6/28/10

Bluff Riders Charge Race Report...

I ventured out at 6 a.m. in a Sunday morning storm with torrential rain, thunder and lightening to drive up to Mankato for the Bluff Riders Charge XC race. The race was "on" according to their website even though they had received 4" of rain in the past 24 - 48 hours. After about 2 hours of driving north, it finally stopped raining. This was the same system that had just hit Mankato overnight, so I figured the trails were going to be pretty messy. I drove through some of the back roads of Minnesota right through areas that had been hit hard by tornado activity. Lots of destroyed farms, houses, trees sheered off and snapped like twigs, 18 wheelers flipped over and just a big mess. I felt pretty somber seeing all of it. The sun was shining and temperatures were warm and muggy, but not too overbearing.

I took the Niner RIP 9 along with some aggressive UST tires I am currently testing for a company figuring that would be the best set up to handle the mud out of my 3 bikes. These UST tires are very, very nice. No sealant needed and they aired up so easy with a floor pump that I was amazed. I put an aggressive tread up front for turning in the mud and a good climber, well known tread for XC racing that can handle wet roots in the rear. Perfect combination.

The turnout at this race was as to be expected with the weather. The Minnesota series has had a tough start this year in terms of weather with all of the rain and muddy courses and this past weekend was the same. Last year, there were 130 CAT 2 racers at the Bluff Riders Charge. This year the weather kept the numbers down to just 94 in CAT 2. Hopefully some sun will shine for the next few events to get everyone out and racing again. Regardless, they still had 250+ racers show up and race for all the combined categories. That's a pretty darn good turnout for the conditions.

Bluff Riders start/finish area

I arrived with an hour to spare to register, get suited up, warm-up and see the mud on the finishing CAT 3 racers. They were muddy, but not the kind of mud we all fear that prevents your wheels from turning around. This was what I call "diarrhea mud": loose, wet, runny and gets everywhere. I also had the JET in the car, but I didn't want to subject it to this slop and the Aspens may not have been the best tires for the conditions (turns out they would have worked fine). After some serious hill climbing in the Black Hills last week, I was ready for the ski hill climbs at Mt. Kato. I'm coming into my first peak period for the season and things feel really good leg and lung wise.

I was in the third wave of starters and there were only 16 guys in my wave (that's the smallest number in my age wave of any Minnesota or Wisconsin race I've been to the past 2 years). We took off at the start with an opening climb up the ski slope and I was determined not to give it all away and blow up on this opening grunt climb. I kept it in the middle ring and just rotated the cranks at a controlled rate that kept me out of the danger zone as I had no idea how shortened the route was due to the conditions or what to expect mud wise. We hit the mud and slop at the top where it reminded me of a pig pen.

Mt. Kato

It just splattered all over your legs, bike, water bottle, etc..., but it was easy to ride through - and fun!!! Lap one was uneventful in terms of crashes or falling as we made our way gingerly through the course. The guy that was on my wheel for the entire lap passed me on one of the final climbs and I tailed him to stick with him thinking he was in my age category.

Coming through the start/finish area to start lap 2 I got words of encouragement from Cam and Julie as they were there to race later in the CAT 1 race. I kept my nose on the wheel of the guy who had passed me and stuck with him for all of lap 2. When he passed somebody, I passed a few seconds later. My legs and lungs were responding quite well to my mental desire to go faster. I think I could have pushed myself in lap 1 a lot more as I am in good shape now. There were very few wet roots that came into play out on the course, but my rear tire slid out on the same wet root on a twisty turn on all three laps. Each time, I managed to stay upright. However, those wet roots can be a real "gotcha" moment if you're not careful. It's like hitting an ice patch when snow skiing. You never know what's going to happen until your edge digs back in to the surface.

