3/31/16

Renegade Gents Race 6.0: loading up the glycogen stores for Saturday's race...

This Saturday is the 6th running of Bike Iowa's Renegade Gents Race. 315 riders will be doing it this year, up from the 225 that did it the last time I rode it in 2014 (which I wrote about here). I was unable to ride it last year as I was teaching in Germany.

Renegade Gents Race History by the numbers...

2016 -
63 teams signed up. ?? finished
2015 - 64 teams signed up. 45 finished
2014 - 45 teams signed up. 33 finished
2013 - 37 teams signed up. 24 finished
2012 - 30 teams signed up. 22 finished
2011 - 15 teams signed up. 13 finished


This year, the Gran Fondo race is a charity benefit:

This year we decided to make our race a charity event. As many of you already know the cycling community lost a wonderful member when Julie Hugo Sumpter passed away last December. Julie loved all animals and especially dogs so we decided to dedicate this race to her memory. We ask that each racer bring $15 worth of product to donate to the Animal Rescue League of Iowa.

CLICK HERE for a list of needed items for the ARL.

Also on this page is a link to their Amazon.com wish list. If you prefer to shop online you can order directly from Amazon and have it shipped to the ARL. If you decide to go this route please bring a printed receipt of your purchase. Thank you and keep those registrations coming in!


I'm bringing a bag of adult dog food from the ARL wish list on Saturday!!! If you are doing the race and don't have your item(s) yet, make sure you pick something up today or tomorrow.

Ma Nature has agreed to make it challenging for us with winds gusting up to 45mph on Saturday which will make one direction really fast, but the opposite direction really tough. I may have to mount the drop bars that go all the way down to the fork skewer!!!

Or I may have to pull out Piero's aero bike for the ride...

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Seriously, it will be either the Roubaix with some skinny tires on it or the Dos Niner on Saturday. Both bikes are ready to go. I can get more aero on the Roubaix road bike and hold it longer thanks to the drop bars, but I'm comfy on either - so I'll remain agnostic and clip into whatever I bring to ride. If I take the road bike, I might throw on the Cobble Gobbler post or Thudbuster ST to absorb some of the gravel for the duration.

I'm riding with fellow Bike Iowa Team members Scott Sumpter, Matt den Hartog, Andy Zeiner, and Jim Coady. Same group as last time, except Jim replaces Jared Morford who will be riding with one of our other Bike Iowa 5 man teams.

Like two years ago, no doubt we will take off in Zone 4/5 again and push the pace until fatigue, reality, and Ma Nature force us to back down to Zone 3 and 2. Scott's on another Trans Iowa training year, so my bet is for the upper Zones a lot longer this time around. The ride fits my training schedule perfectly as what is on order for Saturday's scheduled ride in my structured training is a 3 1/2 hour mix of Zone 3 & 2 ride. We'll probably be on the bike between 4 1/4 and 4 1/2 hours (depending on what Ma Nature dictates) - so that fits the bill, plus gives me an opportunity to dig a bit deeper for some extra bonus. The forecast looks to be around the same temperatures as 2 years ago when I last rode it, but double the wind speed this time around if the forecast holds true. That will drop the windchill to a lower chill - so layers needed for sure, with anything I might need in the drop bag.

This video that Ken Sherman shot and edited back in 2013 pretty much sums up what this race is all about...



Each team of 5 starts and ends together. It's a nice time to visit with each other, suffer with each other, and enjoy some food and drink after the ride. This year - all for a great cause in memory of Julie.

3/24/16

Fuel and Nutrition....

It seems like I've been enjoying using the Wok quite a bit this year. It's really easy to whip up a batch of stir fry filled with nutrients in the non-stick Wok. Cook time is minimal and is actually quite fun to do. Chopping up the ingredients is the only prep time, and that doesn't take long. And cooking in the Wok is very forgiving as the flavors meld and I've yet to have something taste bad.

Last night was a bit of an experiment...

