Taco Tuesday Ride - Hey, wasn't this supposed to be a recovery week?


In terms of mountain bike racing/training, I am supposed to be recovering this week after the 400+ miles last week on the bike during RAGBRAI.  Mapping out the season, it came right in the middle of a string of races.  The physical toll of grinding out long, slow distance miles for hours at a time like we did on RAGBRAI still puts plenty of training stress on the body (Training Peaks using a training stress score), and needs time for everything to rebuild.

Sunday:  I did take Sunday totally off the bike.  I started in on doing my chores around the house, hit up my to do list items, and got involved in unpacking, fixing the Hula House tent, drying the tent out in the sun, picking a few weeds in the garden and yard, sleeping, eating, hydrating, etc... .   That qualified as a nice recovery day at the slow pace I was moving.

Monday:  The chores and to do list items continued all day into Monday, but I did an easy lap out at Lake Ahquabi on the RIP 9 in the morning to see what shape the trails were in so I could plan my trimming days out there this week with the loppers and scythe.  That didn't qualify as a recovery ride since I was on a mountain bike with 1 x 9 gearing handling the climbs.  Almost, though.  The legs felt really good and all of those long, slow Zone 2 miles seemed to have boosted my climbing.  I used the climbs as M.E. intervals to substitute for not doing maintenance weights on the legs (my normal Monday workout).

Tuesday:  A full day of office work for FAFSA, taxes, USA Cycling permitting, ordering toilets for The Mullet Fall Classic in October, and doing laundry.  Rob Versteegh posted up on Facebook that the BikeIowa Team was getting together for a Taco Tuesday ride meeting at one of our sponsors - El Bait Shop in Des Moines - and riding to the Cumming Tap where team member Sam Auen was selling his delicious tacos.  It sounded like a good time and a nice way to wind down out of the RAGBRAI week, so I headed up to El Bait Shop at the appointed time. 

Here was Rob's "rule" that he posted on Facebook for the ride...
...bring your allowance and a non-shitty attitude. if you need to race/go up the road/or generally be in 'training mode', just DON'T. i'd say ride whatever bike you'd most like to ride on a pavetrail for 20-whatever miles. dress in your stretchy suit...or not...i don' t care...
Christy Varnum photographed the motley crew as we warmed up with a beer before hitting the trail to Cumming...
BikeIowa at El Bait Shop

Fat chance we stuck to Rob's "rule" as the 12 of us blasted off out of the gate. Nothing like a group ride to up the ante and heart rate zone!!! We stopped midway to the little town of Cumming after crossing under Highway 5 at the little picnic shelter to regroup and hydrate.  Scott Sumpter pulled out a PBR for everyone on the team from his pannier just as Kurt Benson caught up to us. So we now had a baker's dozen of team members out enjoying the mist and cool temperatures for Taco Tuesday. We made it to Cumming in one piece, had our tacos, some more beer, and mingled with the crowd of what looked to be a couple hundred riders.  I had never been to one of the Taco Tuesday rides, so it was nice to experience the fun and frivolities known by everyone else.   Actually, I had never been to the Cumming Tap or El Bait Shop before - so a lot of firsts for me!

I noticed it was already 8:35 and starting to get dark quicker than usual with the cloud cover. I had no lights and the ride back to Des Moines was going to take me about 35 minutes at a good clip. So I hopped on the bike and had at it in the mist by following a steady stream of riders with lights passing them on the left side. I was racing daylight and pushed myself even harder getting back to El Bait Shop to my car than we had gone as a team on the way to Cumming.  My legs were screaming at me the majority of the return trip.  Needless to say, no recovery for me on Tuesday with the steady effort of over an hour at a much higher intensity than I was expecting.  The ride qualified as sweet spot training (Zone 3/4) with a couple of Zone 5 sprints mixed in there for good measure.  So no recovery at all for me on Tuesday.  Instead, an intensity training ride.  My bad, but it was fun!!!

Thanks Rob and BikeIowa for a fun evening involving no crashes and three new firsts for me.

Wednesday:  I am taking today off the bike.  I'll do some maintenance weights to fire up the metabolism.  My body weight has whittled itself down to 181 getting me closer to my sub 180 goal.  This comes 2 months later than I wanted, but I've still got plenty of races coming up to utilize the lower body weight on the climbs.  I'll be teaching lesssons all day, so that will allow for a good day of recovery in terms of being off the bike and letting the legs rebuild as I sit at the piano.

I will utilize Thursday/Friday/Saturday properly for continued recovery to steer myself into some kind of race shape for Sunday's race in Wisconsin.  I think I can balance sleep, nutrition, stretches, recovery spins, foam roller, and what not to achieve some sort of recovery during the 2nd half of this week like I am supposed to be doing.



RAGBRAI #41 Ride Report...

RAGBRAI #41 is now in the books!  Tara and I finished the week in good shape and arrived home last night around 8 p.m. to unpack, shower, get groceries and settle in for a good night's sleep in our own bed.

What do you call a ride like RAGBRAI?  Woodstock on Wheels?  A rolling community?  A week long party?  A ride through quintessential small town America?  A circus on bikes?  A race for the best pie?  How to eat and ride one's way across Iowa?  Tour de Food?

Actually, it all works.  The ride is what you want to make of it -- which sort of gets back to Woodstock on Wheels being a bit a propos.  Rather than go through all of the details of each day (Council Bluffs, Harlan, Perry, Des Moines, Knoxville, Oskaloosa, Fairfield, Fort Madison - and all the stops between), I will just toss up a preliminary pictorial of some of the sights.

How about Team Horney's motto....?

Team Horney


The motto on their shirts, plus their little green tutus are an example of people displaying their personal freedom on this ride.  And the freedoms displayed covers a wide range of interests, thoughts, opinions, lifestyles, messages, etc... .

How about the guy we met riding the entire 400+ mile route on a highwheeler?  He was quite a character and having a blast.


Even though it is a ride and not a race, do you want to "race" RAGBRAI?  You can.  If you want to ride the day's route in 2 hours (such as Lance  Armstrong did), you can do it.  A 2013 Simpson alum - Mark Stanek - took off one morning at 6 a.m. and was the first rider of the entire 25-35K riders into the next overnight town.  Way to go Mark!!  He even made the paper the next day for doing that.  Or do you want to be the first in your team - or one of the first - to make it to the overnight town to get a prime camping spot in the shade?  Well, you can up your tempo and limit your stops to make sure your tent is not the one that ends up in full sun on the side of a hill over a big tree root.  Nothing wrong with a little healthy competition at that level, eh?

