6/30/09

Gorgeous Summer Weather....!

We were planning some mini-weekend getaways to take advantage of some cooler weather instead of an outright "vacation" where we head off to some location. For instance, this weekend I am heading - with my wife - to Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin for a WORS race and a brief respite from the hot and humid Iowa weather. However, the Wisconsin/Michigan weather has made its way down to southern Iowa and we are enjoying a gorgeous week of low humidity and temps in the upper 70's to low 80's. We'll take it! Who needs to travel when the good weather is right at home?

I think we will drive out to the Black Hills on July 26th for a week. We'll take a couple of teenagers to Wounded Knee Indian Reservation (including our son) for a week of mission work and Tara, Alexa and I will hang out at my Dad's with the dogs and do the Black Hills thing for a week to get some dry, higher altitude weather. We might get over to Wisconsin for another weekend, but who knows?

Tara had a baseline colonoscopy today which required me to take her and drive her home due to the medications/sedatives given. All checked out good and she can now eat again. I'm not looking forward to mine in a couple of years once I hit 50....

I hit Lake Ahquabi today for the 2nd time this season and it was dry enough to really get a good training ride in on the climbs. I kept the intensity short to about 35 minutes as I am doing some block training this week. Tomorrow is longer before an easy day on Thursday and then a day off the bike on Friday to get ready for the WORS race on Sunday. I will pre-ride the Firecracker course in Wisconsin on Saturday afternoon. In terms of Lake Ahquabi, I think I've come up with a few new route adjustments to the August 9th IMBCS #7 race that I am hosting to keep it a bit fresh from last year's MOB the Quab! race.

We ran it clockwise last year, but I am thinking things over for this year to keep the challenge, but change it up a bit from last year. The trails are in good shape out there and just need a little trimming and some gravel to fill in a few spots that were washed away in the spring rains. I counted 6 felled trees today that the DNR will hit with their chainsaws sooner or later before the race. The start/finish line will be different this year over last year and fun will be had by all I don't think I will rake it and make it so super-fast and clutter free this year like I did last year. I knocked myself out, but keeping things a little more natural this year might add some allure to the event. I will meet with the DNR in July to come up with a route that meets their needs and can logistically be pruned by the DNR staff without too much trouble. Just like last year, there will be a lot of climbing. A lot...

6/28/09

Weekend Fun and race report...

I drove up to Ft. Dodge on Saturday morning for the one day sophomore baseball tournament my son was playing in with the Indianola Indians. They beat the Waukee Warriors in the first game and advanced to the championship game at 5 pm. In the championship game, they lit up their bats well enough to beat Ft. Dodge in the championship game and win the tournament. Zack played 1st base in both games and pitched 2 innings at the end of the first game. He had 3 solid hits, a couple of fly outs, and a ground out. I should have taken some pictures because the outfield fence at the Ft. Dodge High School field looks like Wrigley field as it is totally covered in ivy and vines. If a ball hits the wall - it's pretty much lost and an automatic ground rule double is issued. The boys played great and are coming together as a team. It's a mix of Sophomores and some Freshmen as there were not enough sophomores to field a team this year and they had 34 Freshmen go out for baseball. 4 guys quit the sophomore team this year after playing as Freshmen and one guy transferred to the Catholic high school in Des Moines, so they needed to move some guys up to fill those 5 spots. It took a few weeks for these guys to gel playing together, but they are playing well together now with the new guys.

After the team headed to the bus for the trip home, I continued on up to Mankato, Minnesota to look for a motel room. It was about 2 hours up the road from Ft. Dodge and I figured it would be easier just to drive from there rather than drive the 2 hours back home and repeat it on Sunday morning.

I got to Mankato about 9:30 p.m. and started looking for a motel room. I quickly found out that an unusual confluence of events had no rooms available in town. A huge baseball tournament had tons of kids and their families checked into all the motels, a bunch of weddings, a triathalon and a mountain bike race had every room booked in town - and all the surrounding towns. But I found a room at Americas Best Value Inn. Nobody wanted to recommend it to me at the other motels. Finally one guy at the desk at Days Inn sent me over warning me that I better check the room before I pay. He said it was a place to stay as a "last resort". I asked what he meant by that and he replied "you get what you pay for". Whatever. It was cheap, but the bed was comfy. I'm glad I found it because I was about to pick up a pillow and a blanket at Wal-Mart and camp out in the car.

I got a good night's sleep, showered and headed over to Perkins for my oatmeal, coffee and a muffin. Then I headed out to Mt. Kato, the site of the MNSCS race.

