4/30/12

Turned the corner....

Today was a step forward in my healing process. Suddenly, out of nowhere and without doing anything special, the strength in my voice started to come back, my neck feels better and my shoulder is gaining strength. Not bad for day 9 since the crash. I've been using the heating pad on the neck, shoulder and thigh and it is starting to provide some return on the investment.

Sunbeam Healing Pad

It's funny, I can lift a 50 pound box with my right arm, but the simple act of sticking a thumbtack in the bulletin board at school hurts like you wouldn't believe!!!!

I had a rehearsal at the Temple this evening for Tara and Alexa's Bat Mitzvah and was surprised to be able to sing nearly 100% normal again. I was able to stand up with better posture and the pain/pressure on the rib cage and shoulder was minimal compared to last week. So that is progress and will hopefully be even better come this weekend for the performance.

May Term Opera Workshop began today and I coached the trio from Rosenkavalier, Abduction quartet, and the Don Pasquale duet with Norina and Malatesta. The rest of the time I finished getting the music we had yet to copy (Utopia Limited, Freisch├╝tz, and a few pages that were missing from a Carmen scene). This week we are focusing on music preparation, translation, meaning, language nuance, diction and IPA. A lot of the students feel overwhelmed with how much music they have to learn so quickly, but I just smile thinking "if they only knew how little they have to learn compared to a normal week on the job in the opera world..."

Busy week this week - so here's to continued physical improvement to help me get through the week.







4/28/12

Back home again in Iowa and the healing begins...

A big shout out to Stephen F. Austin State University and a few wonderful days in Texas catching up with former professors and friends. It all felt like home and brought back a lot of nice memories.

I flew down to Houston on Tuesday evening and drove up to Nacogdoches the next morning. In spite of all the neck and shoulder pain, the trip went well and the pain was a constant reminder that I had brought this all upon myself thanks to my mountain bike racing. I caught two student recitals on Wednesday evening before turning in for the night. I rehearsed my music Thursday morning with accompanist Ron Petti. Following that, I took a quick tour of the parts of campus I frequented the most to see how things had changed over the past 27 years. Before lunch, I spoke with John Roberts, the Director of the School of Music. I took a walk (slow walk - that is in my physical condition) in a new park with a trail system near campus. After that, I headed for some lunch and then back to my room for a nap.

The evening's Extravaganza began at 6 pm in the Grand Ball Room. I met Ric Berry who was going to introduce me later in the evening for the alumni award. There were plenty of memories in that Ball Room as Ric and I had sung Madama Butterfly together there 28 years ago. The evening was a recognition event for outstanding music students with scholarship awards and prizes being handed out by the faculty. The major ensembles performed, the recitalists of the year performed, there was an opera scene from The Merry Widow, and near the end of the evenings program is when I was introduced by Ric Berry who said many kind things about me and what I have done since graduating in 1985.

It was a very humbling experience to be recognized for my accomplishments to date as all I've tried to do in my career is use what I learned whilst a student at SFA from my mentors such as David Jones, Ron Anderson, Tim King, and Shirley Watterston. They were all passionate about their music and music making and lit a fire under me to be the same. At least that is what I came away from SFA with as my modus operandi. Give yourself fully to the music with full passion. I've done that throughout my career singing opera, and now I do it with my own students in the voice studio and as stage director for the operas.

I am proud to be an alum of SFASU as the skills I learned prepared me quite well for a career in music. My only embarrassment of the evening was having to sing without my normal voice being with me. All I could eek out was a cotton ball puff of an air filled tone as my neck and voice wouldn't really allow me to make my typical pressurized sound due to all the pulled muscles and poor posture. It'll bounce back in time as I heal, but that's all I had in my singing bag thanks to the bike wreck. Again, it's my own fault. In spite of that, I had a very nice visit with everyone and feel very honored and humbled to have been recognized. But I also feel proud for a school that is thriving and doing so well preparing future generations of singers. Perhaps sometime in the future I can redeem myself by going back to sing with my normal voice to make up for it.

Friday morning, after having coffee with Tim King, David Howard and a couple of students, I headed back to Houston and had a mid-afternoon lunch at the Goode Company BBQ before heading to the airport for the flight home. Driving the car was not easy with my shoulder and neck as every bump jiggled it. And every time I had to stop at a light and then go, the neck was not happy. Dozing on the plane wasn't too good for the neck either, nor was the bumpy descent during a thunderstorm into Des Moines, but I made it home by 10 pm and put the heating pad on the neck.

Thanks again to Ric Berry, Debbie Berry, John Roberts, Ron Anderson, Tim King, Shirley Watterston, Missy Devine, Ron Petti, Nita Hudson, etc... for a wonderful experience and visit. I am very excited to have one of my senior mezzo's attend SFA next year in the graduate program. And I will be sending more to audition next year as well!!!


4/24/12

The road to recovery...

I was fortunate to get in first thing Monday morning to see my dentist - Al Boone who is also an avid mountain biker. He fixed the two broken teeth and had me out of his office by 11 am. So that was step one.

My neck and right shoulder area has gotten a bit better, but is still in a lot of pain. I am able to sleep on my back and the discomfort the past 36 hours has been somewhat tolerable without any pain medications. It meant that the past two nights had some interrupted sleep patterns and that leaves me tired during the day. I had hoped for a bit better bounce back in my neck, but realize the whiplash like symptoms will need more time to play out - as will the shoulder area.

