6/30/14

WORS #5 Red Flint Firecracker Race Weekend Report...

I had the great pleasure of being able to make it up to Chippewa Valley this weekend to camp overnight on Saturday, and participate in the 5th race of the WORS season in Eau Claire, Wisconsin.  This was to be my 4th time attending the Firecracker event as I previously raced there in 2008, 2009, and 2012.  Back in 2008, it was my first ever WORS event and I was hooked on how well the WORS vibe radiates!!!

In terms of the driving time from Central Iowa, I think it is one of the closest races in the WORS series for me to get to on a weekend.  Previously, it was the Border Battle in River Falls, but that event is no longer on the WORS schedule.  In terms of the Eau Claire WORS event,  I really like the trail mix of singletrack and ski trail connector sections linking it all together of the Lowes Creek County Park.  Hence, I try to make the drive up to Eau Claire in years that I can.

I've missed out on 2 planned events in the Minnesota race series due to weather (Mankato was too muddy for me and I didn't even suit up), and last weekend's Red Wing race being cancelled by the local club due to an unfavorable forecast.  So I was itching to partcipate in a race outside of the Iowa, and Nebraska series races for this year.  The itch also included the end of week 12 of my structured training that has led me into race form for the season.  Missing Red Wing the previous weekend was difficult enough to bear being in peak form, so I was really hoping that the forecast and rain would allow me to race this weekend.

I packed the car Saturday morning with my camping gear, bike, food, and headed out the door at 12 noon with plans to arrive in time to get a pre-ride in before setting up camp.  Drive time was around 5 1/2 hours and it was raining with cloudbursts as I passed through the Twin Cities.  Once across the Mississippi River, skies cleared up and things looked dry and good all the way to Eau Claire.  There was a strong wind blowing out of the south that had the car shaking.  I pulled in around 5:30, got registered for the race and camping.  Then I suited up and headed out for a lap.  The course was dry and running well with a few tacky spots which all pointed to a great race for Sunday.  Following the pre-ride, I set up my tent (quite a challenge in the wind), changed clothes and decided to go over to Grizzly's for a little grub.

Who needs a menu when you walk into a restaurant and see a wood fired spit with rotisserie chicken on it!???!  I told the hostess who was taking me to my table that she could just keep the menu, I wanted one of these...

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...well, 1/2 of one that is.  ;-)

As I was in the restaurant, the skies turned very dark and I pulled up the radar on my phone.  Wow!  A big storm was about to hit.  I didn't look forward to sitting in a tent for a major thunderstorm, so I decided to catch a movie I wasn't even aware of called Chef.   Going into the movie, it was raining hard enough to please Noah!  After the movie, which was really a charming movie to see, the rain had tapered off to the gentle variety.  I got back to my tent around Midnight and was pleased to find everything dry and fine inside the Kelty tent.

Sunday morning, we were greeted with sunny skies, and a nice breeze to help dry out the rain.  It seemed like a lot of rain had fallen during the night, but the soil soaked most of it up.  Enough so that the reports were a few greasy spots, and some mud puddles, but the entire course was still in play for the race.  Sweet!  I ate my breakfast, and watched the start of some of the kids and Citizens groups.  Then I suited up and did my warm-up.  My legs felt good and I was ready to go by the time I headed to the starting line.

There were about 35 lined up in my wave.  By the time the call ups for series leaders were done, and the rest of us rolled up into position, I was at the back of the bunch.

Same position at the start line as last time in 2012 when Tara snapped me smiling...

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Anyway, no biggie as there is a big roll out at this venue with plenty of time to go cross-eyed, endure the pain and move up in the pack before the first singletrack section.  On the word "Go!", that's what I did.  I was able to move from the back of pack to mid-pack rather quickly on the opening sprint, and I kept at it during this opening section sprint.  I guess from my account and looking ahead at the corner leading into the singletrack, I was near the top dozen to 15 going into the singletrack.  It's a critical move at this race, as are each and every connector section as the singletrack at Lowes County does not provide ample opportunity for passing.

Catching up to groups of slower riders from previous start groups happens throughout the entire race due to the sheer number of racers that participate at a WORS event.  The good news is that everyone you are competing with in your age class has to deal with this, so sometimes the "luck" of how many you are able to pass or not pass in the connector sections can make or break your race.  Two years ago, I didn't have the legs to hammer in the connector sections like I needed to, but I did back in 2009.  I found myself hammering pretty well on Sunday.  I tried to take advantage on every connector section to pass a rider or two or more - depending on the length of the section and how many were in front of me.  Thinking back on it all, maybe I could have turned myself inside out a few more times than I did knowing how much recovery I was able to garner in the singletrack with the traffic.  

The singletrack traffic was as I expected, heavy and at times slow enough to barely even be in Zone 2.  Some of it was related to technical challenges for riders, and some was due to riders in slower racing condition.  No worries, as I said - it was a challenge for all.  I settled in behind a couple of riders in my age category about 3/4ths of the way through lap 1.  At first I thought they might be podium material and was hanging with them, but then realized they were not as fast.  I passed them on the connector section as we completed lap 1 and headed out for lap 2.  I hammered all the way through the pavement section and passed quite a few heading to the start of the singletrack.  Then I got stuck behind a train of about 8 or 9 riders in front of me until we got to the next connector section where I hammered again to move forward.


