25 More Days of Fall 2012...

Winter officially starts on December 21st this year, giving us 25 more official days of Fall 2012.  Weather forecast looks pretty good for at least some continued outdoor riding going forward...

December 2012 

In an effort to fight the Butterball and Pumpkin Pie intake, I managed to ride 8 hours outside this past week thanks to the holiday break.  The 2 hours I put in on Saturday were the coldest 2 hours with temps in the low 20's and a stiff wind to boot.  The rest of the 8 hours was pleasant.

Yesterday was the 2nd Bacon & Pancake ride of the season at Banner Pits and we got in a pair of rather quick, heart rate pegged laps in the speedy group led by Rick Blackford, Matt McCutchan, and Kevin Betters (on his FAT BIKE no less).  We actually had french toast made from cranberry bread, cinnamon rolls, crackers/cheese/salami and beer as well to the 5 packages of bacon and honey wheat pancakes we cooked on the Coleman stoves.  There were a dozen to 15 riders there at various times.  Most of us rode before we cooked.  Some rode while we cooked.  And I imagine some rode after we cooked, but I took off to go home for a hot shower and pot of coffee after we cleaned up the outdoor "kitchen".


I guess I was pretty cooked with the pace we took and it being my last ride day of the week before taking a day off the bike.  I stripped down the wet jersey and cycling jacket to slip into my winter parka, tundra hat (that the dogs ate part of the fur off of recently), Gore-Tex pants and gloves.  Standing around post-ride with the wet sweat in the wind is a sure fire way to get cold rather quickly.  I avoided that and was warm and toasty for the Sunday brunch.

That's me in the tundra gear avoiding the shivers that I saw everyone else experiencing.  Of course, drinking cold beer out in the cold with a bit of a cool breeze and wearing sweat soaked cycling attire is a recipe for the shivers....


It's a nice tradition that was started last year and a good way to keep turning the cranks through the cold months.


2012 Racing Summary...

I was puttering in the garage today working on my Karate Monkey when I uncovered a pile of hardware hiding beneath bike "stuff" that tends to accumulate on my work bench in the garage.  The gathering of things on the work bench included helmets, gloves, tires, parts, boxes, saddlebags, and you know - 'stuff'.   Wow!  There were 14 awards/medals in a pile.

That got me to reflecting on the 2012 race season.  I've made the podium a few times before, but certainly nothing like this.  I'd like to think that some of it has to do with me improving a bit this year and peaking for certain events.  However, it has a lot to do with me racing in age divisions where the chance of a podium have increased for me.  I raced in the same age divisions last year and managed 4 podiums (equates to 30% of the time).  This year, I managed the 14 (equating to 63% of the time).

It's hard not to mention the number of events I did this year when reflecting.  I did 22 XC racing events as well as 1 gravel endurance race and 1 cyclocross race.  Compared to previous racing seasons - that was a bit of a bump in the sheer number of events for me.  I did 13 last year and 15 the year before.  I'd have to go all the way back to 2009 to find a year when I did quite a few as well, but that was only 18 events.

If we are in a time of reflecting, being thankful, and counting our blessings at year end - I've got a lot to be thankful for this year.  Traveling to all of these races allows me to be thankful just to have the chance, finances, and time to travel to them.  The bonus of seeing the beautiful scenery and riding excellent singletrack also gives me reason to be thankful.  Tara has been very understanding and even accompanied me on a few of the trips this year.  I am very thankful that she lets me get away on weekends to do these races.  I took quite a spill during a race in April that could have been a lot worse than it was with all of the torn neck muscles and shoulder injury.  I'm very thankful it was not worse than it was.

A reflective recap of some of the events... 

The season opened in Bellevue, NE at Swanson Park with a nice warm 92 degrees.  Started the season off with a 2nd Place Finish.

Swanson XC Cat 2

Sylvan Island was next in cooler temperatures with rain lurking.

Sylvan Roots

Tranquility was next and the site of my crash near the finish that tore my neck and shoulder up.

Tranquilty Grunt Rollers

It was also, despite the pain, my first climb on the top box for the season.

Top Podium Spot at Tranquility

The muscle tears in the neck and the shoulder injury took me from the profile on the left to something between the 2nd and 3rd pictures on the right.  I am still fighting on a daily basis to get back to the left profile picture without tension and pain.

Weight on the head...

I spent a lot of time in the off season and during the season on this bike which I account for my success this year building a big base and allowing for recovery between hard efforts in the dirt.


The first camping trip with Tara took us close to Norfolk, NE for the Maskenthine Classic.