I am scheduled to fly to Texas this evening to receive an alumni award on Thursday. It was planned that I sing at the event, but it is so difficult to swallow, breathe and sing due to the torn muscles in my neck and shoulder that I may have to bow out of the singing portion. Talk about bad timing on my part!!! I did try singing yesterday (had a rehearsal at the Temple for Tara and Alexa's Bat Mitzvah) and will try again today to see if there was any improvement in breath control and the neck pain. I had taken so many Advils on Saturday and Sunday that I got the dreaded dry mouth/cotton mouth that Advil creates and have been busy trying to hydrate to get my mouth lubricated again.

Getting in and out of bed is the most difficult thing to do and I am getting pretty good at using my left hand to do a lot of the normal things my right hand would usually do such as opening doors, combing hair, shaving, eating, etc... .

I am happy that this afternoon will mark the 72 hour point beyond the fall and the first 72 hours is always the most difficult time in terms of stiffness and pain. Here's to moving beyond this portion of the recovery....

4/22/12

Podium & Pain: Karma or coincidence?

My wife is blaming it all on me trying to cram too much into a single week, but a lot of things happened this week for sure which may or may not have led to me getting injured yesterday at a bike race.

The week began with getting the 2011 taxes done and filed on Monday. The next day, a lot of faculty committee work came due from a committee I serve on and chair - Constitution and Nominating Committee. We had elections for a presidential search committee and needed to organize elections for 3 faculty committees to hold (the rest will be at the May meeting). I had also been working off and on since September to update wording in the By-Laws of the Simpson College Faculty Handbook to update words, clarify things and include vocabulary for our new curriculum. It took the final weekend to get it all worded correctly, organized and ready to go to present as a proposal. And I had to organize a trip to Texas for the coming week (book tickets, car, etc...).

In short - I was spent after combining all the student recitals, organizing the May Term Opera Scenes list, doing the taxes, getting the committee work done, bike racing/training, and getting my own underclassmen students ready for the spring studio recital. I was at a banquet on Wednesday night to be inducted as one of the faculty members into Epsilon Sigma along with a list of students and some alumni. When I walked out to my car in the music building parking lot, I found this...

Broken Light and scratches...

Somebody had clipped my right rear corner on the Element which broke the tail light and scratched the plastic panels. The student had left a message on my cell and he walked out of the music building to tell me. I appreciated that. I bought a new tail light and installed it Friday morning ($201). The plastic panels ordered and installed will total up to $507. So all in all, a $708 parking lot scratch on my my car. His car has a dent in it at as well. Friday morning was spent getting the tail light and estimates on the panel repair.

Throw in a banquet at my house on Thursday night for the Indianola Federated Music Club and the high school student scholarship winners, a fund raiser last weekend, and the Des Moines Metro Opera 40th Anniversary Ruby Ball on Friday night - I was probably tired and drained, but woke up on Saturday morning at 5:30 am after 6 hours of sleep to drive over to Omaha for Saturday's bike race...

This bike race was unique for the Pyscowpath Series in Nebraska. It was a stage race starting in the morning with a Time Trial at Lewis & Clark Monumnet Park in Council Bluffs where we all went off solo with gaps of 1 or 2 minutes between us to race one on one against the clock. After finishing, we packed everything up and went over to Tranquility Park in Omaha for the traditional Cross Country mountain bike race. Our times would be combined from the 2 races and you had to do both races to be able to win.

I got to Lewis & Clark about 50 minutes before my 9:02 time slot, registered, warmed-up, used the facilities and got dressed warmly (long bibs and arm warmers as it was chilly). I rode at a pace that pegged my heart rate high, but tried to keep from blowing up on all of the climbs in hopes my time would be respectable, but also leave me with some legs for the afternoon race at Tranquility. The dirt was in perfect condition, the trail was more than fun - it was incredible. I've got to get over there to ride as the climbs and descents are some of the best around. I ended up winning my age category at the TT by 1:30 which was a nice gap to have going into the XC race. I packed up, stopped at Jason's Deli for a turkey sandwich and headed over to Tranquility Park. I had time to kill, so I napped for an hour in the Element listening to Wagner live from the Met (Siegried).

After my nap, I used the facilities, got dressed in warmer gear (short bibs and sleeves), hydrated, got the bike ready and did some warm-up. Turnout for the race looked to be really good as temps in the low 60's with sunshine made for perfect racing conditions. There were about 7 of us there from the Des Moines area (Cam and Julie; Ryan and Cheryl, Jeff and Tom, and myself) that had made the drive over to Nebraska. They staggered the categories for the start and I took off in about the 5th group called "40 and over" (I'm over on the left side to set up for the first right turn.

40 and over CAT 2 Start

I tried to tuck in behind the youngsters in that group for the long flat opening section against the wind. The legs started to open up and feel better after the morning's efforts as we hit the climbs. We were told at the starting line that there was a turn 1/2 way through the lap that said Cat 3's were to go one way, and Cat 1's, 2's and Marathoners were to go another way. They said there would be a course marshall at that corner to help everyone out. I was leading a big group all bunched up and when we got to that sign, there was no course marshall and I had my head buried down cranking out the climb and missed the correct turn. Everyone else behind me went the other way and after about 200 yards, I figured out I had turned the wrong direction. So I turned around and rode back up the hill to the sign, read it and got on the right trail.

