Packing for the Dakota Five-0...

Well, today is the day I need to pack up all the gear for the trip to the Black Hills. I will leave tomorrow after work and drive part way (hopefully 1/2 of the way), and finish up the drive on Saturday morning. Check-in for picking up my race packet is between 12 noon and 6 pm which gives me some latitude for arrival and doing a little pre-ride of the opening section or so.

I think I have suddenly changed my mind about bike choice based on recent performance of the two bikes I have been toying with using for the race. I had originally thought the big RIP 9 with the extra bail out granny gear, the big monster trail tires, and plenty of suspension would be my couch cushion and ride for the race. However, yesterday's training ride on the lighter and more nimble JET 9 gave me pause to question my choice. All this after doing lots of training on the RIP including the past 2 XC races.

Pretty close gearing between the two, so that's a wash.

RIP 9 Granny Gear vs. JET 9 Granny Gear...

RIP 9 Granny vs. JET 9 Granny

The RIP outshines the JET going down the hill and through rough terrain, but there's an awful lot of going up the hill in the Dakota Five-0 and the lighter JET may pay more handsome dividends in time and wattage spent going up. And it's no slouch going down, but does require more attention than the RIP when pointing down.

I'm going to outfit the JET 9 this morning with the saddle bag, stem bag, bottles and take it for my taper training ride before work to see if it helps solidify my sudden change in bike decision. I'll be fine either way with whatever bike, but this looks to be getting the most recent nod for the 50 miles on Sunday...

JET ready to RACE for 2012

Weather looks good for Sunday with a high of 84 in Spearfish being the forecast (11 degrees cooler than Saturday's high of 95). I'll certainly take mid 80's over mid 90's for a multi-hour race!!!


The Holocaust: Hate, Guilt, Reconciliation...

Three months of spending five hours a day reading dozens of books, viewing oodles of documentaries, films, watching survivor, perpetrator, bystander, and victim interviews about WW II, and the Holocaust have proven I had a capacity to learn beyond what I knew or imagined. Thank you to my colleagues, the US Holocaust Memorial Museum, Yad Vashem, my relatives, and most of all - to my mother in law who is a survivor. Now to pass it on as an educator to my new class starting tomorrow....


Duluth Trip & Dirt Spanker race report...

We all survived the camping trip to Duluth - Tara, Lisa, and myself. That's quite a drive with Friday afternoon summer weekend traffic and Sunday afternoon/evening weekend traffic heading home.

We loaded up the Mercury Villager mini-van after I took out the 2 middle seats and slid the rear bench seat forward. There was plenty of room for all of our camping gear - 3 cots, 2 tents, Coleman stove, cooler, sleeping bags, pillows, suitcases, water can, buckets, chairs, etc... . I put the bike on the rear rack and off we went.

We made a "pit stop" at REI on I-494 just to gaze at the camping gear and get a coffee mug. We arrived at Mt. Du Lac around 6:45 Friday night, checked in and selected a campsite. We got the campsite all set up, and figured we better get something to eat. The guy at the ski resort desk where we checked in said that just around the corner was a place that served food called the Wobegon Bar. So we headed over just in time to catch the end of their Friday night all you eat Fish Fry. There was some nice local color there and we had a good time before heading back to the campsite to start a fire in the fire pit.

After a peaceful night's sleep, we got the fire going Saturday morning, had oatmeal and coffee while we made our plans for the day. There was a Super D downhill mountain bike race on Saturday at the ski area (which I was not participating in) and the pre-ride for the XC course would not be available until after 3 pm. We three tourists started our day with a drive along the north shore to see a lighthouse or two, some waterfalls, and whatever else came along that inspired us.

Our first stop was in a town called Two Harbors and we headed over to see the Lighthouse and take a tour. We were able to walk down and dip our feet in Lake Superior, use the restroom and take some tourist pictures of the place.

Two Harbors Lighthouse...

Two Harbors Lighthouse

The next stop was to see Gooseberry Falls. Pulling into the parking lot, it appeared that everyone else had decided to stop there as well as the lot was full, and cars were lined up along the sides of the roads for parking leading into the lots. I was fortunate that somebody was backing out right when we pulled into one of the lots and grabbed a spot. Due to the drought this year, the water falls were more of a trickle than usual (so we were told). We saw pictures and video in the visitor's center of what it "normally" looks like. But this picture shows how little water is falling at the moment...


Normally, water is cascading off of there. But not this year. The trail around all the connected falls is pretty cool and with the water being down, we were all able to walk out on the rocks that are normally covered in water.

As we headed up the north shore, the clouds were quickly building up and some summer showers started to hit. Hey - perfect weather to see a lighthouse, right? We parked in the parking lot to see the famous Split Rock Lighthouse and paid to take the tour. Here's the lighthouse itself...


And here's a more majestic profile view...


We learned that Lake Superior (the largest of the Great Lakes) has enough water in it to cover Canada, the US and South America with a foot of water. And of course, these lighthouses are no longer operational due to GPS, Radar, etc... .

Now we realized it was 2 pm and we were getting hungry for lunch. We sort of a made the decision to alter our plans of getting lunch and cooking dinner at the campsite. Instead, we would just skip lunch and have an early dinner in Duluth around Canal Park. So we drove the hour or so back to Duluth in pouring rain for the first 30 minutes of it and headed into Duluth where the sun was shining again. We headed over to the Canal Park area and of course, saw the famous port that is still in operation. This is a must see piece of technology (the lift bridge)...


There were plenty of enticing places to sit outside and eat on the patio of a restaurant. I asked a couple standing in line at the parking lot while waiting to pay for the parking if they were from the area and what they would recommend for a good restaurant. They gave an enthusiastic thumbs up to a fancy Italian restaurant which fit our taste buds. As we got to the restaurant at 5 pm, there was a huge storm blowing in, so we asked to be seated inside. We finally snagged a table at 5:15 for some fine dining. The storm continued and there was a bit of lightening and thunder. As we exited the restaurant lots of sirens were going off as ambulances and police cars were rushing past - all due to lightening hitting a 26' sailboat. It turns out, one boy was killed, and 6 others were injured. We didn't know the death at the time, but I read about it when I got home. Here's the link to the story, including pictures and a video of the horizontal lightening.

