8/28/08

Time to reflect and heal...

It's been a very eventful week to date. One of my son's classmates suffered a traumatic hit to the head during football practice on Tuesday night. He was rushed to the hospital in Des Moines where surgery was performed to remove a piece of his skull to allow for drainage from the swelling and a coma was induced. We're all still waiting for him to come out of the coma. Reports of the CT Scan seemed to indicate nothing out of the ordinary in terms of brain damage which is good news, but the swelling needs to go down and the recovery process begun. We all feel for him, his parents and his entire family. The boys have their first varsity game against Hoover tomorrow night and will be playing with heavy hearts and minds thinking about their fallen teammate and friend.

My wife is still ill from the weekend and it has now spread to my daughter who had to stay home from school today. Not the kind of crash diet anyone wants to go on along with fever and body ache. So I have been Mr. Cook, Mr. Clean, Mr. Laundry, Mr. Shuttle Bus, Mr. Doctor, Mr. Dog Walker and trying to keep the boat upright. Due to that, I will be unable to participate in the Boone 24 Hour this weekend as originally planned. The week is not over yet, so I hope no more drama is introduced to the already dramatic week.

I was really looking forward to the challenge of the "new" Seven Oaks XC course for the 24 hour and wish all the best to those who are participating. I will be there in spirit and thought and certainly hope to race next year.

Over and out and off to make some chicken broth and find the Saltines...

8/26/08

Rats! The WORS that Wasn't...

I put in a good training week (for me) during the past week. I realized that with preparations for hosting a race and the recovery following that experience, I wasn't getting the hours in the saddle to stay ready for racing. I mapped out a three week in-season training schedule for the last 2 weeks of August and first week of September so I am good to go for the season ending races in the IMBCS and Psycowpath series.

Due to the IMBCS TT being rescheduled for September 7th, I had an opportunity to race another WORS race, #9 Border Battle in River Falls. I was looking forward to racing against my Fat Tire Festival buddies Tim Larsen and Tim Brinkman from the Twin Cities and getting a bite to eat with them after the race to catch up. In order to do the WORS race with my busy schedule at Simpson on Friday and Saturday, I had to drive up the morning of the race. It was to be about a 4 1/2 hour drive which meant leaving at 6 am to arrive an hour before the start to warm-up and get suited up.

I packed up the Element Saturday evening so everything was ready for my early start. I got up at 5:30, showered and jumped in the Element. I was just about to the exit for Mason City on I-35 making really good time when my phone rang. It was my wife who was feeling really, really sick. Turns out she woke up with a nasty flu and was basically begging for me to turn around and come home to take care of the kids and dogs. I knew she must be hurting because that is not typical for her to call and "beg". It sounded like she was going to be praying to the porcelain deity all day long. It was scheduled that she would be taking the kids to the mall for some additional school supplies and clothes shopping. I needed to come home to take over that duty so she could rest and let the flu "run" its course.

RATS!!!!!

You know when to and when not to be selfish - and this was a when not to moment for me. So I took the next exit and headed to the other side of I-35, grabbed a coffee at McD's and went back south. I joked when I got home that I had just driven 190 miles for a cup of really bad coffee. She looked awful and was cramping up from dehydration and flu symptoms. I tended to her for about an hour and then made breakfast for the kids and fed the dogs. Once my wife was resting comfortably, I took the dogs for a bike ride out at Lake Ahquabi (not quite the best substitute for a race I was missing) and then took the kids for their shopping.

The WORS that Wasn't...

8/20/08

Psycowpath #5 Traquility Tire Tantrum Race Report...

Midpackitis again!! Of all the sport men categories, 19 guys finished ahead of me and 19 guys finished behind me. You cannot get any more midpack than that!!!

