August melt...

Nothing like a combination of the first week of the school year with the hottest week of the year to close out the month of August.  Everything seemed to be melting in the heat this week.

Yesterday set a nice little record...


I went up to Smart Honda after work yesterday to pick up our black Element that had been sitting out in the lot all day after having some brake work done on it the day before.  Climbing into a black car while wearing a suit with the tempertaure being 104 degrees was not the most pleasant experience.  Good riddance to that kind of excessive heat as we move into September!!!

I managed to get a couple of training rides in this week early in the morning when temperatures were in the 80's before heading to work and feel like I have recovered from last Sunday's race.  It was a busy week at work with a couple of nights working until midnight (opera auditions and casting), so all of that mixed with the heat puts plenty of stress on the body.  In fact, I went sub 180 for the first time this year weighing in at 179 on Thursday and Friday mornings.  Gee, maybe I'll make my season weight goal just in time for my last race. 

In terms of the heat - I am happy to hear cooler temperatures are coming...

Good luck to all of those racing the Dakota Five-0 this weekend out in Spearfish!!!  I had signed up for it back in April thinking I could train for it, work it in to fit with the XC races I wanted to do, and fit my schedule at the time.  I had to give up my spot after realizing I couldn't do it all this year (XC racing, RAGBRAI, trail maintenance at Banner and Ahquabi, and the Five-0).

Happy Labor Day Weekend to all!!


IMBCS #7 - Sugarbottom Scramble race report...

Sunday was the 7th race in the Iowa Mountain Biking Championship Series.  For those who do not know, you can obtain information on all of the races in this series in several locations.

Facebook:  IMBCS
Yahoo:  IMBCS

Sugarbottom is always one of the largest events in the series, and yesterday didn't disappoint at all with 200 racers showing up to brave the heat and race on the excellent singletrack at Sugarbottom.

I drove over on Sunday morning and arrived an hour before race time to get registered, warm-up, make my drink mix, and chit-chat with fellow racers.  Although the temperatures were warm, luckily the humidity was on the lower side which, when combined with the breeze, made it a less hostile environment than it could have been.  And after all - it's summer.  Perhaps we have all been too spoiled this year with sub 90 degree temperatures?  Regardless, while warming up it was very noted of the heat and I adjusted my drink mix accordingly and popped a SaltStick Cap every 1/2 hour before the race.  Then I sought out a bit of shade while waiting for the line up on the starting line.

CAT 2 was to be a mass start (with 58 racers) and I managed to line up in the 3rd row in hopes that I would survive the opening gravel climb well enough to enter the singletrack more in the front half of the mass, rather than the back half.


CAT 2 starting line - photo courtesy of Angy Snoop

The climb went well and going into the singletrack I noticed I was only about 4 racers behind Tom Jeffreys and Landon Beachy who are in the 50+ age group with me and were my picks to win.  I was hanging with the pace as we wound our way through the forest and opening 10 minute section.  Some gaps started to open up in front of me and pushing the big ring up until now, I didn't have enough fuel to close some of them.

About 2/3'rds of the way through the south side trails, I needed to back the start pace off a bit and settle into a pace I could ride for the remainder of the duration - especially in the heat.  I had quite a train of guys following behind me and moved over enough to let a line of younger CAT 2 riders by me as I didn't want to hold them up.  A bit later, I was passed by about 3 or 4 more as we transitioned from the south side to the north side on the gravel connector section.

We were scheduled to do a portion of the north side in this prologue lap, then do 2 full laps of the north side trail.  I buzzed down the gravel connector section after the prologue section and when I hit the singletrack, I could suddenly feel the heat trying to zap me.  This first time through the full north side section, I got the feeling I was just riding along rather than racing and fought the inner battle to push myself out of that.  The north side was filled with a lot of short power climbs that added up in terms of physical stress.  I moved the chain to the smaller ring of my double crankset and worked the gears to retain some type of flow.  There was some new trail back in this section that I had never been on before and with all of the sharp turns, switchbacks, climbs - keeping a flow that didn't involve digging deep in the pain cave was not possible.

The famous Cyclocross Hill is also on the north side.


I blew a hub trying to muscle out that climb 2 years ago.  Here's the exact moment the hub blew on that climb 2 years ago and halted my race...


I decided to keep it in the small ring and work the gears going into the climb to make it.  I made it on lap one.  No blown hub.  No need to dismount.  I think I had finished my need to sort of "recover" from the opening prologue lap intensity and now was able to feel like I was racing again and pushing hard instead of just riding along.

Coming out of the north side lap ready to take it on again for a 2nd lap...


Photo courtesy of Angy Snoop

I started passing a few of those that I had let by on the south side and on my 2nd lap through the north side I didn't feel quite as overwhelmed with it.  I choked one sharp uphill turn coming out of a switchback and had to lay the bike down, but I hopped right back on and got going again without any issues.

My front wheel was right behind the rear wheel of a rider going up Cylcocross Hill on this 2nd lap and I had to take a different line to avoid bumping into the rider in front of me.  This ended with me in a very tall gear to mash out what was left of the climb in a cross-eyed daze trying to inch up the climb just as the leader of the CAT 1 race flew by me going up the hill like it was a small blip in the road for him.   

