12/19/07

San Francisco here we come...

I am flying out with the family to San Francisco this morning for a 2 week vacation. I'm looking forward to Saturday when I will test ride the new Gary Fisher HiFi in Marin County. I'll take some pictures and post them up.

Yesterday and today were a scheduled 2 day rest from lifting, so my legs are enjoying the time off. My father-in-law will take me to his gym tomorrow so I can get back on track with hypertrophy.

Will I miss the ice and snow? ;-)

12/15/07

Knee is better, weight is adjusting...

Whew! The weight quickly dropped back to 191 and I am backing off on the upper body amount of weights I lift. I have about 10 - 15 days more of hypertrophy (doing a full 4 weeks of it) which will be interrupted by our flight out to San Francisco on Wednesday. My father-in-law will be able to take me to his gym, so I will not miss any training while there for 2 weeks. And I'm looking forward to test riding a Gary Fisher HiFi 29"er while there in Marin County. It's a bike on my radar and a fellow MTBR.com member invited me for a ride on the 22nd where I will get to ride is HiFi. I'm looking forward to it, although my legs will probably be shot from all this lifting. Oh well...

The knee is back to normal with no pain or twinges. I was in good form yesterday which was a scheduled lower and upper body "heavy lifting" day. I am amazed how quickly the amount of weight I can lift has grown since November 1st.

I still struggle with proper form on the stiff legged dead lift at the end of the reps in each set which is a sign I need to not increase the amount of weight or drop back to only 8 reps instead of 12. Even looking in the mirror and working on the form with each repetition is difficult with that lift. I still struggle with my son standing next to me screaming at me to keep my back straight. I've resigned myself to it being one of those walk, chew gum, pat your head and count with your fingers while whistling Dixie all at the same time type of a coordinated effort. It's a hell of a lift and I can really feel the benefits of it starting to kick in. Great for posture, core strength, leg strength, dynamic balance, downhill skiing and of course - sex. ;-) I'm only doing 3 sets with 12 reps of this lift, but I feel it has been the single most important lift in the series. I just cannot get perfect form every time because you have to mentally and physically focus so hard on the movement required.

My wife and I went to one Christmas Party last night where I managed to low-carb and control myself until my wife walked over with a piece of chocolate sin! Damn, that cake was good.... We have 2 more parties to attend today so I must watch myself and stay away from the goodies!

12/13/07

In the midst of hypertrophy...

Oy! These 2 day block weight lifting sessions are intriguingly addictive. I look forward to hitting the gym and doing my routine.

On the worry front, I felt the first "twinge" in my right knee on Tuesday. The adaptation phase and the gradual adding of plates to the weights is designed to let your body adapt and handle the weight. I did a lot of stomping to get snow off of my feet this week due to the storms as well as sitting with my legs crossed for hours in our final music tests where we hear 6-7 hours non-stop performing in the music juries at the end of the semester. I'm not sure if that contributed, but during the middle of one of my sets of the stiff legged dead lift on Tuesday, the right knee said "hello!" to me. Hmmmm....

I thought about stopping right there, but walked it off and things felt okay. I finished the session and then went back yesterday for the 2nd consecutive day of block lifting and I was due for a heavy lifting day. The knee held up very well and I felt no twinge whatsoever during the leg workout until my last set of leg presses. And of course, just like when on the bike and feeling that twinge - I immediately favor the other leg and make it work harder. That's not good for that leg either. Anyway, I made it out of there not feeling too bad.

Hmmm...then I woke up this morning and the right knee needs some rest. Feels like arthritis and stiffness from the tissue. I spun for 30 minutes on the trainer in zone 1 and the knee felt great aftewards after the bloodflow and warmth of spinning helped it. I have had this tender knee ever since I was scoped on the knee a few years ago, so it is nothing new to me. In fact, I usually feel it a couple of times in the middle of a season - especially after a difficult XC race where I do a lot of mashing while seated. I was pretty lucky this past season and my knees did not talk to me too much.

Under the Dave Morris plan (or any plan), one is advised when the joints start to talk to you, to back off a percentage of the weight and allow for healing. So I will back off with the amount of weight and add an extra day of rest before I go back for my next session. I don't want to push it too much right now and set myself up for months of knee discomfort and pain.

I am spinning a minimum of 30 minutes per day on the bike right now. In spite of the spinning and watching what I eat - the pounds are piling on!!!! I started weight training around 187 lbs. following a fall where I let myself eat and enjoy (put on 5 pounds). Since November 1st and the lifting, I am now up to 194.5 as of this morning. Dang! What gives? Is that all muscle weight I've gained? Hmmmm.....

12/9/07

Beefing out vs. power to weight ratio?

I know that I have the propensity to add bulk/weight in the upper body when doing weights. I pretty much did that over the past two decades when I had an opera role that required me to go shirtless on the stage (Don Giovanni, Maximilian, Malatesta, Guglielmo, etc...). I would put in 6 - 8 weeks of working on the arms and upper body to get a little shape so I could at least "pass" for looking buff. And even though my waistline would trim - I would actually gain about 5 pounds in muscle weight each time I did it in preparation of the role.

I really have not done much, if any, weight work on my legs. Back in my high school days in the 70's - we didn't really lift weights for the sports I participated in (basketball, cross country, tennis, etc...). I did lunges, walking lunges, calf lifts - but only with small weights in the 25 - 60 pound range. So this off season Dave Morris training program is really the first time I have hit the weights for the legs with this amount of weight. I did a shortened version last year because I started way too late to do the entire program once I found out about it. I had to modify the phases and focus in on the endurance/SMSP/MSP for my first crack at it due to the timing.

This year I'm doing the full monty. And I'm really only doing the prescribed leg lifts under the plan (stiff legged dead lift; leg press, squats, hamstring curls). I'm also doing the core and some upper body work. Since beginning the off season weights on November 1st, my waistline has trimmed up a bit, but I have gained 7 pounds. I guess my legs respond in the same manner as my upper body. Something I never really knew after going through life with my bird legs up to this point. Not to worry - they're still bird legs. And they had trouble getting out of bed this morning following a 2 day lifting block.

Hmmmm? I was hoping not to gain so much weight while working on developing the power. I know that whatever I put on, I have to pedal up the hills. So I am left with the question of wondering if my increase in producing power will be able to make up for the additional weight I will have to haul with me? Perhaps when I get back on the bike in January for the endurance phase (where I will most likely trim 10 pounds from all the hours), and going into the season next year that gained muscle weight will slowly trim back off since there is no in-season weight lifting under the Morris plan. I may need to back off the upper body work and focus in on the legs only - as well as make sure I am not piling on too many plates for the leg lifts....

Regardless, imagine my surprise as I have gone from my mid 180's up into the low 190's and seem to be on my way to the Clydesdale Category at this rate with 5 or 6 weeks of lifting to go. I think the latter part of January will be telling as I enter the endurance phase on the bike and stop the lifting. I'll pedal off all the holiday excess and then some if I do it correctly and keep my eating under control. 192 sure looks different on the scale in the morning than last summer's fighting weight of 182 every morning.

12/5/07

Oh the PAIN!!!!

Man, this weight lifting stuff is painful for a newbie like me. Sure, I've done weights off and on for the past 20 years - but not like this. Phase 1 of the Dave Morris plan entitled "Adaptation" went well enough, but this Phase 2 entitled "Hypertrophy" is not exactly the cat's meow. It's gut wrenching painful growth.

I managed to shower at the gym and make it home for some T-bone steak, sweet potatoes, broccoli and a glass or two of red wine after work tonight. I had my heart rate up around 175 a time or two just from the weight lifting. The guy running the gym took one look at me as I was recovering at the end of the session and he said "Man, you look gassed." Well he was right. I was. I decided tonight that I need to buy a weight lifting belt for safety's sake as the weights go up. Squats and leg presses hurt oh so good....

12/4/07

It's Official!

Yes. It is officially done. Over and out. Turn off the lights. Close the doors and move those boxes from the White House to the ranch in Crawford. For the few staunch supporters of the President of the United States, what more information do you need to let go of the little man from Texas? So you didn't vote for Gore or Kerry. Ah....you poor suckers. Now you are stuck with the reality of leftovers from a very bad choice on the menu. Unfortunately, those leftovers are stinking up everyone's refrigerator no matter who we voted for in the last two elections.

The NIE Intelligence Report released on Monday confirmed that Bush and his walking time bomb Dickster Cheney have once again totally misled the American people concerning Iran - just as they did with Iraq. Are these guys for real? Singing the same song twice without learning a new tune? That's the sad part about it - they are. Born and bred in our country and elected to represent us. That is something we should all be hanging our heads in suicidal shame about as Americans.

Can you believe people are still driving around with the W decal on their cars, pickups or trucks? Or the Bush/Cheney '04 bumper sticker? Now that hunting season is here, I would be afraid to drive around with such graffiti on my vehicle!

If Reagan was a dupe of Godless capitalism, what does that make Bush?

All one has to do to come up with an answer is check the graffiti to see what it is saying these days. I'm not talking just the anti-Bush sentiment in the US, but let's look at the anti-sentiment from around the world. Some powerful sentiment being voiced there in those pictures. No niceties such as the "dupe of Godless capitalism" that Reagan was saddled with... Oh no, this time around the world is very vocal and not mincing words for the sake of mincing words. They are telling it like they see it.

