12/31/09

Green Eggs & Gym?

Yes, you read that right. It's been a big serving of green eggs and gym this past week. That, and our 20th Wedding Anniversary. We went to Django last night up in Des Moines for some French Bistro cuisine to celebrate.

Back to the egg....

I spent three days staining and applying coats of spar urethane on the cypress wooden table that houses Tara's new extra large Big Green Egg smoker/grill/oven. The goal was to protect the wood to withstand the outside elements on our back deck. That's a tall task for the temperature range of -15 to 100+ degrees here in Iowa, but we'll see how it does. I chose a cherry chestnut stain and I took the table apart to get every inch of the wood stained and coated with the spar urethane before assembling it all back together. The house developed quite a smell from all of those chemicals and even with the windows open and the ceiling fans going - I developed a sore throat for two days from inhaling the stuff. Was it all worth it?

Well - here is the finished product which will enjoy its maiden smoke tomorrow to kick of the New Year. I think we'll do brisket and pork butt for round one.

After Zack and I lifted the 225 lb. egg into the hole in the table:

BigGreenEggIndoors

I'm really happy with the staining color choice as it offsets the dark green ceramic of the Big Green Egg quite well.

Here's Tara showing off her new present:

Tara'sBigGreenEgg

Here's the Egg outside on the deck and ready for use (not to worry, we have a cover for it):

BigGreenEggOutdoors

Hopefully the food will taste yummy.

Now on to the gym rat part of the post...

I spent the past 2 off seasons at the gym doing my weights, but the cost of gym membership is just getting too high and the Simpson gym is always full of athletes using all the weights and machines I need at the times I can go to the gym. So I have slowly developed my own gym in the basement and can workout whenever I want without having to share the weights. Well, except when my son comes down in the basement to show off and bench press every plate we own. And my daughter is doing squats and dead lifts for her sprinting. She did very well this week at Iowa State Track Camp where she was the only freshmen sprinter there. She learned a lot about technique and they focused on coming out of the blocks to get the most powerful acceleration.

I'm in the Hypertrophy phase right now which calls for 6 sets of 10-12 reps at time. At the gym, tying up the squat rack for 6 sets with 1 1/2 - 2 minutes of rest between sets to get in the full 60 - 72 reps was usually a frustrating experience for either me or the person(s) waiting for what I was using. I do miss have the leg press, rowing machine and lat pull from the gym - but I'll have to make do by doing other core and leg exercises that target the same thing.

Here's the new bench with squat rack that Tara and the kids got me for Christmas:

HomeGymWeights

And here is where most of my weekly cycle training is during the winter:

HomeGymBike

I have been getting out on the snow quite a bit with the RIP 9 this winter. I'm not a big fan of riding gravel roads in general, but now that they are snow and ice covered, I get in some outdoor time nearly every day thanks to taking the dogs for a walk. The colder it is, the better in terms of traction and speed. It's a great way to work on balance on the bike because the front and rear tires will - on occasion - slide out, forcing one to balance and counter to stay upright. I did it last year as well and it really helped my control when sliding out on the dirt during races. I have not fallen yet this winter, but I can already tell my balance skills are improving even more this year which should pay off come race season.

But the majority of the training is happening inside with the weights and exercise bikes. I've got a goal to shave some minutes off of my finish times this coming season. That's a tall order, but I'm shooting for it.

I timed the all-important hypertrophy phase to take place while I was on vacation from teaching because it is the most draining phase due to the amount of lifting. I did a little longer adaptation phase this fall because I really stopped maintenance weights during the season this year (for whatever reason). So it took time to get everything going again and avoid any injury. My right elbow area does feel sore and has a bit of strain as all the snow shoveling has tweaked it a bit.

In fact, with all the hypertrophy lifting I'm doing (4 days a week), this is what I feel like even after a 30 minute recovery ride:

Exhausted

pooped

December now officially ranks as the 2nd month with the most snow in history here in the Des Moines area as we topped 28 inches yesterday. Worries of flooding, roof damange/leaking abound as we all wait to see what will happen once the temperatures climb back up to the 36 degree area and all this white stuff goes somewhere as it melts.

Back down to the basement to set it up for my daughters New Year's Eve Party. She has invivted eleven 14 year old girls to spend the night and some boys will be there until just shortly after midnight. That ought to keep my wife and I busy and sleepless all night...

12/27/09

Snowiest month in history yet.....?

We've already made it to the 3rd snowiest month in history here with 27.7 inches (and it just started snowing outside again). That's close to the 2nd snowiest month which was 28 inches in March of 1912. The snowiest month on record was 37 inches in January of 1886. I doubt we'll make that, but there is a good chance we'll nip the 1912 record since snow is falling right now and Wednesday's forecast is for snow.

No wonder my back hurts from all the shoveling!!!

I stained the table for Tara's Christmas/Anniversary/Birthday present today. Alexa, Zack and I bought her something called "The Big Green Egg" which is a grill/smoker/oven all in one and a table for her "egg" so we can cook outside with it. The table wood was unfinished cypress and I used a beautiful cherry chestnut stain that required two coats. Tomorrow I will seal it all up with three coats of indoor/outdoor spar urethane. That should allow us to get the "egg" set in there, put it out on the back deck and get everything ready to go for our first smoked meal!!!! Yummy.....

It's been a weekend full of doing all - or at least some - of those projects that I have let go for many weeks and in some cases months. I built a make-up vanity for Alexa in her bathroom, removed some spots on the new carpet downstairs, did a major house cleaning and cleaned out the "stuff" that had been hiding in the back of both fridges for a long, long time. I'll finish dealing with the speaker wire and cables of our home entertainment system tomorrow, time permitting. A few more projects to go over the vacation, but the main one starts soon as I block out, map out and figure out how I am going to stage and direct The Mikado since our rehearsals at Simpson start on January 11th. I've got tons of ideas in my head on exactly what I want, but I need to put ideas to paper so I know how it is all going to map out measure by measure for the entire operetta. We have very little time to waste in the rehearsal process, so I need to be prepared. The set design is done. The costumes have been ordered. I've coached everyone on their spoken dialogue to get the British accents and inflection going. I need to track down some large Japanese fans that are built specifically for stage productions. We may have to rent them, but the costume company is the first place to start as they have access to fans.

I set up my Christmas present yesterday. Tara got a really great deal on a floor model weight bench with squat rack. It was marked down, on sale from the marked down price and she talked them into an additional 10% off since it was a floor model from a model no longer made (last year's model). Sweet wheeling and dealing there and I love the set up!! I had asked for socks to be my present. Well, I actually did get 2 pair of new cycling socks along with a new coffee thermos, a 2010 datebook, and a weight lifting belt. That's way more than the socks.

Our 20th wedding anniversary is coming in 3 days and I'm trying to figure out where to take Tara for dinner on a date. It's hard to believe it has actually been 20 years. Time flies when you're having fun!

Training wise, I have been getting some good time in on the exercise bike, weights, recumbent trainer and I ride every morning and evening around the neighborhood on the RIP 9 with the big knobby tires in the snow. I think everyone in the neighborhood thinks I'm nuts to be out there riding every day, but I love riding in the snow and cold. I'm trying not to put on so much muscle weight this year, so I am watching how many plates I throw on the lifting bar and how much I throw on my plate at the dinner table as well. ;-)

12/18/09

1st Semester Ends!!!

I finished up last night about 5:30 pm with the second semster and then got the grades submitted. It's been an eventful semester, some of those events were grand, good and fun. Others give me reason to pause, reflect and rebuild to go forward. One student is transferring to a community college. One dropped out of school around mid-semester. One student is switching to an online degree from another institution to get a degree other than music. She will do this from home and not continue at Simpson. And one told me yesterday that he is jumping ship next semester. So I began the semester with 19 voice majors and now trimmed down to 15. This gives me room for 3 new students, but not sure who and how that will work out at the moment. I have a full load with directing the opera on the side, so it may be best to recruit 3 new students to begin next academic calendar year (2010-11).

To take my mind off the daily grind, I got the RIP all up and going again this morning after the rear hub was worked on at the LBS. While I had the wheel off, I swapped out the 118mm BB spindle to one with a 113mm to get a narrower Q-Factor that I prefer. I took it out for a spin in the snow with the dogs, but that is not as much fun as the "snow-free" trails are. Black Hills - here I come. The only question is when. I've got to figure that out.

Here's the RIP ready to go....

RiPPer

RiPPer4

Two of my former students from 2003-2007, Alejandro and Evan, are stopping by this evening to say hello on their way through town as they head to KC for the holidays. Alejandro teaches in Chicago and Evan in eastern Iowa. I'm looking forward to visiting with them to see how things are going. Another former student stopped by my office yesterday for a lesson and to sing for me. He is home on break from graduate school. He is doing really well and his singing is progressing right on track to be a major tenor talent in the opera business. I'll see him Saturday as well at a Christmas party.

Off to the mall with Alexa....

12/14/09

It's the busiest time of year...

I am always amazed how our music department at Simpson operates on a different work schedule than other departments. We began our finals week on Saturday which included piano proficiency examinations from 8 am - 3 pm, voice juries from 3:15 pm to 5 pm and continued with two concerts "Lessons and Carols" on Sunday afternoon followed by recital auditions from 7 - 11 pm. Monday - Thursday includes more juries and recital auditions at all hours of the day, meetings, dialogue and musical coachings for The Mikado which I am directing for our February production. I wonder if other departments work all through the weekend and during the evening like ours? '-[

I've managed to squeeze in my off training work in the basement with weights and on the C7i trainer knocking out enough cardio to keep me in shape and not lose too much fitness. I've been at it "down there in the basement" for about 3 weeks and moved from adaptation of weight lifting into the growth phase. That means it is time for the purchase of a rack I can use for squats. It's kind of hard to get the bar with all the plates on it up on your shoulders from the floor to do the squats by yourself. I always did these at the gym before with their rack and smith machine, but decided not to renew my membership and do it at home instead (watching the 55" TV of course)!!!! They've got a rack that can be used for bench press and raises high enough for squats up at Scheel's that isn't a pro sturdy model, but should suffice for my needs. It sells for $199 and is like some I have seen on line for $150. By the time you add shipping - it's a wash price wise.

