12/30/11

22 Years and Counting...

Happy Anniversary to my lovely wife whom I married 22 years ago today in Lafayette, California!!! We are celebrating by doing a joint "2 chefs in the kitchen" big meal tonight with a wonderful piece of prime we ordered from the butcher last week. The plan is to do a horseradish crust on it. Yummy!

Here we are on the 9th day of Winter 2011-2012, and Ma Nature has yet to show us the season has actually arrived. It was 61 yesterday and should hit 47-49 today before marching back up into the upper 50's again tomorrow for New Year's Eve.

What to do in this confusing weather in terms of riding the bike? Ride, I guess.

Well, even though this is still my low point month training and fitness wise, I simply can't resist getting outside - especially since it is the holiday break at work. Neither can my wife - who is also on holiday break. I rode 2 1/2 hours on the bike Wednesday and another 3 hours yesterday in the balmy temps. I didn't even need a jacket, just a long sleeve jersey and long bibs. I was able to do 2 full laps at Banner Pits yesterday and it was dry, except for a few tacky spots. It rained overnight, so the trails will be too wet to ride today. However, 25 mph winds and sunshine will dry it up this afternoon so that late today - or for sure - tomorrow should be great dirt riding again. Looks like I'm going to end up with about 9 hours riding outdoors on the bike week this week. Incredible for the last week of December!!!

Speaking of riding, it's time to take the dogs out for their morning walk/ride around the neighborhood.

12/27/11

Where the hell is winter?

This warm weather at the beginning of winter is tempting me to do too many hours on the bike. Highs in the 40's every day and dry. Not frozen enough to keep the dirt worth riding, so skinny tire road riding to build base is about all that is available - or some fun Iowa gravel riding. Certainly iPod riding at its best.

We had a great trip out to the Black Hills for Christmas. My Dad's 85th birthday, my nephew's wedding and Christmas all were back to back celebrations while there.

Zack and I sang a duet in church on Christmas Eve as a "surprise" gift to my Dad and Tara. We had Christmas Eve dinner at my Dad's apartment, Christmas dinner at my Dad's retirement home dining hall and pizza that night in his apartment (managed to squeeze in the matinee showing of Mission Impossible as well). We skied at Terry Peak on the 23rd and 24th, and I got to hit M Hill on my Dos Niner to tackle the climbs with snow and mud. Nothing like a 30-45 minute climb right out of the parking lot with no warm-up to remind yourself what riding at a higher altitude is like. Temperatures were in the 50's in Rapid City, but windchill was about 8-10 degrees on the ski slopes which made for chilly conditions.

The long trip out and back was mitigated by traveling at European Autobahn speeds and listening to XM Satellite Radio's Metropolitan Opera channel. Based on the trip out and back, we now are calling the trip a "3 opera travel time" trip. Yup. It takes 3 operas to drive from Des Moines to Rapid City and vice versa. La Gioconda, Eugene Onegin, and Hänsel und Gretel were yesterday's delights (with the Hänsel und Gretel being a live broadcast from the Monday night Met's performance). I won't mention my speed, but I trimmed about an hour off the usual speed on the way home.

Tonight we celebrate the final night of Hanukkah with friends coming over for a party and Latkes. Tara made the chicken liver last night and we are heading to the store to get everything else in a few minutes.

According to the forecast, I may have to wait until 2012 to see winter. But that's okay, I can pedal off some of the holiday cheer I have put around my mid section as of late...

12/21/11

Last Fall Ride - - then it's ski time!!!

First things first: Happy Birthday Dad!

By my count, you are 85 years old today. How does that break down into other measurements of time?

1020 months old
4435 weeks old
31046 days old
745104 hours old
44706253 minutes old
2682375194 seconds old

Regardless of how you want to count it - Happy 85th!!!

Winter officially starts at Midnight tonight, so today is my last chance for a final fall bike ride outside. Jumping on the road bike for a 2+ hour ride should help pedal off the wonderful pumpkin cheesecake my wife made last night for the first night of Hanukkah. The forecast is for 40 degrees, so plenty warm for an outdoor ride.

Zack and I will load up the car today and leave early tomorrow for the Black Hills. Tara and Alexa come the following day after final exams are completed. I'm bringing the skis so we can hit Terry Peak for the first skiing of this season (come on legs, don't fail me....).

I had the Mercury Villager van's power steering pump and hose replaced yesterday. I may have to take it back this morning for them to check it as it still made some noise on a very sharp turn in a parking lot. Maybe that's normal, but at least the constant squealing and noise is gone. Please tell me the $617 for the repair was not an "all for naught" routine!!! Alexa would like nothing more than this van to simply go away, but it still runs and is in good shape - so she's stuck with it. It has been a heck of a money pit since summer when I had some motor work done, new tires, new plugs and now the power steering repair. Heck if she isn't going to drive it for another year after I sank all of that cash into it to keep it safe and running!!!

Enjoy the last day of fall today and the shortest day of the year tomorrow!

12/20/11

How to tick off a bunch of Iowans....

University of Iowa Professor Stephen Bloom's piece that appeared in the Atlantic has managed to ignite quite a stir within in academia and beyond over the past 10 days.

Kaustuv Basu blogged a response today highlighting the fire that Bloom has ignited in Iowa.

Even a "Combat" blog post by Dan Brooks popped up entitled 12 idiotic statements about Iowa by Stephen G. Bloom.

I pretty much fend off my wife's rants and raves about Iowa on a weekly basis (she, like Bloom, is from San Francisco and has lived in L.A., New York City, Houston and Vienna before moving to Iowa). So I am well versed in some of the city slicker thoughts which meant my first reading of the Bloom piece hit home from what I hear and defend on a regular basis. Yet Bloom went a bit deeper on the slander and surprised me for someone that has lived here for 20 years, yet seemed to be unable to use his educated deducing skills to move beyond what seemed like an obvious "lashing out" or general "can I get this off my chest" rant.

Regardless, Facebook is all abuzz with Bloom's comments and boy, wouldn't you like to be a fly on the wall in his classroom and office when he returns to Iowa City?

12/18/11

I didn't get shot and it felt great...!

Who would have thought that December 18th in Iowa would be 47 degree, sunny and a perfect day for a 30 mile bike ride? Today was the last day of shotgun deer hunting season, and I needed to pedal out some of the caloric sins from the previous night. We were at Joel and Deb Hade's annual Christmas party on Saturday night from 7 to midnight. Much food, drink, music and fun was had by all. There must have been 60+ people there, plus the high school choir sang. We did carols and I sang Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire for everyone. I think we've attended this party 8 years in a row and always look forward to it.

So. The need to work off the meatballs, cheese, sweets, wine, and whatever else I consumed - a bike ride was in order. I donned an orange safety vest over my team's bike kit to hit the pavement on the road bike. I figured that would keep the shotguns pointed away from me and I wouldn't be mistaken for a deer.

The pants I wear are all starting to feel a bit tight, so I took advantage of the weather to get out for some miles and burn some calories. 11:35 start time and the legs felt good. Speed was way up thanks to riding the skinny tires on the pavement. When I turned north on the Summerset Trail, the wind was at my back and I was flying. I only saw about 3 hunters near the bike trail and figured I was safe with the orange vest. Wind was howling and I was flying - I mean flying!!! - with very little pedal effort (zone 2). I rolled into Carlisle between 40-45 minutes later, stopped to drink some water and snarf a GU. The roadbike on pavement certain was less humbling than the previous day's ride on singletrack with the freeze/thaw conditions and my weak legs. Today, I felt super fast.

Sunshine, exercise endorphins, 47 degrees in December - what was not to love?!! I turned around and headed back south dead into the teeth of the wind. I dropped the chainring down to the middle ring (whatever that is on a road bike) and kept telling myself not to be a hero. Just pedal at a pace and effort that would allow me to survive the wind and keep it as a base ride. The winds on the prairie can be unforgiving, but I got down in the drops and moved forward at survival pace. Once I got near Summerset, I was in the cover of trees and hills again, so the wind was not so fierce to buck.

I rolled in to the driveway after the 30 mile trip ready for lunch. A can of one of those lean soups and a bagel with a few cookies for recovery while I watched KC beat up on the Packers. Then I showered, put the suit on and went to the Indianola Concert Association's Christmas Concert (featuring a student of mine from Cape Town, South Africa). The concert was 2 hours, 23 minutes long with all of the acts they had lined up to perform holiday music. Big surprise at intermission is I ran into Barb and Ray Tininenko in the lobby. I didn't realize they had retired to Iowa and they said they had been coming to the concerts in Indianola for years. Barb used to play piano/organ at my Dad's church in Williston, ND and I went to school with their kids Brent (in my class) and Roxanne. Barb accompanied me oodles of times at that church way back in the 70's, so I was shocked to see them. Then I remember she was originally from Iowa and had attended Drake. It was nice to catch up with them and say hello during intermission.

After the concert, we picked up some food from the grocery store to make dinner (salmon and orzo).

All in all, a great Sunday in December. Perfect weather. Perfect bike ride. Perfect concert. Perfect dinner. Now the finals for the Iron Chef cook off are on the Food Network. That's a nice way to start the Christmas Holiday break from Simpson.

12/17/11

December is the low point of the year, training wise...

Traditionally, based on the XC racing I do from May to September (with an odd race here or there in April and October), things time out that my low point bike fitness wise is December. I think I timed everything just right this year in terms of the fall fun riding I did, tapering off the time on the bike from many hours to as little as 2 hours a week, taking some much needed time off the bike, and lifting weights for a month to arrive at my desired "low point" in mid-December (bike fitness wise).