This sums it all up:

LIAR

Do we all get a kick out of watching the Republican candidates focus on family, God and blah, blah, blah? Gee, I wonder if any of them noticed that the Democrats are talking about real issues and have a quality focus going on with reality?

I have to say that Bush has outsmarted himself this time around. No more credibility. It's time for our tolerance to be lifted and finish this poor chapter in American life.

Oy!

P.S. Happy Hanukkah!

12/2/07

Winter Exercise Blues...

It is chilly outside with a howling wind. Today was perfect weather for some gym work which I did this morning with my son who spotted for me. I cashed in my chips and joined the Anytime Fitness Gym because the waiting line at the Simpson Gym is always far too long at the times I can go to keep my circuits flowing. So Anytime had a 3 month membership which is all I needed to complete my off season weight training and I ponied up the change. It's open 24/7 for members and I have yet to hit a crowd at the times I go.

Today was a heavy day in the growth phase and I took myself to exhaustion in all 8 of the target exercises (4 leg, 2 arm and 2 core) as junior was urging me on. Dang, he did some weights as well and I spotted for him doing squats in one round. 3 reps at 225; 3 reps at 245; 3 reps at 265 all like it was nothing for him. This from a 14 year old kid. He's got his grandfather's strength that's for sure - not mine. I won't tell you what the old man was squatting, but I did make my 12 reps most of the time until the final set where I was howling out loud and pooped out at 10. Walked out of there with my stomach hurting and shaking from the effort. The killer ones for me (since they are "new") are the stiff legged dead lift, inclined sit ups, inclined dumbell press, and back extensions. According to this article - I shouldn't be doing both the stiff legged dead lift and back extensions at the same time in this phase of training, but I am. I don't want to neglect my core work. I'm keeping the weight light on the dead lifts until my form really develops as I find that one the most difficult to do with proper form.

I've been careful to try and get at least 30 minutes a day on the bike (trainer or outside on the trails). We'll see how I feel tomorrow. My legs feel pretty good, but my lower back and arms are weak from today's effort. Dave Morris says during the hypertrophy phase it will be hard to do anything on the bike, so my 30 minutes are pretty much just lower zone spinning with a burst or two every now and then to keep myself tuned into higher wattage output.

Last week of the 1st Semester teaching for me this week. Yippie!

11/25/07

Phase 1 is now complete!

My three week preparation weight lifting phase came to a conclusion this afternoon. I actually couldn't make the reps on the final set for a few exercises as I got motivated to push myself a little today after all the eating this past week where I think I tanked on about 4 or 5 pounds. I was adding too much weight to my lifts today in the final set and I maxed out a few times.

I'll take a couple of days rest and then launch into phase 2 (hypertrophy) in the gym. Riding time will diminish once I begin that phase, but that's okay. It's the end of the academic semester and I'll be busy as ever with teaching, committee meetings and planning for next semester before we head off to California for the holidays with family in San Francisco.

You won't catch me doing these nasty extensions in my training:

ExtensionsRaNoNo

Riding wise, I got in a good hour without the dogs at Lake Ahquabi yesterday. Ground was mushy which kept speeds down and wattage up as I tried to power myself around the loops. My Dos got so covered in mud, I had to head straight to the car wash to get things cleaned up. The bike is due for me to break it down and give everything a thorough maintenance check anyway - so the soft rinse with the hose and warm water was step 1. Today, I got in a power ride of 30 minutes on pavement going all out before lifting weights. If the weather is friendly, I may get some ride time in next weekend. Otherwise, it will just be spinning in the basement on one of the trainers this week as I move into the growth phase of weights.

I'm hoping the growth phase takes me to a higher level so I can be a brute like this guy:

Tough Guy

11/21/07

Turkey Day!

thanksg4


Enjoy the bird and all the trimmings!

thanksgiving turkey

11/16/07

Week #2 is in the bag...

I did my Dave Morris grunts this week in my 2nd week of preparation lifting. Things are firming up and I am trying not to add too much weight during this phase as Morris suggests to increase reps and weight slowly each week. Plus I don't want to get run down by doing too much too soon which could lead to catching a cold. One more week of this 3 week preparation phase before I move on to phase 2 in the gym - the growth phase. Boy, it would be nice to have the equipment at home in the basement, but luckily I have use of the gym where I teach.

arms

I took Paul Varnum's advice on "what to train while the broken collar bone is healing" routine and added one of his favorite lifts to my training this week. :-) I"m not sure how it will help my bike riding, but here it is:




lower body


Ouch!

I got in some nice riding today. I took the dogs out to Lake Ahquabi for a good hour + ride. Glad I'm running tubeless, because things are thorny and dry out there at the moment. I finished and dropped the dogs off at home so I could head out to Banner Pits to hit up Riverside Trails and try out the new advanced trail on the north side. It's not quite finished yet with the CITA trailbuilding, but sections of it are worth riding. I've got to make it out there for some trailwork. I couldn't go on November 10th because we had our fall auditions at Simpson that day.

Riverside Trail really had some nice flow to it today. It was nice to hit it a few times hard and fast today without having to worry about mosquitoes, poison ivy/oak, mud, etc... . I'll probably hit it tomorrow as well since weather is scheduled to be ideal again. As to the advanced trail on the north side - wow!, that is a serious ass kicker. Some areas the trail is so narrow and filled with such tight turns and climbs that I found myself off the bike pushing. Several of the turns are so sharp and quick that my front wheel actually turned under my frame and threw me off the bike. Hmmmm.... Maybe the plan is to widen some of those off camber, tight turns, but as it is - this trail is tough. Real tough. The toughest I've ridden in Iowa to date. Maybe once the trail gets settled, the flow will help with these gnarly sections and it will be a nice Des Moines Metro Area challenge. Soil is too soft and crumbly at the moment. Needs some rain to pack in the trail. As I said, I hope to make it to an upcoming trailwork day or two to help get this trail open for spring.

11/11/07

Week #1 is in the bag, week #2 is underway...

I finished week one of my three week preparation weight lifting phase on Wednesday and started week number two on Saturday.

OldSchoolWeights

I managed to get a nice hour ride in Saturday afternoon on the leaf covered trails. I got my first "flat" since using tubeless tires. I started the ride at about 20 psi in the front tire and 22 psi in the rear. After about 2 miles into the ride I noticed the rear tire getting rather squirmy and I looked down to see I was nearly flat. Got off the bike and noticed a spot that was trying to seal, so I rotated the tire so that spot was at the bottom where the sealant could do its magic. Sealed up in a few seconds, but I was down to about 8 psi. So I rode gingerly when I could and walked back on the bumpy stuff to the car to pump up the tire to 25 psi. Then I took off for a nice full ride. Kept it the big ring for some on the bike resistance training.

11/5/07

Night freezes are on the way...

It looks like the temperatures are about to drop during the night to below freezing. I guess it will be time to put the mower away for the winter and pick my last batch of green tomatoes.

I am in week one of weight training under the Morris plan. The first 3 weeks is a preparation phase of lighter weights, low reps designed to acclimate one for the 2nd phase. Total weeks for all the various phases of weight training add up to 11 - 12 depending on my choice of 3 or 4 weeks in the 2nd phase. This will be my first time doing the full weight training phases of the Morris plan as I joined late last season and only did a very abbreviated weight phase before launching into the endurance and interval phases. I am interested to see and feel the results this time around by doing the entire weight training phase.

It's okay to ride the bike during this 1st preparation phase as I won't be so gassed by the lifting. So I took the dogs out yesterday for a nice ride in the fall weather. Max and Zoey managed to chase a squirrel out of the woods and the squirrel ran right into my front wheel and bounced off my tire. That startled me for a second, but the little critter wasn't hurt and took off with dogs in pursuit. They've never caught one yet, but oh the chase is so thrilling for them....

11/1/07

November is HERE!

Ah, the clock rotation where we "fall back" an hour is this weekend which means the time to hibernate officially begins on Sunday.

The fun and frivolity of October ended this morning when I woke up with a few violent sneezes. What the heck? Is it allergies or is a cold coming on? Hmmmm.....I"m hoping for the former.

I thoroughly enjoyed my month of fun rides in October and not having to worry excessively about what I ate. Okay, I got a little worried the last 2 nights as I dipped my hands in the Halloween Treats like an addict that hadn't had a fix in years and had to be separated from the candy bowl by my wife who chastised me for going beyond just a few treats. Not to worry, I've got the sugar headache this morning to remind me - and my teeth ache. Total damage from my "relaxed" eating for the month - a gain of almost 3 pounds. Way too many carbs and not enough calorie burn via exercise to compensate. I enjoyed it while I could, but now it is time to put the caution flag out just a little more often.

I'm off today for the Quad Cities with 10 students of mine for the annual NATS singing conference/competition on Friday and Saturday. I'd say several of my students have a good chance, but the number one goal is for them to learn from the experience. Sometimes it is invaluable to see how much better other college singers might be in their development to ignite a spark to buckle down and work on improving. I struggle on a daily basis with the issue of how to effectively increase motivation in my students to jump start their desire to practice and improve. I've tried doing it through grading. I've tried doing it through stern guidance. I've tried fear. I've tried rewards. I've tried praise. In the end, the student has got to develop the desire and take over. So hopefully, the experience at this competition will boost a few attitudes as it removes them from the cocoon of comfort at Simpson and pits them up against the real world competition from a combined three states.