Lap 2 was all about hammering and passing slower riders on the connector sections.  It was fun blasting through some of the mud puddles that were left over from the previous night's rain, and we all had squeaking breaks and creaks from the water and mud.  One mud puddle was so deep, 1/2 of my wheel actually was submerged and I nearly did an endo when I hit it!


Grinding out one of the rocked climbs...

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Photo Courtesy of Extreme Photography Unlimited (WORS official photographer and sponsor)

I felt good throughout the entire race, but knew precious seconds were being lost every time I found myself behind slower traffic.  I had to dismount 3 times due to riders in front of me walking sections rather than riding.  Those are precious seconds.  As I mentioned, it's sort of the "luck of the draw" who you are behind and when you come up to the technical sections.  In spite of that, I kept taking advantage of every connector section and possibility to pass in the singletrack when I could.  Coming out of the forest, I outsprinted a younger age class racer to the line and rolled across in 5th Place for my age group with a time of 1:14:25.  In fact, the top six riders in my age class all rolled across the line within a span of 59 seconds.  I missed the podium by 16 seconds.  That's pretty close competition to all be bunched up within "striking distance" and is why I wanted to test out my season form at Red Wing last weekend and Eau Claire this weekend.  We don't have as many CAT 2 racers in my age class in Iowa or Nebraska, so it's nice to toe the line with those in Wisconsin and Minnesota for that reason alone.

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My time and placing pretty much matches what I did there back in 2009 (in the 45-49 year old age group) when I was also in peak form, so I was pleased.  It was my highest placing at this event - both in age class and in overall.  It's always a great venue and hats off to WORS and the local club that hosts it - CORBA!!!!  This was their 10th Anniversary of the event and as usual - it was GREAT!!!!

I headed over to the bike wash area and sprayed off my bike, legs, and shoes.  Then I packed up the tent and bike to make the drive back to Iowa after a stop for a burrito at Chipotle.  Yum! 

I was a little tired from a shortened night of sleep in the tent due to the rain.  Post race fatigue, and the warm air all added to being tired at the wheel (maybe the food coma from the HUGE burrito as well).  I stopped at rest stops to walk around and use the facilities to stay awake, and got some coffee along the way.  I hit a big storm going through northern Iowa.  Things turned pretty ugly and black with heavy rain, hail, wind.  Suddenly my phone and radio were both beeping a tornado warning and to seek shelter immediately!!!  There were hundreds of cars pulled over under bridges with lights flashing as they were taking immediate shelter.  There was no room for me to get out of the hail (dime size) and no exit in sight, so I tracked in behind another car and drove through it all about 50 mph to get out of the stinking hail.  Two tornadoes were spotted just west of the Interstate a few miles where I was in Webster County (6 tornadoes total in Iowa were spotted).

I rolled on home getting there after dinner, and caught up with the family on everything we all did for the weekend. 

More severe storms are due here today!!!  Oh well, tis the season...

6/21/14

Summer has arrived!

Summer is HERE!!!

Today marks the longest day of the year which means it is the official arrival of summer 2014.  In anticipation of it, Ma Nature has turned up the thermostat and given us a week of warmer, humid weather that has the jungle in a full roaring growth cycle thanks to the rains we've been recieving.

Insects and bugs are going hog wild.  We are all sweating again.  Backyard grills are sizzling.  Summer projects around the house are underway in the neighborhood.  The local pool is open.   Outdoor performance are underway.  Everyone is out for walks, jogs, bike rides, and the usual summer mood is in the air.

Speaking of today marking the Summer Solstice when our northern hemisphere faces the sun the most directly of any day throughout the year...

The occasion brings celebrations across the Northern Hemisphere, from Swedes who wear wreaths and dance around maypoles to modern-day Druids who flock to Stonehenge to Americans who enjoy their pool parties and cookouts.

Not sure I'll being doing any of that, but I will be finishing up painting the upstairs hallway with the final coat this morning.

Depending on the weather, we may or may not be attending Zack's 2nd performance tonight as Pooh-Bah in The Mikado with the Cedar Rapids Opera.  We got rained out on Thursday for the opening night, so we went last night and really enjoyed it.  Zack did a great job and it was fun to sit out in the open air in the setting of the lovely Brucemore Historic Site in Cedar Rapids.

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The crowd arrived at least an hour before the performance began at 7:30 PM.   It was recommended to bring a picnic basket and eat out on the lawn of the Brucemore.  We drove in from Indianola and ate at Biaggi's before going to the performance as we couldn't get it together to pack a basket.  If we go this evening, we will pack a picnic basket and dine out on the lawn with everyone else - weather permitting.

It was a really fun evening and Zack seemed to be in his element with the role enjoying himself on stage, using good comic timing, and vocally it was a good fit for this stage in his development.  The audience had a good time and seemed to really enjoy everything last night...

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Zack in the middle of the famous trio "To Sit In Solemn Silence"...

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Today and tomorrow's outdoor activities are all predicated on what the weather has in store for us.  There is a rain date for The Mikado if it rains tonight, they will perform tomorrow evening instead. 

First, it's time to finish painting the hallway...

6/17/14

Bike Fit and New Tires...