I was enjoying a great fall of mountain biking once the dirt froze. My rear Chris King hub froze up on my last weekend and the LBS found nothing wrong with it. It needed a little winterizing (typical for King hubs to keep them rolling in cold temps). Regardless, last weekend was the end of the fun fall riding as the blizzard dumped so much snow with so many odd 3 - 6' drifts, that any off road snow riding is impossible this year because of the drifts and depth of snow (unless everything melts or one owns a Pugsley with the fat snow tires). We got a glazing of frozen rain and ice over everything in the past 12 hours which even dampens the riding around the neighborhood with the dogs. I'll have to dig out the studded tires today, but no time as I am at work from 10 - 10 today. So, it is pretty much a full time basement workout for now which is fine with me.

I'm still hoping to get out to the Black Hills on my RIP 9 at some point while my cardio is in good shape over this 3 week semester break, but weather and what not will decide if that happens.

Off to the music building for 12 hours of "listening" to the students perform their final juries and work with students on their British accents for the dialogue in The Mikado. We may have to go for a hybrid Midwest-British accent....

12/9/09

Blizzard!!!

We are experiencing a good old fashioned Dakota Blizzard at the moment. It dropped about 14 - 16" of snow yesterday, last night and today. The winds behind the storm have kicked up to 30 - 50 mph all day long which have created some amazing drifts in our yard, driveway and street. One in the backyard is as high as the fence (about 6') and the drifts in the front yard and driveway are 3 - 5 feet in height. Temperatures and windchill are so cold that is hard to stay out there longer than 30 minutes at a time to work on the snow removal.

Public school and even college closed for the day (rare when the college closes). I've been digging out all day, but the wind just fills things back in within 30 minutes. I'm heading next door to borrow our neighbors snow blower to attack the driveway. The city snow plows managed to move all of the snow in the street into my driveway's entrance (like the do every time they plow). This time, however, it's at least 5 feet high and about 10 - 12 feet from street edge up the driveway. Way too much for a shovel to handle with the amount of daylight I have remaining. Plus my arms and back are pooped from all the shoveling I've done yesterday and today as it is.

Winds should die down around 6 p.m. tonight allowing all of us to finish digging out so we can get to school and work tomorrow.

Home made chili and apple pie was the mid day snack today. Yummmy!!!

11/22/09

Weekend Singletrack!!!

I enjoyed the Dirty Du last weekend so much (raced it with one of my voice students who did the running portion to get him in shape for singing!!!), I decided to head out for 2 hours of singletrack sweetness yesterday. I was surprised that there wasn't that much mud. In fact, I was on the Raven 2.2's with minimal tread and only slipped and slid a few times during the entire 2 hours. I was on the 4" travel Sugar 293 and noticed my back got pretty hammered as I had the rear shock aired up for racing which limits the rear squish. My 48 year old back is a little sore this morning.

I'm going to head out today for another ride with a combination of pavement and singletrack (going to Banner Pits and back), but I'll climb aboard the much cushier and autumn season oriented (Fire XC Pro tires) RIP 9. No need to do intervals on that machine as the entire ride is like one big interval thanks to the fun factor, the big meat tires and the weight of the bike. ;-) Actually, it's not that bad. I've got it built up around 28 lbs. which isn't too bad for such a bike.

After the week of rain, I was finally able to commute to work on Friday with the bike and my lights. I love the wide berth cars give me in the evening on my way home due to my flashing tail light. In the day, cars whiz by me ranging from 3 feet to 8 feet. In the evening, they are almost over the curb and up on the sidewalk on the opposite side of the street. Pretty amazing how they react to a bike with lights at night, but I've always found that to be the case whether I was commuting in Austria or here in the states.

I set up our new 55" television yesterday and got the Bose sound system working again in the basement. We haven't had things set up down there since the basement flooding and got repaired last year. It was time to get things organized in our family room and we got a good deal on this Samsung 7100 LED HDTV this week. I'll hook up the PS III today and then mount the screen on the wall. I've got to repair one of the speaker grills with some DIY troubleshooting since the plastic pegs broke off that snap into the speaker box. I think moving it around so much during the flood repair process is what caused those plastic pegs to snap off. Regardless, dealing with that should waste an hour or more of my time today.

Wednesday morning we fly out to San Francisco for Thanksgiving with my wife's family. I probably won't get to do any cycling out there, but I'll hit the gym every day with my father-in-law and son to start up my off season weight program.

Back to my weekend agenda....

11/13/09

Just like riding a bike...

I performed a bit of Don Giovanni this evening at a student/faculty concert and it was just like riding a bike. Boy, I'm getting the itch to sing in an opera soon to get all my blood flowing again! I'll have to work on that...

I've been investigating a helmet light to pair with my NiteRider MiNewt X.2 Duals I bought at the Boone 24 a couple of years ago. It is dark so early (what, about 4:30 pm these days?) that I am having to ride in the dark. The X.2's are working great, but on singletrack it's nice to have a light on the helmet so I can turn my head and see what is coming up. At the Boone race, the NiteRider demo truck let me borrow a helmet light and it was a great system to have both the handlebar lights and the helmet light. I'll keep looking for something in stock and within my budget.

My X.2's...

New Night Rider MiNewts

Today was off the bike (outside of walking the dogs in the neighborhood). I will do a little tune up tomorrow afternoon after our auditions all morning for prospective students who are here for the weekend. I'm looking forward to Sunday's Dirty Du up in Des Moines. Temperatures will be dropping from the low 60's to the high 40's, so it will be chilly out there on Sunday.

11/11/09

Fall Weather Delights!!!!

I certainly cannot complain about the fall weather we have been having lately. I just don't like it getting dark so early as it means if I am going to ride the bike after work, it will be in the dark. I've got the battery pack all charged up and ready to go for some night riding out at Lake Ahquabi, but I haven't had time to get out there yet after work. I've been sneaking in fall rides during the day when I can on the new trail bike....

RIPit

I've got to get this thing out to the Black Hills to hit the rocks. In the meantime, I never really thought I would have this much fun around central Iowa on a bike with so much travel thanks to the 4.7" up front and in the rear. I am running an older Octalink XT crankset on it, I ran into the problem everyone else is having on the RIP when trying to run a 44T big ring with an XT crankset and a 50mm chainline. Forget about running it at 47.5mm chainline with that size ring. It doesn't work as there are clearance issues with the yoke. And the 44T fits with a 50mm chainline, but the chain will get stuck between the ring and the yoke after a few suspension movements. Odd, but Niner says all works well with a 51mm chainline. I don't want to go that wide due to Q-Factor issues, so I swapped out to a 38T big ring and all has been well. I'll swap the 118mm spindle for a 113mm spindle to get my 47.5mm chainline and narrower Q-Factor back this weekend. There is a 30/40 ring combo available from a guy in Texas that was designed for the XT crankset, but in an effort to save $155 I'll run my 22/32/38 set up for now. Or maybe I'll drop the 38T and toss a bash ring on there.

The RIP eats up anything I can throw at it. I put my favorite all around Fire XC Pro tires on it and have been tearing through the fall foliage and having a huge grin on my face while doing it.

I'm going to race the Des Moines Dirty Duathlon this weekend with a student of mine who will do the running portion. I just did not get any time to train for the run this year and trail running takes a lot of different muscles than pavement or track running. No visions of placing well, we're just doing it to help Capital Striders and CITA raise some funds for trail development.

I'll race the old standby this weekend...

RaceLightDos

Max even gave it the sniff of approval on Sunday while we were cleaning the garage floor...

MaxSniffstheDos

I'm trying to track down a leak in our Mercury Villager mini-van. It must have a clogged drain hole or hose somewhere as water is getting into the interior (and it does not smell or taste like anti-freeze). I've got an appointment on Friday morning to find the culprit. I did manage to back into it last week as my son parked on the opposite side of the driveway and as a creature of habit, I was expecting it to be where it wasn't. Not much damage, just cosmetic scrapes on both my Element and the mini-van.

10/29/09

Phone is Fixed and Football is Finito!!!

After dealing with Mediacom for nearly a week, they fixed our phones today so we have telephone service once again. Talk about a headache...

Speaking of headaches, on the opening offensive play of the playoff game last night against Marshalltown, Zack suffered a concussion on a completed pass after the defender tackled him immediately after he had already thrown the ball. Down he went backwards and slammed his head on the ground. He was slow to get up and appeared a bit dizzy. As the game went on, his headache increased and he was confused at the coaches play calls and not running the correct plays due to his confusion.

Finally, the offensive coach asked him if was okay and recognized something wasn't right. They pulled him at the start of the 4th quarter after Zack was totally confused. He spent the rest of the game on the sideline holding his head and plugging his ears because the noise was too loud for him (and his headache). That's when we finally realized something was wrong with him. Although I saw him get yelled at a couple of times in the first half and he seemed a bit out of it on the sidelines. Now we know why...

We took him to the E.R. for safety's sake today where the doctor confirmed the mild concussion. No need to mention reading up on concussions in football and the dangers involved. Wow - it is scary!!!! I'm glad his head didn't hit again before he came out of the game. It was a very one sided game as we lost 49-14 and Marshalltown is now 10-0 as they advance to the second round of the playoffs. They were impressive from top to bottom with a very exciting offense.

Zack will heal, but he is not to do any athletics for at least a week. He seems better this evening compared to last night and this morning. It was our conversation at breakfast that had me recommend the E.R. visit. He was not very coherent and with all the concussions I have had from cycling, I recognized his symptoms. Luckily, he is doing better this evening. So it appears we have survived those crucial first 24 hours. Thank goodness...