InLine at Maskenthine

I battled the rain, mud, and killer hills at Ponca State Park in Nebraska for the Nebraska State Championship - an event I had been peaking for with my training.

Dos Niner's Revenge

Another climb to the top box.

Revenge Podium

A week later, I made the top box again while my peak was still strong on one of my "home courses" - Banner Pits.


Racing a Santa Cruz Tallboy at Fort Ord not too far from Santa Cruz where I was deftly humbled by the level of CAT II competition out in California.  Family vacation allowed me to rent the bike and take a shot at a race outside of the Midwest.  Great bunch of racers - and super fast!!!

2012-07-07 11.23.08

Came back from the West Coast summer vacation to the Midwest and tried to leave the helping of humble California pie behind.  I headed to Buck Hill in Burnsville, MN to grab 2nd on the ski hill (where I also took a tumble on a loose section and banged the same shoulder again).


Gotta love the "Buck Winding Wind"....


August brought hot and sweaty racing to the fore.  Crossing the state line to drive into Wisconsin and race on the old Border Battle course.


Back over to Swanson in Bellevue, NE since Lake Manawa's scheduled race was moved to Swanson on account of sand left over from the Missouri flooding.  This time, I tackled Swanson on the RIP 9.


2nd Chair in the old man's band this time around as well...

Swanson Podium

50 miles of pain, pleasure and fun in the Black Hills for the Dakota Five-0 on Labor Day Weekend.  What a great event!!


I saw a bit of trail from a hiker's standpoint as well.


Another one of my goals was to do well at the home course where I host The Mullet Fall Classic.  We had a record turnout of racers this year in spite of focusing on hosting the event, I did race.  I managed to climb on the top box after 2 laps of my "home course" Lake Ahquabi.  This sealed my winning of the overall Iowa Series for my age division.

Mullet 45+

I tried my hand at this funky thing called Cyclocross at the Oakley Nightcap in Des Moines.


I loved the spirals and the overall vibe of the event.   For my first attempt at one of these races, having it held in the evening was pretty fun.


Those were just a few of the pictorial memories of the 2012 season.  There were many more including wonderful camping trips to Duluth, Minnesota and to Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin with Tara.  I do remain thankful for having the chance to enjoy and see it all.

I've been thrilled with the November riding in sort of an unstructured way.  I ride when I have time and just do it in fun mode.  Weather has been great and I have managed to squeeze a few hours every week on the bike in spite of the sun setting so soon.  Be it pavement, dirt, gravel, the basement exercise bike, commuting to and from work - I take what I can get.  November riding helps clear the path for me to begin the base building all over again after the holidays.  I focused on cornering technique this fall to help me out next year as my technique has been faulty compared to what I have learned how to do this fall.

Deer hunting season begins next Saturday - so those nice long bike path training rides will get put on hold for fear of getting shot.  December is the time of year I hit the weights in the gym.  I'll have to stay in town for rides, use the basement exercise bike, and hit the dirt loops in State Parks where hunting is not allowed so I am not mistaken for a deer out on my bike.


Thanksgiving Thanks...

Happy Thanksgiving to all!!

Our Thanksgiving began in earnest on Tuesday when we picked up the 18 pound bird, made the brine to refrigerate overnight, and got things ready for Wednesday and Thursday.  I managed to take advantage of the warm weather and got 2 hours on the bike by riding down to Banner Pits for a full loop and back - all in my my warm weather kit it was so nice out in the 70's.  Two of my former voice students stopped by in the afternoon to visit and sing.  Bethany Hickman and Joe Doering came over and we all caught up on the past year.  And they both sound great!!!  After they left, I mowed the front lawn and then had to stop due to darkness. 

Wednesday evening, I put the turkey in the chilled brine to soak Wednesday night.  Tara made 2 pumpkin pies, 1 apple pie and made the cranberry sauce.

I got up early this morning to get ready for the annual Thanksgiving mountain bike ride on the center trails in Des Moines.  Tara made coffee and I took off about 7:25 to drive up to Des Moines to meet up with what looked to be a big group with temperatures around 60 as the sun was rising.  We had about 87 show up for the 8 am ride (and many more that joined up and arrived late).

The photo is courtesy of Brian Portoff who climbed on top of the Ashworth Pool building to capture most of the early birds in a shot...


I took the Dos Niner with the sure footed Nobby Nics since both my full suspension bikes have Maxxis prototype test tires on them that I am testing.  I'm not allowed to talk about the test tires, so I figured I better not show up in public at a group ride where somebody might notice, take a picture or what not.  The Dos is super fun with the big meats on it...

