5/31/12

Psycowpath and MMBS races = 746 miles of driving on tap...

Tara has agreed to come along for a weekend getaway and of course, I will be needing her to help with the driving. And she is bringing along her bike to do some riding on the beautiful trails in Minnesota out by Mt. Kato Ski Area.

The route promises to be interesting taking us through 3 states (maybe even 4 states if we buzz up the Interstate through South Dakota to connect with Minnesota)...

Weekend Driving

Psycowpath Maskenthine XC Classic on Saturday

Minnesota Mountain Biking Series State Championship Race called Bluff Riders Charge on Sunday at the Mt. Kato Ski Area

That should test my legs, fitness and age for the weekend. Not to mention, really put some pressure on my neck muscles and right shoulder with 2 back to back race efforts.

5/30/12

Camping and Mountain Biking?!!!?

I mentioned in my previous blog post that I would be taking Tuesday off the bike following the 8+ hours I did on the bike over Memorial Day Weekend. I must admit, the rest day felt good! I pretty much had a do nothing sort of day outside of running some errands. Oh, and I certainly enjoyed plenty of eating on my day off. We also attended the girl's soccer playoffs that Alexa was in last night.

By the way, Indianola lost in round one of the playoffs 3-1 so is finished for the season. Alexa played very well and actually scored what everyone in the stands thought was a goal (the keeper stopped it way behind the line), but the officials saw it differently. Oh well...

I did "walk" the mall on my off day and had a very pleasant experience with customer service at Scheels while there. My Oakley sunglasses that I bought years ago at Scheels broke as a result of my face plant at the Tranquility race in Omaha 5 weeks ago. I took them into Scheels to see if it was just the lens that was broken, or worse. "James" at Scheels took my glasses and determined it was just the lens and an $80 replacement was all I needed. While trying to install the replacement lens, James snapped off the nose section. He was able to get it snapped back together, but the nose bridge piece would not stay there every time he tried to install the new lens. After a call to his manager, it was decided they would just give me an entire new pair and send my old ones back to Oakley as a defect.

Wow! Just wow! I now have a brand spanking new pair of Radar's by Oakley and am one happy Scheels and Oakley customer. Way to go James!

I took advantage of the cooler temperatures today and mowed the lawn knowing that rain was coming tonight and tomorrow. My legs felt very energetic and I decided to head out for some intervals on the road and also hammer out some hill grunt power climbs to work on my top end.

The weapon of choice...

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I put in 70 minutes on the Allez hammering with intervals, and climbs. I got back to the house and decided to set up the tent to make sure I could do it in 10 minutes or less as I get ready for this weekend's trip to Norfolk and Mankato (mountain bike races). Tara and I will be harboring in this little critter out on the prairie Friday night and somewhere in ManySoda on Saturday night....

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I love to camp, but Tara is not a camping fan. She, however, suggested we camp on this weekend's trip. So be it and I am not to blame if she has any complaints. We will pack Friday morning and head out after lunch.

After messing with the tent, I went into work to teach 4 lessons before calling it a day. The forecast is calling for a high of 51 tomorrow which is more than a stone's throw away from the 90 we had this weekend.

5/29/12

Great Western Trail

On my planned day off the bike what did I do? Tara convinced me to go on a ride with her. So I loaded up the Specialized Allez road bike in the back of the Element and drove over to Martensdale to park at the Great Western Trail trailhead.

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I was hoping the road bike would punish me less and allow me to ride in zones 1/2 the entire way. Little did I know Tara was going to push me to ride 40 miles!!!

We ride the Great Western Trail a few times a year and always enjoy the scenic view. Yesterday was no exception with clear blue skies and temps in the mid 80's. The GWT itself is 16.5 miles long from Martensdale into Des Moines. We warmed up within the first 20 minutes and went flying past Cumming and right on into Des Moines for the first 50 minutes.

