MNSCS #6 - Singletrack Attack Race Report...

Having no races in Iowa or Nebraska this weekend, I drove up to Elk River, MN (19 miles northwest of the Twin Cities burbs) for the MNSCS #6 race. The race was held on the excellent singletrack trails of Hillside Park and run by a great crew of volunteers who helped with parking, handing out water, getting us signed in and in short - kept the event running like clockwork.

I dropped Zack off at 5:30 a.m. at the Catholic Church in Indianola where he met a group of 50 high school students that were heading out for a week of service work on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota. I headed north to the Twin Cities and arrived at the race venue with about 45 minutes before the start. I got registered, suited up, warmed up (not enough, but time was the issue) and lined up in Wave 2 for the race. I brought the Dos Niner to race and had outfitted the bike with a pair of prototype race tires that I am trying out from Maxxis.


I love these tires!!! They fill a void that was missing in the 29"er size. A light weight (around 500 grams per tire), with low rise knobs that roll like the wind. My pair weighs 480g and 500g respectively. They were perfect during the race. The Ravens are great as well, but they drift at times in corners and these prototype Aspens hold their line.

At the starting gun, I had difficulty getting my left foot clipped in and lost my "mark" (a guy I recognized who had finished one or two spots in front of me in the last Minnesota race). By the time we entered the singletrack, I noticed he was ahead of me by 20 or so positions. Again, turnout was large at the race. 140 Cat 2's toed the line yesterday. My wave had about 40 racers in it and we started 2 minutes behind the first wave of 25 younger guys. We had the usual backups and near stops as the group encountered some of the first difficult spots. Again, the importance of being up in the front could have saved me some time. Not getting my foot clipped in and not being able to move up beyond the middle of the pack probably cost me a minute or two overall, but c'est la vie.

I loved the trail and no difficulties negotiating the terrain. It was good to race the Dos again, although my lower back will take a couple of days to recover. ;-) I was able to pass quite a few - especially as I caught up to the slower racers in the first wave. I ended up crossing the line in 10th out of 17 for my age class and 65th out of 140 for the Cat 2's. The 65th is the same as the previous Minnesota race, but the next guy in my age class was a little over a minute ahead of me. I don't think I could have made up a minute out on the course as I was going full bore, so maybe it was in the start and sprint for the singletrack that I could have made up that time gap.

Regardless, I had fun in this race. One of the support/fund raising groups at the event had a food tent, so I grabbed a burger and Diet Coke. This group was an animal rescue league devoted to rescuing and saving Schnauzers. Interesting, but I made a donation in their tent in hopes of helping out their cause.

It's time to load up the car and head to the Black Hills for the week. I loaded the bikes last night on the Element. I was airing up the front tires of the mini-van on Saturday when I heard the valve or valve stem leaking. So I took it in to Downey Tires to be fixed and while fixing it they noticed one of my left front wheel tie rods is just about shot and should not be driven. Of course, their mechanic doesn't work on Saturdays and I didn't want to pay the price that the Ford/Mercury dealer charges, so instead of taking the spacious mini-van to the Black Hills, we are stuffing ourselves, dogs, luggage and bikes into the Honda Element. Rocket Box on top, bike rack on the rear, dogs on the floor, Alexa in one of the rear seats, cooler on the floor and feet out the window.... ;-]

Off to the Black Hills!


RAGBRAI: Weather is perfect on Day #4...

The route from Indianola to Chariton was perfect today in terms of weather, wind and riding time. Tara and I headed out of Indianola about 10:40 a.m. and made our way east to Ackworth and Sandyville before turning south to make our way to Milo where we stopped for some water. I actually rolled in just in time to hear one of my students from the Orpheus Festival step on stage and sing a Karaoke solo. He did a great job and the crowd gave him a very rousing ovation!

Tara and I crusied on south to Lacona where we climbed the hill and hit the city park for a shared piece of corn on the cob and of course, we both had a beer from one of the local pubs. That made us a tad sleepy and stiff in our legs when we climbed back on the bikes, but after about five minutes the legs were feeling good again. Tara had packed bagels, so we downed a bagel on the bike as we headed south into Chariton. Total time on the bike was a cruising tourist speed and had us there in just under 4 hours with all of our stops and sight seeing along the way.