10/26/09

H1N1, Football, Fall...

Well, that was an interesting week.

Alexa came home Tuesday night not feeling well at all. She ended up with a high fever Wednesday/Thursday/Friday which we tried to keep down with outside forces (ice, cold cloths, Ibuprofen, etc...). It finally broke late Friday afternoon and dropped to her normal temperature by Saturday morning. I played Mr. Nurse most of that time since I was on fall break from Simpson. That was phase 1, now she is in phase 2 which is a nasty sounding cough. She went back to school today and spent Sunday and today getting caught up on everything she missed. Was it H1N1? Who knows, but in discussions with the Doctor over the phone, they didn't want her coming into the clinic for fear of spreading it and the symptoms were close enough to possibly have been it. I'm glad she is feeling better and getting back to school.

She found out today that she made the Opus Honor Choir. 2 girls from IHS made it this year - Alexa in the alto section and another girl made it in the soprano section.

Zack had his best outing as QB on Friday night against Urbandale. He was 11 for 16 with 2 TD's, no interceptions and I think 147 or so passing yards. We lost the game, but Zack improved. Congrats to Urbandale on the win and their season as they have not made the playoffs since 1999 and one of their running backs set a new school record for career yards during the game on Friday night. Indianola enters week one of the playoffs with a game Wednesday night at Marshalltown (9-0). We are missing some key players due to H1N1, a one game suspension for poor sportsmanship and some injuries. Zack is keyed up for it, but we shall see what happens. Regardless what happens in the playoffs, he got some great experience the past 3 games at QB against tough teams like Dowling, Ankeny and Urbandale. That will prepare him better for next season.

Fall is here. In fact, the first frost this weekend along with some high winds and heavy rain yanked most of the leaves off of the trees in the last few days. There are not many leaves left to fall, but it is the season for chili, pumpkins, squash, hot cider, etc... . Yummmmmm!

Congratulations to one of my students (Joe Doering) who won the MTNA (Music Teachers National Association) voice competition on Saturday at Grinnell College. He bested all the other college student entries (age limit was 19 - 26) and advances to Columbia, MO for the regional competition in January. If he wins that, he moves on to Nationals. He had to sing 30 minutes of music for a panel of judges who chose Joe as winner over all of the entrants. One of my former students named Sarah Larsen won the MTNA in Iowa a few years ago, so it feels good to have another student claim that prize. Simpson had another student win the 18 and under voice division and will advance to Missouri as well for the regionals in her age division.

I am spending the next 2 weeks getting some of my students prepared for the regional NATS (National Association of Teachers of Singing) auditions in Rock Island, Illinois. We leave on November 6th for that 2 day event.

10/16/09

Le Nozze di Figaro...

All the hard work of the past 6 weeks comes to fruition this weekend as the opera I am directing opens tonight at Simpson. The good news is that we are sold out for all three performances of Mozart's The Marriage of Figaro. Because of the sellout, the past 2 night's dress rehearsals had an invited audience since there were no tickets left for the weekend. We wanted to open it up to students, faculty and patrons who were too late in line to obtain tickets for a performance.

The students have worked diligently the past 6 weeks and have learned from the experience of taking on the experience of singing a four act grand opera. As stage director, there is a lot of problem solving that goes along with a production. The dramatic interpretation, choreography, helping the singers with their acting, sets, costumes, lighting, props, fixing things that get broken, delegating jobs to assistants, working around schedules, etc... . In short, it's exhausting - but well worth the exhaustion. I have been going on 4 - 6 hours of sleep every night for the past 3 weeks and am amazed my body has adjusted to that. The lack of sleep all ends this evening as I will be able to sleep in on Saturday and Sunday mornings. I actually got 7 hours last night as I have fewer things to worry about now that all the rehearsals are finished.

I will miss Zack's football game tonight, but Mozart calls....

10/12/09

Fall Football....

Zack was the QB Friday night against Ankeny and for his first full game outing, had a decent game for his first start. He was 6 - 13 passing for 80 yards including 1 TD pass. Two of the passes not caught were right in the hands of the receivers, but c'est la vie. He asked one of the receivers why he didn't catch the ball that was thrown right to his chest and the receiver replied "I wasn't sure if you were passing it to me or somebody else." What?!!! Oh well.

This game was a real defensive battle and the final score doesn't really show how tight the game was until the very end. The score at half time was Ankeny 10, Indianola 3. Zack's touchdown pass in the 3rd quarter was followed by a high snap from the center for the extra point kick causing Zack to have to roll out and go for 2 extra points since there was no time to get the snap back down on the ground for the kicker. Unfortunately, the attempt was not a successful conversion as the receiver was covered by 3 or 4 defenders and the ball was batted away.

We entered the 4th quarter with the score Ankeny 10, Indianola 9. Ankeny failed to convert a first down and was forced to punt. Our punt returner misjudged the high, angled punt and fumbled it off of his chest in the red zone which Ankeny recovered and soon after drove in for a touchdown. That fumble was a huge game changer. Rats!!! We had good momentum on both sides of the ball right then and there and the fumble just seemed to zap all the momentum out of everyone. The remainder of the 6 minutes was a back and forth attempt to move the ball down the field and Ankeny's defense was just too tough as they contained the run. Ankeny drove down the field one last time and ran a nice sweep in the red zone for the running back to get in the end zone untouched. Final score 24-9.

Zack was pleased with his performance and was more than happy he got to get in there and play. He got sacked a few times, so had the usual Saturday morning aches and pains from a night on the football field. He just wished they had run more passing plays - especially some of the shorter routes to mix up the offense and keep the defense guessing. Ankeny had the run contained, but the coach kept calling for the run. The other QB played special teams and wide receiver as it seemed he was not injured. It sounds like they may be sticking with Zack at QB, but we will see. Zack certainly is ready for it. The upcoming games are not easy games as we face Dowling Catholic this week and Urbandale next week. Urbandale has the same record in our conference as we do, so perhaps that game will be a nice close game where things come together to round out the season. Dowling is tough. Final scores from the Dowling games seems like they are toying with each and every one of their opponents this season.

10/9/09

QB is Zack!!!

It's official, Zack starts at QB tonight!!!!

It has been a long wait for Zack with minimal playing time this season, but he gets to show his stuff tonight. It will be in the 40's or cooler at game time as the cold front rolls in from the northwest. Brrrr!!!!

10/6/09

Lost in Opera...

Here is my daily routine for the past 2 weeks and the next two weeks.

Get up at 5:30 a.m., feed the dogs, check e-mail, map out the evening's rehearsal for Mozart's The Marriage of Figaro. Teach all day. Come home for something to eat between 5 and 6. Rush back to the the theater and rehearse from 6:30 to midnight M-F. Weekends are 9 am to midnight.

I'll sleep starting October 19th...

Zack may be the starting QB this week as the other QB has some sort of a swollen artery in his head and is sidelined for most of the week until Thursday. The game is against the powerhouse team from Ankeny which has a dream defense and is one of the state's top ranked high school teams. Nothing like baptism by fire!! We shall see if he gets to get in there and play or not...

10/2/09

Lake Manawa Mountain Bike Mayhem report...

The final Psycowpath/IBMCS joint race this past weekend at Lake Manawa was the final race of the Nebraska Psycowpath season. It seems the fall weather had everyone on edge as to whether or not it would actually take place. Luckily, the rain that hit the day before the race was easily absorbed by the dirt and the race was on with excellent conditions. Cool temperatures and over 100 racers lined up for the action.

After an exciting Friday night on the 25th watching Indianola football team beat Southeast Polk in the 2nd overtime, I got up and visited with my son about the game on Saturday morning before he headed off to the Saturday morning shake down practice they do every Saturday. I hopped in the Element and headed off to Lake Manawa taking the scenic route of Highway 92 all the way. I arrived and had about 45 minutes to warm up and get ready. Due to the JET 9 recall, again I was riding the Sugar 293 with full 4" squish mode and I set the rear shock for cushion as there was no climbing on this flat course. I went with the Maxxis Aspen tires as their volume and tread seemed to be the ticket for the course.

There were only 11 racers who toed the line in the CAT 2 Open class at this race. And 5 of us were from Iowa racing in the IMBCS series. So this meant there were only 6 Nebraska CAT 2 Opens that showed up for the final race. The two other Psycowpath races I attended this season had 20 or so CAT 2 Open racers. Regardless, there were a total of 38 CAT 2 male racers on the line and 3 CAT 2 women. That's a healthy CAT 2 turnout when you combine all the age categories. I think the same thing happened last season where the turnout dwindled by the end of the season.

After the experts took off, my wave floored it to the singletrack and the deck was stacked with some fast guys via Rick Blackford, Chris Peterson, Brandon Harpster, Tyler Rushing, and Ryan VanHouweling. My little chicken legs settled behind these guys going into the singletrack and were immediately in an 11 man pace line. Ryan misjudged a corner in one of the first few turns and it wasn't long after I went around him that he powered his Niner right back around me. This course rides like a really long time trial with all the wide open flat sections scattered between the tight and twisty sections. I was keeping the gas turned on full on the flat connector sections and passed a couple of guys during lap one.

I found that the Sugar's bottom bracket is a bit low with my 180mm cranks to be able to carve and lean the Manawa turns and still pedal through the turns. I kept getting pedal strikes on the ground while leaned over and carving turns. I don't have that problem on the JET or the Dos, but it wasn't enough to really bother me too much. The course was just as I had remembered it and I found no surprises which is good, because I did not pre-ride it. I only washed my front tire out one time which was during the second lap on a sharp left turn on some gravel. I didn't go down because I planted my left foot on the ground to stay upright and didn't even lose my momentum as I clipped in again.

In spite of the rain, there was not much mud at all. I think I only ended up with a few drops of mud on one leg which you can see here as I come out of one of the flat connector sections.