I usually buy some of the packaged corned beef once St. Patrick's day has come and gone and it goes on sale. Corned beef is one of the saltiest things on earth. For that reason, I soak it in water for about 48 hours, and change the water several times during that to de-brine it. This is one of the easiest ways to make pastrami rather than doing it by starting from the uncured brisket and brining it. After the corned beef has been soaked for at least two days, I put a rub on it, and then smoke it overnight to get the oh so good tasting pastrami. Well, this weekend I read on one of my guru BBQ sites that you don't even have to soak a particular brand of packaged corned beef. They suggested you just rinse it, dry it, put the rub on it before you smoke it. So I gave that a try this weekend. Tara and I sat down to try it out on Monday night and encountered the saltiest thing one can imagine. So salty it hurt to eat. Whoever suggested that on the guru BBQ site must have a very high tolerance for sodium!!!

In an effort to salvage the $14 chunk of meat and not toss it out, I whipped some of it up in a stir fry last night with vegetables, olive oil, sesame oil, peanut oil, garlic, ginger, and 1/2 of a lime juice to cut through the salt. I got my protein, fat, and the nutrients from the vegetables. Some multi-grain take and bake bread from Hy-Vee rounded it out before I rushed off to hear two student recitals at Simpson.

How was it? Well, it worked and was pretty tasty!!!

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I'll do the same later this week a time or two to finish off the didn't quite make it to pastrami chunk of meat.

I've just about reached my goal weight after a Fall of bulking, and then cutting since more or less Christmas. The target I had set was to be finished cutting by the end of March which is only 8 days away. I'm about 2-3 pounds away from the goal I set, so it will be close. I stabilized my weight loss over the past month to allow my body to adjust, and upped my fuel for all of the base miles and weight lifting I was logging. Since returning from the Spring Break riding in southern Utah, I've entered my final cut phase for three weeks to land at my target goal.

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I've been careful to get good nutrients to aid in recovery and fueling. In spite of that, during a calorie deficit to lose weight like I've been through, I will say that one's mood is not always rooted in having a grand old time. I'm not saying I have had to eat like this at all...

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Or this...

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No, not at all. I've been chowing down on pretty much everything. Just counting the calories and stopping when my numbers were hit.

The lower numbers will all change to the upside a bit as I rotate into the next phase of training. I will need to eat the nutrients, macros, and get all the nutrition to fuel the workouts, and aid recovery while maintaining the weight goal I achieved.


3/23/16

Mountain Bike Equipment Obsolescence....

I've been riding Niner's Jet 9 aluminum race bike since 2008. It got recalled in 2009 and the front and rear triangles were replaced. I have also been riding the Salsa Dos Niner even longer - since 2006 - and that was a special Scandium metal with fairy dust mixed into the aluminum. That original green Dos Niner frame snapped just as I began riding up a hill 2 blocks from my house to start its 5th season, and Salsa's replacement policy got me into a replacement Dos Niner silver frame using the crash replacement policy discount. That replacement frame is now entering its 7th season of service. These are frames that have an expected shelf life of 5 years for the material that they are.

I was reminded on Sunday's 42 mile gravel ride as everyone noticed my Dos Niner making all sorts of creaking noises that it is due for a tear down, clean up, full maintenance, greasing, and check up to see what kind of shape it is all in at the moment...

Dos Niner post race

On top of that, I bought each of the frames mentioned above (original Dos Niner and JET) used during their initial seasons from riders that bought them, and quickly wanted to move on with newer, better, bigger, whatever bikes in the same season they purchased them. That's how I could afford to upgrade at the time. These bikes were both careful, well thought out builds for me at the time...

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JET with Raven 2.2's

Fast forward to 2016 and the word that comes to mind when looking at mountain bike components, forks, frames compared to my current equipment is obsolescence. Threaded cartridge bottom brackets, QR 9mm front axles, 135mm rear spacing, non-tapered fork steerers, Rockshox 2008 fork technology, cable pull disc brakes, 9 speed transmissions, aluminum frames, and well - it's like I woke up years later and it has all changed with my equipment only to be found at swap meets, used online sources, and in the basements and garages of guys who collect parts.