Our car was parked at the father of one of our best friends who just happened to be on the route a couple of blocks from downtown Chariton. We debated going downtown for some food or heading back to Indianola. In the end, we loaded the bikes up in the Element, visited with Chuck's Dad for about 15 minutes and then headed back home for a nap and some dinner which is now underway.

Tara wants to ride again tomorrow, so I will drop her off at the start and pick her up later in the day at Ottumwa when she calls. Yesterday and today were enough miles for me and I need to save something for my mountain bike race on Sunday. I think doing 77 miles again tomorrow would be too much to recover from to race this weekend. Yesterday's 77 and today's 44 miles were plenty for a training week. But she might be able to persuade me, we'll see. If she doesn't persuade me, I'll probably do some trail work out at Lake Ahquabi tomorrow while she is on the bike all day.

Time for dinnner......chicken, brats, asparagus, bread and what not. Zack is in Missouri and Alexa is at the County Fair with her friends.

RAGBRAI: Tour de Food rolls through...

In spite of yesterday's rain, I had my son drive me over to the start of yesterday's RAGBRAI route from Greenfield to Indianola. The rain had just about stopped when we left (11 am), so I was able to ride in cloudy, but rain free conditions. Had I waited a couple more hours - I could have enjoyed a ride filled with blue skies...

Regardless, I hammered pretty hard on my 29"er to get a good training ride in. The first 40 miles was my warm up, and the final 37 miles had me reaching deep to get a good workout. It was against the wind for all but 15 - 17 miles of the route, so the workload was always there. I visited with many along the way that were going about the same pace I was pushing. Temperatures were about 66 degrees the entire way, and I was layered up with a long sleeve Under Armour shirt, jersey and a Gore outer shell on top with my bib shorts. That was enough to keep me warm once I got cranking. I stopped to tinkle twice and managed to get by on free handouts (water and fruit). I had a bagle with me and a Cliff bar which I chowed down on the bike. It was fun to roll into Indianola with the masses. The route went by my neighborhood as it came into town.

Tara got home from work and we headed down to the Methodist Church for dinner. They were serving Cavatelli, salad and all kinds of pie. We checked out the mass of humanity in the square and then headed over to Simpson to see the bike shops and the tent cities on campus. Fun was had by all and we were in bed around midnight.

We are heading out on the route today to ride from Indianola to Chariton. We took my car down on Tuesday night and left it in Chariton so we have a ride home tonight. It's fogged over early this morning, so we'll wait until the sun is shining before heading out. I took Zack at 6:45 a.m. this morning to the football bus over at the high school as his team is heading off to football camp in Missouri. There were a lot of riders already up and heading out in the fog and cold. It is supposed to be 81 degrees and sunny today and the route is short (44 miles), so it was hard for me to understand why so many would want to ride in the cold and wet so early in the morning.

Oh well. We're waiting for the sun to peak out before suiting up and heading out.


IMBCS #6 Race Report - Scott County Park

This past Sunday brought me back from the past few weekends of racing in Wisconsin and Minnesota to the Iowa Mountain Biking Championship Series for IMBCS #6. The race was held just northeast of Eldridge, Iowa in Scott County Park on the brand new - and might I add, excellent - singletrack trails. Hats off to FORC (Friends of Off Road Cycling) for building this beautiful trail system to add to their Sunderbruch Park and Sylvan Island trail systems. Anyone looking for tight, twisty singletrack (and I mean TWISTY) trails in Iowa can look no further. These trails will satisfy all those needs to bump, twist and shout. The loop was about 6.5 miles and plans are in store to add even more trails in the future.

The ride over was exactly 3 hours from Indianola driving the speed limit. I arrived about an hour before the 11:15 CAT 2 start time, registered, warmed up and lined up. We had about a 10 minute delay due to some CAT 3 riders that were still out on the course for their race. So we all chilled at the line. There were 63 lined up at the line which included 58 men and 5 women. That's a good turnout for CAT 2 in the IMBCS races and the weather was perfect. Sunny with temperatures in the 70's. Hello! This is supposed to be July....