Manawa Mayhem

I got passed at the end of lap 2 by a couple of guys from the 35+ wave that started behind us. I tagged on to hang with them for most of lap 3 and I passed one of them back right before crossing the finish line. I ended up in 7th place out of my wave of 11 CAT 2 Open racers (about the same as last year where I was 6th). My time of 1:19:16 was nearly a full 5 minutes off the winner's pace (Chris Peterson) and 6th place was 1:41 ahead of me. I gave it all I had, so I don't feel like I could have made up much - if any - of that 1:41 at my age. Looking at the ages of the results, I'm 11 years older than the next oldest guy in our group. Dang!!! Yup, it's probably time to rotate into the 45+ group now that I've hit 48. ;-]

Post race, I enjoyed catching up with Matt Gersib on all matters 29"er. He was racing the 3 hour marathon race and snagged a 3rd Place podium spot.

Chatting with Matt

Hats off to the cast and crew for running a smooth event. I didn't make too many of the Psycowpath events this year due to my decision to hit up some of the Minnesota and Wisconsin series events.

I jumped back in the Element, stopped at Subway on the way out of the area, and took 92 back home on cruise control to get ready for the evening's opera rehearsal.

The Manawa race may have been the final race of the season for me depending on whether or not Sugarbottom takes place this Sunday with all of the rain across Iowa at the moment. I'm hoping it does take place because I love riding at Sugarbottom and haven't been over there this year to ride. I fear if they postpone it, I am too busy on the coming weekends with the opera to be able to make the trip over to ride.

Update: Sugarbottom is postponed to October 11th.

Double Update: Sugarbottom was canceled on the 11th due to wet conditions. So Lake Manawa was once again the end of the season for me - just as it was last year.

I'll be sitting out in the cold and the rain tonight to watch Indianola up at Johnston in another high school gridiron contest. Both teams are 4-1 at this point in the season and of course - somebody gets to win and the other team has to lose. It should be another close game to add to the last 3 weeks of very close games. 2 of those 3 were won in OT and it doesn't get any closer than that. However, this game will be the first where the temps will be in the 40's at game time. Brrrr.....

Update: It was cold, but I had the right gear to stay comfy in the stands. Indianola lost (big time) 45 - 21. Zack played QB in the 4th quarter and looked good.

9/14/09

Weekend Racing Shuffle...

My original plan for the weekend was to drive down on Saturday morning to race in the Psycowpath Branched Oak Race outside of Lincoln, Nebraska and then race in Des Moines on Sunday. However, the Psycowpath race was postponed due to rain until the alternative day (Sunday). Rats!

We had the two IMBCS mountain bike Time Trial races scheduled on Sunday in Des Moines. The Center TT at 9 a.m. and the Sycamore TT scheduled for 2 p.m. which meant I couldn't be in two places (Des Moines and Lincoln) at the same time. One option was to race the 9 a.m. TT and then head over to Lincoln for the 2 p.m. Psycowpath race. I quickly calculated that option and realized it wouldn't work for me because I had to attend a recital at 7 p.m. on the Simpson campus as well as hold a meeting with The Marriage of Figaro opera cast and chorus following that recital. Even if I had hopped right in the car after the Lincoln race and drove like a maniac back to Indianola, I would not have been able to make it back in time. So option two was simply to stick with scratching the Psycowpath race and participate in both of the IMBCS TT's.

Since my rear triangle broke at the last Psycowpath race outside of Norfolk, the JET 9 was out for the races this weekend. Believe it or not, Niner Bikes issued a safety recall of the JET 9 on Friday giving me 3 options:

Option 1 (Available until October 31st)

I want to keep riding and use this opportunity to grow the quiver - Purchase a different NINER frame at an extreme discount. Ride your new bike while you wait to receive your free replacement Jet 9 frame. In the long run, you end up with two bikes at a really good price.

Special Discount Pricing:

R.I.P. 9 $800 (discount of $999)
ONE 9/S.I.R. 9 $300 (discount of $549)
AIR 9/ M.C.R. 9 $300 (discount of $499)
E.M.D. 9 $150 (discount of $349)

Option 2

I would rather own a R.I.P. 9 - Make the permanent switch to a R.I.P. 9 at no charge. No replacement Jet 9 frame will be shipped.

Option 3

I have the patience of a saint. I can wait. - Receive a $150 gift certificate towards Niner gear while you wait to receive your free replacement Jet 9 frame.


I am trying to figure out which of the options to take.

In the meantime, I decided to race the same bike I used last year for the Center Trails TT - my Sugar 293 outfitted in XC race configuration:

Sugar2009

There are lots of roots on the Center Trails and the 4" travel race bike lets me stay seated and hammer over them all. My Dos will not quite let me do that without a lot of flinching and wincing with back jolts. I got up way too late Sunday morning and had to rush up to the 9 a.m. race. I had pre-registered online, so knew I had a spot. I arrived at the registration table to pick up my number at 8:58 and was informed that after a couple of early riders that had to take off (Cam and Julie who were headed to the Psycowpath race in Lincoln), I was next in line. I begged that since I had just rolled out of bed for a later slot, so they changed my number from 201 to 242 which gave me 42 more minutes to prepare. Thanks guys!

I had swapped out the rear tire from the Crow to another Karma 1.9 and was running air pressure 23 psi front/24 psi rear. Each rider took off in 1 minute increments and we were to do 2 laps. So there were first lap and second lap riders out on the trail. I big ringed it off the line and headed down the pavement and was going so fast I barely made the turn up to the pavement path climb. After mashing up that climb and realizing my heart rate was way too high to sustain that tempo, I settled in behind a Rassy's rider in front of me by about 20 yards who was on his 2nd lap. It didn't seem too long into the first 1/2 of the lap that I passed the rider who had started in front of me. Not long after, the guy who started behind me passed me carving some very smooth turns. He was the only rider that passed me. I made my way through the two laps pretty happy with my bike handling and kept pushing myself at a steady rate.

The BB height on the Sugar with the smaller volume tires was not as high as I needed with my 180mm crankarms. I kept getting some strikes here and there and one strike on a rock had my right foot come unclipped. I lost count, but I passed about 3 or 4 riders on lap one and also during lap 2. I had a better flow going in lap 2 and had settled into a pace I could sustain. I only had a slight hold up on the switchback going down into the creek crossing area where I had to wait a second or two for the rider in front of me. I passed him on the last climb before sprinting it to the finish line. No idea yet on what my time or finishing place was for my category. I packed up the bike and headed home for some lunch and to do some scheduling for the next 2 weeks of opera rehearsals.

After lunch, I headed up to Johnston for the Sycamore TT. Getting up off the couch, I felt the stiffness in my legs from the morning's effort. So I knew the afternoon TT would be a tad painful and maybe not as fast for me as the morning. The afternoon TT was a rescheduled race from June or July (I can't remember which) due to rain at that time. The decision was made to just hold both TT's on the same day. 2 for the price of 1 was the motto. I hydrated with whatever I could drink and popped a few Sportlegs in hopes the leg stiffness would subside. I pre-rode about 1/2 of the trail for a warm-up and realized it was big ring all the way with no climbs and actually a very short distance (everyone claimed it would be 12 minutes or so). This trail was filled with ruts from ATV's or whatever drives back in there along the river. There was one low overhanging fallen tree that would require me to lay flat on the bike and duck to get under it alive. And there was a little bit of sand as well as some corners that were going to be all about nerve, will and skill.

I had a more cadenced start off the line than in the morning and built my head of steam in the big ring a little slower to not torque my heart too high, too fast. My pre-ride had been at a much slower speed, so at the TT speed the corners were much more trying on my mind and body than I was expecting. The center of the trail was flat and surrounded by ruts on either side. There were some deep muddy ruts that looked like they would never dry out in the shade of the forest. I tried to keep it in the center part of the trail and tried keeping the gas on at all times. I don't think flat riding is my specialty and it kind of equalizes the playing field as no climbing prowess or descending skills can shine. And my legs were begging for mercy. I worked the gears to keep me on the edge, but not to take me too far over the edge. After I passed the 1/2 way point where I had finished my warm-up, I got a little tentative on a couple of the blind turns because I didn't know what was around the corner or on the other side. Just when I finally felt like I had the motor and the legs revved up and going like I wanted - I saw the finish line. So I sprinted to the end and slammed on the brakes to keep from going straight into the river.

Photo courtesy of Angy Snoop:

Sycamore TT 2

Pizza and beer for all in the woods as we stood around and socialized waiting for the results. The 2nd half of numbers that started (233 and up) and their times (the group I was in since I was 242) had their times all messed up and the crew was busy trying to figure it all out. I'm not sure they got it all worked out and apologized to all of us. So I don't know my place or time for this TT either - yet. Oh well, I got a pair of socks from the Schwag box. As I was riding back north to the car on the trail, I slipped off the center section of trail into a rut and both my front and rear tubeless converted tires burped big time with the accompanying loud sound of a tire burp. The front went all the way down to about 8-10 psi and the rear was about 15 psi according to my gauge back at the car. I rode very slowly and actually made it on those low tire pressures. No way I was going to walk back! ;-) Amazing that with all of the roots and rocks I hit at high speed all day long there were no burps. Yet a slow speed drop into a 5 inch rut burped both of my tires. Hmmmmmmmm...... Better that it happened then instead of during one of the races, that's for sure. I forgot to attach my can of Big Air to the seatpost had I needed a shot of air. My bad. Regardless, I think my tire pressure for that volume of tire was a tad too low. The lower volume tires need to be run with a bit higher pressure than the larger volume tires I usually use.

I'll update my finish times and placing once I find out.