GreatWesternTrail

We stopped to fill water bottles and get a snack at the Casey's in Des Moines before turning onto the Bill Riley trail to head over to Gray's Lake. At this point, I didn't know how long we were going to be out and where we were going. I had my eye on the watch knowing I had ribs to finish smoking back home and I wanted to know if I needed to fuel more since my body would probably be on fumes at anything over 2+ hours.

After a spin around Gray's Lake, I convinced Tara we should turn back towards Martensdale (using the ribs as my excuse). So we turned around and headed back south. I called Zack at 4:30 and had him put the ribs back on at 225 degrees so they would finish their low and slow cook. That allowed me to relax and lean into the headwinds where I could spin out the high end of zone 2 tempo to crawl the 18 miles south. I was on fumes the last few miles feeling a possible end of the weekend riding mini-bonk, but hunger encouraged me to ride the final 2 miles full out just to end the duration and get ready for the feast of ribs about to occur.

When all was said and done, we were on the bikes for 3:15 - the longest I've been on a bike since the crash. The skinny road tires allowed me to ride the duration on my "day off" and not get too drained from a 3 day weekend of riding that totaled 8:15 on the bike for me. Needless to say - today (Tuesday) will be a day off the bike for me.

The ribs were great, the grilled corn was good as usual and I was asleep by 10 pm thanks to the ride, sun and fresh air.

5/28/12

Memorial Day...

It's always hard to put it into words when one is thinking about all the men and women who have served our country and died in the process. What do you say? Thanks? Are you saying it to the dead, or to the surviving family members? Regardless, about 12 of us gathered last night at Joel and Deb's house to celebrate, potluck together and give our thanks in a toast. We swam in the pool from 3 - 6, then smoked salmon and everyone had brought a dish for the event. It was a nice time and the memories of family members who have passed were also brought up in a toast as we went around the table with each person mentioning a name. And then a final toast to all those that have died serving our country. Joel and John's father was in attendance (he served in the Navy) so we of course toasted him and thanked him for his service as well.

All in all, it was just the kind of lazy recovery day I needed from Saturday's 3 hour bike ride in the heat and humidity.

Today I have ribs out on the grill smoking (3 hours thus far), and will wrap them in foil and put them in the garage fridge while we go on a bike ride this afternoon. When we return, I will throw them back on for the final hour before we indulge in grilled corn, beans, salad, ribs and fellowship with our own family.

I did some good stretching exercises yesterday and today trying to work on the flexibility of my neck and to maintain some sort of range of motion in the right shoulder. I continue to work on posture every day on and off the bike to get the core muscles and neck muscles built back up to pre-crash status. I've got quite a ways to go, but realize that Saturday's 3 hour ride is the longest I've done since the crash 5 weeks ago and my neck did very well in that duration.

My RIP 9 is now completed in the lightest/stiffest all mountain set up I care to go with thanks to the light-bicycle carbon AM rims I picked up and had built to my old American Classic disc hubs and mounted with the 720g Nobby Nic 2.35's (amazing all around tire for the Midwest!!!). She sits at 28 pounds and is riding really well for me providing the kind of cushion my neck and shoulder needs at the moment.

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The trail work I did at Banner Pits this week (mowing and trimming) has done the usual to my right hand. My hand now gets numb when on the bike and is a reminder I need to be careful doing the trail work and tools. My hand has not gone numb on the bike since last October (doing all of the trail work to get ready for the Mullet race at Lake Ahquabi). It really puts a damper on my riding and is not something I want happening out on the race course. When it happens, I can't shift, I can't brake and gripping the bar is difficult at best. I am afraid I am stuck with it for a while until I can get the irritations down and things back to normal. Rats!!! All because of 5 hours of mowing/trimming at the trail as well as mowing and trimming at my house.