Dos Nics profile

We took off and had quite a singletrack train with that many riders strung out wheel to wheel.  I got in about 70 minutes of riding when hunger finally kicked in (I should have had breakfast) and I headed back to the car to load up and go home.  It was a great way to start off the day with perfect weather and fun attitude.

I got home in time to watch the bird go in the oven at 10 am.  The smells all day were making my mouth water and we finally managed to get everything cooked and ready for a 2:15 pm sit down with the family meal. 

Zack working on the gravy and Tara carving the bird....


The bird was very moist thanks to the overnight brine...

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Tara provided the Thanksgiving toast and then we dug in full hog.  The meal was delicious and of course, who doesn't eat too much on Thanksgiving?  One helping is enough, but Zack, Alexa and I all hit up for 2nds.  Tara was wise and stopped with one helping.

And then we topped it off with pie...

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The food coma hit while we were cleaning up, and naps were had by all.  I was out about an hour and woke up at 4:15 thinking it was 4:15 in the morning for some odd reason.

Not sure what we will do this evening, but there is talk of a movie.  And there's always leftovers....


1998 Mercury Villager LS for sale!

I took the Villager to an auto detailing shop in Des Moines to get it cleaned up good and proper before officially listing it for sale.  It's very clean inside and out, with a new buff on the paint.  They "dry cleaned" the engine and it's ready for sale.  Looks so good, I hate to see it go.  But, our soccer Mom & Dad days are finished.  So it's time to sell it as we have plenty of other cars.

Engine compartment...


Spic and span inside and out...


2nd row of seats...






Nice buff on the paint...



I've got it listed at eBay Classifieds, Craigslist in Des Moines, Des Moines Register, and Cars.com.

One of the listings as an example:   $2599 listed here.


Thumbs up at my annual heart check up!!!

Many weeks ago, I made an appointment online for my annual heart examination.  Somehow, when entering the date and time in my Outlook Express calendar, I guess I got it wrong.  I made the appointment and had it down as 8:30 am on Thursday morning of this week.  I drove up on Tuesday to have the blood work done so the results would be available for my appointment.

I made the 20+ mile drive Thursday morning, walked into the Iowa Heart Clinic to stand in line at the usual station I've been to for several years to check in for my appointment.  Finally, after it was my turn in line, the receptionist told me that my doctor's station had changed to the other side of the clinic.  So I went to that station and got in line.  I told the receptionist I was embarrassed for not knowing Dr. Rough had moved to the other side of the building.  She looked my name up and told me I would be even more embarrassed to know that my appointment was for Friday at 8, not Thursday at 8:30.   Hmmmmm......that seemed really odd considered I entered it directly into my Outlook as I made the appointment online, but it was what it was.  So back home I went after a brief stop at Caribou Coffee for a cup of the black stuff.

I got it right yesterday and checked in on time.  This being my 3rd trip of the week up to West Des Moines I was getting used to the "commute".  In spite of my annual fall foray into a few pints of Ben & Jerry's, my weight was good with me weighing in with a BMI of 23.1 (with my shoes and clothes on no less), blood pressure was perfect, EKG was perfect, cholesterol levels were perfect and I had nothing to report in terms of any bad symptoms.  The doctor decided there was no need for the treadmill this year since I did it last year and sent me on my way until this time next year.

On the other hand, I do have another issue to take care of that cropped up this week.  I've got a tooth that is feeling ultra sensitive these days (I've felt it off and on all year).  Recently, I think it has finally developed into the need to have a cavity filled.  I'll make the call on Monday in hopes Al can get me in sooner, rather than later.  Maybe the Ben & Jerry's of late has set it off....

Music News

I'm singing with the orchestra tomorrow night on their fall concert.  So I better dust off the tails and get the shirt ironed today.  

Tara and I sang at a special Adoption Shabbat Serivce last night in honor of National Adoption Day.  It was a very lovely service and three families shared their successful adoption stories.   Following the service, 4 of us rushed over to the Fleur Theater to catch the 7:50 showing of Lincoln.  Big Movie and Spielberg nailed it.  I highly recommend it to all both for the historical value and the performances.

Looks like I am headed to Germany for a week in the spring.  More on that later...


Gym Time!!

Thanks to the cold temperatures in the morning keeping me under the sheets and in bed longer in the morning - and me going to work earlier than anticipated (due to heavy workload at school) - I'm not getting to ride in the mornings during November outside of the 15-20 minute dog walks.  And by the time I come home from work at 6 or 6:30 - it's pitch black outside.  Sure, I've got lights - but I hate coming home from work and strapping on lights to ride on pavement.  That's painful and not really a great riding experience.  So, I invoked the "it's time for the basement gym" this week to get the off-season up and going.  I will still ride outside on weekends and holidays, but it's the gym or nothing at this time of year if I want to get some hours in during the week.   Hunting season will keep me at bay and out of gun shot range as well this year - and in the basement when it is dark.