Whatever I had left in the tank, I was going to drain on the remaining section.  I passed three riders and was worried somebody was on my tail in the 50+ (I swear I saw Andre Rethman back there a few turns behind me) which had me grunting out every climb to hold him off.  Coming out of the forest and onto the doubletrack grassy section that led to the finish line, I sprinted with what little I had left and crossed the line spent, worked, exhausted.  Usually, I head out for a cool down ride.  Not this time.  I pulled over in the shade to catch my breath.  I felt a few tingles and tweaks in the legs on the final north side lap that cramping was possible, but it never happened.  I'm sure the opening 10 minute effort, running the big ring for the entire prologue, the length of the race (longest XC race of the year for me thus far), the heat, and the effort all combined to contribute to those tingles.

I don't know the age group results yet, but I came in 24th with a time of 1:37:02 out of the 58 or so that started in the CAT 2 mass start group.  Ah.....Midpackitis.

Not sure how it computes out into the age group for the IMBCS points, but Tom Jeffrey underlined in the results photo he took some of the 50+ names he knew, but he didn't know Landon who came in right after him and there might be a few more 50+ in there as well.


I talked to Andre Rethman and Landon Beachy after the race.  Both are in my age category for CAT 2, and we all shared stories of the effort, heat, difficulties, etc... .  After some cold water and a banana, I headed back to the car as I had a lunch date with Alexa and her roomate in downtown Iowa City.  I gave Andre my raffle ticket for the prizes and after cleaning up with a washcloth bath and cold water, headed off to meet Alexa outside of her dorm for lunch.  We had a nice lunch at Basta, followed by a shopping trip to get a few more needed items for her dorm room.  Although it had only been 4 days since Tara and I dropped her off at college, it was really nice to see her and touch base.  I wished both gals all the best as they start with their classes this first week of school. 

Kudos to ICORR, Goosetown Racing Club, and Mark Guthart on a well run, excellent event in the IMBCS.  Year in and year out - you prove an excellent role model of how to run a premiere mountain biking event here in Iowa!!!  Well done...


College, Heat, Tomaten, Racing...

What a week!!!

It seems like I only had time to make one post this week, but it has been rather busy with meetings, a trip to the University of Iowa to take Alexa to college, more meetings, a rehearsal, a flu/cold, and the start of the academic school year that kept me busy.  Add in some down time during the worst part of my flu/cold bug, and the week flew by.

I had to rent a U-Haul trailer to carry Alexa's belongings to the University of Iowa to move her into the dorm.  The Element with 3 people inside pretty much leaves little room to pack a dorm room full of stuff, so the U-Haul was hired.  We packed it all up on Tuesday and Alexa was mortified that I would be pulling a U-Haul.  All she could think of was the movie Legally Blonde when the character Elle arrives at Harvard with a fully loaded U-Haul truck.  I told Alexa we would see plenty of trailers, pickups, minivans, and trucks when we got there.  She didn't believe me.

Alexa and Tara with the U-Haul all loaded up on Wednesday morning and Alexa saying good bye to Max (who is used to spending many nights on her bed sleeping with her)...


The drive going the speed limit is just about exactly 2 hours from Indianola (give or take 10-15 minutes depending on if you stop or the traffic you face along the way).  We arrived about 25 minutes before our assigned move-in slot, but they let us in early and we were told we had 60 minutes to unload.  Knowing what was in the U-Haul, I thought "fat chance" of getting it done in 3-4 hours, let alone 1 hour!!!!

I was directed to park in the grass outside of a dorm next to a whole row of vehicles pulling trailers.  Alexa was still mortified that we were "one of those".  Oh well, here we are at the University of Iowa getting ready to unload the U-Haul...


Her roomate Allison arrived with her parents about 30 minutes after us and had an equally sized load as Alexa.  How they were going to fit it all in one room remained a mystery, but they lucked out in getting one of the largest dorm rooms in her building.  And it was new with excellent carpet, air conditioning, etc... - very sweet!!!   Between the 4 parents, we outfitted them with a nice sized fridge, microwave, television, printers, futon and got the room arranged to make the most of the real estate.

We headed off to Wal-Mart with Alexa to get a few last minute things (cables, light bulbs, duct tape, new pillows, laundry soap) and then stopped by the bookstore to get her 1st semester books purchased.  We went back to the room and helped organize things until the key moment when Alexa had enough of us and kindly asked us to leave at 4 p.m..  We went out in the hallway and hugged her good-bye, and the tearing up began from Tara and I.  A new chapter in Alexa's life that we are very excited about for her, and a page was turned in our "book of parents" that is a change for us as well.

Back we drove to Indianola talking about the experience from our side of the equation.  I dropped the U-Haul off and Tara and I went to Des Moines for a concert, followed by dinner downtown in Des Moines.

I had full days of meetings and workshops at work on Thursday and Friday to help take my mind off of dropping Alexa off at college.  Don't think the thought of wanting to pick up the phone and call her was not lingering in my mind!!!  It was!  I resisted and only managed to sneak in a text to her.  Tara has a busy weekend of canning thanks to bountiful pick number one...


I fought through a flu/cold that actually began last week in my stomach, gathered steam over the weekend, and knocked me out Monday - Wednesday.  I broke a fever at 4 a.m. on Wednesday morning and have slowly been getting better since then.  The bug involved mild laryngitis making it difficult to even talk Monday-Wednesday.  That broke and started getting better exactly at 6 pm on Thursday which was sort of odd.  I was talking to Tara and suddenly my speaking voice just started to come back.  Every bug is unique and odd, but at least my energy was picking up and I was sleeping.

