12/28/14

Saddle Time...

Tara went out for a walk with the dogs this morning, and when she returned she announced it was beautiful outside and to get ready to go on a long bike ride with her. After some coffee, cereal, and catching up on some work, I got suited up in my 26-33 degree riding gear. We drove over to Martensdale to ride the Great Western Trail to Mullets and back for a 44 mile round trip.

She was right, the bright sunshine, clear air, and pleasant temperatures made for a nice picturesque ride. We were quickly reminded how beat up the south end of the GWT is as it really needs to be resurfaced. After a nice lunch at Mullets, we turned the ships around and headed back to Martensdale into a slight headwind which got the HR up a bit more. I had not overdressed, so was just right comfort wise. Tara's toes were freezing as she was in her normal summer cycling shoes since she doesn't own any winter ones. My iPhone froze up again about 2 miles from the parking lot due to the colder temperatures and headwind because I had it exposed on my handlebars. We made it back home fine where we chowed down on a take and bake pizza from Papa Murphy's.

The 3 hour ride wrapped up a 12 1/2 hour training week amidst a busy weekend of getting my lesson plans, and materials ready for Germany. I have three or four meetings tomorrow, some online judging to complete (divided between Monday and Tuesday), a list of errands, dropping off a car for a new tie rod, smoking 3 chickens, and some phone calls will make for a hectic Monday.

We were captured by Judy Pauley the other night as a family sitting on a couch...



I need longer days this coming week to get all I need to do completed. Time management will be kicking into overdrive starting tomorrow morning...

12/26/14

Christmas Day.....2014!

Christmas Day 2014 has come and gone. Fun was had by all as we spent time with family, shared thoughts, food, wine, and talked about what is coming up in the future.

Tara was happy with her favorite Balsamic Vinegar from Modena, Italy...



Alexa was pleased with her New England Patriots stocking cap...



Zack was content with some iTunes credit...



I was good with some Godiva dark chocolate macaroons...



On and on it went as we unwrapped presents, enjoyed the giving, and went on throughout the day. I was not expecting sunshine and 50 degrees, but when that happened I had to get out on the bike for a couple of hours to burn some calories to make room for the Christmas dinner.

Out I went on the road bike...



I stopped at Summerset for a couple of shots...





...before motoring on home. Prime Rib, scalloped potatoes with gruyere, sauteed green beans, homemade apple pie, and Bruce Cakebread Cabernet was on the menu for the evening and it was all delicious.

Then we headed to the movie theater to see the 7:40 showing of Into the Woods which we all enjoyed. Christmas 2014 is in the books, and now we roll forward into 2015 ready to face what comes...

12/22/14

Trimming Trees and Training Stress...

Sung to the tune of 12 days of Christmas (pick it up somewhere in the latter part of the chorus):

...15 strings of lights, 3 extension cords, one roll of duct tape, and a green tree has lit the front yard!



The decorate the outside tree project was projected by me to take only about 30 minutes or so to set up. I blew a few fuses in the $2.98 strings of lights from Wal-Mart before I wired it all correctly, taped all the sockets with duct tape to keep the rain out, and got the tree lit up like I wanted. Between the trips back and forth to Wal-Mart to buy more strings, climbing up and down the ladder, dealing with all of the spaghetti wrapping it around each limb - I was at it for about 4+ hours to do just the one tree.

Training Stress...

I had a nice 40 mile ride on Sunday in the mist to wrap up a 12 hour training week. Being it was still deer hunting season, I avoided the heaviest hunted sections next to the trail and ended up doing two out and back trips to Summerset State Park from Indianola. Better safe than sorry as who knows if some hunter would mistake me for a deer?

December is turning out to be a decent base building month like it was last year. I am lifting weights on M/W/F, so total stress on the body has been pretty good with enough stiffness between my recoveries to remind me of my age. I've been going to the YMCA to take advantage of the leg press, rowing machine, and move what little iron I can compared to some of the gym rats in there. My body weight has trimmed down about 3 of the fall pounds that I had gained. This, in spite of me having nibbled here and there on some of the holiday delights that I have encountered.

December 2 - rode 24.6 miles for a duration of 1:34:32
December 4 - rode 5.57 miles for a duration of 00:33:43
December 5 - rode 5.58 miles for a duration of 00:32:00
December 6 - rode 29.3 miles for a duration of 1:58:20
December 7 - rode 23.2 miles for a duration of 1:37:48
December 9 - rode 23.2 miles for a duration of 1:35:30
December 10 - rode 18.4 miles for a duration of 1:09:27
December 12 - rode 23.7 miles for a duration of 1:29:50
December 13 - rode 17.4 miles for a duration of 1:11:19
December 14 - rode 27.5 miles for a duration of 2:07:46
December 16 - rode 18.3 miles for a duration of 1:21:53
December 17 - rode 18.4 miles for a duration of 1:14:00
December 18 - rode 21.5 miles for a duration of 1:05:00
December 19 - rode 17.4 miles for a duration of 1:57:11
December 21 - rode 40.3 miles for a duration of 2:42:13

December Totals: 314.35 miles  --  22:10:35 hours

Tara and Alexa are making homemade pizza tonight with salmon, pesto, buffalo mozzarella, and sun dried tomatoes.  Yum!


12/21/14

Winter has arrived!!!

Today begins Winter with the Solstice and shortest day of the year in terms of daylight. Fall was pretty favorable here in Iowa - outside of one brief cold snap when the Vortex dipped down to make our faces hurt for a few days.

I decorated the tree this past week, and even did some outside (I'll take a shot of the exterior tonight to post up tomorrow).




Happy Birthday...


to my Dad, Preston who turns 88 today in Rapid City, South Dakota. We were out visiting for his birthday 2 years ago. Here are Dad, Zack, and Alexa in his apartment...



Happy Birthday DAD!

Temperatures are a nice 42 degrees today, so I think I'm going to head out for a multi-hour bike ride to take advantage of just about wrapping up my 2014 riding. I used this week as a pretty heavy training week with a lot of TSS from rides, and weights. I'm due for a R&R week beginning tomorrow where I will continue with the weights, and dial back the miles and intensity. My ATP goals of the year were to increase by only about 10% the hours from 2013 (433 hours in 2013). 

I will do a quick follow up post on all of that next week once I tally the final numbers, but I actually am close to the additional 10% I was seeking. I've been using December as month one of base building for 2015. Everything I've read for the Master's athlete is, due to recovery, keep the hours pointed towards quality vs. quantity. So I have about maxed out the annual hours that I need to with this year being the most ever. Next year, I will not attempt to exceed this year's hours by adding 10%, but will focus on higher quality hours of the same amount.

Upcoming: Tara and I celebrate our 25th Wedding Anniversary on December 30th!!! It's a big milestone for us in many ways. I'm looking forward to all the years to come with Tara. 

12/17/14

Happy Hanukkah 2014!

Happy Hanukkah from our family to yours. 

Last night was the first night of Hanukkah. Being an interreligious family, we celebrate both Jewish and Christian holidays. Last year Hanukkah fell on Thanksgiving, but this year it is mid-December.



I made Paula Deen's crockpot pot roast yesterday for the occasion, and somehow I totally misread the directions.  It called for making a "house spice" to use on the beef. I thought it was supposed to be used entirely on the roast when the recipe called for sprinkling it on the meat before searing it. It was actually a supply to keep in storage for many uses - not just this one time. Luckily, I didn't trust it totally and did not make or use the full amount of house spice. Nor did I use any boullion cubes (called for 3). If I had - we would have been ordering out, or going out as the meal would have been a total loss.

Needless to say, even with me leaving out the boullion and only making about 1/2 to 2/3's of the house spice - it was still way too salty. So Tara went into salvage mode by adding the juice of a lemon, and some honey to cut the sugar in the gravy. We actually managed to eat it, but think of oversalted movie popcorn.  Now double that.  That's how salty this was. Plenty of water was consumed by all the rest of the evening. We will polish off the leftovers tonight after some exercise to burn off the sodium, and hydrate heavily for round two.

Happy Hanukkah!




12/15/14

Rainy days and Mondays always get me...

Monday morning and it is raining. In honor or the late Karen Carpenter, I'm making the coffee and organizing breakfast while listening to her golden throat...



The weekend seemed to blow right on through with the warm winds from the south. Fred Lorber's funeral was on Friday. It was a fitting tribute and celebration to Fred's life and how he touched all those he encountered. We shared some special music, listened to three wonderful eulogies, and the Rabbi's message. Fred had touched everyone in the room through his stories, character, charisma, deeds, and love for life. Tears were shared, laughs were shared, respect was shared. One left the Temple filled with the good fortune of having known Fred.  

