6/29/12

Tara's iMovie....



It's sort of a work in progress, but when finished - we'll upload the entire thing. She's having fun trying to figure it all out.

I just finished a difficult 3 day block training session of heat adaptation at intensity. I used the Lake Ahquabi race course and tapered my length each day while maintaining the same intensity. I basically did 3 laps the first day, 2 laps the second day, and 1 lap yesterday. Day 2 was the hottest with 100 degree temps and 111 Heat Index, yet I felt pretty good. Yesterday was about 94 degrees with a 106 Heat Index and by the end of the lap - I felt cooked. It was my first 3 day block phase of the season and is designed to cause a training effect as I work towards my next peak. So the training worked with that 3 day block where I was able to maintain my intensity and just shortened the volume each day and ended up the phase pretty cooked. Today is a recovery day, then tomorrow I will prime the pump in the legs a bit for Sunday's race (should be low to mid 90's on Sunday).

Make no mistake about it, the warm temperatures alter things for me and I will have to account for that as summer is here to stay. I am planning on doing a race in California a week from Saturday which will be a welcome respite from the heat as Salinas, CA is averaging in the low 70's for highs of the day.

On tap for tonight is a 2nd go at making Anne Burrell's tangy grilled chicken. YUM!

6/28/12

10 Years of Mountain Bike Racing!!!

This summer season marks my 10th year of giving it a go racing mountain bikes. It's hard to imagine it has actually been 10 years of racing, but it has. I had wanted to try a race or two in Vienna, but my contract wouldn't allow me to race mountain bikes and I was on "special watch" after tearing my knee playing basketball. I didn't want to jeopardize my job. But when I moved stateside, I began the process with a slight dipping of my toe in the water to see if it was too hot or too cold to jump in...

2003 - I did my first ever XC mountain bike race shortly after moving from Austria to Iowa. My first race? The Sugar Bottom Scramble. Result? I had to DNF after the first lap because it was raining and the mud was so greasy I could not keep the bike on the trail as my wheels gummed up with enough peanut butter clay they wouldn't roll any more.

2004 - Tried the Scramble again the summer of 2004 for my 2nd mountain bike race and went OTB, broke my helmet in half and got a Grade 2 concussion. In addition, we began our family camping vacation that summer with an overnight at Sugar Bottom so I could do the race along with the kids wanting to do the kids race. Upon arrival at our campsite, I sprained an ankle unloading something from the Yakima carrier on top of the van when I stepped down and misjudged where I placed my foot. The next morning, believe it or not, I sprained the other ankle loading up the car!!! Unbelievable what fate was trying to tell me. I went to Walgreen's and bought two ankle braces to lace my feet up nice and tight. Zack and Alexa raced in the kids race and Zack was about to win in the final sprint when he slipped in the gravel and went down just 50 feet from the finish line. Alexa took 2nd in her division. I had decided not to race due to the ankles, but when I saw the kids, I changed my mind and signed up to race. The OTB and concussion was not a good thing as the rest of the vacation I was dazed and confused.

2005 - I tried 3 races in 2005 as a beginner at Camp Ingawanis, Seven Oaks and Andy's Rodeo at Washington. I finished all three events (even made the podium twice) and was hooked enough to try the 2006 IMBCS series.

2006 - I did the IMBCS in the Sport 35+ category and was one of two $100 winners of the 1st annual Iowa Mountain Bike Championship Series (IMBCS) Bikeiowa.com most improved new rider(s) of the year' award. Paul Varnum was the other winner of that award that year.

My first official "race bike" was the 2nd Generation Salsa Dos Niner...

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2007 - I raced Sport Open in the IMBCS this year and branched out to do 4 of the Nebraska Psycowpath Series races. I did a total of 12 races that year. No podiums, but a lot of good experience.

Looking sporty in my plain red jersey from Performance - NOT! - back in 2007...

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Although I didn't consider myself "team material", I was invited to join Team 14 Productions and proudly wore their kit...

IMBCS #4

I met one of the most kindred spirited people in the Midwest - Matt Gersib - thanks to racing. Matt's a great guy and it is always a pleasure to see him at any event and chit-chat with him. Here we are posing with our Dos Niners after a Psycowpath race called the Maskenthine Classic outside of Norfolk, NE... . I look cooked by the heat and sun, Matt looks fresh and chipper.

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I even did the macho thing and raced a rigid steel frame at a few events before my back had a major sit down discussion with my mind...

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2008 - I continued in Sport Open and did 14 races that season. 1 DNF due to a torn sidewall, 3 Podiums (two 1st place, one 3rd place), and raced in the Black Hills and really enjoyed my first Wisconsin race (Chippewa Falls Valley Firecracker) in their excellent series called WORS. I ended up with enough points to finish 3rd Place in the IMBCS Sport Open Category for the season. This is also the year I hosted my first ever mountain bike race in an attempt to give back and participate on that level for all the fun I was enjoying at everyone else's events. I believe we had 41 racers that first year which was a good start, but small.

My back started to win over my mind and I began racing full suspension bikes more often...

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Team 14 Productions morphed into M.O.B. Racing (Men on Bikes Racing) for the 2008 season and I still raced the Dos Niner at most events...