By now it was after 7 and we headed back to the campsite. It had rained from the storm, but not so much that things were too wet. The wood still lit for the camp fire, and it wasn't muddy as our site was well protected under trees. It was too late to do a pre-ride lap, so I just spun out the legs and rode the opening gravel climb from the base of the ski mountain to the very top in my granny gear. That alone was enough to wake the legs up following 2 days off the bike (Friday/Saturday) and created enough sweat that I needed to rinse off. This was a rustic campsite with no showers, so I used the ski area's bathroom sink to wash my hair, shave and do a washcloth spit bath. The ladies did the same and we walked up the hill to our campsite to settle in for the night. We visited around the campfire with the tent neighbors from Rochester until about 11 pm. Then we went to bed. It rained during the night, but it was not a large amount of rain.

We got up about 8 on Sunday, started the fire, made eggs, bacon, and coffee for a beautiful sun shining morning. The weather was perfect. Blue sky. Cool temperatures. What more could one ask for on race day. After breakfast, I went down to get registered and use the restroom. I went out for a warm-up on the bike, then headed back to the campsite to get my GU, water bottle and oil the bike chain.

The opening climb was certainly a way to get the heart rate elevated. I had spun up it the night before, so I knew it was a several minute ordeal (there is no climb in Iowa this long with the grade we were scaling). It was perfect Dakota Five-0 training I thought as that course features some long fire road grinders. I did the first 1/2 of the climb in the middle ring, and then switched to the granny ring on the top portion to keep the heart rate calculated before entering into the singletrack. We had a steep quick descent immediately followed by another steep climb. Okay, so scratch that calculated heart rate agenda. This course was a screaming real mountain biking course. Rough. Bumpy. Roots. Steep drops. Steep ups. A downhill course section with nice berms to lean over and rocket through. It was a full suspension bike's dream! Ah, then came the climb to the top again, but from a different fire road starting position on the east side of the mountain...


I was able to pick off 2 riders on this climb and maintain my momentum up the hill.
We were due for three laps of this pain/pleasure mix, and based on the timing of my first lap - I could see I was going to be out there for 90 minutes. I saw ahead of me the same guy that had finished 2 seconds before me in the previous race. When climbing a steep and long fire road climb, what looks like "not too far" ahead (say a couple hundred yards or so) translates into a lot of time. I gave chase in the singletrack hoping to catch up with him via determination.


Laps 2 and 3 were equally fun and I didn't have any problems with the trail. No falls. No near falls. I was not able to close the gap and catch the rider in front of me. For the most part during laps 2 and 3, I was out there solo the entire way. Part of that was due to the attendance at this event being regretfully down (it's a long drive up there). That's too bad, because a lot of people missed out on an excellent race course and perfect riding conditions.

The finish line descent after the grueling 3 laps was a serpentine descent down one of the ski hills in the grass. I crossed the line in 4th place for my age group...


One minute, twenty seconds out of a podium spot which indicates plenty of room for improvement. ;-) Coming off the 4 hour endurance ride race pace effort on Wednesday, and the grueling M.E. intervals and weights on Thursday - it was not a bad race for me considering I was on the monster RIP 9. The training was helpful for the upcoming Five-0. The taper plan is now unfolding following Monday's recovery ride and Tuesday's shortened intensity planned ride.

After the race, we took down the campsite, I got cleaned up and we headed to the awards ceremony for burgers. I won a shirt in the drawing (neon green). Then we headed home with Tara driving. The first 30 miles on I-35 took 90 minutes due to traffic, road construction and having to sit in bumper to bumper congestion. I did work on my class in the backseat all the way home (took a nap of course) and we got home around 10 pm. All in all a fun weekend in terms of camping, sight seeing, racing and getting up north.

Now back to reality here (work started this week).


Camping Trip!!!

I packed up the Mercury Villager mini-van last night with all the camping gear for a 3 day tent camping weekend. Rustic camping that is - now showers. We're heading to Mont du Lac in Wisconsin just 18 miles out of Duluth, MN for camping and bike racing. Portable solar shower, water bottles and a privacy curtain will be our shower. Weather promises to include sun, rain and night temperatures down around 50. Maybe we'll see the Minnesota state bird as well...

Oh, we'll be tourists while we are at it with a list of things we want to do: north shore drive to see some falls, see the light house, check out an art show, maybe catch an opera concert, stop at one of the famous smokehouse in Duluth (saw it on Guy Fieri's Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives.

In getting things packed last night, I realize I have lost my brand new, very expensive, BikeIowa cycling jacket. I had it last weekend and was pretty sure I put it in the car after warming-up at the River Falls race in Wisconsin on Sunday. Is it possible I left it on the hood of the car, or that it fell off the tailgate and under the car? I don't know, but it is gone. I also couldn't find my reading glasses yesterday as I didn't remember where I had left them. That's 2 senior moments in one week and I'm not liking it...

Training wise, I felt surprisingly good yesterday after the Lake Ahquabi trial run Wednesday evening. I managed to do my weekly maintenance weight lifting, went back out to Ahquabi for a lap of Muscular Endurance intervals (low cadence, high power) where I successfully got my Camelbak functioning properly again. I had a kink in the hose and carefully packing the bladder in the pack properly and routing the house with more tension to keep it taught between bottom of bladder and the hook on the shoulder strap yeilded normal flow again. That is good news!!!

I also experimented with a 2nd bottle cage below the downtube for my Perpetuem primary fuel source bottle. I can make it work, but the two concerns are I will whack it on a technical obstacle (rocks or log), or the cattle and horse droppings (and dust) will soil the mouthpiece. The latter I could solve by using a flip top bottle, the former I don't know until I take it out to Banner or Center Trails to test the clearance issue. I have an option - thanks Rick - of trying one of the mountain feedbags next week to see if I want to go that route. The good news is that my options are now increasing and available.