I pushed through it all with 3 training days to keep me tuned up for a race tomorrow at Sugarbottom outside of Iowa City.  It is forecast to be in the mid 90's with a high heat index due to the humidity.  So - summer has finally arrived!!!!  Where it's been, I don't know?  But it is now here and will be here all next week in the upper 90's.  I am hydrating today to prepare for tomorrow's race.  My legs feel good - the best they have felt in 3 weeks - and I think the bike is ready.  The heat will have an effect on many of us and I will utilize the nutrition and supplements I have for the heat. 

Now, on to the weekend at hand...



Pffft....sort of describes how I feel at the end of this week.

Monday had me spending mega-hours out at Summerset State Park working on the trails with my weed trimmer.  Once the academic teaching year starts for me this coming week with faculty meetings and classes starting the next week, I won't have time to do much trail prep for the two Indianola races (one at Summerset and one at Lake Ahquabi).  I wanted to get as much work done as possible in August to lessen the load in September for trail work.  With all of the trail work I've been doing lately and my hands on the edge of numbness/carpal tunnel - the 5 hours or so of using the power weed eater sent me over the edge.  Numb as could be in the middle of the night and I woke up every 1 1/2 hours to work through the pain and numbness to restore feeling in my right hand.

Tuesday had me doing yardwork, garage work and setting up camp out at Lake Ahquabi.  I did a training ride at Ahquabi, showered and then Lisa, Tara and I made a wonderful salmon dinner over the fire.  We brought our dogs and they enjoyed the "experience".  Temperatures were in the 50's at night, so we all slept very well.  Except me.  The numb hands returned and had me nursing the numbness and pain throughout the night.  That's the worst part of carpal tunnel - lack of sleep!!!

Wednesday had me doing trail work at Lake Ahquabi from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., then I took our campsite down, packed it up and headed home.  I jumped in the shower, got dressed and ran out the door with Alexa and Tara to spend the night at the Iowa State Fair.  I pulled out the right hand wrist brace to wear during the night to help with the numbness.  And it helped a bit as I slept more than the previous two nights.

Thursday was a big day of smoking meat.  I did 2 chickens and 2 racks of ribs as we were preparing dinner for Beth Coffey and her family due to her bike accident last Sunday.  I did a training ride on the road bike with intensity to meet my weekly goals.   After the birds were smoked and looking perfect, we took the meal over at 7 and I brought her bike home with me to get it fixed.  Beth had a shiner, arm in a sling with broken collarbone (she'll be in the sling for 4 weeks), broken ribs, and contusions where her skin met the pavement.  We came home and ate our chicken and ribs and I did sleep a bit better wearing the brace again.

Friday was a plan to drive to Superior, Wisconsin for the weekend of camping and a mountain bike race at Mont du Lac.  I was feeling pffft'ed from the week and Tara talked me into bagging the trip and staying home.  I agreed and plans were scratched to make the 6 hour drive north.  I figured I could catch the IMBCS race at George Wyth State Park on the weekend.  I wasn't even really sure if it was Saturday or Sunday as my plan all along had been to head north for the Minnesota Mountain Bike Series race.  I looked at Beth's bike and realized it was beyond my scope to fix it, so took the bike up to Rassy's in Des Moines for "wreck repair".  Like a fool with numb hands, I headed back out to Lake Ahquabi and did trail work for a couple of hours, then suited up and rode the sections I had worked on to see the results.  I went home for leftovers, a shower and to rest up.  I slept the best all week with the brace on my wrist.

Saturday I woke up much too late to get it together to pack up and make the drive over to George Wyth State Park to be there in time for the 12 noon race.  Actually, when I woke up I was still under the impression the race was on Sunday.  By the time I woke up and read a few posts on Facebook, I put 2 and 2 together to figure it all out.  I guess my body needed to sleep in, so it did.  I bagged going to the race and used the day to recharge my own batteries and worked on some music that I am singing in concert on Wednesday night.  I did a lot of nothing on Saturday with the main attraction being Alexa talking me into letting her take my Samsung television to college with her this week.  Oy!   How did that happen?!!!?  This involved a trip to the store to figure out a solution - either a replacement for me, or a new one for her.  I got a Samsung replacement and we brought it home to get everything set up.  That led to moving various televisions around in the house and trying everything out to make sure everything worked, was calibrated correctly and what not.  Classic puttering...

Sunday morning arrived after a beautiful 10 hour sleep!!!  We had fresh tomatoes from our garden on toasted bagels, coffee and fresh fruit.  YUM!!   I spent several hours working on the big project in the basement, and helped Alexa get going on her college packing.  Tara and I did a nice Zone 2 road ride to Carlisle and back with a stop at The Outside Scoop to split a Sunday Sundae for our "lunch".  Tonight is our final family night out before college starts up for the kids.  We're heading up to Des Moines to one of our favorite restaurants to celebrate as a family before all going our separate ways with the academic school year.

Pffft was my week.


40 more days of summer - so time to get those summer projects done!

September 22nd brings the first day of fall this year which means we only have 40 more days of summer to get all of our "summer projects" done.  I had quite a summer project "to do list" this year that I have been tackling head on as best I can.  As usual, things keep getting added to the list as they crop up.  This, of course, only delays my progress on the main list items that have been there for weeks.

I have the next major project all set up and ready to go in the basement which begins this week and extends into next week.  I am in the middle of another project out at Lake Ahquabi to get the trails all ready for The Mullet Fall Classic race in October as best I can so that once the academic school year starts the majority of work will have already been completed.  That effort, as usual, is being slightly thwarted by my hands going numb from all of the tool use - be it carpal tunnel or whatever.  Speaking of things that crop up and get added to the list...