Hitting the Wind

My smile after getting my first 1st Place Podium spot at the Black Hills Fat Tire Festival XC race in Rapid City, SD...

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Grinding it out at Ponca's Revenge in Nebraska...

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Migrating more and more to full suspension...

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Not willing to give up on Cyclocross Hill at Sugar Bottom...

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Lake Ahquabi's scenery...

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2009 - This was the year I increased my scope by doing 18 races including The Bone Bender endurance race in Missouri, some races in the Minnesota Mountain Biking Series, Wisconsin, Iowa and Nebraska. I was facing ever increasing competition in Sport Open and made no podiums in 2009, but had a lot of fun traveling and racing at new venues. I discovered I could compete in my own age class in Minnesota and Wisconsin to line up toe to toe with guys my own age and really enjoyed that new aspect. I quickly realized that some of the older guys - age 40 and above take it pretty seriously and are very fast (and light). Once again, I hosted the Lake Ahquabi race and saw 50% growth in the number of racers coming to the event from the previous year. We had a total of 61 racers participate.

This is the year that had me on a new race bike, the Niner JET 9...

Chillin' with Andrew and Brandon pre-race

The full suspension JET was light, fast and a smile inducer...

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The bike really changed my racing for the better...

Bluff Riders Charge at Mt. Kato

But I still reached for the Dos Niner at certain races and here is one where I must be nuts smiling on the grueling opening climb at the old Trek Border Battle between the Wisconsin and Minnesota Series...

Border Battle Opening Climb


2010 - Probably the year I started taking training a bit more seriously and realized the importance of it for XC racing. I cut back to 14 races and once again hosted the race at Lake Ahquabi where racer participation grew to 133!! That number of racers overwhelmed my timing system, food supply and certainly introduced some pleasant growing pains. There were no podiums for me this year, but I felt continued growth and progress in my racing.


2010 had me join the newly formed team, BikeIowa.com - and mysteriously grow a chin beard that irritated my children every day until I shaved it off...

Mt. Kato

I still was reaching for the Dos on certain courses...

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This bastard changed our lives and most importantly, the lives of our friends. It put the obvious kabosh on the rest of my racing/training for 2010...

Indianola Tornado 7/23/2010

I managed to sneak in a fall race or two before hanging up the race bike...

And we're off....


2011
- I moved out of the Sport Open Category and officially started racing in my age group in all the series (Iowa, Nebraska, Minnesota, Wisconsin). I only did 13 races last year, but they were all hand picked for a nice variety of travel and fun. I only had one DNF when I blew my rear hub at Sugar Bottom on the Cyclocross Hill climb. I made 4 podiums and did well at the Bone Bender where I got 4th in the 3 Hour race for the 50+ crowd. I ended up with enough points for CAT 2 2nd Place for 45+ overall series and was 4th for the Minnesota Series for the 6 events I did (they count your top 7 events, so I was one short). We had a record 155 racers participate at Lake Ahquabi in October with perfect weather, a season ending party and hopes that mountain biking fun is alive and well in Central Iowa. To handle some of the growing pains encountered from the previous year, I sampled electronic chip timing, rented port-a-potties, had a beer garden, engaged CITA to do the food for a fund raiser and had custom designed awards coupled with cash payouts for Marathon and CAT 1's.

I started the 2011 season fat and sassy, for sure as I had ballooned up a good 15 pounds over the winter...

Smiling...

I trimmed up a bit for the Bone Bender and kept working on the girth...

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I was slim and trim again by June - in spite of spending the month of May in Italy...

Bluff Riders Charge banking the turn

Having forgotten to wash and clean my BikeIowa.com kit at home, I had to dig out the old MOB Racing kit for an excellent trip to Duluth (1st time there for a race)...

Great Hawk Power Grind Corner

The Dos Niner was fun in Red Wing with the big fat 2.4 Ardents...

Wheelhouse Drops


2012 - Ten races under my belt this season and it is only June! I've got another dozen to 15 on my schedule that I would like to do, but we'll see how many I actually end up doing. I trained differently this year - if you've read my blog posts - thanks to the non-winter allowing me to put in a larger base phase than I have ever done before. I have 7 podiums thus far, but most of that compared to a few years back when I was in CAT 2 Open has to do with me being in my age class in Nebraska (50+), Iowa (45+), Minnesota (50+) and Wisconsin (50-54). And my nasty OTB spill at Tranquility was nearly a season ending injury, but I had 4 weeks to recover and figure out if I could continue to participate or not. My shoulder and neck have improved to the point that I am functioning fine (even played golf this week for the first time this year). I will host the Lake Ahquabi race on October 7th and am in the process of getting things lined up for that as well.

This seems to be the year of camping and having Tara want to accompany me more often on some of these weekend getaway trips. It's really fun having her along and I think she is starting to enjoy camping. It is also the year where I have decided to do several back to back weekend races (one on Saturday, one on Sunday) which is difficult to do, but a fun challenge for me.

Climbing up on the podium with these 2 seems to be happening in Nebraska on several occasions - although the order is not always the same as I have a 2nd and a 4th as well...

Top Podium Spot at Tranquility

And here we do it again...

Revenge Podium

BikeIowa.com updated our kits this year to a cool design that continues to get a lot of compliments wherever I go...