There will be workshops, a guest recital and the opportunity to meet and talk with many singers and voice teachers from Illinois, Iowa and Missouri as this year it is a regional conference rather than just the state of Iowa. I'm bringing along the Dos Niner in hopes of catching a ride during my free time and maybe even hit Sugar Bottom on the way home from the event if weather and timing all work out for a nice fall ride.

Sunday I begin my Dave Morris training plan for 2008. It's time to hit the gym for weight training to begin this phase. That means early to bed, early to rise for the next 8 weeks. Oy! Just when I was starting to enjoy the month of October and physical laziness.

November is HERE!

10/28/07

Autumn Rides

The weather has been beautiful for riding the past 4 days and I took advantage of that. Thursday and Friday were Fall Break days at Simpson College, so I took the dogs out for some exercise while I rode the bike and they ran alongside. I judged a voice competition at Drake University all day Saturday and on Sunday afternoon, but was able to sneak out this morning with my wife and the dogs. Temperature was a nice 35 degrees as I hit the trail. I had to break out the cool weather gear and dress in layers for that.

The trails are pretty much leaf covered, so I lowered my psi to around 20 front and rear to absorb anything I couldn't see under the leaves. Nice and plush on the Dos at that level with my tubeless set up.

Here's a shot of me dropping the Salsa into my usual training trail:

FallRide

After one loop, I passed the wife who had the camera and was out for a hike while I led the dogs around the 8 mile loop. She snapped a shot of me looking all serious as I navigated some leaf covered deep ruts as I rode past her:

FallRide3

Once the exercise was over, I slumped over the bike at the top of the hill by the parking lot ready for some Sunday Brunch with the wife:

FallRide2

It felt good to string together 3 out of 4 days of riding. I won't get to do that again for a while due to my work schedule, but hope Thanksgiving provides a similar multi-day riding opportunity.

Weather looks to be good the next few days as well, so I may have to come home from work tomorrow and mow the lawn for what could be the final time this year (unless global warming proves me wrong...).

10/20/07

Boof goes the football season...

Junior suffered a season ending injury on Thursday night in the freshmen football game against Dowling. With the score Dowling 7, Indianola 0 near the end of the first half, we had driven the ball down close to the Dowling 10 yard line and were set to score. My son rolled to the left and was looking for an open receiver in the end zone. He had plenty of time to throw a pass or tuck the ball in and run, but he kept looking and waited that extra second or two too long. When you have that much time and wait that long, there is a higher probability that somebody is going to hit you from the blindside. Unfortunately, a Dowling defensive player got around the tight end untouched and was in pursuit of my son on his backside where he couldn't see. Just as he was in the middle of his throwing motion to an open receiver he got hit hard by this defender right in the arm. The ball fell incomplete a few yards ahead and my son went down in pain clutching his right arm. As a parent in the stands, I could see it all unfolding. As a QB, when you drop back to pass or roll out to the side, once you count beyond a thousand one, a thousand two, a thousand three, a thousand four - it gets risky and a decision should have been made to tuck and run or at least look around to see who is coming at you. My son didn't, and....

That was it for him and he huddled on the sideline for the 2nd half clasping his arm. Initial diagnosis by the sideline Doc was rotator cuff strain. We went to good ole Doc Lindeman yesterday who saw my son this summer for pitcher's elbow. We wanted to make sure there wasn't a tear and the coach had suggested we get it looked at to know the full story. He did all the tests and they found no tear in the rotator cuff (which is good), but said it was either a strain or a bruise. On a strength scale of 1 - 10, his right arm was a solid 5+. As expected and knowing rotator cuff injuries well myself, he pretty much needs 3 - 4 weeks of doing nothing with that arm to heal the shoulder. Being that there is only one remaining game next week, his season is over.

Interestingly, the Doc says he can try to throw on it Monday in practice to see how it reacts as the motion will not injury him anymore than it already is. But the power, speed and zip on the ball will obviously not be there as the muscles will be weak. So he suggested showing the coaches what he can do on Monday so they can determine if he is of any use or not. No point in using him if he cannot be effective. No miracles when it comes to rotator cuff. Time and then gentle building rehab will be in order. Ice and anti-inflammation therapy has been our routine and will continue throughout the weekend.

I'm just glad it wasn't torn...

10/12/07

Quarter Rage #1...

I raced off after work (actually left a few minutes early) to make it up to the 1st TT race in the series of 3 Quarter Rage TT's at Denman's on Wednesday. These are sponsored by DQ and I had fun giving a go at two of the three held last fall. I guess my goal for this fall is to see if I can beat my best time of last fall for my own personal challenge.

I parked the car and took off the business suit and suited up in my riding gear. Now that's a pleasant sight to see a grown man changing clothes parked on the side of a Des Moines street in broad daylight. But I had no other alternative...

I had the Sugar 293 in the car, so figured I would give it a chance even though it is the heaviest beast I ride. Not much time to warm-up, so I tossed my 25 cents in the hat, signed in and rode up and down the paved trail a few times to get the blood flowing while I waited for my turn at the starting line. Air temperature was below 60 and felt cold and dry. I was wearing my Gore long sleeved jersey it was so cool. I figured the cool air would get the lungs burning and help the cold weather, exercise induced asthma kick up by the end of the 20 - 22 minute full out scramble. (It did!)

My times to beat from last year were:

2006 QR #2: 22:49 on the Dos Niner
2006 QR #3: 20:59 on the Karate Monkey

I lined up behind Mike Lebeda who was riding SS. I took off 60 seconds later and settled into a tucked position to cut the wind on the paved trail until the drop off into the woods. I love to stand and mash at times, but the FS Sugar 293 is a sit and grind it out bike which probably slowed me down coming out of the sharp corners since I am so used to standing and cranking to get back up to speed on my other bikes. But it sure soaks up the logs and bumps well and allows me to keep pedaling at all times. I was rolling pretty well, but found myself searching for a little recovery in the early section of Denmans after the effort I used from the start and coming out of those sharp corners seated. My mind said forget the recovery and forced my legs and lungs to go on for the 20 minutes of pain as I struggled to find a rhythm and the best gearing.

The singletrack was covered with leaves, but the Nanoraptors were hooking up quite well on every corner. A few mud spots from Monday morning's rain, but nothing that really slowed me down too much. The most difficult thing for me was the setting sun and all the rods and cones adjustment that goes on to handle the lighting. I found myself ducking and weaving a few times at what I thought were trees, but they were only shadows. I may have to wear a different colored lens next week.

There were a couple of new logs that were not there last year, but I always like variety so welcomed the new challenges. One log grabbed my chainring as there is a sharp turn to the right between two trees, so my speed was too slow to bunny hop completely over it. No teeth were bent, so all was fine.

My mental nemesis at Denman's is one log that I have never even tried clearing and I need to get up there some Saturday and ride it a few times to remove my mental block. Squirrel was there (photo credit to Squirrel and link to his photo) with his camera and caught me wimping out with my foot out playing old man safety hop. He told me, after I crossed the log like grandma with a load of groceries on the bike, that it was easy to clear at speed. Mike Lebeda confirms this, so I just need to go practice on it a few times to remove the mental block and save a couple of seconds at that point of the trail.

I don't know, it must be an optical illusion approaching it from the side we do in the TT. I know I've ridden it just fine in the other direction a few times, but somehow coming up the hill after a couple of sharp turns that thing just sits there looming across the trail and I'm like a horse who won't do that jump.

Me in all my wimped out glory as captured by Squirrel:

Squirrel shot me being a wimp

Squirrel caught me again in another section going full tilt:

Squirrel caught me again

Full credit to the photographer and I owe him a beer for each picture.

I caught Mike on the latter portion of the trail and passed him in the final singletrack section before the sprint to the finish line. I'm not sure the Sugar 293 is the best bike to be riding for the TT, but it seemed to do what I was asking it to do. I'll probably try another bike next week.

Final results came in at 21:20 which landed me 10th place. I didn't quite meet my goal of besting my time from last year (missed beating it by 22 seconds and tying it by 21 seconds), but I think I can meet my goal in one of the next two weeks if I learn how to hop that log at speed and ride a different bike. I guess it will depend on the trail conditions as well. If it is tacky or a little muddy, speeds will be down a tad. However, if it is dry and fast - I have a chance of meeting my goal.

Regardless, a little fun in the autumn was had by all.

10/5/07

Fun Fall Rides...

October is here and I have found myself enjoying low key, fun fall rides the past couple of weeks. With the dogs. Without the dogs. With the wife. Without the wife. With my iPod. Without my iPod. On the recumbent. On the mountain bike. On the tandem. On the road bike. On dirt. On gravel. On pavement. On grass. On leaves. You name it, I'm enjoying it while the weather holds. I know the cooler temps will eventually arrive - despite global warming - but it is beginning to feel like I will be mowing and weeding until Thanksgiving at this rate. My grass is looking the best it has in months except for a patch near the street where I got hit with grubs. I applied my anti-grub stuff, but I'm still in battle with the suckers.

Speaking of fall fun...

Check out this fun ride:

36inches

36 inches of pure, unadulterated fun. It's a custom 36" wheeled SS owned by Ben of Milltown Cycles. A lot of us would love to toss a leg over it just to smile and laugh while enjoying the fun. That would be a perfect fall fun machine....