I think I've just about got my road bike fit dialed in...

Fit

;-]

A huge word of thanks to Road Bike Review and Mountain Bike Review member Roadworthy/Dirtrider7 who has been helping me - via the internet - to dial in my position on the Roubaix.  I've been stuck since last July in what he calls 'no man's land' with regard to not being stretched out enough on my bike with the French Fit I prefer.  This, in part, was my own fault last year as the Roubaix came with a perfect 120mm stem which I was using from April to July, and suddenly swapped out for a 110mm stem as I was still in recovery from my neck injury during the 2012 season and thought a shorter, more upright reach would help me "see" while on RAGBRAI.  Now that I am healed I am slowly getting all of my bikes stretched back out and into a more ideal position for me.  That means I was woefully too short in my cockpit with a stem that was short, spacers that were under the stem, and my saddle not as aft as it should have been.

In fact, I was way short (584mm) on the center of bar to nose of saddle measurement and now have gone back to 25" or 635mm for this measurement with the 120mm stem and a more negative drop to get things down a bit.  And I have the setback at 117mm when it was under a 100mm before.  It feels pretty good now, but I think I want to try a 130mm stem as that would put that c-c (bars to nose) measurement at 644mm and may or may not be a bit more ideal.  It's probably time for a fit with Adam up at Rassy's, but in the meantime - thanks Roadworthy for getting me much more back in the groove on my Roubaix.  Neck feels good.  Back feels good. 

Here it is with the shorter 110mm stem, seat aft, but still a bit compact and crowded for me which I had to try on a 44 mile ride Sunday.  It wasn't bad, but the longer stem feels much better.  Now to pick up a 130mm just to try on it today at Rassy's.

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Here it is with the 120mm flipped negative...

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It was time for new tires on the bike as well as I had about 1700 miles on the Almanzo's and with the rear tire tread wear and the delamination of the glued on tread issues - I said good bye to them and ordered up a pair of their supple Strada Bianca's instead...

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I had to laugh mounting them up as I thought the brand name was very a propos for what I went through mounting them.  It was, indeed, a Challenge.  Luckily, out of the box the tread was not delaminated like my Almanzo's were.  And after 50+ miles they are looking fine and dandy.  These are excellent higher volume tires good for pavement and gravel where I ride this bike.  I run the psi around 50-55 and like how they feel.  They will be on the bike through RAGBRAI and until I wear these out. 

I had fun smoking some salmon on a cedar plank over the weekend.  Yes, it was tasty...

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Tara picked our first handful of beets from the garden yesterday and we will be having them today...

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YUM!!!!

6/15/14

Psycowpath #4 Race Report...

Yesterday was the wild and wonderful conclusion to the newly formed and purposely shortened 2014 Psycowpath Mountain Bike Race Series in Omaha, Nebraska.  I had not been back to Tranquility Park since my nasty endo crash there in 2012 during a race that set me back physically and vocally for the better part of a year or more (pulled a lot of muscles in my neck).  This time I had a plan on handling the SOB of a bump/jump that had gotten me 2 years ago!!!

I packed up the Element and picked up fellow Indianola resident Andy Peterson to carpool over to the venue.  We hit a little bit of rain on I-80 about 30 minutes east of Omaha, but it was short and non-threatening.  The winds, however, were howling out of the south making driving the square box on the highway a little more driver input oriented than I wanted.

We arrived, got checked in, did our warm-ups and headed to the line for the start.  It's been a nice battle in the 50+ group at the races this year between Tom Jeffreys and Mark Sullivan.  Mark had me by less than a second at the last race I did at Platte River, so even though the series award was going to go to either of these riders that won, I was optimistic that my good form would allow me to at least contest both of them a little bit.  I got called up along with Tom and Mark and lined up in the front row with them. 

And we're off...

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Photo courtesy of Jennifer Greer

Knowing that it was going to be a bit longer race doing two 9 mile laps, I gave a little off the line, but was tactically - in restrospect - incorrect in not working harder to get to the singletrack with the lead bunch.  I didn't get clipped in as best as I could and the front row was crowded with bikes wobbling left and right fighting to hold their line.  I had to quickly do a couple of moves to keep from locking bars and tires with others and found myself in the second row after a few pedal revolutions off the whistle.  All in all, this poor start would prove to cost me dearly.

The lead group of 5 or 6 quickly pulled away once we hit singletrack from the second bunch that I was in due to the rider in front of me slowing down quite a bit for everything that seemed somewhat technical (going between tight trees, switchback corners, etc...) and was holding our 2nd bunched group of about 8-10 riders up a bit.  Nobody was quacking this time around - thank goodness!  Anyway it was not the fault of the rider in front of me and there was no reason to complain from being behind him as I needed to set up, negotiate, and execute a safe pass if I wanted to move on.  This is, afterall, racing - right?  And he was super fast after each time he slowed down making it difficult to execute a pass. 