Do you want to lollygag on RAGBRAI and take 4, 6, 8, 10, 12 hours to complete the day's route?  You can.  Our team of 52 riders ranged from the early birds that were on the road by 6 a.m. and in the next overnight town by 9 or 10 a.m. to those who took until after 6 p.m. to arrive in the next overnight town.  Tara and I were in the middle of riding speed.  Some days, she and I were the 3rd or 4th from our team to arrive.  Other days we were in the middle of the pack.  And some days we were a bit later.  Like the day we hung out in Monroe for 3 1/2 hours to hear the live music (a student of mine was performing with her band, so we stayed to hear them).  Cycling wise, I pretty much kept it in Zone 1, Zone 2, and a bit of Zone 3 from time to time all week except for a few of the climbs to remind my body of a little pain and higher heart rate riding. 

Do you want to drink your way across Iowa?  You can.  And some do.  Jello shots, Bloody Mary's, beer, Iowa wines, rolling bars, small town bars, beer gardens - it's all there.  Plenty of non-alcoholic beverages as well to quench the thirst.  And plenty of water to keep hydrated was easily found.

Do you want to dance your way across Iowa?  You can.  So much good music was heard by live bands, DJ's, stereos on bikes, etc....that it had thousands of us dancing at times to unwind in city parks, in people's yards, in the town square, etc... .  The diverse and fun music all contributes to the flavor of Woodstock on Wheels.

Do you want to visit with riders while riding?  You can.  We met so many from all over the country and world this year.  Even if it was a short visit to find out where they were from and how their day was going, or how they liked their bike, to a lengthy visit such as our day long ride on Friday from Oskaloosa to Fairfield with new found friend Corey Wilson from Madison, Wisconsin - you can meet a lot of people on and off their bikes.  It's a rolling collective community.  You choose how you want to interact with others as there is no right or wrong about it. 

Tara and our friend Bev Thiele posed on the morning we rode together into Pella from Knoxville to grab a Dutch letter...


Do you want to ride on something out of the norm across Iowa?  You can.  Fat bikes, mountain bikes, road bikes, recumbent bikes, recumbent trikes, recumbents with fancy fairings, tandems built for two/three/four, unicycles, highwheelers, hybrids, skateboards, inline skates, striders, bikes pulling trailers, bikes carrying their gear (called baggers), even runners - and more - were all seen and spotted this year making their way across Iowa.  Again - you get to choose how you want to transport yourself.  Everything goes.

Do you want to plan your day out food wise of when and where you will stop, what you will or won't eat, who you will meet to eat and drink?  You can.  Be it the local fare, or the traveling vendors along the route.

Sure, there are lines for everything.  Here's one for the use of a Kybo next to a country store...


Me hanging out in Monroe, Iowa with a gal who sat down to visit with me at a mid-day stop to catch a sweet sounding blues band and enjoying a couple of beers...


Tara loves the animals along the way.  This year, in addition to the usual cows and pigs, we saw goats, sheep, a camel, horses, dogs, cats, rabbits, a monkey, donkeys, llamas, snakes, chickens, and I forget what else.  Here's Tara holding a 3 month old goat named Pepper...


And she got to kiss a baby pig (that was sleeping)...


I enjoyed each town that we had the opportunity to ride into and experience.  I always got a kick out of how each town prepared for the event and set up things for us to do, see, and eat.  Some towns provided tents for shade, places to sit, free water, free watermelon.  Others provided no shade and no place to sit (go figure!!!). Typically, you would ride into the edge of a town, and then everyone would slow, stop, and get off of their bikes to walk through the main section of town.  You can see the mass of thousands ahead of me walking their bikes just a bit down the road from where Tara took this picture...


We stopped in Pella for a Dutch Letter and a nice cup of coffee from Smokey Row before rolling on to the next town...


We stopped alongside the Iowa Veteran's Cemetery outside of Van Meter to take this shot.  The flags along the highway and the view were a nice reminder of those who have fought to protect our freedom and others as well...


Speaking of freedom again, it was hard not to think of all the personal freedoms that were being displayed on RAGBRAI.

In addition to all of the rock, funk, punk, country, rap, cover bands, etc.... - we did catch the community band concert while eating dinner down on the square one night...


That was "old school Iowa" and a nice change from the Woodstock feel for the rest of the music.  Corny and a different era, but hey - everything works on RAGBRAI.  Kind of like the female midget wrestling we saw in one pass through town.  Watching it was "all wrong, yet sort of all right" in terms of fitting in with the overall theme of the ride.  As was the skinny dipping, water slides, Huffy bike toss, fire hose water fights, and on and on.  There is so much to see and do, that you cannot begin to catch and experience everything.  You make each town and stop your own unique experience.  You get to choose.  You build your event how you want to build it.

West Point had erected "Mt. RAGBRAI" built out of old bikes that you could ascend and have your photo opportunity...


Somewhere on a cold Tuesday as we rode from Perry to Des Moines...


How about this Iowa home owner who displayed his collection of convertibles in one of the pass through towns?  Usually, we saw displays of farm equipment, so this one stood out as unique for this year's route.


And in the end, your team rides in formation into the final town (Fort Madison in this year's event) and down to the Mighty Mississippi to dip your front tire, toes, bike, or whatever to signify the journey for the week has been completed.  It's a nice sense of accomplishment and reality that the week of fun for this year had drawn to a close and only the memories are left to savor and contemplate.


RAGBRAI 2013.  Smiled throughout the entire week.

RAGBRAI #41 is now cemented in history and our memories.


The week is almost a wrap, and final RAGBRAI packing is underway...

I've enjoyed working with the high school students attending the Orpheus Music Festival this week at Simpson College.  A lot of very talented students are here this week learning and enjoying the music camp.  Today and tomorrow's lessons are the final things I will do with the students I am working with before attending their Friday afternoon recital.  They rehearse all day Saturday for the final concert on Sunday, but I will be gone on RAGBRAI which means I will have to miss it this year.