9/8/09

MNSCS #9 - Laddies Loppet Race Report

Tara, Alexa and I loaded up the car Saturday morning and headed north at 10 am to Detroit Lakes, Minnesota where we spent Labor Day weekend at The Lodge on Lake Detroit. It was a nice way to combine a late summer getaway weekend with a mountain bike race. Zack was being the support team on Saturday and Sunday for his friend Jake Leigh who was racing solo at the Boone 24 Hour race. By 6 p.m. it felt like we had been driving for a long, long time when finally the sign said Detroit Lakes 7 miles and we shouted for joy!!!

We checked into the Lodge and unpacked our stuff in the room. We headed out to watch the sunset which was stunningly beautiful as it set over the lake. Afer a nice walleye dinner up the street at a local restaurant, we hit the sack. Sunday morning, we had a nice breakfast at the Lodge and then headed up the road for 25 minutes to the Maplelag Resort for the day's XC race. I got registered and headed out for a 30 - 40 minute warm up. The air pressure in my tires felt perfect. In spite of that, I checked it with my gauge and decided to add about 2 psi in each tire for "safety's sake". That was a decision that didn't hurt me in the race, but I would have been better off not adding that air. With no chance for a pre-ride, I was riding blind not knowing what to expect. All the pictures I had seen and the description I read made it sound like most of the race would be on XC ski trails. And it had been suggested to me by the race director that a hard tail mountain bike would be more beneficial on this course than my full suspension. At least that's what he told me he would race if he were out there racing on the course. I should have stuck to my plan as I had the full suspension all packed up in the car back in Iowa before I changed my mind!!!

I saw Julie Vardaman who told me the course was full of roots and had lots of challenging singletrack. Julie said it reminded her of Seven Oaks at Boone. Wow! That wasn't what I was expecting. I was thinking XC ski trails with smooth conditions and lots of big ring grinding. No problem. I did a quick mental adjust and went to get my fluids and a gel pack. Instead of the usual starting wave of CAT 2 40-44 and 45-49 year olds getting their own wave like most of the other MNSCS races, the announcer said my wave would be all those who were 49 and younger. This meant a larger group on the line than usual. Being that the weekend was a stage race, there were call ups for the top placers in Saturday's stage races as well as the series leaders. I ended up standing near the back again as everything was sorted out for the starting line. Here I was hanging around waiting for our wave to finish getting assembled...

Waiting4Start

GameFaceWait

We had our 11 a.m. start with everyone hammering in their big rings as we took off full throttle on the XC ski doubletrack. I started moving ahead through the doubletrack section knocking my head and my shoulder into low lying branches. And, as usual, once we got to the first singletrack section it was like road construction on the interstate. We actually stopped and had to wait what seemed like 20 seconds before we could get into the singletrack. It was not a tough section of track, but the slinky effect really amazes me as we all lined up tire to tire and crept through that opening section of singletrack. Lots of shouts of "guys, come on - let's go" which always makes me smile because if they looked ahead and thought about it, they would see that there were 30 riders tire to tire in front of them with no where to go.

Each doubletrack section after that, I stomped on the pedals to pass several other riders to work my way out of the traffic jam. Then we came down the hill to a section lined with spectators called the lakeside drops. Short and steep drops down to the lake's edge with short and steep climbs right back up the slope. It was a fun section for sure...

ClimbingLakeside

The singletrack was filled with roots and rocks - and of course lined with potential handlebar and shoulder eating trees. There was not a moment that you could relax as you were always focusing on your line and negotiating something. Much of it required muscling the front end and wheel over and around obstacles. The legs were working hard with all of the climbing. I think I found one flatter and buff singletrack section where you could actually hammer and go full bore for about 100 yards before it turned up and into the roots and switchbacks again. The rest of the singletrack was fun, but quite a chore. 3 guys had been on my tail for the latter 1/2 of lap one. Nearing the end of the final singletrack section, I caught my handlebar on a small tree and failed to keep it on the trail. The 3 zoomed around me and after I got going again, I just couldn't catch back up with them.

Lap 2 found me out there nearly all alone with a couple of guys not far behind me. I would occasionally pass somebody who was pulled over to the side with a mechanical. I settled into my own pace and ground out all of the climbing making sure to pick good lines through the roots and rocks. I attacked one of the long doubletrack climbs and the course marshal cheered me on telling me I had just opened up a nice gap on 2 guys behind me. I headed into the next singletrack section and a few minutes later dropped my chain to the inside in a poorly timed shift. I hopped off the bike and, of course, was all thumbs trying to get the chain back on. It took an eternity and here came the 2 guys behind me who went by. After my thumbs got the chain on, I started flailing trying to catch up. My front wheel was bouncing all over the place and seemed to have no sense of direction. Finally I told myself to relax and just find a rhythm and balance that I could sustain. I simply could not close the gap on the 2 that had just passed me. One was even in my age category and it hurt to have lost that position. I hammered it home as best I could with what I had left and crossed the line with tongue hanging out and feeling - as well as looking - SPENT. My neck hurt from all the pounding, bumps and most likely tension.

Done

Spent

In spite of the chain drop and handlebar/tree union, I managed to have my best placing yet in a MNSCS race. My 4 previous finishes included two 8th place finishes, a 9th and a 10th place. I crossed the line in 6th at Maplelag with 4 of the 5 top finishers in my category being the usual suspects (all are leading the state series). I didn't recognize the guy in 5th who passed me when my chain dropped. Regardless, I was happy with the result and headed out for a cool down ride on the gravel road. I got changed, loaded up the bike and ate a little bit before the Elite/Pro field took off. I snapped a few shots of Cam in the heat of battle before heading back to Detroit Lakes. Congrats to both Cam and Julie for their results in the 2 day stage race.

Here's a shot of Cam mastering the lakeside drop section...

CamLakesideDrop

My daughter and I headed into the cold lake for a swim. Man, it was chilly in that water!! Then I stretched out on one of the sun bathing chairs on the beach and pretty much slept for an hour while Tara went on a bike ride all the way around the lake. We got cleaned up and went to Zorba's for pizza and then came back to the Lodge where we started a fire in the fire pit, watched the sunset and made s'mores. Alexa was more interested in starting her marshmallows on fire, but we had fun. We went to bed and got up very early on Labor Day to hit the road by 6:30. The girls wanted to stop at the outlet malls near St. Cloud for a couple of hours. They shopped, I hung out at Dunn Brothers Coffee reading the paper, drinking coffee and watching ESPN. They came back to the car when their 2 hours were up with quite a few goodies they snagged during the big Labor Day sales. I think their palms were sweaty in anticipation of the shopping as we pulled into the parking lot and they were just as giddy as we were leaving. '-]

Another long drive home (both Alexa and Tara drove for a while) to pick up the dogs from the kennel, get Alexa to Cross Country practice at 7 p.m., make dinner, unpack and unwind from the final summer weekend. It was a nice weekend trip and now it is back to work....

8/31/09

Psycowpath Maskenthine Classic Race Report...

The 3rd time is the charm! The Maskenthine Classic was originally scheduled for early April, but rain caused it to be postponed and rescheduled for June. Unfortunately, the June 14th race date was also a rain postponed event. So this third attempt actually fit my schedule quite well. Fortunately, the August weather proved to yield to the event with perfect racing weather and conditions. Skies were blue, temperatures were in the low 70's, the trail was in perfect condition, the wind was not howling out on the open prairie and 100 racers showed up to toe the line.

I dropped Alexa off at her 7 a.m. Saturday morning high school Cross Country team run and headed on up the road to Nebraska. It's about a 4 hour journey from Indianola and I did not sleep too well the night before due to concerns about my son and high school football. They won the game 48-0 on Friday night, but Zack was upset and wouldn't talk about it (we worked it all out on Sunday so he and I feel better about everything). Regardless, I stayed awake on the road and arrived in time to register, get suited up, chit-chat with Brandon Harpster and warm up for a good 30 minutes. The JET 9 felt good out on the course as I was running the rear shock in full squish/comfort mode for the bumpy track so I could stay seated and hammer through the entire race. The Dos Niner has beaten me up the past 2 years on this newer singletrack, so I didn't want to fight it this year. Most of the beating was due to improper tire choice and air pressure, but I reached for the full suspension to remove any doubt this year.

After the CAT 1's rolled off the line, the CAT 2 Open class went next. I got clipped in right away so was happy with that and hung on with the top 7 or 8 going into the singletrack after the opening gravel road climb. We were scheduled for 3 laps and with the weather conditions and trail conditions being perfect, speeds were up for all of us. There were no traffic jams as we headed through the first and only technical section in the lower section of the course. The past 2 years, this area has been known to create traffic jams. Coming out of that technical section, I saw Brandon leading our pack, but the 2 in front of him had gapped off and were already quite a bit out in front of all of us. Brandon has been riding strong all season, so I knew if we were staying within a stone's throw of him on this first lap that our pace was not too bad.

There was some jockeying for position as the lap unfolded, but lap one was pretty routine and set up the tempo for the day. About a third of the way through lap one, Kory Hill was pulled over with a dropped chain and I went around him. Near the end of lap, Kory had worked his way back to me and another rider passed me as we headed through the final section of open prairie. I upped it a notch to stay within striking distance of those two and I think the gap never got more than 30 seconds.

Grinding it out...

Maskenthine XC race

I seemed to have settled in right behind Ben Blomberg during lap one and we both had a very similar tempo and riding style. He was standing on many of the climbs and powering up, but I kept myself on the saddle and ground it out behind him. I guess that's the mark of a 48 year old following a 28 year old. ;-) Believe it or not, that's pretty much the rest of the race for Ben and I. We played the yo-yo game all day long with me sometimes right on his wheel and other times Ben gapping off me 10 - 100 feet with me reeling him back in at every given opportunity. This kept both of us pushing a good pace for all of lap 2 and lap 3. Pretty uneventful as we passed a few guys and a few guys passed us. The only eventful thing for me was during lap 2 my bike started creaking/squeaking. The JET 9 had never made those sounds before, so I was concerned and curious. I kept looking down and thinking maybe a crankarm bolt was working its way loose or maybe my bottom bracket was shot. I just hoped the bike would make it to the end of the race and not force me to DNF. Everything seemed to be working okay, but the creak/squeak was certainly heard by all around me. And it kept me concerned.