Several good things came out of the Interbike Show in Vegas that I followed online. One that stuck out which I will enjoy was the announcement of Continental coming out with tubeless ready tires for the 29"er crowd via the King and Queen nomers. Looks like the Queens will be mud specific and enhance my fall and spring riding with a better mud tire for the big wheels than the Kenda Klaw (which is good, but I know Continental knows Mud having ridden their 26" products in Europe). Here's a shot of the Kings:

Continental Tubeless

Amazing growth in the choices of tires for the big wheels. There are now 50 different tires to choose between for the 29"er crowd. Remember when it was 5? Wow! I can't wait until a year from now when that number may have grown another 50%.

It's been a couple of weeks of injuries at our house. My daughter got her knee smacked by a 7 year old boy in a neighborhood game of football. That ended her cross country season this fall as her knee was sprained and she was on crutches for a week. The coach was not very understanding or forgiving which perplexed me. My daughter decided to go to practices just to watch and be there as part of the team and the coach basically scolded her non-stop. My daughter stood up for herself, but told the coach she would not be able to compete in the final few meets as she had only progressed to walking this week. Running is coming slowly, but not enough for the meets. She's been rehabbing and should be able to play soccer by next weekend (we hope).

My wife sliced her thumb skinning a pumpkin while making soup on Wednesday night. She called me at work and I had to rush home to take her in to the clinic. 7 stitches, a tetanus shot, some antibiotics, and a bottle of Vicodin later we were on our way home. Heck of a localized swelling at the tetanus shot on her arm, but that is a common reaction for adults.

And my son got beat up in last night's football game as Indianola's freshmen beat Johnston's freshmen team 13-5. That improves Indianola's season to 5-1 with 3 games remaining (Urbandale, Dowling, and Ankeny). Zack plays QB and he took some typical QB hits last night. Two guys hit him hard right after he released a long pass. His left forearm got hit with the face mask of a helmet and left an imprint and his right elbow got smacked and swelled up like a grapefruit. He was able to finish the game, but even after ice and anti-inflammation goodies, he woke up stiff and battered. Such is football. The frosh are doing well, but they were beat up after last week's win over SE Polk and equally beat up last night after defeating Johnston. Concussions, hamstring pulls, groin injuries, scrapes and cuts were all part of the past 2 weeks for several key players. Hopefully, they can all bounce back for next week's game against Urbandale.

Weekend riding will be with my wife on the recumbents.

9/24/07

2007 Mountain Bike XC Wraps up for the year...

Sunday was the final event for the IMBCS via the Sycamore TT event which actually ended up morphing into the Squirrel's Nest TT at Greenwood Park in Des Moines. Hats off to Chris and Squirrel for combining their efforts and getting things organized for a final event of the season. Urban sprawl, tons of rain and what not had combined to eradicate the event from taking place on the Sycamore trail - so Brian chipped in with his excellent nest of trails for the event.

The IMBCS president and racer extraodinaire, Cam Kirkpatrick, informed everyone that with the 7 events for the season one could eliminate the 2 low score races from the 7 so that the best 5 races counted in tabulating the series points. By my math, that put Kyle Williams up from his spot in 3rd place for the series to 2nd place by 10 points over me going into the TT. So I was up for giving it everything I had on Sunday to see if I could gain those 10 points back and then some. However, Kyle did not show up for the TT. Hmmmmm....Stay upright and finish the race became my new goal. Of course, had young monster legs/lungs/heart Chris Hansen stayed in Sport Open for 2 more races - he would have changed the results drastically, but he moved up to expert at the Sugar Bottom race and cleared the way for some of us non-genetically gifted "athletes" to get a door prize.

I kept the Fire XC Pro on the front tire for grip in the corners and ran a Nanoraptor in the rear. I considered running the diesel (Sugar 293), but opted for the Dos Niner with 0 psi in the Relish Shock and about 30 psi in the rear Nano for cush on the roots. I pre-rode the roller coaster portion of the course since it included some sections I didn't know and skipped the hillside since I thought I had seen all of that before (wrong!).

My pre-ride consisted of making sure the rear Avid disc brake was not rubbing as fellow Team 14 member Paul Varnum awaited his turn:

Rear Brake Check

My turn finally came up and off I went. I tried to kick up the tempo on the pavement climb to get me drooling and feeling more uncomfortable than I usually do at the start and it worked. I was feeling more uncomfortable going into the dirt. I had to recover a little bit before my momentum got going again through the roller coaster. Coming out of the roller coaster I passed the guy that started 1 minute ahead of me. I headed up into the hillside with seated climbing searching for a nice rhythm. Familiar sections of trail up in this part that were in tip top fall riding shape and I was moving pretty well. I passed the guy that had started 2 minutes ahead of me and kept on motoring with the rhythm I had going. Two times I thought the trail was headed for the finish, only to head back into the woods on sections I wasn't very familiar with or was riding in a reverse order than I had taken when riding before. Oy! There was a big moss covered log that I wasn't expecting and it was too late to take the roundabout.

I came to another log and sharp turn to the right where The Mostly Reverend Kim was sitting with his canine pal. I hopped off the bike and walked it over telling Kim that I was too old for that log and had to go to work on Monday. He nodded with understanding and said he could relate. I was drooling as I pushed my limits and gave what I had left to get over the finish line. Finished the TT around 23:54 which was 1:12 or so behind 1st place Sport Open winner Bruce Reese. Hey, finally a race where I didn't get lapped out there on the trail by Cam! '-)

We all headed over to Rasmussen's Bike Shop for the IMBCS party and awards ceremony. Beer, eats and conversation filled up a pair of hours on a fall Sunday afternoon. The category I competed in - Sport Open - shook down with final standings that looked like this for the season:

1st Place - Bruce Reese
2nd Place - Bruce Brown
3rd Place - Kyle Williams
4th Place - Paul Varnum

Congrats guys! Paul wrote on his blog that he actually was in front of Bruce Reese 2x this season in races. That's way better than me. I managed to pass Bruce at the Kanesville Krusher when he was pulled over for a mechanical which allowed me to be ahead of him for about 2 minutes before he came roaring back on my rear wheel and went around me when I wisely pulled over and got back into my own reality pace. Other than that, I never saw Bruce once the race got underway all season long except as one of my teammates for the 24 Hour race at Boone. Way to ride Bruce!

I belong in the 45+ crowd, but what the heck - I can do that when I hit the 50's. ;-) I think Paul has convinced me to try one cross race this season, but I don't know if it is exactly my cup of tea. I'll try to give one race a shot on my Karate Monkey though to see what all the fuss is about before going into hibernation and fall/winter riding mode with my dogs.

A special thanks to Chris who overheard me say that the pair of socks and handlebar light I chose from the prize table were nice, but I missed the Ergon grips when choosing. When his turn came to grab some swag, he picked up the Ergon grips and brought them back over to me. I tossed the socks back on the table and was happy with the grips. I see I have just as much trouble choosing swag as I do lines out on the course....

9/20/07

46 and counting..

Yup. The big odometer of life rolled over from 45 to 46 today.

In celebration of that mileage change - my wife baked red snapper for my birthday dinner with a rich stuffing, green beans, fresh baked whole grain bread, and corked a bottle of 1991 Louis Martini wine we had in the cellar. We finished the meal off with a Blizzard Oreo ice cream cake from DQ. Indulgence!

Here's to another year of ripening!



On the bike riding front:

I managed to work in an interval session on the paved bike path last night and even got in an hour recovery ride on the mountain bike with the dogs around the lake tonight after work. I'm going Dave Morris bivouac in the off season this year and will do all 4 phases of his program this year rather than skip what I did this year.

It looks like the season ending TT will be in a different location this year than originally planned. The season was shortened to 7 races instead of 9, but I read that the rule of dropping out the worst 2 races will still be in effect even though the number of races are down this year. Rats! Too bad, as I pretty much get screwed by the pooch with that ruling this time around as 2nd and 3rd place will flip-flop by taking me from a surplus of points to a deficit of points for 2nd. Oh well...there's always a chance I can pull off an amazing TT and earn back another 10 points to get to parity. I don't know if the somewhat clogged left anterior descending artery in the old ticker will comply with that kind of performance though. Regardless, midpackitis did me in this year - whether I finish 2nd or 3rd in the series for points. I hereby set a goal of reaching upper midpackitis in more races for next year. '-)

Time to walk off the wine and ice cream cake before bed...

9/9/07

IMBCS #7 Sugar Bottom Scramble Race Report...

How does one jump back on a mountain bike to do a race only 6 days following the 24 Hour Boone Race to race at Sugar Bottom? I don't know, I guess you just do it. And many of us just did it. I guess my motivation was a little off this weekend because of it, but I went through the motions nonetheless.

I didn't ride much this week leading up to it. I had a cold which didn't bother me too much at the Boone race as I was just catching it, but it hit me hard Monday - Wednesday of this week. I took those days off the bike and added Thursday to my days off list as well since I had to sing a performance Thursday night. My son had his 2nd Freshmen Football game as well against Newton and I managed to catch the 1st half before going to sing my performance. My son plays QB and I hate to miss any part of a game - let alone an entire game. His team one 42-0 against Newton and they are now 2-0 heading into this week's game against Valley. Back to the cold and singing. Luckily, swabs of Zicam in my nose and plenty of hydration allowed my voice to be in fine form Thursday night. Friday before work, I went out for an hour ride and threw in a few shorter duration intervals to prime the pump for Saturday's race. Not an ideal pre-race training week, but that's all I had in me for the week and how it fit my schedule.