After our delay and a few remarks about technical obstacle to watch out for out on the course (a log pile with a nasty fall to the left if not done correctly), there was no countdown. Just a quick whistle and nobody was clipped in or ready for the start as the lady with the whistle gave us no warning. I think it surprised all of us as it took a few seconds for reality to hit and everyone to get clipped in. Regardless, we were all up and cranking in the open field grass section to make it to the singletrack first....

And We're Off!

I had not pre-ridden the course, but was told that this opening section was about the only open spot (outside of 2 or 3 smaller double track connector sections about 100 yards long). I started off the back and worked my way up a bit to the middle of the pack on this opening section, but there was a sharp right turn into the singletrack which bottled the whole group up again. Here we are lining up to make the sharp right turn...

Heading To the Singletrack

We were wheel to wheel for most of lap one (CAT 2's were slotted for 3 full laps). By the end of lap 1, I was hanging with a group of 4 and we had managed to fill a gap in front of us and create a gap behind us (which never was filled). The lead guy in this group had to stop for a mechanical and I dug in behind a rider which I kept wanting to pass, but was having trouble in the tight and twisty to find a place to get around him. He was on a 26" wheeled race bike and our height difference and the amount of lean I use with the big wheels carving the turns was not an advantage for me, but I finally caught up to him in an open area and went around him shortly after the photographer snapped these shots...

Time to pass

Looking ahead to gauge my pass...

Closing a gap to pass

You will notice I'm not wearing my usual sunglasses. That's because I biffed the obstacle we were warned about in Lap 1 when I curiously looked left at the top of the log pile to see what was so nasty on the left side of the pile. And of course, the bike usually goes where you look - so down to the left I went in a slow motion tumble where my sunglasses fell off. The course marshall located at that obstacle yelled to me he would pick them up and bring them back to the registration tent after the race (he did).

I traded places back and forth with 2 guys for most of lap 2 and 3 and was starting to get cooked...

Looking Cooked

The past 3 weeks, my races were about an hour and 12 to 14 minutes in length. According to my watch, I had been out on the course for 2 hours as these laps were long and the tight and twisty keep speeds down. All the acceleration out of corners and the climbs had my legs feeling the early stages of cramping, but they held off and I didn't cramp.

I rolled in hungry and a little cooked in 25th place out of 58 for the male CAT 2's. There was a lot of talk about flat tires, mechanicals, the difficult twisty turns, etc..., but fun was had by all. I thought conditions were perfect out on the trail and I really liked the challenge of slinging my 29"er through such a tight course. If I had to do it again, the Dos Niner would have been the bike of choice. It's just a snappier bike in that kind of a tight and twisty course than my JET 9 proved to be. I was beat up from the fall I took as well as my shoulder and hip and neck saying hello to several trees during the race. I got my sunglasses back, so I was happy. After a steak burger, I was back in the Element and heading home to get ready for RAGBRAI.

I got to meet Adam Perkins who I know from MTBR.com. He was riding his Jeff Jones Titatnium Singlespeed Dream Machine. He tried my JET and I tried his Jones. That is one sweet bike I must admit. I didn't have my camera with me, otherwise I would have snapped a shot of that titanium sweetness. Adam is about to begin his teaching career and I was telling him how nice it is to have summers free as a teacher. It's a bonus/perk well worth the trade off in receiving a higher salary that other careers might provide.

We took my Element to Chariton last night and dropped it off. Tara and I will ride Wednesday from Indianola to Chariton with RAGBRAI, load up our bikes and drive home. I'll head out today and do some of the ride in the rain as the riders enter Indianola. I'm not much for riding in the rain, but I've got the gear to do it.

This weekend is back to Minnesota (weather permitting) for MNSCS #6 before heading out to the Black Hills on Monday.


RAGBRAI lands in Indianola tomorrow...

That's right. Tomorrow, anywhere from 10,000 to 25,000 riders will ride into town just 1 block from my back deck. Indianola plays host to RAGBRAI tomorrow night as an evening stop over for the first time since RAGBRAI has been in existence. The town is all gussied up for the visit and it should be fun. My wife and I will be riding the route on Wednesday from Indianola to Chariton. We had thought about riding into Indianola tomorrow as well, but Tara has an all day class for her job up in Johnston. I might ride out 10 - 20 miles on the route and ride back in with a wave of riders to get "in the mood". We took this year off of RAGBRAI, but might be doing it next summer.