I had been leading my age category, but now the guy I had to beat - Jerry Hoff who beat me at the previous Nebraska race by 2:18 - was in front of me and out of sight. Even though I was up 1:30 on him after the morning's TT, my goal was to close that 2:18 gap from the previous race. I knew I had plenty of race left, so I went about beginning the process of making up for the lost time due to my mistake of going the wrong way.

The legs felt good and I kept pushing. I had the feeling that they were not going to give out on me which spurred me on to open it up. I passed a lot of people and was careful not to get stuck behind somebody where I have the tendency to settle in at a "comfortable pace". I made sure not to settle in behind anyone for more than a few turns this time around. The Tranquility trail is pretty wide open and not filled with all the tight turns and speed deflators of many singletrack courses. You can really let it all out on this course and after all the gravel road riding, bike path training - this fit my pain cave perfectly as I kept pushing and making my way back to the leader in my age category. I finally saw him at the end of lap 1 and realized, by my counting, he was about 30 or so seconds ahead of me. I kept pushing to close that gap and by the middle of lap 2, I was not far behind him at all. Maybe 10-15 seconds. I kept closing that gap and grunting out the short roller climbs...

Tranquilty Grunt Rollers

I turned on the final 1/2 lap pace where I lay it all on the line and push with whatever is left. I was also riding very smooth making no mistakes. At this point, I was about 5 seconds behind the leader and knew I had the race won because of my TT score. Still, I got greedy - and here was my mistake. I knew coming out of the final section of woods that we had lots of open and flat space for sprinting to the finish line. My legs felt good and I felt there was a good sustained sprint in there. Jerry was a just a few seconds ahead of me and as I rounded a right hand turn that went right over a jump (18" - 2' high), I made a tactical mistake of how to ride over that. I didn't slow enough to ride over it and absorb it, and I didn't lift the front wheel going over it to take it like a jump. I went over it with the kind of speed to jump it, but with the technique to absorb it. By the time I put the front wheel down, my rear wheel was way over my head and an endo (end over end) was in full bloom. I was going fast and this was going to hurt....

Head smacked, shoulder smacked, and in my flying through the air I noticed my bike way up in the air behind me about to crash down on top of me. Everything slid to a stop and it hurt like a SOB! I did a quick assessment. Everything could move. That was good and I am very fortunate. The wind was knocked out of me, my shoulder hurt like you wouldn't believe, and in spite of the severe head strike (broke my helmet), I did not feel concussed. No dizziness, no blurred vision, no headache, no confusion, no nausea (I've had plenty of concussions and usually know from mild to more severe). I had tucked and rolled and took the brunt of the hit on the right shoulder. I picked up the bike, straightened the handlebars and noticed the chain had fallen off. I got the chain back on and hopped on the bike. I was determined to win this dang thing. My seat post had somehow sunk in the crash, so I was sitting a few inches lower on the bike, but I ground out the final segment to the line and finished 54 seconds behind Jerry. And I was in pain. And I now felt my chipped teeth. I must have bitten them together when my head hit the ground and my front left tooth and the one below it are chipped and will require immediate repair. Right thigh really hurt, shoulder was screaming at me, etc... .

I got some help from one of the race directors and a nurse. They suggested X-Rays at Methodist Hospital as the nurse felt the shoulder, clavicle and ribs needed a picture. The shoulder did not appear to be separated and thankfully, there was nothing sticking up like a collarbone and the shoulders had symmetry. I was able to turn my head in full motion to the right and to the left - which was good. Discussion began on how I was going to get home. I said there were 3 other cars from Des Moines and extra drivers and I would talk to all of them about my predicament.

I managed to load up my bike, got changed into my shorts and a warmer shirt. The leg was bothering me the most as I'm pretty sure a deep bruise on the right thigh is what happened. There were a couple of contusions on my head, face and behind my left knee. The nurse cleaned all of that up for me.

I did manage to win the hard fought race and have all of the battle scars to prove it. My 1:30 time gap of the TT combined with my 54 second deficit at the XC race put me ahead by 36 seconds to win the day...

Top Podium Spot at Tranquility

The hardware...

Snagged 1st!!!

Psycowpath Medal front

Here is a short video that a rider, Karl Kenoyer, took during the Tranquility XC race and posted. You get a good idea of what the course was like and what it is like to pass during an XC race. This course was very open which made passing a lot easier than the usual XC race course. Plus he has a little endo crash which he caught on film. He follows me from about minute 3:34 in the video until he passes me at about minute mark 4:30 in this video (I'm in the Bike Iowa uniform):



By the time I got home, everything had stiffened up - especially my neck and my head. The neck is probably like a whiplash. It really hurts. The leg and shoulder were iced and I began taking Ibuprofen for inflammation. It hurts to swallow and yawn. Forget about laughing, coughing and singing without pain. Ouch. Getting in and out of bed, and the car is difficult. All in all - I am very fortunate and will heal up fine. The teeth need immediate attention as the chips are sharp and I don't want them to be damaged further.