MNSCS Race # 4 Bluff Riders Charge - Sunday, June 28, 2009:


I was looking forward to doing my first race in the Minnesota series as I had heard a lot about it. I read the Minnesota XC series experienced 12% growth last year in the number of riders participating. According to the guidelines book, they had shortened up and taken some of the climbing out of the entry level classes in hopes of attracting more riders last season. Looks like it is working. There were no shortage of riders yesterday at the Bluff Riders Charge - that's for sure. The weather was perfect. Sunny. Low 80's. A nice breeze. Not humid. And a perfect course with not a single spot of mud to be found. 130 lined up in Sport Class alone and overall there were 380 racers. The other big series in the region is WORS in Wisconsin which averages 800+. When you start to get the numbers like Minnesota and Wisconsin has you have nice start/finish chutes, chip timing, instant results posted on the wall thanks to the computer chip timing, lots of amenities such as grills going, food, beverages, sponsorship, spectators, etc... .

A fellow poster on MTBR.com recognized my bike he had seen in photos on the 29"er forum. He introduced himself (Steve) and we got to chatting about our tires and XC racing. He lives in Wisconsin and actually grew up in Newton. It turns out I had purchased my Kenda Small Block 8's from him on eBay last year. There were oodles of 29"ers in all classes and age groups. Wisconsin and Minnesota (and Nebraska) are filled with guys racing XC on the big wheels.

One thing about racing at a ski area, you know there are going to be some climbs. ;-)

Here I am at the base of the ski area with a shot looking up the hill...

MtKato

I didn't get a chance to pre-ride the course. I had hoped to get there earlier on Saturday night and do a pre-ride, but the baseball tournament outcome changed those plans. The rules state that once the first race starts, no riding on the course is allowed except for your race. I did manage to pre-ride the opening climb to spectate the Citizen categories to see how they handled it. I warmed up on the bike trails that ran along the highway, got my water bottle ready and headed to the start area for my 11 am start. According to the guidelines book, the start/finish chute area is also a new addition for the 2009 series as are the call ups.

Start/Finish

The call ups this year are for the first 5 racers in terms of points for the series in each class and age group. Those racers get called up to the starting line in front of everyone else as the theory is they have "earned it" and it is a nice touch. My wave (I think we were the 4th wave) at the starting line was the largest wave of the CAT 2 category as it included 45-49 year olds, all singlespeeds (all ages) and all Clydes (all ages) in the CAT 2 division. Too large of a group, if you ask me, compared to all the other waves that were more like 8 racers to maybe a number like 25 or 30. Our wave was huge which meant jockeying for position is tough. Why? Because quite a few SS's, Clydes and the top 5 in my age division got called up as the rest of us tried to sneak up and get as close to behind them at the starting line as possible. With the new start/finish chute, we were probably about 6 - 8 riders across and I was quite a ways back. Maybe about 40+ racers in front of me. Not a great place to start, but it is what it is and I was just happy to be there racing my first Minnesota race and enjoying the weather, crowd and beauty of the Mt. Kato ski area.

At the gun, I hammered and went off the singletrack once we got out of the chute into the grass and got around about 20 racers as I bounced through divots and ruts with my fork doing some mad work trying to keep up. The opening singletrack climb meant that with all the Clydes and SS's that lined up in front, there would be some chance to make my way forward as it was open climbing with no trees right in the middle of a ski run. I started passing when and where I could without blowing up by going into the weeds too much and picked my way through another 5 or so riders. About 1/2 way up the opening climb I took some time for recovery and kept telling myself that now was the time to make my move to move up some more spots. I had not seen any of the trail, but heard the rest was singletrack through the woods with a couple of open places where we would traverse the ski slopes. My mind knew what to do (that I should pass some more before entering the woods at the top of the climb), but I was a little worried about pacing, not blowing up on the opening climb and the decision was made to settle in as it looked like I was up with the top 15 - 20 in my wave at this point. That would prove to be a tactical rookie mistake. I should have picked off some more of those call up Clydes and SS's while I had the chance as once we got into the singletrack some bottlenecks took place and it was difficult to pass. What it would have cost me to burn the matches on the climb I would have recovered from enough to benefit more from moving up some spots than hanging back.