I hit the weights today and did 45 minutes on the C7i trainer at a pretty good intensity to get a nice workout.  It was needed after I snarfed a tub of Ben & Jerry's last night while watching In Darkness.  Great movie, by the way.  The stories of heroism during the Holocaust and WWII continue to amaze me.  This one, in particular, is about one man's heroism of hiding Jews in the sewer for 14 months in a Polish town until the Nazi's were gone due to the Russians pushing back the front line.  I was spell bound and ate through the entire pint of ice cream before I even knew it.

So, I cut way back on calorie intake today and hit the bike, then the weights in the gym.


The exercise bike was freshly tuned and had a service maintenance this summer to get ready for the fall and winter basement riding.  The ceiling fans, big screen television with hundreds of channels all make it very comfortable.  Not to mention, the computer keeps me on task with wattage, heart rate, caloric burn, etc... .

The weather looks good for the weekend and during next week's Thanksgiving break - so I will get plenty of outdoor miles in in the next 10 days.  The semester break starts the 2nd week of December at which point I'll have a few weeks to ride outside during the day as well before utilizing the basement again.  I've already got my "snow tires" on one bike if we actually get enough snow to worry about this year. 


November fall temperatures look good...

The rest of November looks very nice with traditional fall temperatures and thus begins the freeze/thaw cycle of the dirt.  We have had enough rain in the past month that this will most likely result in the ground being tacky during the thaw and hard as a rock when frozen.

Here's what is on tap from today until December...

November 2012

I should be able to get some nice fall riding in provided my schedule subsides a bit.  Rehearsal tonight, performances in Des Moines on Friday and in Indianola on Sunday of this week.  Two of my morning regular exercise periods before work are shot this week as I have my annual blood lab work tomorrow and my annual heart examination on Thursday morning - so it looks like I need to charge up the lights to ride after work if I want to ride outside.

That being said - it was frigid this morning on the neighborhood ride with the dogs thanks to 22 degrees and gusting winds out of the west.  I wasn't as bundled up as I could have been.


Happy Veteran's Day 2012!!

Happy Veterans Day to all who have served our country.  Especially to my father and my father-in-law who served in the Korean War and WWII respectively.

I am reminded on a daily basis this semester teaching a class about WWII and the Holocaust of the lives of soldiers that were lost and the sacrifices by many that were made.  And for that matter, any war we have been involved in over the years.


Tara and I attended The Beggar's Opera on Friday and Saturday evening at Simpson College.  I was very pleased with the students performances of both casts.  Zack sang Mr. Peachum last night and did a fine job.  We kibitzed at home last night after the show for a few hours.


Temperatures were in the upper 70's yesterday, so Tara and I logged a 2 1/2 hour bike ride that involved a ride to Carlisle and back with a stopover for me to do a loop at Banner Pits.  After the previous week of logging piddly hours of only 2 1/2 and hitting the Ben & Jerry's, cookies and eating like I was going into hibernation - the increase to 5 hours this week was a welcome relief for my body to burn the calories.  I'd like to say I will maintain that and a little more going forward to not do my traditional weight gain this fall - but we'll see.  My eating discipline the past two weeks has been very bipolaresque for lack of a better word.  One day sticking to a correct caloric intake and nutrition to not gain weight, and the next throwing caution to the wind and eating sweats, 2nds and being a general glutton.  I think I need to rein it in on the majority of days if I am not going to get the hours on the bike I need to burn the calories.  Luckily, if the weather turns outside - I've got the gym in the basement calling me...


A storm came through during the evening which has brought with it a day or two of cooler temperatures before we head back up into the 50's and sunshine for the rest of the week starting Tuesday.  The grass is nice and green, our garden is dug up for the winter, the flower beds are dug up and prepared for winter, the lawn is mowed, the leaves have been removed and believe it or not - Thanksgiving is just around the corner.


I'll be singing with the new Simpson College Orchestra next Sunday evening at their 1st Concert.  Tonight is the final dress rehearsal.  Madrigal Dinner is coming up and Zack is in Madrigals - so we are looking forward to that.  The 1st semester is winding down as I only have 10 more class periods in the Holocaust class to cover the remaining material.  Being the first time teaching it, I believe I have included way too many things in the syllabus to accomplish by the end of the semester.  I will give some options to the class tomorrow on what gets cut out and what they want to cover of the remaining material.  They have 3 more papers due including their major research paper which they began researching on November 2nd.