Since I was all dressed up and in Des Moines, I went shopping in the afternoon for things I need to take to Germany.  I got home and went out for a bike ride to enjoy the warm temperatures.  After a nice warm shower, I had dinner with Tara and Zack.

Saturday began with a meeting from 11:30 - 2:30, and was followed by picking up a suit that was tailored, and dropping off another for alterations.  Then a quick lunch with Tara at Palmer's Deli. A bike ride with my lights on where a buck running at full tilt nearly took me out on the Summerset Trail at dusk. I made it back home and had a lovely dinner of lamb, rice, and butternut squash.

Sunday was a mellow morning in bed with coffee and CBS. We wanted to take advantage of the 60 degree temperatures, so Tara and I headed out on the road bikes. After passing Summerset State Park on the Summerset Trail, there were so many hunters out in the fields and pickups parked along the gravel roads we turned around for fear of getting shot. We altered our route and managed to make up the miles on alternative trails, and roads to get our 2+ hours in for the day. Then I just tuned into football for some mindless entertainment until I went to the store to purchase the evening's produce that I wanted to cook. More football, and then it was bed time. Seems like the three days just flew by...

...and now it is rainy and Monday!

12/12/14

Celebrating Fritz today...

Tara and I have been asked to sing this morning at the memorial service for Fred "Fritz" Lorber who passed away on Tuesday.  His obituary and an edited video of him from last year talking about his WW II experience are at that link.

He touched all that knew him.  My Simpson students had the pleasure of hearing the story of how his family left Vienna to come to the US as World War II was starting.

Tara and I had just been to his 91st birthday celebration dinner a few weeks ago where he was sharp as a tack. He always wanted me to sing some operetta from Vienna, so that is what we will be doing this morning to open the service.

RIP Fritz Lorber...

12/7/14

Saturday's story: It fits!!!

Knowing there would be crowds out shopping, I braved it alone to hit up two of my favorite shopping venues in Des Moines. Saturday noon time had temperatures that were nice, and it fit my day's schedule to shop, get lunch, ride my bike, and end with Virginia and Nix's Christmas Party.

The hunt for tall/slim man's clothing has improved! Everything I have purchased in the past two weeks was on sale to boot. My new Levi's (a nice pair of 32 x 36 original fit 501's) arrived from San Francisco yesterday.



According to the tracking # of a pair of sweaters, they are due to arrive on my doorstep tomorrow. Two new Michael Kors suits - 40L with 32 x 36" trousers - both being taken in a bit in the waist of the pants, and the sides of the jacket - will be ready by the 16th of the month.



A Calvin Klein suit I bought last year that fit great at the time before I dropped 20 pounds is being altered in the same manner - taken in at the waist, and the jacket sides are being tapered in for a trimmer fit.  I still need a few more dress shirts in a tapered slim fit with long enough sleeves, but that's next on the hunting list.  I got one new belt and some new socks on sale as well yesterday.

My first purchase of a pair of Danish Company ECCO shoes confirms that I have now moved into old age going for comfort over style.  They actually are a great blend of form, function, and style compared to my usual Italian or Johnston and Murphy loafer preference.  Color me impressed. Imagine?  Me with a pair of shoes that do not have leather soles!!!!  I'll have to get used to walking again...



I stumbled upon a heavily discounted pair of Steve Madden shoes that was the final pair the store had in that model from last year.  The sales price was aided by an additional 25% discount at Younkers which meant they also graced my shopping bag.

I stopped in at Palmer's Deli for a Turnberry sandwich to go, and couldn't resist grabbing a 7 layer bar to toss in my lunch bag with the pickle, sandwich, and bottled water as well.  I knew I had 30 miles on tap for a training ride and would easily burn the calories.  Wow, was it good.  YUM!!!

I headed out for my 2 hour ride on my own version of the Global Fat Bike day by running my 30mm wide gravel tires on the road bike.  ;-)  I had my music going full bore with Sinatra, Beethoven, Saint-Saens, Kiss, AC/DC, Nazareth, Joan Jett, Massenet, etc..., heart rate pumping in the 145 - 162 range the entire ride, and all was well until mile 25 when the iPhone battery suddenly went from 1/2 charged to giving me the low battery signal - which then about a minute later resulted in it shutting off.  Go figure, but it turns out it was the cold air.  iPhones do not like the cold and since it was mounted on my handlebars, the windchill made it act up.  I plugged it in at home and after a couple of minutes it jumped to life and warmed up only to show that the battery indeed still had 1/2 a charge.

I shaved and showered, got dressed and headed to Des Moines with Tara to enjoy a wonderful Christmas Party at the Lauridsen's.  The Simpson College Madrigal Singers were singing at the party, and we all sang Christmas Carols with Jamie and Bernard taking turns at the piano.  My favorite moment came when I was standing next to an attractive woman about my age who was nursing a glass of wine and enjoying the music we were all singing. After she heard me sing various carols, and after I cut loose on O Holy Night - she asked me if I had been in high school choir.  Too funny!!  I said yes, and asked her if she had been in high school choir as well.  She said no, but she was on the baton twirling team. It was a great moment and I wasn't going to spoil it for her that I had trained beyond "high school choir" for a few decades. The party was such fun with beautiful decorations, delicious food and what seemed like an endless supply of beverages that were enjoyed by the crowd of what looked to be 100.  Thank you Virginia and Nix!!!!

All in all a great Saturday.  And one that FIT all the way around...

12/2/14

Black Friday and weekend Shopping BUST!!!

I have been holding off on purchasing new clothes since I dropped weight this year, and making do with what I do have (even though I am really swimming in all of it).  Now that I am back to my 31" waist, I remember well the frustration from years ago of trying to get pants that fit.  Hilfiger worked back then, but they don't make much in my length anymore for some reason.  Buying off the rack is nearly impossible as very few stores anywhere have pants that are 31" x 36" or even 32 x 36" which I could get altered to snug them up.

A typical suit in 42L comes with the smallest pants being 36" waist.  No way they can take in 5" off of the waist without the front pockets becoming back pockets!!!  And the crease would be from my hip to the knee which would be way too funny.  Buying suit separates would be my ticket, but even then - it is rare to find pants with enough of an inseam I need to match the waist unless I up the game to a Brooks Brothers $1200 suit.  I can find a lot of 30" x 32" or 31" by 32" pants - but I need 4 more inches in length.  Even online, all the designers don't have pants in my size.

I did manage to try on enough things this weekend in the war zone of Black Friday weekend to get the waist correct.  I ordered and got a sale on Levi 501's from the Strauss website in the correct size as no store carried my size.  And I got a couple of sweaters online for the Black Friday sale price that are being shipped to me.  Same sale price as this weekend, but I have to pay the shipping to get the sizes I need.

I am sorely in need of a couple of new suits in my size since most everything else I have is 44L with 34 or 36" waist pants from my unhealthy years.  One suit, I think I can take in from 34" waist and salvage it (my black Calvin Klein suit).  The rest are history for now.

I may have to wait until I get over in Europe where I never had a problem getting things long enough - even off the rack - in Austria, and Germany.  Suffice it to say, the hunt is on for the sizing and style I can live with for the price.

It's much like buying bikes for me.  Stores and companies only target the majority.  Being tall and slim puts one in the minority as the supply and demand equation is not in my favor for clothes here in the US.

One of my favorite blogs, Tall Adaptations, is well versed in my dilemma.

11/30/14

Post Thanksgiving calorie burn...

No need to deny that we joined everyone else in the US by downing 3000 - 4000 calories on Thursday, and then again with the leftovers on Friday.  Ma Nature dialed in a 57 degree day yesterday (which was up from the 2 degrees on Thanksgiving morning) and led to a husband/wife Fall ride out and about to burn 1400 of those calories.

The snow was melting, the pavement was sweating and in various areas there was plenty of moisture to kick up off of the tires.  Tara stopped as we cruised through the Summerset State Park loop...



I was riding the mountain bike today due to all of the moisture, sand, salt and grit on the roads from what they dump around here when it snows...



The ride to Carlisle was fairly easy with a nice tailwind.  Arriving in Carlisle, I realized I was being fueled only by a piece of pumpkin pie that I had eaten about an hour before we headed out.  So I stopped at the Casey's and got a Snickers Almond small bar to chow down to fuel my ride home against the wind.

Turning against the headwind jacked the heart rate up about 12 beats to maintain the same speed, but we tucked down and headed south.  The sun was shining, but was blocked at times by a very thin cloud covering.  Yet it was still Fall temperatures in the 50's and it was nice to be out grinding away.

We stopped at the new icon entitled Beneath the Maples on the Simpson Campus to get a shot of the icon...