BBisRacingatMt.Kato

The new Raven 2.2's were flying. I never once lost traction on any climb or corner and they handled a lot like my Nanoraptors - only were lighter and quicker on the flats. I've learned not to hang behind riders if I feel I can go faster, so I passed a few more (and a few fast guys passed me) as we worked our way through lap one. The singletrack trails are named during various sections, and I remember going into one area called "stair climber". As you can imagine, this section had a series of switchbacks that ended with a nice steep 30 - 50 yard section over roots, rocks that challenged the SS's, those that would rather walk and those not used to climbing such stuff. I managed to pass riders each time we hit that section as many jumped off their bikes to walk and I just ground it out staying seated on the JET 9. I had to yell out "rider riding" each time so those pushing would yield the way. Each lap, it allowed me to overtake a few spots. Following that section, there was the most technical part of the course called the "Luge". And, true to its name, it was swooping, steep, root filled and took some balance and muscle to navigate. This first lap I was hot on the tail of 2 guys in front of me who went flying into the Luge section. I figured they knew the trail and stayed right with them. I came into the last turn of this technical section pretty hot and was sure I was going down as I slipped off the edge of the singletrack. Somehow, I stuck with the bike and muscled my way back on the trail while staying upright. One of the course marshals yelled at us to slow down since it was only the first lap. Slow down? This was a race, right?

Bluff Riders Charge at Mt. Kato

I had thought that the opening climb on lap 2 would give me opportunity to catch up or pass some weaker than me climbers, but I only went around one as the gaps were too large between riders. Lap 2 was uneventful until I got to the Luge. This time, my speed was more in control and on the last corner - even with a more controlled tempo I did a slow motion fall. Nothing hurt, it just cost me 1 position as a guy went around me while I picked my bike up. Then I couldn't get clipped in and going again for the next several hundred yards which all in all probably cost me 20 - 40 seconds (or so it seemed).

At the start of lap 3, I gave it my all for the entire lap. I realized that the laps and times were shorter than what we do in Sport in Iowa/Nebraska, so I turned it up a notch (as did everyone else). I picked off three more riders in this lap (they all were younger riders who had started in prior waves to mine). I got picked off by a strong SS'er and grabbed his wheel as we flew through the singletrack on the backside of the mountain. As we approached the stair climber section, I heard and saw a group of about 5 coming up behind me and closing the gap. I let it all out on the stair climb section, staying seated and grinding my way up the hill. When I came out, I saw three ahead of me who were off their bikes walking the last little stretch of the climb. I got by all three and never looked back. Flew through the Luge and thought I heard somebody on my tail coming out into the final section down to the start/finish area. So I jumped on the big ring and sprinted all the way to the line to come in at 1:11 and change 56th place out of the 130 in CAT 2 and 9th place in the 45-49 age group.

It was an excellent race course that reminded me a lot of Seven Oaks at Boone, but didn't quite have as much climbing as that course does. I like the format of race time and distance at WORS - and now the Minnesota series - where they both try to keep the winning time for the Sport class in the 65 - 70 minute time frame. Overall sport winner was 58 minutes (2nd place was 1:03 and change) and the winner in my age group was 1:06 and change. The Comp category which is CAT 2 Sport, but one more lap, is more the distance and time we use in Nebraska and Iowa. And at my age, that's starting to get a bit long and might keep some riders away (I never thought I would say that). I can see how the larger series strategy is paying off by attracting more racers by keeping the distances and times down a bit. There were still 15 or so riders in CAT 2 that came in 1:30 - 1:50, but the majority of the 130 CAT 2's came in under 1:20. And for those wanting more of a challenge in terms of distance, the Comp class if perfect.

Spectator friendly at the base of the ski area...

RacerWatchCrowd

My wife, daughter and friend (as well as our dogs) are going along this weekend for a camping trip to the WORS Chippewa Valley Firecracker. I did the race last year and it's a great course as well as a very pretty area of Wisconsin. The weather forecast looks good, so we'll head out Friday to get there in time to set up camp. A new waterpark opened across the road from the race site, so the girls are looking forward to that.

6/26/09

Productive Week (a bit of this and a bit of that)...

Here's the week in a nutshell...

Friday: Tara and I attended the opening night of Des Moines Metro Opera's 37th Summer Season by attending Tosca. We enjoyed it as Puccini is so lush and rich no matter where you see a performance.

Psycowpath #5 Race on Saturday, June 20th at Ponca State Park: After a week of not riding due to working on the taxes, filing all three years of paperwork back into their respective places in the filing cabinets, setting up 2009's paperwork trail, etc... I made the drive to Ponca State Park just west of Sioux City. Last year it was very, very hot and humid during Ponca's Revenge and I made it through the 96-98 degree suffer fest. This year was not quite as hot and humid - thankfully.

