ahead of me before I took off from the feed zone, but I knew as soon as he saw me he would up it a bit. Sure enough, he saw me and it was game on between us. We played a little cat and mouse between us for the better part of lap three, but my legs were drained and the initial feeling of cramping was setting in on every climb. I had to pull up a bit to recover, and then I would hammer again when the cramping sensation was gone. However, I finally lost sight of Joe as he was pulling away bound and determined to not let me catch him. It was nice to have that little race within a race to keep me motivated at this point in the race (post 4 hours).

Bike handling did not suffer in the third lap at all. I thought it would, but it didn't. All the core work and upper body lifting was paying off to keep control of the front end while tired. Also, my handling may have been fine because I was going slower - as this lap took 6 minutes longer than it did for lap 2 (2 or 3 of those minutes being spent in the pit stop). I passed IMBCS Advisory Board Member Karmen Woelber just after I entered the final section known as the Novice Loop and turned on my final energy expenditure in hopes to close a bit of the gap between myself and Joe. I rolled in at 4:37:42 and Joe was already off his bike. We shook hands and enjoyed a moment about our third lap cat and mouse chase.

Believe it or not, I actually didn't feel totally spent after lap 3. Last year, during the Sugar Bottom Scramble and being 12 pounds heavier while not in very good racing shape like I am this year, I was exhausted during and after the COMP race which took me 2+ hours to complete. In contrast to that feeling, on Sunday I was ready for another lap - which surprised me. Hey, I'll take it.

I chowed down on a burger, had a beer, cheered for the winners, thanked Mike Frasier for a great event, talked with Noel Kehrt about some possibilities for 2017, and eventually climbed in the Element to drive home.

Top honors went to Brian Eppen (4 laps), Michael Maney (did 4 laps), Andrew Peterson, David Krohse, and Ryan Van Houweling. We had 12 women toe the start line, and top honors went to Kim Eppen, Liz Van Houweling, Emily Robnett, Megan Davis-Degues, and Joann Schmidt.

Here was my data from the race....

Total Time: 4:37:42
Total Miles: 38.7

Lap 1: 1:36:27
Lap 2: 1:27:51
Lap 3: 1:33:21

That put me int 24th place out of the field of 62 men that started. Some familiar names bunched together in terms of who I chase at XC races with John Peters, race director Michael Frasier, Joe Schmidt, and myself all lumped together.

OldFarts

I thought I would need a nap after the race, especially after waking up at 3 am. I brought along my air mattress just in case. However, I was fine driving home and actually went directly to Mullets to meet Tara and a group of 10 cyclists who had ridden from Mullets to Cumming Tap and back on a group ride. We all met at Mullets for drinks and dinner and had a good time. I ate back a few thousand calories to be sure!

Then I went home and crashed for a nice night's sleep.

Kudos to Mike Frasier, ICORR, and Goosetown Racing for an excellent event. It will be back next year. And so will I!

5/14/16

Yeti blue...

Yeti Cycles is an American bike manufacturer in Golden, Colorado. The Yeti blue I am referring to looks like this...

YetiBlue

A lot of thought went into my decision to purchase a new mountain bike. The final inspiration was sparked in March when I wandered into Rapid Cycling in St. George, Utah. There, hanging up on the wall to the left of the entrance, was a Yeti ASRC bike that caught my eye and flooded me with some memories of various shades of blue. They had several other models of Yeti bikes in the Yeti blue color in the shop. We don't have a dealer in our area in Iowa, so I'm not sure I have even ever seen one up close and in person before.

Wow, that turquoise blue spoke to my memories...

Did it bring up thoughts of my Dad's old Schwinn?

Dad'sSchwinn

That bike inspired me in the 60's as much as my Dad did to ride a bike. I always wanted a Schwinn like Dad. We were a family of limited financial means on Dad's salary as a minister, but he always managed to keep me outfitted with at least a clunker of a bike to ride. No matter how much of a clunker I had at any given time, hopping on it and setting off for a ride represented freedom for me. Riding to check my gopher traps, deliver newspapers, pedaling over to a friend's house, downtown for some candy, to baseball practice and games, or out on the open highway - I was hooked from the get go. Don't get me wrong, I am not lacking gratitude in this post. Rather I am sharing memories and looking back by being able to now poke some fun at the various shades of blue and how they tie in with my new bike decision.

In the 70's, one of the $20 clunkers he had purchased for me from a pawn shop lost the front wheel as I was doing a wheelie on hot pavement during the summer. The wheelie didn't end well as I was introduced to my first major encounter with road rash. Somehow, I ended up with my first ever brand new bike (instead of a used clunker) as I believe Mom inspired Dad to finally get me a Schwinn like I had always wanted.

Did that Yeti turquoise remind me of an old Bel Air that Dad and I used to talk about?

BelAir

Or this beauty?
BelAir2
Ah, now we're getting somewhere with childhood memories and the various shades of blue.