By the time I was ready to do a pass, it was not the best place to pass as we had entered the switchback climbs in the forest area which is where his bike handling skills stood out to be the most under scrutiny going through the trees and negotiating the switchback corners.  After every technical spot that he slowed, he would speed up and take off again like a rocket making it hard to negotiate a pass due to the yo-yo effect of trying to catch up to him on those sprints.  Finally, the guy behind me asked to get around me so he could have a go at the guy in front of me.  I quickly, and safely, let him by and he asked to pass the guy in front of us several times.  I don't think the guy wanted to allow him around as he never moved over when asked.  It sounded like the guy trying to pass finally got tired of asking and not being given the trail, he just muscled a tight pass around him and moved on.  Sweet pass, by the way!!!

Now it was my turn to do the same and I was setting it up.  Unfortunately, a few turns later the guy who had just passed, went down on one of the switchback turns and I had to slow as I went around him in pursuit of looking for a spot I could pass the guy in front of me once I caught back up to him and move on with the race.  You see how important that opening sprint at the start is to get in a good position?  Or if an opportunity appears to pass that is safe early on - take it no matter what the HR does, and don't wait!  This I know, but didn't execute my plan - so I only have myself to blame.

I remained a bit more patient and waited until we got out of the forest into the open trail where there was room to safely pass on both the left and the right side of the singletrack in the mowed grass sections.  By now, the lead group was long out of sight and I knew I had my work cut out for me to play catch up over the next hour or more.  I informed the rider in front of me that I was going to pass on his left side in the grass and went into sprint mode to move around him.  I moved over to the left and was going around him safely when he looked at me and sort of moved into me where our handlebars got hooked together (he had bar ends) and down we both tumbled hard on the left side of the trail in the grass in a massive heap.  Dang!

Damage report...

My handlebars were knocked out of alignment, my saddle was out of alignment and I struggled to get my bike back up and going again, but he was laying on top of my bike and had to climb off of it first.  He finally got off of my bike, I straightened the bars a bit and off I went since we both seemed to be alive and moving fine.  I didn't feel any physical damage or aches and pains even though my shoulder, head and shins had all hit.  I'm not sure what happened as I really was far over on the left side with plenty of room and negotiating a safe pass.  I had clearly called out my intention to pass, and have no idea how his handlebars touched mine way over on the left side where I was.  I suppose the rider directly behind us would have the best assessment of what happened from his vantage point watching it, but who knows?

Such is racing!!!

My bars were not straight enough, my seat was crooked, and it appeared in the crash that some air had been burped out of my rear tire as it was mushy and wobbly in the corners.  RATS!!!!  The one time I'm not carrying the C02 cannister - and I needed it!  I had moved it into my road bike seat bag recently and forgot to dig it out and bring it along on this trip.  My bad.  I stopped again to straighten the bars and seat a bit better, felt the air in the rear tire (felt like about 12-14 psi) and chalked this race up to "one of those experiences".  I decided to ride on and see how long the rear tire would last.  I didn't want to damage the carbon rim, so I gingered every corner and bump.

And so it was for the rest of the race - about a lap and a half - where I was okay for speed in the straights, but was having to slow way down for the corners due to the rear tire.  I tried to favor as much weight as possible on the front wheel - but this was not ideal and needless to say I was frustrated.  I saw Tom and Mark way ahead of me in the open field sections a few times during the rest of the race and just had to be content with trying to finish for the sake of finishing.  And I did - at what seemed like a snail's pace to me.  One gust of wind almost knocked me over sideways out in the open prairie it was such a strong southern wind that we all had to face out there!  The good news is that the wind kept us cool in the 82 degree temps with full sun.

In spite of having to ride a lap with only about 1/2 the air as usual in my rear tire, I managed to hold onto 3rd place (barely by about 90 seconds) as I limped the bike through the course and across the finish line...

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3rd in my age group, and 18th out of the 37 CAT II starters for open category.  Not terrible, but the crash and nearly flat tire I had to run on altered my goals for the day.

The podium for the 50+ CAT II race...

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Photo courtesy of Andy Peterson

Congrats to Tom and Mark for some really fun competition and also for both being great guys to visit with and swap stories.  I look forward to more races against them in the future (with air in my rear tire of course).

Andy finished up his CAT I race which was his first ever CAT I event.  He managed to get 10th place out of 15 which is pretty darn good for his first event at that level.  And he was doing it singlespeed and rigid!!!!  Wow!  Congrats Andy!!!

Kudos to Ryan and Roxie Feagen for the 2014 Psycowpath season.  Well done!  Kudos to Dale Rabideau and THOR for an excellent event at Tranquility.

While I am at it, Happy Father's Day!  Wasn't it President Nixon who signed it into law making it a holiday back in 1972?

6/13/14

Happy Friday the 13th!!!

My daughter turns 19 today and the homemade red velvet cake is made, iced, and ready to go!!!  We are heading off for her requested birthday breakfast in a few minutes.   Last time she had a birthday on Friday the 13th, she dislocated her knee out in front of our house playing softball.  Let's hope today is incident free for her.

Tonight is a rare combination we won't see again for 35 years:  Friday the 13th and a Full Moon!

HOWL!