In spite of not having the legs/lungs being in tip-top racing shape after a week off, I wanted to race to take advantage of the climbing as training. Knowing my condition, I lined up at the back of the group at the starting line because my goals were lined up with my legs. ;-) I was interested in survival. And survive I did. Not much to say except that the climbing worked me over really well (especially when not running a granny ring!!!) and I rolled across the line in 14th place after the 1 1/2 hour ordeal. As always, Jay Chesterman and his crew put on a great event at Ponca. I was glad he turned the heat down about 10 degrees or so from last year's heat wave.

I was so hungry that I stopped at a Wendy's at one of the south Sioux City exits on I-29. That's a big deal for me since I eat at Wendy's about once every two years or so. About 30 minutes after eating, I was feeling really drowsy (typical effects of eating such food) and pulled over at a rest stop. I rolled the windows down, stretched out and put my feet up on the dash and napped for about 20 - 30 minutes. I felt refreshed and was very alert the rest of the drive home. Nothing like climbing hills and eating fast food to create a nice nap....

Sunday: The IMBCS #5 was postponed due to muddy conditions, so I did a recovery ride and then some yard work at home. The family took me to a matinee movie (we saw Proposal) and then to Centro in Des Moines for Father's Day dinner. It was a nice time and we had a lively discussion - boisterous actually.

Monday: An easy effort 90 minute ride to Summerset and back (too muddy to hit the mountain biking trails). I came home and did the weekly maintenance weights for the over 40 cycling crowd. Then I went out in the heat and mowed the crazy man that I am in such heat. It was 98 and humid, but I went to the double-header baseball game where Zack's team managed to beat Johnston in both games. Zack was 5 for 6 for the day at the plate.

Tuesday:
Another easy effort 90 minute ride to Summerset and back in the morning before the real heat hit. I taught lessons all afternoon right through the severe weather of massive rain, wind and what not. By the time I got home, it had cleared enough for firing up the grill on the deck.

Wednesday: I got up early and took Zoey to the vet for surgery to repair her torn ACL and meniscus. Tara and I did a 2 hour ride with me splitting off for the second hour to do intensity work of intervals, hill climbs and a 25 minute LT interval to get everything going again after the Ponca "event". We met up at Subway for a 6" sub before riding home. Grilling again in the evening. The Raven's arrived at the door, so I aired them up with tubes on a spare set of rims to give them a 24 hour stretch before mounting them up tubeless on the JET 9.

Ravens, Crow and Karma 1.9

They are a decent size width racing tire. 57mm compared to the narrower Crows pictured below them at a bit under 52mm.

Raven on Blunt = 57mm

Crow on Blunt = 52mm

Thursday: I did a 100 minute recovery pace ride in the morning heat, came home and had breakfast before heading out to pick up Zoey from her overnight stay at the animal clinic. She is all wrapped up in a cast on her leg (comes off Saturday). $1261 for this procedure. We've got Max and Zoey both on diets in an effort for Zoey to lose 15 (she's lost 3 already) and Max to lose 22 (he's lost 7 already) to get them down to leaner weights in hopes of preventing more ACL tears. Dang! They sound like football player injuries...

That hind leg looks like a lamb's...

Then I had to mow again as the grass is growing so fast with all of this heat and rain. I swapped out my Nanoraptors on the JET for the new pair of Raven 2.2's....

Raven 2.2's on JET 9

NoTubes Volume

Attended Zack's double-header against Urbandale. Indianola is heading to a tournament on Saturday, so the best pitchers were being saved for that. So the first game was a drubbing due to our pitching. We lost 15-1. It couldn't have been worse. Errors. No hitting. It was Bad News Bears at its best. Zack was pitching the second game and we were behind 6-0 when Zack hit a 2 run homer over the centerfield fence and got the rally started. We were ahead 10 - 9 in late innnings when Urbandale scored another run to tie the game 10-10. We failed to score at our last at bat and the Umpires called the game saying the 2 hour time limit had been reached. Of course all the players, parents and fans were upset and couldn't understand why they were not allowed to play out the game to finish it. Oh well....so that's a first for a high school baseball game to end in a tie. It happens in Little League all the time, but high school baseball? The team travels to Fort Dodge on Saturday for the tournament.