Tara is very upset with me as this brings up all sorts of issues. Responsibility and the risk I am taking in racing bikes. I do crash from time to time, and she claims my crash was based on the busy week. I'm not so sure as I ride very smooth and within control, but I just made a tactical mistake near the end of the race - based more on greed of trying to actually sprint pass and win it outright that caused me to not make an accurate risk assessment of that particular bump. I have fallen before - and like all falls I will assess this one for a long time and try to learn from it for the future. Again, with regard to a head or neck injury - I feel very fortunate in the outcome of this crash. It could have been a lot worse under the same circumstance. The next few days of stiffness and healing will give me plenty of pause to think it all through..

4/18/12

Taxes are done!

I spent 3 hours at the H&R Block office on Monday afternoon filing my 2011 taxes. We get a refund from the state of Iowa and I owed a bit of Federal which I sent off yesterday. I discovered an error on Zack's W-2 from Subway. The final digit of his SS# was wrong which meant somebody else got his SS. I'll have to get that straightened out ASAP. It wasn't much, but hey - if all it takes is a form to fill out, why not?

P.S. Anyone trying to contact us, the land line phone has been knocked out for weeks. Mediacom is working on it. My email is dead ever since I spilled coffee on my laptop. I need to figure out my password so I can log in online via my work computer - so if I haven't responded, that's why. Cell #'s have been golden all along if trying to reach us.

I put the new carbon rim wheels on the Dos Niner Saturday morning and did a 65 minute grind interval "let's wake up the legs for Sunday's race" fest to test them out. Everybody on MTBR.com is stoked about these "cheap Chinese" carbon rims. The rims sell for about $350 a pair, so by the time you put a decent set of hubs, spokes and wheel build together - I hesitate to use the word "cheap". They are very similar to the Specialized Roval carbon wheels I have on the JET 9 and even after the sale price I got on those, the "cheap Chinese" rims combined with American Classic hubs, double butted black spokes, black alloy nipples and the wheel build cost were one of the most expensive sets of wheels I have ever purchased (they rank 2nd with Rovals #1 in price, these "cheap Chinese" wheels #2, and my I9 Enduro wheels #3).

I got the beefy All Mountain 30mm wide rims beefed up for larger riders. They weighed 1540g before tape/valves...

1540g

Mounted up on the Dos Niner (Can you say 'stiff Dos'?)...

CarbonizedStealth

Turn around and smile again...

Carbonized

I do like the stealth look and no stickers/advertising on the rims. They work well tubeless, and I made sure of that by using the Bontrager Rhythm strips for a super tight fit. Updated reports throughout the season to see if the performance provides longevity.

4/16/12

Sylvan Island Stampede Race Report...

The weekend's choice of race was determined by weather. The Bone Bender in Lawrence, KS or Sylvan Island Stampede in Moline, IL (first race of the IMBCS for 2012) were the two on my schedule. Both were set up as rain or shine events, but I decided to do the IMBCS race in Moline, IL based on the weather radar's slightly more favorable forecast for eastern Iowa and the reality of my Saturday evening not lending itself to doing a 3+ hour race in Kansas.

I had been out late the night before at an annual fund raiser for a hospital foundation in Des Moines. The theme was the roaring 20's for this black tie event, so Tara decided to dress up in black tie and have a little fun. I wore my regular black tux. Here's Tara who looked great and got a lot of compliments at the party for her attire...

Roaring20's

The event was held at the Performing Arts Temple in Des Moines. We got there at 6 for the pre-party special invite appetizers and drinks. There was a big band playing, a casino was set up, and there was a jail with cops where we could pay $25 to have somebody arrested and thrown in jail. The bail was $25 to get out of jail. There was a silent auction room where sponsors were giving away things that you could bid on as part of the fund raiser. There was an incredible food table and a large prize table that you could buy things with the chips you had won gambling in the casino. Tickets were $150 per person for the event, but by the time you bought your gambling chips, bid on some silent auctions (and won), played the jail game, bought a few drinks - the donations to charity could really add up!!! We had fun and it is for a very good cause. We actually did well playing Blackjack. I manged to double our money from $100 to $200 throughout the course of the evening which we cashed in for some prizes from the prize room to take home. We left about 10:45 to go home.

All that being said to clarify why it was hard to drag myself out of bed and get going over to Moline Sunday morning after getting home late from a big fund raiser party. I did manage to get packed up and on the road by 9. The winds were straight out of the south and made for difficult driving heading straight east to the Quad Cities. I got to the race site about 11:40, checked in and the Schwag I won at the check in table was a pair of women's cargo cycling shorts. Not sure what I will do with those as they were a size L and Tara is a sizs S.

I warmed up for a good 20+ minutes and headed to the starting line where I was already 5 rows back. Last year, due to good fortune of the starting line suddenly being moved back to a different orange line than everyone was lined up to begin with, resulted in me ending up front. So I made the top group going into the singletrack which meant I had no bottlenecks and it drastically altered my time (in a good way). Due to the prior evenings fund raising party, I didn't feel like turning myself inside out in a group of 86 (mass start for CAT 2's - no age category waves at Sylvan) on the opening sprint to get to the singletrack first. That was clarified as one of the guys in front of me went down 10 yards after the start and caused me to have to stop, and restart around him.

