6/29/11

Time for a photo dump...

Every now and then, the camera card gets so full, you have to empty it. From the collective bundle, here are a few representing the past month or so...

First up, is our garden which is doing pretty well in spite of the record amounts of rain in June. Depending on which source you study, the claims are 10.5" - 12"+ for the month of June alone. That's approaching the historic levels back in 2008 that we had. It's hard to keep a garden from getting yellow and not making it with all of that rain, but the drainage and use of mulch this year has helped us fight mother nature. It's been hailed on 3 times to date, and we're fighting a bit of fungus on a couple of plants.

Gardentastic!

Gardentastic

Next up, Alexa turned Sweet 16 this month and her "party" was a group of 9 girls who had appetizers at our house, then dined at Centro in Des Moines and finally came over for ice cream cake to celebrate.

Alexa, 2nd from left, and a non-alcoholic toast to 16!

Non-Alcoholic Champagne Toast

These gals are all leg sitting around the Sitzecke...

Lots of legs...

Last shot before heading up to Centro...

Sweet 16!!!!

Before that, and something I had to miss due to being in Italy, was Zack's High School Graduation. Grandpa Brown and Aunt Becky made it, though.

Here's the proud boy with his Grandpa Brown. The Gold Honor Cords were worn by the 13 in his class that graduated with a GPA of 4.0 or higher.

Grandpa Brown on Graduation Day with Zack

Outside the Simpson Gym where graduation took place with Mom, Alexa and Aunt Becky...

Graduation day 2011!

And, my weekly routine includes cleaning up whatever bike I raced which includes taking the chain off, the rear cassette off and soaking them in diesel fuel for a routine maintenance clean. Then I dry rub the bike and parts, lube everything up and clean off any mud that may have accumulated from the race. Solvents, diesel fuel, oils all make for a messy couple of hours - but it keeps the bike running well for the next event.

Working on the JET post race...

Prepping the JET for a race

Cleaning the JET

This week, today actually, the Dos gets cleaned after the Minnesota race.

2.4 Ardent clearance on the Dos

Photo dump over. Next up, meeting with carpet installers for estimates. I start painting the basement tomorrow. I hope to finish that in a week, but there is a lot of wall space to cover down there. Most likely, another 2 full weeks before the basement is restored to pre-flood condition. Due to our vacation trip to New York, it may not get finished until the latter portion of July.

6/28/11

Wheelhouse Classic was a blast!!!

The weather reports on Saturday night and early Sunday morning were good, so I didn't need the Beavers. I decided to race the fat tire Dos Niner at the Wheelhouse Classic in Red Wing, Minnesota.

Ardent 2.4's on the Dos

I drove up sans wife who pulled the plug on me at 5:30 a.m. and said I was on my own. I buzzed up I-35 and headed over through Northfield to Red Wing where I arrived with about 45 minutes to register, suit up and warm up for the 11 a.m. race. The weather was perfect and word was the trails were tacky and in great race shape. I got the air pressure I wanted in the big fat Maxxis Ardent 2.4's, made my Heed drinks and headed out for some warm-up. I felt pretty good and knew my training for the week had been the right balance to prepare for the climbs.

I lined up with my wave which included most of the older guys from age 44 - 60+. My wave took off at 11:06 and we were scheduled to do 3 full laps. Typical race finish time for the Cat 2 (Sport) races in the Minnesota Series is 70 minutes. So I figured one water bottle was enough and ditched my 2nd bottle at the side of the start area.

The opening section was the big meadow that gave us plenty of room to fight for position and get our eyes crossed, our hearts screaming and our legs complaining before going into the tight and twisty - but oh so fun - Memorial Park singletrack. I got a pretty good start and was hanging in there in the meadow...

Rolling out at the start on the Dos

I was worried the Ardents might slow me down on climbs, or accelerating out of turns. My worries quickly vanished as the big meats ate up the trail and actually allowed me to fly in and out of turns, up over roots and down hills faster than my usual skinny-mini XC race tires. I had a big smile on my face and felt in good form to boot. Lap one was fun as I remembered sections of the trail and enjoyed out of saddle climbing and testing my legs at every opportunity. Stairway to heaven was the usual fun grind all the way up. I made it about 2/3's of the way up this climb for lap one when I ran into the back of about 7 or 8 riders pushing their bikes up the hill. I tried to let them know I was riding and coming through, but my voice was so weak due to being out of breath, nobody heard me and I had to dismount and push the rest of the way due to heavy foot traffic. Oh well...