Friday: I was totally off the bike today. I went in this morning for 1/2 day of work to get caught up on paperwork. I had to opt out of my insurance coverage for the coming academic year (I'm on my wife's plan instead), sign a pair of waiver forms for medical as well as dental/vision and allocate the montly extra cash to either a lump sum payment next June, or use it as additional retirement allocation funds. I chose the lump sum again just like last year. The good news is I get a lump sum next week for this past year which will just about take care of Zoey's surgery. Then I caught a movie at Jordan Creek in the afternoon while the gals shopped. I saw The Taking of Pelham 123 which I thought was really well done and a good suspense flick. I ate far too much salty popcorn....

Came home and fired up the grill for some nice salmon, vin blanc and fresh goodies from the garden on top of warm bread.

This weekend: The plan is to attend the Fort Dodge tournament and then head to Mankato for my first ever Minnesota Mountain Bike race at Mt. Kato outside of Mankato, MN. I will finally be able to line up and compete in my proper age category with the 45-49 year olds there as well as the next weekend in Wisconsin at a WORS race.

Who knows if the weather will cooperate or not?

6/19/09

One race cancelled for the weekend, what about the other....?

I just read that the IMBCS #5 Race on the Sycamore Trail in Des Moines has been cancelled for Sunday due to the extreme wet and muddy conditions of the trail. It's that time of year - Rain Of Biblical Proportions.winking smileys

Radar shows it is dumping as I write this in the Ponca State Park area. Time will tell, but I will keep checking to see any updates at Nebraska Cycling.

Good news!! As of 2 pm today, everything is fine and dandy for tomorrow's Psycowpath #5 at Ponca State Park with an excellent forecast. Perrrrrrrrfect.

For what's it worth, a lot of my son's high school baseball games have been cancelled in the past couple of weeks as well due to all the rain. Sump Pumps are going full bore...

free image hosting

6/18/09

The Sugar is all ready to go...

Sugar2009

After close inspection by a representative from Trek/Fisher, it was determined my rear triangle is still within the "safe" boundaries for operation in spite of about 1mm of tire rub wear through on the left carbon seatstay. It's not ideal, but the replacement triangle is $475 and only comes in black these days. So I set the bike up with stiffer wheels and will only run narrower casing/tread tires in the rear to prevent any more wear through on the seatstay. If it cracks or breaks, then I will make the decision of either tracking down a used rear triangle in my size or replacing it with the new Fisher price through my LBS.

SugarFront2009

I took the bike out for a 2 1/2 hour intensity session this week as pictured and it is good to go for racing on appropriate courses. It's the plushest bike I own with 100mm up front and a custom adjusted rear shock that PUSH in Colorado adjusted for my height/weight XC racing and terrain here in the middle of the country. If I ever chose to run it at 80mm up front, it would be a lot snappier - but I've got the JET and Dos Niner for that. I like the plushness. It allows me to go over logs, curbs and what not with smaller volume race tires and hardly feel anything at all. It's a great bike to stay seated on and let the suspension keep the tires glued to the track.

SugarFrontSide2009

Training this week included some days off. I did an intensity session with my daughter who had her final physical therapy session on Tuesday (sessions were for her dislocated knee that happened in March). She is good to go for running and the muscles are symmetrical again. We did sprints on our bikes and this girl can fly in short duration sprints (10 - 20 seconds). Makes sense since she is one of the top 100m sprinters in Iowa for her age group. I did some road work (longer, less intense intervals) to keep the top end in shape. But most of the week was devoted to taxes, filing things, teaching lessons and home/house duties.

Two races on tap for this weekend (weather and conditions permitting of course): Psycowpath #5 on Saturday on the grueling Ponca climbing course in Nebraska and IMBCS #5 on Sunday in Des Moines on the Sycamore Trail in TT format.

After that, a father's day celebration at 6:30 at an undisclosed location to me. The kids are all secretive about it at this point.

6/16/09

Taxes Done!!!

Whew!!! Extension, smension, tension, pinchin'. Hats off to the IRS for being so understanding, flexible and willing to work with me as we fixed, adjusted and filed everything correctly with all of our delayed fortitude. It took from 10 am to 4 pm at the accountant's office yesterday to finish things up since we were working with multiple years and amendments. The IRS and State of Iowa owe us refunds, so that will be a welcome reward for the meticulosity involved in the process.

Today's job #1 is to clean up the basement and file everything back into place after the several month ordeal. Job #2 is to organize all 2009 receipts and statements to date and toss out what I do not need to be keeping and to start files for some new things that we need to be keeping (son is now working with self-employed income doing landscaping for the summer).