2012-06-24 11.38.45

This past weekend at the Summerset Shootout where I managed to get 1st Place and poison ivy all over my arms, legs, chin and stomach as well...

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That's the 10 years, folks. From dipping my toe in back in 2003-04 at Sugar Bottom, to a full out spring/summer/fall participation "hobby" for fun and physical well being.

Minnesota and Wisconsin both have older age categories I can participate in as I age (yes, even older than 50+), so we shall see what the next 10 years look like for me in terms of XC mountain bike racing....

6/25/12

Double Header Race Weekend Report...

I had planned on doing 3 weekends of double header races this year. The first one was the trip to Nebraska for the Maskenthine Classic and then to Mankato for the Mt. Kato XC race. Luckily, I ditched the Father's Day Weekend plans of doing a double header at Ponca and Red Wing by just going to Ponca. This past weekend was my 2nd attempt at pulling off a double header because I really wanted to work at least one WORS race in this summer.

IMBCS #4 Summerset Shootout at Banner Pits north of Indianola - Saturday, June 23

The threat of rain looked to upset Saturday's planned IMBCS race at Banner Pits. The weatherman said rain was going to pass through and last until noon or 1 pm, followed by later in the afternoon of storms "re-firing". The radar for the western 1/2 of Iowa was filled with green, yellow, orange and plenty of rain headed our way on Saturday morning. In fact, the rain did hit before 10, but it was light and managed to taper off by 11 am. Fortunately, things stayed that way until all races were completed as the clouds split and headed north and south of Summerset State Park for just enough time to complete the day's events.

I got suited up and headed out to Summerset State Park with the JET 9. I warmed up for a good 30 - 40 minutes and the legs felt strong coming off a solid 9 hour training week. We lined up at 12 noon for the Shootout with the CAT 1's and COMP racers going in the 1st and 2nd waves. My wave had 28 racers taking off (CAT 2 Open, Cat 2 35+, Cat 2 45+). This number of people starting at once quickly changed my strategy to sprint out of the gate and hope for a top 10 entrance into the singletrack because once in, it was going to be difficult to pass. I hopped off the line and made it to the singletrack in the top 10 or so for good positioning against the others in my age group.

The trail was tacky and perfect for an XC race!!! We could not have asked for better...

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I was behind a teenage rider who was having difficulty negotiating the singletrack with his bike which led to him getting flustered. He started cussing up a storm dropping the F Bomb every time he floundered with his bike. A few guys built up behind me and we all heard this kid yelling. I told him not to panic just because we were behind him and others chimed in with words of encouragement. I tried to pass him and asked if I could go around him, but no go. He fell in one section in the section called Corner Pocket with his bike completely blocking the trail and I yelled back to everyone to stop as a rider was down. He got up and still wouldn't let any of us around him as he hopped on his bike and took off. We all rode his tail out of Corner Pocket and out onto the paved connector section where we thought we could pass him.

However - he sprinted on the pavement and was in very good shape, I couldn't catch him on the pavement to pass. Nor could anyone else. So it was clear he had speed, just lacked the bike handling in the singletrack at this point in his development. I'm sure that will come as he gets more races and training under his belt on the dirt. As soon as we entered Riverside, he slowed again due to those bike handling issues. During the Riverside section 2 guys caught back up to my wheel. As soon as we exited Riverside to head to the start/finish line area for lap 2, the 2 behind me passed me and the teenager. I gave hot pursuit and our pack of 4 entered the singletrack for the 2nd lap at full tilt. It started to rain again, but it wasn't much and didn't last very long.

The flow of the trail was working well for me and I stood to power up all the short power climbs allowing the Nobby Nics to dig in and launch me up the climbs...

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During this second lap, one of the guys that passed me took a fall and we all went around him. I was again behind the teenager, but decided to just sit in and follow him as I had the luxury of being able to hold back a bit and conserve for Sunday's race. Even if I did pass him, there wasn't anybody out in front of me in my age category for this particular race. I followed the kid through the entire loop - and the F Bombs were gone (thank goodness). I could have passed him in the Riverside section of singletrack, but decided to take him in the final sprint - not because it would do me any good for my placing, but what's the harm in a little competitive fun, right? Plus - I love finish line sprints.

As we exited Riverside and hit the pavement for the sprint to the finish - he took off with his speed on pavement, but I turned it up a notch and kept within striking distance. He kept looking over his shoulder thinking he had a big enough gap to beat me. I let him think this and maintained my distance until we made the final turn to the finish line. I stood up and put the chain on the 11T cog in the rear and big ring up front as I muscled up the diesel sprint engine to close a bit of the gap. I sat again and waited until what I thought was the proper moment. I stood and hammered with all I had left. I thought maybe I had gone too far from the line to maintain this kind of sprint for the duration, but the legs kept giving me what I wanted. I overtook the young rider about 25 yards before the finish line and he tried to jump back to catch me, but I managed to maintain my lead to cross the line. Fun!

I ended up getting 1st Place for my age group in the 45+ group and was worried Landon Beachy would beat me (as he has before in quite a few races). However it was me, Sterling Heise in 2nd and Landon in 3rd for the podium. I told Jason Dal who was running the race that I couldn't stay for the awards ceremony as my wife and I were headed off to Wisconsin for a WORS race.