Yesterday involved one of those examples as I spent 6 hours holding the Craftsman weed eater and tackling a big section of trail for trimming at Banner Pits (Summerset State Park).  That day of work was a result of me noticing some routine trimming maintenance needed to be done after I rode a pair of laps at Banner on Sunday morning with a group...


By the way, that is Brian Pottorff's deer sausage and veggies that he made for us post ride for our Sunday lunch.  Thanks Brian - it was very yummy!

Back to my numb hands.  It took about 1/2 hour this morning to get feeling back in my right hand after I awakened at 5:30.  It's the worst it has felt this season from the work, but is in line with how it has felt other years when I do a lot of trailwork back to back.  I did 3 days last week, and will do 3 days this week before taking a break to allow the feeling to come back into my hands and arms.  Today and tomorrow I am out at Lake Ahquabi camping and doing trail work.  Bob Matthews will join me tomorrow to knock out one section we have been talking about doing.

Another big project on the homefront is to do a garage cleaning/organization.  Way too much stuff has piled up and is in the way.  Next week, I take Alexa to the University of Iowa to move in for her freshman year and then I have two faculty workshop/meeting days as we gear up for the start of the fall semester.  So this week and next are "get it done" days for me in terms of projects.

On a side note, our friend Beth Coffey who was on Team Simpson for RAGBRAI got hit by a car here in Indiaonla on Sunday while out on a bike ride.  The driver was a 17 year old driver who moved over to the oncoming side of the street as he passed a parked car and Beth got clipped when he moved over into her oncoming lane.  She broke her collarbone, got some contusions on the right side and is pretty banged up.  We are making dinner for her family on Thursday and taking it over, so I think I'll smoke a chicken for them and Tara will make the sides.  I'm going to take her bike that got beat up as well and see what needs to be done to fix it.  Be careful out there riding....


Psycowpath/IMBCS #5 Race Report...

I only had 5 days of recovery from last Sunday's race in Wisconsin, so I knew this week was not going to be optimal for me to race again so soon.  Three consecutive days of trail work out at Lake Ahquabi this week had me wake up feeling fairly bushed (pun intended after whacking bushes all week long) on Saturday morning and my right hand was numb from gripping the tools.  I set about stretching and massaging the forearm, wrist, fingers, etc... and got some feeling going again before hitting the shower.

Tara left early on Saturday with Gayla on a road trip to Omaha for the weekend, and I loaded up the car to head off to Ida Grove for the joint Psycowpath/IMBCS race.  It's fun singletrack with some nice off camber trail and lots of climbing.  That and the weather looked to be a nice combination for weekend racing.  I had thought about camping on Friday night, but couldn't get it together here to pack up and leave on Friday.  The trail work at Ahquabi and cleaning the house took most of the day and had left me tuckered out.

Due to quite a spicy Mexican meal on Friday night, I was having "issues" so to speak.  I barely made it to Ida Grove in time to hit the Subway bathroom.  Whew!  I finally rolled into Moorehead Park and went over to pick up my number plate and headed out for a warm-up.  I realized I had forgotten my Halo sweatband again to keep things out of my eyes (that's 2x this season I've done that), and I mixed my drink with about a scoop too much HEED making it taste sickingly sweet.  Not my day already, but I didn't let any of it bother me.  The legs felt good and I was mentally ready to race.

Allow me to provide a helping of cheese with my "whine" concerning my Saturday race woes (all involving chains).

At the line up for the mass start of the CAT 2's, I was more near the rear of the pack due to finishing my warm up a bit late.  I managed to jockey myself into midpack of the field on the gravel sprint start so that by the time we hit the singletrack opening climb, I was sitting OK.  30 yards later, the guy in front of me either broke his chain or it fell off.  Whatever it was, he suddenly dismounted and turned his bike across the trail right in front of me.  I had no choice but to dismount as well.  RATS!!!  This is the type of thing you cannot control, so I tried not to let it bother me.  After he moved his bike off the trail, I had to run mine up the hill alongside those that were riding because it was too steep to remount in that section.  By the time I got to the top of the hill, mounted my bike and got going again - the entire field had passed me and I was DFL (dead frickin' last).  Yup.  Seeing the race from the back end and we had just entered the singletrack.  Not the most ideal position to be in due to the amount of matches one has to burn to try and catch up with the competition.

Running up the hill and really not too pleased about it all as the entire field passed me...

Running UP the HILL!

The broken chain from the rider in front of me that caused me to have to dismount and run...

The broken chain

I've been in this position before due to a tire burp, and the process of catching up had me cramp mid-race on that hot day thanks to the effort of playing catch up.  Luckily, it wasn't hot at Ida Grove.  However, I am aware of just how difficult it is to make up that much lost ground over the course of a 60 - 90 minute XC race.  The pessimist in me said "race over".  The optimist in me said "embrace the challenge".

I remained positive and simply set about reeling people in one at a time and closing gaps between the rear end of the field to each rider ahead as a way to try and work my way back up into the middle of the field.

Passing whenever and wherever I could...

