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.


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.


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...


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.