I drove over to Sugar Bottom Saturday morning along with the usual Hawkeye Football fan base on I-80 that were heading there early to get oodles of hours of tailgating in before the game. Once I parked and got suited up, I headed out for some warm-up time on the kiddie trail. I got in just a few hundred yards and ca-doink! - my chain broke. What the...? I figured maybe it was the SRAM Masterlink that had snapped because I hadn't installed it correctly after cleaning the chain on Thursday. I picked the chain up off of the ground and examined it. Nope, the Masterlink was fine as the chain broke a few links away from the Masterlink. So I headed over to the maintenance tent and was quickly taken care of for the race. Thank you dearly for the chain repair. I did have a new spare chain in my Element as well as a 2nd bike just in case something like this happened. However, it quickly looked like we would not be doing a 12:15 start, but more like a 12 noon start. I barely had time to warm up and get my drinks all ready to go for the race as I was planning on those extra 15 minutes. I had contemplated running the Sugar 293 to soak up all the roots at Sugar Bottom, but I let some air out of my tires on the Dos Niner while warming up until it felt comfy going over the roots. I decided to risk the chain repair and hope that the rest of the chain was good to go for the race. Fingers crossed, I headed over to the start.

As always at Sugar Bottom, we get a little bit better turn out for the race than some of the other IMBCS races. 39 lined up all in a bunch for the Sport category (included Open, 35+, and 45+). I was more in the back of the group after having placed my 2nd water bottle. Off we went and it was really jammed up back where I was in the group. We couldn't get going very well. Somebody almost went down and that caused more of a bottleneck as we watched the first 20 riders buzz on ahead of us and disappear in the singletrack. Well, there goes 2-3 minutes lost I said to myself waiting for the jam to get going again and back into some sort of a line on the singletrack. That's something I need to work on - getting off the line quicker to not get stuck in these bottlenecks. I'm always afraid of burning too many matches by doing it, but it is a well known area I need to improve upon - soon. Even after things got going and the first section of singletrack started to work things out, the first 20 riders were so far gone that those few minutes would have been impossible to make up over the course of the race. Been there, done that way too many times before this season. The only time I used to jump off the line and give it my all from the get go was in the beginner races I rode in 2005. I need to revisit that strategy now that I've experienced all of these sport races.

Oh well, bottlenecks continued on the first section of singletrack with a couple of those short, sharp left turns that go up. It's very easy to ride those two, but for whatever reason - everyone was getting off their bikes to go up both of them. What's up with that? The pace picked up and groups started to branch out a little bit. This helped the passing begin as things opened up. I was able to pass about 11 guys and work my way up the singletrack ladder one by one. I finally got behind Sterling Heise who had a nice pace going that I actually liked. Sterling is a great descender and handles the technical parts of the trail very well. There were about three or four others behind me, and I just latched on to Sterling's wheel to follow along at his pace. I have not ridden Sugar Bottom this year - nor did I ride it last year, so my memory of the trail was not as good as I would have liked it to have been. I had no time for a pre-lap, so I had to re-learn the trail on this first lap. I mentioned to Sterling that I liked his pace and I think he took it as me wanting to get around him, so he pulled over and I went around him. The guys behind me stayed with me and I felt like the blind leading the blind. All of a sudden, there was a yellow tape barrier that was broken and I didn't know whether to go straight or right. Luckily, there was a rider there working on a mechanical and he told me to go right as somebody had ridden through the barrier. So right it was. If that rider had not been there, I would have gone straight.

A little while later, the trail made a sharp U-turn that went down and to the left over some roots and I did not even see the trail going that way at all in spite of my searching and scanning with my eyes as to where I should go at that race speed. I headed straight and missed the turn completely as I forged a new trail at Sugar Bottom. The 4 guys behind me turned left and yelled at me that I had missed the turn. "What turn?" I yelled back. I stopped, turned the bike around and followed them. No markings to be seen at that sharp turn and I shook my head in frustration. Sure, a full warm-up lap would have clued me in, but there was just no way I could put in a 10 mile warm-up lap before a race on this weekend and still be able to have anything left for the actual race. Especially being only 6 days after Boone. I couldn't come down on Friday afternoon to pre-ride either, being so far away.

A little more yellow tape or some painted arrows on the trail at those critical turns wouldn't hurt now would it? I like the way the Psycowpath races are set up in Nebraska. There is never a question as to where you should turn thanks to all of the arrows, tape and signs they use. Even without a pre-ride on the Nebraska courses, it is always crystal clear where you need to go on the course as you ride it. That's cool - at least in my book. Not to rant on ICORR, but I remember doing my first ever race at Sugar Bottom in the Beginner class a few years ago. There was a lot of broken yellow tape barrier at a crucial turn, but it was impossible to figure out from all the broken yellow tape which way to go. So a bunch of us went left (which was the wrong way) and did an entire extra loop of a section of trail that was not even part of the race course. That added about 10 minutes onto that lap for each of us. All I am saying is that a few more arrows to help would be welcomed since this barrier tape gets broken from time to time - that's for sure. A simple orange or yellow arrow painted on the singletrack pointing out the proper direction does wonders and answers all questions.

Coming through the finish line area I stopped to grab my 2nd water bottle and toss my 1st one. Sterling had snuck back on my wheel for the past 15 minutes, but as I rode down the gravel road to head into the back half of the course, he was no longer following me. He later told me he had to back off at that point as his cold was hitting him hard and he wasn't feeling very good. Coming off the gravel road and heading back into the singletrack, again - signs and lack of help on where exactly to turn came into play. I saw a little cardboard cut out taped to the "wrong way, do not enter" permanent sign that said "Exit". Exit? Is that what we are looking for as we race along an XC race course trail? A sign that says "exit"? Hmmmm....I decided to take it anyway and finally found another rider who confirmed we were on the correct path. Spun out on a rock climb as the rocks were still a little moist from all of the rain and walked the hill. I was enjoying this entire section as it was a little more technical and took some more legs to get the short and steep climbs out of the way.

There it was. That steep hill I remembered from 2 years ago in the Beginner's race. The one with all the people on top watching down to see who could clear it. Well, not me. I wasn't even going to try with a chain that may be suspect and had already broken once before the race. So I dismounted and cyclo=crossed my way up the hill as fast as I could exclaiming that such hills were not kind to those of us who were born with bird legs. That was worth a couple of chuckles from the crowd. I got back on the bike and took off and decided to pick up the pace now that I had just about seen the entire loop. This time, there was no bottleneck to clear the sharp, left turns that went up.

I was out in that "middle of the race and all alone" zone where you have to be careful not to let the pace drag down a notch or two where it easily turns into a nice recreational ride. I found myself doing that a few times and forced myself to pick it up. Just when I did that, I dropped my chain. Rats! At least it wasn't broken, but it had slid too far to the left of my 2x9 drivetrain and I couldn't get it back on as easily as I thought I could. So I had a few choice words as I fiddled with it. And here came Sterling again. He had caught back up to me. I finally got the chain back on and off I went a few seconds ahead of Sterling. I crossed back over to the other side of the gravel road and tried to get some steam going again. Coming off of the gravel road and heading into the latter portion of the 2nd lap, I heard "tinker bell" in front of me. I'm not sure of his name, but he had a bell on his handlebars that ding-a-linged on every bump and root. He was a few hundred feet in front of me and I heard and saw him take a nasty fall off of those rocks/stones in the middle of a descent. He looked to be okay as he stood up and announced to everyone "I knew that would happen!". I came over that section and probably disappointed the two spectators standing there expecting another dramatic wipe out as I just gingerly rolled over them in my conservative fashion as I had done in lap one. I caught up to "tinker bell" on one of the steep and root filled climbs and went around him. I passed a couple of guys who were fixing flats and I reminded myself how happy I was to be running tubeless. I'm not sure why I was running the Fire Pro XC monster truck tires front and rear, but they were great for Boone. Not bad here as well, although a Nanoraptor on the rear would have been a lot better roller and saved me on wattage output. Oh well...no flats and plenty of grip.

As I stood to climb one of the final steep climbs, I felt the very slight beginnings of what could be cramps, but I had 'em covered with my intake of SportLegs as I started lap two. So no worries there. There was that steep climb with the photographers standing there this time waiting to separate the men from the boys. Should I have a go at it. Nope. Not with this chain. I'd be a boy this time around as well. No man stuff for me today. "Tinker bell" behind me gave the hill a go and cleared it. "That's the first time I've ever cleared that hill. Whoooooohoooooo!" he screamed as his bell tinkled.

Okay, off I went with the "bell man" on my wheel. I finally was able to open up the gap and decided I was not going to let the "bell" sprint past me at the run to the line. I came out of the woods and into that grassy section where the singletrack meanders around before you see the finish line. All of a sudden I heard a bike right on my wheel (but no bell) and the rider say "rider up" as he went around me. It wasn't "tinker bell", but Mark Iverson. Oh well, a sprint is a sprint and I didn't know which category he was in, but points could be on the line. I was about 2 inches from his wheel in the big ring giving it my all to stay with him. I saw the finish line and stood up to crank. I pulled even with him and was starting to pass him. I had him! My legs were working and this felt good.