If I needed any convincing I had reached that point, it was affirmed this morning when I drove out to Banner Pits to get a lap or more in before the ground totally thawed out. Maybe it was the not so solidly frozen ground. Maybe it was the reality of pushing the big meats (Ardent 2.4's front and rear). Maybe it was the volume of low base I put in this week to start things off (5 hours of base). Maybe it was a combination of all of that, but I felt like a weak little turtle out there. A gear I hardly use when XC racing (27 x 34) on anything but the longest, steepest climbs - I was using on every climb and wondering where my power was. I could hardly turn over the cranks and had to get out of the saddle to survive the short steep climbs. Of course, I've packed on some fall/winter pounds - so that never helps. In any event, one full lap was enough to cook my goose and have me pack it in while laughing at the measly 45 minutes it took me to do the full loop in the frozen, crispy trails with a few sluggish mud spots. Remind me to ride pavement this time of year, it's not as humbling. ;-]

It's still a little too early to ramp up the base training so everything times out for peak number one in 2012. I only ramped up a bit of base this week so I could pedal the bike next week out in the Black Hills without passing out. I got about 6 hours on the bike this week which is about 3 hours too much for this point, but I want to be able to climb some of those Black Hills. If I continue with those hours and add to it from here - I'll peak way too early and have a mid-season burnout. After the week in the Black Hills, I'll back things off again for a few weeks, lift some more weights before slowly ramping up the base training period to have everything time out correctly for the 2012 season.

December low point reached. This may sound incongruent, but that means success!

12/12/11

Weekend of Productivity...

'Tis the Holiday Season which had a potential 7 nights in a row for me to be somewhere participating in some event. I have had to pick and chose, so I began the run on Thursday night with a holiday concert, Friday night was Tara's office Christmas party, Saturday night was a holiday dinner party at Deb and Joel's, Sunday at 5 was the Lessons and Carols at Simpson followed by three hours of student recital auditions. 4 nights down, 3 more consecutive evenings out to go. Then I have a day of rest before round 2 of holiday events starts. Actually, I just realized I don't have a night off. Alexa's holiday choir concert is Thursday night. Okay - forget the night of rest and up the consecutive night's out to 11!!!

In spite of that, I managed to get some good base mileage in on my mountain bike this weekend. I got about 2 hours on Saturday and 2 1/2 on Sunday. Saturday I decided to brave the weather by riding my bike outside, but decided it was time to ditch the booties I have been wearing over my cycling shoes for the past 10 years and head up to Des Moines to buy some official winter foot gear. I ended up with some new winter cycling shoes from Rasmussen's Bike Shop. They had size 48 Shimano shoes in stock. They weren't the Lake brand I was kind of interested in trying on, but good enough to get me through for my needs. So I sprang for them. Sterling claims they are good to down around 20 degrees for a 2 hour ride. If it gets colder than that, then maybe a layer of plastic bag between socks or some foot warmers (like I use in my ski boots on cold days). Either way - better than my summer cycling shoes for sure.

Here are the shoes I got (video courtesy of Winter Cycling Shoes website)...



I got home and before the ride, Tara and I took the dogs to the Vet to have their stitches removed from the surgery they had 10 days prior. It's always an event to take the dogs to the Vet as they get excited. Mix that with the fear they have and the anticipation of sitting in the room waiting for the Doc to appear and I think we all needed a nap by the time we got home.

Instead, I suited up to go for a ride.

I was planning on sticking to the Summerset Trail from Indianola to Carlisle and back. The snow was only about 1/2" to 1" deep and figured the Maxxis IKONs would be fine for that. As clueless as I am, I had no idea Saturday was a big shotgun deer hunting day. I came flying over a hill a few miles north of Indianola and about 10 guys in orange jackets heard me and all turned in my direction with some guns aimed my way. I quickly yelled out and we all realized who was what and no harm was done. Dang! Good thing I wasn't dressed in anything resembling an animal and Dick Cheney wasn't in the hunting party. I decided going all the way to Carlisle would not be wise with all of the hunters out in the fields that line the bike trail all the way there and back.

Plan B was to pull off into Banner Pits to see how the trails were doing following the recent snow. As soon as I turned into the Banner State Park Loop, I saw 2 guys getting ready to mount their mountain bikes and rode over to see who it was. It was TJ on his fat tire bike and Matt McCutchan. They were just heading out for a lap, so I joined them. They had decided Saturday was the day to ride with the snow fresh and before things turned into a melted mess. It was certainly fun, but challenging on the race weenie weight IKONs (a tire much better suited to dry, hard packed dirt). I kept it upright with a couple of dismounts here and there when I spun out in the slick stuff.

Matt (filming the loop) chose some appropriate music...



TJ was flawless on that fat tire bike of his. And my new shoes were nice and warm.

After the ride, I called Zack to come pick me up as I really didn't want to ride 6 miles along the fields filled with hunters to get back home. He picked me up and we listened to the live broadcast of Faust from the MET. It was a great tenor - Jonas Kaufmann - and a great baritone - Russell Braun singing and we finished up listening to it in the basement while lifting weights and visiting (along with Tara).

We had an enjoyable dinner party with 6 couples on Saturday night at the Hades. Joel prepared a perfect Chateaubriand - nice and rare to boot!! Each couple was instructed to bring a dish which makes things easier for the host. We were supposed to bring a vegetable. So Tara made an excellent broccoli thanks to a recipe from Ina Garten and we brought along some wine. It was a very tasty meal after the outdoor ride on the bike in the cold. Chuck and his son had shot two deer that day, so we shared our "hunting" stories of the day.

Sunday was a shopping day for Tara and Alexa, so I decided to ride outdoors again and chose the RIP since it was already covered in mud and gunk from Saturday's ride. I stayed closer to Indianola using gravel roads, and the bike paths to avoid any hunters and being mistaken for a deer. I ran out of water and physical energy at the 2 hour point, but had about a solid 30 minutes of riding to get back to the house. I put it in survival mode and pedaled back to the house to shower and head to the annual Christmas program at Simpson "Lessons and Carols". The choirs did an excellent job and we enjoyed the service. Three hours of student voice auditions for their degree recitals followed that before I could rush home to catch the end of the Cowboys getting thrashed (yes!!!).

It is finals week at Simpson this week, but today is an official "reading day" for the students. No classes, no rehearsals (wink, wink) and no tests. Of course, faculty have tons of things to do today so I'm off to a morning full of meetings...

12/10/11

Rick Perry Spoof...

Very funny Perry spoof. The old fart joke or blowing hot air joke always seems to work and bring a smile.

The Partisans - Rick Perry - Spoof...

No shortage of Rick Perry spoofs are being tossed up on youtube.com and linked on Facebook by millions. This one seemed very apropos.

12/5/11

Holiday Shopping...

Talk about your well-choreographed "flash mob" scenario. Simpson students had a showing yesterday at Jordan Creek Mall. Being a music faculty member as well as the parent of one of the singers - I was informed on when and where to be to catch the "flash". So Tara and I went up with Alexa to hear them sing, do a little holiday shopping, and get some dinner after the stores closed.



Fun was had by all the shoppers who happened to stop and listen. The students took their coats off once the music started to show off their Simpson College t-shirts, sing, and then quickly put their coats back on and take off like nothing had ever happened. And of course, they had to wait until Santa took his 2:30 break for this spontaneous flash mob appearance.;-]

Alexa, Tara and I managed to split a piece of pumpkin cheesecake at the mall to boost our shopping energy. Several presents were secretly and not so secretly purchased. Colors and items were shown to the parents so we know what to get on subsequent trips. After the stores closed, we actually decided unanimously on where to eat and chowed down before heading back home.

Flash Mob, Shopping, Eating - that's one way to spend a Sunday afternoon and evening.

12/2/11

3 Weeks Deep into my "Off Season Getting Back Into Shape Routine...."

First off, welcome back to your apartment and computer Dad following your 8 weeks of rehab! I bet it feels good to be back.

14 degrees this morning as I type this.

Getting back into shape for me...

Since mountain bike cycling alone is not really the best way to get into shape or work the entire body as it is a very specific muscle group and limited work of all that hamster cage rotational leg movement, I always look forward to the November - March time segment to "reconstruct" my body with core exercises and weights. I just didn't do my weekly maintenance weights this year like I should have and even simple tasks like mowing the lawn were more strenuous than in the past with weaker muscle groups than in prior years. So, it's time to rebuild.

One of the mountain bike training guru's I follow says it best:

One of the biggest mistakes that people make when getting into mountain biking is to think that it is a great way to get into shape. This mindset is actually a big problem with the fitness world in general – playing a sport is not how to get into shape. Things work out much better when you have a base level of fitness going into trail riding and it becomes a way to apply and hone your fitness.

There are a couple of problems with trying to use mountain biking as a way to get into shape. First, riding a bike is great fun but it is not the healthiest thing to do from a structural point of view. Sitting in a hunched over position while taking your legs through a shortened, repetitive range of motion a few hundred or thousand times a ride causes all sorts of imbalances. Sitting down also takes your core and hips out of the equation and will cause movement dysfunctions that can lead to problems down the road.

Sure, you may lose some weight and gain some cardio fitness but you don’t create the type of broad based fitness you really need to be healthy from a larger point of view. Remember that you are a human being first and a mountain biker second – don’ ignore the need for basic human function before you try to develop specialized fitness.

Another pitfall to the mindset of using sports to get healthy is a lack of perspective on the training plans of the pros. As I mentioned before, sport is not really about health, especially at the highest levels. To get your body into shape to be excellent at a few things means that other types of fitness and movement patterns will suffer.

There is an old Greek saying – where good sport begins, good health ends. Pros know that there is a physical cost for what they do to hone their bodies into peak shape for the demands of their sport. However, your average rider who looks at riding as “healthy” doesn’t have the same perspective.

They think that the pros represent the pinnacle of “fitness” and try to emulate the lopsided, unbalanced programs they use. They don’t realize that the pros usually spent years developing their fitness base and go back to work on it often – all they see is the amount of time spent working on specialized fitness qualities and think that copying their approach is the key to achieving their fitness goals.