Sure, I have upgraded along the way and do own carbon rims, I did upgrade to a tapered fork on the JET 9 back in 2009/10, but that's about it. I am quite aware of it all, but the reality is that I've been servicing and riding last decade's technology. Not that it is bad technology, but it just is what it is.

A lot has transpired along the way with many introductions of things.

After 9 speed, came 10 speed. Then came 11 speed. Are we about to get 12 speed? Not to mention we now have electronic shifting on bikes!!! Triple cranks (3 chain rings up front) changed to Duo (2 rings up front). Then changed to single rings up front. 25.4mm handlebar diameters and stems changed to 31.8mm. And now to 35mm diameter. Handlebar width used to be less than 600mm for mountain bikes. Then it grew to 700mm width. Then 800mm width. What's next? Tubes in tires changed to tubeless tires technology. Rims with bead hooks changed to hookless. Wheel and tires sizes are available in more than the old 26" vs. 29". Forks had the stanchions on the top. Now they come on the bottom. 32mm stanchions were the norm. Now 34mm stanchions are the norm for some. Bottom brackets have gone from cartridge BB's, to external, to press fit, to who knows what. QR 9mm's to 15mm to 20mm to all kinds of things in the rear from 135 to 142 to 148, Boost, non-Boost - and on and on it goes. Rim widths of 19mm, 21mm, 23mm, 24mm, 27mm, 30mm, 35mm, 38mm, 50mm and how wide can we go?

There are adventure bikes, gravel bikes, cross bikes, road bikes, endurance bikes, XC bikes, DH bikes, Trail bikes, Enduro bikes, comfort bikes, recumbent bikes, trikes, eBikes, FAT Bikes, Plus Size Bikes, and on and on. Cassettes that had 11-32T gear ranges. Then 11-34T. Then 11-36. Then 11-40. Then 10-42. Now we have 10-46 and 10-50 cassettes!!! There goes the weight advantage of a 1 x __ gearing system compared to a double.

Some of it I get. Some of it I don't get.

But that's okay. It's not about the bike.

Or is it?

I crushed a nice ride yesterday riding the Dos Niner (creaks and all) on one of our local dirt systems (Banner Pits). I'm coming into pretty good form with all of the volume I have been doing the past 12 weeks, and hit some really good numbers for me due to being at fighting weight again. That all reminded me that it is not about the bike, it's about the rider and the work it takes to go fast. Yes, I will take my Dos Niner bike apart and try to fix all of the creaks and squeaks, but I know the days are numbered for my two well used bikes and all of their aging components. Hey, the Avid cable pull disc brakes on the JET 9 have been in operation for me since 2003!!! 14 years on the same brakes - not bad considering technology for disc brakes has moved miles beyond what I run on all of my bikes. Both bikes have lived beyond their expected life spans for what they were designed to do.

Leaving me thinking - it's time.

Or is it?

Edit: I had read about the upcoming 12 speed and 50T cog from SRAM (as well as 46T from Shimano). Only a day later and bingo, the Eagle has landed. 1 x 12 speed is here and all the 1 x 11 gizmos just went on sale.....!!!!

3/21/16

Weekend of Iowa Singlespeeding and Gravel Grinding...

What does one do at the end of Week #12 of their structured base training plan? Or rather, what is one supposed to do according to the training plan?

I was supposed to do a power and heart rate test on Saturday which takes about 90 minutes of my time including the proper warm-up, test itself, and the cool down. I also have the option of doing it on Tuesday, or doing a repeat of weeks 11/12 in an effort to time my peak a bit better this summer around some actual events (that would be nice, yes?). So I didn't worry too much about it as I had a scheduled meeting Saturday morning, an afternoon training session that Tara wanted me to attend, and a dinner with friends up in Des Moines in the evening. Sunday provided options of a possible gravel race in Colfax, or a gravel grinder ride I had seen posted on Facebook, or another supposed to do scheduled ride of developing technical skills on the mountain bike.