Off to Duluth. Finger crossed the mini-van makes it there and back trouble free...


Dakota Five-0 Training...

Last night after work was a planned endurance training dirt ride at Lake Ahquabi. A few of us hooked up at 5:15 pm to do multiple laps with a goal of 6 laps sort of being the dangling carrot. Once you hit the distance of 6 laps, you've reached the point in the Dakota Five-0 where you hit the final 9 to 10 mile downhill section.

Evie Johnson, Rick Blackford, Ron Cooney and myself headed out at about 5:30 in 90 degree temps. Ron's wife, and 3 or 4 others started after us and we ran into Nathan from Norwalk on one of the laps who joined up.

My goal was to dial in the nutrition/hydration. I had my gels (GU and Hammer) in my little stem/top tube mounted Speed Box along with Hammer Nutrition's Endurolyte capsules.

Speed Box

I had a 4 hour bottle of Hammer Nutrition's Perpetuem mixed and in the downtube bottle cage in the large size Camelbak water bottle, and I had my 50oz Camelbak pack on the back with pure, cold water. And I had a cooler in the back of the Element with water bottles, Sports Juice Pickle Drink, a Snicker's bar, and my post-ride goodies. My goal was to take in about 280-300 calories per hour, which meant I needed to drink 1/4 of the bottle per hour. I used an insulated Camelbak bottle which meant I could not see the level and is something I need to work out.

I was anxious to show everyone the alternate climb on the southwest side of the lake, so I took off in the lead and set a pace that was too fiery to endure for a 50 miler by me as it was more of an XC short 15 - 20 mile race pace, but we hit the alternate climb and it was fine on lap one. Crossing the campground road and up into the climbs, I backed off and dropped to 4th position to let Rick and Ron take off on his blistering tempo. Lap one was about a 34 minute pace for the 6.7 miles and Evie and I continued on for lap 2 slowing just a bit. At the bottom of the campground, we found Ron Cooney sitting in the grass next to his very nice and new top end Salsa Spearfish. We pulled up next to him and stopped to find out if he was okay. He said he had just been bitten by a snake. Of course, we ran through the details, asked how he felt and wondered what type of snake was out there. Poisonous variety, or other? It was a little swollen and we got him up and was walking around, so we suggested getting on his bike and coming with us. We'd take care of him if it suddenly got worse. We were all chatting and off we went to finish lap 2. We picked up Nathan out on the trail and all introduced ourselves. Even with the stop to check on Ron, lap two rolled in at 37 minutes.

Off we went for lap 3 and I was having problems getting water through the Camelbak hose. It required an immense amount of sucking to just get a small swig while on the bike - not so if I stopped, but that wasn't good and my hydration needs were not being met. Lap 3 was another blistering pace and Ron pulled ahead on the climb after the campground road crossing. Evie made a wrong turn coming out of the Mickey Mouse ears, and I slowed up after crossing the boat ramp to wait for her. No sign of Nathan, so he must of gotten dropped earlier due to our pace. Evie and I finished lap 3 around 35 minutes and stopped at our cars for some air in her front tire, and I hit the pickle juice and water bottle since my Camelbak was failing me. I also popped two Clif Shot Balls. Yuck! Not doing those again as my stomach reacted immediately. Rick came rolling in just finishing his 4th lap. Ron packed up his bike having done 3 blistering laps.

Rick, Evie and I headed out for our next lap, but Evie and decided to back off the pace a tad as we were flying too fast and had many miles to go. Rick took off and Evie and I sort of talked our way through lap 4 as a nice recovery lap. We rolled a pace that we could have done for the rest of the night, but stopped at the cars to put on the lights since it was 8:15 and the sun had set. Rick was having a beer and said he was done because he didn't feel like strapping on his lights. He had done his 5 laps at race pace for the 33.5 miles and knew he was good to go. Evie and I turned a faster lap on lap 5 than we had in lap 4, but the climbs were begging for granny ring at this point. The wildlife was starting to come out in force and the bugs near the lake were so thick, it was hard not to get a mouthful. By the time we rolled into the parking lot area (which was now empty except for our 2 cars), we had been on the bikes for 3:50 and had completed 33.5 miles. We hemmed and hawed about doing another lap, but I figured we would have ridden at about the same pace and not really gotten much benefit outside of saddle time as our pace was nearing "junk miles" pace. And my stinking Camelbak was not giving me water like I needed. So we called it a night.

We hit up La Casa for some grub and beverages before heading home. It was nice riding with Evie and visiting with her. I think she is going to do really well at the Five-0 as she is having a breakthrough XC racing season and is in really good riding shape. I was holding her back on the climbs in our final 2 laps for sure. Of course, the terrain is much different in the Black Hills and you can do really fast miles at Lake Ahquabi, so it is difficult to correlate our time and mileage with what it would be in the Black Hills under actual race conditions. All in all, a good training session for the endurance requirements. We averaged 46 minutes per lap thanks to the fast first 3 fast laps (which was faster than my 53 minutes per lap this time last year).

I'm looking at possible solutions since I only have one bottle cage that I can reach rather easily on my RIP 9 to replace the Camelbak. The 2nd cage would be underneath the downtube and my long arms can do it if I take care not to buzz my fingers or the bottle on the tire and peek out with my neck craned. Fine riding in the street, but on singletrack I would have to be careful to only take the bottle on buff sections. The 2nd cage itself would be down around the CVA pivot and on any technical section runs the risk of striking a rock/log as it would sit lower than the actual pivot. It's a cheap and easy solution which I will experiment with next week, but I don't know if it is the best solution. Certainly lighter. No worries of back/core overheating. And with the aid stations, I can easily fill both bottles quicker than taking off the hydration pack, opening up the bladder, filling it and getting all strapped in again. If I did go with that solution, I would put the 4 hour Perpetuem bottle down in the 2nd cage position, and have the water/HEED up top in the cage I can easily reach.

Other solutions?

One is the Mountain Feedbag which I could use for my Perpetuem bottle, and then use my regular big Camelbak bottle in the cage with water...