Lap 3 started just like lap 2, with me on the tail of my "mark" that I was going to pass back before the end of the race. I saw him start to wear down in the latter portion of the final lap and my legs were feeling great. So I started to bump it up and put some pressure on him from behind. I planned to pass him on the same climb he passed me in lap 1 and when we got there, I stood to stomp on the pedals and he pulled over with chain issues (told me his chain fell off after the race). So there I was all revved to put a move on with a race to the line for the last sections of singletrack and I was all alone. Oh well, I stomped on the pedals and gave it all I had left in the tank for the final 5 minutes. I rolled in across the line in 4th place and felt satisfied to have finished this mudfest unscathed.

Here was the line for the garden hoses to wash the mud off the bikes:

Mud washing line

My bike was muddy, but I wasn't going to stand in that line for an hour:

Muddy RIP

They staged a couple of little kids races that consisted of a circle around the start/finish area. Here's the start or end of one:

Kid's race

I wiped off what mud I could from my legs, face and arms before I changed into some shorts and a t-shirt for the drive home to Indianola. Kudos to the host and trail crew who got the event up and running in the wet conditions. It was well worth the drive and I spent the morning today cleaning up the RIP, lubing it and getting it back in pristine condition.

A full day of house and garden work today with more of that tomorrow before heading out to the Black Hills on Wednesday.

Rainless week? Maybe. Let's hope so...

The forecast is for a week of cooler temperatures with dry air and sunshine here in central Iowa after yesterday morning's storm. It's about time we had some dry days after 4.47" of rain fell in May and 13.98" of rain fell in June here in Indianola (nearly 20" in 2 months).

Creeks are flooding. Fungus is growing in gardens. It's been a tropical jungle. Last night was the first evening in quite a few weeks that I could open up the windows to let the cool air in and enjoy the comfort. I haven't ridden singletrack here in Iowa in weeks due to the mud.

More singletrack in the Black Hills this week as I head out early Wednesday morning for round two of helping Dad move out of his house.

6/15/10

Happy 15th Birthday Alexa!!!

No racing this past weekend as it was my daughter's 15th birthday and we hosted 10 overnight teenage girls on Saturday night. I fired up the Big Green Egg for cheeseburgers and hot dogs (and s'mores later on in the evening).

We managed to squeeze 8 of the girls at our new kitchen "Sitzecke" table:

How many teenage girls can we fit at the kitchen table?

Alexa was all smiles and having fun:

Smiles all around

The other 2 girls sat outside and had some fun with the whipped cream:

Yummy

Burgers and whipped cream

Later on, it was time for Tara's made from scratch Red Velvet Cake (Alexa's favorite kind of cake). Tara went with one of Paula Dean's recipes this time around and I've got to say - it was FABULOUS!!! The frosting was amazing with pecans in it.

On fire:

15 candles

The chef forces a totally natural smile:

Paula Dean recipe

Tara cut the portions:

Tara (Paula Dean) cuts her scracth red velvet cake

Max wants his portion and is waiting patiently (but he came up empty again):

Max wants some cake too!

Alexa tortures Max by making him wear a party hat (doesn't Max look happy - no cake and a silly hat):

Max in Birthday Hat

Fun was had by all. Things settled down noise wise a bit after 2 a.m. - or I just slept through it all at that point in the evening.... ;-}

Eggs and bacon for breakfast on Sunday and then they all went home. We had our family gift exchange after that (a new chair for Alexa and a new cell phone she has been begging to get for months).

Alexa's last day of driver's education is this Friday, so she will be able to take the test next week and get her school permit so she can drive to and from school. Big thumbs up for that since she has Bigger, Faster, Stronger summer PE from 6 - 8 a.m. every day and a cross country run every Saturday morning at 7:30 a.m. .

They grow up quickly, but it is really fun to watch.

Tara and I are off to Rapid City this weekend to sing a scholarship fund raiser concert on Saturday night. She'll rush right home to get back to work and I'll stay a couple of days. Tara and Alexa leave for California next week, so this begins the crazy portion of all of our various summer planned trips (Illinois, Wisconsin, California, Canada, RAGBRAI, etc...). Not to mention the crazy painting schedule (painters coming to do the kitchen and hallways) and I need to organize the exterior painting. If it would just stop raining!!!

