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...

8/10/09

IMBCS #7 is a Wrap!!!

Results and thanks are here.

Physically, I am exhausted from all the trail work, marking, hauling stuff out and back. I managed to climb on my Dos Niner and do the race knowing from last year that I would be low on energy. I started at the back of the pack knowing my condition. Regardless, I had fun visiting with other racer's out on the course and just seeing how the course was riding. I finally turned up the screws for the second half of lap 2 and for all of lap 3 after my daughter yelled at me at the first road crossing for going so slow. ;-]

In an attempt to keep from painting any chalk on the pavement, I didn't mark the 2nd road crossing where the course marshals were in a very clear manner. My wife and Gayla report back that several racers had trouble figuring out which way to go at that crossing. Otherwise, I think that the course was pretty clear on which way to go. The additional 3/4's of a mile meant longer lap times for all compared to last year (and more climbing).

We had 61 racers this year compared to 41 last year. So that was exactly the kind of growth I was happy to see and I deem the race a success having learned a lot from last year's event. I had targeted the snacks, drinks and registration forms for a maximum of 70 - so I was pretty close to being spot on with all of that. Last year we had way too much food and lots of leftovers that didn't get eaten.

I spent a couple of hours taking the course markings down last night and the DNR guys let me hop on their 4 wheeler as they took me through the backwoods to pick everything up as a storm with 60mph winds, lightening and heavy rain was rolling in quickly. I picked up everything but 2 corners before the lightening hit. I will head back out today to make sure I get those and clear any arrows off of the ground.

Tuckered out from the entire week, but tonight it is the I-Cubs with the family!!!

8/8/09

Trail is ready, bees are toast!

I am exhausted from doing all the trail work this week to get Lake Ahquabi ready. I didn't count on having to mow the trail, so that was an extra bonus of time!

I attacked the yellow jackets nest tonight and they are gone. I feel a little guilty - for whatever reason - as they did not put up a fight even though I was shining a flash light around trying to find the nest entrance in the dark. I poured my solution in the hole and quickly heard an alarming buzz from within the nest. I then dumped a bucket full of sand on top of the nest and held it in place for a few minutes before backing away and heading to the car. The DNR rangers were watching me and wishing me luck.

It looks like a nice warm day on tap for tomorrow and early buzz (appropriate word considering the bees) is that turnout looks to be better than last year. We shall see. The whole family is helping out tomorrow and we'll be out there by 8:30 to get the Lodge set up and do final signs and marking of the race venue.

Time to go over the registration details with my son and daughter as they will be running that end of the event....

8/7/09

"When the bee stings...."

On the last final corner of my mowing yesterday out at Lake Ahquabi, I ran over a ground nest for bees. The first sting had me thinking I had just tweaked a muscle in my left calf. The second sting was on my right ankle and I knew something was wrong. I got bit 8 times in less than 10 seconds before I was able to get out of there.

Now the stings itch like crazy and made for a fitful night of sleep - even with medicated cream on the sting marks. Oh well....

I got 1/2 the course marked yesterday and will finish most of the marking today. Saturday evening I will put the final touches and signs up after the beach crowd leaves the park so my flags, stakes, signs and tape don't get pulled up by the curious.

I will hopefully avoid the bee's nest today.

8/5/09

Trail Work at Lake Ahquabi...

Well, it continues every day this week. I didn't count on having to mow the trails this years as well as everything else to get the trails ready. But, due to the DNR budget cuts, it was me who did the mowing. The good news is that the ranger said I could use their equipment to mow. So the cuts have been in labor. I mowed most everything today and it took me 9 hours to do that. I have a few sections left to do tomorrow, but not much left at all. I will start marking the trail tomorrow for Sunday's race.

Tara will help me mark the trail and I am not going to mark it as extensively this year as I did last year. Fewer flags, stakes and arrows this time around. I still need to figure out the routing if I want to change some things up a bit from last year's course. I've figured out a way to eliminate one of the road crossings, but it would involve 2 way traffic on one section of trail (a divider with cones and tape in the middle and signs to denote 2 way traffic). I've seen that in Wisconsin and Minnesota mountain bike course, so I know it can work, but the question is do I want to do this or not for Sunday? I'll sleep on it... It would remove the need for one set of course marshals and since I am operating on a skeleton crew - it might be worth it. Either way, I mowed the course today with several options in mind.

Time to sleep off the body fatigue from all that mowing.