In addition to that, I seem to have gotten myself into a bit of a mess with poison ivy as it is all over my knees, elbows, and wrists at the moment. No fun, but c'est la vie when riding/working out in the woods with all the plush vegetation. I failed to rinse off Saturday right after my ride which means the oils from the plants stayed on my skin and I went down into the basement to cool off and watch a movie. Showering immediately after a ride usually takes care of it for me, but this time I luxuriated in the cool basement in favor of proper post-ride hygiene and now I have to scratch.

Happy Memorial Day to all and a huge thanks to all those who have served our country - whether they died doing so or not.

5/27/12

Uh oh, I drained the tank....

It's been an interesting week which began with me wrapping up the school year on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. Rather than stare at the wall following a very busy May Term, or curling up to read a book, or at least enjoying some down time to catch my breath - I hit the singletrack on the bike (tweaked my shoulder again), did 2 days of trail work at Banner Pits with the lawn mower and the weed whacker, mowed and trimmed our lawn, cleaned the garage, cleaned my office and loaded up the grocery coffers. Perhaps all a bit too much when combined with hours on the bike for my first few days of summer break.

Needless to say, I'm back on heat treatment in the morning and at night thanks to tweaking my shoulder again. You can now see the separation in my shoulder visibly in the mirror. The heat feels really good on the neck and I feel small bits of progress are starting to happen with the muscles. Stamina is improving, posture is improving and I am feeling less fatigued.

Sunbeam Healing Pad

Friday afternoon, after checking the weather radar and noting the storms were staying south of us, I headed out on the Dos Niner to do a loop at Banner. About 20 minutes into the ride I felt a few rain drops, then a huge bolt of lightening and mega-loud clap of thunder that seemed right next to me in a field hit. Yikes, the monsoon began and I was stuck out in nature feeling defenseless. I bee-lined it to the restroom at Banner Pits where I found another cyclist taking shelter from the storm. I called Tara to come pick me up and she luckily was at home when I called. Had I waited it out about 30 minutes, I could have ridden home, but I was soaking wet and the temperatures had dropped into the low 60's with the cold front making me shiver.

Up to this point, I had managed to get 6 hours on the bike for the week and was hoping to have hit 7+ by the end of Friday. My legs were toast from mowing singletrack and hiking around with the weed whacker, so I wasn't surprised my legs felt "heavy" when I got up on Saturday morning. Tara wanted to go for a ride with me to Carlisle and back about 11 am on Saturday and she was pushing for me to go. So, I loaded up a big Camelbak waterbottle with water and Heed to survive the Zone 2 duration ride in the heat.

I got off to a slow start, but warmed up and was rolling well after 30 minutes. I took a GU Gel at that point and we had a nice pace to Carlisle and back to Banner Pits. I told Tara to go on home and I was going to play in the dirt. I did a full lap of Banner to see how the trail was riding following the rain only to find conditions to be perfect, tacky and no mud anywhere. The trail was so dry from lack of rain the past 2 weeks, it soaked up the monsoon storm like a sponge. I felt pretty drained after doing a full loop and noted I had been out for 2 1/2 hours in the heat. I was beyond the point where Heed would help and had no more GU with me. As I got back on the Summerset Trail, I recovered at a slow pace for about 5 minutes and then decided to pick up the pace on the 6 mile climb back to Indianola. I ran out of beverage, but knew I only had about 20 minutes to go. When I hit the top of the 6 mile climb coming into Indianola I realized I had committed the cardinal sin - I had drained the energy store tank and was on the verge of a bonk.

So I shut it down, and turned my 20 minutes remaining into a calm 30 minute cool down as I felt the 90 degree humid temperatures engulfing me. Plans were to go to the Death By Aria apprentice artist concert at the Des Moines Metro Opera, but I was too shot to attend. Tara went, but I remained in the cool basement trying to bounce back. I took the dogs for a walk around the neighborhood at 7:30 and could barely pedal my bike in the granny gear. Wow - that's not good.