Short story - I opted to skip the power and heart rate test and take the test on one of the other options listed above. That led to me loading up the Karate Monkey singlespeed in the back of the Element to head off to the new Iowa Tap Room to meet with Jeff Mertz and Rob Cook for a discussion on Iowa Mountain Bike racing. We were the first customers to arrive and take a table. By the time we left, it seemed the entire NCAA Tournament Crowd had filed in and the place was hopping for a Saturday lunch hour. 120 Iowa craft beers on tap and the decor is old industrial wide open, roomy, comfy, and bright. We had a good lunch meeting and I sampled two of the lighter beers.

I drove south from Des Moines through sleet, snow, rain and headed to Summerset State Park where the sun was shining. Perfect. I pulled the bike out, got suited up with plans to get about 90 minutes in the tank including some of the supposed to do stuff for technical skill development. I did a full lap and noted that things were in some of the best shape coming out of Winter that I can remember it being in years past. It was a nice mix of sun, sleet, snow, sun which made for a visually fun ride - and nice reminder that it was, after all, the last day of Winter. The new 17T rear cog at my current weight and fitness proved to be just right. It was a bit of a struggle at 10-15 pounds heavier, but feels just right at my current weight. I rode several sections over and over again rather than do a full second lap, then I saw Ron Cooney in the parking lot where we chit-chatted a bit before I had to head off to my next appointment. He was planning on doing some reroutes in Riverside where the bank of the Middle River had compromised the trail in two spots.

We wrapped up Saturday evening with a great meal and drinks at Malo with friends. Based on the El Rey Margarita - which is served table side in a shaker Martini style - and my inability to say no to a 2nd, and a 3rd, it was clear that my Sunday was not going to include climbing out of bed, suiting up, and hopping on the bike to do a gravel Spring Classic race in Colfax (which was one of my options for the weekend). I wanted a little more time on the bike for Sunday to build up my stamina for the upcoming Renegade Gentleman's Race that my team BikeIowa.com puts on every year.

To reach that goal of getting a bit more bike time, I hooked up with Katherine & Eric Roccasecca, Rob Cook, Andre Rethman, and Alan Eshelman for a planned 42 mile gravel route that Katherine had organized. We headed out from the Cumming Tap at 11 am. I could have ridden my Roubaix endurance road bike or my Dos Niner mountain bike as the gravel was nice and baked hard. I decided to go with the fat tires of the mountain bike to take advantage of the the suspension fork and Thudbuster ST post I have on there to absorb any chatter.

Skies were blue with billowy clouds, and the gravel was dry but not dusty...

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Baked Iowa Gravel 

Pictured above is the stuff we see this time of year where you can get by on a road bike, cross bike, mountain bike, just about any bike. Once the counties get out with the graders, and some fresh gravel is dumped - that all changes quickly. However, yesterday would have been fine on anything in my garage due to it being baked so hard. We maybe hit a few short sketchy sections, but nothing very technical.

Eric was feeling under the weather and even though we backed off the pace a bit, he was struggling to keep up with his fever. We stopped for snacks about mid ride and laughed at how tall this group was. Everyone was at least 6'3" and all the way up to 6'7" except for Katherine.

Team Katherine and the Too Tall to Buy off the Rackettes...

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So the group lined up in order for this photo is 6'3', 6'4", 6'5", Katherine, 6'7" and the photo is courtesy of Rob Cook who I believe is 6'5". Talk about a group that could provide plenty of shelter from the wind if you rode behind us!!!

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Katherine and Eric peeled off at the Great Western Trail to head back as they had an evening dinner enagement and Eric was with fever. So the other 4 of us motored on and pushed the heart rate up in into high Zone 2, Zone 3 and 4 to finish off the final 13 miles. Looks like we had about 3 hours and 15 minutes of ride time to cover the 42 miles at the pace we were going, and enjoying all the hills and screaming descents. A pitcher of Fat Tire at the Cumming Tap to recover was enjoyed between us before heading home.