We had the second weekend of perfect weather for mountain bike racing in August. I carpooled over with Cam Kirkpatrick and we arrived in Omaha with plenty of time to register and take a test lap of the course. New for this year at the Tranquility Tire Tantrum was a 3 hour marathon race option which was underway when we arrived. That race was not for points in the series, but provided an option for those seeking a longer venue. It was a good turnout for the Psycowpath series with 163 total racers in all divisions showing up in the excellent weather to race their mountain bikes. Of those, 18 were in the kids race and 16 were in the 3 hour Marathon race. That left 129 racers battling for series points in their respective divisions. Oh that we could get that kind of a turnout in Iowa for our races.

I brought the Sugar 293 to race as my back was still tender from the previous week of setting up the Lake Ahquabi race course and racing. The Sugar stays glued to the ground and lets me stay seated and pedal through any rough stuff with less fatigue afterwards.

Here she is:

Race Sled

I ran an XR 2.25 up front with a tubeless Crow in the rear which was a fast combination for the dry, dusty, hard packed course. The XR was a popular choice up front at the race in the 29"er crowd so I was in good company. During the pre-ride, I didn't wash out on one corner, so it was a good choice and gave me confidence for those corners out in the prairie that were hard packed, grassy and dusty. By the way, this is a really fun course. A nice mix of technical things in the lowlands by a creek, pine trees with tight singletrack to provide some shade and switchbacks and lots and lots of open prairie singletrack with the majority of the climbing out in the elements of wind, sun or whatever the weather brings that day. This is all situated between urban dwellings and a golf course with a nice view.

The Sport Open category was stacked with some new fresh and fast talent. I couldn't believe how fast off of the line our group took off and quickly found myself in about 9th place out of 14 as I struggled to get my left foot clipped in. The course had been lengthened a couple of miles from last year with some sweet switchbacks and new trail in the open prairie. We rode it in the opposite direction this year from the clockwise direction we raced last year on that 20 degree day in April. With the new switchbacks and additional prairie trail, it was a middle and big ring race. I really thought I did a good job of keeping a steady pace and power on the pedals at all times. The Sugar soaked up all obstacles and bumps in the trail and provided the platform I needed to keep my lower back in check.

I felt really strong coming out of lap one and started to push it a little more in lap 2. At the end of lap one:

LeadingTheGroup

With all of the 3 hour marathon racers still out on the course during lap one and two, it was kind of hard to tell just who you were passing. However, most of them were going at a slower pace having been out there for so long. Turns out, not much was going on in terms of changing places with guys in the sport open category.

Cruising along in lap two:
TranquilityRoadCrossing

One guy passed me during lap two from my class and went on to best me by 4 minutes. I stopped for a new water bottle at the drop zone to start lap 3 and another guy went around me. I gave chase and tailed him for the first part of lap three, but it turns out he was in a different category (Sport Masters 45+). Regardless, we traded places back and forth all throughout lap 3. Me passing him on the climbs, he passing me on the descents. It was fun to have this chase and pass scenario during the last lap as it gave the two of us a nice little motivation and battle to keep us moving. On the big descent and switchbacks at the end of the lap, he was able to open up a little gap on me and I couldn't close it in the big ring before the line where he bested me by 6 seconds. It's never happened to me before during a race, but on the final descent, my upper left arm cramped up. Not enough to alter my riding in any way, but it was interesting. My legs were fine in terms of not cramping. I only felt a twinge in the right leg building up during the second half of the final lap, but it didn't cramp.

In the open prairie on some switchback climbs:
ClimbingThePrairie

I felt good with my effort, but the results certainly don't match how I felt. I rolled in for 10th place out of 15 in the Sport Open category. Wow! Not good. Granted, there was some new young and fast talent in the category, but this was my lowest place finish for my category in the Psycowpath series for this year. Hmmmmm.... I always check the overall sport men category to compare my times with the entire field and other guys who are regulars to gauge my progress or standings. As I said at the beginning of this post - midpackitis it was. I need to be higher than dead in the middle pivot spot of 1/2 ahead of me and 1/2 behind me.

Needless to say, I have upped my training this week and will continue to build up for another peak 4-6 weeks from now for the final two Psycowpath races.