Making A Pass

I wasn't sure, strategy wise, if I should do all the catch up as soon as I could, or spread it out over the first lap.  I was giving it everything I had to catch up and just went with what the legs would give me.  Finally, by the top of the first gravel climb - I could see some of the competition in my category within striking distance if I could just recover from the effort I went through to ride my way back into the race.  Number one and two (Joe Schmidt and Tom Jeffreys) were gone and out of sight, but number three and four (Jerry Hoff and Andre Rethman) were visible and maybe possible to catch if I had any legs left after the match burning effort to catch up as the race unfolded.  I caught and passed two of the expert women on the final climbs of lap 1 who had started in the wave before us and said hello to Cheryl and Karmen (Cheryl got 3rd and Karmen got 2nd in the CAT 1 race) as I went by them.  Lap one was finished and as I sprinted on the gravel to start lap 2, my legs felt like I had burned a heck of a lot of matches by that point.  But I kept pressing and was flying at the start of lap 2.

Hitting the base of the gravel climb in the middle of the lap, I shifted the front derailleur and the chain dropped to the inside and got stuck.  Really stuck.  It wouldn't budge.  Off the bike I jumped, and flipped it over.  I yanked.  I pulled.  I tried everything as all those I had just worked so hard to pass rode by me as I toiled with my upside down bike.   UGH!!!   Finally, I cursed loudly at the chain and got it unstuck just as Karmen came rolling by.  After she heard the sermon that I gave my chain loudly and saw me get it unstuck, she informed me that one simply has to use just the right words sometimes.  LOL!!!  Thanks for placing a smile back on my face, Karmen!  It was needed at that moment.

So, back on the bike I climbed with very dirty and greasy hands from holding the chain.  If I hadn't burned my matches from the first mishap, now I dug in and burned whatever I had left to get back to where I was before I dropped my chain.  I was getting the feeling that today was obviously "not the day"!  Ever get the feeling you keep passing the same people and are making no progress?  That's what my day on the bike was like in this race.  Like the guy who speeds ahead to the next stoplight only to be stopped at the red light and is sitting there when it turns green and all those you just passed, pass you by as the light turns green and you're sitting there stopped.  And then he does it again.

In fact, Ron Cooney had the same type of race last year at Ida Grove as I was having.  He kept passing me, only for me to find him on the side of the trail later on where I would pass him as he worked on his bike.  This went on several times last year for him at Ida Grove.  Well - I guess it was my turn today to experience that kind of race!!!  Yes, I passed a lot of people in this race.  Unfortunately, it was the same group that I kept passing over and over and over again. 

Fellow BikeIowa.com team member Kurt Benson, who had been riding with me and participating in my grumbling about all the chain issues as I passed him and he passed me back and forth, informed me that just up ahead was Andre Rethman who was in my category.  I saw him, but my legs wouldn't really respond the way my mind wanted them to respond, so Kurt gave chase and I tried to muster up enough strength to follow him.  On the final climb of lap 2, I dug deep and moved around another rider and followed Kurt and Andre up the climb to stay as close as possible.  At the bottom of the descent, Kurt's chain broke (Ya gotta be kidding me, right?  Another friggin' chain issue....?) and he had to pull off the trail.  His race was over as it turns out.   I gave chase on the gravel sprint section to hang with Andre and entered the start of lap 3 right behind him.

I was baked cake at this point in the race and really struggling...

Baked Cake

I gave what I had to hang with Andre who is right behind me in the IMBCS standings this year and knew that depending on where we placed, there was a 10 point difference in our placings at stake between us.  My cake was baked as I had nothing left in the legs from the trail work and all the match burning I had been doing to try to catch up after the two incidents.  Add to that the reality that Andre was riding really well.  Best I've seen him this season.  I would reel him in on the climbs and he would take off on the descents.  Coming into the gravel climb on lap 3, once again I threw my chain to the inside and I had to manually get it back onto the chainring.  What was going on with my shifting????!!!!! Time to clean my drivetrain and check the front derailleur adjustment.  I wasn't using ProPedal, so maybe all the rear suspension action had the chain bouncing or jumping over the inside ring.  I don't know.  All I know is that this has not happened before during this season.

No curse words yelled this time, but after I got the chain back on, once again I dug deep to catch back up to Andre who was out of sight on the climb.  I got out of the saddle, kept it in the big ring and gave it all I had to reel him in on the climb.  I saw him ahead and got right on his rear wheel by the top of the climb, but had nothing left to crest the hill and go around him.  I saw Jerry Hoff just a few turns ahead of us.  So I latched on to Andre and simply attempted to follow him for the rest of lap 3.  I thought perhaps I could catch him on the final climb, but he is too fast on the descents and my legs were baked.  I saw Jerry Hoff again just up ahead of us on the climb.  Jerry and I usually finish pretty close to each other, so I knew I wasn't really that far off my normal game.  I had bested Jerry by 19 seconds last Sunday at the Border Crossing in Wisconsin.  And he was about to best me by the same this week.  Based on our previous races with each other - that was all pretty normal.

Negotiating my bike over the log over on the final lap...


On the final descent, Andre floated away like a magician as I couldn't match his speed going downhill no matter how hard I pedaled.  I was spun out and he wasn't even pedaling as he flew down the hill.  We hit the gravel for the final sprint to the line and I tried, but I really had little left to sprint with, so I sat up about 50 yards from the finish line and rolled across in 5th place for the 50+ group.  Andre was 4th, Jerry Hoff got 3rd and was 25 seconds ahead of me.  Tom got 2nd and Joe got 1st.  Chain woes aside, I did finish.  All the effort to ride myself back into the race after each of the three incidents didn't matter for my final placing in the 50+, but it did almost give me a chance.  By the end of the race, I managed to move up only 11 spots after the opening forced dismount and my own chain stuck woes.  Hats off to Andre who rode a great race as I certainly was nipping at his heels!  And to Jerry too for always a fun challenge!