Following Friday's recital, Tara and I will attend a "lobster party" being hosted by our good friend Lisa Seidenkranz.  We had a choice of lobster or steak and I chose steak as I don't want to risk eating crustacea the night before I head out on a week long bike trip.  Not that I would get sick, but I don't want to even tempt fate.  It's not a part of my regular diet, so no need to chance it.

After that, we come home and do the final packing while we host fellow Team Simpson RAGBRAI member Bev Thiele (Simpson Alum/Opera Singer) who is flying out from New Jersey for the ride.  Everyone is getting excited for it and looking at this morning's updated forecast - my excitement has improved.  I am always skeptical about a forecast beyond 24 hours, but things look good for Central Iowa according to the latest forecast.

If this forecast holds, I'll take it for sure!!!!


Tara and I have our bags packed for the most part and they are sitting on our bedroom floor.  I washed both of our bikes yesterday as they were covered in Mulberries that had fallen on trails here in Iowa.  The berries, when they ripen, turn a dark purple and they were stuck on the frame, tires, brakes, etc... like glue.  This required a good scrubbing to remove them from all of the nooks and crannies on the bikes.  I dried everything off, lubed what needed to be lubed, and announced that the bikes were good to go.

Tara and I will do our last recovery ride this evening and take tomorrow off.  Not to worry, we will avoid the mine field of Mulberries on the trail as they are drying out thanks to the Flash Drought we are in at the moment.  We want our legs and bodies to be itching to ride come Sunday, so the taper this week and several days off the bike have helped stoke that itch.  I have to remove the pedals from the bikes for transport and I'll wrap my nice clean white bars and saddle in some plastic wrap so they don't get too mucked up in the truck on the way to Council Bluffs.


Recovery Week before RAGBRAI...

I am so busy this week that it is hard for me to imagine this is a scheduled recovery week cycling wise for me before heading out on RAGBRAI this Saturday morning with Team Simpson.  But it is and I am trying to fit in everything I need to fit in during the day from my errand list, teaching at summer music camp, chores around the house, research on the fall operas, and not doing a very good job of getting everything done.

I was sure to do my maitenance weight lifting on Monday because last week I was not able to do any weights with the knee and upper body pain from the fall at Seven Oaks.  I cannot do a push-up yet due to the right chest/shoulder area, but I could do curls and light overhead work.  Not sure what is torn or bruised, but it has a ways to go.  At the end of the camp's teaching day on Tuesday, I sang a mini-program, along with my colleague Virginia Croskery, for the students at 5:15.  Following that 20 minute concert, I went home to suit up for a 75 minute recovery ride on the road bike.  It was still 90 degrees and a bit muggy outside when I headed out, but it actually felt good once I got going.  I had to temper myself to keep the speed and effort held back in recovery effort because the legs and lungs felt so good.  Odd to think that at this point in the cycling season, a 75 minute ride barely even feels like a warm-up compared to how that same ride felt back in January and February.

I also had flipped the stem back to negative and made a saddle aft adjustment on my Roubaix bike last Thursday based on how I felt during and after the 72 mile ride last week.


I felt if I was more stretched out and lower on the bike, I would achieve better comfort on my saddle contact area for the longer duration rides.  I was too upright on last week's 40 and 72 miler, and the adjustment back feels really good.  Getting a few rides in with the new adjustment is required to adapt.  Actually, it's not "new".  I had only flipped the stem positive and done a fore adjustment on the saddle recently thinking I needed a more "touring" upright posture for RAGBRAI and to mount the handlebar bag.  I was wrong.  Point well taken.  So the "adaption" is just back to how the bike has been most of the spring and summer.

I am still debating if I really need a handlebar bag for RAGBRAI.  I can fit everything I need in my saddle bag and I don't really need to bring all that stuff with me.  However, I do enjoy being able to stare down at the map, dig in for whatever I've brought along (phone, snacks, bike lock, wallet, rain poncho), and then there is that time in towns where we dismount and walk around forcing me to carry it around like a man purse...

Make Our Garden Grow

We have entered a period that the weather forecasters are calling a "flash drought".  This is about week 3 of it and we have had little to no rain.  Combined with the hotter temperatures, the grass is starting to turn brown, and does not need to be mowed this week.  It has halted growth for the first time this season, but maybe a welcome relief during my recovery week.  Zack is just about done with his DMMO job, so he can take over the mowing again. 

We have been watering the garden to keep things alive and most of it is doing really well.  As usual, our bell peppers suck!  We should just toss in the towel with our annual attempts at growing peppers in Iowa.  I don't know if it us, are garden plot location, of the climate here.  Out of 6 plants, we've only produced 4 peppers this year!!!  The beans, snap peas and zucchinis are being harvested and eaten on a daily basis.  We can hardly keep up with the picking.  Can you say Zucchini Bread?  ;-)

Tara harvesting some goodies last night for dinner....


Laughing at a pathetic looking small zucchini...


This one is much better...


I grilled the fresh garden vegetables on Monday night using my new father's day grill basket on the Big Green Egg and they were very delicious.  Tara stir fried last night's batch with some pine nuts and olive oil.  Tonight we will do an Asian version of stir fry with our crop.  The tomatoes are looking fabulous and we are going to have a bumper crop this year for our canning.  Some of them should be ripening on the vine as we get back from our RAGBRAI trip.  The night that RAGBRAI overnights in Des Moines, we will come home and sleep in our own bed as well as tend to the garden.

Now....to tackle my research, errands, chores, and the day's camp lessons....


IMBCS #4 - FORC Side Thrill Ride Race Report...

The last race held at Sunderbruch Park in Davenport was back in 2008.  I wrote about my woes during that race here.  I raced with a concussion, had a tire burp shortly after the start, cramped up in the heat trying to catch up after the flat tire, and was looking forward to a much more pleasant experience this time around.

And boy - what a difference!!!!  I did have a bum knee from the crash at Boone that was "iffy".  Turns out, it hurts more to walk and drive a car than it does to ride a bike.  So I decided to do the race with expectations that I might not be able to put as much pressure on my right knee as I would need to be competitive in an XC race.

I drove over early Sunday morning and arrived at 9:45 a.m. to check-in and do my warm-up.  It was warm, but nothing like the previous week's heat and humidity combination.  It was about 10 degrees cooler and the singletrack is all in the shade, so no worries.  I did have a moment of cringe as I walked to my car after registering when a song was booming over the P.A. system that contained the words "M'ther, F'ker" blaring through the air.  Nothing like a "family event", right?  ;-)  OY!