Once home, I dived into making my traditional turkey casserole.  While it cooked, I got busy preparing a speech in German for an event in January.  We all dove into the casserole when Tara pointed out I forgot to put the bag of peas I purchased into it.  RATS!  Oh well, maybe next year. Dessert was a bottle of special Eiswein from the Burgenland in Austria that I had been given as a gift. Yum!  Add that to the calories consumed column.

Temperatures are down to 19 this morning with howling winds, which will make the choice of today's calorie burn most likely of the indoor variety.

11/27/14

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wishing a very Happy Thanksgiving to all family and friends today!



I had planned on attending the 15th Annual Turkey Day Ride at Center Trails this morning at 8 am. However, due to temperatures being 4 degrees, and all the snow we got yesterday along with my mountain bikes all being fitted with XC Renegades at the moment - I decided to stay upright and safe here at home.  Trainer ride in the basement instead.  It will jump from 4 degrees this morning, to 54 on Saturday which should melt the snow and allow me to get out on pavement to burn off the food we are about to enjoy.

My niece is here from California, and two of my college students who did not travel home for Thanksgiving will be joining us to give thanks on this day.  The turkey is about to come out of the honey brine, and will go on the Big Green Egg for a nice smoke at about 11:30 this morning.  Pies are made.  Bread is made.  Sweet potatoes are made.  Everything else is about to commence for the big day.

11/26/14

Trainer Time...

Say what you want about gravel, riding in the snow, strapping on the lights to ride in the dark after work, squeezing in a ride on pavement when the snow is clear or melted - but I'm usually turning to the basement to hop on what has entered this past week or two as trainer time...



Not that I won't be grabbing some miles outside the next 6 weeks as I will be able to thanks to the Holiday Breaks from work with the academic calendar.  Yes, I too, like the off road adventure - be it gravel, dirt, snow, or pavement in the Winter.

I had a window of opportunity yesterday morning to bundle up and ride frozen singletrack before work.  However, rather than loading up the car and driving to Banner Pits, it was just easier to go in the basement, turn on the fans, and ride the LeMond.

"Tis the season.

I have certainly been running up against the conventions of familiarity, and the accompanying resistance to change the past few months as I organize the 2015 IMBCS Race Season.  This is one famous quote I turn to often to keep the inspiration tank full...



11/24/14

Blow, blow, thou winter wind...

I can honestly say that my lapse in posting has not been related to lack of content, but has everything to do with burning the candle at both ends.  No need to play catch up, but suffice it to say that preparing students for NATS on November 7-8, attending NATS, organizing the IMBCS 2015 Race Schedule, meeting with potential sponsors for the IMBCS, preparing lesson plans for Germany, attending concerts, recitals, and the long teaching day is what I have been immersed in the past few weeks.  Throw in a 3 week training block that I just completed - and, well....time just floated on by with the winds that seem to be blowing in the front edge of Winter.

Speaking of winter, I got the winter tires put on my Element last Thursday.  I got a new set of the same tires - thanks to a sale and rebate - for Zack's Element put on this weekend.  Alexa's Mariner gets outfitted with new tires tomorrow.  'Tis the season for winter tires.

Speaking of tires...

On the mountain biking front, I was pleased to hear that Panaracer released a 29 x 2.35 version of one of my all time favorite tires - the Fire XC Pro.



I have not seen the details on the weight for the 29"er version yet, but I'm glad Panaracer came back with this tire and in the new size - and at such a good price point!!!

The teaching week will be short on account of the Thanksgiving Break.  Today and tomorrow will be followed by 5 days off (plenty of prep work to do, so I won't be "off") which will allow me to get some solid base miles in to round out November.  My neice, Rachel is here for the week from Santa Cruz for Thanksgiving, and of course Alexa is home from college for the week - so we have lots of plans to fill out the week.

11/2/14

November wonder...

It has really been a pleasure to enjoy viewing the fall colors the past 5 or 6 weeks.  The colors came later this year than previous years, so it has been nice having a longer period with leaves still on the trees.  I hate the time period when all we have are bare trees for 5 months, so at least we got about 3 extra weeks on this end of the bare season.

A favorite from this fall...

LakeAhquabiFall2014

October ended with the traditional Beggars' Night for Trick or Treating in Indianola on Thursday.  Zack and Hannah dressed up and scared the majority of kids that came to our door between 6-8 pm.  They had a nice playlist of eerie music playing, and even Max was scared by it all.

Zach, Max, Hannah

Thursday and Friday were days off at Simpson as it was Fall Break.  I used the opportunity, along with the weekend, to do some cleaning at home, get things ready for taxes in April, smoke some meat, lift weights, and do some mountain bike rides at Lake Ahquabi, Center Trails, and Banner.  I wrapped up the week of riding nearly 10 hours by doing 3 laps at Banner Pits on the full route.  I want to start "testing" the distance of longer race efforts to see if I have what it takes to uprade next season.  So the process starts now.

I am never a fan of the time change as we lose what little daylight we had after work to squeeze in a ride.   I will have to dig out my lights and charge them up if I want to do any post-work riding for the next 2 months.  The weather is still good, and the trails are in perfect shape - so why not?

The good news for this week is that the silly political ads, phone calls, emails, texts will all end once Tuesday's election takes place.  I'm sure everyone is sick of seeing and hearing them to the point that we are all ready to write in a candidate.  Oy!

Have a good week and don't forget to get out and vote!

10/27/14

And with that, the season is a wrap...

Saturday was the annual Dirty Duathlon which is a fund raiser for Central Iowa Trails Association.

I try to do the race every fall as the funds go to CITA.  This year, the funds are to help build a new section of trail at Center Trails during the Spring of 2015 that will make for a nice loop.  Some years I am unable to attend the Dirty Du due to opera rehearsals, or other plans.  It's called the "dirty" duathlon because the event takes place on the dirt singletrack trails in Des Moines in and around the Greenwood Park area.  A runner begins with a 2 mile run, then rides a mountain bike for 10 miles, and then it ends with another 2 mile run.  One can do it solo, or as a relay.

I've done it both ways - including with Alexa when we won the Sprint version a few years ago.  I've done it solo on at least 3 different occasions, and I teamed up with former student Brandon Hyde to take on the Men's relay the past two times I have done it.  It's pretty low key, but you can make it whatever you want depending on the effort you grind out.  It's usually my year end wrap for the mountain bike racing season.

This year, I teamed up for the co-ed relay full Dirty Du with 2012 Simpson Alumna, Amelia Borgomainerio.  Amelia is a runner and needed a mountain biker to join her, so we hooked up and became a team.  Amelia claimed on the CITA website that she was "in it to win it".  Tara and I had spent the evening with Alexa in Iowa City on Friday, and had breakfast with her Saturday morning before driving back.  I drove directly to the race venue and noticed that we had beautiful fall weather on Saturday in the low 70's.  The trail was in perfect condition for the race, and CITA had things set up for a great event.

Amelia began with the run at 1 pm, and when she completed her lap, tagged me and off I went for the bike laps.  I was able to work my way through the crowd quite a bit and was only passed by one bike during my 10 miles (the eventual 1st Place Winner) who was competing with his young daughter.  My laps were pretty full throttle for me as I kept my HR in the 164 - 171 area anytime I wasn't going down the hill.  I forgot to turn my Wahoo Fitness App on until about 5 minutes into the race, but managed to turn it on during one of the climbs.  It was a full out XC race effort by me that was equivalent of a CAT II race.  I felt pretty good out there and was able to keep things moving throughout.

DirtyDuRace

Photo courtesy of Eric Roccasecca

I finished my portion and tagged off to Amelia who went for her final 2 mile portion.  Fun was had by all and we managed to end up in 3rd Place for the Co-Eds...

image

Thanks to Cheryl Dralle and CITA for hosting yet another great Dirty Du!!!

I went out for the longest ride I have done in October on Sunday to shake out the legs from Saturday's race effort.  And that was only 101 minutes to Carlisle and back on the road bike as October was me just maintaining the shape I had to do the race in Red Wing, and the Dirty Du.  I maintained my form by doing shorter rides with intensity and not many hours.  I will now move into the off season fun rides, weight lifting, and base building before heading off to Germany in January.  After the ride, I loaded up two chickens in the Big Green Egg to smoke, and then headed off to the Chamber Singers Concert at Simpson.

My racing season this year spanned from the Psycowpath Race on March 29th in Bellevue, NE - to October 25th if I count the Dirty Du.  That included 12 XC State Series events that I did in Nebraska, Iowa, Minnesota, and Wisconsin.  My two "extra" events were the Dakota Five-0 in South Dakota, and the Dirty Du in Des Moines.  Compared to 2012 and 2013, that's a more manageable number of events considering I did 22 in 2012, and 17 in 2013.

10/20/14

Red Wing Race Report...