Old men's results...


Kudos to Jesse and his wife for getting the trails ready and hosting the joint state series race.  I'm pretty sure that turnout was over 100 thanks to the joint race and broke a record for Ida Grove race participants.  111 paid a registration fee (99 online and 12 day of race) according to the results.  It was nice to ride the Ida Grove trails in dry conditions as it is nice and fast with good flow.    

I have 7 full days of recovery before next Sunday's race.  Plenty of time to get it back together and do some service on my bike to adjust the front derailleur and clean the drivetrain.  More trail work this week at Lake Ahquabi, but I will front end load the week if at all possible.

Edit:  Tightened the cable and all is well again with the front derailleur!!!


Trail Maintenance: tools of the trade...

So you want to do trail maintenance?  You want to wake up in the middle of the night with numb hands from all the gripping of tools?  You want to nurse your blisters?  You want to soothe your muscle aches and pains?  You want to clean and dress your nicks and cuts?  You want to treat the areas that were exposed to poison whatever?   You want to swing, chop, whack, saw, cut, fling, grunt, swat, sweat, and lop?

Then if you are going to work alone, and not on an organized trail work day, you will need to get yourself some basic tools of the trade and have at it!!!

Here's my preferred group of goodies I keep in the truck (note the most needed can of Cutters to keep the flying critters away from me as best that I can).


Due to the race out at Lake Ahquabi, and my desire to volunteer to help keep things open for all trail users - be it hikers, bikers, fishermen, etc... - I find myself doing trail work out at Lake Ahquabi every spring, summer, and fall.  I have some free time in the summer due to the nature of my job as a college professor.  So I am happy to volunteer and give back.  After having used power tools (mower, chainsaw, weed eater) on trails, I've grown to prefer using tools that get the job done under my own power.  It's better for the environment, doesn't scare the wildlife or disturb other State Park users, and is easy to hike in and out of various trails carrying light tools.  That's for the maintenance stuff.  If major work needs to be done, pulling out the brush hog, or big power equipment to remove fallen trees is necessary. 

But there is a cost on one's arms, wrists, hands, back from all the swinging, chopping, whacking, sawing, etc... .  The days and weeks leading up to The Mullet Fall Classic race, my hands and wrists go numb with all of the work.  This year, in an effort to spread the work out, I have been doing work throughout the summer so that I don't have to cram all the maintenance at the end.  Last week, this week, and next week are target weeks to get as much done as possible before the academic teaching year begins at the end of August.

Miles of trail to keep the growth from spreading into the way of bikes keeps me busy getting the track ready for The Mullet Fall Classic.


So it is I awake at 2:30 a.m. with both hands numb and in pain last night.  That followed 2 days of trail maintenance out at Ahquabi that had me using the grass whip (scythe), machete, loppers, and the saw to remove a fallen tree.  It all was only about 4 1/2 hours of work, but that is enough to make the hands ache for a long time.  I know my hands were going numb in last Sunday's bike race due to the trail work and I expect the same this Saturday at Ida Grove.  I have to shake my hands out every now and then during a ride when my hands feel like this so I can use the brake levers and shift.

I am heading out to do a lap or two today to see how things look around the entire loop and what is left to address maintenance wise.  Growth had stagnated in July when the rain stopped.  We've had a few rain showers lately and got 2" on Monday which, along with the cooler temperatures, has reignited growth from the canopy and the grass.  Things are trimmed back enough that walking through with the machete, or brush swipe is a good way to chop back anything that is creeping out into the trail space. 

HELP NEEDED:  The DNR used their new brush/hedge trimmer attachment to clip the sides of the trail canopy on the west side of the lake.  What they clipped is all along the ground on the side of the trail and much of it is in the path of wheels.  It needs to be moved.  If you have time and desire to help, it would be nice to walk through the western section of the trail and pick up the dead limbs and toss them deeper into the woods to get them off of the trail.  When I lop with the loppers, I take great care to toss all branches deep into the woods.  We just need to help out the DNR and do this step for them.  Thanks to anyone willing to help do this!!! 


Minnesota Mountain Bike Series #7 Race Report - Border Crossing...

My road bike was set aside this weekend to hop back on my JET 9 mountain bike to hit up some fine XC trail built and maintained by K.O.R.C. in River Falls, Wisconsin.  The Border Crossing is the name given to the Minnesota Mountain Bike Series for crossing the Minnesota/Wisconsin border to hold the race in the state of Wisconsin.  Prior to last year, it was a joint race between the Wisconsin and Minnesota XC series.  The past 2 years it has been a part of the Minnesota series only as the two separate series parted ways for what used to be a fun joint event between WORS and MNMBS.

Tara and I drove up Saturday afternoon and pitched our tent about 5:30 on Saturday afternoon in the open meadow of the corporate park that is used for the staging area of the Border Crossing race.  Being a "primitive" camping situation (no showers, no water, and Kybos for toilets) - I brought along our new purchase of a Northwest Territory shower "tent" which you can see pitched to the right of our Kelty Hula House 6 tent.  Here's our camping spot in River Falls...


Trying to garner one more day of recovery after Thursday's 42 mile ride, I decided not to do a practice lap once our tents were all set up.  I've raced here at least 4 times and figured I knew what to expect.  The decision to save my legs another day I felt was more prudent.  I had done a morning recovery spin on the regular dog walk, so at least a bit of active recovery had been done.