Problem was, lap one seemed to go on forever. Hmmmm....as the clock ticked on I thought "this is going to be a bit longer than a 70 minute race". Finally, I heard the P.A. System and knew the first lap was about over as I crossed the line and headed out for lap 2. Yup, more like 90 - 110 minutes is what I figure our times would be based on lap 1.

Coming out of the meadow and heading into the singletrack, the Cat 2 woman that was in 1st place passed me right as we headed into the singletrack. I locked onto her wheel and hung on. Another guy, not sure what category, was glued to my rear wheel. The three of us hung together all the way to Stairway to Heaven. The 1st place gal, got off her bike to push, and I started the grind up staying seated. The guy behind me was still glued to me rear wheel. Again, about 2/3'rds of the way up I was in a groove and focusing on where my front wheel was going to keep a good line and traction. I totally ignored what was to my side and I hooked my handlebar on a tree which stopped me dead in my tracks. This stopped the guy behind me and I apologized to him for not seeing the tree. He said it was okay and claimed it was inevitable that we wouldn't make the entire climb.

At the top of the climb, the gal caught up to us and took off around me again. A few minutes later, she went down hard on a sharp curve at the bottom of the new downhill section of the course (it was a tricky curve). After shouting out to her, she claimed she was okay in spite of the nasty spill. So I motored on and picked up speed on the downhill section and finally shook the guy off of my rear wheel.

Heading into lap 3, I saw that the 1st place CAT 2 gal was gaining on me again and she finally caught me and went around me again. She said she was okay from the spill and I locked onto her rear wheel yet again, but couldn't hold it this time. The duration of this race was starting to get to me and I was feeling the beginning stages of twinges and cramps when I would muscle through climbs or get out of the saddle. The heat, humidity, time already in the saddle, was starting to catch up to me. I ate a GU, drank some fluids and after a few minutes felt pretty good again. I was flying on certain sections with the Ardents allowing me to be aggressive.

Wheelhouse Drops

I caught back up to the CAT 2, 1st place gal just before the final Stairway to Heaven climb. She dismounted to walk, and I decided to heck with it - I had to clear the climb at least one time in the race. So I sat and spun up the climb at a rate that didn't put me in the red zone, but was just a nice balance of effort to keep me going up the hill and allow a bit of recovery. I guess it didn't really matter that I cleaned the climb (finally) in terms of pushing, because I was still about 10 feet behind the gal who had pushed her bike all the way up the climb. At the top of the climb - off she went - and whatever I had left, I used it up to pedal myself home and not lose my position in the race.

I crossed the line in 5th Place for my age group with a time of 1:53:36 (about 1:09 behind 4th Place) and well off the winning time of 1:43:43. I've never placed higher than 4th at the Minnesota races, so unless I can make up a gap of 2:30 minutes to challenge third place, I'll have to be happy. Wow! That was a workout, but a super fun race on the beefed up Dos Niner, perfect trail conditions, fun course and good form. I don't even care that it was longer than the usual 70 minute race course. It was good to have a bit more of a workout and enjoy the day so much. Great course. Great markings. Well run event. Kudos to the entire crew!


Next Up: Finishing the basement and dealing with identity theft thanks to a stolen purse from one of our cars in the driveway on Sunday night. What a mess!!

6/25/11

Time to use the Beavers again...

I am heading out tomorrow morning with Tara to drive up to Red Wing, Minnesota for the Wheelhouse Classic (formerly called the Memorial). The current weather looks like it has been misting Saturday morning and rain is in the forecast for this afternoon and possibly through the night and into the morning. I'll plan on racing the Beavers for the traction needed...

Beavered JET 9

I might bring along another bike or tire options in case things are tacky and in good condition to warrant, rather than run the mud tires. I just remember the Ikons got really sketchy there last year in lap 2 as the rain fell. I want to avoid that scenario again, so the Beavers are ready to go.

6/21/11

From 1st back to 7th - Nebraska State Championships...