I loaded up the bike, drove home and quickly showered. We loaded up the Element for our camping trip and left at 2:30 for Eau Claire, Wisconsin.

WORS #5 Red Flint Firecracker at Lowes Creek County Park in Eau Claire, Wisconsin.

We arrived Saturday night about 7:45 and found a spot to pitch our tent in the County Park. We got our campsite set up in about 20 minutes and then headed off to Grizzly's for dinner.

Hard to see, but our tent is way back by those two big trees on the right (photo courtesy of Dave Reich's Flickr Slideshow):

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I thought I was drinking enough water, but realized I hadn't really had anything to drink since the race. I made the mistake of not taking in enough liquids after the Summerset Race and now it was about 8:30 at night. So I took in some water, but in retrospect - not enough. The weather was really humid in Wisconsin. Temperatures were comfortable in the high 60's, low 70's, but it was so humid everything was sticky in the tent. I tossed and turned a bit because of it and probably didn't get the best night's sleep that I wanted, but it wasn't too bad.

We got up Sunday morning and had a cup of coffee at the camp area from the coffee vendor. Then we headed over to Panera Bread for some food. On the drive over, I could tell my stomach didn't feel very good. Previous night's dinner? The heat? I wasn't sure, but I did visit the toilet enough to know something wasn't normal with me. All this, in retrospect, was adding to my dehydration.

We headed back to the park to get ready for the race. Tara went on a bike ride to hit the paved trails and explore Eau Claire. I drank a couple of bottled waters. I watched the start of the Citizens, Kids and First Timer races. I love the course at this event and had not raced here since 2009 when I had a very good race (for me) and finished 6th out of 20 some odd in my age group. Many of the same racers from 3 years ago were to be my competition again. It was really humid and I was sweating profusely while getting dressed in the tent. I drank some more water and got everything ready with my bike, liquids and gels for the race. I went out for a warm-up and felt right away my legs were a bit cooked from Saturday's race. So I did an extended warm-up to push through the muscle soreness, but my stomach wasn't being friendly to me and again I had to visit the restroom.

In spite of all of that, I was here to race for fun and enjoy everything about a WORS race. Gobs of people. A great race course. The party atmosphere. The camping. I was basking in all of it. CAT 2's lined up at 11:20 for our 11:30 start. They went over the rules and the first wave took off. There were over 50 racers starting in my wave. When I originally lined up, I was about in the 3rd row, but by the time we eventually moved our wave up to the starting line and everyone jockeyed for position - I was starting dead last in the very back of the pack. Hmmmm....maybe it fit my stomach and tired legs mood. It didn't matter as I have nothing at stake in the WORS series. I just wanted to do this race and take part.

Me forcing a smile at the back of the line waiting for the "Gooooooooooooooooo....."

2012-06-24 11.38.45


The opening sprint on this course is a long roll out. I mean - really long. Maybe a good 5-6 minutes of doubletrack of full out sprinting before we were to hit singletrack. Three years ago, I took advantage of this and went into the singletrack in the top group of 10-15 which really opens up your race as others get stuck behind you. So I knew the strategy for this course and hoped I had enough in my tank to work my way up in this big group. Off we went and I quickly moved from dead last up to the back of the middle of the pack on the opening pavement. Then I slowed to not get in a wreck as we turned a sharp right turn onto the doubletrack.

After the turn, I sprinted again and passed about 10. I recovered, and then hit it again over on the left side and suddenly was riding through grass that had several inches of sloshy mud underneath. Yikes, I powered through it as best I could and then moved back over to the right with the pack, but that mud had sucked the power out of my legs. I had to be content to recover and sit in the pack after that. I tried another move or two on the open gravel road sections - but so did everybody else. My legs were not responding and I was stuck. I saw over to the right that the first racers in my wave were already on the section of new whoops leading to the singletrack and I was way, way back. Maybe 30 racers back.

Old men on the new whoop section. (photo courtesy of Dave Reich's Flickr Slideshow)

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Race over I thought to myself, but to heck with it - I was here to have fun and enjoy the course. My race wasn't really over, but my position going into the singletrack would be worth about 4 minutes or so that I would not be able to make up in the course of a 70 minute race with the way I was feeling.

As expected, being this far back meant some hurry up and wait riding through the first singletrack sections as everyone was bunched up. Each of the singletrack sections are connected by cross country ski trails that are wide enough to pass. I had utilized these sections back in 2009 to move myself forward at every opportunity, but today I was having difficulty in lap one to move more than one or two spots at a time. The legs and stomach combination just wouldn't let me. We hit the first excellent switchback section (saw Tara on the right who took a picture of me and shouted words of encouragement to me). I had crashed here back in 2008 or 2007 when the dirt gave way and I went down hard getting a concussion and a semi-tacoed front wheel on my final lap. Back to 2012...suddenly everyone started yelling to stop as a rider was down. So, we all had to stop as a fallen racer was moved from the singletrack to the side and we all walked our bikes by him. He was later taken by ambulance to the hospital according to Tara. That stopping and having to walk that section cost at least another minute or so to get through the traffic jam. After that, I guess my desire to compete got bumped up a notch and I started hammering, passing and working my way forward. It wasn't anger, it was just that I was here to RACE!!