I'm going to load up on blueberry pancakes this morning and see how I bounce back today. We're heading to a pool party and grill this afternoon/evening - so I probably need to stay off the bike today with the heat. The combination of all the trail work and 9 hours on the bike for the week emptied my tank. I hope I bounce back in time for next weekend's XC races.

I need to get back to a good posture and aggressive race form sooner rather than later! Right now, I don't think I could take more than 3 - 4 hours in the car with my neck and shoulder. That's placing a damper on some of the travel I wanted to do at this point of the summer (like drive out to the Black Hills for the Fat Tire Festival).

Sylvan Roots

5/25/12

First Day of Summer Break!

Thursday was my first official day of summer break. Wednesday had me doing final grading and cleaning up my office. I got the grades turned in by 5:30 pm and called it a day.

Yesterday for my first day of summer break, I started the day by mowing for 3 hours at Banner Pits on the singletrack. Weeds had grown so tall, my lawn Toro was not the best tool for the job, but I made several passes going slowly and was able to chew through the 3 and 4 footers. My plan was to mow until my shoulder started to hurt - and that's what happened. Wrestling with the mower on the off-camber sections - especially on the high side of the trail where the mower kept wanting to flip over - tired my separated shoulder quickly.

In spite of that, I got the entrance mowed by the main parking lot, the connector section leading to NewEd Beach, some of the new connector section and opened up the first Beginner short-cut on the north side - and mowed all around the "rock" near the target shooting range. Either a weed whacker, or the Brush Hawg will be needed to venture all the way through the north side to get the ground cover on the edges of the singletrack that is growing. Hopefully, enough volunteers will get out there and put in some hours - either solo or as a group - to keep the jungle in check. My shoulder isn't sturdy enough to handle the weed whacker. I can make it around my house with it, but that's only 15 minutes of work. I managed to mow our own lawn and clean the garage as well to start my summer break off on the right foot. I also loaded up with a major grocery run and grilled steaks for dinner after the 30 minute monsoon blew through at 4:15 pm.

The weeds are getting tall at Banner...

Banner Pits

I did tweak my shoulder on Wednesday/Thursday fighting with the mower and riding the bike. I aggravated it enough that it hurts to get in and out of a shirt again. So a small set back in my recovery. The neck is going to take a lot longer than I imagined. I'm able to live with it at the moment, but the pain and soreness is always present which effects my posture, ability to turn to the right and left, etc... . It hurts to sneeze, cough, swallow still - but is miles better than it was 4 weeks ago. I feel like it is about 1/3rd back to it's normal state of function even with my rehab of it to this point.

Here's to a summer of neck pain....



5/20/12

IMBCS #2 Race Report - Camp Ingawanis north/south course loop

Yesterday was the IMBCS #2 race in the series for the 2012 year. It also marked my return to racing after a 4 week recovery period from crashing at Tranquility in Omaha. In spite of the shoulder, neck, rib pain - I managed to train on pavement enough to maintain some fitness. I was worried I would lose it all, so knowing I had a good base, I targeted intensity and lessened the volume. Not to mention, I was working around the May Term work schedule which meant I had to sneak an hour here, 90 minutes there, and hit the bike hard when I could between rehearsals. But I got 3 weeks in of just over 6 1/2 hours per week (I pretty much took the week off after the crash doing only 1:50 that week of painful pavement riding).

Going against my better judgment, I stuck with my decision to race 4 weeks after the crash. Most had advised me to wait 6 weeks. However, I sort of left it to how I felt this week out on singletrack. I did a full loop at Banner on Wednesday and it strained my neck which didn't leave me feeling that great on Thursday. Thursday, I did a full loop and then some out at Lake Ahquabi on a the big squish bike (RIP 9) to mitigate jarring my neck and shoulder and it felt better. That was enough to convince me I had the physical stamina to survive the race on Saturday.