1st Place last weekend. 7th Place this weekend. More a matter of attendance than my racing skills (or lack thereof....). It's been a heck of a week with Alexa turning 16, jack hammers going non-stop for three days in our basement installing a permanent fix to our basement flooding woes, refinancing our mortgage (snagged a 3% rate), having contractors come and go with estimates for dry wall, framing, painting and flooring on top of our usual routine. Such is our life at the moment.

Father's Day weekend left me with a choice of racing the Nebraska State MTB Championship race at Ponca State Park outside of Sioux City on Saturday, or racing on Father's Day itself in the Minnesota series at Afton Alps Ski Area. I was leaning towards going to Minnesota since I am participating in that series, and even contemplated for a few minutes of trying to do both races which I knew would be hard because the course at Ponca is a nemesis for me and eats my lunch no matter what I do. So I put it to a family vote and the kids wanted me home for Father's Day, but left it up to me. I went ahead and registered online by the Friday night deadline for Saturday's race in Nebraska.

I checked and re-checked the weather radar, the forecasts and it looked to be some sloppy conditions in Minnesota - so I got up Saturday morning and was confident in my decision to go to Nebraska instead of Minnesota. I had thought that I-680/I-29 was closed at Missouri Valley, so I took I-35 and US 20 over to Nebraska. A bit longer, but that's what my lead foot is for on those early morning weekend "races to the races". '-] I arrived about 35 minutes before the race start, got suited up and did some warm-up.

My previous races at Ponca, no matter what bike, no matter what my training, seemed to net me a time of 90 minutes give or take a minute in either direction. I brought the RIP for this race because I felt I needed a bailout granny gear compared to the 29/42 chainrings with the 11-34 cassette I always have run at Ponca in the past (which gets tough on the last lap with some of those climbs for me). Plus, my JET was set up with the Beavers for a mud race from the prior weekend. There was no mud here, so that's why I was on the RIP. I figured I might as well be plush for the suffering.

114 racers showed up for the opportunity to race this tough course and the weather was cooperating as were the trails (which were in perfect, tacky racing condition!!!). I got a good start and went into the singletrack in 4th position. Not too long after we got going, somebody in front of me threw a chain and had to stop in the trail which had 2 of us dismounting so as not to rear end him or each other. A few went around us as we got back on the bikes and around the racer with the chain issues.

I couldn't tell if I felt good or if something was off in this first 1/2 of lap one because I was keeping it in the middle ring, hanging with the leaders and figured my training was in good shape for what was to come. The RIP is no slouch at climbing, but it's by no means an efficient climber like the JET or my Dos Niner and I was fighting to keep the front wheel on the ground as there were some steep climbing sections. This, in spite of me having removed a 10mm spacer the day before to get in a more aggressive position just for that reason. Going into the final climbing sections of lap one before the long descent back to the finish line, I realized I was feeling pretty cooked for that point in the race (2/3's still to go). But it's a long race, so there was no way I was giving up. Form may have been off from the week's training (or lack of any top end training that is), but you go with what you have, right?

Lap 2 started to feel better as I settled into a pace I felt I could maintain. The hills were no longer middle ring as I opted to climb with the 23T Rotor Q ring and work the gears. I was behind a racer that stuttered on a root on a steep climb and I had no time or energy to react, so I had to dismount. I said to heck with it and ran/walked that hill before getting back on the bike. All I can say about lap 2 is - I finished it. I came through the finish line area starting lap 3 feeling pretty good. "Feeling good" as in I knew each hill I climbed was the last time I had to climb it that day. That gave me enough of a mental boost to grind ahead. And as in years past, this last lap ate what little lunch I had left in me. Those climbs I had been able to muscle up in earlier laps were now granny gear spinning climbs with my heart rate pegged and me just trying to grind up the climbs. Ah...to be 20 pounds lighter and on a lighter, more efficient climbing bike. But I pushed on through with the 28 pound RIP and rolled across the line in 7th Place at about the same time (90 minutes by my watch) as my prior years at Ponca.

What a great climbing course and test of mettle!!! On the way back to do a cool down ride, a Nebraska racer said to me "Well, that's about it in Nebraska for mountain climbing courses! The rest are prairie." The track was in perfect condition, the race was well run and I can see why the Ponca course is a good venue for the State Championships. You have to pull out all the stops to win there.