I chewed the fat with Kevin Betters who gave me a report on the pre-ride he had done the day before.  According to Kevin, the course sounded like it was going to be a blast.  I had read that a lot of new features had been added since 5 years ago and the pictures of the S curve wooden bridge looked like a fun addition.  The CAT 2's took off en masse at 10:45 and I was lined up more near the rear of the pack as I knew there was plenty of climbing on pavement until we got to the singletrack.  That, and not knowing what my knee would do kept me on the careful side of the start.  I picked my way through quite a few in the pack on the 2nd half of the climb as those that had gone out hard started to get winded.  I moved up enough in the line that going into the singletrack I was at least closer to mid-pack of the 50 of us rather than the end of the pack.

I got stuck behind a group of 4 that were having difficulty keeping up with the lead group(s) in front of us.  I had to get off the bike twice on a couple of the steep or techinical climbs since the three in front of me dismounted.  And of course that made everybody behind me have to do the same.  Such is crowded XC racing.  We finally sorted some things out and I was able to pass the three in front of me over the next mile or so of singletrack.  I finally got myself into a position that there was nobody in front of me and was pretty much that way the rest of the race since the first 1/2 of the pack was long gone.  One guy caught up to me in lap two and asked to get around me, but otherwise - it was one of those races that things were so spread out it was like an individual time trial for the majority of it.

The course was a blast!  Rocks, roots, creek crossings, bridges, whoops, switchbacks, tight and twisty, and the new S curve wooden bridge!!!  The wooden berm "S" Curve is a blast and wonderful new feature at Sunderbruch...


I kept pinching myself in disbelief that I was in Iowa because this course was so much fun and so darn good.  It's a real nugget for Iowa mountain biking.  If you haven't been to Sunderbruch - go.  Don't miss out.

Back to the race....

After making the turn to begin lap 2, I remembered the singletrack climb back up to the top to enter the singletrack on the other side from 2008.  I relaxed my pace just a bit so I didn't red line it on the climb, but gave plenty to keep my gap on those behind me.  Two singlespeeders eventually caught up to me, and one of them is the guy I mentioned above who passed me during lap 2, and the other one backed off as I opened up a gap and started pushing hard.  The banged up knee was doing fine, so I really had nothing to lose and started going harder. 

Loved the berms....


Finally, near the end of lap two, I saw up ahead of me a racer at the top of a climb.  I hammered to catch up to him.  Once he got wind of my presence behind him, he tried to take off and leave me in the dust.  I pushed harder and stayed on his wheel as I was feeling really good.  We had a nice little mano a mano going on for about 5 minutes which was really fun.  One of those "race within a race" moments so to speak that always keeps me motivated.  He started dabbing a little bit here and there.  Because of that, I tried not to get too close and cause him to crash as I figured I could get him on the final sprint, but without my asking, he suddenly pulled over to let me around him after he had tired a bit from our little battle.  I thanked him as I flew by him and never looked back.  Turns out he was in the age class younger than me, but the battle was fun nonetheless for those 5 minutes and he ended up about 30 seconds behind me at the line. 

I crossed the line in 1:09:03 - good enough for 2nd place in my division.  After my cool down out on the road, I went back to the results table and found out it was Tom Jeffreys from Nebraska who got first.  I didn't even know he was there as I didn't look around at the starting line to see him or a few others.  I guess that's what happens when you line up in the rear of a pack of 50.  Tom had me by 2:46 in this race.  You never know who will show up at a race to toe the line, but Tom brings new fire power to the 50+ age group and increases our competition.  I know he would do well in Minnesota against the top riders in our age class.

I am still riding the wave of my peak form.  I felt really good in this race and was not that tired at all after it was over and done with for the day.  My lap times were consistent.  This, in spite of riding 40 miles on Tuesday and 72 on Wednesday with Tara to get our us ready for RAGBRAI as our final longer distance training rides.  All in all, I was happy with the race on Sunday.  I didn't crash.  I didn't bobble.  I didn't cramp.  I didn't burp a tire.  In fact, I loved the trail and have to say the bike and my nutrition were both flawless for the day.

The "Seniors Age Class Results".  At least that's what the announcer called us as we were getting our awards (SENIORS!!!)..


Hats off to QCFORQ for a really, really excellent race course at the FORC Side Thrill Ride!  I couldn't stop smiling during the entire race it was so good.  Well done.

I am teaching at our Orpheus Music Camp this week and have a wonderful group of young singers.  We will pack our RAGBRAI bags this week and double check everything is in order before we head out on Saturday morning.


72 Miles booked...

Raccoon River Valley Trail from Waukee and around the Herndon horn and back was on tap for our final long RAGBRAI training ride.  I had no business going with my knee and a race coming up, but Tara managed to get me to go.  So we put the handlebar bags on the bikes for the full RAGBRAI "like" treatment and headed out.

Based on the wind direction, we decided to go on the southern portion of the loop first.


Taking the southern leg first - that goes through Redfield - was fine by me.  We stopped at Panora for a local sandwich and iced tea at PJ's.  Then we motored on enjoying the cooler temperatures and low humidity. 

33 miles into the ride, I was still looking chipper with the cornfields all around...


The sun was out and it was a glorious day to be outside...


We finally made it to Herndon after going against the wind for 39 miles.  I'm still chipper, but my backside was letting me know that riding 40 miles on Tuesday, and more today were a wake-up call down under!!!  It's one thing to ride 25-40 mile training rides.  When you bump it up to the 65-75 mile range, that's when little things will creep up like soreness from the saddle after so many hours in the saddle.  Doing a one, two punch for me like 40 on Tuesday and 72 on Wednesday reminded me of what I am in store for and to jump into action of proper care of the lowers (Chamois Butt'R, Assos, A&D, Gold Bond, PrepH, etc....) and all the goodies we've used before on RAGBRAI to get through the week.


As one would expect, after turning out of the headwind and heading east to southest, the final 32-33 miles were much quicker with a tailwind than our first 3 hours had been.  We made it back to the parking lot in Waukee feeling a bit hungry.