Mountain Feedbags

I would only get one of those and it would be for the Perpetuem bottle. I'm worried how it would sandwich in my brake/shifting cables. It's a workable solution and looks pretty well constructed and minimal weight.

The other is a pretty nifty hydration system for full suspension bikes and bikes with only one or with no bottle cages...

Saddle Bag hydration

I might tinker around with my Camelbak to see if the hose was pinched or if I can get the flow better. It felt like the hose was too short and when I pulled it over to my mouth to get a drink, something was crimping and not allowing the water to flow. But if I was stopped and used both hands to get the hose over and turned my head - I had good flow. And I fiddle with the 2 bottle cage solution to see if either is workable before shelling out for yet another solution.

In the meantime, off to work on my syllabus and then drive to Duluth tomorrow for camping and racing with Tara and Lisa...


Is mountain bike XC racing alive and well?

Psycowpath Start Line

I have to say that the numbers sure seem to be healthy and alive and well here in the Midwest this season for XC mountain bike racing. The numbers appear to be up which is a good thing. Whether it is the weather, growth of racers, or what - it is what it is.

On the starting line

Sunday's race in the Minnesota Mountain Biking Series held in River Ralls had a grand total of 348 racers toe the line. Single Track Attack had 276; Buck Hill had 301; Great Hawk had 339; Red Wing had 347; Mankato had 354; Freewheel had 322.

Minnesota Start Line

WORS - well, WORS is WORS being the largest series in the country. They are averaging 650 - 800+ per event. I've only been to one this year and it was crowded!!

The opening race weekend for Psycowpath this year saw a record 350 racers in Nebraska. Now that's more than the usual number because of the TT and Fat Tire Crit on one day counting as separate races and the XC on Sunday being made up primarily of the racers who had done the duo TT and Crit the day before. However, going through the races that involve more driving time the numbers were healthy: Maskenthine had 91; Ponca had 108; Tranquility had 137; Platte River had 139; Manawa rescheduled to Swanson had 147.

Our very own little series here in Iowa - the IMBCS - is doing well this year with numbers up a bit from some of the previous years. Sylvan Island had a whopping 243 racers toe the line; little old Camp Ingawanis had 56 at the 1st race in May; Moorehead had 59; Summerset had 70; Beverly had 103; Seven Oaks had 57 plus whatever the CAT 3 numbers were (I haven't seen them); Manawa rescheduled to Swanson had 147. Sylvan Island, Sugarbottom (had 154 last year) and hopefully Lake Ahquabi (had 155 last year) have emerged as the largest racer turnouts on the Iowa schedule. Wouldn't it be nice to see the Sylvan Island success carry over to Sugarbottom and Ahquabi with numbers approaching 200?!!? That would be sweet indeed.

What about an upcoming regional race back home in the Black Hills?

The roster list for the Dakota Five-0 has 721 on it scheduled to toe the line on Sunday, September 2nd. The registration for that race filled up within 4 hours back in April and they took a certain number from the wait list (and there is still a long wait list). It's nice to see this event grow as there were fewer than 200 racers the last time I raced it.

The bottom line is that there is a good draw here in Nebraska, Iowa, Minnesota, and Wisconsin for XC racing with numbers that appear to be trending to the upside. Not huge growth, but a percentage of growth is showing. Perhaps with the kids races, first timer classes, beginner classes, additional maverick classes, comp classes, older age group classes, etc... more people are choosing to participate and have fun.

Let's hope it continues...

Leeburg Bakers Dozen starting line


Psycowpath Swanson Season Ending XC Event & Minnesota Mountain Biking Series River Falls Race Reports...

Woulda shoulda coulda.

Let me repeat that...

Woulda shoulda coulda.

How about mere seconds count? Yup, it was just a few seconds this weekend that counted for me.

States with an identity crisis? Minnesota Series racing in Wisconsin for the weekend and the Iowa Series racing in Nebraska! Talk about identity crisis.

Okay - enough of that. On to this weekend's race reports....

I had a scheduled rest and recovery week coming into this weekend following two weeks of building fitness for the longer endurance Dakota Five-0 event on Labor Day Weekend. I cooked my legs pretty good by increasing volume and certain types of effort via intervals. The rest and recovery was welcome, but it left me just a little bit flat going into this weekend. I'm not complaining, because I organized and planned things that way.

I wanted to race the final Psycowpath Series event on Saturday and turn right around and do another race on Sunday in the Minnesota Mountain Bike Series so I could get as much race pace block training as I could in a weekend. I had done that twice earlier in the season when I did the Nebraska State Championship at Ponca on a Saturday followed by Mt. Kato on Sunday; and the IMBCS race at Summerset on a Saturday followed by the WORS Red Flint Firecracker on Sunday. It cooks your legs, but for block training it's hard to beat. So I knew going into the weekend, especially after a R&R week, I was in for a leg cooking.

New kit comment alert: I got comments at both venues this weekend on the new Bike Iowa kit. Steve Stilwell was the first to point out that my helmet matches the kit. One guy in Nebraska said the kit was busy, but he really liked it. A lady in line for the Kybo in Wisconsin looked me up and down, smiled and made a nice comment. '-}

Psycowpath Swanson (switched from the Lake Manawa course due to sand)

I decided to bring the big Niner RIP 9 to do this race on for some training as that is what I want to run for the Dakota Five-0. It's not as nimble as my JET 9, but the extra cushion of having longer travel and the big volume knobby tires makes for a real comfort endurance machine. It's a few pounds heavier, but comfortable. I arrived at Bellevue, NE a few minutes later than I wanted to for a proper warm-up, but c'est la vie. I registered, got suited up and warmed up as best I could on the pavement. We lined up and all the old guys engaged in our usual pre-race pestering, joking and what not....


I was itching to race - or at the very least, itching to go fast after a 5 day R&R. I got off the starting line and was following the wheel of Jerry Hoff (series leader for the 50-59), only to have two guys cut in front of me at the last second going into the singletrack. Regardless, I muscled the RIP around the course noting it was not as lightfoot and nimble as my JET. However, it makes up for it as a good climber, and it absorbs everything so well it's hard not to smile.