Dang it, I forgot we were supposed to finish on the right - not the left. The guy from ICORR on the microphone told me to go right a few times before I actually heard what he was saying. It's not like that big white and black sign saying "Finish" was hard to read or anything. I guess when I stand and crank during a sprint with my head down I lose both my hearing and my eyesight. Hmmmm....I had to make a huge sweeping turn at the last moment, barely avoided hitting the van and we crossed the line exactly with the same time. Turns out it wouldn't have mattered if I did pass him as he was in the 45+ Sport Class. Still, pretty cool that a 46 and 48 year old were sprinting it out to the line. And Rick Wrel and Tom Eaton were the only two older guys that finished ahead of Mark and I in the Sport Categories. I felt spent at the end. I can't say my heart felt all opened up and happy. It took a toll and that final sprint may have taken me too far over the edge than my body was ready to do.

All in all, I felt pretty good throughout the race. I had enough cush in my tires to absorb the roots and I felt like I rode a pretty decent pace in spite of that several minute handicap of being in the latter half of guys getting into the singletrack. I ended up in 12th Place for Sport Open out of 21 and 21st out of 39 overall for all the Sport Categories combined. Midpackitis no matter how you count it. That's been my disease this year. Yup, good ole midpackitis syndrome. Ah, only 26 minutes behind the 1st Place finisher this time. Let's see now, 1st place could have finished, hopped in his car and been to Williamsburg by the time I crossed the line. Or, in other words, the top 15 guys out of the 39 overall sport categories were showered and on their way home before I rolled in. ;-)

I thanked the guy who fixed my chain, apologized to Mark Iverson for nearly sliding out next to him at the finish line, balked at the $5 price they were charging for a little old pork sandwich (okay, does anybody want some cheese with my ICORR whine?), and headed off back to Indianola. I got my grilled chicken combo meal at the Wendy's drive through before getting back on I-80. $4.29 included drink, chicken burger and a side salad. ;-)

In spite of all of my whining about the course markings, hats off to ICORR for getting the trail ready to go after the rains. I do - believe me - I do appreciate everything you guys do for that sweet singletrack and for hosting the always fun and challenging Scramble. I will try and get in a pre-ride lap next year so I can keep my yap shut.

9/6/07

Golden Voiced Pavarotti yields to cancer...

I got home late last night from auditioning all of the voice majors at Simpson College for our upcoming operas this fall and in the spring. Popped a bottle of liquid carbs and turned on the television in the kitchen at low volume so as not to wake the family at 11pm. I turned to Larry King and a breaking news story from the BBC filled the screen and usurped Larry in mid-sentence to say that Pavarotti had lost his battle with the deadly pancreatic cancer at 5am Modena, Italy time today. I guess we all knew it was coming as that particular cancer has a nasty prognosis, but he took a turn for the worse this past month and lost the battle.

This was the single most important voice and personality to the operatic world in the past 45 years. I own oodles of his recordings and judge all tenors and their technique based on the skillful and masterful singing of Luciano Pavarotti. I started listening to him on a daily basis in 1979 during my undergraduate days of musical training. I first saw him sing live at the Metropolitan Opera in the 1985-86 season when he was still in his vocal prime and the hottest ticket in town. I probably attended at least 25 of his performances at the Met in the 80's and was mesmerized by every note of every performance. The man had the goods and could deliver them. Then I got to do the same in Vienna, Austria since I was living there and singing in the opera houses in Vienna from 1991 - 2003. Personality and voice to spare. Superstar and rock star of the opera world.

The voice will live on via recordings as other great tenors have (Caruso, Bjoerling, Tucker, Corelli, etc...). It will be a while before another voice and personality such as Luciano comes along again. It's a rare combination that usually only happens once every 50 years.

I bow to his career, his life, his gifts, and all he shared with the world through his music.

Rest in peace Luciano...

pavarotti

9/3/07

Boone 24 Hour Newbie Race Report...

24 Hours of Mountain Bike Racing on one of Iowa's toughest and sweetest loops?

Yup, that's right. 24 hours of racing from Saturday noon to Sunday noon.

This weekend of September 1st and 2nd was Iowa's 5th Annual 24 hour MTB Race at the Seven Oaks Ski Area outside of Boone, IA. Although I have lived in Iowa for all 5 Labor Day weekends this event has been held, this was my first time to participate in this 24 hour gruelathlon.

I teamed up with Mike Lebeda, Bruce Reese, and Jacob Naumann to enter the 24 Hour 4 man event. There were options of doing the 12 hour race or 24 hour race, but I opted for the Full Monty being that it was my first time participating in this event. Mike, Bruce, and Jacob had all done it before - so they knew what they were in for during the race and told me what to bring along for the weekend. I knew I had the mental and physical capacity to put in the effort based on all the marathons I used to run and racing in the Dakota 50 mountain bike race (also held on Labor Day weekend out in the Black Hills). I wasn't worried about that and I knew what to expect on the trail at Boone which is demanding even for a recreational ride. I was more concerned with cramping, traction, and handling as fatigue set in during the latter part of the race. I had also caught a cold on Thursday, so I was hoping it wouldn't totally wipe me out for the ride. Turns out it didn't bother me.

My goal going into the event was to finish 6 laps for my portion of the 4 man team event. Of course, that was my own personal goal going into the event. I think our team telegraphed it well before the event that the focus on fun was the most important issue and I was fine with that being my first time doing the event. Riding Seven Oaks is always a fun ride - so fun was a given as I was going to get to ride 6 laps. I had never ever ridden in the dark on singletrack before - so that was a new goal to achieve. I didn't even own any lights. I had never ridden a bike at 3am - so I was interested in what that would feel like. I had never tried to balance nutrition, rest, recovery, and then riding yet another lap again in any kind of a 24 hour event. So I went into the weekend with total newbieitis. Plenty of firsts for me.

I loaded up the Element with my Dos Niner, Sugar 293, sleeping cot, folding table, cooler of beverages, Soy Crisps, Chicken Noodle Soup, Bagels, Cliff Bars, Hammer Nutrition Products, SportLegs, Recover-Ease, towels, changes of cycling clothes, pillows, bike tools, air pump, and campground chairs. I drove up to Seven Oaks and settled into our pit area for the event. The weather was perfect for a great event.

A couple of pictures of the mad dash start of the race:

Boone 24 Hour Running Start

Boone 24 Hour Start

I was slated to ride 2nd, so when Bruce Reese turned in a nice 1st lap and made the hand off to me, I went out and rode my first lap with the mindset of pacing and doing lap one more on the conservative side to test out the new Fire Pro XC's. The tires felt great and I finished my first lap in 52 minutes. Mike took off for his first lap following mine and I loaded up with some rocket fuel (baked beans and some pork loin). We rotated through our group in this manner and kept at it in the early evening hours.

My first night lap was around 8:30 pm. I had arranged to borrow a light set from Thad Neil, but decided to invest in some MiNewts.X2 Duals from the NiteRider van that was there for the event. I've always wanted a set of lights, but would always get overwhelmed with the research when I started reading about the various light systems available. Everyone seemed to agree that NiteRider was a great company with good products, so I talked to the guy from NiteRider and settled on the MiNewt.X2 Duals as my starter set. He charged up the battery and let me borrow a helmet light as a demo for my first night lap. Vision was great with the set, but being my first ever night lap - I was a little timid and found myself struggling with balance more than I do in the daylight hours.

Here are the MiNewt.X2 Duals on my Dos Niner:

New Night Rider MiNewts

I got back to the NiteRider truck after my first night lap and praised the lighting system. Then I found out that the helmet light he had let me demo - the Flight - was on sale for a mere $465 during the race!!! Okay....scratch that luxury item off of my shopping list. Great light, that's for sure, but I can't justify that kind of dough for my entry level into night riding. $465 for a little light that sits up one's helmet? Dang, that's nearly as much as a set of DT 240 or Chris King hubs. Okay, I can see that if one were doing a lot of these events in the dark the expense is justified. I just couldn't justify it for myself. Yet. ;-)

I headed back to the Element, had a snack, cleaned up and climbed into the E for a nap on my cot. Ooooo....it was comfy. I slept/rested/drifted off until about 11:45pm. I got up and found out Bruce Reese was out for 2 consecutive laps. So I had some pasta with everyone at the midnight feed. I saw Matt Gersib eating a bowl of pasta and snarfing a slice of white bread (Matt, don't you know there is no nutritional value in white bread?) following his excellent 12 laps on the Dos Niner and claiming of 1st Place in the solo 12 hour race. Congrats, Matt! Way to ride and represent the spicy Salsa. I know you could have done another 8 - 10 and competed for the 24 solo $1K.

After that I went to borrow a helmet light from Paul Varnum who was already a few ounces of adult beverage into his celebration following he and Sean Meyers having won the 2 man 12 hour race. Congratulations Paul and Sean! Way to go! Paul handed me the light and said it should last for a little while. How long it would last, he didn't know and laughed.

Aha! Lesson #1 learned: never borrow a light from a tipsy teammate.

I got suited up and headed down to the starting line to wait for Bruce to come in from his 2nd lap. At about 1:30am I took off for my consecutive two laps and told both Mike and Jacob I should roll in about 3:30am for their turn. By now, the dew had fallen and things were thick and heavy. Lots of smoke was in the air from all the camp fires and the dew had turned the dry singletrack into "not so dry" singletrack. Climbing out of the pit area on the first set of climbs I hit a patch that required me to walk because it was too muddy to climb. Pretty hard to walk as well as I was slipping. There were only about 3 of these spots thanks to the dew, so it wasn't too bad at all out on the course. Things were very peaceful out there. This night riding stuff is okay. I couldn't go very fast being a newbie at it and my trust level will need to rise, but it was a fun experience.