I cooled down, visited a bit with Cam who did his 5 laps in less time than I did my 3 and won the Cat 1 division, grabbed some recovery food and packed up to head home. This time I took I-29 and 680 East to come home (it was open) and the drive was 30 minutes shorter via this route. I got home in time for a wonderful dinner.


How about the Biblical Amounts of Rainfall and our basement?

Sunday, Tara and I did a 2 1/2 hour bike ride in the morning before it got too hot. My legs felt pretty good, but not good enough to have attempted Afton Alps the day after Ponca. I cleaned the basement after the construction of the drainage track and additional sump pump were added. Cleaned the floors and dusted the upstairs. Zack mowed the lawn for me in a Father's Day mercy offering. I trimmed with the weed whacker. Tara whipped up a huge Father's Day meal which we ate at 8 pm and after we cleaned up, we got settled in for the night's thunderstorms with hopes our new evasive basement renovation with the drainage track and additional sump pump would work.

Work it did!!! Epic amounts of rain fell and the pumps handled it all. These epic, or Biblical, rains are here to stay. They started in 2008 and have not let up. 7 inches, 9 inches, 4 inches, 6 inches, 5 inches, etc... . The weather pattern has changed and it's time construction, drainage and mindset morph with it. I'll never look at another piece of real estate without drainage as one of my top priorities. I can't believe what we've been through the last 4 years with this home, let alone the flooding that is taking place throughout the region.

Okay, so the system installed by Better Basement Technologies works very well and so far, in the two major storms it has encountered, has lived up to its promise. The only problem now is the run off pipe out in our front yard for the new system drains down our yard and into the neighbors due to our entire front yard sloping to the west. It wouldn't really matter where the run off pipe was in our front yard - it's heading west to their yard. They rang our doorbell by 9 am to complain.

Legally, we are compliant as the rule is as long as you are a minimum of 5 feet from your property line, and a minimum of 6 feet from the sidewalk's edge in front of your house, storm drainage (downspouts, roofs, sump pumps) are good to go. Our drainage meets those requirements legally, but I don't want to piss them off and would rather run it out to the street, but that's not allowed by city code. So after some emails and phone calls, somebody from the city is coming out today at 10 am and a plumber is coming today as well to see what our options are. We'll call a landscaper as well as maybe we can build a berm, natural rock garden and divert some of the flow so our neighbors grass doesn't get swampy for the 12 hours following a huge rain.

I think the city is going to have to change the rule and allow us to run sump pumps into the street (which is part of the storm sewer) like they do down south because these 5 year, 50 year and 100 year rains are now happening every month in the wet season. Current city code is pitting neighbors against neighbors. The lady at city hall actually told me that as long as we are compliant, it is up to the neighbors to deal with the water that runs from our yard into theirs. That just doesn't seem like the best interests for residents. I've got one pump hooked to the storm sewer, but this new pump I wanted to be separate from that just in case the storm sewer (which is designed to handle a 5 year rain) gets plugged up or backs up, then the other pump releases into the yard or street portion of the storm sewer which is designed to handle a 100 year rain. But my neighbors are not happy. Yet. However, after 2 nights of torrential rain (Sunday and Monday night) - our basement is bone dry.

I'm sure we'll come up with a solution that keeps our neighbors content. Luckily, only the front portion of their lawn down by the sidewalk and street is what gets soaked from the run off. It's no where near their foundation. And the main culprit is that our lot is higher than theirs - a design that is flawed from the start for drainage. Then again, the neighbors to our east are higher than we are. That makes for a scenario where neighbors just pass on the water down the hill to the other neighbors. Letting us run the drainage to the street would cure those woes.

Update: The city came out and took a look. We have permission to tap into the storm sewer system by either tapping into the pipe itself, or going through one of the rings in the manhole at the edge of our yard. I hired a plumber/excavator to do the work and he's going to go under the sidewalk and tap into the manhole (as soon as things dry out and it stops raining!!!!). Forward progress.

6/15/11

Moorehead Mayem Race Report...