Hitting the last section of open prairie before the final push to the finish line, I crossed the gap to get on Ben's wheel again and we both went flying by Kory Hill. He wasn't riding along like he usually does tempo wise, so I don't know if he just ran out of gas or what. Ben and I headed back into the last bit of singletrack and he started to pull away on the final climb. I tried, but couldn't match his climb and crossed the line 4 seconds behind him to take 8th place. Ben and I would have had to shave off a full 3 minutes to catch up to 6th place. The course was in excellent shape and the crew did a perfect job of running the event. Hats off to everyone for their excellent work!!!

A little post race chit-chat and then I headed back down the hill from the finish line to the car to head home. Said hello to Julie who was already changed into her traveling clothes as her category did 2 laps instead of 3. I had a dinner party to attend at my Department Chair's house and needed to get going to make it home in time for a shower and shave. So I kept on schedule and went back to the car.

As I was loading up the bike in the Element, I gave it a once over to see if I could find the source of the creak. I checked the pivot bolts. All tight. Crankarm bolts. Both tight as a drum. Then I found a hairline crack on the rear triangle support brace. I pushed on the crack and it wasn't a crack. It was a complete broken support brace that others with the JET 9 have been reporting. RATS!!!! I fell victim to it as well during the race. The bike is under warranty, so I will contact Niner today and see what I need to do. I was counting on racing it this weekend in Minnesota, but I doubt I will be able to get a new rear triangle in time for that so I best get the Dos Niner or Sugar ready.

I headed home, unpacked and got ready for the dinner party. The food was excellent and the invited group was very entertaining. I was starting to drop by 10:30, so my wife and I headed home to sleep it off. I felt surprisingly fresh on Sunday morning and headed out to Lake Ahquabi for what I thought was going to be a recovery ride, but I felt so good it turned into a training ride. I met with the set designer for a couple hours in the afternoon to knock out a set for The Marriage of Figaro that I am directing this fall for the opera at Simpson. I'm pretty happy with the set we came up with as it will fit the budget and be very appropriate for the smaller theater we are using for the production. There is not room for a full 4 corner post bed in one of the scenes, so we came up with an alternative that will work just as well and I will rethink some of my staging for that scene.

Today is off the bike and involves mowing the yard, meeting with all of my students in my office between 1 - 4 p.m. as we start school tomorrow morning at 8 a.m. for the 2009-2019 academic year. So I guess summer is officially over now. :-[

8/27/09

Bouncing back to reality...

This week only had 6 days between the race at 7 Oaks and Saturday's race (a rescheduled date) in Nebraska. Monday I did a recovery ride. Tuesday was an intensity ride, but shorter duration than normal. Wednesday was 100 minutes that included a short set of interval work to keep the top end primed. Today is off the bike and timed well with the rain.

Faculty meetings, workshops and final nuts and bolts of getting ready for the school year began this week. Today is an all day mandatory faculty meeting where we are hashing out, discussing and breaking into small groups as we work on the new general curriculum. It's a lengthy process to do this and takes several years, but we are making progress. The week ends with a party at the President's house on Friday night. Tara and I can only stay for a few minutes at the party as we have to head up to Des Moines for Zack's opening football game against Hoover.

Yesterday was a big day for us as our baby left the house with her older brother at 7:30 a.m. for her first day of high school. She was all excited and even more so when she came home and told us all about it. I hope that continues as school gets into full swing.

8/25/09

IMBCS #9 Race Report - Seven Oaks

Sunday's weather was perfect for being outside and for some XC racing. The humidity was low and the temperature was around 80 with clear blue skies. Ring the bell for another good turnout at an IMBCS race as 68 racers showed up to toe the line at the base of Seven Oaks Ski Area!! That's up from 34 racers who toed the line last year at Boone and 46 the year before. It's good to see these growth numbers in 2009. I hope we continue to see as many racers as possible at all of the IMBCS events. It ups the competition and certainly is good for the sport here in Iowa.

I had noticed when I got home from my pre-ride on Saturday that my REBA fork on the JET 9 was a little sunk into its travel with not as much of the stanchion showing. I spent some time reading a couple of threads at MTBR.com on the REBA and came across a couple of posts about this issue. So, I was out in the garage tinkering with the fork until I fixed it Sunday morning. The fix was to let all of the air out of the negative chamber and then add air pressure again to my preferred setting. Bingo! The fork jumped back into full stanchion showing position for an 80mm REBA and matched the amount of millimeters showing as the REBA on my Dos Niner. I was good to go. I also swapped the wheels/tires from my Dos with the Maxxis Aspens to the JET 9 as I was spinning out too much with the Raven 2.2's on Saturday.

Tara wanted to come along for the day, so we headed up to Boone with XM/Sirius satellite radio providing the musical entertainment. I got registered and went into my warm up routine out on the gravel road. I headed up to the campground and did a couple portions of singletrack from the campground back down to the start/finish area. I did my final bike check and got my water bottles all ready. Then I headed over to the start/finish area. Ron got us all organized and lined us up for the start.

Wave 1 took off at 12 noon with 16 racers in the Pro/CAT 1 group. Wave 2 consisted of 46 of us bunched together in CAT 2 (39 CAT 2 men, 4 SS's, 3 CAT 2 women). I got off the line okay in spite of it taking me a dozen pedal strokes to get my left foot clipped into the pedal. My inside line on the U-turn around the ski lift was not the best line as it slowed to nearly a stop and the outside line moved right around us. There were a couple people in that outside line I did not want to be behind in the technical sections, but there I was stuck as we all got real polite like and single filed our way into a line in the grass for the singletrack. What was that all about? Nobody passing? Guilty as charged, but nobody was overtaking anyone as we moved towards the climb and somebody was actually rubbing my rear tire most of the way up the initial climb and for a good portion of the hurry up and wait opening sections. Hmmmmm....I guess I must be too tall to see around to look at the traffic jam ahead. '-}

The front end of the pack was gone, and I got stuck behind 4 - 5 riders that kept dismounting and running up stuff that I would have ridden. But when everyone stops and dismounts in front of you - you are pretty much forced to do the same. This increases the slinky effect and it all went back to that opening drive to the singletrack where I should have been up a few more slots in the line had I attacked more. Didn't I say last week in my race report from the Border Battle to just go, go, go at all times and not question anything? Guilty as charged for taking part in the polite single file opening start. Now I had to pay for it and dismount a few times as the slinky stopped and started. Boone, at full race speed, makes all those switchbacks, short steep climbs, technical sections easier to ride and stay on the bike. Going too slow just makes them all the more difficult. In previous years, I balked at some of those techincal sections and things as well and would put a foot down, dismount or bail. Now I am able to ride it all, but you have no choice when a group dismounts in front of you. And to be honest, the heavy training week had me come down with a cold on Friday which I was trying to keep at bay with Zicam. My legs felt a bit on the shaky and weak side of things, but I was pushing through it all. I'm not sure of the drying effect from Zicam, but my voice felt dry which always has me thinking I am dehydrated. I was downing water all day Friday and Saturday to counteract it. The good news is that I did not cramp up at all during this race - so my hydration efforts must have been working.

I was finally able to take an inside line on one of the switchbacks and ride myself out of the glut. The course was in great shape. Much better than on Saturday due to all the branches being moved and the number of bikes mashing down the track again. By the time we hit the section of singletrack on the backside - once you go by the edge of the campground and head behind the paintball course - I had closed a gap and was able to pass 3 riders in that section. Crossing the gravel road, I saw Taylor Webb up ahead. He was riding geared this week and had passed me earlier right before the steep drop and steep climb section. What happened to that climb by the way? There is now a little shortcut to the right when you approach the top of the climb making it easy to master as opposed to that extra 10 - 15 feet of steep stuff that was easy to stall on? Oh well, it at least kept us all on our bikes. Back to Taylor. I put it in the big ring and gave chase to close the gap. I slowly worked my way up towards him and Ryan Vanhouweling was right on my tail the entire way. Coming into the start/finish area, Taylor stopped to switch water bottles and my hand up girl was there with my bottle so I didn't have to stop. Thanks Tara!

Lap 2 was the battle for 7th, 8th, and 9th in CAT 2 Open between Ryan, Taylor and myself as we headed up the switchback climb in a clump of 3 with me in the lead. I was able to create a little bit of a gap on just about every technical section that pointed up as I was railing every switchback and root section on this lap - not with tremendous speed, but with good bike handling skills that kept me churning forward. Then Ryan would cross the gap and catch back up to me. I could tell he was recovering and waiting for an opening behind me, but I kept taking advantage of all the technical sections to create a bit of a gap in hopes I could shake him, recover and push ahead. But he would counter and close the gap every time. Finally, I had a misstep when I got out of the saddle to power up a steep climb with roots. My rear tire spun out big time on a root forcing me to put a foot down and he went right around me. I chased him as best as I could huffing and puffing the entire way, but he was hammering and slowly opening up a gap on me. The section behind the paint ball course had me feeling like I really should have popped a gel after lap 1 as my morning cereal nutrition seemed to have run out. I dug deep and pushed through these flatter sections with everything I felt I had. I didn't see or hear anyone closing in behind me, so I focused in on what turned out to be CAT 1 rider Mike Johnson in front of me and I worked on closing that gap to bring it home and not lose my position. This lap was going much quicker than the first lap. In fact, almost a full 5 minutes quicker than the first lap.