Our peak distance ride was 11 days before the start of RAGBRAI and after a couple of days off, we will taper into the event to be fresh and ready.  5 of the days are in the 48-54 mile range on RAGBRAI this year, one day is 83 miles and one day is 63 miles.  The 72 miles we did on Wednesday should be enough to help us endure the 2 longer days on RAGBRAI with little issue.


RAGBRAI final peak training ride today...

In our attempt to hit the peak training rides at least 10 days before RAGBRAI starts, today is our final distance ride before the taper starts for the event.  Tara has been on a 3 day peak riding spree of 29 miles Monday in the heat, 40 miles Tuesday in the heat, and will end with today's 72 miles with temperatures being 10 degress cooler.

I rode the Great Western Trail with her yesterday with a lunch stop at Mullet's in the heat of the day to acclimate and get in a good Zone 2 with some Zone 3 efforts for 40 miles. 

My knee is healing up from Sunday's crash...


But I had to ice it with a bag of frozen green beans before the ride and take some Ibuprofen to endure...


After a 30 minute warm up to test the knee and the heat, the GW was the Cat's Meow yesterday with plenty of shade to keep us cool and no traffic to worry about...


There were plenty of open areas in the sun to remind us what RAGBRAI will really be like on the hot and humid days...


We got home about 4:30 p.m. and took an hour nap before getting cleaned up to atttend the Des Moines Metro Opera's excellent production of Elektra by Richard Strauss.  It was killer!!!

The wind is gusting today which will make for a bit more of a brutal effort out there, but I won't do the full distance that Tara will do as I am trying to recover for Sunday's XC race.  I've got 243 hours in my legs for the 2013 calendar year to date, so feel I'm as ready as I'll ever be for RAGBRAI.  Tara probably only has about 1/2 of that, but she'll be fine and really wants to pump out some long distance today so she is "sure" she's ready.  Then she'll take a couple of days off and taper into the event.


RAGBRAI gear refined...

I spent last week refining our RAGBRAI gear choices with a goal of getting it lighter and simpler.  The folding cot I picked up at Cabela's for $79.99 is great for our car/tent camping, but no need for taking such a beast along on RAGBRAI with the requisite air mat because they weigh nearly 30 pounds when combined.   Instead, I settled on a nice self-inflating mat from a company out of Switzerland called Exped and their product Mega Mat.


I bought 2 so Tara and I each have one as they toggle together to form a nice Queen size bed in the tent.  Here's a video of the mat...

And here is Andy from Exped describing this wonderful product...

The mat is 77.5" long and 30" wide which is perfect for me.  No overhang with my feet or head, and wide enough that the arms remain comfortably on the mat (and not off the side and on the tent floor)!!!  It's only 5 1/2 pounds compared to the 23.1 pounds of the Cabela cot, plus the 6 pounds of the Cabela's mat.  That's a fabulous combo, but too heavy for our more minimalist RAGBRAI excursion.  The Mega Mat is perfect for side sleeping, back or belly sleeping and is adjustable for the amount of firmness you want.

To stuff all of our gear into before loading up on the truck, I bought two large No Matter What duffle bags from Eagle Creek.

I picked up two REI low height camp chairs for lounging around the tent.


And, of course, our trusty and easy to set up Kelty Hula House 6 which is large enough for the 2 of us, plus gear, plus bikes.  I bought the Kelty footprint that goes underneath the tent to keep us dry as morning dew and rain will be a reality on RAGBRAI.


We will use our summer weight twin bed down comforters which stuff in a small stuff sack, and bring along a pillow or two each that also stuff into a sack.

The final purchase was for two 02 battery operated fans to keep us "cooler" at night - if possible in the Iowa heat and humidity...


Our daily clothing will go into individual 2 gallon Zip Loc bags to help keep it dry before using, and to keep the smell under control when dirty and zipped up in the bag.  That should bring an end to my quest to get the proper gear organized for our 2013 RAGBRAI trip.  The bikes are all set with the saddle bags and the bar mounted bags.  We have our rain ponchos, bug spray, ear plugs, sun block, Butt Butt'r, powder, etc... .

Post Race Recovery

I feel like I played all 4 quarters of a football game yesterday on both sides of the ball and got banged up.  My leg is stiff, the knee is swollen, my shoulder hurts, my chest hurts from where I hit the tree and it's been hard getting around the house today.  My rule for racing during the season is, that no matter what, on Monday I do my chores of mowing and trimming the lawn, garbage duty, grocery shopping, and some house work during my summer vacation months and of course - back to work during the school year.  No exceptions!  I did all of that today, but at a much slower pace thanks to the knee and exhaustion of racing in the heat and humidity.  Mowing and trimming this morning was a sweaty mess as it was hot and humid with little breeze.  I finally gave in at 5 p.m. and took some Ibuprofen in hopes that I feel a bit more perky for our evening dinner guests at 7 pm.


IMBCS #3 Race Report - Seven Oaks Ski Area & Podium

It's official:  warm and humid summer weather made its way to Central Iowa this weekend.

To get ready for Sunday's IMBCS race at the Seven Oaks Ski Area in Boone, I went out for an easy 70 minute spin on Saturday afternoon in what is known as Zone 2 in terms of wattage and effort.  I did a few leg openers of hard effforts for 30 seconds to a minute in an effort to wake up the legs.  Mainly the ride was very relaxed and easy.

With the heat and humidity being what it was, I dropped 3 full pounds on that easy 70 minute ride (I weigh myself before and after a ride when things go north of 90 degrees).  That represents about 1.6% of my current body weight and is still within the "safe zone" of fluid loss, but I did start right in on hydration to get it back before Saturday was finished.  According to this chart of percent of body weight water loss, I was still okay - but losing less than 1% would be better.


Sunday morning, I was able to take things leisurely as I slept in until about 8:30, then had breakfast before heading up to Boone around 10 am to arrive in time for the 12 noon race.  I had a cooler with ice, drinks, water bottles, and a recovery shake.  I pulled in about a quarter after 11, got registered and headed out for a 30 minute warm-up.

It was warm and humid.  I realized I had left my trusty Halo sweat band at home and sweat was getting all over my Oakley sunglasses and dripping down my face.  After my warm-up, I headed to the line and was pleased to see so many racers had turned out for the race.  It's no surprise to see a big group as it has been since May 5th that we have had an XC IMBCS mountain bike race in Iowa.  Neal Groteluschen said he had an extra one in his car and went to get it for me.  Thanks Neal!!!