Knowing that it was near peak weekend for fall leaf colors, Tara decided to join me on a drive up to Red Wing this past Sunday to see the fall colors.  I know we did that at least once when we lived in New York City, and headed up to Vermont for a weekend.

The peak colors can vary 2-3 weeks depending on the weather, but this year they are a bit later than normal here in the upper Midwest.  Regardless, the timing worked out perfectly for us.  I wanted to race in the rescheduled Minnesota Mountain Bike Series event that originally was supposed to be in June, but rain in the forecast caused a postponement.  Luckily, the trail organization at Red Wing, and their crew, were able to figure out a date that would work for them while still providing MMBS to have their full 10 race season.

I like the Red Wing course a lot, and saw that I had Sunday free to travel to the race, so that's what we did.  We made a road trip for fall colors and mountain bike racing.

We left the house at 6 am and Tara got a picture of the sunrise as we headed north...

Sunrise

Thanks to sharing driving duties, I was able to work on a flat tire my rear bike wheel had while we motored up I-35.  I added sealant, and pumped the tire back up (which is not easy while sitting in the front seat).  We arrived a bit later than I would have liked, but I got dressed, made my drink mix, and headed to the registration table to pick up my number plate.  Then I headed out for a 15-20 minute brief warm-up in the blustery fall morning, that was filled with beautiful sunshine and fall colors every where one looked.

I lined up about 10 minutes before the start and noticed that the 2nd Wave would be all the 40-49, 50-59, and 60+ racers.  Usually we are near the rear of all the start waves, but this time we would go second.

Tara snapped a shot of me with my game face starting to develop...

GameFaceOn

I got some final tips and directions from a fellow racer in my group before we took off...

FinalInstructions

After the call ups for our combined wave of three age categories had been completed, I was lined up back in the bunch at the line.  On the "GO!", I was able to move up to the top 10-12 quite easily in the opening meadow section as my legs were feeling good for racing.  I knew that this race was going to be a lot longer than the typical 60 - 70 minute version of a Sport race due to the number of laps we were slated to do - 3.  So I didn't want to get too excited right off the bat, and thought about pacing to remain strong throughout the race.

RedWingRacing

I recognized a racer (Steve Kapaun) in front of me that is usually near or on the podium, and managed to settle in behind him.  I have finished behind Steve before, as well as ahead of him - so he was a good marker for me to tuck in behind.  By my count of who had lined up at the start, Steve was the final podium spot with Craig Brown right in front of him.  I remained on Steve's wheel and when we came into the final open meadow section after a long climb, I really thought about passing both he and Craig in front of him as my HR monitor said we were just cruising along in that meadow at Tempo, rather than in race pace.  Again, my strategy was to follow these two riders, pace myself well, and the strategy developed - whether it was good or bad at the time - to making the decision I would attempt to make my move in either the 2nd or the 3rd lap at or around that same spot.

As we came around the start/finish area for the 2nd lap, Tara snapped a shot of me which shows the vivid fall colors we were all fortunate to experience out there...

RedWingColors

In that opening meadow section where I noticed Steve had slowed down during lap one - he took off, and I gave pursuit to stay in contact.  So, that adjusted my strategy to wait until the 3rd lap to make my move.  Lap three had some of the faster racers from waves that started behind us catching up and asking to pass.  Other than that, it was going according to plan and I was hanging on the wheel of the rider in front of me.  I was riding my Dos Niner which has wider handlebars than my Niner bikes, and negotiating between some of the tight trees was going fine, but took good timing, balance and coordination at this race speed.

About 2/3's of the way through lap three on a tight tree section that didn't give me any troubles before, I snagged the right side of my handlebar on a tree.  That stopped me dead in my tracks and threw me as well as the bike into a tree on the left side where my helmet smashed into the tree.  My chain also flew off and the 2 guys behind me screamed at me to "Get out of the way!!!".  There were no "Are you okay?" sympathies shared from what they had just seen.  So I moved out of the way and it took far too long to get my chain back on than I would have liked.  I fumbled with it in 3 or 4 attempts to get the chain on and get going again.  Rats!!!  "Game Over" I thought, but there was no way I was going to go down without a fight.

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So digging deep, I gave chase in hopes I could make up a 20+ second deficit before we ran out of singletrack real estate.  I pushed my heart rate higher than I thought I could take, but was heroics or nothing at this point if I wanted it that bad.   I felt like I was slowly crawling my way back into it, but was still about 15-18 seconds or so behind where I had been before hitting the tree by my count.  Since we were already nearing the 90 minute point, I was in a deeper pain and suffering mode than usual, and the extra effort spent trying to catch up was draining my tank.  I just didn't have it in my legs to catch back up to Steve who finished 18 seconds ahead of me for the final podium spot.  I gave it my all though, and had the tree hit not happened, who knows if I would have had enough left in the tank to pull off a pass and make it stick?  Regardless, I was happy with my effort at this level of competition.

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Post race posing...

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I think Kyle Williams (who raced Sport in the 30-39 age class, and got 3rd in that group) said it best.  Something like "COMP in Minnesota is like Elite in Iowa, and Sport in Minnesota is like COMP in Iowa".

However one says it, any time I make it to the top 5 in Wisconsin or Minnesota is a good effort for me as the competition is really high.  After the race and results were posted, we took off to find a suitable lunch spot in Red Wing.  We wandered in at Marie's Underground Grill and Tavern which turned out to be a nice local spot for lunch.  Then we hopped in the car for the return trip.

Full color in Red Wing...

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567 miles round trip was a bit much for the day when you add in a 90 minute race, but seeing the colors on or near the peak weekend made the trip worth it - as did the always well run Minnesota Mountain Bike Series events.  I'm glad they were able to have the race as it was a fun one - as always.  Kudo to all those involved in the MMBS and to the local crew at Red Wing for getting the course ready and hosting the event!!!

We rolled into Indianola about 7:30 pm tired and tuckered out...

10/6/14

What a weekend!!!!

It is no wonder I slept for 9 hours of uninterrupted sleep last night after the busiest week of the year for me.  Not even the dogs could stir me before 7 am this morning!!!!

Services on Friday night (2 hours), Saturday morning (2 hours), Saturday afternoon (4pm, 5pm and 6 pm - which morphed into the 7 pm service) singing with this excellent group of musicians...

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...made for a spiritual and musical highlight this Yom Kippur.  Not being Jewish, it is pretty easy to follow along with all the Old Testament stuff due to the similarities to my upbringing in the United Methodist Church.

Tara awoke long before the crows were up on Sunday morning and I think was out of the house at 4 am on her way to the airport and California.  I managed to sort of stay awake, then get ready for The Mullet Fall Classic race day which had me out of the house by 6:30 am with my U-Haul behind the Element to drive down to Lake Ahquabi and set up shop.

Bob Matthews pulled in about 15 minutes later and we went to work to make The Mullet happen.  Lake Ahquabi at 7 am...

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The trail was groomed to perfection and in perfect condition for racing.

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Bob and Andy built a nice zig-zag style maze at the start/finish area to please spectators and provide for plenty of heckling and teasing that went on during the racing...

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160 racers toed the line this year (down from last year where we had 168) and enjoyed sunshine, fall weather (high was 64), potluck, a beer garden, a generous prize table (ended up with 134 prizes)...

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...awards, fun, and frivolity to end the 2014 IMBCS season.   I had a tremendous group of volunteers that handled registration, timing, course set-up/tear-down, marshalling duties, prize table distribution duty, potluck, gopher duty, and could not be more pleased with each and every one of them.

After the long day, and very successful day of racing - I rolled out of Lake Ahquabi State Park at 7:12 pm confident we had left the park in a better condition than we had found it 12 hours prior.  I got home, had dinner with Zack and was sound asleep by 9 pm.  The High Holy Days singing, the lead up to the race, and the race day itself took a lot out of me.  All good, but combining the two on the same weekend was more draining than I thought it would be 10 months ago when I scheduled everything.

Since I did not race The Mullet this year by choice so I could focus on being an actual race director, I went out after work today to ride 2 laps at race speed.  I wanted to jump start the legs and just see where I would have stacked up on my home course.  It's always difficult to emulate true race conditions when riding by yourself, but I tried as best I could.  I had turned 32:16 laps the prior weekend on Sunday and Monday making sure I had the course set up right for this year.  Not having ridden since Monday, and without any warm-up after work -  I turned two laps in 1:04:35.  My 2nd lap was a minute quicker than my first lap as I was warmed up and in the groove.  Not a fair comparison, but had I rolled a 1:04:35 if I had raced on Sunday it would have been good enough for 3rd overall in CAT II Sport, and 1st in my age group.  At least it was good enough for my peace of mind.  More importantly, I got to see the course in the counterclockwise direction in the same conditions all the racers saw it yesterday.  It was perfect and really, really fun. 