Congratulations to Cam who, in spite of a heavy training week of two 68 mile days and one 102 mile day on the road bike of training for a season ending peak, rolled across the finish line in the expert division in total control of the field. I actually brought my camera along and got a few shots. Believe it or not my batteries were working! You can read about Cam's excellent race here. Here is a shot of him rolling out of the prairie and into the final section before the finish line:

Cam bringin' home the bacon...

Hey, this is the first time all season he hasn't passed me on his 4th lap before I finished the sport open race!!! Either his legs were tired from all the training or I was pushing a good pace - or both. ;-)

I visited with another racer in the start/finish area when I saw his custom Sycip 650B wheel sized bike. He was a former 29"er rider, but swapped out to the 650B "tweener" size of 27.5" (between 26" and 29") when he bought this bike. He seemed to really love it and said it fit his height and riding style a bit better than the 29"er platform. I'm interested in this wheel size for my wife and or daughter so was chatting with him about it. I think it would be a nice platform for those who are less tall, but want some of the benefit of big or bigger wheels. NoTubes already makes a tubeless ready rim for this wheel size and a few tires are now available. Most of the frames are still custom, but production frames as well as the ability to use certain 26" wheel frames/forks that the wheels will fit in are possible.

He was sporting the new Pacenti race tires and very enthusiastic about them:

650B custom bike

Cool looking rig and more power to him for racing without any suspension on the Tranquility course.
====================

Today is the first day of school for the kids and the first day of work for me at Simpson. We have 3 days of faculty workshops and meetings before classes start on Monday. Boy, the summer went fast!

Carpet is scheduled to be installed on September 4th and 5th, so it won't be long before our house gets back to normal.

8/14/08

The Insurance and Carpet Game...

State Farm called yesterday to inform us that the replacement of the carpet exceeds the amount of coverage that we are allowed. State Farm is giving us $10,500. About $6900 of that goes to Paul Davis Restoration (unbelievable what those guys charge). That leaves about $3600 left for carpet. State Farm estimated the value of the carpet we lost at $7700. To replace our carpet with a similar grade means 1/2 of it is coming out of our own pocket. Ouch!

So I went to Carpet One in Urbandale yesterday to bring home some sample boards. I brought a mix of types, qualities and prices. The cheapest being one that would cost us about $5100 and the most expensive at $7700. We narrowed it down to 2 we liked in the first batch of samples. Now I am going back today to see if I can find some samples in the colors we liked in some of the less expensive carpets.

I guess the good news is that with the re-routing of all the downspouts, the last 2 rains has not had one drop end up in the sump pump pit. That either means the ground is no longer saturated, or my re-route is working. Or both - even better. Still, I hesitate to put in brand new carpet until we get a good 3 - 5 inch rain to test everything one more time.

8/8/08

Lake Ahquabi Race is Ready!!!

I'm marking the race course at Lake Ahquabi today and tomorrow. Today will be my final day of raking and grooming the trail. What's left out there will be fine for the race. Prizes, food, beverages and supplies have been purchased.

The only disappointment has been the course marking chalk. The company that I ordered it from said each can would mark much more area than it actually does - so I don't have enough of it. I will use more signs and barrier tape to make up for my lack of chalk - or go out there with a bag of flour and leave a trail that even Hansel and Gretel couldn't get lost in if they followed it.

Weather looks good and the rain is predicted not to hit until late Sunday evening. Even if it does rain a little bit, the course can handle it. Temperatures should be in the low 80's which should make for a great race.

If there is anyone contemplating racing on Sunday, but is not sure - come on out and do the race. We have lots of great food, drink and prizes.

Below is a shot I took of Paul Varnum last night during the pre-ride as we waited for the DNR to remove a couple of fallen trees from the course. Photo is courtesy of Paul Varnum and his camera:

Paul Varnum Watching the DNR saw

It's interesting some of the curious questions you get from people as they pass by you when pounding a stake in the ground:

"What are you doing to the trail?"

"Hey, when's the race?"

"Are you building some sort of a game we can play?"

"What are the orange stakes for? A power line?"

"Are you pounding stakes in the ground?" (My favorite!)