Me standing next to my K-Mart purchase:  the Northwest Territory shower tent...


We had looked up online some nice restaurants in Hudson, Wisconsin to hit up for Saturday night dinner, but decided to save the driving time of 10 miles each way and just head into River Falls to see what we could find.  We asked a guy on the street what he would personally recommend, and he said Bo's 'N Mine was a good place to go with an all you can eat ribs Saturday night dinner special.  Sounded good to me.  Not ideal pre-race nutrition, but my breakfast and lunch had been healthy choices - so why not?

Tara brought along her road bike to get some riding in for the weekend, so we scoped out a 20 mile ride she could do Sunday morning.  We took Main Street through River Falls and then turned south on 770th Avenue which was a nice country black top road with a speed limit of 35 mph.  The road was very scenic and several farms with horses were on the route.  So we stopped to take a picture of a mother with her colt (who was frisky and enjoyed showing off for us by running tight circles and coming over to lick our hands).


Following the development of where Tara would ride her route on Sunday morning, we headed back into town, parked the car and went into Bo's 'N Mine for our dinner.  They had about 10 beers on tap, and we went with Leinenkugel's Red Lager.  I ordered the rib dinner while Tara got the Turkey Burger. 

Red Lager and a smile...


As we waited for our dinner to be prepared, in walked a bridal shower group of about 20 ladies who hit the bar and were quickly having fun.  Tara took a lot of pictures of them, but here's the bride to be and some of her friends posing for us by our table...


The "friends" made the bride wear an exterior pink bra and hat as part of their shenanigans.  I won't go into the details of the particular shenanigans, but we enjoyed watching the group have fun as we waited for our food.

After dinner (which actually tasted pretty good), we headed back for a good night's sleep in the cool temperatures (dropped down to near 52 degrees) in our Hula House.  We went to bed about 10 p.m. and I slept straight through until 8 a.m. which my body dearly needed!!!!

As things at the race registration table were starting to buzz and get going for the morning's events, we headed over to the nearby McDonald's for oatmeal, and coffee.  Our campsite was only about a half mile from the McDonald's, so we headed right back after eating so Tara could get suited up for her road ride that we had scouted out the night before. 

Tara took off on her road bike for a 2 hour ride, and I went through my routine of getting the Niner JET 9 ready for the race, brushing my teeth, making my drink for the race (Hammer Nutrition HEED), got registered and ran into Jerry Hoff from Norfolk, Nebraska who was there for his 2nd consecutive MMBS race.  He had taken his son to a Minnesota Twins game the night before and decided he could also fit the race in before heading back to Nebraska.  It was good to see him there and enjoying one of the great series events.  After visiting with Jerry, I got suited up and headed out for my warm-up routine.

My legs felt pretty so-so after the initial 20 minute Zone 1 portion, so I moved into Zone 2, and then Zone 3 before I ran into Steve Stillwell from Hudson.  We rode together and chatted about RAGBRAI (he has done 28 of them!!!!) and what shape our legs were in - or not in - after the previous week of riding across Iowa.  Steve was sporting a sharp looking new bike from Vassago.   I finished my warm-ups and headed to the line for the start.  The weather was perfect and the turnout was really good for this event because of it.  In fact - 417 racers had shown up for the day.  Our age class alone was stacked with nearly 20 racers (compared to most events having 8 or 9 show up).   The regular top guys were there in our group, and quite a few excellent riders who don't normally show up at the Minnesota races were in the group.  So who knew how it would all shake out as the race unfolded?

My goal was no more or less than just to finish the race after what I put the legs through last week and this week with not as much recovery as I had anticipated.  The weather was perfect.  The soil was perfect.  I was hydrated, fed and ready to roll.  As the gun went off, I jockeyed over to the left side for the opening jeep trail climb.  My wave had the 45-49 riders, the 50-59 riders, and the 60+ riders and the FAT BIKES.    I settled in on the opening climb spinning up the climb not wanting to red line too soon right out of the gate on the climb.  I now know I could have given more, but I wasn't sure that I could at the time.  After realizing I could up it, I did manage to start passing on the 2nd half of the opening climb and made up some ground after the summit as we made our way through an open meadow before hitting the singletrack.  But I was way back in the long line from the leaders of the train going into the singletrack.

I settled in behind Tom Bengel who races in the 60+ group.  I know I am faster than Tom, but I probably remained behind him about 4 minutes too long before I asked to pass him.  There were several on my tail asking to get by before that, but I just hung to Tom's wheel until he moved over and off I went.  I quickly closed the gap that was between Tom and the line of riders ahead of him.  I passed riders when I could during lap one to try and move up.

The course had phenomenal flow and the dirt was in perfect shape.  Heat was not a factor as temperatures were cool and comfortable.  We had some fast speeds going because of it.  It was also very dusty due to things being so dry which added a nice cloud in various spots throughout the course.  I felt really good at the end of lap 1.   After going through the Cyclocross Pinwheel near the start/finish area....


...I launched into a nice climb for lap 2 that had me flowing quite well.  At some point in lap 2, Jerry Hoff caught up to me.  Jerry and I traded back and forth last year at most events we did in Nebraska, Iowa, and South Dakota.  Ahead of me, I saw Steve Stilwell and closed the gap to his rear wheel.  I was able to go around him on one of the passsing sections before our final section of singletrack.

Just before I went around Steve - who was right in front of me - in one of the open passing sections...