The truth is that most riders have no business following a program inspired by a pro rider – they need to focus on building their fitness and movement base through a strength and conditioning program and then just getting out on their bikes and riding hard. In fact, focusing too much on the narrow fitness qualities needed to excel at the pro level of mountain biking may lead to short term gains but will lead to long term stagnation and injuries.

My point is that if you love riding then ride for fun, not for “fitness”. Use a smart, balanced strength and conditioning program to address your basic fitness and then ride hard to hone that fitness into “mountain biking shape”. Riding is a great way to take your fitness to another level, just don’t come into it thinking that it is a great way to get into shape in the first place. Keep some perspective on what the pros do to excel at the highest levels and you’ll progress further, enjoy riding more and avoid overuse injuries by taking this approach.

-James Wilson-




Last night was a "core" workout session and a circuit session of weights with 30 minutes of spin on the C7i bike. I almost hate doing the core exercises the most, but it sure improves everything from posture, to stability, to energy throughout the day. Thank goodness our basement home gym is comfy and the big screen TV provides plenty of entertainment to keep my wife and I working out in the winter months. It probably is not the best thing to be working out while watching the Food Network, but that's what we do.

HomeGymWeights

I'm 3 weeks into deadlifts, squats, lunges, upper body work and base building on the bike. And I'm about 3 weeks into holiday eating and snacking as well. ;-] I'm trying to be careful, but the caloric increase is noted and the body is responding! I always forget how weight lifting increases my metabolism which in turn fires up my appetite. I'm trying to eat 5 times a day (small snacks like raisins or nuts between meals) to feed that appetite and fire up the metabolism even more with the digestion requirements of 5 eating sessions per day compared to 3.

Tonight is a recovery spin and stretching workout before Tara and I take a night out (we've earned it this week).

11/28/11

MNMBS Announced...

2012 Minnesota Mountain Bike Series Race Schedule


5/20/2012 Afton Avalanche, Afton Alps, Hastings, MN

6/03/2012 Bluff Riders Charge, Mankato, MN

6/17/2012 Red Wing Classic, Red Wing, MN

7/08/2012 Dirt Spanker, Mt. Du Lac, Superior, WI

7/22/2012 Metric Auto Works Birch Bump, Burnsville, MN

7/29/2012 Single Track Attack, Elk River, MN

8/12/2012 White Tail Frolic, River Falls, WI

8/19/2012 The Great Hawk Chase, Duluth, MN

9/02/2012 Laddie’s Loppet Stage Race, Maplelag Resort, MN

9/23/2012 Revolution’s Single Track Escape, St. Cloud, MN

9/30/2012 St. Croix Valley Woolly, St. Croix Falls, WI

Most noteworthy - at least to me - is the absence of the Border Battle on both the WORS and MMBS schedules. I guess the two series decided not to hold the mutual race. Too bad, as I always enjoyed it more than some of the other races. Oh well.

Edit to add the possible Psycowpath Schedule (not official until it's official...)

Psycowpath Schedule for 2012:

Sat March 31 Jewell Time Trial, Old Towne Bellevue Fat Tire Crit, hosted by MWCC/Rox/Ryan

Sun April 1 Swansons Revenge XC hosted by MWCC

Sat April 21 Tranquility XC hosted by Bike Masters/Dale

Sat May 5 Platte River Battle Royal XC hosted by Cycleworks/MoosesTooth/Kris

Sat Jun 3 Maskenthine XC (day after Norfolk road race) hosted by EVCC/Downey

Sat Jun 13 Ponca XC hosted by ??? (looking for a host club, but i'll do it if i have to, Greenstreet interest?)

Sat July 28 Branched Oak XC hosted by Flatwater/JohnL/SeanC 

Sat Aug 11 Lake Manawa* XC finale hosted by Bike Way/SeanL 

11/19/11

Fall Fun Riding...

Fall is always a fun riding time for me as I avoid pavement and just focus on hitting the dirt trails. I head out to enjoy the trails and not worry about any structured training (although I have started the off season weight lifting program). Proof of my riding being only "fun" and dirt oriented was when my weekly riding hours dwindled down to averaging about 3 or 4 hours a week in October. That was due to all the late night opera rehearsals and no need to train for any event.

I've bumped it up a bit this month as I do want to do some riding in the San Francisco Bay Area next week over the holidays and climbs are tough out in the East Bay. I'm going to do a 4-5 hour Turkey Day ride from Mitchell Canyon up Mt. Diablo with a group. Then I will hit my old stomping grounds next Saturday - Briones. My legs hurt just thinking about those opening climbs from Lafayette. Hopefully, all the SS riding this fall has me in shape for it. I'll be on a Cannondale FS for those rides as I'm not hauling my bikes on the plane for a 5 day trip to San Francisco.

In addition, I'll be riding in the Black Hills in December when we go out for my Dad's birthday and my nephew's commitment ceremony. I hope to hit some of my favorite trails - weather permiting. So I've climbed a bit back up to the 6-7 hours per week range this month to get ready for San Fran and the Black Hills. My legs and back are feeling it - especially with all the SS riding (rigid bike). I usually do a longer ride on the weekend with the RIP, and then shorter "before work rides" during the week to take advantage of daylight. I've been riding the RIP 9 and Karate Monkey SS exclusively this month at Banner, Lake Ahquabi, Center, and even made an excursion down to Landahl Park in Missouri.

Last night after work and before the Friday night concert at Simpson, I headed out to Lake Ahquabi with the lights for the first time this fall to ride in the dark. There were no campers. No hikers. No fishermen. Just me and the critters. I timed the full loop quite well as my lights made it full blast all the way to the car where the battery ran out just as I was loading the bike in the car. Glad I made it out of the woods with the lamps still burning full blast.

I've got some new carbon Roval wheels to unpack and play with that just arrived via FedEx yesterday. Looks like I'll be trimming about 400g from my current wheels without sacrificing any stability. I'll mount up some tires this morning and go for my longer Saturday ride to try them out today.

1520g!!!!

Roval Trail SL's on the scale - 1520g

1520g with valves

Took a full pound off of my RIP 9. Man are these wheels fast!!!!!!!!!

Took a pound off of my RIP9

11/9/11

2012 dates starting to roll in...

WORS 2012

* May 6 – Iola Bump & Jump; Iola Winter Sports Club, Iola, WI
* May 20 – Crystal Lake Classic; Camp Tesomas, Rhinelander, WI
* June 3 – Big Ring Classic; Nine Mile Forest, Wausau, WI
* June 17 – Battle of Camrock; Camrock 3, Rockdale, WI
* June 24 - Chippewa Valley Firecracker; Eau Claire Co. Expo Center, Eau Claire, WI
* July 14 & 15 – Subaru Cup Pro XCT; Nordic Mt, Mt Morris, WI
* July 29 – Alterra Coffee Bean Classic; Crystal Ridge, Franklin, WI
* August 19 – Sunburst Showdown; Kewaskum, WI (note – moved from original date)
* August 26 – Reforestation Ramble; Reforestration Camp, Suamico, WI
* Sept. 9 – Treadfest; Grand Geneva Resort, Lake Geneva, WI
* Sept. 30 – Bear Paw Rock & Roll; Bear Paw Outdoor, White Lake, WI
* October 14 – Wigwam MTB Challenge; Evergreen Park, Sheboygan, WI

10/24/11

Doing the Dirty Du with my Daughter...

I have asked my daughter for the past 4 years to join me in CITA's Dirty Duathlon as a relay team where she would do the running portion and I would do the biking portion. I had no illusions of winning, just doing a father/daughter activity and participating for the CITA cause.

Year one response: "Nope!"
So I did it solo.

Year two response: "Nope!"
So I did the race with a college student of mine who was trying to get back into shape and lose some weight.

Year three response: "Nope!"
So I did it solo.

Year four response: "Do I have to?" My response: "Yes, I would appreciate it."
Family pressure kicked in and she basically resigned to the force and agreed to do it. My summary of that exchange is way too brief compared to the 48 hours leading up to Sunday's race. You'll have to trust me on that...

I got her out of bed on Sunday to come and do the new "Beginner" race the Dirty Du added this year. She was only willing to run for 2 miles and I had to be at work by 2:30 which meant I couldn't do the 1 pm longer race (with her or by myself). Her face was filled with more anger and disgust for making her do this to begin with, but I was banking on her having memories for years to come of the father-daughter effort. Yeah, right. Try and convince a 16 year old smack in the middle of "my parents are so uncool and weird" years about any warm and fuzzy relationships with their parents.

We got registered and I did a little warm up on the bike while she stretched and looked glum. The runners took off at 11 am and I think her anger helped her jump off the line in 3rd place going up the first hill of hillside. By the end of the hillside section, she had dropped back to fourth from last place. By the time she got to the start/finish area where I was waiting, she had dropped two spots (only one person behind her). One of the guys ahead of her racing solo was still changing his shoes in the pit area, so I was able to take off on the bike ahead of him. I knew I could catch up to some on the bike, but not sure in just one lap of only 3 miles how I would be able to make up very much time.

As I approached the first rider ahead of me, I quickly realized that this was the Beginner Du and to be careful in passing as I saw how cautiously slow he was riding. I called out ahead and was able to pass him before the first bridge. I didn't see anybody else on Hillside, and flew through Hillside with only one error (didn't get downshifted before crossing the creek and was stuck in a huge gear which meant I couldn't climb out of there and didn't want to break my already broken and repaired chain). I pushed the bike up a few feet and hopped on to finish the climb.

After the pavement section and heading up into the woods, I spotted another rider ahead of me a few hundred yards. By the time I reached the top of that climb I had narrowed that gap to 100 feet. I caught him and passed him on the first descent. I kept pushing and started picking off riders one by one. Obviously, being the Beginner Du, handling skills, and negotiating singletrack at race speed gave me an unfair advantage. I came up behind one rider who immediately increased his pace and settled into a nice CAT II XC race speed. Unfortunately, with me on his tail making him nervous and pushing his pace, he didn't have the skill to handle one turn and went down hard. I asked if he was okay and he said he was fine, so I forged ahead. I caught two more riders in the final singletrack section and passed them before dropping the chain onto the big ring for the final climb and descent out of the woods. I stood and sprinted up the pavement to the finish line. In the end, I had made up a lot of time and passed everyone except the lead runner/rider who had about a 4 minute gap on everyone else.