8/3/09

IMBCS #2 Race Report...

In terms of weather - what a great day for racing yesterday!!!!

The Boy Scouts have a camp called Camp Ingawanis just outside of Waverly, IA. The camp was the venue for yesterday's IMBCS #2 XC race. This was a rescheduled event that was rained out in May. Actually, I was glad about that because I was in France at the time and this way I was able to do the race. Well, there was no rain yesterday and the singletrack was in great shape as it was fast and fun.

I headed out early enough to get a practice lap in before the 10 a.m. CAT 3 race took off. I had the Salsa Dos Niner and the JET 9 in the Element because I didn't know how the course would be and wanted to have both options to choose between. I took the JET 9 out and did a practice lap and quickly decided it was the bike for the race as there were some bumpy sections of singletrack near the start/finish area and my old back needs the cushion when it can get it. The Ravens were fine in the practice lap so I was all set to go. Jeremy Bidwell, Captain Bob, Paul Meyermann and the entire crew set up an excellent race, were gracious hosts and always have plenty of hospitality. We even entered our names for a drawing to win a new Surly Karate Monkey frame and fork.

After riding 3 days on RAGBRAI and enjoying a week out in the Black Hills, I wasn't sure how my legs would be, but I did have a strategy now that I feel I've finished a good build phase leading into the 2nd half of the season. I wanted to line up near the front and go out as strong as I could to avoid some of the larger group traffic jams. The lap and race was short enough (much the same distance/time as the Minnesota and Wisconsin CAT 2 races) that I felt I could keep a sustained effort from the gun. So, that was my strategy.

We had our racers meeting at 10:45 and then went down the gravel road a bit to line up for the start. It was a pretty good turnout for an IMBCS event as 67 racers lined up for the various categories. We had 40 CAT 2's line up (37 men and 3 women). After the Experts rolled out at 11, we had 5 minutes to kill and I managed to line up in the 2nd row for the sprint to the singletrack. At the gun, I big ringed it up the hill and was able to enter the singletrack in the top 10. I liked the pace and pretty much hung on the front group of 6 or 7 for a good portion of the first lap. About 1/2 way through the lap, I started to settle into my preferred pace. I caught a couple of guys that were in front of me and passed them on the second 1/2 of lap one, and a couple guys from behind me caught up to me and passed me. So net, net - I was still pretty much where I had entered the singletrack.

Lap 2 felt really good and I got behind one of the expert women somewhere in the 2nd half of the lap. It wasn't really the best place to pass and she told me to let her know when I wanted to go around. Even though I knew there were 3 or 4 CAT 2 guys right on my wheel, I used her wheel to recover a bit before passing her right before the start of lap 3. One of the guys on my wheel went around me after we got going in lap 3 and the other 3 hung on close. I was in a pretty good groove for me and I still felt strong, but I did notice I didn't quite have the same juice as I did in lap 1 and 2. I didn't have the same drive up the rock section on lap 3 as I did in lap 1 and 2. Final lap times would confirm this as I was 40 seconds slower in lap 3 than I was in lap 2.

When we hit one of the doubletrack sections in lap 3, I pulled over to the right side of the doubletrack to let the 3 behind me go around me and I grabbed Brian Gibson's rear wheel for a bit, but I just couldn't hang like I wanted to with him. I'm not complaining, because for me - I was still flying and giving it my full effort. I felt my strategy in this race was working and my race was going well compared to some of my previous races this season where I get stuck at the back or in the middle of the pack and spend the entire race trying to work my way up. I had to settle back into my own pace for the last 1/2 of lap 3, but I saw a target up ahead and closed the gap on one of the expert racers. I just hung onto his wheel for the rest of the lap and crossed the line for CAT 2 Open Men in 11th place out of 27.

I was very happy with my race and felt like I kicked myself up a notch from previous races this season with my recent build phase, strategy off the line and effort. It was only the latter half of lap 3 that I felt I wasn't able to sustain the same effort I had in the first 2 1/2 laps. Hopefully, I can target my training to eek out a bit more than 60 minutes of that kind of race pace effort in subsequent races. I know I had it going in a few races last year, but this was the first race this season that I felt like everything was coming together.