As Kyle Sedore was reading through the list of names in each category, I heard that Tom Jeffries from the Nebraska Psycowpath series had driven over for the race.  He's been winning most of the Nebraska races this year and is usually minutes ahead of me at every finish line.  So the competition was there to keep the screws tightened for this race.  CAT 2 Sport went as a mass, and I managed to get up in the top 10 heading into the singletrack.  I quickly realized on the first turn or two that my tires were a bit too high in psi, but I would have to deal with it.  Throw in the heat and humidity and I was cautiously optimistic as we made our way through the always tough Seven Oaks singletrack.  Lots of power climbs, technical turns, switchbacks, roots, bridges, and really fun stuff that makes this one of the best in Iowa.

I can't say I felt all systems go with the heat, but settled into a pace I could maintain.  This meant I had to let about 3 riders go around me as I didn't want to burn out in the first lap.  Everything was flying along pretty well and I saw Ron Cooney was behind me and gaining.  I picked up the pace and tried to open up a gap on Ron.  It was successful and I kept chipping away at broadening that gap.  Right when I thought I was on a non-threatening section of straighter singletrack and picking up the pace, my handlebar caught one of the trail side trees just enough to turn me into a human pinball as I and the bike went down bouncing off two trees.  My bike hit one, and I flew off and my chest hit another tree before I went splat on the ground in a tangled mess with the bike.

One always makes a quick assessment on the ground, but I hopped right up with a banged up knee and hurting chest.  I got going again and found the bike to be just fine.  However, it's hard to be confident and get things flying after a crash.  My right knee was numb from the hit it took and bleeding.  I couldn't really feel it, so I just spun an easy cadence to get the knee working again and gather my bearings.  I realized my watch had fallen off on the trail and made a note to look for it on lap 2 when I got to that section.  Ron came up behind me and passed me at this point.  I let him go as I took on my gun shyness.  Suddenly, Ron went down in front of me.  I asked him if he was okay and passed by him as he struggled to get up off of the ground.  It appeared he was going to be fine.

Blood dripping from the right knee, I soldiered on...


Photo courtesy of Angie Snoop

I finished lap one, and took in a GU and some much needed liquids as I hammered the big ring to the singletrack of lap 2.  I was a bit more careful on the dry, dusty turns this time and cut speed to keep it on the trail.  About midway through this lap, Jason Uhlenhake (the Head Athletic Trainer at Simpson College) passed me and I tried to pick up the pace and stay close to him as we worked our way through the course.  He was maintaining about an 8 second gap for most of the lap, but nearing the end - the heat was starting to get to me and I had to slow down a bit to recover.

I finished out lap 2 and crossed the finish line in 2nd Place for my age class.  Tom Jeffires from Nebraska had earned 1st and Andre Rethman was 3rd.  I did a 20 minute cool-down ride before heading to the car to put ice on my knee, clean up and drink a recovery drink, and some cold water.

I headed over to the starting area to swap race stories with everyone.  The heat was an issue and everyone was commenting that they felt pretty wiped from it all.  Here I am chatting with Sean Myers about our ages and dealing with the heat.


Kudos to Kyle Sedore, Julie Sedore, Ron DeGeest, and all the crew that helped get the trail ready for this race.  Turnout was a record number for the Seven Oaks race with 82 showing up to race.  That's great to see and I hope it continues as the series takes off again next week at Sunderbruch.

I got home and weighed myself.  With all the post-race hydration, I was at the same weight as when I left the house earlier in the day.  However, I didn't have to pee after the race for at least 6 hours which goes to show how much sweat I must have lost during the race.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             


Overhaul Friday...

Today began with great intentions of attacking some items on my "to do list".  Trimming the lilac bushes, weeding the garden as well as around some plants, and finding out what was making my Niner JET 9 squeak.

What is "overhaul Friday"?

I finished the first items by mid-morning and then put the JET on the workstand to have at it.  The race in Red Wing had covered the bike in mud which led to a thorough cleaning with soap and water last week.  The result was a squawking, squeaking bike.  Step one was to see if it was the pivot points of the full suspension frame.  Nope, they were fine.  The second step was the more obvious place to look - the bottom bracket/crank area.  So I took the crank arms off of the bike, removed the bottom bracket and cleaned everything up.  I took the chain and cassette off to soak in diesel fuel for a good cleaning, and while I was at it with the bike in the stand, I replaced the pulleys of the rear derailleur with 2 new ones I had picked up at Rassy's for this particular X0 derailleur.

I greased the bottom bracket shell, installed the bottom bracket, put the arms back on, cleaned and dried the cassette and chain and got everything installed.  I checked the alignment and fine tuned the shifting so everything was crisp, aired up the RP23 shock to get the right amount of sag and hopped on the bike to see if it still squeaked.  Pay dirt!  No more noise, squeaks or squawks.  Shifting was flawless and the JET is back to normal and ready for Sunday's race at Boone.

I cleaned up the garage, washed my hands and dived into a lunch of Mexican soup and some flat bread to soak it up.

Holiday Week

I picked up the ladies from the airport and didn't realize that they had such a long layover in Helsinki (15 hours), that they left the airport and checked into a hotel for the night.   So they were not as tired as I thought they would be with the long layover.  They were jet lagged and wiped out to be sure, but not as bad as I thought they would be.

Tara did get a nice ride in along the Danube River while in Vienna with one of her best friends.  We used to ride along there all the time, so she had a blast doing it again.  They took the train to Melk and rode along the Danube with stops in Spitz, Dürnstein, and ended up in Krems.

Here are photos from that ride a few days ago.

Tara with the Danube (Donau) behind her...


At a stop in Spitz where she and Renee chatted away with a couple of other riders they met at the table that were out riding a longer segment of the route...


Another watering hole stop...


And of course, being the most famous vineyard section of Austria, the ride ended with wine tasting of the local Riesling and Grüner Veltliner...


Needless to say, Tara was itching to get on the bike as soon as we got home.  So we rode to Carlisle and back on the "less scenic than Austria" Summerset Trail.