Great. I was now near the back of the group and had to muscle a bit to move up a few spots - but so did everybody else. I went into the singletrack near the back of the back which is not optimal in a big field of 86. The result of that was the worst bottleneck I've been in (outside of the Bone Bender due to the large mass start of that event). The first 10 minutes involved a lot of hurry up and wait, but knowing we had 4 laps to go and I was competing in the 50 and over age category I didn't worry too much. Eventually, as always, guys start to misjudge corners, roots, trees and the passing begins. I started to work my way through some of the crowd bit by bit.

By the end of lap one, things were flowing quite well as we were all in groups of less than a dozen making our way around the course. My tires were a bit over-inflated for the wet roots and rocks. On top of that, it was sprinkling off and on which added to the slickness of the roots and rocks. The ground was tacky, but not holding our speed back as it wasn't that muddy. It's not normal soil on that island. Whatever it is, it absorbs the rain like a sponge and is only slightly tacky.

Sylvan Island

At some point in the middle of lap 2, a guy went around me and I noticed his skin tone and hair color matched mine. I was pretty sure he was in the old man's group with me (I think there were 13 of us in the category of 50+). I latched onto his wheel and was going to stick with him because I figured a podium spot was at stake. I was never more than 5 - 20 feet from his rear wheel, but we took one corner pretty fast and I managed to get both tires on wet roots at the same time while I was leaning hard into a corner. Down I went, but nothing was hurt and the bike was fine. I hopped on and told myself not to panic by trying to go all out and catch him right away. I had 2 more laps to reel him in, so I just rode steady.

At this point, a younger rider was on my tail and followed me for about 15 minutes. At one point he said "if you can't go fast, you may as well go smooth, right?". I got a kick out of that. I let him around me in one of the opening connector sections and latched on to his rear wheel to use him to pull me back to my target in my age group. We had a good 100 yards or so to make up, and slowly, but surely we reeled him in at the end of lap 3.

The course was fun, but it's always a lot of tight turns that keep you on your toes. Even though I was on the JET 9 with Nobby Nics for great traction, I didn't feel like I was flying as fast as I could because of the wet conditions. All of the wet rocks and roots were causing us to slip and slide every now and then.

Sylvan Roots


I felt good in the latter laps and lap 4 had me on my target's rear wheel. This lap turned out to be my fastest of the 4. I noticed he was bobbling a few of the technical sections which meant he was getting tired. This allowed me to recover a bit and set up for the end of the race. I smiled and told myself to just hang back and wait for the next to last open connector section for the place to sprint past him. Sure enough, I hit it on that connector section and went around him. I gave it a full 60 second sprint interval max and opened up a gap as he was unable to match.

I entered the final singletrack section and turned myself inside out to keep the gap. I saw a younger rider ahead of me and mashed it to catch him. We came out of the singletrack and - even though it was a bit early to sprint - I hit it with what I had left to go around him. He, however, was going to challenge me. I used NASCAR tactics and made sure I positioned myself so he could not get around me on the left side of a curve as we headed to the finish line chute, and then I drifted to the other side to prevent the right side from being available for him. I nosed him by 1/2 a wheel at the line. All in fun and I love those finish line sprints.

All in all, the fight was worth it as it turns out the target I had been focusing on who passed me in lap 2 was indeed a racer in my age category and it was for a podium spot. My time was 6 minutes slower than last year - a lot of that due to being in the back of the pack going into the singletrack. That's the price I had to pay, but I still brought home some hardware. Initial posting of the results had me in 2nd place, but during the 20 minute time frame to dispute results, I guess a rider in my category that had problems with his chip timer was bumped up to 2nd ahead of me and I was moved down to 3rd. The chip had my first two laps at 23:41 and 23:13 and my 4th lap at 23.04 (my third lap was 23.xx). The other guy "in question" who got bumped ahead of me after the protest period had his first lap at 25:44 and his second lap at 25:40. Then his chip went funky and they recorded his final time 6:05 ahead of me. No big deal, I made the podium in spite of my lousy starting position. But something sure seemed fishy out on that island...

I hesitate to rant about it - especially with the experience of race director at Lake Ahquabi. It's difficult for me to believe that I was ahead of him by 2:30 at the 1/2 way point, and he somehow managed to make up the 2:30 and then 6:05 on top of that to outride me by a full 8:35 on the last two laps - especially when I rode the final two laps faster than my first two laps. The Race Director claimed that our third lap time actually was two laps together. Mine read 46:55 which would be consistent that my laps were averaging 23 and change. The guy who got bumped up to second place above me had a third lap reading of 36:20 (which, according to the race director's explanation of the reason the third lap read with such a high number from everyone, means he turned two laps averaging 18:10 after his first two laps of 25.XX and change). NO WAY!!! No CAT II racer - even the overall 1st place winner for all 86 of us turned better than a 19:19 lap on any of the laps. Probably not worth arguing over, but it's no fun being on the short end of an error stick. I guess it will all come out in the wash if it's meant to be - series points be damned whether I got 2nd or 3rd. If the racer in question is at another IMBCS event, I'll pay close attention to our finishing times. ;-]

C'est la vie. It looks like there were a few errors with the chip timing system. Maybe that's pause for concern that the old fashioned way with tear off tags and a finish line chute may be the best "technology" to use.