I'm sorry not more could experience it, but I realize people are busy, some are under the weather, and a myriad of reasons always leads to who shows up and who doesn't show up.  In spite of that, I was really pleased with how the event turned out this year as I thought it was my best effort of the 7 years I have hosted this race.  Ma Nature has been more than kind to me each and every year.  For that, I feel very fortunate....

10/3/14

Singing tonight, and all day tomorrow...

Tonight at sunset begins with the Kol Nidre service to usher in Yom Kippur....

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I'll be singing the service tonight, as well as starting tomorrow morning at 10 am with continuous services until a bit after 7:00 pm when the fast is broken.  Yes, that is a big, long day tomorrow with lots of great music on tap for me to sing.

Special thanks to my colleague at Simpson - Jamie Poulsen - for the arrangement of Avinu Malkeinu with organ.  Hey, when two United Methodist Minister's sons get together - we can do great things!  ;-)  It's quickly become my favorite prayer to sing this year.  It mirrors the version Sherrill Milnes recorded with Jon Spong.  Milnes sang in Janowski's Temple Choir in Chicago in the early 60's and nailed the style in his recording.  I'm sure working with Janowski would have been fun.  I have to assume that Milnes sang it in the style Janowski taught it to him, so of all the versions I've listented to - I keep going back to the Milnes version as a reference. 

In honor of Yom Kippur and the great prayer, here's Jan Peerce singing the great Janowksi piece as originally written...



9/29/14

The Mullet Fall Classic week is here...!!!

This is the week, and....

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A trail work day on Saturday morning yielded 22 of us to take on the grooming, raking, trimming, tree cutting, erosion spot filling, etc... of the 6.5 mile loop we will use this year for Sunday's race.  Three more erosion spots will get attention this week, and then everything is good to go.

A few shots from Saturday...

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I mowed the grassy areas on Friday, worked with the crew and made breakfast for them with Tara on Saturday, did more work on Saturady afternoon, and tested out the trail Saturday late afternoon before setting up the camping site.  Tara and I camped out on Saturday night, then I did more trail work on Sunday before doing another lap to really figure out what still needed attention.  I hated missing the Night Cap up in Des Moines with BikeIowa.com, but this was the only weekend I could set aside to get the race course in shape.  Usually, the Oakley Night Cap has been held after The Mullet Fall Classic.  This year, however, they scheduled it a week before my event which meant being in two places at one time is simply not possible.  

In terms of the course at Ahquabi, a few spots could use a bit more trimming if I am being picky, but they are fine as is and won't hamper the race.  My time is limited this week with work, Yom Kippur rehearsals (singing lots of great music this year), and last minute details of picking up a trailer, the P.A. System, going over final to do lists and checklists, loading everything up so it is ready to go for the weekend.  In short, there are not enough hours in the day this week that I would like to have at my disposal.

Somehow, I managed to mow our own lawn this weekend, go to Yom Kippur rehearsal, have a meal with Tara at Centro, and get some sleep.

Although the forecast is a week out and I don't trust a forecast more than 24 hours, Ma Nature does look like she is going cooperate this weekend with sunshine and a high of 71 for The Mullet Fall Classic on Sunday.  Rain on Wednesday/Thursday in the forecasted amount of .6 - 1.3" which should dry out well on Friday with cool temperatures and wind before sunshine and warmth on Saturday and Sunday finish the course off into perfect conditions.  I may have to trim some of the grass again as the rain this past Friday, and what is coming mid-week will ignite the growth a bit quicker than I prefer.  Time being the issue to get everything done...

Enjoy National Coffee Day and drink up!!!

9/22/14

Fall Begins....Oktoberfest....Birthdays....and IMBCS Summerset Shootout Race Report!!!

I just had one of the best weekends of my 53 years to close out the Summer of 2014.  Saturday was my 53rd Birthday, and the family had plans for a unique celebration (which was all kept as a surprise to me).  Alexa arrived home on Thursday night for a 4 day weekend.

Friday night, Tara and I went to La Casa and joined up with Ron and Barb Albrecht for a nice visit and meal sitting outside on the patio enjoying the late summer weather.  A pair of Margaritas began my weekend festivities, and Saturday was a scheduled IMBCS mountain bike race at Summerset State Park.  Unfortunately, a storm brewed up in the early morning hours and dumped enough rain (1/2") to force a postponement to Sunday for the race.

That actually turned out well for us, as Alexa took me to a wonderful Birthday breakfast at La Mie.  Zack had work call for the opera, and Tara was getting her hair cut.  I ran into Fred Lorber at La Mie and we visited for a few minutes before Alexa informed me we needed to "be out of the house for a few more hours".  So we headed over to Rassy's to get my rear wheel spoke fixed and get the wheel trued.  Adam dug around and actually found a derailleur hanger for the JET 9.  Greg ordered a replacement derailleur that would replace the one I was about to steal from my wife's Air 9.  Then we headed over to Jordan Creek to see the new iPhone 6 and 6+ (very nice, by the way).  There was a line outside the store for those waiting to buy the new iPhone that had well over 150 people standing in it.  Alexa and I moved on to other stores and she bought me a nice new pair of cold weather riding gloves as a birthday present.

My cousin Marilyn reminded everyone on Facebook it was my Birthday with a photograph she had of me as an infant...

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Since the race was postponed a day, I flip-flopped what I had planned for Sunday morning and did it Saturday afternoon instead.  That was to do several hours of trail work out at Lake Ahquabi.  I was told I needed to be home, showered, and dressed in a nice clothes for a 5:30 pm departure.  I didn't want to wear myself out too much doing trail work, so I chose to trim the canopy which means I would be moving slowly and conserving energy.  I got the Mickey Mouse ears section of the trail trimmed and cleaned up, as well as two connector sections, and removed two fallen trees.  The mosquitoes didn't seem to care that I was lathered up in bug spray as I guess they knew summer was about to end.

I got home, showered, dressed in my suit and was ushered into the dining room area where I was presented with a surprise gift of a two temperature wine storage cellar unit (top for red wine, bottom for white wine) that was full of 12 premium bottles of select stuff from around the world.  Wow!  That was not expected at all and is quite a gift.  Bottles from Austria, France, Napa Valley, and beyond filled the storage unit.  Then I read the birthday cards and was told we needed to leave for our next step in the process.  I was informed that Zack and Alexa would not be dining with us.  Yet, they were all smiles about it.  Hmmm....

Off I was whisked in Tara's car and we headed south out of Indianola which I thought was odd.  I wasn't sure where we were going, or if there was some restaurant south of town or in another town that she had discovered via a recommendation.

Low and behold, we pulled into Lake Ahquabi State Park and there stood Lisa Seidenkranz and her son, the chef, Tyler who had prepared our first course of the evening's meal and set up a romantic, candlelit table in the shelter overlooking the lake.  Once we were greeted, they left us to enjoy our first course.  I left the suit jacket in the car as temperatures were in the 80's as we arrived.

The view...

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The setting...

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The date...

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Enjoying the Cakebread (one of my favorite wines)...

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This was a unique evening to say the least.  There were three young girls that had been swimming in the lake that kept walking by us where we were sitting.  We heard one whisper to the other "I think it's a date!" which tickled us.  After we ate the wonderful appetizer, and had a glass of wine, Tara took it an emotional step or two deeper than I was expecting.  Suffice it to say, she really touched me on a level that left me in tears (all in a good way).  We made a commitment to each other, and that will be symbolically carried out in December.

As beautiful as the setting was at Lake Ahquabi, and the time we were enjoying with each other - she had me on the move again at 7 pm to make the next stop in our evening's journey.  So we packed up and headed to Des Moines where we landed at the 801 Chophouse for the main dinner.  Much discussion and fun was had between us - along with some wonderful food.

It had been a long day for me since I awoke in the very early am thinking I would be racing, then the day out and about with Alexa, the trail work, the emotional release, and needless to say a few glasses of wine and good food led me to a bit of a nap on the way home in the car.  Thanks to my loving, wonderful wife - this was one of the most memorable birthdays for me that I will cherish for years to come.

Who needs Oktoberfest when you have a unique evening like that?  However, Oktoberfest was ushered in on Saturday with the opening celebrations in Munich.   The Summerset Shootout race was scheduled to usher it in, and The Mullet Fall Classic is scheduled to usher it out with the 9/20 - 10/5 dates bookmarking the festival.  Sunday morning had a nice breeze, full sunshine, and temperatures that were 10-15 degrees cooler than Saturday.  So the race was on for Sunday with an additional hour of drying time to make sure that the trails were in good hero dirt condition after Saturday's thunderstorm.  I had a nice relaxing morning at home with Tara as there was no need to drive two hours or more to this race as it was 10 minutes north of town.