I had Jerry in my sights most of the time during the entire race and left a little gap between us in lap one and lap two. Not that I wasn't trying to close it - because I was. However, I waited until lap three to try to really close the gap in earnest. I kept "charting" the gap by seeing a landmark where he was and then I would time myself to get to that landmark. He was 20 seconds ahead, then 15 seconds, then 13 seconds ahead, then 10 seconds. I kept slowly closing the gap. Jerry is a great descender from all his days on the motorcycle. I would make progress climbing the trails behind him, and on the downhills he would pull away.

I closed the gap to 6 seconds near the end of our final lap. On the final climb, I had planned to use whatever I had left to try and bridge some of the gap and sprint to the line. Somebody was in my way and I couldn't will my body to get it going up the final climb. I watched Jerry take off for the final sprint and all I could do was muster crossing the line 7 seconds behind him. Congrats Jerry on the win! I needed as many points as possible for both the Nebraska Series and the Iowa Series, so coming in 2nd was fine. Woulda, shoulda, coulda gets me no where! I gave it my best, but Jerry had the legs and lungs today. My time was 1:21:54 which, compared to the previous race at Swanson at the beginning of the season where my time was 1:27:14, is an improvement of 5:20 (minutes:seconds). Not bad as both races were dry and fast in terms of soil conditions.

All in all, I was very pleased with how the RIP did out on the course - especially with how fresh it keeps my back and body. I'm hoping that bonus comes in handy on the longer duration 50 mile race. I will find that out on Wednesday evening during a training ride at Lake Ahquabi.

The old guys on the podium after the race...

Swanson Podium

Bruce Brown 2nd (left), Jerry Hoff 1st (center), Guy German 3rd (right)

I sold Jerry Hoff the extra Yakima bike rack I've had in storage in the shed for several years. It was a replacement from State Farm after I got rear ended by a teenager up in Des Moines way back when. I had never used it, so I'm glad somebody else can get some use out of it now.

I had a burger and beer (great recovery food, right?) while visiting with the Iowa racers (Bart, Cam, Jeff, Tom, Jason, Kevin, Evie, Katherine, etc...). Then I hopped in the Element to make the 2 hour + drive home on 92. Tara had beautiful salmon, cooked spinach and warm bread for dinner. I was in bed by 10 so I could get up Sunday morning early for the long drive to Wisconsin.

Here's a video posted up by Karl "Crash" Kenoyer from one of the laps...

Minnesota Mountain Biking Series Border Crossing

The course was in River Falls, Wisconsin and has served as host in previous years to the Border Battle race which was a combined event for the WORS and the MMBS. WORS backed out of that event this year, but Minnesota decided to have us cross the Mississippi and race there in spite of it being a single state event. I'm glad they did because this course is the cat's meow. It is fun. Roots, rocks, wooden bridges covered in chicken wire, climbs, tight and twisty and great dirt.

I set the alarm for 5:10 with plans to be out the door by 5:30. Turns out, I was wide awake at 4:15 - so I just got up, made coffee, took a shower and was out the door at 5:20. It rained the entire way from Des Moines to the Twin Cities. I saw the sky looked lighter to the east over Wisconsin way and really hoped it was not going to be a muddy mess. The closer I got, the rain stopped and when I pulled in everything was as dry as a bone. It was so cool relative to the prior month of breaking records on the hot side, I needed to wear my jacket for warm-ups. I warmed up slowly, stretched and started hydrating. I could tell my legs were going to be screaming in pain with the effort, but I was here to enjoy the course and get the training effect. I saw Steve Stilwell and visited with him. He had missed the prior 2 races due to being on RAGBRAI, but was now back and this was his home course.

I lined up and swung to the outside off the line as we took off. I was told the opening climb had been graded with a bulldozer in the last few weeks which means the rut I had to jump across last year would be absent. We got to the opening climb and it was covered with large limestone gravel. And there were 5 waterbars to cross (each about 18 inches tall). My legs, heart, knees, and will were not having a good time working together, so I ended up just spinning up the opening climb in suffer mode as I watched the majority of my competition roll away. I just couldn't bring myself to dish out the kind of pain needed for the opening few minutes after yesterday. I crested the climb, looked to the right and saw that the top 4 riders in my age group were all about a minute ahead already. Race over - pretty much, but I wasn't going to give up. I rode a good strong pace the rest of the race, pushing a nice tempo, working my way through some of the crowd and didn't falter at all on any of the technical sections.

I was in a group of 4 of us in the 50-59 group jockeying for the 5-8th spots. I was tailing Mike Franken at the end of lap 1 and passed him to start the repeat of the opening climb only to have him pass me right back and pull ahead on the climb. My legs were shot for the total of 4 doubletrack climbs - and that cost me precious seconds, if not more. I hung with him and pretty much followed him all of lap 2. I was behind Mike and Michael Cisek. On the final doubletrack climb, I hung on their rear wheels and passed Michael at the top of the climb, but couldn't get around Mike. I tailed him the rest of the race figuring it was worth some points. I pushed hard and coming out of the woods and into the final sprint section, I passed Todd Borstand and gave chase to Mike. I was a wheel length behind him going into the cyclocross maze just before the finish line. He turned around and saw me and I readied myself for the final sprint to the line once we got out of the maze.

Ah...weak legs. Mike's big tree trunks pushed out a huge sprint power as I got out of the saddle to utilize my body over my chicken legs for the final sprint. I just couldn't close the gap and catch him. He finished 2 seconds ahead of me for 5th place, and I got 6th. The 4 of us that were fighting for 5/6/7/8 all finished within 18 seconds of each other which is pretty dang close. 9th place was only 23 seconds beyond 8th, so he was in the fight as well. 4th place was 51 seconds ahead of me (the 4 big climbs cost me that). This was one of those races where even though we were too far off the podium spots, there was still a great battle going on underneath for position. I love races like that!!!