TotingHardware

I stayed for the awards ceremony, had a burger and a brat (I was hungry after 1:33 on the bike at race speed) and watched the CAT 1's race. Kudos to FORC and the event continues to be well attended and a fun one for racers.

Bad weather rolled in as I was packing up and heading out of Moline. Heavy rains and high wind. I finally drove out of the rain, but the wind was really strong out of the south all the way home to Indianola. Made for difficult driving.

After a nice dinner with the family, I did three hours of work to get things ready for taxes. I have to head into today to H&R to get it all going and finished by tomorrow.

4/13/12

New wheels...

I couldn't contain my curiosity. Maybe it's like the urge one has to stick one's finger(s) in an electrical outlet just to see what would happen. Or the urge to touch a hot frying pan on the stove with your bare hand to see if it is really hot. Or maybe it's just sheer madness, but I like my Roval carbon wheels so much an opportunity presented itself for me to acquire a pair of the "cheap Chinese carbon AM rims" that many have posted about on MTBR.com. I was skeptical/critical about the rims and I think my curiosity got the better part of me.

I had my pair laced up today at Rassy's to an older set of American Classic hubs using black spokes and black nipples. The wheels weigh 1540g (compared to my Rovals which w 1530g).

Here they are:

AM Chinese Carbon Wheels

I will use the Bontrager Rhythm strips and vavles to run them tubeless and set them up on the Dos Niner or RIP 9.

4/12/12

5 Days of RAIN starting today...

Yuck. Yes, we need some rain but I could do without 5 straight days of it. Especially with two excellent bike races to choose between on Sunday (Sylvan Island Stampede in Moline, Illinois or the Bone Bender in Lawrence, Kansas). I am - or at least was - really looking forward to racing this Sunday in spite of my terribly busy recital, committee meeting, tax, everything happens at once season. There are not enough hours in the day - or enough hours I can stay awake and function in a day during April. No time to eat as I work until 5:30, and have recitals from 5:30 until 9 pretty much every night including weekends. So I am walking around a little dazed at the moment with huge "to do lists" that seem to only get added to rather than having enough items scratched off that the lists look less duanting. In terms of racing, I'll probably end up choosing the race that appears to have been hit with the least amount of rain come Sunday, but we'll see. I may just curl up in a ball on Sunday, sleep in and then tackle one of my "to do lists" the rest of the day.

Knowing that the rain was coming, I decided to hit Lake Ahquabi on Monday and Wednesday of this week to turn two laps on last year's race course of The Mullet while it was dry. Monday was the Dos Niner with the Nobby Nic 2.35's and Wednesday was the RIP 9 with the same big tires.

I still had the bar ends on from the Renegade Gents Race because I wanted to see how I used them off road on the climbs at Ahquaubi.

Dos with Nics

I like the sure footed grip the Nics provide. And the volume is fun as it makes the bike a 29 1/2" due to the height of the tire.

Nics

I had heard reports of a lot of gravel that had been dumped and wanted to see first hand where, how much and what it meant in terms of this October's version of The Mullet. I am happy to report that the kind of gravel dumped is excellent quality (smaller stone variety) and rides very easily. The steep climb on the south side of the lake requires seated climbing as getting out of saddle is an automatic spin out on that steep of a gravel climb. Actually, the gravel was only in a very few small sections - namely erosion problem areas that had severe water run-off ruts for years. Most of the rest of the gravel was dumped on the side service roads that are for DNR vehicles only, so it does not pose any problems for hikers, bikers on the trails system. The work done will not effect this year's race at all in a negative manner. There are about 3 fallen trees at the moment that will require a chainsaw to remove. The problem areas that the gravel addressed, unfortunately, still have the underlying drainage problems so the gravel will eventually wash away.

This might be a possible project for CITA to address the underlying problems for a more permanent solution with trail reroutes in those areas using proper IMBA trail design skills, and an installation of a raised wooden bridge surface for an area that has an underground spring.

Some kind of a wooden structure like this would be ideal...

142773345_941d442bba_o

It would have to be wide enough and strong enough to support the weight of the DNR quads that the staff use to drive around and check the trails, but that's possible.

This section of trail just at the top of probably one of the fastest descents with some sketchy turns at the bottom needs some work from me this year. So much dead fall lines the sides, that I need to get out there with a chainsaw buddy and remove all of that to clear up the lines for safer, high speed descending at race speed.

No Cellphones allowed!

The DNR has cleared the forest floor with a burn and some clearing this fall/winter, so there is an area or two that would be ripe for a new connector section for the race to be added which would remove a couple of the more dangerous connector sections near the Beach House parking lot area. I will talk to the ranger about this possibility.

In spite of all that, I had a good chance doing the laps on Monday and Wednesday to survey the condition of the course and think about what needs to be done between now and October. If I do a little bit at a time and keep it in shape, it will take care of having to do a big panic month of work come September/October. The only thing needed right now is to trim some of the canopy back, a little mowing, and some shovel work in a few spots. On Monday, I hand snapped dozens and dozens of new growth small branches on my first lap. The second lap I did full out to see what the Dos Niner could do with the bar ends and big fat tires. On Wednesday, I didn't stop to do any maintenance as I was pressed for time before work.

