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.
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.
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...
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.
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.