I had a choice this past weekend between 2 XC races that I wanted to do. One was the WORS Big Ring Classic in Wausau, Wisconsin, and the other was the IMBCS Moorehead Mayhem in Ida Grove, Iowa. I made the drive to Wausau last year and really enjoyed that race. It was a great course with a nice mix of technical rocks, twisty singletrack and lots of open fire trail connectors. I just didn't feel up to the 7+ hour drive to get there, a night in a motel and return trip. Mainly due to our basement flooding again last week after a 9" rain and being exhausted from the physical labor required to clean out the basement, dry the carpet and get things ready for the waterproofing construction in our basement. So the choice was clear. Head up to Ida Grove for the Moorehead Mayhem. I have raced there in the past years and really enjoy that climbing course as well. Luckily, the start time was 12:05 p.m., so making the 2 1/2 hour drive meant I didn't have to get up super early and lose any sleep.

Our internet, phone, and cable had been wiped out since last Wednesday, so I had no idea of knowing what the weather was going to be like. I went to the office and read a post on Saturday evening on the IORCA/Yahoo Group site that said the race was on and conditions were perfect. So I loaded up the JET 9 with the Maxxis Ikon on the front and the Raven 2.2 on the rear, and packed the car Saturday night to get ready for the Sunday morning departure.

When I got up on Sunday morning, the skies were sunny and it looked like a perfect day for a race. I took off and about an hour west of Des Moines, the skies started looking like rain. The closer I got to Ida Grove, the rain started falling and it looked like things were going to be a wet day. Luckily, I had the Maxxis Beaver tires in a box in the rear of the Element along with my floor pump (I always travel with a "just in case" plan). I got to the park in Ida Grove and saw all of the packed up mud on everyone's tires that had been out pre-riding the course. Everyone was talking about how greasy it was out on the course. Then it started raining. So, instead of my normal warm-up - I quickly decided to take the Ikon and Raven off, and mount up the Maxxis Beavers on my Crest rims.

The Beaver is not a wide tire. The casing and the knobs measure out sub 2"...

Maxxis Beaver 29er tire

The knobs, for lack of a better analogy, feel soft and squishy like a gummy bear. So I can see how the softer rubber, and narrower tire would dig in and down through the top layers to provide traction in the gunk.

Mounting tires tubeless with a floor pump is not always an easy task. Add in the fact that it was raining as well as me being pressed for time to the equation, and it took all of my will to remain calm while using all of my tubeless mounting experience to pull it off successfully. First, I removed the valve cores. Then I added in 2 ounces to each tire, dipped my fingers in the sealant and ran that all along the beads to take the place of soap suds. I tapped all around the tire to get fluid splashing everywhere and the bead in a good position to take air from the floor pump. Then I started pumping, cursing, dancing, sweating and bingo - I got both tires aired up with patience and technique. The beads popped into place and I began the shaking to seal things up Stan's routine. I laid the wheels as flat as I could on their sides to seal the bead, flipped them a few times and said enough. It was time to suit up and go race no matter what.

Time to leave it to Beaver...

Maxxis Beaver 29

I managed to get in about 10 minutes of quick warm-up which is not ideal for me, but it was what it was. I had a big training week (10 hours) on top of the basement work, so my legs didn't exactly feel rested. But training through the weekend's race was part of the bigger plan - so I was cool with that. Due to the weather and the drive, there were not as many racers as other events in the Cat 2 Division. Experts and Comps had a pretty good showing. They went first and we took off with a one minute interval between us. I lined up in the front row and headed into the singletrack in 3rd position. Now that was something new for me and I wondered why nobody was passing me yet. I snuggled in behind the guy in 2nd position, Billy Bergman (local course knowledge), and decided to hammer out the first few minutes at full bore and see if I could recover after the first 5 - 10 minutes of the start. I was hanging up with the front 2 riders and testing the tires to see what they could and couldn't do.

The Beavers were grabbing the trail nicely. I wasn't slipping, spinning out or having to be overly cautious in the turns. "Pretty impressive", I thought, were these tires. On the first big grunt climb up the fire road, I passed Billy and was then passed by another Cat 2 racer a few seconds later. So, I was still in 3rd position for the Cat 2's and trying to tell my mind not to think about the climb. Lap one proved to remind me what kind of a climbing course this was. Seated climbing, out of saddle climbing, trying to keep traction climbing, on the nose of the saddle climbing - you needed it all and struggled to keep going up at times.