We didn't really have huge plans for a 4th celebration due to their jet lag, but we did join our friends (the usual 6 couples) for a wonderful evening just northeast of town at their country property.  Sangria's with appetizers started the evening, followed by kebobs, tabouli, kale salad, grilled veggies, wine, cake with home-made ice cream and some apperitifs at the end.  The weather was perfect and we were sitting outside dining on Mark's new patio with the outdoor fireplace he installed.  The fire was mesmerizing and being out in the country, we could see all of the stars and the fireworks from several neighboring towns going on all around us.  Fun was had by all and it was a perfect evening and way to celebrate the 4th.

We will attend the Des Moines Metro Opera's performance of Peter Grimes this evening to round out our "to do list Friday".  Saturday promises a trip to the farmer's market in Des Moines, another bike ride for RAGRAI training in the heat (going to be 90), and attending Romeo and Juliet in the evening with one of our good friends.

It's nice to have the ladies home and back to a more normal routine.


Minnesota Mountain Bike Series #4 Race Report: Buck Hill Birch Bump - Podium!!!

Okay.  Time for the final weekend of June race report.   This was my 8th race of the 2013 season.

 Brought home some bacon for the bacon collection...


Personal Perspective

I can speak for myself as a member of the 50+ racing crowd.  I'm just happy to be out there enjoying myself.  Much like guys my age who play in an adult basketball league, summer softball league, golf, etc.... we have no grand illusions of being at the level of athletes in their prime athletic years.  We realize what our age is, and what we can and cannot do at this point in our lives.  But as long as it is still fun to toe the line, push my limits and keep healthy while doing it - I'm in (as long as the knees allow me to be in).  Whether it happens or not, I even have illusions of improving - even if it would be in very small increments at this point.  My reality check is I'm involved in competition with the "average" racing crowd.  Not the Comps.  Not the Experts.  Just the Average (as in CAT 2 Sport).

That being said.  The thrill of XC racing provides a pretty good buzz when it all comes together right.  

At the beginning of the week I was so cooked from the mud grind at Red Wing that I couldn't really decide between Saturday's Psycowpath make up race date for the Tranquility Tire Tantrum in Omaha, Nebraksa, or the Buck Hill Birch Bump in Burnsville, Minnesota on Sunday or one of my favorite all-time events - the WORS Firecracker in Eau Claire, Wisconsin (also on Sunday).  The Iowa series has been dormant since May 5th with no races until this coming weekend.  So the 9 weeks between the Iowa races provided for plenty of time for me to enter some of the Nebraska and Minnesota races.

I knew I had to race to take advantage of being in peak form for the season, but where?

The weather forecast looked favorable for all 3.  I decided I needed one more day of recovery after last Sunday's slog at Red Wing - so the Pyscowpath Saturday race was voted out to give my legs another 24 hours of rehab.  And they needed it!!!  I had a lousy night of sleep on Friday.  I couldn't fall asleep until about 1:30 a.m. and was up at 6 a.m. thanks to the dogs bugging me for their regular breakfast time feeding.  Not sure if the moon was full or I was just having an adult moment, or I was so keyed up from weeding the garden and yard all day!!!  ;-)   Regardless, I couldn't sleep.  After I fed the dogs, I turned the television on and got caught up in the excitement of watching the opening stage of the 2013 Tour de France - so suffice it to say.....4 1/2 hours of sleep is all I got.

I knew I had some shopping to do at REI for RAGBRAI, so in an effort to remove some of the things I could not control from the previous weekend (like motels being booked up in Red Wing and the Twin Cities), I made a reservation at a motel in Burnsville to secure a spot.  I could race the Minnesota race or the Wisconsin race easily from that motel on Sunday.  Camping was out as all the State Parks around the Twin Cities were full according to the website.  So a motel was booked.  Burnsville would be a 5 minute drive, and Eau Claire would be a 90 minute drive from the motel.  That gave me the drive up to Minneapolis from Indianola to contemplate it all...

I loaded up the Element and got out of Indianola a bit after lunch with a peanut butter sandwich in hand.  I drove through a few summer isolated storms in northern Iowa, but things looked good once I got into Minnesota.  Weather conditions looked great and I saw mountain bikers out on the trail at Buck Hill as I passed, so I turned off of I-35 at the exit for the Buck Hill Ski Area.  I decided to register at the site and do a pre-ride of the course.  I guess I had made my decision where to race at that point and felt good about it.

The loop was in good shape dirt wise, but there were a lot of face slappers, low hanging branches and growth that has plagued all of the Midwest singletrack this year.  Too much growth and not enough trail workers to keep up with it.  I can relate in terms of the two local trails around Indianola resembling that remark (Banner and Ahquabi).  Vision around corners was a bit of a mystery due to the growth, but it was nothing that one could not deal with for a ride.  I knew that during the race of doing multiple laps, I would remember which corner was which after a lap or two.

I finished the pre-ride loop and did some bike maintenance in the parking lot.  The bike wash after the Red Wing mudfest had my bike in a bit of a squeaky turmoil.  I had to put a new front derailleur cable in, trim a bit of the housing and adjust the front derailleur as it was not shifting at all.  That took me a good 1/2 hour or more.  To complicate matters, I use a DuraAce double ring front derailleur on my mountain bike, combined with a shifter for a triple crankset.  So setting it all correctly can leave me hurling surly words at the bike while I adjust it.  I managed to not say anything too indecent as I worked on it.  After I was satisfied with it, I headed over to the motel to check in for the night.

I showered and headed to REI for my shopping (more on that in a future post).  After my time at REI, I headed over to the Mall of America to kill some time.  There are plenty of places to eat there, but I wandered into the Napa Valley Grille (even though Tiger Sushi was tugging at my appetite while walking by) and enjoyed a beautiful piece of meat, salad, grilled asparagus and a glass of wine.  Yummy!  I could have made the same meal and included the same entire bottle of wine for less than 1/2 the price I paid - but I was in the Mall of America!  Gotta pay to play, right?  I then wandered into Fixology and had them repair my failing Timex wristwatch clasp.  20 minutes later, my watch was as good as new and they even cleaned it for me.  All for $8.53!!!  I guess it's the watch I cannot destroy.  10 years I've been wearing this thing.  It still works.  I hit a few more stores just to look at things, and then headed back to Burnsville for a good night's sleep.  I was out like a light at 10:30 and didn't even roll over until 7:30 on Sunday morning.  Wow!  9 hours of sleep.  My body needed that and it made up for the previous night's lousy attempt at sleep.