How about my surprise high school graduation present?

honda

Dad thought it would be great for me to take to college as I wouldn't be needing a car - or so he had decided. Lots of memories of going out on the weekend on the blue moped. Yup. Talk about driving to the bar, bowling alley, Pizza Hut, ice cream stand - or wherever we went being difficult to pull off in all types of weather and on a one seater while trying to bring my girlfriend, roommate, or friend along.

A little old lady didn't see me in her blind spot one afternoon and just about took me out causing me to wreck and get a serious case of road rash as I slid across a driveway. The Honda moped was sold. What replaced it?

The Chevy Luv pickup Dad got me to take the place of the moped for college. Hey - at least it was an upgrade to a two seater. Not to worry, the pickup in this picture is in nice shape and was not mine. Mine was a certified clunker that Dad had somebody from our church weld bumpers onto it since it had been wrecked and had no bumpers. We also had to install a lighting system on the front bumper so it was legal to drive.

At least the color of this one was the same as the one I had...

ChevyLuv

Lots of memories from that shade of blue and where that clunker took me until it gave up the ghost.

Six years later, as Tara and I moved from New York City to Houston, Texas - Dad came through again with yet another clunker with a shade of blue. He paid $500 for it and said it was beauty. This one was a blue Volaré...

BlueVolare

Mom and Dad had moved from South Dakota to complete his last preaching assignment before retirement. To make the entire Volaré a true clunker package, the Iowa license plate at the time was blue and Dad ponied up for a personalized license plate that said "BLUE CAR". Yup. That got lots of laughs, stares, honks, and waves while driving down the highway. Here's what the Iowa license plate looked like - at least in terms of color....

86IowaPlate

Now imagine that with the words BLUE CAR on it. The Volaré made it to Houston, but died on the freeway a few weeks after we were there when the transmission went out. We had to pay to have it towed to the junkyard.

Memories of various shades of blue for sure.

The blue inspiration combined with a myriad of other factors - which include great reviews and personal accounts of the ASRC frame - all led me to use some of the money from my Dad's estate to finance a bike that is filled with all the memories of blue above.

I even got a custom sticker to name it after Dad...

SP

It's a 23 pound machine that should bring me up to date with the latest and greatest bike technology. Of course, 1 x 12 was introduced about a day or two after I ordered this bike. Then lighter Next SL cranks. Then lighter Fox forks. And.... Ah, c'est la vie when it comes to the world of bike parts. There is just no way to keep up with it all. Anyway, this build will provide plenty of memories from the past, and bring me more up to date with bike technology than I was before. TA's front and rear; hydraulic brakes; XX1 drivetrain, carbon this and carbon that, slacker angles, wide bars, short stem, yada, yada, yada.

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I have not yet had the chance to take it out on dirt since it arrived due to rain and my work schedule. I'll have a review of my initial rides once I get some dirt under those tires.

5/9/16

Karma or coincidence?

Life sometimes is odd in terms of how things work when it comes to timing and coincidence. Some of that oddness happened this weekend to the point that I felt it was worthy of mention.

I wrote in April 2012 about a combination of things that added up to an injury here. That year, a busy schedule combined with a stage race led to a crash at Tranquility Park in Omaha, broken teeth, and having Al Boone fix my broken teeth that weekend when I messaged him what had happened.

This weekend included some of the same items on that list, but in a different order giving me enough pause to at least jot it down here on the blog. Tara and I drove over on Friday afternoon to pre-ride Platte River State Park for Saturday's Psycowpath race. Suffice it to say, that the technical challenges of the course were out of Tara's comfort zone and she decided not to race. Rather than make her sit it out and wait around for me to race, we decided to ride together on Saturday for some laps at Tranquility Park instead so we could salvage a better weekend trip out of our journey. Dinner at Nosh on Friday night, breakfast the next morning at the Farmers Market on Saturday, and a relaxed morning put us both in a good mood.

We rode at Tranquility Park on Saturday and admired the smoke haze and smell in the air from the Alberta, Canada forest fire. Our riding at Tranquility was not a race, just some fun laps. This time on my second lap which I did at race speed, I mastered the same bump that had caused me to crash back in 2012 - so no worries there. We packed up and headed home after our weekend in Omaha. On Sunday while out for a road ride with Tara, I saw Al Boone riding his Fat Bike at Banner Pits and I stopped to talk with him. After a few minutes of chit chat, off he went on his Fat Bike and off we went on our road bikes to get our 40 miles in for the day.

Two ingredients of Tranquility and Al Boone met once again on a Spring weekend, although under much happier conditions and no thought of any coincidence entered my mind at this point.

While at the Farmers Market in Omaha on Saturday morning, we bought a rack of lamb to grill on Sunday night for Mothers Day. That went well last night as it turned out a nice rare to medium rare with no tough exterior char and tasted great.

Here is the final item in the weekend that links all of this together...

While eating the lamb and gnawing on one of the bones, I felt like some meat was stuck in my teeth - or so I thought. When I felt my teeth, I realized the same tooth that Al Boone had repaired back in 2012 after crashing had broken again while eating the lamb.

Busy Schedule? Check.
Mountain Biking at Tranquility? Check.
Seeing Al Boone on the weekend? Check.
Breaking the same tooth? Check.