Working it! (photo courtesy of Dave Reich's Flickr Slideshow)

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The course was fast, fun and excellent. One of the best out there IMO. I really love this track and hope to come back again next year it is so much fun. The final switchback section before entering the finish line area was my favorite. Lap 2 was a bit different than lap 1 for the initial singletrack and I remembered it from 3 years ago. One of the top riders in the 60+ group passed me in this section as did the top female CAT 2 racer. I latched onto the 60 year old's wheel. By the way, you can tell which age class a racer is in because it is printed on the number plate we all wear on the back of our jerseys.

We exited the twisty singletrack section and were back on the long doubletrack opening rollout section that we had started the race on and I gave chase. Surprisingly, I was feeling better and started pushing myself. I flew up the climbs and was passing slower racers from previous waves and working my way forward as my body had finally kicked into race mode and I was feeling no muscle soreness (or I blocked it out). I knew I was way back, but I was having fun. Lap 2 had riders falling all over the course. I came up to a technical rock section and saw all the riders off of their bikes walking. Somebody had fallen and was blocking the trail. So I climbed off the bike and carried mine around the fallen rider (who was okay, by the way). Again, that cost precious time. What should have taken a few seconds by riding, took us a good minute to get off the bike, hike around the fallen rider, remount and get back up to speed. A bit later coming down to the creek crossing, I flew across and a few seconds later heard and saw 2 guys go down hard behind me crossing the creek. It wasn't that difficult of a section, but boy they went down hard after they lost control.

I powered out of the saddle on all the climbs and caught back up to the rear wheel of the 60 year old. I followed him closely all the way to us going into the last section. I saw that I had more left in the tank than he did and planned my sprint pass accordingly. Going through the final switchback section, I was on his rear wheel and as we made the final switchback turn to climb the hill towards the finish line, I passed on his right and he yelled out "oh - great pass man!". We sprinted to the line and I had him by 8 seconds. He congratulated me and I told him he was my hero as I hoped to ride that well at age 60. He finished 2nd for the 60+ group, and I finished way back in 11th place for the 50+ group due to my horrible start. Guys I had beat by 4, 5, 8 minutes three years ago had turned around and done the same to me. That's how important it is on this course to be up in the lead 10-20 racers going into the singletrack. Otherwise, it costs a lot of time that cannot be made up later in the race simply because you are stuck so far back in slower traffic and.....oh well - such is racing. I'm not upset as I'll take whatever I can get. This was a great course.

And I had fun. I found Tara after the race, had a piece of watermelon and then went to our camp site. We took down our camp site, packed the car, took a washcloth bath with cold, bottled water and headed back to Iowa. As soon as we got in the car, my legs seized up and cramped. A-ha! Wow that hurts. Luckily Tara was driving. Dehydration - that explained the stomach, the legs, my high heart rate, my sweating. I drank a lot of liquid in the car on the way home (3 bottles of water and a humungo Berry/Lemonade from Wendy's (size T-Rex), but never had to stop to use the restroom on the 5 hour drive. When I got home, just a little came out. That's how dehydrated I was from the previous day's race, the failure to hydrate, the humidity, the upset stomach, etc... . I will really have to watch for that in the future.

It was a fun weekend of racing and spending time with Tara. She has more pictures and even has video from several of my races - but cannot figure out how to get it to me. Hmmmm....talk about feeling old with technology....

6/22/12

Monovision.....?

Today was my annual checkup at the eye doctor. Although this one is about a year late - if not more. Why has it been so long? I had so many left over disposable contact lenses from previous prescriptions I decided to use them all up. What the heck? I had paid for all of them and they are not cheap - so I used them!!! I actually had enough for more than a year and dwindled my supply down to my last pair.

What I discovered in the past year is that some of my older lenses allowed me to see music, read books/magazines and stare at this little monitor better than others without having to use my reading glasses. I brought that up to the doctor today and mentioned I actually prefer not having to use my reading glasses. He suggested something called monovision. What's monovision?

Well.....

With monovision, you wear a contact lens on one eye to correct your distance vision and a contact lens on your other eye to correct your near vision. The lens for distance vision is usually worn on your dominant eye.

With monovision, the eye that sees well for distance vision will be slightly blurred up close and the eye that sees well up close will be slightly blurred when looking at distant objects. But with both eyes open, typically the result is acceptably clear and comfortable vision at all distances.

Therefore, the term "monovision" is somewhat misleading. The two eyes still work together as a team to see clearly at all distances; it's just that one eye is clearer than the other, and the "stronger eye" will depend on whether you are looking at something far away or up close.

Though monovision might sound difficult to adjust to, most people adapt very well and eventually don't even notice which eye is their "distance eye" and which is their "near eye."


So I decided to give it a try. We put a pair in and checked my eyes. Sure enough, one is good for distance, and the other is good for seeing up close. It's not bad, but talk to me tomorrow or in a few days. I may have adapted, or will be growing crazy to get back to a normal pair.

The brain is supposed to adapt to this and you get used to it (takes one to four weeks). I will go back next Friday for a follow up to see if I like it or not. If not, then I'll go back to a pair that is good for distance and will resort back to my reading glasses.

Bike Matters...

CarbonizedStealth

Dos Niner size XL with carbon rims, Nobby Nic 2.35's and Cane Creek bar ends for power climbing up long and wide trail (like Lake Ahquabi).