When that large of a mass of people move through town, they are like Locusts. Having been one of the Locusts on the trip, I know what it is like. I visited 3 stores in Indianola today (Hy-Vee, a pizza joint and a Casey's). I fear none of them are stocked like they should be for the mass that is coming. Oh well.

Other things going on....

I spent 4 hours trimming the growth out at Lake Ahquabi State Park this morning and doing some shoveling to repair a washed culvert area that the race on August 9th will go over. Things are in really good shape and the DNR has been out with their chainsaws to removed all of the fallen trees. I will ride the route tomorrow morning to see what else needs trimming or work, but things are in great shape this year compared to last year. I want to get everything finished up out at Ahquabi this week since we are heading to the Black Hills next week. I'm looking forward to riding in the mountains again and will hit up all the new trails on M-Hill in Rapid City as well.


Memorial Classic Race Report

I drove to Red Wing, Minnesota Sunday morning for the Memorial Classic (MNSCS #5). The drive was about 4 1/2 hours and I arrived with 45 minutes to register and warm-up before the 11 am starting gun. Weather was perfect (temps in the 70's) and the trails were dry and fast.

My legs were not feeling as fresh and ready to battle during the warm-up as I would have liked. I did enough warm-up to get me going, but I could feel the effort was going to not be as good as the previous weekend. Actually, I felt it all week long as I tried to recover from my effort at the Chippewa race. This was my 2nd Minnesota Series race and there were more riders at this event than the previous one at Mt. Kato. 150 CAT 2 (Sport) racers toed the line.

My group was in Wave 2 which included the 35 - 39, 40 - 44 and 45 - 49 year old age groups. After the call ups of the series leaders for those groups, the rest of us filled in the line. I had not done a pre-ride, so had no idea what to expect. The opening section was doubletrack through open fields giving riders plenty of time to jockey for position before entering the singletrack. My mind said this was the place to move forward. My desire said this was the place to move forward. But my legs were not keeping up with my mind and desire. I held on to my position, but maybe only passed a few in the opening section. When we hit the singletrack and all the bottlenecks and backed up traffic that ensued, I knew I should have forced myself to go cross eyed in the opening section in spite of my legs. Oh well, every week cannot be the same form...

The singletrack was filled with twists and turns and twists and turns and twists and turns. It was fun and a challenge - especially being filled with log piles, logs, roots, rocks, bridges, tight trees, climbs, berms, switchbacks, steep descents, etc... . There was a long climbing section on doubletrack that connected sections of singletrack. This was a chance to pick a good grinding spin and pass some riders. I made it by a few on lap 1, but I was just trying to keep pace. I was trading places back and forth with a couple of guys I recognized from my age group in the starting wave. There were two long steep climbs on loose rocks and roots that had everybody off their bikes walking. I chose to ride the first climb (did so on both laps), but the second climb had a big rock between two tight trees that forced me to dismount and walk the remaining portion (both laps). I'm sure that section can be ridden, but I didn't see anyone riding it both laps when I came to it.

I kept pushing myself in lap 2 and actually started to feel better in terms of my legs, but I don't think that meant my speed picked up. I just didn't have the push that I did last weekend and my only thought is I didn't fully recover from the effort and should have adjusted my training this past week to allow for more recovery. This week might dictate that!! Regardless, lap 2 was uneventful and I stayed upright. My hip brushed one tree on a high speed corner, but no bruise or pain today. The trail was really fun in the lower section with all the high speed turns, rocks and technical sections. And there was plenty of climbing to keep one happy and turning the screws. One guy in my age group went around me in some of the tight singletrack and I caught him on a climb, but in spite of my best effort to hang with him - he crossed the line before me and that cost me one place.

I crossed the line in 1:20 and change for 8th Place in CAT 2 (45-49). That's one position better than Mt. Kato where I thought I was in better form and got 9th Place racing the same guys. Had I pushed a bit harder, 6th and 7th place riders in my group were certainly within reach (30 seconds to a minute), but the top 5 were not. I was 65th Overall out of the 150 CAT 2 guys. Everyone's faces, arms and legs were covered in dirt since the dust was so thick during the race from the conditions being so dry. Had they had a nice rain on Friday or Saturday, conditions would probably have been perfect. I looked like a Raccoon with all the dust on my face. The event was very well run and goodies were there for all. I chowed down on some watermelon, a cookie and swigged an ice cold bottle of water before jumping in the car to head back to Iowa.