I bombed down the ski hill to the finish line and crossed the line in 9th out of 18 for CAT 2 Open (15th out of 39 overall for CAT 2 Men). Ryan took 8th and had opened up a gap of 1 minute, 13 seconds on me in the 2nd half of the course as I was simply unable to match his pace. Taylor came in 33 seconds after I did for 10th place. That Lap 2 battle was certainly a good workout and was more fun than just riding totally alone where trying to keep pace is hard to do. Great race, Taylor and Ryan! Those inner battling for position races can be just as fun as the battle for the podium spots going on 5 - 10 minutes ahead of us. At least it keeps me going. ;-}

Tara and I talked the lady at the front desk into selling us an ice cold beer (low carb beer of course) and we sat under the shade of an umbrella on the patio for my official cool down. ;-)

Kudos to Ron and everyone that helped him get the event up and running. Boone is always a challenging and rewarding race. After racing on courses in several states, I feel if you can handle the 7 Oaks course, you can ride just about anything out there in terms of off camber, climbing, switchbacks, roots, power climbs, narrow bridges, etc... . I love the new trail sections that have been added at Boone. I raced it last year and this year with a 2 x 9 drivetrain. Any more laps and I think I would have to break out the 3 x 9 to conserve a little on the grunt climbs - especially at the 24 hour race. Post race, we had to take off to get back to Indianola in time to take our daughter to a babysitting gig (we were actually 5 minutes late which caused a major panic from our 14 year old!!!!!). My ears are still ringing from her rant. ^-^

8/22/09

Boone pre-ride...

Tara and Alexa went to Des Moines for some back to school clothes shopping and Zack was at football practice all morning, so I headed up to 7 Oaks to take a pre-ride of the race course for tomorrow. I signed in, paid my $3 and got on the trail about 12 noon which is the same time as the CAT 1/2 race tomorrow. I didn't have the best tires for the conditions, but I pressed ahead.

After the opening climb, I started to hit some bad mud as either there had been more rain in the past 48 hours than any of us thought, or the morning dew was so heavy the clay in the trail was actually still really damp. There were leaves all over the trail, branches, weeds that needed trimming, etc... - so it was hard to gauge what tomorrow will be like after any crew gets out there and does a last many sweep before the race. More bikes getting out there and riding the trail will pack some things in as well, but it looked like I was one of the first, if not the first for the day. I was pretty much just getting familiar with the new trail cuts as some of the old tracks are re-routed with some new trail sections. So I kept speed under control for the conditions.

I picked up about a dozen medium to big branches that had fallen over the trail, but didn't stop for any small things since I wanted to get in a lap. The conditions were such, that after more sunshine and the breeze went to work on the trail I thought it would be better to ride it a few hours later than 12 noon today. I thought about heading over to Subway for a bite and then coming back out when things were a little more dry, but I had to finish my lap and get home for the rest of the day's activities.

There are quite a few new sections from last year, so I will be on my toes tomorrow during the race to try and remember where and what they are. It's a great mountain biking venue, but it is not an easy race course or trail compared to most everything else we face out there in Iowa. Lots of roots (some are quite big), off camber, climbing, power climbing over consecutive roots, steep switchbacks, etc... . The first lap one does after not having ridden there in a year or so is always a bit humbling - especially when it is slick and muddy like it was earlier today. Regardless, I think I'm ready for tomorrow.

8/21/09

Today is OFF the bike...

I used the crotch rocket yesterday (son's road bike) for a 30 mile ride to end the 3 day training block. The first 1/2 was with the wind so it was super fast. The second 1/2 was dead into the wind - or Texas Hill as some would call it. Legs felt nice and worked over, but pretty refreshed for just ending a 3 day grind. And the effort earned me a free pass to the State Fair for some salty and fat goodies. '-]

Tara and I both were able to watch the high school football scrimmage. For whatever reason, Zack did most of the quarterbacking last night of the 3 QB's. The senior starter did the opening 2 series and then Zack did a lot of series. He looked good and threw 2 touchdown passes (one roll out to the right bomb and one short pass up the middle). They put him in at linebacker for a series and then right back to QB.

Tara and I headed up to the State Fair as we had Shinedown shuttle duty with three 14 year olds. Tara and I split a lamb on a stick (with veggies) which was way overpriced at $6.25 for the little amount of food on the stick. Then we split a Greek Gyros which was very salty, crunchy and good. Of course, a beer or two and a visit to see the Blue Ribbon boars, bull, cows, pigs, pumpkin, veggies, etc... before ending with splitting a Corn Brat. Actually, I only had one bite of that as I didn't like it since it was barely warm. Nothing like an evening of salty food to make one's mouth dry.

Today is off the bike. I may head up to Boone tomorrow for a pre-ride lap of the race course, but that all depends on what we have going on here. Alexa is wiped out from the week of cross country practice (can hardly walk). She missed the first week of practice as she joined the team late, so she is behind everyone else in her training. First meet is next week and she really needs this weekend off to recover.

8/19/09

Training some specifics to round out the season...

My training log called for some block training this week (T/W/Th) of specific drills to do. Yesterday was a 35 - 40 minute race simulation after a 30 minute warm up and ending with a 30 minute cool down.

So I headed out to Lake Ahquabi and actually had my daughter drive us out there with her learner's permit. She wanted to bring her bike along, so I loaded it up. I figured she would ride some of the flatter trails around the beach area, but no - she wanted to head out on a lap with Dad. So, I throttled my speed down and we did most of the race lap - albeit at a very slow pace. She had to dismount and walk up the steep climb on the south end of the lake, but did really well on the rest of the lap. We got back to the beach house area and she saw one of our neighborhood boys out fishing and said she would go talk to him and wait for me to do my practice race lap. So off I flew and turned a 34 minute lap on the Sugar 293 (that's 3 minutes faster than my average lap time for the Mob the Quab race). Then I cooled down for 30 minutes and went to get my daughter.

Today called for some muscle endurance intervals of 4-6 minutes using a cadence of 50-60 rpms (these intervals are pretty much a substitute for weight lifting at this point of the season, but are obviously cycling specific). I went out to Lake Ahquabi again and used the hills for the brunt of the M.E. intervals. It took a full lap to work through the sequence.

Then I did my weekly race start simulation using the Mob the Quab course start from this year which has that nice opening climb from the pond up to the monument. Today's workout simulation called for 2 minutes at full race start bore (totally in the pain cave), followed by 5-6 minutes down a notch or two (still with one foot firmly planted in the pain cave) and then a good 10 - 12 minutes of race speed (can think and see straighter in this portion of the simulation) to simulate the physical demands of a typical race start. I was drooling and blowing snot rockets while begging for mercy, so I knew I was near my target zones. The weekly race start simulations are good for practicing the demands of a race start and work really well in those races that I actually can get off to a good start and enter the singletrack in a decent enough position that there is no bottleneck. However, it seems most of the time right when you finish the cross-eyed pain cave minutes you hit such a bottleneck that you nearly turn off the engine and stop dead in your tracks asking yourself "Why did I just burn all of those matches only to end up here waiting?". Ingawanis was one recent race where it worked and there was no bottleneck. It was about to work on Sunday at the Border Battle, but the guy who stopped in front of me changed all of that. This weekend at Boone has a killer opening start with the switchback climb. Regardless, following the prescribed race start simulation effort, I did 2 more M.E. intervals and cooled down for 15 - 20 minutes before heading home and replenishing my body with nourishment.

Sunday's race at Boone is a very climbing specific course and I have not ridden there yet this year. I'm trying to figure out if I could get up there tomorrow for a couple of laps, but the weather is looking a tad wet as it rained at Boone today and more is on the way. It should be nice and dry for the entire weekend, but I may not get up there prior to that. Tomorrow is a busy day anyway with a high school football scrimmage, shuttle duty for cross country practice, one child to the Doc for a physical, evening Shinedown concert at the State Fair and my wife and I trying to figure out who is doing what and when. But we'll hash that out before the morning to see who is doing what tomorrow.

My riding weight is nearing its season ending target as I've worked it down recently from the 182-183 area to the 178 area. I haven't done any upper body weights in the last few weeks which helps shed a couple of pounds. If I could ever have the discipline to drop down to 170-175 I imagine I would start to see some race result improvements - especially on climbing courses. How dedicated do I want to be? I think the power to weight ratio starts to look very promising for my height once I hit 165. I haven't weighed that since high school. Most of my opera career was in the 190 - 210 range as I was pumping iron and eating religiously. I guess there is only one way to find out, but 165 is not going to happen this year. Especially not with it being peach cobbler season. ;-) I would be surprised if 175 happened, but we shall see. Work starts next week and that means my training will be altered to fit the work schedule.

I've got about 8 more race weekend opportunities. Family duties and real life now move in the way as school and work starts. I've done 12 races this season and completed 10 of them. If I could work in all 8 more, that would be the longest season to date I have done. I did 14 races last season and 12 the year before that. For sure I want to equal the 14 total from last year and surpass it just to keep the sequential growth on the work load. I'll have to go through the list and pick and choose my priorities for the remainder of the season.

8/17/09

Trek Border Battle Race Report...

MNSCS #8/WORS #8: Trek Border Battle - 9/16

This race was a joint event between the Minnesota and Wisconsin Series held in River Falls, Wisconsin. It was my 4th Minnesota race of the season and 2nd Wisconsin race of the season.

My wife and I had originally planned to make it a getaway weekend like the one we did for the Chippewa Valley Firecracker on the weekend of July 4th. Due to some teenager issues on the home front, we decided it was best if she was home for the weekend. I had the Element all packed up on Friday night for the trip and was ready to go. Even with our decision for her to stay here with the kids, I was all ready to head out the door on Saturday to drive up and take a couple of pre-race laps on the course before checking myself into a motel. That's when my wife put the kabosh on my personal weekend getaway since she was not going. We decided I could drive up Sunday morning before the race (4 1/2 hours) which I have done with a couple of other Minnesota races this season without any problems. So, I headed out at 6 am on Sunday in pouring rain wondering if the Doppler Radar I had just checked on the internet was going to work out for the best scenario up in River Falls.