I did two fast laps yesterday. I "thought" I was really flying, but my time was only 1:19 for the two laps. My finish race time last yaer was 1:21 and change - and that was after breaking my chain, walking back to the start area to report my DNF, then deciding to fix the chain and go back out there. Of course, it is difficult to mimic how hard and fast one goes in a race, but yesterday's finish times tells me I've got quite a bit of work to do to get back into the shape I was in last September/October.

4/10/12

Plot your garden...

How does one get something to look like this?

Gardentastic

Well you have to start in the springtime by digging the dirt, adding manure and organic vegetable garden soil, mixing it all together to prepare the earth for the planting.

I had Monday off (Easter Monday holiday at Simpson College), so I rented a tiller and had at the garden plot last night...

DigDigDig

I look like a wild man without having shaved all weekend trying to tame this "Merry Tiller"....

Round and Round I Go

Finally got the ground chopped enough to add 20 bags of manure. 40 pounds per bag, so I lifted 800 pounds three times - once to load them in the Element, once to unload them and carry them to the backyard, and the final time from the ground into the garden. Yes, I was stiff today!!!

Final result looks like this:

Plot is Finished

The 2 green plants in there that I left are our Oregano which started growing early.

One has to celebrate after all the hard work, so it was time to spatchcock a chicken on the Big Green Egg and bake some of nature's steroids - asparagus!

Spatchcock Chicken

BakedSteroids

Yummy. It's going to freeze tonight, so we had to bring all of our potted plants in the house for the night (more lifting and moving things around). I need a rest day!!

4/7/12

Renegade Gents Race - cold and wet!

Today was the 2nd Annual Renegade Gents Race. It's an event that takes off from Kyle's Bikes in Ankeny as a 5 person team race. 66.5 miles on gravel with a little bit of pavement at the start and finish. The team of 5 starts together at assigned times (my group started at 8:28 a.m.), has to check in at the midway checkpoint together, and has to cross the finish line together.

I joined up on Facebook with another group who was looking for a 5th racer After obsessing about tire choice for gravel and doing some experimenting this week leading up to it, I really wanted to ride my big fat Nobby Nic 2.35's because they do so well on the gravel hills in Warren County. However, I yielded to the advice given by more experienced gravel road junkies who suggested going with something faster and skinnier. So I went with my Maxxis Maxxlite 330g tires front and rear on the Dos Niner. Sure enough - they were the right ticket from my tire stable for this event.

I packed up a drop bag this morning, made coffee, ate a big bowl of cereal with fruit, showered and drove up to Ankeny for the 7:30 check-in/meet up. Most of us in the parking lot were chatting about clothing, weather and what to bring or not bring. I wore long bibs, my long sleeve jersey, my jacket, gloves, 2 pair of socks and my regular cycling shoes (should have worn the winter shoes!!!). I had a nice turkey sandwich, honey roasted nuts, extra GU gels, a banana and a water bottle packed in the dropoff bag for the midway point.

We took off at 8:28 and immediately missed a turn from the cue sheet. Without my reading glasses - and in the rain - it was difficult to see. Here's the excellent cue card we were all given:

Cue Card for Renegade

We caught our 1st mistake pretty quickly and turned around to get back on track. We only lost about a minute there. Soon after, we missed another turn and ventured about 4+ miles off track. We hit a dead end and realized we had made another mistake. Back up a hill and to the missed turn we went making our day longer in mileage than everyone else!! The rain had us soaking wet, cold and the wind added more pain - but I was loving the ride. I'm usually pretty good in hour 2 and 3 on longer events, and sure enough, my body kicked in at hour 2 and I wanted to go faster than we were. I was eating a GU gel every 30 minutes, downing Heed and Perpetuem from 2 different water bottles. Fuel early and often is the motto for endurance events and it was doing well by the way my body was responding.

Too bad I didn't wear my winter riding cycling shoes because they would have kept my feet dry and warm. As it was, my toes were very cold. And my hands. And my head. Amazing what rain and wind can do and I should have used my trust in the forecast that it was going to rain in spite of all the optimism from riders in the parking lot who claimed the rain would stay south of us. WRONG!!!

We slogged our way into the checkpoint, got our grab bags and ate. I suppose we were there for 20 minutes before heading out for the 2nd half of the race. Shortly after we got rolling, one of our team members announced he was going to have to bail. He had been fighting all morning to stay with us, so he knew his limits and couldn't make the next 33 miles. A few miles later after a tire blowout from one of my team members rear tire, our team leader made the same announcement and bailed. So we were down to 3 of us and off we went picking up the pace quite a bit by a few miles per hour. At mile 46.9, we turned south dead into the wind and fresh, chunky gravel. Another one of our team members slowed down and couldn't keep up with the other two of us (Shawn and myself). Since we were pretty much DQ'd as it was as you have to cross the line with all 5 team members, the two of us who still had legs and stamina decided to put the hammer down and get the best training ride out of that we could. Shawn pushed a pretty quick pace that had me on the ropes, but I hung on to the end.

The team of "2 of us" rolled across about 5:47 minutes after we had begun. That included two sojourns off the prescribed route, a tire blow out, a 20 minute lunch, and some waiting around for our team to regroup from time to time. I really had fun on this ride and may have to become a gravel junkie. Very few cars are found on gravel roads in Iowa and you get to see some interesting scenery.