Relief is felt now that it is caught up. If I had to relate the last 3 years of what I went through to a cycling workout, I feel like this now that it is over...

spent


Exhausted

on the edge

pooped

6/13/09

No Race Tomorrow...

Once again, the Maskenthine XC Classic outside of Norfolk, NE gets postponed. Originally it was scheduled for April 4th but was postponed due to weather. It's too wet this weekend, so now the date will get moved later in the summer. Hopefully, the third time will be the charm. scuba hand signals

I went for a 3 1/2 hour road ride with the wife today instead of doing a pre-race ride once I found out tomorrow was off.

It's Alexa's 14th birthday todayaim smileys, so NY steaks, grilled zucchini, roasted potatoes, red velvet cake, pesto crostini are all on tap for this evening. Yummy! scuba diving in Hawaii

6/8/09

IMBCS #4 Race Report...

3rd time is the charm, so they say. This being my 3rd early season training race, I was finally able to finish. Hence the charm aspect of it all. After last week's tubeless rimstrip/valve problems and the Bone Bender mudfest causing me to DNF, I just wanted to finish a race. I can proudly say that I finished the IMBCS #4 race at Moorehead Park in Ida Grove. The bike was fine and the climbing was perfect for me to tackle at this point of the season.

I was in good shape for the Banner Pits race as it doesn't involve a lot of climbing and you can focus on short power climbs (where all that short interval training I did kicks in) and bike handling on the technical sections of that trail. This week's training plan was to start adding in extended mountain bike climbing to get that part of the game plan going for upcoming races. I'm about 3 weeks behind on doing that this year over last year due to my unexpected trip to France in May. I'll take the trade off of a European trip, though. ;-)

Regardless, there is no better place to suffer extended climbing than Lake Ahquabi. I went out early in the week before all the rain hit to do the grunts and to see what kind of shape Ahquabi is in for this time of year. I was quickly reminded that the extended climbing puts a different stress on your system than what I had been training lately, but it felt good. That was the only day I could hit Lake Ahquabi as we had too much rain to make it worthwhile to head out there again this week. I used the rest of the week as a pavement training week with no taper leading into Sunday's race. I knew it would cost me to build like that without recovery, but I needed the build up for races coming up.

Rain was everywhere along a line of cold front/warm front as they met through Nebraska and Iowa, but Jesse Bergman gave the thumbs up on Saturday night saying that the trail was in perfect racing shape and he confirmed that again at 6 am on Sunday morning to let everyone know the race was on as scheduled. I climbed out of bed feeling the stress in my legs of a heavy training week and a night of very humid and warm temperatures. I took a shower and drank some hot coffee to get the old blood flowing through the legs. The drive up to Ida Grove was not too encouraging as I hit rain the closer I got to Ida Grove. The drive from Dennison to Ida Grove was nothing but rain. In spite of that, bikes and tires in the parking lot of those that had been out on the trail warming up didn't look too bad at all. Nothing like the Bone Bender mudfest - that's for sure!!!

I had the Nanoraptors on the JET 9 which are not the mud tires of choice, but what the heck. I've used them in all sorts of conditions and knew what to expect. Of course, as soon as I paid my $25 and walked back to the car with my number plate to get changed and warm up - the rain hit. I climbed in the car and said to heck with warming up, but about 15 minutes before the race it stopped raining and I got suited up and did get a few minutes of blood flow going. I hit a small section of trail, just enough singletrack to realize the Nanos would be fine.

It was a smaller crowd of racers that lined up compared to last week due to the rain, but it was nice to see some Nebraska racers make it over and line up in the categories. I had not been on these trails before and had decided earlier in the week that my goal should be to treat it like a training race and just finish for once!!!

At the gun, we jumped off to a quick start on the gravel road which then had the group slowing a bit heading into the singletrack. All was well, but corners were a little greasy. We hit one off-camber steep descent that had everyone ahead of me off their bikes and I quickly found out why as my pucker factor kicked in and I scrambled to keep the bike upright. Kory Hill was pulled over on the side at the bottom of that hill working on his bike (turned out his brake cable had slipped out on a fall and he was doing some maintenance to get it going again).