I think I will sneak away with Alexa this afternoon to see the new James Bond movie....



Is it really November?

The last month has consumed me via a major project.  So much so, that I hardly realized November had arrived.  If it were not for the fact that the first weekend in November is usually set aside for NATS in Iowa - I wouldn't have known the month was here!!!

The major project (or at least sort of major) for me involved me being the NATS Iowa District Auditions Coordinator for the 2012 Iowa District Student Auditions.  NATS stands for National Association of Teachers of Singing which is the organization that voice teachers belong to here in America.   The Iowa District of NATS members holds a once a year student competition in Iowa on, or around, the first weekend in November.  We take turns at the colleges and universities in Iowa hosting the event.  This year's host school was Simpson College and the voice faculty put me to task to be the Coordinator.  We last hosted the event in 2005, and my colleague who was the coordinator of that event - Maria DiPalma - was not around to offer guidance this time due to her passing.  So I felt a bit on my own and having to reinvent the wheel.

It all came down to this weekend with everyone arriving Friday before noon and leaving yesterday at 3 p.m. after the Awards Ceremony had concluded.  I tapped into my experience of being the race director for the mountain bike race at Lake Ahquabi and my esperience of directing 6 operas at Simpson the past few years with regard to organization, a timeline list of what and when things have to be done, delegating duties, choosing volunteers, ordering materials, sending out materials, collecting data and preparing for the actual day(s) of event.  Fitting an extra 400 people into our music building for two days and on campus requires some logistical planning, scheduling and was probably the most difficult portion of the task.

I tend to be the type that under stress remains calm, but I do lose weight because I simply don't eat as much.  There were a lot of late nights and early mornings as this task all had to be done on top of my normal load at school.  Combined with the past two weeks also being academic advising with my students for the spring semester classes they would be taking, I had to squeeze in 33 half hour sessions in 10 days which added to the "no time to eat because of the workload stress".  I am bushed, by satisfied with how everything went this weekend.

I introduced a bit of technology to the event this year which we have not had before.  I created a Power Point slide show for the Finals where the division and contestant's identification were shown on the wall of Lekberg Hall in a discreet fashion, followed by the slides telling the adjudicators when to vote using Turning Point Software and wireless hand-held "clickers" to vote for immediate results.  Both of these additions removed two "older fashion" needs:  no need for an announcer to come out on stage and introduce each contestant, and no need to pass out paper ballots, collect them and tally them up.  It was all done with quick clicks of my remote control for the laptop and the adjudicators hand-held clickers.

That was just one element of the event, but my main goal was to make sure everything ran smoothly on both days.  Feedback has been nothing but positive with most saying I have now set the bar pretty high.  In retrospect, the hard work, lack of sleep and stress were all worth it because it showed my attention to detail and put our little Simpson College in good standing as the host.  Thanks to all who contributed in this endeavor!  That list includes my colleagues Tim McMillin, Kim Roberts, Matt Lau, Virginia Croskery, Deb Terry, Michael Patterson, and the following students really earned "Brownie Points" - Laura Scwartz, Trevor Halder, Erin Wendover, Kelly Huisinga, Deaven Swainey, Alicia Sushena, Chase, Lucas, Brandon Louis, Nella Thomas, Taylor, Jessica Soko, Amanda Sandvig, Ella Ward, and I know I am missing a few at the moment, but the list is on my desk at the office.  Thanks also go to Marilyn Johnson, Julie Hill, Chartwells, Kent Campus Center, Holy Grounds, Jim Thorius, Nate Reeves, Kelly Bradder (who trained me on the Turning Point Software), Sheila Albee, Mike Eckerty, Chris Frierichs and Campus Security and I'm sure I am missing a few more.  Off campus help goes to the Iowa District NATS Officers Leanne Freeman-Miller, Beth Ray Westlund, Rosemary Gast, and LaDonna Manternach who all worked with me via email and phone for any questions or help I needed in getting everything up and running.

Bottom line is - it went well and I am satisfied with that!  Next year's NATS will be the regional tri-state version in the Quad Cities on November 8th and 9th.  One of my former students, Sarah Larsen, has been hired to the Regional NATS Governor to give the guest recital at that event which is really exciting!  She represents our region well as being one of the lucky few who are out having a successful opera singing career.  Sarah will also be performing two roles this summer at Des Moines Metro Opera giving me plenty of opportunity to hear her again live and cheer her on from the audience's perspective.

This year at NATS, I had 4 of my students in the finals and two of them won 1st place, and the other two won 3rd place.