8/4/08

IMBCS #6 Race Report - Seven Oaks

Summer has finally arrived as temperatures rose all the way to the high 90's with humidity the past few days. Riding the XC course at Seven Oaks in cool temperatures is difficult enough, but yesterday's heat added that extra little bit of "gotcha" for the IMBCS #6 XC race.

Hats off to Kyle, Ron and all those that helped to get the trails ready for the race after the unusual year of rain we have been having in Iowa. And hats off for a new challenging face lift to the trail. I didn't get a chance to pre-ride the loop and had no idea there would be anything different from last year's trail until the pre-race meeting. Cam asked me if I had taken a lap yet, and when I said no, he smiled and said it had some nice new technical and tough challenges. But when he said it amounted to about 10% or less of the overall trail, I welcomed the new challenges in my mind before ever having seen any of it.

At the start of the race, I got caught too far left going down the top ridge of the ski area heading into the singletrack. I ended up in the grass and weeds. My bad, but I had to dismount and let a few pass me before getting back on the trail and on my Dos Niner. The initial mile or two had several pulling over to let others pass and some of the opening steep climbs after the first bridge were still muddy enough to make climbing a hit or miss in a few spots. I thought I made it cleanly around Sterling Hiese on a switchback when he dismounted only to find my rear tire spin out and I stalled, so I had to dismount to complete the pass. I passed a couple other riders on the next series of climbs and during the new narrow bridges over the fun roller coaster section I was able to clean and move on down the trail while others were dismounting. I liked the new trail during lap one and only got stumped by one switchback to the right when I took the inside where it was soft enough mud to stop me in my tracks.

After making it to familiar tried and true Seven Oaks trail, I was able to pick up the speed a little bit on the remainder of lap 1. After crossing the first bridge in lap 2 and hitting the series of climbs, I realized that I really wasn't able to produce the same power on the climbs as I had in lap 1. Could it be the heat? Regardless, I struggled to find a rhythm I could use to clear each climb without going too deep in the pain cave with the heart in the heat. As the 2nd lap wore on, I realized not producing enough power was melting my momentum to clear corners, climbs and technical sections. It was there for lap one, but not in lap two. That meant my riding was getting sloppy and I was frustrated with it, but there was nothing I could do about it. The heat and the difficulty of the climbing with the new trail sections combined seemed to be too much for me. Not to mention, the reality of the 7 pounds I gained on vacation meant I was carrying some extra weight up the hill. I'll be working on getting rid of that vacation weight gain this week...

Momentum is a crucial element at Seven Oaks because if you go to slow, you will not clean the technical sections and find yourself walking up some of the short steep climbs and switchbacks. I continually fought myself to find something in my reserves to clean each of those sections - sometimes winning, sometimes losing and having to dismount and walk up a section to clear it. What happened to my lap 1 fitness?

It seemed like the new sections didn't allow for as much recovery as prior versions of the trail, but I need to ride Seven Oaks a few more laps in cooler temperatures to make that determination. It's always a wake-up call to ride at Seven Oaks for the first time in a season, and this was my first time riding there this year. I think a couple more laps under my belt of the new trail sections will help quite a bit. Next time, things won't seem so difficult. Regardless, I trudged on welcoming the challenge of it all. There were a couple of sections on both laps that looked like we all did the same thing and simply hiked it due to the mud and steepness of the grade.

Once I made it into the comforting familiarity of the section of trail behind the campground and paint ball course, I felt the "battle" was over and I had survived the heat and new trail war. I have to say, I came across the finish line pretty spent and tuckered with the satisfaction of simply having completed the challenge. It was then I learned from Paul Varnum that 25% of the field had flatted or DNF'd for one reason or another. I ended up in 4th place for Sport Open which is an improvement over my showing last year at the Seven Oaks race where I was 8th place.

All in all - a fun new "challenge". I am looking forward to getting some more laps in at Seven Oaks to mentally and physically learn the new trail. It's exactly the kind of course that we need to push our limits, find our boundaries and improve our mountain biking skills. I may have to break down and put my triple crankset back on so I have a granny ring when I ride there. ;=)