I went out in the garage to tinker with the JET 9 and get the hanger and derailleur installed.  That went smoothly, but I soon realized that the SRAM X.9 derailleur required a longer cable than my destroyed X.0 - and I didn't have a spare derailleur cable in my parts bin!!!  OK - so the Dos Niner would be my bike of choice for the race instead.  No biggie as I had thrown the ST Thudbuster on there for a bit of extra cushion and have done more races on a Dos Niner over the years than any other bike.
 
I arrived at Summerset around noon, got registered, and went out for a 30 minute warm-up on the Summerset Trail.  My legs did feel stiff from all the bending over I had done on Saturday picking up the limbs I cut from the canopy.  Luckily, the warm-up helped flush all of that stiffness away.  I headed to the line to visit with everyone and get ready for the day's effort.

My wave lined up, and I got in the front row with Anthony Branch, Andre Rethman, and a younger rider who was wearing a full face mask helmet.  When Steve Fuller told us to go, I sprinted off the line pretty hard with Anthony content to sit in behind Anthony for the first part of the race.  I was surprised that the kid with the full helmet, shot around us before the singletrack.  Anthony went in behind him, and I was in the third spot.  Andy Peterson had moved up to the Comp race since he leads the Sport Class in points for the year and has that wrapped up.  And we were missing a few other usuals as well, so I was only up that far in the pack due to who was there (or rather not there).

It wasn't long before the kid with the full face helmet slowed as his match was burned out.  So 4 of us went around him.  This group of 4 of us traded places off and on throughout the first lap.  Finally, coming out of the Extra Credit section at the end of the first lap, I passed Anthony Branch to take the lead and never looked back. Everyone latched onto me for the start of lap two, but I slowly started to build a gap, and just kept adding to it refusing to back off.  This was the highest my heart rate had averaged for any race this year, and I was really breathing heavily as I hammered through what I have to consider one of my "home courses".  The Dos Niner was doing great and it felt good to race on it again.  It's quite a bit more flexy than my Niners, but no adjustment was needed with all the miles and races I have under my belt with the bike.

Eric Roccasecca captured me flying down the last section of Corner Pocket...

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I kept pushing myself all the way to the end, passed a few riders in the Comp Class, and crossed the line in 1st Place for my Age Class and in 1st Place overall for the Sport Category.  Again - that had more to do with who showed up to race and who didn't show up to race than anything different from me.  However, I did feel really strong in this race as I did in the prior two races.  Almost like I had hit a second peak in the season with the way I structured my training for mid-August until now.  So I ended the season (not sure if I'll race again this fall) with three 1st Place wins at George Wyth, Sugar Bottom, and Summerset which is a nice way to close out what has been an improved year of racing for me.

One of my favorite sections of Banner on top of the piles of whatever remnants are left from the coal mining days...

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Photo courtesy of Eric Roccasecca

Plenty of beers, chit-chatting, and fun was had in the Oktoberfest climate after the race as we all hung out post-race.  Kudos to Rick Blackford and the Rassy crew for hosting one of our signature events in the IMBS.  Having to deal with the weather and pulling off a postponement adds plenty of stress to the race director and crew - but it worked out well for everyone with the better weather and trail conditions on Sunday.

That's how my summer ended.  A great birthday, a wonderful wife, a caring family, good friends, and mountain bike racing.  If I could have a do over for the weekend - I wouldn't want it to be any different than it was.  Thanks to all!!!

Fall arrives this evening around 9:29 pm making the transition into cooler weather, fall colors, riding for fun, eating, and what not begin in earnest tomorrow.

9/19/14

Race Bike damage...

"When you least expect it, expect it"....I guess.

My schedule this year at work is overloaded which means I don't have time to hop on my bike until 6 pm or later this fall semester, so I try to get what I can when I can.  Yesterday, I wanted to head out early before school to see what conditions the trails were in at Lake Ahquabi due to the upcoming race I host out there on October 5th.

So I grabbed the JET 9, loaded up the Element and headed out for a lap.  About 7 minutes into the race course loop on a benign corner my ride ended thanks to a twig that hopped up and in a brief second ripped my rear derailleur into the spokes.  "Ya gotta be kiddin' me!!!!" was my immediate response considering I really only have about 1 more race to do this season on that bike.  Why now?!!!  I guess running over thousands of twigs all season long for several seasons, I was due.  No way to get it fixed in time for tomorrow's race as I can't get all the parts in time.

I suppose this is about the 3rd time in a dozen years I've had that happen to me - and it always surprises me how quickly it happens and how fragile things are down there on the drivetrain.  The snap and break takes place quicker than you can "HEY!", so there is no stopping it from happening once the process begins.  The last time it happened to me (a SRAM X.0 rear derailleur on my Karate Monkey), it led me to choose lower end, lower cost rear derailleurs for the sheer sake of dealing with replacing a $75 part being less painful than a $200+ part.

Well, low and behold - I have been running a SRAM X.0 Black Box medium cage carbon derailleur on my JET 9 for quite a while now - and there is some serious $$$ pain involved in this loss.  The hanger was bent sufficiently...

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...and that is the low cost portion of the fix.  The hanger is $12, but the pain involved is that I have to order it which takes time - so there is no chance to get the race bike ready for Saturday's race unless by some fluke, somebody in the Des Moines area has a spare one sitting around.  I could cannibalize a rear derailleur from another bike if I had a hanger, but the good news is I have the RIP 9 and the Dos Niner I can race on Saturday.

The expensive part of the loss was the weight weenie rear mechanical SRAM X.0 Black Box Carbon bit...

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Ouch!!  I know that photo is way out of focus, but that's how everything looks to me these days without my reading glasses.  ;-)

Looks like I'll be on eBay scouting around for something comprable - or give in and purchase a lower end, lower cost SRAM 9 speed rear mechanical like I have on all my other bikes due to my previous history of having this happen that I mentioned above.  The cable housing also got damaged, so a little fix back there with the final segment of housing run is in order as well.

My ride cut short, I hiked back to the car and drove home to get ready for work.  I snuck in a ride after 6 pm at Banner Pits to make up for it on my RIP 9 to get a race speed lap in on the RIP to adjust.  It doesn't handle the same as the JET, but I am used to riding it out there so all will be well in spite of my JET being in the sick bay until all the new parts arrive.  I managed to continue breaking things at the dinner table.  I was trying to give the dogs a bowl to lick after I had finished my dinner and managed to drop it on the floor where it broke into a dozen pieces.  One of those days, I guess.

Alexa is home for the weekend and will help celebrate my 53rd Birthday.  We sat at the kitchen table last night until the late hours (she had a paper due by midnight) and I was catching up on emails, recommendation letters, school business, and what not while fighting to stay awake.  I'm not sure what is planned or on tap with the family this weekend outside of the Summerset Shootout Race, and a 1 - 5 pm rehearsal I have on Sunday.

Bon Weekend to all!  Try not to break things.  ;-)

9/17/14

IMBCS #5 Sugar Bottom Scramble Race Report...

The Mulligan version of the Sugar Bottom Scramble went off without a hitch on Sunday at the Sugar Bottom Recreation Area.  Originally scheduled for August 24th, it was rained out and slotted in for September 14th.  Rain threatened to cancel it again as more than 4.5" fell on the course the week of the race.  Luckily, things dried out enough to reward all racers with tacky conditions, cool weather, and sunshine for a perfect day of racing.

Yes, for Midwest racers it was a very busy weekend with the Chequamegon Fat Tire Festival in Wisconsin taking place, cyclocross racing in Pella, and who knows what else going on in addition to the rescheduled Sugar Bottom Scramble?  Numbers were down from last year's 200 or so racers, but I want to thank Mike Frasier and his entire crew for pulling this one off to keep our series intact.  Kudos to everyone who got the bridges reset, the course marked, and all of the volunteers who were able to find a weekend to make this happen.  I know all the racers join me in thanking everyone for this.

I rolled out of the driveway at about 9 am for the 2 hour ride over to Sugar Bottom.  I probably should have given myself an extra ten minutes now that I am required to drive the speed limit at all times, but I got there in time to get my number plate, do about a 25 minute warm-up, and hit the starting line.  Alexa drove over from campus to watch me and hang out for the afternoon.

Last year, we had about 60 racers start in the CAT II Sport wave which was quite a dusty mess up the opening gravel road climb.  This year we were around 34 or so in my starting wave, so the dust was less of an impact.  My heart rate monitor/iPhone combination was giving me funny readings during my warm up with things like my heart rate being 678 beats per minute and what not, so I handed my phone to Alexa before the start and would go on perceived feel only which I am used to doing.  On the start, I was in the back of the pack.  I pedaled my way into the middle of the pack rather quickly, and then was surprised on the climb that those in front of me were not going harder.  So I passed quite a few and went into the singletrack at the top of the climb in pretty good shape.  Looked like I was in the top third at least.