Although this picture doesn't show how muddy and gritty we were at times out on the route, the final pavement stretch back into Ankeney and the pouring rain did a nice job of "washing" most of the gravel grit off of my bike...

Dos Niner post race

Kudos to the Bike Iowa wizards for organizing and hosting the event. It was a well run event and I certainly had fun even if our entire group of 5 didn't finish the event.

4/2/12

Only 86 today, but it's time for NCAA Championship Eating...

It "only" hit 86 today, but I decided to fire up the grill and make some burgers. I mixed ground beef with ground italian sausage, topped them off with Maytag Blue Cheese, baked sweet potato fries in the oven and snagged a beautiful vine ripened beefsteak tomato for tonight's pre-game feast. Tara and Zack joined me and everything was tasty.

BB's Basketball Burger

Max and Zoey joined us as well. Tara enjoying the Chianti and toasting my efforts.

Tara is HUNGRY!

The opening tip-off is in 23 minutes!!!

4/1/12

April Fools was actually a good day...

I had the luxury of sleeping for nearly 9 hours last night thanks to today's race in Bellevue, Nebraska starting at 2:10 pm. The drive over is exactly 2:15, so I was able to sleep in and rest up after yesterday's big training ride. I had breakfast in bed, then took the dogs for their morning walk about 10 am. After yesterday's decision making process of what bike to bring, I went with the JET 9 as it is my go to race sled.

Everyone is talking about the heat, but last year on this very opening XC race weekend in Bellevue, NE it was 87 degrees. So today's 92 degrees was not that different from this time last year. I had the AC on for the drive across Highway 92. The only thing new on the route from this time last year were the hundreds and hundreds of those big wind turbines around Griswold, Iowa. 100's of them as far as the eye could see to the south and to the north. I don't recall them being there last year, but I do know they have been installing them left and right in western Iowa. They have been in the same area up around I-80 for a few years, but these appeared new. Either that, or my memory is off...

wind

I got to Swanson Park on time, checked in, suited up and began my warm-up. Due to the heat, I downed some Electrolytes, Pickle Juice, and took a GU shot before heading to the line. I think they had another record turnout of over 200 racers as everyone was itching to race on dirt with this "non winter".

I had trouble getting off the line as I dabbled my clip in, had to put a foot on the ground and by the time I got going I was at the back of the pack.

Swanson Start

No panic though, as the rollout gave me plenty of time to work my way back to mid pack before we hit the singletrack. And that's just what I did.

The trail was in perfect condition considering the heavy rains this week. Nothing like 91 degrees on Saturday to bake the moisture out of the soil. It was dry and actually quite dusty. Everyone searched for some early season form and since I started with a couple of age groups, I wasn't sure who was who. I just rode my race as best I could. This was a priority C race on my schedule, so I was bit baked from the week's training and Saturday's 2 hour hammer fest. It seems odd for me to "train through races" like this, but that is what is on the schedule for me this month. So train all week and on Saturday I did. In spite of that, the legs were working and not balking too much.

I did recognize somebody in my division and passed him in the middle of lap one (looked like he was recovering from a fast start). Lap 1 had me smiling as that big base I put in the past few months was giving me some nice gas for the pedals. I was riding under control and the Nobby Nics on the JET 9 were like glue in the corners. Double the smile. I was railing it.

Swanson XC Cat 2

I got a little complacent in lap 2 when the guy I had passed in lap one passed me on the climb of the very northeast section of the course. I gave chase knowing that a position on the podium was at stake. I was hanging with him, but flailing the bike all over the trail because of it. On the steepest descent, I hit a root and flew offline. My mind was figuring out where I was going to crash (and it was going to be ugly - maybe race ending in fact), but my body fought hard with some English and excellent braking and bike handling kept me from going in the ditch and I saved myself. Whew! Heart rate racing after that, I slowed to a tempo that was in control and opted to just ride my own race. Lap 1 was my fastest and I faded in subsequent laps with slower times. Need to build the engine to take that 1st lap speed deeper into the race for sure.

I kept the chain on the 38T chainring the entire race and it started to fatigue me in lap 3, but I stuck with it and pushed through the pain. I started to get out of saddle on some of the climbs to use other muscles and keep my momentum going. It was a pretty uneventful race for me as my early season form seems to be better than in prior years - again, thanks to the big base (for me) that I put in over the winter. Sure, I've got work to do, but I'm pleased with where I am and how my equipment performed. The JET 9 and the new rings were excellent.

The good news is - and this is no April Fools - I brought home some hardware for the effort in my age division CAT 2 50+. That's the age division that love handles exist and the fact we still have a pulse is cause for celebration on most days. ;-] I wouldn't say any of us are super fast guys compared to the younger age divisions.

2nd Place Swanson

Psycowpath Hardware

1st place had me by 2 minutes and 18 seconds. I'll be entering some top end interval work and longer duration intervals to bridge that gap to go for the bacon next time around.

The JET was dusty at the end, but it was flawless:

Post Race 92 degrees cool down

I drove home after the awards ceremony and walked in the house at 7 pm. I mowed the yard while Tara made dinner, showered and ate a great meal. All in all - a good day.