I removed the bar ends this week after hooking one on a tree at Ponca last Saturday when cutting a sharp corner at speed. To be honest, in a singletrack race I simply don't use the bar ends on the climbs. Sure, on gravel rides, pavement climbs, and double track climbs I love having them and use them often. But not on singletrack - no chance to use them with my bar width and keep the front wheel where I want to keep it on the power grunt, out of saddle, full out climbs on the cow paths.

I think I am officially tossing in the towel with regard to riding a hardtail 29"er off road for racing. I've tried everything to make it work the past couple of years. Thudbuster LT. Thudbuster ST. Standing more often. Out of saddle more often. Big fat 2.35's and 2.4's (actually this is the best help, just not enough clearance in the rear of the Dos Niner to prevent a bit of frame rub). The bike is light (my XL weighs 24 and change with big tires), and is super fast. But here's the catch - only on lap 1 is that the case. Then the beating takes a toll on my back and I end up fighting the bike to the end of the race wishing the race was just over. Don't get me wrong, I've done more racing on the Dos than any other bike the past 8 years. And I won last weekend in Nebraska at the always difficult Ponca State Park course on the Dos, but my back was exploding in lap 2 and 3.

I've been training non-stop for 3 weeks on the Dos. And I ride the ultimate HT all the time for training - my road bike! And none of this "hardtails teach you to pick good lines" bullshit. I've been riding bikes since the mid 60's and certainly know how to pick a good line with any bike on any surface. Nope. It's not the lines, it's the old backaroo. I did laps at Banner this week riding it and was flying on the first lap, but as I said - then it hits. Yesterday, I took the JET 9 for the prescribed training run and a lap at Banner. (insert sigh of relief with a low, deep, pleasurable moan.....)

This is MY race bike. I already knew that, but for some reason got all enamored this year with trying to make the Dos work again. No more messing around with that hard tail malarky. I cannot go as fast and maintain the speed to be consistent with lap times. The JET takes over and dusts my Dos for the rest of the season, thank you very much.

JET ready to RACE for 2012

Summerset Shootout tomorrow at Banner Pits, then off to Wisconsin for camping and Sunday's Chippewa Valley Firecracker (an old favorite of mine that I haven't had a chance to race since 2009).



6/20/12

1st Day of Summer is here!!!

Welcome to the 1st day of summer. Summer Solstice is today, June 20th! It's the official day summer starts when the sun is as far north as it is going to get in our hemisphere. It's also known as "the tropic of cancer". Now that summer is here, the weather promises not to disappoint. It should hit 91 today, be nice and humid before some possible rain hits.

The weighty issue...

After ignoring the best upgrade I can do for myself this season in terms of bike riding, I have reached the point where I can no longer ignore it. That is my body weight. The typical range for me to ride my best XC racing is between 2.1 and 2.4 pounds per inch of my height. That translates to a range between 158.5 - 181.1. When I ran back in the 80's, my weight was always in the 155-162 range. Lean and mean (and skinny) for sure. That might be a lofty target to drop back down there, but who knows? It sure would improve my climbing exponentially provided I kept my muscle mass in the legs. But for now, let's suffice it to say that would involve a bit of a lifestyle change in terms of what I enjoy eating.

158.5 - 181.1 pounds? I have been on the upper edge of that fringe off and on between 177 - 182 in my "best" case scenarios in the past few years. Currently, we have no scale as the Wally World Digital died and got thrown out this spring. So I have been flying blindly on the weight issue. I realized I would actually use my daily weight reading from the scale to monitor my food intake each day. Without that daily morning monitor.....hmmmmm.

Well you can imagine... . I had no need of a scale to inform me of what I needed to know. The mirror. The way my clothes fit. The loss of climbing pep I have been experiencing during a race. It all added up to what I could no longer ignore. The purchase of a new scale will quickly inform me "I am out of the range" of where I need to be for my best cycling. I will purchase one today. I announced to Tara on Sunday that I was going to be cutting weight and for those of you who live with a woman - you know what that means. The word "diet" comes up and the immediate retort from my wife that no way I was going to be doing it alone - she was going to join me, blah, blah, blah occurred right on cue. HA! Gotta love an excuse to "diet", right? So caloric intake has been whittled since Sunday, volume and intensity of exercise has increased, and the focus on the important food and nutrients has been targeted. Luckily, all the proper foods are already consumed - it's just the other stuff that is getting dropped.

I'm pretty fortunate that results show right away with me, but with my daily monitor (new scale) and careful selection of what I eat - I will be interested to see where in the "ideal weight range" I end up over the next few weeks. And I will report what the new scale says to see where I am at this moment in my quest to "upgrade" my power/weight ratio for cycling.

Skinny Summer - here I come!!!





6/17/12

Psycowpath XC State Championship Race Report...

Drama. Rain. Mud. Spills. Thrills.

Father's Day weekend and my original thought was to drive to Red Wing, Minnesota on Sunday for the Minnesota Mountain Biking Series race and skip the Nebraska State Championships because I don't think my body can do 2 in a row at my age - especially the always tough Ponca State Park in Nebraska and the course in Red Wing.