I passed a gal who was out for a night lap with her dog. The dog's eyes looked freaky blue in my lights. Paul's light was nice, but I could tell a big quality difference between it and the NiteRider demo Flight. Just as I started thinking about the difference between the two types of lights and half way through the lap, Paul's light petered out as the battery pack ran out of charge. Paul was right. He didn't know how long the light would last. Not quite half a lap is the answer. ;-) Oh well, the MiNewts were burning bright and although having a helmet light is a real plus, I was able to adjust and ride with just the handlebar lights. I had to put a lot of faith into the corners and rely on my memory a lot as to what kind of corner it was and what followed the corner. That's where the helmet light is essential to point out what follows. But, I had to ride with what I had.

I came into the start area right on time at 2:30am and headed out for my 2nd consecutive night lap. I stopped by my Element and took Paul's light off of my helmet and got the battery out of my jersey pocket. No sense in hauling extra weight with me on the next lap. Off I went for the lap. I had a little more confidence now with this night riding and the lights - so I picked up my tempo and knew where the problem spots were. The first half of this course has no let up with lots of grunt climbs. I always get a real sense of accomplishment after turning up hill and climbing in that open area where you can see down to the ski lodge before heading into the next part of the course where there is not too much climbing left in the loop.

I made it through just fine and was way back in the latter half of the course doing a fast descent when my MiNewt's suddenly went off. Somehow, I was able to stop without hitting anything or flying off the trail, but that experience raised my heart rate. Paul's light kind of faded out for a few minutes before shutting off. These suckers just blacked out with no warning. Dang! Where was I? I had no flashlight or backup light to get me out of the forest. And man was it dark. The moon was of no help as the trees blocked the moonlight. One rider came along and told me to hop on his wheel to follow him out using his lights. That lasted for about 10 feet as it was just too difficult for me to see. I started hiking step by step along the trail thinking that I had already done about 3/4's of the lap and if I could walk it in, I would get credit for it. After about 10 minutes of hiking - or actually placing one foot in front of the other to feel around for the trail, I figured it was going to take me nearly an hour to get back down at that silly pace to the start tent because I just couldn't see. Why wasn't I carrying a flashlight????

Along came the 3rd place 24 hour solo rider, Jacob Espey. He stopped and asked about my lights. I told him I was dark and was having to hike out. He said he needed a break from riding anyway and offered to walk me to the paint ball field using his lights. So he did and I thanked him then and at the awards ceremony for helping me out of the woods. I was in a jam and he saved me. Thanks Jacob! Once to the paintball course, I bagged the lap and rode down the gravel road to the start tent to tell them my lap did not count. "Oh, that's too bad." said all of the ladies. I concurred.

It was exactly 3:30am and there was nobody from my team waiting to take over. So I went back to the pit area and knocked on Mike's van a few times. No answer. He had told us his back was really hurting him and that because of that, he probably wasn't going to ride. Nevertheless, I wanted to check with him just in case. Then, I knocked on Jacob's van and he woke up. I told him the situation and he said he would head out for some night laps. It took him about 1/2 an hour to get suited up, get his gear in order and head out at 4am.

I was really frustrated my lights didn't make it the full 2 hours, but I was running them on high and had no idea they even had a low setting. Lesson #2 learned - don't use gear in a race you haven't tried out before and know how it works. That's an obvious thing that I know all too well, but I had no choice when it came to lights. Whether I was borrowing somebody else's lights or using my new ones - they were not tried and tested by me. My bad, but again - I owned no lights until a few hours earlier. I had not even read the user's manual. Using the low setting would have allowed me to finish my lap and then some. I was feeling great physically and felt like I could have done 2 more laps right then and there had I had lights. Jacob said he was shooting for 3 laps and off he went. I didn't eat anything and went to bed to try and grab about 3 - 4 hours of sleep. I couldn't fall asleep right away because I was too wound up from my 2 laps (which, of course, only 1 counted). Oh the shame....

I heard Jacob rattling around about 7:30am and got up to see what our status was. He had just gotten in from 3 laps and said Bruce Reese was walking around thinking about going out for a lap. I grabbed a coffee, visited the Kybo and headed out for a lap on my Sugar 293. Trail was in good shape and the dew was burning off in most spots which meant there was only 1 climb I couldn't make it up due to the mud. It felt good to ride up to speed again now that I could see.

I got back to the start tent and there wasn't anybody from my 4 man team waiting to ride, so I headed over to the pit and Mike was suiting up to go out for a lap. I talked to Bruce Reese and he had decided he was done after jamming his fingers on a fall during his night lap. Jacob was loading up his van to head out as he had put in his 6 laps and said he was finished and heading home to spend some time with his 3 lovely daughters. I ate some breakfast and sat around visiting with folks. I headed back over to the start area to put in another lap when Mike came in as I had only done 5 official laps. The unofficial lap I had to bail only had the portion from the paint ball area to the start line to do (the easiest part), but my body had paid the price on the majority of that lap since I did all the climbing. Regardless, I wanted to make my goal of 6 official laps and get one more under my belt. So out I went at 10:20am when Mike came in and I did one of my fastest laps of the race on the Sugar 293. Even though this bike weighs about 28 pounds, I just bore into those 180mm cranks and used leverage to tackle those hills. I cleared everything and was amazed that I was this strong on what was now my 7th time around the course. I guess I was finally warmed up and in the sweet spot.

I got back to the start area and the ladies told me there were still 47 minutes left if I wanted to go out for one more lap. I laughed and thought it over for a few seconds. Nobody else from my team wanted to do another lap and since we were sitting at 21 laps, adding another lap would have been little value to our placing. The next group of 4 were sitting at 25 laps. So it was pointless to use standings as a reason to continue. Not to mention, I didn't exactly have a 47 minute lap left in me. Come to think of it, do I ever have a 47 minute lap at Boone? I had met my goal of 6 laps and would have to deal with the frustration of not finishing what would have been my 7th lap when the lights crapped out on me after 3am. Why did I not even think about carrying a flashlight to walk myself out of the woods? Oh well - another newbie lesson learned for next time. All this education over the weekend...

And the goal of having fun was met as well as dealing with all the newbie issues I had to take on with night riding, gear issues, nutrition and pacing.

Final lap count for our foursome:

Jacob Naumann (6 laps)
Bruce Brown (6 laps + the infamous busted lap)
Bruce Reese (5 laps)
Mike Lebeda (4 laps)

Here's a shot of the Dos Niner following the race. The bike was great and ate up the course. The mud is from the dew as we only had one small water crossing which splashed some mud on everyone's bike:

24 Hour Race Mud from Dew

The Fire Pro XC's were everything and more than I expected. I wanted an aggressive, fast roller that would provide grip at Boone. Boone is such a tough course, I've washed out with Crows, Nano's, XR's and Karma's there before. I couldn't have that on this race where I needed some "help" with grip and cornering ability at speed. I needed braking bite for snubbing speed and railing all of those switchbacks. I wanted a tire that I had confidence in and would keep me upright because I figured as the race went on my bike handling skills would waver with fatigue. These tires gave me everything I asked for and more. I never washed out with these tires and was very impressed with them. The extra 200 grams per tire over my regular XC race tires was worth it in my opinion for the peace of mind and confidence they gave me in my gear choice. I heard that the latest issue of M.B.A. gave these new 29"er tires a 5 Star rating (that's perfection by the MBA Wrecking Crew) and now I know why.

Kudos to Singletrack Promotions for their excellent work on the Seven Oaks trail and their running of this event. Talk about a well run and organized event. I'm now no longer a newbie and will be back. Kudos to Bruce, Mike, and Jacob for letting me hook up with them and providing all the answers to my newbie questions. I think we met our goal of having fun. I enjoyed sharing my Soy Crisps with one of Bruce's triplets. I called them "cookie shaped chips" and he thought that was pretty cool. I was stoked to see him munching away on heart healthy soy crisps and really enjoying them. He kept asking for more and we downed the whole bag. ;-) Bruce - your wife, kids and parents were a delight to visit with in the pit. I hope they slept in the car on the way home... '-)

I enjoyed talking with everyone and meeting some folks face to face for the first time after all the MTBR.com message boards. A lot of good, positive energy from the participants in spite of all of us being drained from the 24 hours. At the awards ceremony, they drew our names out of a box to hand out prizes. My name got drawn and I won a T-shirt and a Camelbak Mule (SCORE!!!). That was a pretty sweet door prize to be taking home since I think they cost more than my entrance fee. A big thank you to the sponsors for donating the prizes. That does not go unappreciated, believe me.

Here's a shot of a soon to be 46 year old man who needs a shave, a shower and some sleep after I got back home Sunday afternoon. My daughter took a photo of Dad holding his Camelbak Mule prize:

Camelbak Mule Prize

It's now time for some Labor Day dry rub ribs, beer and salad. I was going to clean the bikes up, but unpacking and washing all my clothes was enough for today. Time to relax and charge up for the remainder of the work week.

Over and out, but not down. As Arnold would say....

I'll be back.


8/27/07

Psycowpath #8 Swanson State Championship report...

Dang my legs hurt! But what a fun race over in Bellevue for the Nebraska State Championship. We all had an extra lap tacked on for the championship making this final race a quality challenge. Weather was beautiful and the course was in perfect racing shape with very little - if any - mud.