All that was missing was a crash which I fortunately did not have this weekend.

Odd? Coincidence? Karma?

I don't know, but certainly found it all interesting enough to at least make a post about it. Time to visit Al Boone Dentistry here in Indianola at 1:15 pm to fix the broken tooth again.

Before...

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After seeing Doc Al and his wizardry at 1:15...

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5/5/16

Rack 'em up, the dirt is dry!!!

Thanks to an overstock sale going on at Scheels, I picked up a Küat NV to haul the bikes around when we have a full load of stuff in the back of the Element.

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The Yakima rack would have matched my Element, but the price was knocked down on the Küat enough to make me spring for it. Today is the test run of it as Tara and I head out for some after work dirt and dinner. I think the rack weighs more than our two bikes together (mine at 21.62 lbs and hers at 20.54 lbs).  The rack feels like it's about 50 and with the feature to be able to turn the adjustment knob to tighten into the hitch makes it rock solid - at least in the driveway. Unfortunately, Scheels put it together incorrectly (two of the trays are reversed), so I am going to have to take it a part, correct which tray goes where, and reassemble. It seems to work fine as is, just that the rear tire straps are facing the wrong direction as when Nathan assembled it at Scheels he didn't follow the directions properly.

Happy Cinco de Mayo which is always a nice follow after yesterday's ultra-nerdy May the 4th be with you...


4/30/16

April is a wrap!

April came and went with lots of wind, green grass, flowers, trees budding, filing for tax years 2014 & 2015, as well as a turn into the more intense intervals to build for a peak with XC racing. 

Starting the month off with the Gents Race, and ending the month ready to race tomorrow at the Beverly Fat Tire Frenzy book ends what is now in the books - April, 2016. 

Edit: Beverly race just got canceled due to wet conditions.

April 2: 61.9 Miles -- Duration 4:52:00 (Gravel Race)
April 3: 13 Miles -- Duration 1:44:27
April 5: 22.2 MIles -- Duration 1:53:35
April 7th: 8.76 Miles -- Duration 0:30:00
April 8th: 3.7 Miles -- Duration 0:25:00
April 10th: 28.9 Miles -- Duration 1:46:36
April 11th: 5.96 Miles -- Duration 0:40:54
April 12th: 5.9 Miles -- Duration 0:38:44
April 13th: 7.07 Miles -- Duration 0:58:04
April 14th: 7.92 Miles -- Duration 1:08:21
April 15th: 5.2 Miles -- Duration 0:30:00
April 16th: 6.46 Miles -- Duration 0:56:28
April 17th: 7.68 Miles -- Duration 0:38:27 (Race Warm-Up)
April 17th 18.7 Miles -- Duration 1:44:18 (Mtn. Bike Race)
April 19th 10.9 Miles -- Duration 1:00:00
April 21st 18.2 Miles -- Duration 1:18:25
April 23rd 31.3 Miles -- Duration 2:17:05
April 24th 12.5 Miles -- Duration 1:47:17
April 26th 9.9 Miles -- Duration 0:39:38 (Zone 5 T-Max Intervals)
April 28th 26.5 Miles -- Duration 1:28:59 (Zone 4 3 x 15 Intervals)
April 30th 19.8 Miles -- Duration 1:00:00

April Total Miles: 342.45
April Total Duration: 27:58:18

Good news is my blood work numbers were optimal or near optimal for all measurements without taking statins (beginning year 3 without having to take them). That's a big one for me and motivates me to keep the weight down, exercise, and eat as many things as I can that are known to keep cholesterol numbers in check.

I had a former student from St. Paul stop in Des Moines on Friday to meet me for lunch at Tacopocalypse. Lisa Mann (now Lisa Dahlberg) was in the first group of students I taught from 2003-2007 and we hadn't seen each other in about a decade. She was on her way from the Twin Cities to Omaha to spend the weekend with another former Simpson student, and so it was great to sit down with her and talk about what has taken place in the past decade in our lives. Lisa is doing really well, is happily married, has a great job, and it was a pleasure to sit and visit with her. We chatted it up for 2 1/2 hours and could have probably gone on for another hour or two at the rate we were going.

Lisa&BB

It's fun to catch up with my former students. Thanks for stopping by Lisa!!!

Speaking of former students...

Simpson College graduation ceremony was today, and in spite of the soggy day of rain - was a very nice ceremony. I had 5 of my voice students graduate today. So it is always hard to say good-bye to those you have been working with for 4 or 5 years. I wish each and every one of them all the best as they venture out into graduate school, New York City, their first teaching jobs, and plan to stay in touch with all of them. Facebook makes that much easier for all of us these days. 

We start our May Term classes on Monday at Simpson, so I am busy preparing things for our Opera Workshop class which I will co-teach with my colleague Bernard McDonald. It is usually a pretty draining 3 weeks of morning classes, afternoon, and evening rehearsals - and the final week is our production week of performing everything they have learned. 

4/27/16

Semester Ends!

And just like that - Spring Semester 2016 ends!

Exhausted


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.