I took Thursday off the bike and did weeding and trimming all day instead.  First, I edged and trimmed my own yard.  Then, while I was all covered in grass and all dirty, I headed out to Banner Pits and put in about 2 1/2 hours of work trimming a section of trail.  It's slow going out there with a hand held trimmer due to the growth being so thick, but somebody has got to do it as the trail has quickly become almost non-rideable.  My partner in weed whacking crime - Bob Matthews - put in a couple of hours later in the day and knocked out another 100 yards.  Weeds are over 3 feet in height now and the canopy and sides are growing in fast and furious.  Luckily, the temperatures were in the 70's and dry - so it was not taxing heat wise to be climbing up and down some of the steeper singletrack sections as I chopped away.  Being a normal precipitation year, volunteers to do trail work are highly needed.  Here's to every mountain biker out there that enjoys riding trails also contributing some of their "ride time" to working on their local trails so that everyone can enjoy.  It doesn't happen on its own, so volunteer and be a part of it.

I'll do a warm up and a lap at Banner today for openers to get ready for tomorrow's Psycowpath race in Omaha.  That will give me an update on trail conditions as well to see just how much is left to be done.  The forecast is calling for thunderstorms on Saturday - so fingers are crossed that we can get the race done without a hitch before the worst of it arrives.

I got a kick out of this guy's attempt at making a point for cyclists and the space he hoped to be given by motorists...

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It's bike riding season and those who do not ride bikes and are motoring along can be distracted, have an annoyance or hate at those who are on their bikes, or they may see you and it simply doesn't register to them - so they turn in front of you, or pull out in front of you.  Be careful out there.  And be seen while riding smart and obeying all traffic laws!!!

Even by obeying the laws and riding in the bike lane, here's some snipits of what a guy in Australia faces when riding...



6/11/14

Drained the tank today...

Yesterday was a bit busier than I had intended it to be with me teaching some lessons in the morning, painting a 2nd coat of exterior on the house, treating the yard for weeds with Scott #2 fertilzer/weed control, riding a pair of laps out at Banner Pits to check what is needed for trail work (a lot), cooking dinner early so Alexa could eat before going to work, lifting weights, and finally sitting down to relax late at night for the Heat vs. Spurs game.  Not a bad day, just no down time until 8 PM.

I didn't really have much planned for today outside of doing some screen window repair.  When we woke up and made the coffee, Tara asked if we could go hit the Neal Smith Trail and ride from Mullets to the north of Saylorville Lake and back.  The weather was about 59 degrees and sunny when she asked, and luckily it warmed up into the 80's during our ride for a really nice day as it was not humid at all.  I wasn't really carbed up to take on a 40 miler after Banner hot laps and lifting weights along with yard work the day before, so I brought along a Cliff Bar and some GU to help fuel the journey.  All I can say is that the weather was perfect, and the ride was very scenic.

I spent most of the day behind Tara recovering from yesterday's efforts, and she was in tip top form pushing a pretty good pace at times as she is coming into form for RAGBRAI...

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We managed to see a deer, a snake, one wild turkey, a beaver, some vultures, a few mice, a couple of chipmunks, lots of squirrels, tons of birds, and of course a nice family of geese along our ride today...

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According to MapMyRide - which I was using because my Wahoo Blue HR Chest Strap is on the blink (replacement monitor is on its way) - we went about 41 miles and the trip took 3:20 at our LSD easy pace.  Regardless - it drained my glycogen tank!!!!

I had a lovely tuna steak with some fries and a pair of beers at Mullets for lunch which tasted pretty dang good after the ride.  We headed home after that.  After a cat nap, I ended up puttering for a couple of hours in the garage doing really nothing that I can remember.  I guess I fiddled with air pressure on the shocks of my RIP 9 as I  am considering racing it this weekend over in Omaha instead of the JET.

It's a really fun bike to ride and is always my go to for around here when I ride and train on the dirt.  I have it set up with a 1 x 9 drivetrain using the 34T chain ring.  It's fine for all the climbs - especially with me weighing in the 160's - so I'm trying to see why I wouldn't want to take it for Saturday's final Psycowpath race.  The extra cushion is always refreshing and might be fun for the Tranquility race on some of that course.  

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I'm heading downstairs to hit the upper body weights now that my light dinner has digested.  Looks like I will spend the next two days getting the tank topped off and ready for Saturday's race.  The current forecast 3 days out says there will be Thunderstorms at race time - so who knows what will happen?  A 3 day forecast is suspect, but as we get closer to Saturday 12 noon I guess we will know...

6/9/14

IMBCS #2 Race Report...

Yesterday was the 2nd race in the 2014 Iowa Mountain Bike Championship Series held in Hampton, Illinois - just across the bridge on the eastern shore of the Mighty Mississippi River.  The venue of the Illiniwek Forest Preserve was a new one for the IMBCS now that Sylvan Island is detained until the bridge is hopefully repaired/replaced.

And let me tell you - it didn't disappoint!!!!

What an absolutely incredible piece of singletrack trail system with some of the best flow I've ridden in years!  F.O.R.C. puts on this race and maintains the trail system.  Much of the trail reminded me of the Border Crossing singletrack trail system up in Wisconsin that is also built on the eastern side of the Mighty Mississippi.  If you ever get the chance to do some riding at Illiniwek Forest Preserve in Hampton - take the opportunity.  There is a campground across the highway on the bank of the river, a great paved bike trail that runs along the river, plenty of resort type features up and down the river making it a very scenic and worthwhile place to spend some time.