Considering the 2nd day in a row of racing, I felt pretty good about my effort. I just didn't have the legs/lungs/heart for the 4 doubletrack climbs like I would have had with fresh legs. In the end, that's really what cost me. My mind would not allow me to face the pain of turning myself inside out on at least 1 or 2 of them - if not all. Or perhaps my body would not allow me - no matter what the mind said. I did on the rest of the course where I kept a very good tempo and the push on my pedals was what I wanted. The JET 9 was flying through the course, but not on those 4 extended grinding climbs. I slowed on one other singletrack climb in lap 2 as well due to my legs being tired and the top CAT 2 female asked to pass in the middle of the climb and I had to move over which slowed my momentum. I did, however, manage to do better on day 2 of this double weekend than on the Summerset/Firecracker weekend where I got burned big time on day 2. In short, one race per weekend is more than enough. However, in this instance, I wanted the stacked training effect of a double effort. Not to mention, the sweet trail was well worth the drive. In my opinion, it's one of the really fun trails to race with all of the features built into the trail.

So I missed out on a bit more glory by 7 seconds on Saturday and 2 seconds on Sunday.

Border Crossing Results for the 12 of us old guys that braved it...


I think I got my desired training effect and will now do one of two final endurance training rides at Lake Ahquabi to prepare for the Dakota Five-0. I would like to get 40-45 miles in on Wednesday, with the following week a bit less duration as the taper starts.


A scheduled rest and recovery week...

Today is day 2 of my scheduled Rest & Recovery Week. Typically, a R&R week comes after 2 or 3 weeks of heavily loaded training and allows the body to super-compensate and "catch up" with the training effect. I did two build weeks where volume, intensity and the load was stacked up and stretched me to near the limit. This R&R week is actually a 5 day stretch where I utilize active recovery and some speed skills to maintain my training, but allow my muscles to grow and recover from what they have just been through.

Monday was totally off the bike. I worked in the office all day long and got a lot done with my Holocaust class for the fall. Tuesday was a recovery ride followed by an upper body workout at Lake Ahquabi where I spent 3 hours with the scythe trimming trail and using the loppers to trim the growth. Tomorrow will be another easy effort with 5 intervals of 1 minute in duration of top end speed and effort. Thursday and Friday will be easy efforts and by the weekend I should be recovered and chomping at the bit to race. I have a back to back XC weekend with the Swanson Park race in Omaha which is a joint race between the Nebraska Psycowpath Series and the Iowa IMBCS series. It is the final race in the Nebraska series and I am currently in 2nd place for that series. I cannot win the series as I missed a race due to Tara and Alexa's bat mitzvah, but I can gain points for the Iowa series. Sunday is a race for the Minnesota Mountain Biking Series, but will be held across the border in Wisconsin on the course that was formerly used and known as the Border Battle between the Minnesota and Wisconsin Series. Both races should be a nice weekend of racing and launch me into my next 2 week block of building for the big Dakota Five-0.

It's raining as I type this which is the 2nd storm in as few as 4 day's time. Very much needed and appreciated...


IMBCS #6: Seven Oaks Race Report...

Today was perfect weather. I think the high for the day ended up being something like 80 or 81 with sunshine and a light breeze. Talk about a nice respite from the 98-106 range.

Getting out of bed this morning (thanks to the dogs begging for breakfast bright and early) I noticed my legs were still pretty stiff from the week's training effort. Not a huge deal, but I made note of the legs needing another day off. I headed up to Seven Oaks Ski Area just outside of Boone. Police were everywhere with their radar, and luckily I had plenty of time to get there so was driving the speed limit. I pulled into the parking lot at Seven Oaks about 11:15 and headed over to get registered. Turnout looked pretty good with a full parking lot, sunshine and cool temperatures. I believe I heard the number or racers was around 60.

A storm had blown through on Saturday and it was determined that the southwestern side of the traditional loop was too muddy/wet to use for the race, so the laps would be shorter. CAT 2's were scheduled to do 3 laps. I headed out to warm-up, rode up the gravel rode and rode a portion of the singletrack back down to the start/finish area. The dirt was in perfect shape and my legs were, well - at least they were behaving enough to work. This was a "train through the race week", so I was fine with their condition.

There was the usual joking around with all the old guys and we lined up for our start around noon. Two guys had to run and relieve themselves at the very last minute, so jokes about the aging bladder ensued. Especially about the need to go more often thanks to Sterling's need to pee. Kyle Sedore had organized beautiful weather, a well marked course and had everything under control. Kyle asked the CAT 2's if we were ready, and Bart hollered out "Bikini Alert!". There was a young woman in the parking lot getting ready to go on one of the Seven Oaks Canoe trips and she was lathering herself up with suntan lotion in the parking lot. So, the start of the race was delayed as we all partook of the local scenery. Finally, she was finished and we were ready (heart rates high thank you very much). Off we went (racing that is...)...and I snuggled up about mid-pack to top 12 or so in line going up the big switchback climb.

The group wasn't going too fast, so I dropped it on the smallest of my 2 rings and spun up climb #1. At the top of this opening climb where one would normally turn left and descend back down the other side of the ski hill, we were routed to the right and up a small climb to skip that entire back section due to mud. One guy passed me on a short open section and settled right in the spot in front of me. Lap one was only eventful for the sake that several riders were having difficulty negotiating the switchbacks and were dismounting to push their bikes up the hill. I managed to get around 2 or 3 riders because of this. The descent into the start finish area was super fun and fast. We got to nail a right hand bender at the bottom of the hill on grass over to the start/finish area and fly over a small hill. It was a nice thrill ride portion of the course and got the juices going for lap 2.

I hit the climb on lap 2 pretty hard as things had opened up now and there was nobody in front of me. I guess I hit it too hard because by the time I had gone through the re-route, my stomach was having a discussion with my brain on whether or not it should heave-ho! I didn't want that, so I backed off a touch to recover. I ran into some riders off their bikes due to failed negotiations of switchbacks again and was able to pass another pair of riders. I was not climbing as well as I wanted to because the legs were tired. I opted for a lot of out of saddle power climbs to make up for it, and a lot of seated/high-spin climbs between. Not bad, but not top form. Lap two felt quicker for me and after enjoying the descent again, I realized my time was going to be sub-60 minutes making this a pretty short race indeed. I didn't mind that a bit considering the 10 hours during the build phase week I spent training on the bike.