The weekend of riding - even though it wasn't what it was supposed to be - felt like a great way to wrap up the 12 week base period of training from LWCoaching.com.

3/16/16

Utah Mountain Biking wrap...

My Spring Break has ended, but not before I got my fill of riding last week in southern Utah.

I closed out my week with some excellent mesa riding - especially at Little Creek Mesa. It turned out to be my favorite trail ride of the week. Don't get me wrong, the rest were great as well. However, this one just had the right mix of everything unique for me for lack of a better description. Many of the singletrack parts connecting the slickrock reminded me of riding in the chunky rocks of the Black Hills, the views off of the mesa were spectacular, the slickrock and navigation of it was enjoyable, the technical challenges kept me on my toes, the amount of climbing (1100 feet) gave me a good workout, and since it is a bit more off the beaten path - solitude is a given. Or at least it was the day I rode.

The forecast was for 81 degrees, so climbing into the car after having fueled up for the day at iHop, I noticed the heat and looked forward to heading over to Little Creek Mesa. The higher elevation guaranteed about 8-9 degrees cooler temperatures than it was in St. George which sounded good after the previous day's long ride in the sun.

The turn off for Little Creek Mesa from Highway 59 is very close to the Gooseberry Mesa turn, except you go south of the highway on a gravel road. Again, directions from the Utah Mountain Biking website were perfect and I rolled into the parking lot which is just the slickrock itself...

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One of my favorite purchases was a cloth map that I picked up at Over the Edge Sports in Hurricane. It's a map printed on a handy stuff it in the pocket, use it to clean your glasses, wipe your face, etc. format which I thought was pretty cool.

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I used it quite a bit all week long for the trails over in the Hurricane area.

I had downloaded the gpx files to my iPhone and used the GPS App to make sure I followed the loops in the route having read that the piles of rocks (cairns) were not always easy to follow. I actually enjoyed navigating and playing on the slickrock. I was having so much fun, I didn't stop for my first snack break until I had already been riding for 2 hours.

There was a tour group with a guide and a few other people, but for the most part I was riding solo and enjoying that things were so quiet for a Friday afternoon...

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The rain collects in the craters of the slickrock and the one pictured above, had it been a warmer day, may have been a good place to cool off.

Here is the tour group I traded places with every now and then as I would stop to take a picture and they would pass me, and vice versa...

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My first Clif Bar break after riding for 2 hours...

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Just gorgeous scenery which this following photo dump represents...

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Even though my legs were pretty cooked from all the week's riding, I tossed the bike in the car and headed from Little Mesa back towards Hurricane and did two more hours of riding at Hurricane Cliffs to round out my week of riding. I ran out of daylight even though I got an early start and was having so much fun. I turned the bike in on Saturday and caught my flight home after stopping in at Rapid Cycling, and briefly visiting the race HQ in downtown Santa Clara where the True Grit Epic was being held on Saturday.

The area is beautiful and the month of March is an excellent time to visit because it is not too hot and not too cold which makes for perfect riding. I will be back to enjoy the area again at some point.

3/10/16

Bearclaw Poppy & Video Return to JEM...

Today was an EPIC ride for me. I wasn't really sure what I had planned outside of hitting up the Bearclaw Poppy area due to it being a must ride classic area in St. George. My thoughts were to spend 2 - 3 hours in the area playing around on all of the fun stuff. That was the suggestion from Utah Mountain Biking, so I was sticking with that plan.

Once again, I fueled up with a calorie dense breakfast before heading to the parking area of the day's ride. The temperatures were in the mid 70's and it felt great to be out on the bike in the sun and warmth. I entered at the Bloomington end of the trail and had at it! I climbed for a couple of miles, and then took the downhill to enjoy. It was fun, and back up the climb I went for more. And more. And more. I was having a blast!

Here's a nice little video of these fun trails made by somebody 2 years ago that shows why it is a classic must ride...