Catching SS

Coming out of the final singletrack section, I put it in sprint mode to pass one more rider (a Clydesdale from the previous wave) before going into the Cyclocross pinwheel near the finish line and held him off to cross the line.


Final tally had me in 8th place out of the 18 for my age group.  Not as high up in the placings as I would have liked to have been, but the field was stacked with some good competition and some guys are really riding well at this point in the season after enduring the long winter and lack of spring.  A couple of guys were just 18 and 24 seconds ahead of me in my age group.  Overall, I was 57th out of the 124 CAT 2 Sport male racers for all age classes.  Mid-pack of the bunch.

It was one of those races where some nice battles for the middle positions within the ranks was worthwhile racing in spite of us not fighting for podium spots.  I was happy with my race effort today considering RAGBRAI and the recovery needed.  No complaints except I know I should have hammered the opening climb more than I did.  C'est la vie!  My mind and body just didn't coordinate themselves on that opening climb as I would have liked.  Would it have made a difference?  Who knows?  I was 4:18 off the winner and am content - actually very pleased - with the day's effort coming off of RAGBRAI.  Bottom line is I had fun on a great course on a great weather day.  And my finish time was 2:51 faster this year over my finish time in last year's Border Crossing.  I'll take that!!!

Kudos to K.O.R.C. for a great course that was in perfect shape.  I know they had to be pleased with the huge turnout for the day of over 400 racers.

Border Crossing Results

I hopped in our new camping shower tent after the race before Tara and I tore down the camp site and headed home.  How fun is this?  Having a shower to bring along for the primitive campsites is pretty cool and didn't cost that much.

This qualifies as the goofiest picture this year to date that my wife has taken!!!

New Shower

After we crossed the St. Croix River and were back in Minnesota, we stopped at Chipotle for a burrito lunch, and then hit up Cariboux Coffee in Owatonna for some Jause  to keep us awake and alert for the crowded Sunday afternoon interstate driving on I-35.

Next weekend is a Saturday race in Iowa that will be held at Memroial Park in Ida Grove.   The event is the joint Psycowpath/IMBCS race for the season. It shoud be really fun as it is a great course with lots of fun off camber stuff and a nice long screaming descent near the end of each lap.  I only have 5 days to recover, so I will be cautious this week as I mix some trail maintenance work, yard work, gardening, bike training, and chores around the house.


So much for recovery....

Well.....so much for the recovery days I had promised myself in a previous post two days ago.

Tara was able to sweet talk me into a late afternoon/early evening bike ride last night.  I promised myself to take Thursday and Friday off the bike, but I succumbed to the offer.  She was itching to get some miles in after RAGBRAI and, well....

What was the offer that made me change my mind?

A good one:  To ride the Great Western Trail and then on to Mullets for dinner before the return trip.  That's 16.5 miles x 2 + 4.5 miles x 2 = 42 miles.  That sounded good after a day of score study and working on Suor Angelica and Curlew River.

We pedaled into Des Moines and made it to Mullet's in time to grab a dinner table up on the upper terrace to enjoy the wonderful summer weather...


We both had salads after splitting a 1/2 order of nachos with brisket (YUM!). 

42 miles is not quite short enough to be considered a recovery spin, but I did manage to keep it in Zone 1/2 for the entire duration of 3 hours of on the bike time.  Legs felt good and I did want to go faster on the way home, but I held it in check.  The ride cost me more TSS than I wanted to spend with a race coming up.  Needless to say, the only goal of this race may just be to finish as my legs could be too cooked to expect anything out of them other than pain and discomfort on Sunday.

We will be rough camping, so I will bring along our camping shower and 10 gallons of drinking water.  Tara will bring her road bike along to get in some weekend miles.

Friday had me out at Lake Ahquabi for a couple of hours swinging the scythe like a mad golfer to trim some of the connector section trails.  After I had built up 2 blisters, I switched to my other tool and lopped open another section that had grown in a bit too much.  I have one section of trail left to address with the scythe and one small connector section with the loppers.  Two trees need to be hit with the chainsaw.  Then the entire route is entirely opened up with no ticklers, good sight lines and should hold pretty well as we move through August and September unless a bunch of rain comes and ignites some more growth.  Token maintenance, mowing and removal of spoke/derailleur wreckers will be done in September for final preparations.


American Gothic and Balloons?

Odd mix for sure, but balloons and a sculpture captivated our Wednesday evening last night (with some ice cream from the Outside Scoop thrown in for good measure).   A sculpture based on Grant Wood's famous American Gothic has landed in Indianola for the next 6 months becoming the most photograhped object in years for this city.  Expect to see it on Christmas cards, announcements, family photos, blogs, Facebook, and who knows what else over the months ahead.  The city actually recently set up road blocks in front of the structure to prevent the endless stream of cars from parking in front of it to get a picture.

What most don't see in the sculpture is the point of American jobs being shipped overseas.  The country stickers on the luggage of the farmer and his spinster daughter signify all of the countries where American jobs have been shipped.  You can read about the artists, Seward Johnson, and his purpose for this project here.
Tara at 5'3" shows how tall the 30 foot sculpture is in reality...


And the Balloon Festival is underway this week with launches every day at 6:30 a.m. and p.m.  I captured a couple of shots as we headed out for ice cream last night...

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As usual, our dogs are going mashugana when they are in the sky - and especially when they fly over or near our house.  In fact, I am about to take them for their morning walk as they hear the heaters in the balloons making noise as I type this!!!