I survived the opening switchback climb again, this time making sure not to turn myself inside out like I did on lap 2. I got passed by 4 or 5 CAT 1's during this lap that had started 6 minutes or so in front of my wave. And I was reminded that my speed was close to a standing still pace compared to what they are able to churn out throughout a lap. I heard and saw a couple of guys I had passed on lap 2 a bit behind me and had at it to fight them off and keep them far enough back they wouldn't catch me. I was flying on the final descent to hold them off, but managed to open up a nice gap to roll across with a time of 57:01 - good enough for 2nd Place in the 45+ age group. John Peters was 1st with 52:16 - so by about 5 minutes, and Sterling was 3rd in our age group at 59:26 and David Fish took 4th coming in at 1:02:02.

The weather was so nice, it was fun to hang out in it, visit, down a few beers and talk about the race series, costs, training for the Dakota Five-0, etc... . Kudos to Kyle and Julie for a great job. It was really enjoyable.


Dakota Five-0 Training Report: Sizzling bacon and fresh french roast - now that's a Saturday morning!!!

A breakfast dominated by protein this morning - bacon, eggs, bagels and french roast while watching the gold medal tennis match. Yummy!

Build Week #2 is in the bag and I feel great! Timing my rides to avoid the heat of the day was key this week. I am slowly working my way endurance-wise to the Dakota Five-0 goal. Using the additional 10-15% increase in duration, this week resulted in a 10 hour training week (up from the prior week's 9 hours).

50 miles off road is a long, tiring, and sobering effort on a mountain bike - and that's just as a ride. Racing that distance on a mountain bike is - I shudder to think - going to be filled with sweet pain. Structuring the year to include such an effort has not been easy, either, with all of the shorter effort, higher intensity training mixed in for typical XC mountain bike racing. I first built to the duration of the Renegade Gent's race in April after a long base period with lots of volume thanks to the non-winter. Thanks to a 30 minute lunch stop, that gravel race took me 5:44 minutes, but was a group of 5 race on gravel roads and the low elevation of Iowa. As it was, only 2 of our 5 finished. I wouldn't really call my effort on that ride 'race effort', but it was a good check for my endurance and my nutrition plan while being out there in the wind and rain grinding around on loose gravel.

In terms of rides I would consider "endurance" training - at least for me - which is 2 hours or more, I have logged a total of 125 hours so far this year. And I am sitting at a total of 234 hours this year in total on the bike time (as of yesterday). That's keeping with my annual goal of logging 350-400 hours on the bike. It doesn't sound like that much, but it's way more than I have ever done before. The fall semester and my workload will determine if I make the annual hours goal or not.

I'm not really happy with the lack of longer endurance rides in the bag, but I will take what I have done. I will do my final 2 longer duration rides the next 2 weeks before tapering. I had wanted to build to 5 hours with one of them being an off road effort (Lake Ahquabi) like I did last year. I might not make it to 5 hours (depends on the weather, the success of my on the bike nutrition, and how my body is feeling during the effort). Even if I only make it to 4 1/2 hours in the training - at least I will have reached the point in the Dakota Five-0 where the race is more downhill than uphill. I can finish on fumes at that point.

Outside of all the 3 and 4 hour long base training rides in January - March, my longest endurance rides of the season using a higher pace than base training are listed below:

April 7 - 5:45 Race 70 mile gravel race
May 26 - 3:00
May 28 - 3:15
June 5 - 3:30
June 17 - 4:00
July 30 - 4:05

July 30th was planned to have been a bit longer as I was doing it on pavement, but with the wind, sun and heat - it started to feel like pointless junk miles out on the road and I pulled the plug in the heat when I ran out of drink and snacks. As I said, I have two more long endurance rides planned for the next 2 weeks before tapering down leading up to the Dakota Five-0. Whether or not I've done it right, remains to be seen and felt. I don't want to over-reach and weaken my body, but so far - it feels like it is responding well and I am able to recover. I'll have to back off on the other days volume-wise the next two weeks by increasing my endurance rides.

Sounds like a plan and I'll stick to it in hopes the results are what I want. Today is a rest day and tomorrow is the XC race at Seven Oaks in Boone. Temperatures look to be dropping into the low 80's tomorrow which will be perfect timing for a race.


Oh sleep, why dost thou leave me.....?

One of those restless nights caused by a confluence of events...

•hard effort training ride in the heat

•grilled food for dinner

•plenty of wine shared with friends at dinner

•Olympic Excitement!

•full moon

•son up late at night turning the bathroom light off and on trying to find something to clear his plugged up nose

Add them all together, and I can't say I got my much coveted 7-8 straight hours of sleep.

Oh well, the meal was good....(spatchcocked bird with the mustard marinade)

Spatchcock Chicken

The wine was good....


And then it became great...


And then there was ice cream and fresh fruit to top it all off for the evening. A nice meal and visit shared with John and Judy Pauley. And it even ended with a brief discussion about the evilness of Adolph Eichmann and the offer to share a paper written for a journal that John wrote.

On tap in the training program was a hard effort mountain bike ride. As I mentioned in the previous post, I was feeling beat up. That feeling continued yesterday with post weight lifting stiffness, a nasty saddle sore, a corn on my toe bothering me and temperatures in the mid 90's. I spent the morning cleaning the house and fixing a couple of things. Then I hauled an old desk to the dump and deposited some checks at the bank. I pretty much had to force myself to get in the bike kit, load up the bike and head out to Lake Ahquabi. I really thought about bagging the ride and taking the day off, but I muddled on through the prescribed session figuring I could take Thursday's Zone 2 ride off which would not be as missed as the hard effort.

I brought the 28 pounds of goodness RIP 9 with the big Nobby Nics to Ahquabi for the ride...