However, like last year, Tara and the family want me home on Father's Day - so it was off to Nebraska for Saturday's race. I packed up last night, set my alarm for 6 this morning and was out the door by 7. I brought along the softail (Dos Niner) to race thinking it would help me with all of the climbing at Ponca.

The drive over was efficient, but once I headed north at Omaha, the dark clouds could be seen to the west. When I turned west on Highway 20 just south of Sioux City for the 22 mile jaunt over to Ponca State Park, the rain started to fall. By the time I got close to Ponca, the rain was falling in biblical proportions. Even with the windshield wipers going at full tilt, and slowing down - I could see pretty much nada.

I sort of half thought that the race would be postponed until Sunday, but as I drove into the park I saw the heavy forest was protecting things quite a bit and the Marathon race had already been going for an hour. The racers and bikes were muddy, but racing was on and it was going to be a bit on the slushy side. I picked up my number, got suited up and did a shortened warm up because I didn't want to get too wet and get the bike too dirty before the race started. I was worried about brake pads lasting in the rain and the drivetrain shifting properly in the mud. Turns out - neither were worth worrying about...

I wasn't sure if I should wear clear lenses for eye protection, my Oakley darker glasses, or just go without glasses. I saw most all the marathoners had shed their glasses as the humidity, rain, and mud all made for a mess that few glasses could survive. I decided to start with my Oakley glasses since they are vented and don't fog over - usually.

We got started a few minutes early as we were all lined up and ready to go. My wave of 40+ age riders took off and rather than go full tilt off the start, I settled in for a bit of a wait and see attitude based on the mud and slick conditions. The trail was actually in good shape and my tires were hooking up fine. I was leading a group of three in my age class when I leaned a bit too steep on a sharp corner and hooked a bar end on a tree which had me go down. Around me went the leaders for my age class, but I hopped right back on the bike and caught back up to them. The crash knocked my stem/bars to the right so they were no longer straight. After riding with it all crooked for a few minutes, I got off and straightened things out again. As soon as I got going again my glasses were so fogged over and caked with mud I took them off and put them in my jersey pocket.

Climbing the super steep stuff was greasy on lap one and had most of us off our bikes pushing the bikes up the hill. Suddenly, footwear became critical as it was hard to get a good footing scampering up the hillside. There was a wooden bridge to cross that took many prisoners it was so slippery. Jerry Hoff was in front of me and had gone down on the bridge. That gave me pause to slow up and treat it with care. I passed Jerry and was back in the lead for my group. I motored ahead to finish up lap one and now had a good feel for the course. The rain had stopped and the trail was actually getting better in terms of traction at this point. It wasn't too bad at all.

Head down and grinding out the climbs...

Dos Niner's Revenge

Lap two had me back off a bit on some of the steep climbs to settle in for a spinning cadence rather than muscling so much up the climbs. I was able to recover a bit and started pushing a quick tempo. My rear wheel slid out a bit on the wooden bridge, but I managed to stay upright and reminded myself to give the bridge more respect on the final lap. I was flying on the descents and the flatter sections, but noticed I was losing time on the climbs no matter if I sat or stood up. The gearing on the Dos Niner is not as forgiving as it is on my JET and I was missing not having the two bailout gears. Either I have to change the Dos gearing or drop about 15 pounds (how about both?) to make it feel as efficient as the JET. And by the start of lap 3, my lower back was talking back at me with unkind words as I was getting tossed around on the rougher sections.

I pushed ahead on lap 3 and when I got to the wooden bridge, there was a guy down in front of me. I asked him if he was okay and he muttered something that sounded like he was fine as I rode past him. Then I heard a big crash as somebody behind me came flying down the hill and bit it hard on the bridge. Turns out it was Tom Anderson (marathon 3rd place winner). I saw him after my race when he stopped for some bandages. He had cut his elbow and leg pretty good and was bleeding. Turns out, that bridge ate a lot of limbs today. I turned on the gas from the bridge to the end knowing there was no reason to hold anything back. I crossed the line happy to be in one piece and felt pretty good about my bike handling in the slop.

My race effort was good enough today to earn this...

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Full race results of the Nebraska State MTB Championships can be found here.

Ponca's Revenge Results

Following the race, wouldn't you know it - the sun came out and conditions turned into perfect!!! My Dos Niner was really muddy and covered in grime. I'll have to tear it down and really clean everything to get all of the sand, grit, and mud out in hopes that nothing gets ruined. Muddy races are always expensive!!

I loaded up the mud covered bike before heading to the registration area for a double burger and a Powerade...

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It was one of those races where you sit around and talk about all of your near death experiences out on the trail - and we all had tales to tell. There was a racer who was doing his 2nd ever mountain bike race who went down on the wet wooden bridge and broke his wrist. There was Tom with his bleeding knee and elbow. There was Ryan who went down on the bridge and had two swollen shins with scrapes to show for it.

It took a bit over 2 hours to get the Category 2 results posted, so there was plenty of time to hang out and chit chat before the awards ceremony.

Sun was shining by the time the awards were presented...

Revenge Podium

Kudos to the Feagans (Ryan and Roxzanne) for such a great event. Ponca remains a challenging course for me, but it's one of the better mountain bike tracks in the states I am fortunate enough to ride. The rain and mud just added a bit of a twist this year which raised the stakes and made the win even sweeter.