A racer behind me during lap one and who had been on my tail, broke his chain on a short steep climb and had to bail out of the race. Lap 1 ended and I didn't see or hear anyone near me from the back. Mrs. Bergman was right in front of me and I was now tailing her (not sure if she was in Cat 1 or Comp), but she had local course knowledge and I remember following her in the same manner in a prior year's version of the Moorehead Mayhem. I would catch her on the descents and she would pull away on the climbs.

Lap 2 was mentally better for me because I knew what hills were coming up and I just hunkered down to climb them. One log crossing/root combination had my rear tire slip, but the Beaver grabbed into the dirt and I managed to stay upright. I passed a few who had pulled over on the side with mechanicals or what not from other divisions. I was still staying about 20 - 40 yards behind Lady Bergman and as we entered the final climbing sections, I decided to dig deep and really power up them to see if I could catch her one last time. Well, she did the same on the final climb and crested the hill well before me and took off on the downhill section. I let it fly down the hill with full trust in the Beavers and not touching the brakes, but couldn't keep up with her. She's fast.

I ended up in 1st Place for the Cat 2 45+ age group, and 3rd place Cat 2 overall. Proving nothing really - outside of the fact that you have to show up to win. ;-} It was a pretty short race, but followed the rules of trying to reign in the Cat 2 Sport finish times of around an hour. I was around 62 minutes and change. Fellow BikeIowa.com team member's Kyle Sedore and Kurt Benson took podium spots in Comp and Cat 2 35+ - so a good showing for the BikeIowa.com Boyz.

Hats off to the Beavers. They are a very nice race tire for the wet and wild. Since Minnesota and Wisconsin are both a "rain or shine" race series, I'll be calling on the Beavers from time to time. Iowa may have to consider events and trails going to a rain or shine situation as well. I think the wet weather and weather trends are here to stay (based on 2008 - 2011 that is).

Next up is the Afton Alps race in Minnesota this weekend on Father's Day. There is a great race on Saturday in the Nebraska Psycowpath series at Ponca State Park, but I don't know if my legs are up for back to back races this weekend on two climbing courses. We'll see....

6/7/11

Minnesota Race Report...

Bluff Riders Charge was held at Mt. Kato Ski Area this Sunday on their excellent mountain bike trails. There is no doubt about it, it sure felt good to race again after 7 weeks away from the racing scene.

The scene at the base of Mt. Kato....

RacerWatchCrowd

Tara and I made the drive up to Mankato in the Element on Sunday morning leaving about 6 a.m. with coffee and breakfast packed in the car. We arrived about 9:35 a.m. and I picked up my number plates, used the restroom and headed back to the car to get suited up and do about 45 minutes of warm up before the race. Tara brought her Air 9 to hit the bike path for a couple of hours while I was warming up and racing.

As usual, there was a very good turnout for the Minnesota event as weather was perfect (low 80's at the 11 am race start). We saw and visited with Steve Stilwell in the parking lot a bit. Steve won the first Minnesota race in the 50-59 Category 2 division this season and was sporting the Maxxis Beaver on the rear of his singlespeed. So we talked about the "Beaver" and how well it does in mud. I saw Jason, Cam and Julie who all had made the trip up from Des Moines and were racing later in the day in the Comp, and Category 1 divisions. Actually, Julie said she was going to pass on racing as the Cat 1 race course was too technical for her comfort zone.

There were 110 or so in Category 2 division alone and we lined up in our respective age category waves for the start. The first wave took off at 11 a.m. and each subsequent wave started 2 minutes after the younger group in front of them. My wave, age 50-59, was to take off with the age 60+ riders, and the Clydesdales (guys who weigh 200 pounds or more). After the call ups of the top riders for the season series points in the 50-59, 60+, and the Clydes, I was in about row three and was going to need to do some quick sprint work to get set up for the opening ski hill climb and not be too far back for the entry into the singletrack.

The countdown ended, and I got clipped in immediately and sprinted ahead of a few guys to start the opening climb. I found myself behind some slower climbing Clydes, and sprinted up the opening climb passing 8 or so by going to their right on the grass. About 1/2 way up the climb, my legs were feeling great - but my heart was pegged. My legs were turning over fine and had more to give, but I had to back off just a bit to get the heart rate down and to catch some fresh air from all the dust I was sucking in from the guys in front of me that was getting stirred up on the dusty climb. I had not practiced on such a gut wrenching opening climb at race speed all season long that goes right up something like a ski hill. Not much climbing in the first 3 races I did in April outside of short steep climbs, so this was a good reality check. So hitting it hard for the first few minutes of an XC race start had me striving to find a balance I could recover from and get moving in the singletrack.