The opening section is my favorite at Sugar Bottom on the south side of the gravel road.  Like last year, we were only scheduled to go through it one time and I miss doing it twice.  There were moments where I was able to jockey for position and pass a few riders, and be passed by another rider or two as we tooled through the beautiful woods and singletrack of the south side.  I was tailing Tony Branch as he had a good pace going and we had finished neck and neck at George Wyth where I raced really well, so I felt confident I was in a good spot right behind him.  We caught up to Katherine Roccasseca from the COMP wave and I said hello as we passed her.  The first time through the north side loop (that we were doing twice) I was chatting with Jody Gorsh who was behind me about when Cyclocross Hill was coming.  I figured I would fly down the hill leading into it to get up as much of the hill as possible to keep it in the big ring and muscle out the top of the hill.  The hill has been my nemesis the past few years with me blowing a hub, having to change lines in the middle of the hill due to a rider in front of me, and poor gear selection.

Round one went fine this time and I made the climb without issue...

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Photo courtesy of Angy Snoop

Jody congratulated me at the top of the hill and went around me.  I gave chase not wanting to fall behind.  I tailed Tony Branch through the finish area as we started our second lap of the north side.  We passed a few riders that we had caught up to who had run out of gas and I noticed Tony starting to slow a little bit.  Not long after that, he pulled over to let me by (said his hands/arms were cramping).  I was right behind a group of 3 riders that included Jody Gorsh as we approached Cyclocross Hill for the second time.  I had the same plan this time and came flying down the hill.  I was wearing my old worn out Specialized shoes that have a rip in the mesh, and the cleats are - needless to say - pretty well worn causing my right foot to come unclipped on the slightest pedal strike or any abnormal jolt.  Sure enough, just as I bounced through the middle rut on the hill climb, I started muscling my pedal stroke to make the climb and my right foot bounced out of the pedal and came unclipped.  Angy Snoop caught me right at the moment with a big grimace on my face as I realized I was going to have to put a foot down and hike the hill...

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Photo courtesy of Angy Snoop

 I didn't run up the hill, but in frustration climbed up the slope, remounted and took off as I saw the three riders in front of me ride away.  Nobody passed me due to the unclip, so nothing was lost there.  But I guess it is time to start wearing my new shoes that I am slowly breaking in to take advantage of the new clips which will prevent my foot from bouncing out so easily.

I managed to work my way back up to one of the riders from the group of 3 in front of me and got on his rear wheel.  I stuck with him through the final section and decided to sprint to the line to try and pass him.  When we hit the open field sprint section coming around the final corner, I called out that I was on his right and out sprinted him to the line to move into 8th Place Overall for CAT II Sport, and got 1st Place for the 50+ age class.

Goals met.  1st Place in my age class, and I made the top 10 overall for our category in Sport.  I feel like I have finally recovered a bit from the Dakota Five-0 and was pleased with my racing effort throughout the race on Sunday.  Age information was not included, so I had to get all of that organized to upload the results into our IMBCS spreadsheet.  Here is the overall Sport wave...

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I visited with Alexa while we waited for the awards ceremony and won a free oil change plus tire rotation for her in the raffle.  I talked with Mike Frasier about the event and we discussed some possibilities for next year.  After I thanked everyone, I headed out to lunch with Alexa.  It was nice to see her and visit for a few hours.  And she'll be home this weekend for my Birthday!!!

Bottom line:  Kudos to ICORR and everyone at the Sugar Bottom Scramble.  Great race and fun was had by all in near perfect conditions.

9/12/14

Biblical rains...

Noah loaded the ark this week to prepare for a massive rain that caused flooding in our area.  Even one of the dorms at Simpson flooded in the basement and made the news as a result.

Summerset State Park got hit pretty hard after the Middle River went over the banks and matched the flood level of 2008 (that closed the park for a long time).  Part of the park is closed again and the wait for the water to evaporate will take quite some time.  My guess is weeks to months based on how long it took in 2008.  2011 as well was a flood, but not quite as severe as this week was. 

IMBCS had a race scheduled for September 20th at Summerset, but that's not going to happen due to this...

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LikeABridge...

Bob's new bridge submerged

Photos courtesy of Bob Matthews

We are shooting for a reschedule later in October, but who knows.  There was to be a race in Iowa City at Sugar Bottom this Sunday as well.  And that was already a reschedule from prior rain in August.  They got 4 1/2" this week, and seemed to fare pretty well from that, but it is raining about 1/4" today.  The race director informed me the determination will be made on whether or not tomorrow's sunshine and wind can dry it enough in time for Sunday's race based on how much actually falls today. 

I never did hear the full amount of rain for the week here in our area, but I know it was in the 4.75" - 6" range.  Our basement has flooded in the past with any 4" rain during a wet year, but not this year which was the first test of it as last year was a drought.  Both sump pumps have been serious champs and we are as dry as a bone!  Hip, hip, hooray for a wise investment in our new basement system that has kept us dry now for several years.

It's Friday.  If and when the sun peeks out this afternoon, I'm pulling the road bike out and searching for some dry pavement to start the weekend.  What we could use is a few weeks of dry weather and some wind to help dry things out and get fall going.

9/3/14

Dakota Five-0 Race Report...

How to "Put the Labor back into your Labor Day weekend."


There is nothing like getting a chance to go home to the Black Hills and breathe the fresh Dakota air, see the bright blue skies, enjoy the mountains, visit family, and of course - throw it down in the annual Dakota Five-0 mountain bike race that begins and ends in Spearfish!

This was my third time to drive out and do this race since moving to Iowa.  My previous participation in the Dakota Five-0 was in the 2005 (the 5th Annual), and 2012 (the 12th Annual) versions.  2014 was the 14th Annual version of the event.  I was looking forward to getting back out to the Black Hills, and combining this with a visit with Dad.  It all seemed to be a nice way to round out the summer.  I spent a portion of my childhood growing up in Rapid City.  We moved away from Rapid following my freshman year in high school, and headed to Williston, ND.  My Dad lives in Rapid City - as does my sister Becky and my nephew Cody.  It's always great to get out there for a visit and marvel at the beauty of the Hills.

I drove across the Wide Missouri and the West River where I fought strong crosswinds through the entire prairie to arrive in Spearfish on Friday night in time to set up my tent at the campsite in the Spearfish City Park.  Low and behold, I ran into fellow South Dakotan Evie and her husband Tim Racette who had driven out from Wisconsin for the race.  Evie told me to set up the tent in their "neighborhood".  So I did...

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I thought about setting up right next to the creek...

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...but the ground wasn't flat enough for my liking.  And for anyone who has memories back to what happened in 1972 in the Black Hills - setting up a tent right next to any kind of running water is a difficult thing to do.  Anyway, by the time I got set up and unpacked, it was dark.  I headed out to get some food, and some grocery supplies for the cooler.  Temperatures dropped to the low 50's, and I managed to sleep more than 8 hours which I sorely needed after the long 11 hour drive.

Saturday was a beautiful day with blue sky, and temperatures in the mid-80's that afforded all of us spectacular views of the Black Hills.  I took a warm-up spin that included the first 20 mintues of the singletrack, and the opening gravel section which served as a nice reminder of reality for Sunday's opening few miles.  I checked in and picked up my race packet at 12 noon before heading down to Rapid City to visit with Dad.  We had dinner together at Ruby Tuesdays and watched a thunderstorm move through and dump a nice bit of rain on Rapid City.

After that had passed, I returned to the campsite where I set about getting the bike all ready, and packing my nutrition (GU gels, Perpetuem drink mix, and Endurolytes) in the gas tank bag on my RIP 9.

The bike as I ran it on Sunday with the gas tank bag (GU, Perpetuem packs, Endurolytes, external battery for the iPhone), and the saddle bag (spare tire, C02, tire lever, multi-tool)...

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The forecast for race day was for a high of 62, cloudy with rain - so I had picked up some knee warmers at a bike shop in Rapid to keep my legs warm.  No surprise that even the size small leg warmers barely stayed up on my skinny legs.  Such is life as a tall, lanky ectomorph.  Two years ago, temperatures were around 90 which is more to my liking (blue skies, sunshine, and beautiful Black Hills singletrack).

But it was what it was...and I would need the knee warmers (and my arm warmers) to keep warm for the race.

I woke up early on Sunday morning, ate my cereal, rode my bike downtown for a coffee, then came back to get suited up.  I got everything ready on the bike for a day of fun.  I headed over to the starting line which featured four starting waves that were labeled thusly...