After tooling around with Acid Drop, Clavicle, Green Valley BMX, Three Fingers of Death and getting my fill of the classic goodness, I decided to embark on a larger loop and headed up the Stucki Springs Trail. This was not on my original plan at all, but what the heck. It was a beautiful day and there were still many hours of daylight left. The Stucki Springs Trail was marked for the True Grit Epic 50 and 100 mile race on Saturday, so I figured I would test some of it out. Why not?

Here's a short video about the True Grit Epic in St. George on all of the trails I was riding today...



The race course was well marked...

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I met up with a guy from California and we rode for a bit together before he turned off on a side trail that he claimed would take him somewhere. So I stopped to figure out what I should do: continue on, turn around, or follow the Californian...

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I climbed and climbed and stopped to make this little video to catch my breath and show the vista about an hour into it...



After I shot that, I kept going, and going, and going, and somehow missed a turn and went off on a tangent trail (which was fun, and it led to other tangents). After another hour I realized I had no idea where I was, except out in the desert climbing around.

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I can't argue with the beauty and all of the sweet trail I was riding...

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But I was with no map and my phone battery was about to die, so I turned around to retrace my tracks...

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Hey, the trail was nice and my legs were enjoying the burn...

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Long story short, I sipped my water to make it last, had plenty of Gels and Clif Bars which I snacked on, and realized I had no need to panic. I just needed to get back to some landmarks with views that looked familiar to me. The phone battery was dead and I had left my external battery in the car thinking I wouldn't be riding out here that long today. Lesson learned.

Eventually I made it back to an area I recognized and was able to make it back to the area where I had started by taking an unmarked trail that looked like it led to where I needed to go (it did). Many, many hours later from when I left the car, I made it back. I was just about out of water and snacks, so getting back to the car was timely after this EPIC day of riding. Not as epic as a 100 mile True Grit, but pretty dang close to a 50 miler version. When my phone died, I had already gone about 35 miles.

EPIC ride in the bank. Shower, water, and dinner to refuel.

On tap for Day Four - Friday. At this point, I still want to ride Guacamole and then choose between hitting JEM (Hurricane Cliffs) or Gooseberry again. We shall see how the legs feel when I wake up tomorrow after today's EPIC!

This video was uploaded to YouTube.com and made a few days before I arrived. The group had a drone with a camera on it which they used in a very effective manner as it really shows the beauty of Dead Ringer, More Cowbell, and the JEM trail better than I can with my iPhone.



Isn't that a great video!!! It really captures the beauty of these trails and the area in such a stunning way.

It's a fun climb up Dead Ringer trail. The beauty of the More Cowbell trail allows one to recover at the top before descending the JEM trail (which includes the super fun 6.2 mile descent) that I wouldn't mind doing again tomorrow now that it is warmer and the dirt is no longer tacky from last weekend's rain.

We will see what Friday beholds, but rest assured - I will be out there for several hours enjoying myself on some trail(s)...

Gooseberry Mesa, meet the IBIS Ripley LS...

I will be trying to knock out a 2 for 1 type of blog post today by reviewing the Gooseberry Mesa trails and talking about the attributes of the IBIS Ripley LS wonderful piece of technology.

Yesterday was Day Two of my St. George/Hurricane, Utah Spring Break mountain bike riding vacation. After a good night's sleep, I fueled up with a 1127 calorie breakfast (that I pretty much inhaled!) to tank up for the day's fun at the world-class Gooseberry Mesa. It is the slickrock must ride of southern Utah.

Let's start with a view from where the South Rim trail meets The Point trail intersection. I stopped to chow down a Clif Bar. I know that Clif Bars were named after founder and owner Gary Erickson's tribute to his father Clifford. However - and I mean no disrespect to Gary and Clifford - but I thought snacking on one was very appropriate since I was riding along cliffs for most of the day.

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This land offers nothing but stunning views. Just like our visit to the the area last June, I find myself struggling for words to describe the sheer beauty of this area. Mountains with snow topped peaks, blue sky, deep red soil, rocks, formations, desert, and on and on. It's eye candy. And lovely eye candy at that. Let's just say - I'll be back.