6/7/10

IMBCS #5 Race Report - It's Never About the BIKE!!!!

Or is it?

I was pleasantly surprised last year when I drove up to Ida Grove for the Moorehead Mayhem Mountain Bike Race. So much so that I was really looking forward to it this year. The course can sustain a lot of rain and still race fine and dandy and this year proved to be in perfect condition after the showers that cruised through Iowa on Friday and Saturday.

I share Kyle Sedore's feelings about this race: it's too bad more XC racers in Iowa did not make the drive. They missed out - pure and simple. The field was smaller with 6 experts or so, a smattering of SS's and it looked like maybe 12 - 18 CAT II's.

Jesse Bergman hosts a nice race. The singletrack and sections of double track are fast, fun and filled with some nice climbing to satisfy everyone's desires. It's a work out, that's for sure, but a really fun course worthy of the 2 hour or 2 1/4 hour drive from Des Moines.

I took the new Niner JET 9 along for the race. The bike was dialed in and I had decided not to go bonkers at the start gun to bury myself too soon. That plan seemed to fit others at the start in CAT II as the jump out of the starting blocks was not as super quick as other races I've done this year. For that, I was thankful. I went into the singletrack in 6th position. I was hanging with the lead group, recovering from the start and feeling really great. The bike was responding well and I felt like things were working out perfectly in lap 1. Then, we came out on a small paved section where we were instructed to stay to the right of the orange cones. I didn't pre-ride the loop, so I wasn't ready for the uphill entrance back into the singletrack and did a mis-shift under load from the big ring to the small ring and threw the chain all the way off to the inside where it got stuck. This, of course, forced me off the bike. I apologized to the 3 behind me for pretty much blocking the trail and scampered to get out of their way. I thought I had the chain fixed back on the inner ring, hopped on, pedaled and nothing but "air". I had to apologize to the next 2 riders as I muttered something about me having chain issues and got out of the way.

I flipped my bike upside down on the side of the trail as 2 more riders went by and I quickly saw that the chain was stuck between the bottom bracket shell and the swingarm of my JET. I yanked. I pulled. I said words that rhyme with the latter portion of chainsuck. I got grease on my hands, gloves, and my face. More words flew out of my mouth in frustration. Finally - I yanked metal against metal and got the chain free. More riders passed. I got the chain on the inner ring, flipped the bike over, hopped on and saw that about 6 of those that had just passed me were strung out on the gravel climb and I gave chase. My mind told myself not to blow up by trying to get back in position immediately. I calmly told myself that I had 1/2 of lap one remaining plus 2 more laps after that to work my way back into position. Of course, that was my mind.

My heart and body said to heck with that and screamed at me to "GO!", so I went. I immediately pedaled myself up to full sprint speed and passed 4 of the riders only to find I had dug deep in the red zone. Score one for the mind. Shame on the heart and body. One of those I had just passed, passed me right back on the steeper part of the next climb as I backed off and tried to let my mind take over my spirited enthusiasm and find a cadence that was within my abilities to maintain.

I did whatever I could through the rest of lap 1 trying to make up for lost time, but not bury myself any more than I had just done in trying to catch up after the chain mishap. The course was fun. Really fun. Some great climbs and fast and furious descents to put a smile on one riding a full suspension race bike. Lap two had the the leader of the women's CAT II rider on my tail on her Dos Niner and I muddled through the steep climb sections as I heard her shifting mirror mine on every section of the trail. I was able to pull away from her on the descents and technical sections, and she would catch back up to me on the climbs as my right knee was acting a bit timid from the last week or two of riding. I was afraid to really hammer it on the climbs. She followed me through the entire lap and I pulled over at the drop area by my car to get a new water bottle for lap three when she went around me.