I headed north along the lake to warm-up a bit and with the heat and my stiff muscles - I felt awful. After a bit of warm-up, I headed out in the clockwise direction for a lap. I began slowly and every climb seemed like a Herculean effort as I stayed seated on the bike and ground out the climbs. I got to the loose gravel steep climb on the southwest side of the lake, dropped the chain to the 23T granny and ground up the climb fighting the front wheel at such a slow climb on that grade of an ascent. I made it to the top and realized that I felt pretty good now and moved the chain to the big ring. Not bad, I thought. Maybe I won't have to bag this ride at all and started increasing my speed and effort. On the JET and Dos, I get out of saddle a lot and hammer away. I stayed firmly seated on the RIP and pumped out the effort with the big ring around the entire course only standing on one short connector 20 foot section.

As I finished lap one, I stopped in the shade and drank some water. There was a slight breeze and it was not as humid out as the previous day, so I felt pretty good. That was a big surprise and off I headed for a 2nd lap (my hot lap at 85% to full out effort). I was surprised how easily I was able to keep the high wattage effort going on the RIP. The big Nobby Nic 2.35's are stellar on the Lake Ahquabi course. During lap 2, without ever going so hard that I couldn't recover in a normal manner, I was able to match my training lap time of the JET 9. Hmmmm.....not bad. This is the bike I want to use for the Dakota Five-0 as it is the only bike I have with a granny ring which I know I might need out in the Black Hills during the 5-6 hour race.

Today was sort of a breakthrough training day for me considering I felt like garbage going into it. I've read about people experiencing the same thing before where they feel bad going into it, and come out on the other end with a great workout. I hadn't had one of those in a long time - so it felt good. I loaded up the bike and headed home.

The diet has been working well with weight loss finally taking place to the point I notice it visually, clothes fitting wise and on the bike - especially on the climbs. I could still utilize and benefit from shedding about 5 more pounds. So, my lunch was a low calorie salad filled with fresh goodies from our garden. I took a nice nap for about 30 minutes, then got showered and ready for the evening's dinner (which I took smaller portions than usual).

It's a tricky month's training plan to boost the endurance for the Dakota Five-0, complete a build phase, XC race on the weekends - and design and prepare a new course for this fall semester. That's why I was not happy with a disturbed night of sleep. I know my body is fighting with all of the physical stress and I don't want to get run down to the point of getting sick. That happened the first year I did the Dakota Five-0 which I want to avoid this time around for sure. So a nap is in order for this afternoon following my easier effort Zone 2 ride.


XC Racing 2012: 18 Weeks Down, 9 to Go...(and feeling a bit beat up)

27 Weeks seems like a fairly long season for XC racing, but with races being scheduled from April 1st to the beginning of October - that's what the season is here in the Midwest. 2/3'rds of it is now in the books, with the remaining 1/3rd beginning this weekend with a race at Seven Oaks Ski Area in Boone. Speaking of 2/3rd's, if I look at the 15 races I have done this season to date, I have made the podium in 10 of them (2/3rds). I have a couple more goals for the remainder of the season, but whatever the outcome will be with those goals, I certainly have been pleased to date.

I had the opportunity to assess my physical condition yesterday to see how I feel with 1/3rd of the season yet to go. It was a scheduled day off the bike and a regular bike maintenance day to clean the JET 9 and get it ready for the weekend as well as my weight lifting day. In short - I feel a bit beat up. Some of that is due to being in the middle of a build phase which I had planned in preparation for the remainder of the season and trying to time a 2nd peak at a specific time. So I am in the middle of the 2nd week of a 3 week build phase which increases my physical stress.

Some of the aches and pains are normal for a 50 year old, some are as a result of getting beaten up from all the pounding experienced in a mountain bike race, and some may be related to golf combined with weight lifting. Technique is so important for lifting as well as the golf swing, that once an inflammation is introduced - it's difficult to recover without total rest or stopping the activity that might be creating the inflammation. My left elbow has been suffering from tendonitis the past few weeks. Whether it is golfer's elbow, mountain biking elbow, weight lifting elbow, or what - I don't know? I really felt it at the end of the race at Elk River in Minnesota and spent the day yesterday adjusting my suspension fork to provide a more forgiving front end. I had set it pretty stiff after my OTB in April when the fork compressed at full speed to try and prevent a similar accident. The roots and technical sections at Hillside Park in Elk River really shook my upper body and my left elbow was screaming at me at the end of the race. So I softened up my fork's settings yesterday for a more plush and easier feeling front end in hopes that will take some stress off of the left elbow. I did some specific stretches for the left arm that are designed to treat the tendonitis.

I may have introduced the original inflammation by lifting too much, too soon without a proper adaptation phase in the arm curls. If I think of the timing of the elbow pain - at least when I first noticed it - I also had started to play golf again with Zack and switched some of the upper body weight work to a more golf oriented lifting routine that I used to do when I played a lot of golf. I haven't played in a long time, so the sudden stress of 18 holes without an adaptation of hitting some balls at the range and building up the golf muscles may have triggered it. Either way, I've got it now and it is just one more ache and pain I am dealing with this summer. The neck and shoulder from the April crash still say a hello to me every day. My right knee - which I smacked at Buck Hill - is reminding me every day it is not 100% yet. My lower back requires daily stretching to keep from seizing up. And to add insult to injury - or injury to insult - I've got a brand new saddle sore on the right side. All I can figure out with that is the combination of Sunday's wet and humid race along with Monday's long Zone 2 ride with the sweat and humidity must have created it. I just noticed it last night and it's a stinger.

So I'm feeling a little more beat up at this point than in previous seasons. I'm sure that doing more races this year and having increased the amount of training (started much sooner and put in a long base phase for me). A nasty OTB crash with neck and shoulder injuries at Tranquility. A knee smack crash at Buck Hill. Improper weight lifting/golfing combo. A sore right cheek in the chamois. It makes getting out of bed at age 50 even more challenging every morning than it would normally be.

Enough of the aches and pains. I will baby myself and treat all ailments as I look forward to the final 1/3rd of the 2012 XC racing season. The month of August requires a long endurance ride every week as final preparation for the Dakota Five-0.