When I rolled across the finish line, my daughter came up to me with a perplexed/surprised look and asked me how I was able to pass all those people and come across the line in 2nd place overall. Her "glum" and "angered" look turned to one of surprise, joy and maybe even a small hint of "warm and fuzzy Dad/Daughter accomplished something together" expression. Who knows, but my goal of creating some sort of memory that she could have just may have been met? Score one for Dad!!!

Not that it was any sort of race accomplishment for me as I should not be riding in the Beginner Race (especially judging by the negotiating skills of those I passed), but for her 1st ever event as the beginner and joining her old, uncool and weird Dad - I think she was tickled we ended up 1st in the relay and 2nd overall. At least she was speaking to me in the car on the way home and sat down to have lunch with me on our deck where she actually smiled.

That's no guarantee she will do the longer event with me next year, but I'll try and use the warm and fuzzy feelings to make it happen. ;-]

Thanks to CITA for a fun event, perfect weather and the cool pink socks!!!

10/11/11

Record Turnout at The Mullet!!!

What a great day of racing, weather, food, drink, fellowship and fun! 155 racers pulled into the Lake Ahquabi State Park to toe the line for $1800 in prize money, $850 in T-Shirts, $380 in very unique medals, and a table full of Schwag from Oakley, Rasmussens, Cliff Bar, Saris, and CTS.

Race results are here.

We had a huge turnout last year with 133 racers which was overwhelming. I learned from the experience and took steps to improve and handle that kind of growth in the event to make the 4th year even bigger and better. My goal was to come close to the 2010 number of 133 racers again this year - especially since I took on some financial risk for the expense of electronic chip timing (another $1K) and the porta-potty rentals ($127). This year divided the race into two segments: a real 3+ hour marathon race or IMBCS #10 XC race with specific number of laps 4/3/2/1 depending on CAT. I was pleased with the turnout for both and prize money was guaranteed at $250 for 1st place in both the men's open and women's open of the marathon and the XC CAT I races.

I also teamed up with CITA (Central Iowa Trails Association) to make The Mullet Fall Classic a CITA fundraiser. I have to say, that was a great addition. The post race, end of the IMBCS Mountain Biking Race season party was a blast. Beer Garden, homemade chili, burgers and brats on the grill, pot luck salads, desserts, chips, etc... - all of it had everyone smiling for a few hours after the race. The weather was a blessing as it hit 80 degrees with clear skies and a very slight wind to keep things from getting too hot.

The trail was in good shape thanks to all the hours put in by volunteers, including two CITA trail work days. That took some of the load off of my grooming of the trails and allowed me to be able to focus on other details of organizing everything between my mowing, lopping, raking, marking, clearing hours which I always underestimate how much time is involved to get nearly 7 miles of trail in shape for a race. A big thanks to Jed Gammell, Rob Versteegh and Oakley, Sterling Heise and Rasmussen Bike Shop, Tom Anderson (and his family!!), Matt McCutchan, Troy Pearson, Al Boone, Ron Cooney, Pete Parvi, Scott Sumpter, Tara Starr, Alexa Brown, the 7 fraternity brothers from Lamda Chi, Josh Shipman and the Lake Ahquabi staff, Nancy Stirek, Craig Harding, Justin Hankins, and all of those who helped put things together food, trail and volunteer wise for the 2011 Mullet.

There were growing pains again this year and not everything went as smoothly as it could have. Jed and I both failed to bring a printed out list of the actual 73 qualifiers (those that registered before noon on September 30th) for the free t-shirts, so distribution of those was flawed. That's our bad and it won't happen again. Apologies to the few within the 73 that saw their t-shirts snagged up by everyone else who thought they were free for the taking.

Talks began immediately after the event between Ryan Feagan (from Nebraska Psycowpath Series), Nancy Stirek, Craig Harding and myself about streamlining the waiver process with Raceregister.net to avoid any hand writing by me on the forms. We also talked about how to speed up the chip assignment process, as well as pros/cons of online pre-registration and day of registration solutions. Psycowpath didn't allow pre-registration, but liked my format of the discounted entry fee for pre-registration online, and a non-discounted fee for day of race registration. Ryan thinks he might try that next year as it captures a lot of the "I'll wait until I see what the weather is going to be like" crowd that decides within the final 24 hours to race or not.

Check-in wasn't too bad, but the two lines were long and a bit of a bottleneck that shouldn't be involved with an event that is pre-registered for 123 of the 155 racers. Having to sign those dang waivers (legally, it must be a hand written signature) slows things down. Another growing pain was my guesstimate of 250 bottles of water (same amount I bought last year) was not enough. I needed to have purchased at least twice as much with the turnout and all of the volunteers. Beer outnumbered water by a margin of 5 to 1 (at least) as everyone else brought so much beer - but no water!!

Jed and Rob rode last year, so it was my turn to ride this year. Unfortunately, after a good jump off the line and in the front group of 4, I broke my chain about a 1/2 mile after the start!!! I couldn't believe it! A DNF at Sugarbottom with a blown rear hub and now a broken chain?!!!? By the time I walked back to the starting area, turned in my timing chip and reported myself as a DNF, used the Kybo and then decided to fix my chain, I was probably 15 minutes behind. But Tom Anderson and Pete Parvi convinced me to fix my chain and get back out there in spite of it. So I grabbed my timing chip again and said I was not a DNF and headed out to see how the course was riding and mix it up. All for fun and well worth coming in Dead Frickin' Last in my division. I did make up some good time though, but stopped for Parady Boatwright who crashed and hit a tree. I saw the fall and she hit her head for a bit of a stinger. I helped her up and made sure she was okay before getting back on the bike. I motored on to finish and was only 2 seconds away from not being DFL. ;-}

Other than that, things were fine. Thanks to all who came out to race, brought food, helped, volunteered, provided feedback and had a great time.

Now on to my real job filled with non-stop problem solving - stage directing the opera at Simpson.

10/3/11

The Mullet Fall Classic!!!

Fall weather is gorgeous this week with temperatures in the 70-80 range. The leaves are turning colors. The course is marked and ready. Trail work is completed. The food and drink are ordered. Custom number plates are here. The custom special Mullet awards for 1st/2nd/3rd in each category arrive later this week. The prize money is in hand. Electronic Chip Timing Conference Call tomorrow to get it all set up. 87 are registered online to date (the number keeps growing every day).

If you are in Iowa - this is a must attend, gotta experience it event. Race it. Ride it. Short distance. Long distance. Your choice. Come on out and have some fun.

Big mountain bike party for all after your race is finished. Burgers, dogs, chips, desserts, a massive beer garden will all be part of the fund raising for CITA (Central Iowa Trails Association). All my proceeds after expenses will go directly to CITA. What a great cause!

Everyone who is anyone in terms of mountain biking in Iowa will be there. ;-]

Sunshine and 77 degrees on race day for all. Come on out and let your mullet down to soak up some sun and fun.

BB

9/25/11

Race recap...

I drove up to St. Cloud on Friday night with Tara for yesterday's final Minnesota Mountain Biking Series race. I was competing in the 50-59 year old series this summer and needed to do 7 of their 11 races for the best possible points. Unfortunately, I was only able to make it to 6 events this year. I had too many conflicts on the weekends of the other 5 events. However, I really enjoy the participation, variety of courses and competition in Minnesota as well as the scenery. Since I had to miss the Dakota Five-O and Laddies (budget meetings that weekend that I had to attend), I wanted to drive up for the Single Track Escape as I had never raced there before.

It was an interesting course and not something I was really expecting. It was a pretty flat course and a real labyrinth of twisty turns. Power was more important as I felt like I was on the gas all the time. The course didn't really favor power/weight ratio due to the lack of climbing, but it did favor sheer power to keep moving and accelerating out of the twisty turns. It had me wishing for narrower bars and wishing I was under 6 feet tall!! A pre-ride would be my best advice, and I didn't get the chance.

It was a challenge for sure, but maybe not the type of trail network I would tend to choose to go for a ride on any sort of a frequent basis if I had plenty of choices of trails. I like speed, climbs and a nice mix of twist. If you take out one of those elements, I'll still ride it often and enjoy it. But if you take out 2 of those elements (in this case, climbs and speed), I guess I remain confused at the trail builders design and goals when the trails were laid out. And that's what this singletrack was. All twist with really no where on the course to open up and let it fly outside of the grassy ski trail/fire road connector sections and one bit of singletrack near the finish line.

Not that I didn't enjoy it - I did in terms of variety and the challenge, but I can't recall riding anything quite like it in the Midwest in the past 8 years - at least for a race. Compared to other similar courses, I like the mix at Elk River, Manawa, Scott County, Sylvan much better as there are also lots of twists, but also lots of areas for sheer speed featured in sections between the twists. In other words, a nice balance or mix. This course had some turns where you literally came to a crawl to squeeze between tight saplings and sharp corners. Fingers, shoulders, heads, knees - all were fair game for the trees to snack upon. It made for a difficult XC race course to say the least.

Regardless, I took it on and finished in 3rd place in my category feeling dazed and confused by the end with all the endless twists, turns, trees, slowing, accelerating. At one point, it all began to look the same and I had no idea where I was out on the course. A lot of "itching to go fast", but no where "to go fast" type of riding. My rebuilt hub was working fine, but my chain was skipping between the 5th and 6th cog. Not sure if it was simply cable stretch, or if I am due for a new cassette/chain and rings. I tried to adjust the cable out on the trail, but with all of the twists and turns, it was hard to dial it in as I had to keep both hands gripped to the bars at all times. I found the few guys who finished just in front of me slumped over their bikes after the finish line, so I think we were all dazed and confused in the labyrinth. It was a challenge and a workout to say the least.