Lap three was starting to feel good in the legs as I felt a nice groove developing in my power and rhythm. Then the rear of my bike started to feel loose and not right in the corners. I immediately thought my new JET had a broken rear just like the one that got recalled last year. I finally stopped in the same exact spot as where I had the chain trouble in lap 1 to see what was wrong.. I felt the rear tire and it was going flat and I heard a hissing sound. At least it wasn't a broken frame! I pulled out the CO2 cartridge attached to my seatpost and aired up the rear tire. I got the hissing sound down by the ground and shook the bike around in hopes that the Stan's sealant would seal the leak. I guess it worked, because the rear tire was fine from there on out and is still holding air today. Not sure if I hit a thorn, was leaking by the valve or what happened.

Regardless, I finished the race which is always the battle plan. That's 6 in row for me that I've finished this season after last year's disappointing start with two consecutive DNF's. And how fitting is 6th Place for my 6th race of the season on the 6th of June (the 6th month of the year)? ;-] This had the two mechanical issues that cost me time, energy, frustration and what not, but I finished. Everything was going so well in lap 1 with my position, energy, pacing and then the shifting mishap sent me out of my strategy. It's usually not about the bike, but yesterday's race certainly brought the bike into the equation. In spite of that, I was happy to have survived the chain and flat issue and still race the entire distance. That's a good lesson for me to keep at it and make do with what unfolds - no matter how frustrating it might be.

I headed home after a heaping helping of sloppy joe. I hit backed up traffic on I-35 just south of Mills Civic. There had been an accident involving an 18 wheeler, motorcycles and a car. It took about 45 minutes to drive through that section as only one lane was open and they were still investigating the accident (1 cyclist died, the other was taken to the hospital). I got home and was watching a movie when we got news about an hour later that a kid I had coached in Little League a few years ago, and had just graduated last month from Indianola High School (went to school with my kids) had just committed suicide in his home. Obviously, the entire community is very upset because everyone knew him and his family.

So, that all makes any woes I had with my bike totally insignificant. It's never about the bike....

6/1/10

Tornado season is here!!!!

We are under a tornado threat this evening and the stuff is just moving into our area. Could be a fun night...

I woke up last Thursday with pain in my right knee. Rats, I thought, as I've already had torn meniscus in both knees removed via surgery and I sure didn't want to have another tear that needed some work. That and being exhausted put the kabosh on my trip out to the Black Hills. A 10 hour drive, me being exhausted and a 5 day pass from the wife for some bike riding and shirking my duties around the house just didn't add up. So I didn't go.

However, the knee didn't swell and felt different than a meniscus injury. "Ding, ding, ding!" my thoughts went off in my head about hopping back on the Rotor Q Rings after not having ridding them since last August. I built the JET up and was riding it hard this week in training and realized the rings need time for my legs to adjust.

The Q Rings on the race bike...

Post WORS dirt

It's a bit of a different feel (muscle feel that is) to the pedal rotation than regular rings and Rotor advises easing into using them and building up over a period of weeks. Of course, with the arrival of my new JET, I just jumped on the bike and went at it. So I am nursing a sore right knee that was less stiff on Friday, and felt pretty good on Saturday morning. Enough so, that I did get a "pass" to do the 6 hour drive over to Wisconsin for the WORS Trek Big Ring Classic race.

I did the drive over and had a few shooting pains at night in the right knee, but the knee felt great and worked fine on Sunday for the race. Weather was great and the turn out was huge as usual for a WORS event. Hundreds and hundreds of racers. Food tents, demo tents, bikes galore, lycra galore, etc... . WORS has call ups for the series leaders. Then, they pretty much penalized all of us that had not registered for the race online by calling up all of those riders who had registered online next. Finally, the non-online registered racers were asked to come to the line. And guess what? I pulled up to the line to nestle in behind the pack and turned around to see how many were behind me. Zero. I was dead at the back of the pack in my start wave. Great place to start, right? Oh well...