I wanted to be back for dinner with my Dad who was visiting from Rapid City. And I had to be back for work at 7:30 PM (music camp), so didn't have time to hang out after the race for more than a few minutes. It was certainly a full day of driving (9 hours on the pavement). But I enjoy seeing new areas and I had never been to Red Wing before. It's a beautiful area.

I'll add a picture or two if and when I can find some.

This week is our Orpheus Music Festival at Simpson, so I'll be teaching music lessons all day long to high school students.


Chippewa Valley Firecracker Race Report...

My wife and I got away this weekend for a mini-vacation (away from the teenagers and the dogs) as we drove to Eau Claire/Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin on Friday. Talk about good karma. I topped off the gas at Hy-Vee, my wife got a bottle of water and something to snack on and the cashier said "That'll be $17.76." I said ya gotta be kiddin'? 1776? What are the odds of things adding up to that amount on Independence Day weekend? ;-)

We took a quick tour of Chippewa Falls and settled into our motel in Eau Claire for the weekend. We hit up Grizzly's for dinner and then stopped at the mall for some July 4th shopping sales. Big discounts on stuff as the economy pretty much sucks enough to have stores attempting to clear inventory. I got 2 pair of Levi's at prices I haven't seen since the 80's in terms of jeans.

On Saturday, I dropped Tara off at the Old Abe Trail that runs from Lake Wissota State Park to Cornell, WI. She rode that while I went over to the XC race venue to do 2 laps on the race course to get it in my mind and body. A lot of great singletrack sections that were connected with long cross country ski trail sections. This course is well suited to big ring mashing on those sections and you can really hammer as there is not much climbing on the singletrack (at least compared to other race courses). I raced this course last year and this year's goal was to beat my time and position in the race and I knew I could not let up on the connector sections in the big ring.

After my pre-ride, I hooked up with Tara on the cellphone and picked her up at 2 pm. We stopped in at a place called Loopy's we had seen advertised and read about. It's a bar/restaurant/outdoor patio/outdoor volleyball/outdoor party place out in the country. We got there about 3 pm and a lot of people that had been on the river on innertubes were there eating and drinking. We sat outside and asked the waitress what they were known for as the best items on the menu. She said pizza and burgers. We went with the homemade pizza and some Leinenk├╝gels. The pizza was fabulous!!! Wow! And of course, fresh Leinies on tap.....mmmmmmmmmmm.

We headed back to the motel, napped, showered and then headed out for a drive. We grabbed a light dinner at a Norwegian restaurant (Lefse, salad, salmon, etc...). We caught some of the fireworks at Carson Park and then headed back to the motel for our slumber.

Sunday's Race:

705 racers toed the line in various categories on Sunday. That's down about 100 from last year, but you have to factor in the economy for that. I had pre-registered in the 45-49 year old CAT 2 group. My race began at 11:30 and conditions were perfect. I did my usual warm-up, checked the air pressure, filled my water bottle and got a good luck kiss from the wife.

Chatting with Marty from the MTBR.com 29"er forum before I lined up. He was doing the Singlespeed Open race that started later...


It was about 74 degrees at the start and my wave of racers had about 40 - 50 guys in it. There were about 240 racers in the CAT 2 division, and they start us off in waves based on age. The call ups were for the top 10 in each age category. So my wave had the top 10 in the 40-44 and the 45-49 group move up to the line and then the rest of us moved into position behind them. I quickly found myself near the back of the group at the line while we waited for the gun, but I was not worried about that because the opening section was doubletrack for a long time before we would hit singletrack. This was a perfect course for all those 1, 2, 3 and 4 minute intervals where you go cross-eyed.

Waiting around for my wave to get called up...


Tara took a shot of part of the 19 - 29 year old wave...


The WORS traditional "remove the helmet and listen to the Star Spangled Banner being sung" before each race...


