5/27/15

Bike Trip and Faux Bike Packing is about to commence...

Tara and I will be celebrating our 25th Anniversary (which was this past December 30th) by going on a nice little 2nd Honeymoon type of adventure involving taking our bikes across the country, exploring, and enjoying nature. We plan to mountain bike in Colorado, the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, Santa Cruz and a few other spots as well as get plenty of road biking in along the way. We did RAGBRAI the past two years together and figured this year it would be fun to try something else.

Tara did most of the research and booking of our trip while I was over in Germany, but I am impressed with the route and the things we are going to see and do along the way.

I had to modify the back of my Element to haul the bikes (I didn't really want to haul them on the back with a rack due to weather, easy chance of theft, somebody rear ending me, etc...).

The bike gear goes in a little wooden box I built behind the driver's side seat to support and mount one of the bikes...

Cooler and gear...

I removed the two rear seats for this trip, and built a custom interior rack to hold all 4 bikes in a puzzle...

Four...

There is room behind the passenger's seat for about 3 duffle bags or carry on size suitcases, but we'll probably take the Rocket Box on top of the Element to haul all the gear.

I will be taking the singlespeed all decked out with frame bags to carry food, water, and gear for our riding pleasure/enjoyment. We will be wearing Camelbak's as well, so should be good to go for our version of Faux Bike Packing. We won't be overnighting on the bikes as we have cabins rented at some stops or camping spots at others, but at least we can carry what we need for our out and back trips...

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We will actually be attending a relative's wedding in California and seeing friends and family as well, so the trip is a nice mix of adventure and family. I hope to take plenty of pictures along the way to journal and show what we've been up to out on the road as well as on our bikes.

As always, there are miles to go before we leave in terms of getting things ready, packing, and chores around the house, but we are looking forward to this vacation.

5/10/15

Psycowpath Platte River Battle Royale Race Report

It has taken me the better part of 10 days to adjust back to this time zone in terms of my sleeping. I've finally turned a corner the past 2 nights by not waking up at 2 am. I ended up having more things on my plate this past week that I wasn't expecting to occupy my time than what I was expecting to accomplish. That led to skirting around the major items I should have been doing. This means the to do list continues to grow and needs addressing on a daily basis going forward.

The not expected list included having to get new tires, a new ball joint and alignment on our black Honda Element which all seemed to take up an entire day that I wasn't expecting. Mowing, and weeding took up another day as the pace I was moving seemed to be about as slow-motion as one can get with a lawn mower compared to my normal way of attacking the yard. Selecting a new fridge took up another day as measuring, finding what would and wouldn't fit, pricing, and all the driving to and from places took up time. Discovering a leak under the kitchen sink took another chunk of time to try and figure it out, give up, and call for repair. Grading final papers, tests, projects, entering and submitting the grades took up 3 full days. Diving into an issue that arose with IMBCS to bring us into the 21st Century with gender equity cash payouts has taken some time, and was not on the original week's to do list. And suddenly the week is over ending with Mother's Day.

Coming off of last Sunday's race at Beverly Park, I launched into week #1 of my build, peak, and race 12 week structured training program. No rest for the weary so to speak as weights were lifted, 3 x 12 Zone 4 intervals, 4 x 4 Zone 5 intervals, and more weights were all completed. In spite of that, I decided to drive over to Louisville, NE for the Platte River Battle Royale on Saturday with Andre Rethman to race as the weather looked promising and the trails were reported to be in great shape. Knowing that it was a pretty full week training wise, my expectations were realistic what my legs, body and mind would feel like doing a race just 6 days after the previous one on top of a heavy training week. I got the car packed up on Friday in hopes I would be ready for my 8 am departure to pick up Andre and drive over to Psycowpath's second race in their series. We had a nice visit in the car driving over as car pooling is a great way to get to know each other.

We arrived about 15 minutes later than I would have liked due to me leaving the house 15 minutes later than I expected. My bad, and I apologized to Andre. We checked in, got suited up, used the facilities, and with very little warm up, lined up for the race. This event seems to fluctuate year to year between using a Le Mans start, and a regular MTB race start. Yesterday was the Le Mans variety where we set our bikes down in a designated area, and then we all start back 50 yards are so and run to the bikes to begin the race. Suffice it to say, out of the 40 or so that started in my group, I was next to last to get to my bike as I gingerly ran through the pock marked field so as not to twist an angle or pull any muscles.