Lap one felt like it was a little on the slow side for me as I didn't want to go down with my tires and unfamiliarity with the trail. However, it was the fastest lap I turned out of the three. I was following the guy in front of me watching him for all the turns, logs, slippery spots, etc... . The front group had pulled away from us, but I was content where we were at this point of the race. Then he slipped out on a climb and I passed him leaving me in that "no man's land" of nobody in front of you on an unfamiliar trail. The climbs were long and the sponge feel in the soil meant it was no cakewalk to keep momentum going on the bike. I figure it was a gear or two penalty (maybe even three gears in spots) for the conditions compared to what it would be like when dry. But what a workout!! The seated, grinding climbs reminded me of Lake Ahquabi. Ah....if Lake Ahquabi would only allow us to build singletrack on those nice hills....

I was glad I had made it out earlier in the week to reacquaint myself with turning the screws on those longer ascents because Moorehead park called for it. Even though it was my fastest lap, I felt like I babied my way around lap one taking care not to fall and to try to learn the trail. One tight switchback caught me (and my Nanos) by surprise and down I went. I jumped back on and made a note that although things were drying out, I still had to take care in the sharper corners. The rest of the lap was uneventful. Kory caught up to me and passed me as we came out of the singletrack and hit the gravel road going through the finish line area as we started lap 2. The guy has some legs and lungs - no matter how much he moans about being in his 40's. ;-)

By the start of lap 2, the wind had come up and the trail was drying out to nice tacky race conditions. My confidence increased, but not my speed. That section near the beginning with a steep off-camber descent that induced the pucker factor was now okay to ride. I was on my own all of lap 2 and passed one guy on one of those long grinding climbs as he had to get off the bike and push. One of the climbs where you were on the edge of the red line zone had some successive logs you had to negotiate over during the climb. The speed and power needed just to pull the front wheel over each of these logs was enough to throw me into the "I gotta recover from that effort" on each lap. Fun stuff and just what I needed for raising the training bar. I seem to have trouble keeping myself focused and going which showed in my lap times for this second lap which was 2 minutes slower than my 1st and 3rd laps.

I swapped out my water bottle in the starting area before heading out to do lap 3. Again, not another racer was in sight and I was on my own. Just as I hit the bottom of that pucker factor off-camber descent area, the rider who was in 1st place Expert came whizzing by me - Nate - on his sweet looking Moots ride. I passed one more rider during lap three as my confidence and speed had improved from the previous lap to the point I felt like I was actually racing again like the first lap. Nearing the end of lap 3 and just when I was working with all of my effort, Gary Fisher 29er Crew rider Mark Savery from Nebraska come flowing by on his Superfly SS railing the corners like poetry in motion. I say flowing because that's what it looked like. I don't know the guy, but watching his cornering technique was pretty amazing. Smooth as silk.

I crossed the line happy to finally have finished a race this season and felt pretty good with the workout I had just been through. There is no training like a race to whip one's mind, body and attitude into shape. I ended up in 6th Place out of the 11 CAT 2's that toed the line. Good old familiar midpackitis. I'd like to get in some climbing work at Lake Ahquabi this week, but with the amount of rain we've had - I doubt if it will be dry enough to give it a go.

As I was heading back to the car I saw Squirrel come flying through, reach for a pair of water bottles on top of his car in the starting area and drop them both. He rode on for his final lap without any beverage. That's not cool, so I grabbed one of them and took it out to a spot in the trail where I could hand it to him when he rode by. Kory Hill came along as he was cooling off after the race and we visited while we waited for Squirrel. That's where Kory told me about what had happened to his brake during lap one.

The CAT 1's had a total 29"er podium with a Moots, a Fisher and a Specialized taking 1, 2 and 3.

A big thanks to Jesse Bergman and his wife Kate and their crew for setting up a great race course on some very cool singletrack. I hope we get to race at that park again next season as those are some very nice trails.

6/1/09

Not a "Banner Day" for me at the Pits...

Perfect weather. Perfect race course conditions. Perfect rider turnout. Perfect Hosts. Perfect warm-up.

Paul Varnum and I catch up on everything since last we saw each other in the fall...

Paul Varnum and BB

Perfect weather. I know I said that, but it was worth repeating. ;-)


Relaxing at the starting line with Andrew and Brandon


Chillin' with Andrew and Brandon pre-race

Perfect start (went into the singletrack about 7th or so out of what looked to be 30 or so riders). Perfect strategy was unfolding like I wanted. Heart rate felt good. Legs felt good. I didn't have to dismount in the bottlenecks. All was well.

Then it all went wrong in the first 1/3 of lap one. I started to feel squirm in the rear wheel and I knew something was wrong. Loose quick release? Nope. Tire losing air? Must be. How could that be? The tires had been working so well the past 2 weeks on this course. I had the perfect psi of 23.5 in the rear. What was happening?