Well, I didn't win the Karate Monkey as Keith Snoop snagged that nice raffle prize. Heck, he snagged a podium spot and his two kids were on the podium for the kids' race as well. Pretty good day for the Snoop family I must say. I hopped in the Element and headed on home. After stopping for a Diet Coke, some gas and trail mix, I got home in about 2 hours and change going the back roads. My wife and I had dinner over at our friends, the Tighes. It was delicious! Flank steak, grilled onions, corn on the cob, home made buns, buffalo mozzarella, tomatoes (from our garden), strawberry shortcake, wine, beer, friendly discourse, etc... .

Today is all about trimming, grooming and working out at Lake Ahquabi State Park to get the course ready for Sunday's IMBCS #7. I put in 4 hours this morning, now I'm home for an extended lunch before heading back out with my shovel, clippers, weed eater, gloves and bug spray. I fixed a lot of rain damage by filling in enough of the ruts on the steep climb of the south side to run the race in the clockwise direction like last year. I think, if need be, I can borrow CITA's bush whacker since the DNR has a restricted budget this year for mowing. Most things look good an what I can't get with my weed whacker today I will hit with the mower later this week.

Enough for now. I'm heading back out for trail work. It stormed early this morning, but Ahquabi can take a lot of rain. And it is supposed to storm a lot this week. My plan is for the race to go on regardless of rain all week or not. There is only one small muddy section out there today from last night's storm.

8/1/09

Back from the Black Hills....

We had a nice trip out to the Black Hills this week. My son was on a mission trip to Pine Ridge Reservation for the week, so Tara, Alexa and I used the week to head out for a visit. I had set the digital camera on the bench beside the garage door to remind me to pack it. About 50 miles after leaving home while doing my mental checklist, I realized that I forgot to pack the camera. RATS!!! My daughter got some pictures on her phone, so maybe I can download some shots to update this post at some point this weekend.

I managed to ride Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday which included a lot of terrain and surfaces ranging from pavement to IMBA built trails to limestone chip rail trails.

In reverse order, the rides were...

Thursday was a deceptive ride as I rode with my wife and daughter from Hill City up to Crazy Horse Monument (where we had lunch) and back to Hill City. I say deceptive because I thought it would be an easy recovery ride and found that it was 90 minutes of climbing on soft limestone chip gravel which - at the speed we were riding - took me out of the heart rate zone(s) I was hoping to ride at that altitude. But it was worth it and the ride back down the climb to Hill City was fast and fun.

Wednesday started off as a very cold day and breakfast at Mt. Rushmore with my Dad. The clouds cleared up by late afternoon, so I set off for an intensity session which had about a 20 - 25 minute paved bike trail warm-up from my Dad's house to the base of "M" Hill in Rapid City. I wanted to hit up all of the new IMBA built trails on M Hill and get some climbing intensity work done. I loved the switchback climb up the mountain on the east side of the hill. The corners were a little bit kitty litter which I took note of for my descents with the new Maxxis Aspen prototypes I was riding. The signage is not on the mountain yet, but I just followed all of the new trails that I could find for about 90 minutes and met some other riders who pointed me in various directions on the mountain. I rode some of the older narrow singletrack trails that I know as well. What struck me was how wide the IMBA built trails are compared to the singletrack I am used to riding. I know IMBA builds things "correctly" for sustainability, drainage, safety, environment, etc... - but man, they were wide. Oh well, it certainly meant an increase in speed both going up and going down. In short, "M" Hill is not to be missed if you are heading out to the Black Hills. I wanted to do more time, but headed back to my Dad's house to save a little bit in the legs for Thursday.

Tuesday was a family ride on Rapid's paved bike trail. We hit up the Farmer's Market for some coffee and split a scone between the 3 of us before continuing on down the trail. I think we rode a total of 95 minutes round trip at a pretty good recovery pace clip. I was still recovering from Sunday's race as well as being in the car all day on Monday. After the ride, we got showered and headed up in the Hills for lunch with my sister and nephew.

The rest of our time was spent visiting with family, walking the dogs, cooking and napping. Temperatures were in the high 40's to the high 70's - so the weather was very nice. The Sturgis Harley Motorcycle Rally was gearing up in full swing and HOGS were everywhere in the Hills as well as the ride to Rapid City from Iowa and the ride home. This is the 69th year of the rally - so you can imagine the t-shirts and slogans that were dedicated to play up the event. '-]

Now that we are home, we have tons of tomatoes to pick and can this weekend. I'll sneak off tomorrow for the rescheduled IMBCS #2 XC race at Camp Ingawanis outside of Waverly. Weather looks to be nice today and tomorrow, so the pleasant summer continues for racing.