I made the drive over to Waverly and arrived at the Scout Camp about 11 am. Kyle Sedore had brought the new kits from BikeIowa.com so I had to find him and suit up in the new gear. To say the least, I love the new kits. This particular brand (PRIMAL) fits me perfectly and the artwork on our kits has everyone talking about them - in a good way. There was a team competition at this event which had cash prizes of $100 going to the team with the most racers in attendance, and $50 to the 2nd team with the most racers. BikeIowa.com took 2nd as we had 2 fewer racers than Rasmussen's from Des Moines. We divided up the cash per car load to help cover the gas expense. There was a small, but fun group that turned out for the CAT 1/CAT 2 race (48 total) and the CAT 3 race was over and done with by the time the rest of us even arrived, so I don't know how many people they had in that race.

I warmed up and felt pretty good. I was set to ride conservatively in this race because I was determined not to fall and further damage my injuries. Tara was not happy with my decision to race, but I assured her I would back off the aggressive sections of the course to prevent falling. I also took 4 Ibuprofen 2 hours before the race so I could "take" the pain. I thought about racing the RIP 9 for the extra squish, but brought along my usual JET 9 instead and turned the ProPedal off so I had more compliant squish in the rear.

We lined up and were slated to do 1 full 12 mile lap for the Cat 2 categories. I went into race mode and was in the top 4 off the line on the opening climbs. I had more to give, but kept things in check since I was trying to be cautious. Going into the singletrack at the top of the gravel road climb, the guy in 3rd place (Josh) in front of me took a tumble. I asked if he was okay and he said he was, so I continued on and gave chase to the first two riders. I kept the usual race start gas on for a good 10 minutes before settling into my race pace. I was extra cautious on loose and sandy corners and was riding error free. I let a couple of riders around me and ended up going back around them later on in the race. The clouds had moved in and were providing enough cover that, combined with the wind, made for excellent racing temperatures. It did not feel like the 88-90 degrees that the thermometer said. Rather, it felt 10 degrees cooler which kept us from overheating.

I made it through the rocks with no problems. One of the riders that had passed me stopped at the entrance to the largest rock section - so I took advantage of that and passed him. I passed the other on the open gravel section heading back to the northside of the course. The rider in 3rd place that had fallen earlier, caught up to me and I let him by and stayed on his tail as best I could for the remainder of the race. We passed a guy pushing his bike and I asked him if he had broken his chain and he responded that he had flatted. In spite of being cautious, I gave when I could and felt pretty good crossing the line. It was good enough for 2nd Place in the 45+ category and if I had pushed myself a bit more I was only out of 1st place by 30.1 seconds. There certainly were 30 seconds left out on the course with me being a bit gun shy from the fall 4 weeks ago, but I had to do what I had to do to stay healthy.

2nd Place for CAT 2 45+, 5th overall for the CAT 2 Sport Racers

IMBCS #2 CAT 2 Results

Kudos to the crew that got the Scout Camp in such good shape. It was in perfect condition and rode extremely well for all of us. I mooched a beer from T.J. after the race and we all stayed to visit, eat pasta from Doughy Joey's and of course - attend the awards ceremony. Fun was had by all and it was a perfect entrance back into racing for me. Not to mention, a good way to blow off some steam after 3 weeks of May Term!!!

I could have raced today in the opening Minnesota Series XC race, but my better judgment said "no - 2 back to back races is too much coming off injuries". I think Tara and I will do part of the High Trestle Trail today if the rain stays away.

Opera Workshop Scenes #2

The 2nd installment of opera scenes went off without a hitch on Thursday evening. It was about 30 minutes shorter than Wednesday night's performances as we worked to tighten up the scene change times at the afternoon tech rehearsal.

We began the evening by doing all of Act I of La Traviata (sans Violetta's aria), did a big scene from Manon, and had lots of interesting scenes scattered throughout the evening. Once again, the students had the opportunity to display all of the hard work they had been doing for 3 weeks on their foreign language text, the ability to act and sing in a non-native language, choreography, posture, stage movement, characterization, etc... .