I forged ahead struggling to hold it together on the turns and the off-camber sections which were all the more difficult on a squirmy rear tire. I passed 2 people that had crashed. Then I had to let 2 pass me because my tire squirm was slowing me and them down. Then I passed by Nebraska bud Brandon Harper who was pulled over on the side of the trail looking at his bike (after talking to him, he was in 2nd place and crashed as well as flatted twice). Not our day, that's for sure.

A rider in front of me went down and I passed him. We came down out of the north half of the loop to the pavement section and I put it in the big ring to hammer to the south half of the loop. Wow! I could feel the low rear tire and since I had practiced this course all week, I knew what gear I wanted on this pavement. Suddenly, I was 2 gears less than I had practiced and it felt like very hard work even in this easier gear. Well of course, silly - the rear tire must have been down around 14 psi at this point. Going into the south loop, I asked the guy behind me if my rear tire looked really flat. He couldn't tell.

I kept turning the cranks over and was flying pretty well through this section in spite of the low air in the rear. Coming to the end of the south loop and about 100 yards before hitting the pavement where one has to hammer back to the beginning for lap 2, the guy behind me said "yup, now your rear tire looks flat" and of course, I felt it. I thought I could make it up to the pavement so I was out of everyone's way to air up. But it was time. I pulled over on the side of the singletrack. I took the can of Big Air attached to my seatpost off and aired up the rear tire. Whew! It was filling up and I was excited to be back in business having only lost 2 positions in the race. Then I pulled the can of Big Air off of the presta valve and PSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS... all the air came out of the valve hole on the rim and the tire was flat. RATS!!!! I wanted to cuss. I wanted to throw the bike. But I refrained (costs too much). ;-)

Flat as it gets...

No spare tube and my race was over. How frustrating! So I started the walk of shame back to the starting line to DNF. To make it worse, there stood my lovely wife and kids who had come out to cheer me on. And I had nothing to deliver due to equipment failure. I was all dressed up and had no place to go. Frustrating.

So I stared in disbelief at my plight and explained to everyone at the start/finish line what had happened:

Out of the race!!!

Fellow MOBster Paul Varnum's Dos Niner front wheel is in the picture above as he stopped for a water bottle and heard my plight. Thanks for the offer to use your bike, Paul. You came to ride and it was great to see you out there. You'll be at Ida Grove next week, right?

Here's the culprit of my woes after I got home to take it all apart and have a look:

failure between valve and rimstrip

I run the tires tubeless and the rimstrip with the presta valve can be torn from the rimstrip if the nut is too tight on the valve stem (not my case), if one pulls and yanks too hard with the floor pump (or can of Big Air - or Topeak Digital Pressure Gauge), or it might just wear out over time from all the pumps going on and off the valve stem which finally works the connection near the rimstrip to start a tear.

Thinking back, I liked the air pressure I had in the rear tire, but for safety's sake I went back to the car and checked the air and added about 1.5 psi just 5 minutes before the starting gun. In my haste, I must have been all thumbs and yanked the pressure gauge or my floor pump off hard enough from the valve stem to tear or at least start the tear on the valve stem/rim strip connection. Once I got riding, had hopped that first log and gone over some bumps on the trail - the leaking air started to show up.

This is the third NoTubes.com rimstrip with a presta valve that I have had this happen to over the last couple of years on my American Classic wheels. It's never happened during a race, so this was a new one for me. It's time to switch to Schrader valve ghetto tubeless rimstrips and that's what I did when I got home. I did a ghetto conversion on the back wheel with a Schrader tube after drilling out the valve stem hole large enough to take a Schrader valve stem. I'll hit the front wheel in the same way later this week to take that element of possible equipment failure out of the equation.

Hats off to CITA, all the trail builders and to a great course we are lucky to have here in Central Iowa. I can't complain since it is about 5 or 6 miles away from my house (30 minutes on the bike) and is right off the Summerset Bike Trail that runs from Indianola to Carlisle. That means I can ride to and from the mountain bike trails without having to mess with my car. That's a nice plus that I'm excited to have.

Hopefully this weekend brings better luck as I really, really, really would like to get some racing in this season after my first 2 races ended up in DNF's. Outside of a torn sidewall last year at one race, I have been trouble free equipment wise for 2 seasons. I guess I was due.

Bummer. But the great race course, fun crowd, perfect weather all helped calm my mood. There's nothing you can do in those situations and it wasn't worth getting myself worked up about it all. Life happens.