My week leading up to Sunday's race invovled a race simulation on Monday (to make up for the one missed at Mt. Kato), a LSD ride on Tuesday with Tara from Mullets to Martensdale and back, a day of weights on Wednesday and a recovery ride, race starts practice on Thursday, yard work on Friday, and all the cummulative stress from the training week resulted in a relaxing Saturday of recovery and enjoying the rain.  Luckily, the rain did not prevent Sunday's race from happening as race director Michael Vittetoe said the clouds sort of broke up and went around the race site venue and only dumped about 2/10th's of an inch that was easily absorbed by the trails.  Micahel's Facebook posts updated everyone that the race was indeed on, but to make sure the trail was in the best shape possible, the race would be delayed by 2 hours.

I had sold Tara's recumbent on the Midwest-Velo Swap site this week and had made plans to deliver it at this race with the buyer driving over from Dekalb, IL to pick it up as that was sort of a middle point meeting area.  So I loaded up the Giro...

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...and headed out the door at 8:30 AM to make the drive over to Hampton, Illinois.  Cloud cover kept temperatures in the 66-70 degree range for the day which was perfect racing weather as heat would not be a factor for any of us.  I pulled into the parking lot 3 hours later, made the exchange of the Giro for cash, got suited up and went to the registration table to check in and meet Michael so I could introduce myself to him and talk about how to get the results so we can track the points for the IMBCS.  He told me they had almost 150 racers show up which is a good showing.  Some might have stayed away with the cloud cover, or the drive, but who knows?  They missed a pretty amazing event that all came together in a very organic and perfect way.

Following talking to Michael, I did my 45 minute warm-up, fueled up and then headed over for the rider's pre-race meeting.

As is what seems to be a tradition with a F.O.R.C. race, the CAT II would be a mass start which meant a mad scramble in the opening grass field and pavement sprint to get to the singletrack first.  I lined up next to Landon Beachy and we chatted about the trail and life.  He had done a warm-up lap on the trail and said it was in good shape.  He also said that the climbing was pretty minimal.  After about a 10 minute wait, they blew the whistle and we were off!!!

We were lined up in 3 big long rows (about 20 in each row) in the opening grassy field section for the sprint.  And of course, I was in the 3rd row - or back row, but that was fine.  I worked hard in the opening sprint and at least made my way up into the middle of the pack by the time we reached the singletrack.  And then it happened - the usual bottleneck where we had to actually stop, unclip, and put a foot down as we single filed ourselves into the forest.  It looked like there were a good 20 or so in front of me (maybe more) and there was really no where to go on this opening section as everyone's tires continually buzzed the tires of the rider in front and behind you as we waited for the big train to get chugging.  And, as always in situations like these, I had a Quacker behind me.

What's a Quacker?  I think it is a phenomenon we only see in CAT II races because the Comp and CAT I racers are beyond it in experience, skill, and training.  Anyway, it's somebody who settles in behind a long line of riders in front of him and immediately starts quacking things like "come on, guys - let's get going!" or "let's get moving everyone" and on and on when bottlenecks form after the hole shot has not been won and everyone is going into the singletrack.  Depending on the quacker in question, he can be part frat boy, part annoying cheerleader, part frustrated at his position in the race, and sometimes angry.  This guy was pretty jovial as far as quackers go, but annoying nonetheless.

Eventually he went around me, and I latched on to his rear wheel and kept it tight.  Much to my surprise, it didn't take too long for him to stop quacking as about 1/2 way through the 1st lap - the quacker went down hard in front of me as he failed to negotiate a tight turn between two trees.  He was on the ground with his bike blocking the trail, so I asked if he was OK - and he was - so I motored on around him never to see him again.

Back to the Illiniwek Forest Preserve trail itself.  The singletrack had great flow.  And it was a blast.



There were not enough climbs to really utilize a weight advantage over heavier riders, but there was one nice section that went up where I was able to pass or catch a rider or two on every lap.  Compared to Boone and Platte River - this was a pretty flat course for sure.  It was a beautiful forest with enough challenge to keep one interested with the switchbacks, berms, tight tree sections, and open grass connector sections to pass or sprint and maintain one's position.  One was on the gas most of the time as the descents could be pedaled as well.  I did the entire race in the big ring and worked the gear cluster to take advantage of the flow.  I let the rear tire drift on the tight switchbacks due to the soil conditions and this allowed me to quickly flip through the tight switchbacks.

A couple of guys challenged me on the connector section between lap 2 and lap 3, but I was able to out motor them up the pavement and back into the forest before pulling away to finish off my third lap.  This picture shows the connector section through the finish line area that we had to motor through (thick grass that required some good extra watts to keep moving) before it hit pavement for a bit and then back into the grass at the top of the sprint into the woods.

image

I was pleased that my lap times show I got faster with each lap during the race.  I started strong for me, and finished even stronger which means my structured training is kicking in and holding pretty well.  This race came on the final day of week #9 of my 12 week build, peak, and race plan.  Lap #3 was pretty much a TT solo effort as we were spread out enough by this point of the race.  I did see a couple of carrots in front of me and set about reeling them in.