It was our turn and at the gun, I clipped in and went with the pack. The first section was pavement and grass before we turned into the actual county park where the race trails were. Once we made the turn, I forced myself to go cross-eyed. I don't know the exact duration of the opening flat section, but I figure it would be about a 4-5 minute interval. With so many racers, the amount of dust made it difficult to see (and breathe). I was grinding it out, passing guys 2 and 3 at a time as I made my way up to get in at least the top 20 on this opening section. I went around one guy who yelled at me to call out when passing. If I had enough breath to speak, I may have, but what I really wanted to say was "Dude, we're on doubletrack and I went around you with 2 feet between our handlebars. There was no surprise or danger in that pass." But I was cross-eyed and no way could I speak. So I just flew on ahead and continued passing guys on the right and the left. I cut the inside corner coming off the doubletrack and entering the singletrack to pass my final two guys to settle in for the singletrack train. I had made it a long way through the pack in that opening "interval", but I could see I didn't make it far enough to catch the lead group as now the singletrack was so tight it was not possible to pass until the next open connector section.

There is a tricky little rock drop section that caused a major traffic jam last year. This year, in an effort to prevent such gridlock, WORS added some singletrack before it in hopes it would spread the field out enough to prevent gridlock. Unfortunately, no such luck. The same gridlock existed this year. I was fortunate enough to be up far enough in my wave that I only had to wait a few seconds before descending through the tricky rock section. I held the front wheel of the guy in front of me and at each connector section - I went cross-eyed and flew by as many as I could. It wasn't long before we caught up with slower riders from previous waves which spread out our group even more. If you didn't move by these slower riders in the connector sections, you were stuck for quite a while in the tight singletrack sections. I got stuck behind a group of riders like this 2 times during the race. It certainly allowed for recovery, but it cost me some time in both situations. How much time? I don't know, but we were going so slow in sections that my breathing and ability to talk told me I was racing in Zone 2 for those sections. That's not good enough for racing, but it is what it is. I was able to pass them all in the open sections, but I may have lost a total of 2 minutes overall. If it was one or two riders you can easily ask to move through, but these were large groups of 5, 7, 8 riders in both occasions where it would get messy for me to attempt passing. I'll have to figure out how to handle that the next time it occurs. I guess one is supposed to holler up that you are from an older age category and contending, and when you have a chance I'd love to get by - or something like that.

This is the first race (outside of a mountain bike TT) I have ever done (or at least I think so) where nobody passed me the entire race. There were guys on my wheel at times that I thought were going to pass me, but I was able to turn the screws enough each time to hold my position. On the 2nd lap, we had a bit of additional singletrack that included going over logs and winding through the forest. This had an area in the middle called "The Nucleus" where spectators could hike in and view the middle of the race. My wife was there and got a few photos of me passing through...

Working on closing another gap...


I had enough energy to say "Hi" as I rode by Tara...


Whoops, she didn't get the camera shot until I had passed...


Being such a short race (only 2 laps), I never let off the gas except those two singletrack sections where I got stuck behind a large group of riders. I stuck to my plan of going cross-eyed on every connector section and kept passing a lot of riders from various waves in these sections. There was plenty of time for recovery in the singletrack sections, so I was confident in my plan. I caught up with a group of 4 during the final singletrack section and again, could not get around them. They were riders from younger age group waves and although moving well, I wanted to go faster. Coming out of the singletrack for the final sprint in, I was able to big ring it by three of the four going to the line. I finished in 1:14:10 which beat my time from last year. I ended up in 6th place out of 20 for my age division (last year I was 9th out of 24), so again an improvement. I was 82nd Overall for all Sport Racers (236). Last year I was 110th out of 338. Small improvements, but that's about all one can expect once you reach your limitations and abilities. Regardless, I am happy with small improvements. Looking ahead to when I will race in the 50+ category (year after next), only 2 guys in that age group bested my time. ;-)

All in all, I was very happy with my performance, my form and my bike handling in this race. I've finally come into season form (for me) and it is fun to toe the line with a bunch of guys in my age category at the Wisconsin and Minnesota Series. I still have plenty of room for improvement, but I'm right in that comfort zone of mixing enjoyment with competitive drive without it taking too much of my time.

Today is back to summer chores and attending my son's high school double-header baseball game tonight up in Des Moines. I have another race this weekend to prepare for as well as attend a Masterclass tomorrow and see 2 operas this week. I might make it out to Lake Ahquabi for a few hours to do some trimming to get the trail in better shape for August 9th.