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