After I crossed the line, I loaded up the Element and headed back to Albertville where I Had left Tara to do some damage at the Outlet Malls!!! She had a banner day! We drove back to Iowa and I got to rehearsal for Die Fledermaus 4 minutes early. Perfect timing.

Thanks to the Minnesota Mountain Biking Series. You guys know how to do it right up there with excellent variety, well run events and great participation throughout the series.

My season has wound down. 13 events which included 1 DNF (Sugarbottom rear hub blew), 4 podiums, and a lot of fun!! Now it's time for me to host The Mullet Fall Classic at Lake Ahquabi two weeks from today.

9/22/11

Last day of summer...

Today is the last day of summer before fall officially starts tomorrow on September 23rd. And the temperature is getting prepared for it. We've dropped from Monday's warm and sunny 80 to yesterday's 70 and today will only hit 65. However, it's going to climb back up to 80 after the weekend.

I've been pretty productive getting final things in place for the race the past few days. I got the online registration up and running as promised on September 20th at Raceregister.net which, I admit, is an experiment. I am offering a pretty big discount for all racers who sign up online and will eat the cost of the timing chip and transaction fee compared to those who sign up on race day. We'll see how that all plays out. I placed the order for The Mullet Fall Classic bike number plates and awards yesterday. Pi-Pi's porta potties are ordered. Most of the race route is ready to go and I finished the initial paint marking last night for those interested in pre-riding. A bit of mowing and some erosion fill work to do on the October 2nd, 1-5 pm trail work day. The only thing I didn't accomplish yesterday was booking a motel room for the timer that is driving over from Nebraska. I left a message to see what motel she would prefer, but didn't hear back yet.

The Mullet race route is in good shape and riding primo fast at the moment. I kind of like the big cyclocross downhill swoopy grass section that brings everybody out of the woods and back down to the start/finish area. I'll need a ton of markers, tape and chalk to set that up the day before the race. A ton of walnuts have fallen in the past 3 days which makes for sections of big "marbles" on the trail. I'm going to have to add that to the final grooming sweep of the trail to get the majority of walnuts off of the trail before the race - especially in the corners. I rode one loop last night and counted 42 deer. They are everywhere this time of year.

TheMulletFallClassic

I've got too many irons in the fire at the moment with organizing a race, and directing an opera at the same time. On top of that, my father has been in and out of the hospital this past week and is now in re-hab for 8 weeks. Nothing like the stress of worrying about your aging parent and trying to figure things out from a distance with lots of phone calls, emails and shared concern. In terms of the opera, Die Fledermaus staging starts on Monday (we've actually been doing choreography the past 2 weekends). I pick up most of the props this morning and will get some rehearsal furniture over the weekend. I always forget how much problem solving is involved when directing an opera, but it all adds stress and keeps my mind racing to come up with solutions 24/7. I am not as prepared for the small details and particulars of the staging as I would like to be for Monday's start, but I put in about 3 hours this morning studying what I want to do. If I do that tonight, tomorrow, and as much as I can this weekend - I should be ready to go. Performances are October 27/28/29 - so there is time to let it develop and unfold, but no time to waste getting it all worked out with the students.

The racing season is winding down. Since I blew my DT Swiss/Hügi 240 rear hub at Sugarbottom, my weekly hours on the bike have dropped from 8-10 all the down to 3-4. Pathetic. In spite of that, I'm heading up to St. Cloud, MN for Saturday's final Minnesota Mountain Bike Series race. There seems to be enough punch in my legs for the climbs based on this week's training rides. Tonight is my final prep ride and I will test out the rebuilt rear hub. Sterling rebuilt it for around $55. Not bad considering I've been riding that hub since September of 2002 (bought it in Vienna, Austria). If the hub is fine on tonight's ride, I'll be riding it at St. Cloud. We plan on stopping by the outlet malls in Albertville to make the overnight trip productive. Then back to choreography rehearsal for the opera Saturday evening. Sunday, I'll mow some more out at Ahquabi, pick up some furniture for the opera and then do a big choreography session at night.

Bye-bye summer, hello fall...

9/19/11

The BIG Five-0...

...and I'm not talking about the Dakota Five-0.

I will hit 50 tomorrow. That's right - fifty!!!

My wife pulled off a perfect surprise 50th birthday party for me on Saturday night. Disguised and well hidden, I thought I was heading off to one of my regular "guy nights" with the guys where we grill, drink beer, smoke cigars and lambast all the Republicans until the beer runs out in the wee hours of the night. I've been there for many of those nights while our wives go out to eat in Des Moines. I was told to bring an appetizer and a bottle of wine and be there around 7 ish.

This was on Saturday and I had done trail work all day at Lake Ahquabi and then rushed off to opera dance rehearsal for Die Fledermaus that I am directing at Simpson. After rehearsal, I rushed to Hy-Vee to get the fixings for making stuffed mushrooms (18 portabellos, sausage, bacon, two cheeses) and I rushed home to make them. One of the regular guys at these guy nights is a professional chef, another is a great cook and I wanted to impress this time around. I was running late and finally finished my 18 stuffed goodies at 7:10 pm. No time to shower, so I figured we'd be outside grilling and smoking - so wearing a hat and smelling like I'd had a full work day was fine.

I pull into the driveway of our good friends (Joel and Deb Hade) and see the cars of all the regulars in the driveway, but notice many, may cars parked on the streets. I figure somebody else on that street must be having a party. I go around to the back of their house figuring they'd be out on the patio grilling and all was dark. Shoot. I must be early - or so I thought. Nobody was there. I opened up the sliding screen door to go in, even though everything is dark. I yell out "Is anybody home?" No answer. I figure I better head back out to the car or the patio and sit and wait.

Lights come on and 45+ people start singing Happy Birthday to me. I am in total surprised shock. They are all dressed up and I am in jeans, a baseball cap and stink like I've been working all day. Oh well... My wife pulled off a smooth one. I had no clue. Nobody broke the secret to me at all. Friends, colleagues, students were all there. A jazz trio, lots of food, drink, fellowship and even a "roasting" of me by my current students sung to music from The Mikado ensued. And a former student from South Africa sang 2 special numbers. We partied until about 11:30 or midnight and then all went home. What a great time!

Of the 3 days out of the year I don't take a shower, this happened to be one! My bad, but the party was great. Tomorrow (the 20th) is the official day, but my wife outdid herself with this bash. I was totally surprised. Floored.

Thanks Tara. Thanks Joel and Deb. Thanks to all my friends, colleagues and my students for making it a most memorable 50th Birthday.

8/29/11

Frustrations of a DNF...

DNF = Did Not Finish. I haven't had one of those since the bad karma start to the 2009 race season when I had a few, so perhaps I was due for the one I experienced yesterday at the Sugar Bottom Scramble. I was about 20-25 minutes into lap one when it happened.

Here's how...

I headed over to Sugar Bottom Recreation Area Sunday morning at 8:15 a.m. and arrived to register, warm-up and race in the event. This is where I did my very first mountain bike race, so I always look forward to riding or racing there on the network of trails. The weather was perfect, and a good turnout had confirmed that. The mood was good and we were ready to roll.

My wave started at around 11:20 and I started off in the 2nd row of riders of a pretty big group for the opening climb. After we got rolling, I didn't go - or couldn't go - quite as cross eyed as the previous week's atart, but I managed to make it into the singletrack in the top 15-20. There are a lot of roots at Sugar Bottom which keeps you on your toes for picking lines and using good cornering technique to avoid going down. It wasn't long before the rider directly in front of me went down on a sharp, descending corner and he and his bike were sprawled completely across the trail blocking the way. The only option for the rider behind the one who falls is to stop. You can't ride over somebody's bike and you just hope the guys behind you stop in time. So I stopped and 5 or 6 guys went around us before I could get around the fallen rider and his bike. He was okay and got back on his bike to pursue.

I caught back up with the group that had just gone around me and we worked our way back up to the line in front of us. I was able to start passing some riders and worked my way back to where I had been when another rider directly in front of me went down and his bike completely covered the trail. No way for me to get around him, so again I had to stop. And again a half-dozen riders or so went around us. Maybe my karma was off, I thought. No panic, the rider was okay and I got around him and pedaled hard to catch back up.

On one of the climbs, in a narrow section a rider buzzed around me on the right and sort of scared me as I wasn't expecting it. I certainly would have given him room had he asked. I casually suggested a shout out next time he passed to let a guy know. 100 yards later, the guy who had just passed me went down and was blocking the trail. I was able to ride to the right and get around him. He caught up to me again a couple of minutes later and again, went around me in a tight section without calling out. Oh well...

I was getting in my groove, but could tell the busy training week for the Dakota Five-O had zapped my legs a tiny bit, so I kept a high spin rate to aid in the climbs rather than mash my way to exhaustion on the first part of lap one. Exiting the singeltrack and riding down the fire road to the north side of the singletrack, I could see I was in a big long line of riders in front of me and behind me. We were stirring up a lot of dust. Once into the singletrack, there were a lot of us stacked up wheel to wheel. I heard another bike go down, but this time it was behind me and not in front of me. Imagine that?!! I finally caught a break.

We were really crowded and stacked up wheel to wheel. The guy behind me kept buzzing his tire on mine, but I had no where to go as there were at least 6 - 8 guys in front of me wheel to wheel as we snaked our way through the turns. The trail was pretty rough and bouncy this year - or so it seemed. It could be my Racing Ralphs were a tad over-inflated, but things felt rough to me and I was on the full suspension. I wonder what it felt like on a HT?