I settled in behind a group of 3 that was being led by a guy that was not proving to be a very fast descender. Or at least he was overly cautious, and I had to ride the brakes a lot. I was getting impatient as I like to use the descents and my weight to make up some time that I lose on the climbs. But here I was stuck in most of lap 1 unable to pass on the descents, and not having the fire power to pass them on the climbs as they rolled away from me. I finally managed to get around two of them after the backside flat section and at the start of the final climbs back up the ski hill on the backside. Lap one was uneventful and the course was refreshed in my memory from previous years. The trail was in great shape as there was no mud and things were fast. The section named "The Luge" had a tricky corner or two that at race speed had me fighting to keep the wheels on the track. My rear Raven 2.2 tire wasn't much for providing any braking traction at that speed on dry trails, but I managed to stay upright and rail the turns. Although I slowed down a bit on those two turns in subsequent laps. ;-]

Lap 2 allowed me to get unstuck from the group I was following in lap 1. I was able to really push it going down all of the hills. I was making all the climbs just fine with my gearing and the JET was flying problem free for me.

Bluff Riders Charge banking the turn

The final lap had me digging deeper to give more on all of the climbs and leave nothing on the table for this point in my training/fitness. The temperature was rising and the heat was keeping me in check. I didn't have the climbing punch I did last year as I haven't done enough climbing this spring - or at least during the past 7 weeks - as Lake Ahquabi has been a muddy mess and it needs mowing. But I never found myself out of power - just a heart that was reluctant to keep up with what I wanted it to do with the legs. Mental note was made on the final lap: Lake Ahquabi - here I come for training (and with my mower).

Bluff Riders Charge cranking

I gave what I could and mentally told myself to keep pushing up all of the hills. There was a guy in my age group right in front of me and I did my best to stick with him. He got the best of me on the final climb and in spite of me sprinting all out in the final section, he got me by 5 seconds at the line. I rolled across the finish line with a time of 1:18:58 which landed me a bit back - in 7th Place. However, that's pretty close to previous years at Mt. Kato for me and the competition is a bit more in Minnesota and Wisconsin than other areas. I got 9th at Mt. Kato in 2009 and 4th in 2010 (last year's mud fest) in the 45-49 age group.

Tara and I went for a cool down ride on the bike path (it's a beautiful trail), loaded up the bikes in the Element and then went and watched the start of the Comp/Elite/Pro classes (lots of 29"ers in these fields). Then we headed into Mankato and grabbed a Pita Pocket for lunch before making the drive home. All in all, it was a nice trip and getaway from Indianola and dealing with our basement. I like the Minnesota and Wisconsin races due to the level of competition, age group classes and number of participants. But they involve quite a driving day or weekend to attend, that's for sure. I was glad to have Tara along who drove about 150 miles on the way home while I napped.

Races every weekend in June, so I'll get some good miles in on the bike and in the car...

6/3/11

Time to race again...

I haven't raced since April 17th (Bone Bender) due to being in Italy which caused me to miss a couple of races, and also due to the May 22nd race at Banner Pits had to be canceled due to the muddy conditions. But, that's all about to change as I head up to Mt. Kato ski area just outside of Mankato on Sunday for the Bluff Riders Charge which is race #2 in the Minnesota Mountain Bike XC Series.

The weather forecast looks good and prompts me to leave the RIP at home. I ran it last year since it was a mudfest....

Mt. Kato

I've got the JET 9 all prepped and ready to go. It's what I ran in 2009 at Mt. Kato...

BB

So I put on the new rear derailleur, cleaned the drivetrain, mounted a new Raven 2.2 in the rear since the old one was showing worn tread, washed the bike and lubed things for Sunday. Then I went on a 100 minute training ride in the afternoon heat to get acclimated to 90+ degree temps on the bike.

Tara will come along on Sunday and bring her bike to take a spin on the bike path that runs from the ski area into Mankato while I race. It should be fun. I'll be racing in the 50+ category this year in Minnesota.