Race Day

I brewed my coffee in the Keurig, tuned into Day 2 of the Tour de France, got showered and headed to breakfast for oatmeal and some eggs.  After that, I got suited up, packed my bag and headed over to Buck Hill for my warm-up.  The weather was perfect (in the 70's), sunny and dry.  Warm-up went well.   All the things that I can "control" were working fine:  lodging, dining, sleeping, warm-up routine, etc... .  The things I cannot control were working in my favor as well:  weather (sunny with sub-80 temperatures); who showed up to toe the line; my mood, etc... .

I followed a repeat of week #12 of my stuctured training plan this week and felt ready to roll.  At the start, I managed to get up into the lead group and was 8th going into the singletrack.  I decided to not put the rear shock into ProPedal and used the rear suspension wide open for extra cushion based on the technical sections of this particular course.  At the top of the opening climb section, 2 guys crashed and suddenly I was in the top 6.  Ted Siefkies - who had won my age group in the prior week - was leading the 50+ train with a vengeance.  I had passed another in my group and was pretty sure I was sitting #2 as we wound our way through the Buck Hill singletrack.  I did notice that my bike was squeaking and creaking on account of the muddy race at Red Wing and the cleaning I gave it.  It was loud enough to turn heads and let anyone in front of me (or behind me) know where I was on the trail.  I'm actually going to have to rip it all apart and overhaul it this week.  That's the price one has to pay for racing in mud.

The guy on my tail, Mike Franken (at least I think that's who it was) who had beat me a couple of times last year (Border Crossing and Mont du Lac), was next to me on the pavement connector section during lap one on the backside of the ski hill, so I let him go around me so I could follow him.  In front of us was a rider from the 40's age class who we could match in the climbs and the flats, but he was a bit too timid in the technical sections and the descents.  In short, he was holding us up a bit and needed to be passed.  As we began our 2nd lap, I noticed Mike was slowing on the climbs and knowing that Ted was way out in front, I hung behind Mike for a bit of recovery as we launched into lap 2.  I figured we would be fighting for a podium spot and I knew I could hammer the climbs in lap 3 and 4 in hopes of pulling away from him.  I probably should have just gone around him then, but I figured it was a good strategy at the time to stay on his wheel.

As I said, my bike was squeaking, squawking and creaking allowing anyone within earshot to hear where I was.  About midway through lap 2, Mike pulled over to the side of the singletrack and said his leg was cramping.  I tucked in behind the guy in the younger age group who had difficulty in the descents and passed him as we began lap 3.  He didn't like that and gave chase to fight for position, but I held him off.  He battled me all the way up the climb, but I kept in front and made it into the backside singletrack ahead of him and opened up a gap once we got into the more technical portions where I could pull away from him.  The face slappers and arm scratchers were cutting up my forearms and keeping me on alert for every corner, but I had most of the turns memorized by now and was not bothered by the lack of vision.  I find Buck Hill to be a nice challenge and the trail loops back and forth so many times in the singletrack sections that you get views of where other racers are ahead and behind you.

Here's a nice GoPro helmet mounted video of portions of the Buck Hill race course that a young rider shot in his Beginner Class two lap race yesterday...

I had been in the big ring up to now, but as we began the climb for the start of lap 3, I saw the gap I had on the 3rd place racer for my age group and decided to drop down a notch and spin up the climb.  That allowed me to crest the climb feeling a bit fresher than mashing it like I had in the frist 2 laps.  I pushed myself to extend the gap and was getting a bit cross-eyed at times and this led to a bit of me flailing around with my bike handling, but I got ahold of myself and cranked out a pace I could maintain.  Maintaining bike handling when you are cross-eyed and deep in the pain cave can be a tricky skill to master.  It can easily lead to a crash if one is not careful, but I was able to keep things in check in spite of a dabble here or there.

Lap 4 had me pushing on the climbs again to extend my gap and secure a spot.  There were a few on my wheel challenging my position from other age classes, but I held my spot.  I lapped some of the female riders and had to do a daring pass over a log when one gal wouldn't let me pass her after asking several times.  I finally told her I was coming around her on the right, but with the trail overgrowth I was unable to see the log until it was right there in front of me.  Thank goodness for bunny hop practice!  It was a larger log than I would normally attempt at that speed.  I smelled the end and kept the pressure on my pedals to close it out.

I remained in control and never lost the bike handling throughout outside of about 2 dabbles that were innocuous at best.  Tires were perfect and leaving the ProPedal off was a good choice as the tires stayed glued to the trail.  There was a mixture of gravel, loose rock sections, sand, hero dirt, and washboard bumps on this course.  Combined with the growth of the forest limiting one's vision - it made for a nice challenge throughout the day.   The bike/tire combo couldn't have been better for my needs (Renegade 2.3's).  I like the big volume and they provide plenty of traction for my needs in dry conditions.

I rolled across the line in 2nd Place for my age class and headed out for a 20 minute cool down spin.  I followed that up with a Fat Tire draw and pulled pork sandwich while I waited for the awards ceremony.  Kudos to the Buck Hill crew as the event was really fun and well run.  Weather was perfect.  Dirt was perfect.  Walking out to the car after using the restroom, I did notice a casket on the floor in the ski chalet.  Hmmmm.....I wonder what that was all about?  Sort of odd, eery, and cool all at the same time.

Race Results for my age class....


Good video here as well courtesy of Troy Melhus posted on YouTube and the MMBS website.  Notice how many interviewed mentioned the perfect weather!!!

Regardless of things I can and cannot control, I'm happy with how I raced in the last few races based on the structured training plan I went through this year.  Next up is a return trip to Minneapolis mid-week to pick up the gals at the airport returning from Vienna.  Their plane comes in around 7 pm.  Add in customs and it would be too late to drive home that night, so we'll spend the night and hit the Mall of America on July 4th.  How American is that?!!?  Sad...that the mall is even open and sad that we are going to take advantage of that.   REI is also open on the 4th - so we will stop by there for any last minute RAGBRAI needs or possible returns of gear I am trying out this week.

Then it is off to Seven Oaks oustide of Boone next weekend for a return to the Iowa Mountain Bike Championship Series that has not had a race since May 5th!!!!