As we crossed the bridge at the bottom of the descent leading to the cyclocross hill, I got my bike in the gear I wanted to clean the hill and used my momentum to take me up the first half of the hill. There was a big crowd of spectators cheering everybody on and I got out of the saddle and had at it to clean the climb. Lots of cheers of encouragement from the crowd. About 2 bike lengths from the top of the hill, my rear hub slipped and my pedals did an entire revolution without any progress. Yikes! I had to dismount and push my bike the final 10 feet to the top of the hill. I got back on and got going. The drivetrain felt fine, but that was odd. As I was getting back up to speed, a guy came flying around me. So I gave pursuit to latch on to his wheel.

Here's the Snap, Crackle, and Pop sequence of my rear hub self-imploding on me at the top of the climb.

Nailing the climb is the Snap...

Snap

Something didn't feel right with just a few feet to go to clean the climb and the pedals spun all the way around for the Crackle...

Crackle

And Pop, I had to dismount and push my noble steed the final few feet...

Pop

Photos courtesy of Tom Anderson who sent them to me on Facebook from Mike Shumway's Facebook photo album. Thanks Tom and Mike!

The first climb after that, my chain - or so I thought - was skipping from gear to gear. At least that's what it felt like. Uh...oh. Something was wrong. Every little climb I hit, the drivetrain was failing. I got off, checked the derailleur, chain - all okay. Something was wrong. About 50 yards later - I was done. If I pedaled, the hub would not stay engaged. All those I had worked to pass went around me with each asking me if I was okay. Or asking what had happened. Equipment failure is no fun. I didn't really get mad, I just sucked it up (frustration that is) and knew I'd live to fight another day and started the long walk out of the woods back to the starting area.

I'll take my bike to Rassy's today to see if it is the rear hub and what can be done about it. The JET has been flawless all year. I've been on top of it, maintenance wise, and even on Saturday's training ride, saw no evidence there was any sort of a problem with the rear hub. But it's shot. Replacement parts will be needed.

Back to my walkout...

A few hundred yards later, I saw the guy who had passed me after the top of cyclocross hill. He was clutching his arm, bleeding and another racer was walking his bike out of the woods. I ran over and told the guy who was pushing the two bikes to get back in the race, I'd walk the injured rider and bike back in since my bike was shot. It looked to be a separated right shoulder as it was hanging much lower than his left. His arm, knee and leg were bleeding and he said his shoulder had hit a tree and he went down hard. The chain was off the bike, so I hung it over the cranks and pushed both of our bikes while he walked. He didn't seem nauseous, but he sort of had that vocal delivery and pale white look of a bit of shock. I tried to keep his mind diverted as we talked about whatever else I could think of walking along the gravel road. We finally made it back to where the paramedics were, but somebody had sent them out into the woods to look for the injured rider. We called the injured rider's son (the rider looked to be in his 50's), got him some ice, sat him down and the paramedics arrived back from their search to take over. He was going to be okay, but needed to go to the hospital.

Anyway, it got me to thinking. One of our code of racing "rules" or "ethics" says that if you come up on an injured rider who is in need, stop racing and take care of him. Luckily, one of the racers had done just that. I just happen to come along and relieved him. I was able to use my misfortune of a mechanical failure so that he could continue his race. I'm sure he lost a couple of minutes or more by stopping to help, but I wonder what goes through the mind of each and every racer that encounters a downed rider? He certainly did right by stopping to help and put the injured rider as his priority over just asking him if he was okay and riding right on by. Others may have stopped initially as well, I don't know because I came upon the scene a few minutes after it happened and a lot of riders passed me while I was walking along the trail and carrying my bike.

Had I been on the wheel of this guy - if my hub had not malfunctioned - would I have stopped and given up my race to take care of him? I've certainly stopped and asked fallen riders in a lot of races if they were okay or needed anything, but I've never come upon an injury that needed the kind of assistance that I saw yesterday. So my answer today is - yes - I would have stopped. He needed help. I would have seen that it was important to give up my race and take care of him. That's my answer today. I don't know what I would have done yesterday in the heat of the battle at full speed when those sorts of decisions are made in a few seconds. Lesson learned for me: the next time I encounter a similar situation is that the race outcome is not worth it for me, helping a fellow racer who is injured trumps everything else. I just hope - like the racer who did stop for this injured rider and help him out - that I, too, can make that kind of quick and wise decision.



8/25/11

Dakota Five-0 Final Training ride...

Going with the premise that any training stimulus done 10 days or less before an event really won't help, I headed out to Lake Ahquabi to do a endurance simulation yesterday to take advantage of the high heat and humidity. That put my final endurance test (I've been doing about one endurance ride per week to build up for it) around 11 days before the actual race. One Lake Ahquabi lap for the race course is about 7.5 miles, so I headed out in the morning and got underway at 9:40 a.m. while things were still moist from the evening fog and dew.

I had mixed a 4 hour bottle of Perpetuem in one Camelbak bottle and had a cooler in the car of 5 fresh water bottles, one bottle of pickle juice, 3 GU's and some maple walnut snack bites to see if and what I needed for nutrition.

I used lap one as a warm-up, but was up to an easier endurance race pace by the end of it. I stopped after every lap for a fresh water bottle and made sure every 15-20 minutes I was sipping on the Perpetuem bottle to stay nurished. Laps 2, 3 and 4 I put the gas on and saw just how far I could push myself pace wise to keep momentum going and hammer the climbs (within reason). Some of that was very close to XC race pace. I have memories of cramping pretty hard at mile 26 back in 2005 on my first attempt at the Dakota Five-0 when I went out way too hard from the get go. I had the flu at the time with a fever and cough which contributed to the cramping. I didn't really have a solid nutrition plan back then for the race. This year, I do and I wanted to try it out yesterday.

I shot a GU after laps 2 and lap 4. Lap 5 had me starting to fatigue with some twinges right above the knee cap which usually leads to cramping later on, but I pushed it hard and matched my time of previous laps. I hit the pickle juice after lap 5. Lap 6 was simply to "hit the distance" and see what my body did in the condition it was in. I ran out of Perpetuem, so utilized some of the maple walnut bites (ate 3) and a bottle of Heed and a bottle of water and a GU for the final lap. I throttled down on the climbs and took advantage of the granny 23T ring to simply turn the cranks over and make the climbs.

I was spent at the end of lap 6, but rolled in the 6 laps with an average time of 53 minutes per lap which - if it transfers at altitude and the Black Hills, should get me sub 6 hours depending on weather, traffic and how my body responds to the effort. Sub 6 hours is my goal since last time with the flu and severe cramping I rolled in at 6:44 which included tearing a tire and the repair time, hanging out at some of the aid stations for a relaxing rejuvination and riding the 2nd half of the race more as a ride rather than a race due to my cramped legs. I think with good nutrition and proper pacing this year, I should be able to hit the sub 6 hour target without any problems.

Nutrition felt fine for the endurance test of 45 miles off road, the bike felt fine, the stomach was fine and I had no trouble sleeping and recovering from the effort. I did take today off the bike outside of the dog walks, but I will do a recovery/easy effort on Friday afternoon to see how I feel.

I have an XC race at Sugar Bottom on Sunday, so I am hoping to bounce back from Wednesday's endurance test for the quicker XC effort needed on Sunday. I'm also mired in day long workshops and faculty meetings most of this week, so time is limited.

8/22/11

XC Racing and coming into form...

I haven't had time to post on the blog due to opera production meetings, getting ready for the fall semester, training, yard work, cooking, etc..., but I did race the past two weekends.

MAYHEM

Two weeks ago was the Swanson MTB Mayhem event at Swanson Park for the combined Nebraska and Iowa Series. Originally scheduled for Lake Manawa, the event was moved to Swanson due to the Missouri River flooding having Manawa underwater. I decided to ride the RIP 9 to make sure it was race ready for the Dakota Five-0 and let the bike absorb the bumps at Swanson rather than my body.

After picking up my number plate, I got on my bike and as I was leaving the registration area, got my front wheel stuck between the sidewalk and grass and did a nice little, slow motion endo in front of the crowd. Nice. Nothing was hurt, but my pride. ;-] All went well in the race and I could tell that I was in very good form. In spite of being in excellent form, my results don't really show that for the past two weeks, but that's okay. I've been up against some good competition the past two races, so the placing in the results don't tell the entire story.

Going into the race, I had just finished a pretty good build period and had a 5 day rest/recovery period going into the race. I latched on behind Jason Dal from Des Moines Rassy team for lap one and lap two. For me, this was a different effort than earlier in the season when I raced at Swanson - my first race of the season. I was on the gas most of the time and not searching for much recovery. About 1/2 way through lap 3, Jason started to pull away and I couldn't quite match his pace. He finished a minute, thirty-five ahead of me for 3rd place in the Masters 35+ division and I finished 5th in the Masters 45+ division. Same exact place I got at Swanson earlier this season against the same guys, but I felt I had a much stronger and better race as I am in good form. I was only 20 seconds out of fourth place, so that's not so bad. Course was great and we rode it in the opposite direction than we did earlier in the season.

BORDER BATTLE

Yesterday was the Border Battle between the Wisconsin Series and the Minnesota Series - which are the two largest Midwest Mountain Biking race series in terms of number of participants. The race was at White Tail Ridge in River Falls, Wisconsin. I drove up on Friday afternoon with Zack and Alexa. We made a weekend out of it by staying at the Radisson with the water park and hitting the Mall of America for some last minute back to school shopping.

I headed out to the race course on Saturday for a pre-ride and to register. The weather was perfect and the trail opened up at 12 noon for pre-riding. I went out at 12:19 for a pair of loops. During lap one my goal was to just survey the trail, but I was feeling pretty good which led me to testing myself in a few sections. During lap two the traffic increased as there were others out there pre-riding. It was fun to chat with some riders about the differences in the course this year compared to prior years. I rode this course in 2009, so my memory wasn't that great, but I did note a new and fun jeep trail with a loose rocks climb.