Wave One - The Pros (expected finishing time of under 4 1/2 hours)
Wave Two - The Joes (expected finishing time of 4-5 hours)
Wave Three - The Bros (expected finishing time of 5-6 hours)
Wave Four - The ______ (expected finishing time of over 6 hours)

I had signed up for Wave Three as my time in 2012 was 5:48:48.  Back in 2005, I lumbered through the event with a time of 6:44:41 which included my legs cramping, a torn sidewall that I had trouble booting and nursing through the final 20 miles, and took sheer determination just to finish.  This year,  I had a goal of trimming time off of my 2012 finish.  I had the goal of trimming off nearly 30 minutes - which I arbitrarily chose for the sake of choosing some random number I guess.  Realistically, I just wanted to best my 2012 time as the only goal - whatever that would be.

The Pros took off at 7 AM.  The Joes headed out at 7:10 AM.  And it appeared nobody wanted to line up in the front row of the The Bros, so Andre Rethman and I took a spot on the front row where we managed to get a fist bump with Smokey the Bear.  We rolled out for the neutral start behind the ATV at 7:20 AM.  I wasn't too keen on sucking in all of the exhaust fumes from the ATV, so after a few blocks of riding directly behind the ATV, I moved over to the side and drifted back for some fresh air.  I was watching the HR and figured I didn't need to be pushing an average XC race pace on the opening gravel climb, so I kept it at tempo.  Ron Cooney passed me as did quite a few others on the gravel climb.  Nearing the singletrack with about a half mile of gravel to go, I moved it up to Zone 5 for the final gravel section to get in front of as many as possible before heading into the singletrack. 

The first hour was a pretty quick tempo.  It was, for me, more akin to the XC race variety I am used to than what I considered a 50 miler endurance race pace would allow me to maintain.  I knew I couldn't push Zone 4 and 5 for 5+ hours, so after Aid Station #1 at the 10 mile point, I settled into a pace I knew I could manage for the duration. 

Heather Wince was doing bottle hand ups for a couple of riders (Lee Bueller and I think Evie Racette), and providing moral support for the Iowa contingent.  She snapped a photo of me as I rode through one of the Aid Stations in one of my many moments of pain.... ;-]

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Photo Courtesy of Heather Wince

I pulled over and downed a GU gel, and ate a handful of Endurolytes right after the aid station.  I motored on to the 2nd Aid Station and spent a nice chunk of time riding with Jerry Hoff who caught up to me and passed me.  He was riding really well.  I wished I could have hung on to that pace for the remainder of the race, but something just wasn't clicking with me.  So I had to let Jerry ride away as I settled into what I could manage at the time.  I passed Ron Cooney who had pulled over on the side of the trail with bad cramps.  I arrived at mile 22 for the 2nd Aid Station, got off the bike to make a 2nd bottle of Perpetuem for the next 3 hours, and fill the Camelbak with water.  I knew I could do that in under 3 minutes, but it was starting to rain and I was having trouble getting the Perpetuem packages opened, so one of the volunteers helped me out with his knife.  Drink mix made, Camelbak full - I was off to tackle the next section.

This next section was probably the only time I questioned my tire choice as the rain on the rocks was making them a bit dicey as we headed through the most technical section of the ride.  Somebody went down really hard in front of me on the rocks which gave me pause to slow up and take my time skidding over the rocks.  I followed a guy who claimed if we pushed it, we were still capable of turning in a 5 hour finish time.  Maybe for him, I thought - but not for me as I wasn't able to turn myself inside out at that point after being on the bike for nearly 3 hours.  The long stem flipped -15 on my RIP had been actually really great during the first 20 miles of climbing, but now I was descended so much that I was wishing for a dropper post as the reach was a bit of a pain in the neck as I hammered down these long descents that went on forever.   In spite of a bit of neck discomfort hammering down the descents, I managed just fine letting the RIP eat up the bumps.  It was much more forgiving than my JET would have been on these trails. 

My BB7 brakes with the 160mm rotor up front and 140mm rotor in the rear was more than enough for me - even in the rain - out here in the Hills.  One of the myths that surrounds these brakes on message forums include comments along the lines that they are something that one has to dismount and adjust the brakes every so often in mid-ride.  Not so for me.  Here I was screaming the descents, in the rain - and my brakes were just as strong and good at the end of the day as they were the month leading up to the event.  No tinkering.  No adjusting.  They just worked as usual like they have since I got them in 2002.  And here I was riding in the mountains.

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Photo Courtesy of Johnathan Karol

 Aid Station #3 came rather quickly thanks to the long descent.  I pulled in and immediately one of the volunteers topped off the water in my bottle with the Perpetuem mix.  I headed out to tackle the grinding granny gear steep climbs from there.  It's just about uphill all the way to the Bacon Station.  I was amazed by a guy we all kept calling the mountain goat who was scaling climbs the rest of us were walking.  He tended to not be too fast going down the hill where the group I was riding with would catch him, and then he would climb away from us the next set of climbs.  Once we finally finished the hike-a-bike sections and rolled into the Bacon Station - I said "What the heck, why not?"  I had never pulled over at the Bacon Station in my previous two Dakota Five-0's, so I decided to try it out this time.  I was handed up a beer, and 2 nice slices of bacon.  Yum!  According to my iPhone with the Wahoo Fitness App running, I spent a little over 4 minutes there chatting, drinking the beer and gnawing on the tasty bacon before motoring on to do the final section.  It was all in fun, and I'm glad I stopped this year to give it a try.

A bit of technical stuff after the Bacon Station which I let the RIP plow through as I held on with hopes my tires wouldn't pop on the rocks.  Eventually, we hit the long fire road climb that I had cramped on in 2005.  2012 it was a grinding climb on this fire road in the heat.  This time, it was rather easy when compared to the previous two times.  The gravel was baked from the recent rains, and rather smooth and fast making the climb easier.  The "mountain goat" passed me again about midway up, and took off up the climb with a gal who had been hanging with us for about 10 miles.  I crested the climb and began the final descent of Tinton Trail to the finish.  The sun actually came out for the first time and it felt good.  This was actually my best riding and pace for the entire day.  I never really got it going earlier in the race - or at least it never really felt good as I was just grinding out what I could.  Now I had it going!  Where was this earlier in the day?  I caught back up to the gal who had pulled away with the mountain goat on the fire road climb.  She crashed on one of the corners in front of me.  She was okay when I asked, so I passed her and took off going full bore with the RIP's front fork eating up the chunk.

Post race RIP with mud, cow pies, dust, etc...that I will clean up this week...

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Coming out of the Singletrack and going full bore, I was maxed out in terms of gears with the chain on the 40T ring up front and the 11T in the rear.  I sprinted ahead and passed two riders on the gravel, but I felt the beginnings of cramps and twinges in my legs.  I managed to fend off the cramps - as well as the two I had just passed.  I sprinted all the way to the line and crossed with a finish time of 5:35:05.  Only 13:43 quicker than my 2012 time (should have bypassed the Bacon Station and banked those 4+ minutes!!!!), but at least I was quicker than my 2012 time.  No surprise here with my Midpackitis as I rolled across in spot #270 out of the 650 or so that registered. 

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Goal met in terms of shaving time.  Plenty of opportunity for me to drop more time with some tweaks in training, and managing my effort out on the course. 

Overall, it was worth the griding effort to enjoy the great ride and the beauty of the Black Hills.  Lots of riders were there from Iowa as a nice little tradition with this race has developed with many heading out to do it from Iowa.  I grabbed some post race grub, and joined them to share stories of our days out on the bikes.  I didn't get to stay for the Awards Ceremony as I had a dinner date with Dad down in Rapid City which involved a 40 minute drive.

We went to the new Dakota Steakhouse which he had never been to since it is not close to where he lives.  They had a section on the menu of local fare (buffalo, elk, lamb, etc...).  So I had some nice South Dakota raised lamb chops with apricot sauce, and a helping of bleu cheese mashers as my recovery meal.  We had a nice visit, and after dinner I drove back to Spearfish to my campsite.  I headed directly into my tent to sleep for a nice 9 hours in the cold temperatures.  I packed up my stuff early on Monday morning, said goodbye to Evie (4th overall woman in the race) and Tim (12th overall) who were driving to Watertown to see Evie's parents before I headed out for the long drive to Iowa.

My kudos to the entire Dakota Five-O team for hosting one of the best mountain bike events out there.  All of the volunteers were super helpful, encouraging, and cheerful.  The vibe at this event is nothing short of contagious.  If you have never done it, put it on your list to do and make a nice Labor Day Weekend out of it.  If you have done it, you know how much fun - and exhausting - the trip can be.  Yes.  It is worth it!