Friday morning we "administered" the final exam, filled out course evaluations and then did a massive clean up of Lekberg's backstage area. The Dean had provided the music department with a storage garage over on Clinton, so we hauled pretty much the entire backstage over to the new storage garage to free up backstage space. Things that had been collecting backstage for decades were gone over and decisions were made by the faculty what to dispose of and what to keep. Kudos to all of the students for their hard work on Friday as the results were fantastic. We finished up the workshop with Jimmy John's party platters and a toast to all of the upperclassmen as well as Amy Lim who will be returning to Toronto. I still have to tally the grades and submit them by Wednesday, but need a day or two to stare at the wall and regroup my energy.

All in all, it was a very successful May Term and the tradition continues at Simpson. We have plans to further enhance the opportunities and learning for the opera students in the future.

5/17/12

Opera Workshop Scenes #1

Last night's 4 1/2 hour scenes program went rather smoothly after all of the hard work by staff and students the past 3 weeks. In our effort to "trim it down" and perhaps focus more on quality over quantity - we slipped back into the quantity side of the equation ending up with 45 scenes in total.

It's a real baptism by fire for the underclassmen (and upperclassmen as well) to be assigned, learn, rehearse and perform chunks of opera in a 3 week time frame. We as faculty get to see who sinks and who swims in such an environment. As their skills develop during the workshop, we can gauge what to program for operas in the coming year or two based on our given talent pool. A few very capable performers are starting to emerge which gives us an idea of what we can and cannot do next year.

This afternoon is the tech rehearsal for tonight's scene program and hopefully it goes as well as yesterday did.

I have it on my schedule to sleep next Wednesday after the two day faculty meeting and workshop sessions. ;-)

5/12/12

Working 9 to 9...

May Term has been energy draining to say the least. It's opera boot camp at its finest with the daily schedule being 9 - 9 for the faculty and students. We took last Saturday off and will take Mother's Day off - that's it for the 3 week May Term. Today is our work call to get the backstage organized, prop tables set, scenery and furniture organized, and crews assigned for each scene. Then we rehearse until 9 pm tonight. The performances are scheduled for next Wednesday and Thursday evenings. The plan is for all 34 scenes to be performed, but we have miles to go in many of them before next week.

Tara and Alexa had a beautiful Bat Mitzah service (2 1/2 hours long) last Saturday at the Temple in Des Moines. I am extremely proud of both of them on their decision to return to their heritage and faith. I managed to learn the Hebrew well enough to sing two songs at the service. We had relatives and guests from both coasts in attendance. And the dinner party/dance at night was fun for all. (Pictures to come as soon as they arrive)

My shoulder and neck still hurts, but have bounced back enough that I'm on the bike again and was able to ride some technical singletrack twice this week. That's pushing it to be out there doing that on an injury that really needs 5-6 weeks to heal. If I fell again right now I would be in deep pain. It's only been 3 weeks, but I don't want to lose my fitness. I managed to squeeze in a little bit of riding between rehearsals to keep in shape. Not much time due to the opera workshop class which ends next Friday.

Speaking of biking and my crash, I was going over my JET 9 race bike last weekend to see if there was any damage. The first thing I found was that the front disc brake rotor got really bent. I think the front wheel (carbon rim) flexed so much in the endo, the rotor bent, but the strength of the carbon rim kept it from breaking. A metal rim probably would have been a taco, but I will inspect the carbon rim a little closer to see if it is okay. I have been thinking of racing next weekend, but it all depends on the shoulder which seems aggravated from stage combat, fencing, staging rehearsals, moving scenery, and the two singletrack rides I tested it on this week.

Our home phone is working again after Mediacom finally figured out what was wrong. We never lost internet or cable, but the phone system went out weeks ago.

Time to make the Saturday morning coffee...