I rolled back to the car at 1:31 p.m. after doing two laps and then did 20 minutes or so of cool down before loading up the bike. I grabbed some lunch in River Falls and then went back to register once the registration tent opened at 3 p.m. for business. The website and WORS book said Cat 2's would be doing 3 laps, but I was told at registration we would only be doing 2. Hmmmm...I thought. Just loafing on my pre-ride laps I had rolled 2 laps in about 1:12 which meant winning times would be sub 60 minutes. That seemed pretty short for a Cat 2 XC race, but oh well.

I got back to the motel, showered and hit the mall with the kids who had been at the water park all day. We got some dinner, did some shopping and then headed back to the motel. We all went down for the final hour of the water park hours and I hit the hot tub to let the jets massage my legs and back to recover for Sunday's race. Oooooooooooo....it felt good.

Sunday's weather was perfect. The trail was perfect. My legs felt great, and in spite of a head cold I have I felt ready to go. My strategy was to hang on the climb around the mid-pack in my wave and then attack in the flat open section at the top before entering the woods and singletrack. At least that was my plan at the gun. I jockeyed up and into pretty good position on the start in the open meadow. Once we made the sharp right hand turn a few hundred yards later and hit the opening climb - which is a doubletrack, gravel jeep trail - I found myself about 3 abreast with me on the right side next to an eroded drainage rut. I ran out of room and the guy next to me literally elbowed me over and into the ditch. WTF!!!? Thanks guy!

I used all the travel of the JET 9 and bounded through the erosion rut and was forced over on the right side of the rut which was grass and dirt where all the spectators were standing to view the opening climb and to cheer us on as we grunted up the hill. There was really no room for me to go back over the rut and on the gravel side of the climb due to the crowded traffic, so I decided to just climb on the right side of the rut which worked to my advantage. My strategy quickly changed to attack the climb and recover on the top flat area as opposed to the reverse I was planning on doing. I was in the top 10 out of a group of about 55 racers at the top of the climb which was perfect!!!

Alexa got a shot of me on her cellphone as I huffed and puffed my way up the right side as if I wasn't even part of the group on the other side of the rut...

BorderBattleClimb

What the heck? I didn't plan for that and I didn't panic. I just took what was given to me and climbing over on the right side off of the trail worked. I was cross eyed, coughing up a lung, and near maximum heart rate at the top - so I had to recover in the first 200-300 yards on the flat passing area. Luckily, only 2 or 3 passed me in that section. I went into the singletrack with the top group and because of that - there were no log jams and the flow was great.

I was riding the Racing Ralph tires which were super fast. Maybe not the best grip on the climbs if I got out of saddle, but fine for this course and the condition it was in - dry hardpack and fast. The pre-ride helped as I knew what to expect and pushed it on the climbs and descents. One rider in my age class passed me at the top of the opening climb at the start of lap 2, and I latched on to follow him. We got behind a group of 3 or 4 slower riders from age groups that had started before us and I recovered. I was itching for us to pass them and not lose sight of guys in our class in front of us. All told, I bet we lost a full minute before we were able to pass them. Lap 2 was fast and fun. This course was a big smile. Tires were perfect. Bike was working great. Legs felt good and I was having a blast.

I got behind a rider from an earlier class for the final singletrack section and wanted around him, but knew I could sprint to the line once we got out of the woods. We got out of the woods and I hit my usual finish line sprint and was surprised how well my legs responded. Flew by him and crossed the line feeling really good for such a short and fast race...

BorderBattleFinish

The clock reading of 1:11 is from the first wave. My group started in the 4th wave and my finish time was 1:03:58 which was good enough for 8th place in the 50-54 group. Again, the placing may not show how good I am actually feeling and riding at the moment, but my condition feels at a different level right now compared to the rest of the season. It was pretty stiff competition at WORS with a larger field, so I can't complain. I was only 4:34 back from the winner in this race compared to 8 minutes+ just 2 weeks ago or even more earlier in the season. This, in spite of a head cold which had me coughing a lot.

All in all - I was really pleased. Great course, great volunteers and it was fun to do a WORS race again as I had not been to one this season. My only complaint would probably be that the race was a bit too short. I would have liked a 3rd lap so times were closer to other race finishing times this season. In fact, the winning times back in 2009 at this same course were closer to the 1:25-1:30 for my division which would have been similar this year had we done a 3rd lap. Oh well, it was still a really fun race and course.

We headed home and Zack drove from Owatonna as I napped.

8/9/11

New Training Stimulus..

Sometimes it comes in mysterious ways.

My new stimulus happens to be the insects. Bugs are everywhere at Banner Pits and at Lake Ahquabi. The heat and high humidity have made for a massive bumper crop of flying critters that move in packs and have social networks designed to attack on every hairpin turn, switchback or turnaround. They wait and strike. They track and pursue. They follow and nag. I'm not really talking about mosquitoes - not too worry, it's a bumper crop for them as well - but I am talking about odd sorts of flies and bugs that swarm you and bite.

I got frustrated to the point yesterday that I started swatting and when that didn't work, I started riding harder and faster. That still didn't work. So I upped the speed to full out XC race speed and even tossed in some wildly crazy and out of control speed. I was able to get the critters to stay away riding like that. Two downed trees at Banner and some branches (I guess there was a big storm on Saturday night while I was up in Duluth) just about did me in with the creatures. Stopping to hoist my bike over these, the critters swooped in fast and furious to attack me yet again. I got to practice hopping on the bike and powering up to full steam intervals to shake them.

Not bad for a stimulus, but I think it is time to dig out the bug spray in hopes of gaining a few seconds out in the jungle at Banner. Or, I'll just plan on every ride in the woods being a full out intensity ride this month...

Made the Podium...

After a heavy week of cycling (trying to build for the 50 mile endurance race in the Black Hills coming up), I drove up to Duluth on Saturday for Sunday's The Great Hawk Race which was to be race #8 in Minnesota's Mountain Bike Race Series. I had not been to Duluth since the summer of 1980 (when I had to wear a heavy flannel shirt it was so cold). The 6 hour drive was too long to do on the morning of the race, so I headed up thinking I could take a loop of the race course on Saturday and find a place to stay.

The drive was nice as temperatures got cooler as I kept heading north. About an hour south of Duluth, it began raining which I knew was going to spoil my chances of a pre-ride. By the time I pulled into Duluth, the rain had stopped and I drove to the Lester Park area on the North Shore to find the race course. There were a few in the parking lot that had just finished a lap or were heading out to do one. Since my legs were on a rest day from the week of training, I decided it was best to let them rest and I didn't want to hurt the trail after a fresh rain. So I walked a bit of it to get an idea of conditions. It was muddy. I determined I needed to swap out my Race King 2.2's for the Maxxis Beaver mud tires. I figured I could do that in my motel room. So I headed back into town to find a room.

Big problem. "No rooms for 30 miles" was the word I kept getting at every motel desk. Duluth is a happening summer vacation spot? WTF? I had no idea and figured the worst case scenario would be for me to drive 30 miles or so to find a room. I grabbed dinner at a wood burning oven restaurant which had rotisserie chicken going full force over the flames and looked tasty. So I ordered 1/2 a bird and a sweet potato. Then I headed back south in search of a room. Long story short, everyone in every town was full. Finally, at a town about 110 miles south I found the next to last room left in a seedy place. It was cheap, but the price of gas to drive there and back made it the same had I stayed at a nice place in Duluth. Tired from the extra miles of driving, I hit the sack and was out by midnight. I got up at 7 so I could grab some coffee and change my race tires to mud tires. It sounds like a rather odd thing to do, but there I was on the bathroom tile floor changing tubeless tires in a seedy motel room at 7:15 a.m. on a Sunday morning. I finished up, cleaned up the mess, showered, dressed and headed back up to Duluth with my breakfast in the car.

Construction traffic delayed my arrival, so I only had about 10 minutes to warm up after I got registered, dressed and ready to go. That's not enough time for me (especially after the training week I went through) and I know it meant I would have to start the race slower than planned because of it to get the blood flowing. I was mentally prepared to turn myself inside out on this race to shoot for a good finish. However, without the proper warm up the danger was going out too hard on the start and not being able to recover at all for the rest of the race. So I went over to the starting line and saw that the usual crowd of 50+ age riders had not made the drive up to Duluth. A quick look around the riders in my wave (45-49, 50-59, and 60+) looked to be only about 15 of us compared to the usual 25+ riders. Steve Stilwell was there in the front row and is in 1st place in the standings as well as some wins under his belt this season. Another rider ahead of me in the standings was there lined up in the 2nd row...and the next thing I knew, we were off. I had to bring along and wear my old MOB Racing kit for this race since my son, Zack, managed to "borrow" both my BikeIowa.com kits for his exercise rides on the trainer in the basement and I found them wadded up and dirty on his bathroom floor as I was packing. Too late to wash them, so I grabbed my MOB kit.

The opening climb was on a cross country ski trail and it was uphill. Here's the start of my wave...

Great Hawk Race Start

I had to pace myself and hold back to use the opening as a warm up, so I was back in the pack huffing and puffing. The rain had made the trail spongy and muddy - enough so that it felt like my rear brake was rubbing (it wasn't, it just felt like it). There was going to be no coasting on this course with the soggy conditions, so Niner's top tube sticker on all of their bikes which reads "Pedal Damn It!" kept staring up at me and reminding me to keep grinding it out. I was hanging with a guy in front of me and a couple were hanging on my tail, but once we finished the ski trail climb and headed into the single track, I recovered and realized the guy in front of me was a bit timid in the singletrack. It was pretty greasy, but I got around him.

By now, the lead group was not only not in sight, they were long gone. That's the price I had to pay for no warm-up and the inability to go cross eyed on the start for fear of not recovering. But I forged ahead. It felt like a lot of climbing on this course, but some of that was due to the soggy conditions making it feel like even the flat spots were a climb. Short power climbs had my grinding it out...