I managed to hop on the bike and get going quick enough to make up a dozen or so spots right off the bat, then settled into the line going up the hill. Gone was the strategy of hanging with Mark Sullivan who beat me by 1/3 of a second at this race last year, as I was way back in the pack feeling the effects of a heavy training week as I pounded up the opening climb. I passed a few on the climb as my heart rate soared, but I did keep things in check remembering that there was plenty of course out there coming up.

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Photo Courtesy of McColgan Photography

Once up the climb, I found myself in heavy traffic in the singletrack with little opportunity to negotiate a pass, but I managed a couple of passes to go around slower riders. The trail was in great shape from all of the rain this past week - nice and tacky, with only a little bit of mud at the very bottom of one of the descents. During lap one, the usual carnage of guys going down opened up some passing opportunities and I finally found myself in some good flow working with what my legs and lungs would give me. At the end of lap one, and looking at my computer, I spotted Mark rounding the lap to begin his second lap about 1:48 ahead of me. No way I was going to make that up, but I had at it for lap two trying to hammer every climb and keep moving forward to work on my form and worry about my position in the field. Lap two was uneventful as I caught up and passed other racers who had started out stronger than I did. I tried to ride the rock section on this lap as there was nobody in front of me at the time, but didn't make the climb as I psyched myself out 1/2 way up and put a foot down. A couple of duck steps over those rocks and I was back to mashing the big ring up the hills. I never saw Mark again as he pulled far and fast away and had me by at least 8 minutes for the win.

I rolled in for 2nd place (same as last year) which didn't feel quite as competitive as being on Mark's wheel last year at the finish line. Being on his wheel doesn't quite compare to being dusted by 8 minutes this year. However, my finish time yesterday - on pretty much the same course - was very similar to my finish time last year. Mark looked svelte as well as lean and mean like he had dropped some weight. He is obviously riding strong and will be hard for anybody to beat this season. I don't think I'll face him again until August, so maybe I can dial it up between now and then to close some of that gap. We'll see.

Platte River Podium

Andre had some mechanicals and went ass over tea kettle when a rock got stuck in his wheel. He rolled across the line in 6th with a few battle scars to show off on his leg. He treated us to one of my favorite beers from Knoxville, Iowa and we grabbed a burger from the grill that Cycle Works was providing for racers. This is always a fun event and it's nice to hang out and visit with folks after the race. I was able to have a nice talk with Roxzanne Feagan about financing and structuring cash payouts for men and women that are equal. Since the numbers in Nebraska are very similar to the numbers in Iowa, this was a valuable discussion as it is hard to compare to larger series such as Minnesota and Wisconsin that have a very large cash flow due to the 300-800 racers that race each of their events.

After the awards, we hopped back in the Element and returned to Iowa in time for dinner. Tara made a lovely salmon pizza. YUM! Thanks Andre for the visit and company! Kudos to Cycle Works and Psycowpath for a well run and fun event!

Happy Mother's Day to all the mothers out there. Our kids are both in Europe right now, so I'm taking Tara to brunch at Mullet's this morning on their behalf...

5/6/15

Back home again...

We had a whirlwind ten day trip to Vienna, Krakow, and Berlin to round out our 4 months in Germany.

Highlights: Thomas Hampson recital; Schloss Schönbrunn and the Tiergarten, the Belvedere; Prater; Naschmarkt; the coffee; biking in Berlin, Auschwitz; food in all 3 cities; great weather; seeing my daughter; seeing old friends.

These two old looking guys have sung over 100 performances together of numerous operas (Boheme, Zar und Zimmermann, Die Lustige Weiber von Windsor, Don Giovanni, Le Nozze di Figaro, Boris, and on and on...). It was nice to sit down and have dinner with Janusz Monarcha to catch up...

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Our day at the Belvedere...

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Good weather makes for good trips...

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This critter was very curious about all of us...

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I enjoyed the trip as did the students. Final farewells and tears were shared back in Schorndorf before we all departed on April 29th.

I got home in time for Zack's graduation on Saturday from Simpson College, and a visit from Dad/Grandpa to attend the event as well...



Then I jumped right into IMBCS Directing duties as we had our 2nd race of the season at Beverly Park in Cedar Rapids. Some of our new banners...

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The usual first week of dealing with jet lag, having so much on the to do list you don't know where to start (grades, gardening, final reports, refrigerator shopping, IMBCS stuff) and of course, reconnecting with family and friends.