I drove home and arrived just in time for some cod, orzo and strudel. Yum!

6/15/12

17!

Alexa had her 17th birthday on Wednesday. We treated her to a birthday dinner at Splash in Des Moines. She even ordered Escargot for an appetizer!!! We all had a great meal and it's rewarding to watch your children turn into adults.

A surprise party with some of her high school friends at home followed and Zack ran to the piano to play Happy Birthday as we all sang. The cake was made from scratch by our friend Chuck Tighe, and Tara made the frosting and red velvet cake balls to top it off. It was a knockout cake!!

Tara slicing the deliciousness...

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The girls enjoying tossing me a fake "don't take a picture Dad face" before eating the cake...

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Alexa wanted tickets to see Billy Elliot for her birthday, so that's what she got. She went last night and really enjoyed it. Today, we need to go and get a new Driver's License to move beyond the probationary one she now has. Insurance rates dropped for her now that she is 17 - and that puts a smile on my face. ;-]



6/14/12

Camping in the new tent!!

Thanks to a clearance on tents at Sports Authority, we are now proud owners of a new tent (our third tent we own). The small one we own - Eureka Terragon - is really a backpacking tent where there is room for two in the tent as long as the gear is stored outside under the vestibules and works fine, but lacks the options and comfort of standing up in the tent, using a cot and having room to think. Our large RAGBRAI 8 person+ tent is designed without a floor in the main room which is perfect for rolling the bikes in, storing gear out of the elements, eating inside on a table, a 7 foot ceiling, and still providing 3 "cabins" with bathtub waterproof floors for large group camping. But it is a monster to haul around for 2 people camping. So I was looking to add a medium sized solution for Tara and I to camp. Something I could stand up in (which limits your options when you are 6'4"), something easy and quick to set up, something that didn't weigh a ton and take up too much storage place in the car.

I looked at the Marmot Halo 6 ($529), and the Kelty Hula House 6 ($399) as my top picks. Great reviews on both, yet some concerns on both which I could live with. I don't know who picks these arbitrary numbers of how many people a tent will hold, but when it says 4 people - I immediately think of 2 people with gear. When it says 6 people - I immediately think of 2 people with gear, cots and dogs (that's us). So I was really focusing on the 6 person domed tents that have a floor space of 10' x 10' with steep walls to utilize the full space, bed on cots, store gear under the cots and have room for any family pets comfortably.

Needless to say, when I say the Kelty Hula House 6 on clearance with a major price drop - I jumped on it. Two or three nights in a motel this summer and it is paid for in the cost savings. Not a bad trade off even if the tent doesn't last as long as we hope it will.

To inaugurate the Hula House 6 - we hooked up with our friend Lisa Seidenkranz to overnight at Lake Ahquabi Tuesday evening. We decided to leave the dogs at home for this test run, but we brought our mountain bikes and I brought my loppers to do some work on the race course's canopy that was growing in fast and furious.

Here I am presenting the new Hula House 6...

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True to the reviews and video, this thing set up in less than 10 minutes. Perfect!!!

Maybe not a flashy bright color, but the light color of the rain canopy really will be a benefit when the sun and heat are shining down. We lucked out with temperatures in the 70's during the day and down in the uppper 50's at night for comfortable camping temperatures requiring warm clothes. The tent "blends in" and we like it.

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The backside view of the Hula House...

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Tenting in the old campground...

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I did a lap at race speed to see what shape the course was in and what would need trimming. Things were very dry and super fast thanks to a lack of rain (I'll take it!!!) this year. I quickly saw which sections needed attention from my loppers and which needed the weed wacker/mower which I will do on another trip. After my lap, I cooled down next to the lake with the ladies watching a blue heron.

The ladies stoked a fire while I cleaned up and got changed into my "evening wear".

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The new bathrooms and shower facility out at Lake Ahquabi are excellent. We cooked salmon, shallots, zucchini, rice and had a nice dinner. We visited until about 10:30 and then hit the sacks.

The morning involved coffee, poached eggs, oatmeal and toast.

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Homemade bread getting toasted...

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We took Lisa's dog, Annie, for a walk after breakfast. Tara and I suited up and did a lap on the trail before packing up camp. Tara went home and I headed out for 3 hours of trimming the trail until my hands were numb and I was hungry (stayed until 2 pm). I didn't get it all trimmed, but enough that the trail is passable without get too tickled by leaves and branches sticking out in one's face. I think camping out there once a week the next few weeks might be the ticket to get me to do the trail work and not have to drive back and forth between town. And it is fun to camp out there as well.

Final thoughts on the purchase of the Kelty Hula House 6...

Pros: It's perfect for our needs. Not too big, not too small, price was right, set up is quick and easy. The tent is roomy and comfortable. The canopy snaps to the tent with ease and minimal stakes are required to keep everything in place.

Cons: The actual "hula" is, as the reviews stated, a bit difficult to assemble and I found it much more difficult to disassemble it requiring two of us and some choice words at our first attempt. As some reviews stated, you have to go through 3 zippers to exit the tent in the middle of the night - one for the screen door of the tent, and 2 on the vestibule/rain cover. That's a minor inconvenience, but Tara did point it out as she ventured "into the night" for a pit stop.