Great Hawk Power Grind Corner

I passed a couple of guys from earlier classes walking a climb after one of the first road crossings and after I cleaned the climb and powered around a corner, got my wheels in a rut on a flat spot and went down as they slipped out in the mud. My handlebars were turned sideways, but I was able to hold the front wheel between my legs and get them straight again.

Back on the bike I was now warmed up and felt like racing, so I turned on the gas and powered through the best I could. Not having ridden here and stuck in no man's land with no rider visible in front of me to follow and learn the trail, I was being a bit cautious not knowing what was coming around the next bend. The final descent into the finish line area to start lap 2 was a long cross country ski trail where you could really let it all out and fly down the hill. I had walked most of this section on Saturday evening, so I knew what it looked like and I powered through the finish area to start my next lap.

Lap 2 was really soggy on the ski trail climb as all of the bikes had done their damage to cut through the top layers and turn things into a bog. I was searching for the least soggy line at all times, but it was work to keep turning the pedals over in the muddy, clay sections. And of course, bike and legs and face were covered in mud. Once in the singletrack, things were drying out and turning the course into perfect conditions. It wasn't as slippery on the 2nd lap and I found a bit of a groove which allowed me to up the pace and push on, but I still felt like I had a brake dragging. It didn't take much to put me in the heart rate area of no return, so I had to use my easy gear with a high spin when I could on the steeper power climbs. The leader of one of the waves that started behind us caught me and passed me in the singletrack.

Again, I found myself out there on my own with nobody to follow or track down. I find that a tough spot to be in on a tough course where you can find yourself backing off to just handle the technical nature of the course and you then find yourself riding at a pace that is not really racing, but seems like you are just out for a good ride. I found myself in that sort of pace when all of a sudden a rider appeared and passed me at the top of a climb. That woke me up and I gave pursuit only to watch him pull over 5 minutes later at the side of the trail with a mechanical. No matter, I was racing again and the end was in sight. Several bridges including a final series of bridges kept one on their toes with the soggy conditions...

Great Hawk Bridge Crossing

I floored it the rest of the way and once I hit the ski trail descent, I put the chain on the big ring and sprinted with whatever I had left to the finish line. Actually, the legs turned over very well as I was now warmed up!! Oh well....

It wasn't my best race, but due to the lack of numbers showing up - I rolled across in 2nd place, 5 minutes and heavy change behind Steve Stilwell who got his third win of the season in the Minnesota series (congrats Steve!!!). I was 10 minutes in front of 3rd place (about the same amount of time I had over that same rider last week at the Single Track Attack in Elk River - where I got 4th and he got 6th). Lester Park was an absolutely beautiful course with the rivers, climbs, rocks, heavy forest, smell of fresh rain, temperature around 70 and usual Minnesota hospitality. Kudos to the entire crew for the excellent trails and race!!! It was well worth the drive and frustration of not booking a motel room (lesson learned). I cleaned up, had some Granola Bars, watermelon and a couple of bottles of water to recover. I hung around for the awards ceremony and then hopped in the car for the drive home.

8/2/11

17 seconds off of the podium....!!!

I headed up to Minnesota on Sunday morning for the 7th race in the Minnesota summer mountain biking series - the SingleTrackAttack at Hillside Park in Elk River, MN. Give or take a few minutes, it's a 4 1/2 hour jaunt from front door to the registration table. I was amazed at how foggy and muggy things were at 5:45 a.m. on Sunday. Saturday night had been a very pleasant evening as we were at a pool party and sat out on the deck socializing until 10. I guess the muggy humidity rolled in during the night and the prediction was for a very high heat index come race time. I've grown accustomed to the heat this summer on the bike, so I wasn't too worried.

In terms of the Minnesota series, this was to be my 3rd event in their series thus far this summer. I was looking forward to it since I have enjoyed the Hillside Park trails the past couple of seasons. According to the radar, they were hit with a nice overnight rain, but everyone claimed the sandy soil soaks up most rain - so no special mud tires were needed. I went with the Continental Race King 2.2's to give me a bit more BB height in hopes I could avoid any pedal strikes on the rocks and roots on this twisty course.

My only worry centered around my legs. Lifting weights on Wednesday for the first time since our basement flooded in June and riding full out on Thursday's RAGBRAI meant my legs needed a full two days of recovery. I failed to cool down after the RAGBRAI ride and failed to get some recovery fluid/food within the important window of opportunity. So, my legs were shot on Friday. I went out for a recovery ride on Saturday with Tara and was shocked how bad my legs felt at the start of the ride. I could barely get up the first hill in granny gear. I nearly turned around 3 blocks from the house. I knew better and thought the blood flow would help me recover and wake up my legs. So I kept on at a very easy pace to get the blood flowing while Tara kept looking back wondering what was wrong with me. About 30 minutes into the ride, my legs came back to life and I knew I would be okay on Sunday. Once I arrived at Hillside Park, got suited up and started warming up - it was confirmed that my legs were back.

We all got lined up in our respective age group starting waves. I was the next to last wave to start at the SingleTrackAttack as they started us in chronological age group order. So my wave group included the 45-49, 50-59 and 60+ racers. I managed to get in the 3rd row at the start line after all of the series leader call ups were finished. At the gun, we all jumped out and one guy shot off like a rocket. The rest of us were pretty content to stick in a clump down the gravel road to the singletrack. I was in a debate with my legs and mind as to whether I really wanted to turn myself inside out to get up to the singletrack with the first few racers or not. And the question loomed in my mind if I would actually be able to recover in the heat for the rest of the race if I did so. I probed the legs and started to move up in the pack only to be cut off and pushed to the left side of the road out into the grass by another rider - so that settled it for me. I hung where I was and went into the singletrack in the middle of the pack. It didn't take long for me to start passing a few that were dabbing at some of the turns, roots and trail conditions (muddy corners).

It was very warm and humid. And I knew the duration of the race was going to be 90 minutes plus based on the mileage and type of course Hillside is. My legs were feeling good and I knew I had time to work my way through the crowd, so I pushed on trying to remain cautious on certain corners that were muddy enough that tires were slipping out on most of us. Everybody was pretty cool about passing in this race and the singletrack gave plenty of opportunities to pass with its design. In retrospect, I was getting too comfortable behind slower riders on lap one and not doing my part to work around them as best I could. Most likely that was due to the debate between my mind and body with regard to the RAGBRAI effort on Thursday and how to handle the heat/humidity. In spite of that, I was hanging with guys that usually place better than I do by a minute or two, so I was content to be in the hunt.

Was it the heat, or was there a sculpture of a lady of the woods out there...

Single Track Attack Sculpture in the Woods

I hit one rut in the middle of a turn that was still very wet from the fresh rain and down I went. Luckily, I fell in very soft and sandy soil so nothing was hurt. I just had sand all over my legs and hands, but I hopped right back on and buzzed on...

Single Track Attack Race Grind

Due to the 4 waves that started in front of us, we hit a lot of traffic and had to work our way around slower riders from the age groups in front of us. This made the 2nd half of lap 1 and all of lap 2 a bit more challenging. I got stuck behind one Clydesdale in one of the tighter, twistier sections who would not allow me to pass no matter how nicely I asked (I asked 3 times). He was not obligated to let me pass, but most racers realize when a faster rider is on their tail and will make room for a second or two for a rider to overtake them. I finally got around him on a climb where he was riding well, but his weight didn't allow him to climb as fast as I could so I just went around him and took off to make up some time. I venture to guess I lost 10 - 20 seconds right there, but who knows. It wasn't the only delay I put myself into and got lulled into a bit of recovery before pushing on and passing. It happened again in the same exact section on lap 2 when I got stuck behind a guy on a 29"er who had not learned the bike's attributes quite well enough to lean and carve the turns while laying off of the brakes. He was over-braking every corner, which caused us to slow and go around every corner, followed by acceleration to get back up to speed. I actually got into a conversation with him about the heat and humidity and instead of passing, I was socializing. WTF!! Then I heard a rider or two coming up behind us and I gunned it around him and gave it my all for the final section of the race.

It was so twisty and thick in the forest, you really couldn't tell who was ahead of you or behind you as you couldn't see very far. Lots of sharp, switchback uphill turns where you had to keep the power on the pedals to rotate around the turn...

Single Track Attack Race

Coming out of the thick forest and into the more open straight sections and final turns, I caught up to the wheel of the winner of the 60+ group (and he usually beats me by a minute or two) and another rider who was in the 30-34 age group. I had nothing to gain to pass these two guys on the final 200 yards to the line, so I just hung with them and we all crossed the line more or less as a clump. Bravo and kudos to the race crew who had a wide enough finish chute this year to avoid any crazy thing such as I experienced last year. Last year, during a final sprint to the line to beat another racer, I accidentally locked handlebars with him crossing the line because the finish line chute was only about 4 feet wide and I got stuck. This year, it was more like 10-12 feet wide and there was plenty of room for a safe finish.

I went for 20 minute cool down ride and noticed my legs, bike and clothes were covered in mud, sand and slop. So it was a get down and get dirty race, but a lot of fun. My legs were working well, my bike handling was spot on and the trails were a blast. Any sliding out with the tires was very predictable and easily managed. After loading up my bike and cleaning off, I went to get a turkey wrap and drink at the concession stand and then headed over to check the results. Wow! I came in 4th only 17 seconds behind 3rd place. Did I leave those 17 seconds on the trail? You bet. My bad, but the heat, the recovery from RAGBRAI, the socializing the night before, the lack of sleep, the 4 1/2 hour drive all probably contributed to my decision making. Still, that's a big improvement for me in this competitive field up in Minnesota. 7th place in my first race up there this season, 5th place last race and now 4th place. A podium spot was that close and I let it slip through my fingers. Not next time. I'm peaking for some upcoming events and hope to keep on the improvement path this month as each weekend race unfolds.

Kudos to Rich Omdahl and his excellent crew for once again hosting a favorite event of mine. I'll be back for sure...