Beverly Park Race Report

The only dirt I was able to ride the past 4 months was during the Easter Week Spring Break at Banner Pits and Lake Ahquabi, and I tried out the new Center Trails last week to map our the Time Trail course for August 8th. In spite of that, this past week was week 12 of my base training plan and felt pretty good outside of taking 7 days off during our 10 day trip. I finally rented a bike in Berlin to get two days of riding in, but should have done that in Vienna as well to keep the legs and lungs on the up and up. A 7 day layoff is going to require a few weeks to get back to where I was and beyond, and I'm certainly attacking it now.

Sunday I was out the door at 7 am to head to Beverly Park with our new banners, my bike, and the Hammer Nutrition sponsorship drinks, goodie bags, and gels. The forecast was good with an early morning sprinkle that was supposed to give way to sunshine for the rest of the day. Suffice it to say, that once the Marathon, CAT III, and Junior races got underway at 10 am, a small green blurp on the radar suddenly mushroomed into a full fledged thunderstorm that went right over the race course. Torrential rain, lightening and thunder. We had to stop the marathon race and send everyone for shelter until it blew over. Luckily, the Kids Race, the CAT III, and the JUNIOR races were all completed before the thunder and lightening hit.

Decisions then had to be made once the storm had blown over following our options in the rules/guidelines. It's always tough, frustrating, and requires patience to work through the options and come up with the best decisions for the majority. However, that's what we did. We decided to have a 2 hour delay to let the sun and wind do its work, and restart the marathon at that time with the other XC races remaining - CAT I, COMP, and CAT II. Not everyone was pleased, but that's why we have rules and guidelines in an organization to follow. It's obvious that frustration swayed some people's choices which included leaving, not racing at all, or even making public comments about how it was all handled. I can understand that, as it is more on the rare side of things that an event has to be stopped in progress due to weather safety issues, or an injury.

Regardless, in working with the Race Director Noel Kehrt, his trail managers, the timer and his software, we were able to stick to the rules and guidelines that included weighing several options (using a rain date, using a rain delay, altering the course, canceling a race, restarting a race, etc...). In my opinion, all of the right decisions were made as after the 2 hour delay and a slight course alteration, those that remained were treated to perfect racing conditions as the water had absorbed into the dirt, the trails were dry, and the sun was shining. Tacky, hero dirt was what we faced at that point, unlike those that had raced in the morning during the sprinkles that turned to torrential downpour.

The group that was impacted the most was our new Marathon Category (we had 19 in that group out of the 105 racers who toed the line). That's unfortunate as I really want this category to take off. Many chose not to restart even with the suggestion that they had time to go to the laundry mat, wash and dry their racing outfits, and be back still with plenty of time to restart the race. I had to do that at a race in Wisconsin last year after a rain shower and a delay. A few quarters later, and I had a fresh, dry kit to wear. Some had bike issues which is understandable from the rain and mud. Anyway, all the women bailed as a group and only about 1/2 the men decided not to restart. Those that remained, under the rules/guidelines, received full points for their final placings.

I think we have an option to make it all work out for the season with an additional event, and changing the rules to one's best 3 scores count for the series award, and a bonus for participating in the 4th event that is fair at the end of the season in the Marathon Category. I would hate to see Sunday's stopping and restarting due to severe weather, and wet trails deter those who were there participating to not come out for our other upcoming marathon events this season. I will make sure to work around Ma Nature to salvage the Marathon Category season with that slight rule alteration.

I raced my first COMP race as I upgraded this year. It's one more lap than what I have been used to, but I have been training for this distance since last fall. No surprise, and as usual, I was maxed out HR wise during lap one. I hit my highest HR during the opening 10 minutes, recovered and had better 2nd and 3rd laps than my first once my legs kicked in and I got into a better flow. No falls. The trail was in great shape and really fun. My average HR was higher than any race I've ever done in the past, but that could be due to where I am in my training cycle, the heat/humidity - or a combination of all that with me trying to push myself to keep up with the better competition in this category.

Suffice it to say, I've got work to do to compete at this new level. I started the race off in 5th place overall, and ended up in what I think was 7th place overall. Two riders in COMP were within reach in front of me on the final lap, but I just couldn't catch them. I haven't seen the full results yet, but my main goal was to finish strong for where I am in my training cycle, which I did.

FatTireFrenzy

Photo Courtesy of Eric Roccasecca

After using Monday for scheduled maintenance weight training, I took to the pavement on Tuesday for my Zone 4 Intervals (duration increased to 12 minutes in this training block). I dumped my chain to the inside on my Roubaix a few minutes from the house which is going to involve taking the crankset off to get things unstuck. After a walk back home pushing the bike, I used Zack's Tarmac yesterday which is a real rocket!!!

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