The drive north was pretty much rain all through Iowa. About an hour south of the Twin Cities, the sun poked out and I could see the end of the storm to the east of me. That was good because it meant sunshine was headed in the direction of the race venue. I got there with a little over an hour to register, get suited up and do my warm up routine. I spoke with one race director who said the course was slick (especially rocks and roots) due to the .2 inches of rain they had just received in the morning. However, he said the mud was not really sticking to bike tires enough to build up on the frame and that some extra chicken wire had been placed on the wooden bridges and berm to prevent slipping. A quick look of the Citizen class racers going through the course during their race told me it wasn't that muddy out there to be too worried. Yet, it was muddy enough I felt I needed to race the Dos Niner with the tires that had some tread - my Maxxis Aspens. There wasn't time to swap tires or wheels off of my JET 9 (has the Ravens on it) and the Ravens are not mud friendly tires.

After a good warm up, I ran into Cam and said hello. He agreed with me that it didn't look like too much mud was on the bikes and mentioned the course was in tip top shape on Saturday. Since I didn't get to pre-ride, he told me outside of the opening climb, it wasn't really a big climbing venue. So I felt comfortable with my bike choice without having ridden the course. I would pay for that in terms of my back and wide handlebars later in the race.

After the traditional call ups for my category (they let the 40 - 49 year old Sport class racers go in the first wave) and the National Anthem, we were off. I was finally able to make my way up to the 2nd row for the start of the race (usually I'm near the back in these big event races). Why? Simply because I lined up early and was up near the front. I've got to do that more often!!! We all big ringed it off the line and made it around the grassy field's first 2 turns just fine. I was right on the tail of the top dozen or so at this point when we started the opening double track climb. We were shoulder to shoulder about 3 - 5 racers across the doubletrack.

After the first 5 feet of climbing on this opening climb, the guy in front of me unclipped and stopped right in front of me in a rut!!! What the F!!!? I couldn't nudge left or right because we were packed in so tightly. I was forced to stop, unclip and let about a dozen guys go by before I could get going again. RATS!!! As I passed the guy he said he was sorry. It looked to me like he just got scared of the rut and the line and decided to bail rather than climb through it. It wasn't that bad of rut and the mud was not too bad at that point. I think he was just an inexperienced rider who balked at what he saw. Plenty others climbed right through that rut without any difficulties on each lap.

But.....it now meant that I was back in the pack. I was unsure if I should give it the gas to make up what I lost right away or wait a bit to see what was available for passing once out on the course. That's when I saw Cam giving words of encouragement on the side of the hill watching us all do the starting climb (he was waiting for Julie to come through in her wave). Congrats to Julie and her 2nd place podium spot in her category!

Here's a shot of me, photo courtesy of Cam, trying to remain all smiles on the opening climb even though I'm back in the pack due to the unplanned dismount:

Border Battle Opening Climb

One glance up the opening climb's length and having never ridden it, I forecast that it would have to be a super effort for the rest of the climb to make up the dozen or so spots I had just lost on the bottom of that opening climb when the guy stopped in front of me. I figured that would have taken me over the edge where I probably wouldn't have recovered very well at all.

I quickly decided to just grind out the climb within my known limits race starts. Anyway, that's the breaks in racing. You play with the cards you are dealt. Pity. I found myself in perfect starting position only to have it taken away in a flash. Did that cost me in the singletrack as we bunched up and I couldn't get around anyone until the first passing section? Who knows? It's not that I would have ridden any harder being more up the ranks entering the singletrack, it's just that things quickly get strung out and having to work your way through the pack is much more difficult than just being up there from the get go. It may have been worth a minute or two, but I'm just speculating on that. I got over it and rode my race - and had fun. That's always the key.

After we entered the singletrack, guys started falling all over the place. It was slick - especially on the roots. It seemed like every corner had somebody in front of me or behind me hitting the dirt with a few choice words as they hit the deck. Having spent a lot of time riding on wet roots in Austria (due to all the rain), I shifted into root riding defensive mode being careful to choose lines to avoid as many as possible and only going over them in an upright and not so angled lean on the bike. In spite of that, my front wheel caught a little one and PFFFT!!! slipped right out from under me. I prepared for the subsequent crash, but somehow was able to unclip my left foot, plant it, push off and take right off again - all without hardly missing a pedal stroke. The guys behind me shouted "Nice save!". How about "fortunate" or "lucky" save?

However, that kicked my defensive riding a notch higher and as more people were falling in this first lap left and right, I slowed my speed a bit. This first lap was the worst lap in terms of it being slick. As the sun, wind and all the bikes on the trail continued for subsequent laps, it was not as slick and speeds increased for everyone. Lap one had us all jockeying for position in the passing sections and I was locked onto whatever wheel I could grab in front of me to help learn the trail. I also was yearning for my JET 9 and the full suspension. This course was really bumpy and I was getting my lower back and body thrown all around. A lot of places I could have been seated and pedaling on the JET, I was trying to protect my back on the Dos and just stay on the bike (bucking bronco) which meant more standing than I really wanted to be doing. Most likely, I had too much air pressure in my tires for the course, but I know the JET would have saved my back and been less effort on this course. At times, it was like a rodeo on the Dos Niner.

I was able to out climb a few guys I had been following, so I took advantage of the opening climb on lap 2 to jump ahead of them. I was now noticing that I wanted to get up and go, but the soft conditions took more effort to keep the bike moving than I expected. I was drooling and blowing snot rockets which is an indication I'm on the edge of the red zone with my heart rate. Lap 2 had the podium winners from the 2 waves or so behind us finally catching up to our wave and the passing from behind began. I kept trying to lock on to rear wheels as best as I could when they went by, but I was on the gas all the time due to the soft soil and it was wearing me out. More drooling and snot rockets. Going up the hill, down the hill, against the wind - it all took me in the pain cave and I just couldn't get the mind to force me to push at every opportunity.

I found myself locking onto wheels of riders that I knew I could pass, but I was settling for the recovery and slower pace far too often. I had conquered that habit at the Chippewa Valley Firecracker where I just pushed through all that pain at each and every opportunity throughout the race. Yesterday wasn't quite the same result, but I was throttling it as best as I could muster. My wide handlebar on the Dos Niner finally met up with a tree in some of the tight singletrack when my rear tire slid out on a root or rock or something slick. I didn't fall, but it stopped me dead in my tracks and was a bit unsettling enough to throw off my balance for a minute or two during the next section of tight singletrack. I felt like I was in slow motion for a couple of minutes. Finally I got going up to speed and restored my balance. I was able to pass a couple of slower wheels in front of me on the last passing section before entering the final section of singletrack of the lap.

I passed a pretty fast guy from the age 17-18 category on the opening climb of lap 3 who had passed me earlier in the race. He took one look at me as I passed him, got pissed off and all 115 pounds of him came flying by me about 10 feet later. ;-) I followed him for most of lap 3 until he took off again on one of the passing sections through a meadow when we were riding against the wind. He had family out on the course giving him hand ups and encouragement at nearly every passing section. He finished 4th in his category and had a good race.

I got behind the wheel of a guy in the 40-44 category who I was out climbing, but he was descending better than me. When we got to the switchback climb, I had to slow way down as he was climbing so slowly and I couldn't get around him on the narrow and muddy sections before and between switchbacks. The guys behind us started yelling at us to hurry up and I muttered something back at them. I don't remember what, but I did swing wide on the top switchback turn to give them room to move through on my right, but neither of them took me up on it. So I just forged ahead and passed the guy who was climbing slower than me. I could sense the end of the race and put it into sprint mode as best I could to get to the line. The Dos Niner was a bucking bronco as I went flying over the bumps and my back cursed at me on everyone of the bumps during this last mile or so.

I crossed the line in 8th place out of 21 in my category (45-49 year olds) and 87th out of 204 male sport riders. All in all, I feel pretty good with the effort considering the conditions, my bike choice and not doing a pre-ride of the course. A couple of guys I have beaten before in Minnesota or Wisconsin beat me in this race. And a couple that usually beat my time in those races (in other categories) were slower than me in this race. In terms of striking distance.....there was one guy in my class who finished 22 seconds ahead of me (a guy I've beaten before) and the next guy in 6th place was 2:44 ahead of me (also I guy I've beaten before during this season). The guys ahead of them in the top 5 spots were out of my current realm or league. I certainly had my opportunities during the race to make up 22 seconds, but I couldn't get my mind to push through the pain like in some other races. Mental note for the future: Don't think or ask yourself questions when on the wheel of a slower rider. Just react and go, go, go at every opportunity.

Fun was had and the trail worked out just fine in spite of the evening and morning showers. I'm sure the weather kept some folks away. I wouldn't doubt the price of gas and continued economic woes added to attendance as well. I guess I was expecting larger numbers since it was a joint Minnesota and Wisconsin race with the traveling trophy for whichever state scores the most points. I was actually thinking it would be a lot muddier and slicker than it ended up being, but by the 2nd and 3rd lap it was really tacky and sweet flowing singletrack. I thought it was a really fun course that was not too technical at all outside of a couple of logs to bunny hop. They took the difficulty out of the wet wooden berm and bridges with the chicken wire, so all one really had to deal with were the wet roots during lap one before conditions mellowed out enough to race full bore.

I drove home after some watermelon and water in time to hit the dinner table by 6:30 pm. I got stuck for 30 minutes on I-35 north of Faribault in stopped traffic. Turns out, the stop was created by two lanes merging into one for a construction zone. It always strikes me odd as how that can create a multi-mile pile up of stop and go three feet, stop and go two feet, stop and sit for 5 minutes, etc.... situation. Kind of like entering the singletrack if you are not up in the front group I guess....

Photos to come later if I can dig any up from the various sites.

Now it is time to prepare myself mentally to grind out all the climbing at Boone this weekend...