I passed Anthony Branch on the climbing section and joked with him "hey, don't worry - it's age before beauty" as I went around him.  He was riding much stronger than he had at Boone where the hills had taxed him.  He's the leader of the NCJC youth in Iowa City and brought along 11 youth riders to this race.  Anthony is a very muscular guy, so perhaps my lighter weight was able to take advantage of the climb simply based on power to weight ratio.  He had faded in the 1st lap at Boone, but here he was riding really strong all the way through the final lap in this race.  He ended up finishing right behind me in the overall standings by 7 seconds - so great race Anthony!!!! 

The other carrot I caught just before a sprint to the line in the grassy section as I motored across in 2nd Place for my age class.

image

1st Place was out of reach for me as he crossed the line 5:23 in front of me.  But 3rd Place was only 18 seconds behind, and we had exchanged places a couple of times during the race - so I was correct in not letting up at any point during this race. 

Who knows if I'll have a bust out race or not, but so far goals are being met and I feel like I am riding strong and adjusting to my new weight.  My equipment functioned perfectly yesterday, my nutrition and hydration seemed spot on with no signs or twinges of any kind of cramping and I felt really strong at the end of the race.  In terms of the overall CAT II mass start group, I ended up 19th out of 54 (all ages).

IlliniwekUSACResults

Since I was hanging out for the awards, I snapped a shot of fellow Banner Pits Bacon Rider Andy Peterson who had a really great race and got 3rd place in his age class and 3rd place overall for the CAT 2 men...

image

Congrats Andy!

A big thanks to F.O.R.C. and Michael for hosting such a great event.  In fact, it will be a highlight of this season due to the excellent and perfectly groomed trails, weather, scenery, venue, and volunteers who all combined made for an event not to have been missed.  F.O.R.C. hosts the next IMBCS race on July 13th at Sunderbruch Park which features the all too fun wooden berms.  I hope everyone comes out for that event.

I headed home on I-80.  Due to not sleeping so well this week dealing with the poison ivy and medication associated with it, I felt drowsy.  So I pulled off at a rest area for a 30 minute cat nap just outside of Iowa City.  Traffic was heavy (when is it not heavy on I-80?) and I wanted to be fresh for the drive home.  The nap worked its magic and I got home about 7 PM.

6/4/14

MMBS Director responds...

I checked the results from Sunday's race at Mt. Kato as I was very curious how it turned out for those that did race.  Of the 6 that started in my age group, here are their results...

BluffCarnage

The two that did finish, based on their times of 3 hours to 3 1/2 hours, most likely spent the race carrying their bikes, pushing their bikes up the hills and basically survived the "hike" with a muddy bike that was not allowing the wheels to turn.  Everyone else pulled the plug after 1 lap.  Congrats to those who finished and "survived" the elements as I know it was an exhausting slog having been there and done that before a couple of times.  Similar results throughout the categories and age groups could be seen, so it was an adventure for all of those who did race, no doubt.

I guess my decision based on witnessing what I did see from the bottom of the ski hill turned out to have been the right one to make for me - especially with my wife and daughter along.  Having them wait for 3 or 3+ hours would have been more torture than they were due by coming along on the trip.

Although I made my blog post about the race and my personal decision to pull the plug, it appears others must have shared concerned disappointment directly (Facebook, email, in person, etc...) at the event of after the event with MMBS.   The MMBS Director, Gary Sjoquist responded on the website about all the factors that go into an event on a race day and how the decision(s) were made.  Hats off to Gary, the promoter, and the land owner for having to make those decisions collectively so the best solution met the needs of the most people.  It's obviously not an easy thing to do and Gary explains that in his response.  Here's the link to what Gary said. 

We are in the May/June bad weather (severe weather) time frame that most likely will result in several events having to deal with exactly what Mt. Kato faced on Sunday.  In fact, this weekend's race for the IMBCS sponsored by FORC looks like the forecast includes rain and some decisions will have to be made.  So it is with regard to Midwest Mountain Bike Racing.  The last couple of years have been drought driven years where we all got very used to racing in dry conditions.  Now, it appears, we are having a more normal year with regard to rain and decision making comes more into play for each individual racer as well as for the promoters and race directors.

I did a race simulation on Monday on my road bike for training, and followed up on Tuesday with Tara on a nice Zone 1 Great Western Mullets to Martensdale and back 44 mile ride before storms hit here Tuesday evening.  Today, it's back to hitting my ever lengthening summer "to do list" as we work our way through the house, garage and yard to take on all that needs to be done.  I will apply Scott's Step #2 to the yard today, and move all of the bike tires I have hanging on the garage walls into storage tubs.  I have a device from the paint store that is supposed to be able to tell what paint we have on the kitchen walls (I need some touch up for corners), so will get a small can of what the machine is claiming the color is.  We are researching and shopping for appliances and flooring as well, so much to be done today.

6/2/14

No MMBS#2 Race Report to Give...

Or perhaps a better blog title post would have been "All carbed up and nowhere to ride..."

The forecast for the weekend in Mankato did not look good the last few days.  Eventually, the forecast altered my plans to cut out the camping trip Tara and I were going to do.  Neither of us were too excited to set up camp and get dumped on for 24 hours.  So we changed our original plans from camping to driving up the morning of the race on Sunday.  The forecast continued to look grim for what would promise to be a muddy race.

Minnesota and Wisconsin series both utilize a "race rain or shine" policy with possible course route alterations, and delays for safety in the event of lightening and severe weather.  So I knew the race would be on and I knew that some sort of course would be utilized no matter what Ma Nature through at them.