My legs are in in the hurt bag because during the race I got out of the saddle and muscled up too many short and steep hills in the wrong gear causing me to gut it out until the climb was over. This "technique" caught up to me in the last 15 minutes of the final lap where the cramping above the knees hit me hard. That was on Saturday. Now here it is Monday evening, and I feel like I did a bunch of squats and lunges over the weekend for the first time. These old chicken legs aren't built for that kind of brutality...and I didn't anticipate the proper gearing well enough. But I had fun!


Reminder to myself for future races: Self - pop another dose of SportLegs at the 1 hour point in these longer races to stave off the cramping.



Can I read?

I must have a reading comprehension problem as I swear I read this about the Swanson XC course in the Psycowpath 2007 Race Bible - and I quote:

Swanson Park; Bellevue, NE

THE COURSE: This “flat” course was built a few years ago for bikers and equestrians and it’s the perfect place to introduce you to mountain bike racing. It’s a fast, flowing course of mostly single track with some really nice technical sections including log crossings, g-outs and triple bowls.


Flat? Ha!!! Let me tell you, whoever wrote that in the Psycowpath Bible must be one of the last standing members of the Flat Earth Society. It's a great course for sure, but it ain't flat. Lake Manawa - now that's flat. Sylvan Island - now that's flat. Swanson? She ain't flat. If I wasn't going up, I was going down. I think I remember only 2 flat sections on the course where I could safely reach for the water bottle.

Hats off to the trail crew for allowing the extra drying time for a delayed start. And hats off to the trail crew for getting the course ready. Talk about perfect conditions. Tacky, only a little bit of mud and it didn't alter our riding at all. It was a great XC race course and a real joy to ride. I've never been to Swanson Park before, so it didn't matter what direction we were riding it in - this course was a fun one. Talk about a blast being able to go through all those carving corners!

Okay, on to the race day report:

I arrived about an hour before the 3pm start, registered, warmed up and rode the upper 1/2 of the course. The trail seemed in perfect shape for my tubeless Nanoraptors which were ready to go after my DIY tinkering. I got lined up with the Sport Open group at the rider's meeting. Each category started with 30 seconds between groups.

After the whistle blew for Sport Open, I settled into the last part of my group as we entered the singletrack. I passed a few right off the bat who misjudged corners or were having mechanicals. I saw a lot of mechanicals out there today. I must have passed at least 6 or 7 throughout the race who were pulled over and tinkering with their bikes. Anyway, lap one was moving right along with a lot of us bunched up throughout the lap negotiating all of the twists, turns, logs, roots and climbs. There were some really nice climbs with roots, oodles of fun carving corners, multiple log crossings and one short - in particular - steep killer climb that had most of us dismounting and running up by our 4th lap. I was way in the wrong gear on the first lap on this climb and made it only about 3/4's of the way up. At that point, I needed about 100 pounds more weight in each leg to push the pedals down and clear the climb. No go for my chicken legs. I had to do an ugly dismount and get going again. I think that climb got the better of a lot of us throughout the day.

Aaron Grady's family was out in force again cheering us on and ringing their bells. The first time I saw/heard them this year I was like "what the heck", but now I've come to enjoy their enthusiasm and participation. In fact, they always bring a smile to my face when I pass them and hear the cheers and ringing bells. It doesn't matter if you are in 33rd or 87th place, they cheer for you just as vociferously as if you were in 1st place. That's the cool thing about having them there.

I came through the finish line area to start lap two and had a few guys fly by me as I took a big drink of much needed energy.

Coming throug for the 2nd lap
Photo by Tom Winfield

I, along with a few other guys, got "chicked" in the middle of lap two (I guess that's the term when the first female Sport racer passes you). There were a couple of us that traded places back and forth with this gal on the top 1/2 of the loop up in the climbing section. After toying with us on those climbs, she shifted gears and absolutely dusted us. We never saw her again. Not even a glimpse. She was a great rider and having an excellent race.

I stopped in the finish line area at the end of lap two to grab my 2nd water bottle. Took off and blew a snot rocket over my left shoulder. Some 8 year old who was watching the race yelled out "Gross!". Hey, ya gotta do whatcha gotta do. I settled in behind the wheel of a guy entering the singletrack and 2 guys settled in right behind me. This little group of 4 rode all of lap 3 in this formation together. We got "experted" as Kent and Cam flew by. Cam was right on the wheel of Kent biding his time and waiting to pounce. Congratulations to Cam for winning the expert open race and winning the overall series title.

As usual, the comments from our group of four as to how we appeared to be standing still next to the pace Cam and Kent were riding were uttered. Back to the reality of our own pace.....we mid and low pack guys still enjoy racing against each other. Maybe I am speaking for myself, but battling it out for 7th or 8th place can be rewarding as we have to find rewards where we can find them. Whether it be out-climbing another mid-packer or getting him on a sprint at the line. Coming into the finish line area, the leader of our lap 3 group of four sat up to stretch his back and the other three of us went around him.

We headed into the singletrack for lap four, our final lap, and I moved back to the end of this group as the pace picked up a notch or two. We didn't stay together too long as I got dropped after about 5 minutes. I was hydrating well, but started to feel the twinges of cramps in my legs right above the knees thanks to all the mashing I had been doing on climbs. I spent a lot of time out of saddle on climbs over the roots because my Dos was bouncing all over on these climbs. It made my back feel better to get out of the saddle, but now my legs were paying the hefty price. So I did some recovery speed off and on in sections that I could to keep the cramps at bay.

Grinding it out
Photo by Tom Winfield

Finishing off the final climbs in the top 1/2 of the course, Matt came flying by on his Orange Peelz Dos riding a good race in 3rd Place for Expert Open. It took a while before any other experts passed me, so I knew Matt had a podium spot all wrapped up. Congrats buddy! Coming into the final section, two guys I had passed earlier were starting to reel me back in, so I pulled up the bootstraps and found a little extra to fend them off. I think I heard one crash behind me on a tough twisty corner, but I couldn't turn around to see as my own fate was in peril at this speed with some more turns just ahead of me.

I came out of the singletrack and into the grassy sprint to the finish line and jumped into the big ring for the finish which was enough to keep the one guy still on my heels 100 yards back.

Crossing the line with a grimace...

Starting the 4th Lap
Photo by Tom Winfield

I felt like I raced a lot better than the previous Psycowpath #7 where the heat got the better of me and I was in survival mode for most of the race. This race felt much better with the interval work paying off for me. I was able to finish strong and maintain my pace throughout. Small improvements from race to race keep me going this season. I need to get another dose of SportLegs in me at the one hour point to fight off the cramps. Too many of the XC races this year have been in the 1:10 - 1:30 duration (rain shortened or just short races) so I am used to being finished before any cramping kicks in at the end of the race. The races that close in on 2 hours are the ones that need the second dose of SportLegs.

Anyway, at the end of this race my legs were burning and I headed right to the Element to load up the bike and hit the road back to Indianola. The wife had promised wild salmon for dinner and even though we had a 3 hour delayed start, I saw that I could make it back by 7:15 - 7:30 to enjoy it. Of course I had to drive 80mph to make it back in time, but I made it. And man was I hungry!

Update on my placing: I ended up in 6th place in Sport Open for the race and finished the 2007 Psycowpath Series in the point standings for Sport Open in 8th place. I only did 3 races in Sport Open this year for the Nebraska Psycowpath Series, so there is room for improvement in points if I would just show up to more races. I haven't read the rules, but evidently no points transfer over from one category to the next if you switch in the middle of the season. So my Tranquility race (Psycowpath #1) in Sport 45+ was the only race in that category for the year. After that, I switched to Sport Open for the IMBCS races, so I made the change in Nebraska as well.

Regardless, I enjoyed doing 4 of the Psycowpath races this year (1 in Sport 45+ before I switched categories and then I did 3 in Sport Open). I had a lot of fun riding this Swanson Park course and hope to get back there to ride it again at some point in the future.

But it ain't flat! ;-)

8/23/07

Black Ooze....

I'm worried about the front tire in my conversion. The rear seems to be golden as it was a brand new Nano. The front tire is a couple years old and ever since the conversion is oozing. I cannot get it to stop.

Here are the picks of the ooze:

This one shows what accumulates and drips out on the floor during the night...

OozeOnFloor

After rotating the portion of the tire that was leaking to the top to take a picture of it, I used Photochop to circle an example of an area where it is leaking along the bead - rim interface. The wet spot you see on top of the tire is the pool of ooze that has come out of the rim/bead interface area overnight. However, whichever part of the wheel/tire is down and the bottom - this overnight oozing takes place.

LeakAtBead

It doesn't look good to me. Since the rear tire which is brand new is fine and I was able to get this oozing to stop on day one with it, I think I better go buy a brand new Nanoraptor for the front wheel and start over as I want to rule out an old tire as the culprit.

Before I do that, however, I took the front tire off. I totally cleaned the bead, added a wrap of Velox, and I added one more wrap of electrical tape as it looked like a couple of places the rimstrip was not reaching the side of the rim wall. I put the sealant back in the tire and aired up. I did the shake and dance, lay flat routine. We'll see what is on the floor tomorrow morning before buying another tire...

UPDATE: I'm ooze free this morning, baby. Adding the Velox wrap, cleaning the beads and remounting seems to have done the trick last night. No ooze anywhere this morning after the tire stood all night in the garage. I'm good to go!