The gun was off and I did some immediate grunt work to work my way up through the field of 60 that started in my division (40-49 year olds). The JET jumped when I put the hammer down and I was quickly in the front half of the group and buzzing right along. We were on XC ski trails that rolled up and down and around corners and went on for days and days before we actually hit singletrack. On the steepest climb of the race, it felt like all those that I had worked so hard to pass were passing me on the climb as I had not recovered from the start and wasn't expecting such a steep climb when my HR was pegged from passing so many. Oh well, I settled into a pace I could maintain for the climb. I crested the climb and pushed on to try and stay in the race as best I could.

Finally, after a mammoth section of XC ski trail, we hit the singletrack. It was very, very rocky. Like operating a jackhammer. Brutal rocks and the line of riders in the singletrack going through this technical section stretched on for at least 30 riders. We were hardly moving and I realized I was stuck. No way to pass. No where to go. My bike was fine in this chunk, but too many riders were having trouble with it, so we crawled through it. The guy behind me was screaming for everybody to hurry up and get moving. He asked me if he could get around me at the first opportunity. Seeing there was no place to go and since I wasn't holding him up, I said "it's all yours, have at it". He tried twice and was unable to get around me due to the technical nature of the trail and I wasn't about to stop as I was 2 inches from the guy's wheel in front of me, and he was two inches from the guy in front of him and on and on it went through an entire string of 30 or so riders.

When we finished that first section of chunky singletrack and headed out on a XC ski trail connector, the guy behind me flew by me with pent up frustration. About 2 minutes later on the 2nd steep climb, I passed him and never saw him again. Too funny. This race, due to it being dry and so many racers out on the course was really, really dusty. It was hard to even see at times. They start the divisions in waves at the start with about a minute or two between each wave. My group was the second wave to start and we finally caught up with the slower riders in the 30-39 year old age bracket that had started before us which created more bottlenecks in the rocky singletrack. I needed to do more work in the connector sections, but it took me most of lap 1 to figure that out and then I put the hammer down and did a lot of sprinting and mashing to move up the chain. I did this all through lap 2 and gave it everything I had at all opportunities to hold my position and move up on riders.

End result, I crossed the line in 1:22 and change good enough for 12th place in my age category group (93rd out of 251 overall in Sport Male). Pretty consistent with my outcome in prior WORS races. Three other guys I watch very closely and flip-flop places with in my age category at WORS events were all in the hunt and the 4 of us all finished within a minute of each other. So I felt my conditioning is coming into good form based on their times and how we all finished. No way I was in this good of form at the end of May one year ago. I grabbed my free watermelon, bottle of water and headed back to the car to load up, change and head home. It was a pretty drive (except for that 65 mph speed limit in Wisconsin!!!) and I was home by 7:45 p.m. for dinner.

I mowed the lawn yesterday and the knee was twinging, so I took the day off the bike. We went over to a Memorial Day Dinner Party with 4 other couples and had brisket, grilled veggies, wonderful salad, home-made ice cream, rhubarb desert and plenty of conversation. We got home about 10 p.m. and went to bed.

I decided to ride this morning after breakfast and did a 2 hour easy Zone 1/2 ride to get blood flowing to the knee using a bike with regular rings. So far so good. The knee feels good tonight and there is no swelling. That's good! I think I just pushed it too soon and need a few weeks for my legs/knees to adapt to the Q Rings again. I think the same sort of thing happened last year when I first started riding them, but it warrants vigilance and a careful approach to adapting to them again.

The kids are out of school this week (as is Tara) - so summer is officially here for us. We bought a bunch of new furniture that arrives next week. The leather sectional couch in the living room was over 20 years old and ready to put out to pasture. We also got a new kitchen table/chairs/benches that are really comfortable and neat. It's a modern twist on the German/Austrian Sitzecke. Now, the next summer item is a house painting that involves most of the interior on the top floor and all of the exterior. I need to organize that and get it going as well as lots of things that need to be done on the "to do list".

The storm is just rolling in with huge thunder and lots of lightening. Reports of softball sized hail where the storm just came from. I think we could do without that!!!