In fact, I've raced Mt. Kata before in mud (as well as quite a few Minnesota events).  Here I am racing in mud at Mt. Kato in 2010...

Mt. Kato

I was a bit shocked that day from the choice that we actually were racing in such slop when I saw it, but most of it was confined to the upper portions of the ski area where water had pooled.  The sun was out, and the rest of the trail was able to be ridden and was not sloppy.  And I've raced the Bone Bender in thick mud (had to DNF).  Sugarbottom in terrbile mud (had to DNF).  Duluth, Red Wing, and a couple of muddy slogfests in Wisconsin as well over the years.  So I know mud and what it can do to the drivetrain, a racer's spirit, and turn an event into a survival of the fittest situation.

Back to this past weekend.  I watched the weather radar with great interest and saw that Saturday, Saturday night, and early Sunday morning had nothing but rain hitting the Mankato area due to a cold front moving through the Midwest and Great Lakes regions.  Having a nasty case of poison ivy that I got on Saturday doing trail work at Banner Pits left me with a swollen face, and arms that certainly gave me an additional itch.   Pardon the pun, but I was itching to race to the point that I decided not to stay home on Sunday in spite of what I saw on the radar. 

My bad!!!!! 

The experience at Red Wing last year where I drove up, sampled a great dry singletrack trail, spent the night, and then raced on a very muddy rain-altered route had me make the choice of saying "never again" for me.  It's just too much work to try to clean the bike and do the maintenance to get it going again as the mud really can damage things.   And the race itself is always a fight to keep balance and find a line with one muttering "why am I doing this" the entire time.

Here I was slogging it out at Red Wing in the mud last summer...

Slog

Here's my bike post Red Wing last year...

PostRaceMud

So it was that I packed the car on Saturday night, and left with my wife and daughter on Sunday morning for the drive to Mankato.  It was beautiful driving up I-35 in Iowa with nothing but blue sky.  That changed as we approached the border of Minnesota and hit the edge of the cold front.  We discussed turning around at that point, but I consulted the radar and the MMBS Facebook page that said the race was indeed on!  The rain started, and didn't stop until we pulled into the parking lot of Mt. Kato.  In fact, there was lightening in the area just north of Mankato as we were approaching.  It was raining, and racing was taking place with marathoners and CAT III's out on the course.

The parking lot at Mt. Kato ski area is usually full for this event at this time in the morning.  However, it was barely 1/3rd full.  Hmmmm.....had all of the wiser racers stayed home? 

We walked over to the registration area and my wife and I discussed making an intelligent decision.  I saw some racers stop and flip their bikes over at the lap turn area to clear mud out of their drivetrains in hopes of improving their mud clogged bikes.  I saw racers struggling on the lower flat section with rear wheels spinning out (on flat ground no less!!!).  I saw racers hiking the opening climb, veering off into the grass to find some traction and looking miserable.  I saw racers standing around who had finished, pulled the plug, DNF'd, etc... .

I went over and talked to a marathoner in his pit who was taking a short break between laps.  He and his bike were caked with mud.  I asked how it was out there and he said terrible.  Claimed he had to walk every hill it was so muddy.  His advice:  "avoid the mud".  Too funny!  His drivetrain, wheels, brake arch, chainstay were caked in mud preventing his bike from functioning very well.  And it was sprinkling and raining with what seemed like no end in sight.

Even the racers in my category who were getting suited up and warming up on the paved bike path, gravel roads, parking lot, etc... were getting caked in mud and grit.

OK - that was enough information.  I wish I would have judged better from a afar simply by combining my past racing experience and reading the weather radar, but c'est la vie.  We were there and I had made the drive.  The gals didn't really want to stand around in the rain for 2 - 3 hours waiting for me to slogfest myself and my bike through the mud.

I'm not really in favor of tearing up trails by riding in that kind of mud which is always the discussion for these race or rain or shine events that Minnesota and Wisconsin host - especially for all of us who work on trails and follow the IMBA Trail Rules which clearly has Rule #2 state:

Leave No Trace: Be sensitive to the dirt beneath you. Wet and muddy trails are more vulnerable to damage than dry ones. When the trail is soft, consider other riding options. This also means staying on existing trails and not creating new ones. Don't cut switchbacks. Be sure to pack out at least as much as you pack in. 

Well, people were leaving more than a trace.  I snagged a couple of photos from the Facebook page of MMBS to show you the trace being left...

PostRaceMUD 

And a post race rider covered in mud...

MUD


My decision was made.  I pulled the plug on suiting up to race.

We made a family decision to head over to the Mall of America and REI so that at least the trip was not entirely in vain.  Much shopping was done, and consumption of food.  Then we drove all the way home as the front with tornadoes, heavy winds, and rain of up to 6" moved through.  Luckily, we were on the front edge of that and because it was at an angle to I-35, we stayed right at the front edge of it as it moved east 40 mph all the way home to Indianola.  We felt like storm chasers watching the impressive mass of darkness move at us for several hours as we raced to stay in front of it. 

Bike acing wise, I'll live to fight another day on the mountain bike with more favorable trail and racing conditions.  I feel I made the right decision.

That's my "no MMBS#2 race report"...