The dirt road getting to the parking area of Gooseberry Mesa was just as I had been warned about online - rough. I had rented an SUV with all wheel drive solely for the purpose of being able to get in there after last weekend's rains had passed through and left the road in what turned out to be some fun driving. Luckily, there was an SUV in front of me with two bikes on their rack - so I figured I could just follow them. The driver appeared to be local as he knew the road well enough to get us through unscathed.

Some people parked here, but I had read that the best place to park was another 1.1 miles of rough road. So did the car I was following as we passed this point and headed to our parking lot destination.

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I pulled into the well designed parking lot to unload the IBIS and get ready for the day's fun. There were about 8 cars in the lot, and 6 of us were unloading our bikes to head out for the afternoon.

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They have some very nice trail map kiosks and information at these trails where you can read about the rock formations, sediment, and other trail facts.

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The deeply-eroded, alternating bands of red and white that form the north and south borders of Gooseberry Mesa are mudstone of the Moenkopi Formation, laid down during the Triassic Era (about 240 million years ago). As the ocean receded, gravel and shoreline deposits formed the hard Shinarump conglomerate, which begins the cap of the mesa. As the area rose further, forest left behind petrified wood, which can be found lying on the mesa surface.

If you spend some time snooping around, you may even find dinosaur tracks in the sandstone. This rock marks the boundary between the Triassic (reptiles, mammal-like reptiles, and early bipedal dinosaurs) and the Jurassic (bipedal carnivores such as allosaurus, four-legged plant-eaters such as stegosaurs and camarosaurs).

I've been getting most of my information about where and what to ride from the UtahMountainBiking.com website which is really a wonderful resource tool for those planning trips to Utah to ride your bikes. The quote above comes from that site at this link.

I was also informed from several videos - especially jmpreston's from MTBR.com in the Utah forum about where and what to ride in the St. George/Hurricane areas in SW Utah. I knew there were advanced technical sections at Gooseberry, but two guys coming out of the trail reiterated that and issued me a warning - at least based on their riding skill level. One had torn a tire and they had to walk out by only doing the first half of the South Rim trail. They said "stay away" from the other half of the South Rim as it was Double Black Diamond only. Hmmmm.....

I hadn't really worried about it all until they spoke so passionately with me, so I decided to hit the trail called "Practice Loop" to see if I could handle the terrain. Yesterday's ride on the trails in the Hurricane Cliffs area were flowing singletrack that were more appropriate for my JET 9 or Salsa Dos Niner or Karate Monkey SS. So I wasn't really sure about what the IBIS Ripley LS could do. This bike has a lot of the new technology on it that I have never tried before. SRAM 1 x 11 gearing. The Fox 34mm fork stanchions. Boost hub in the rear. A slacker headtube than I have ever ridden. Short stem with wide bars. 130mm squish up front. Dropper seat post. Hydraulic brakes. That's a lot to throw at a guy riding with what appears to be ancient bicycle technology on all of my mountain bikes.

The build kit prices out the IBIS Ripley LS as configured at $7300 with the features my rental has loaded on it.

IBIS Build Kit for my Rental

I'm not sure "I got it" - in terms of what this bike can do - yesterday while riding on the Hurricane Cliffs trails. However, within several hundred meters of taking on the slickrock ledges, ramps, walls - I suddenly got it! Holy smokes is this bike the shiznit when riding chunk, technical stunts, walls, ramps, drops.

Wow! Either this bike was made for Gooseberry or Gooseberry was made for this bike. It just works! Just point the bike down or up this stuff and GO!

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So the love fest for the IBIS Ripley LS continued for 3 hours as I played. Obviously, we don't get to ride anything like this in Iowa, so having a tool like this bike to guide me through it all had me grinning from ear to ear as to what one can do on a bike these days. Walls that appear to go straight up - no problem. A drop that looks like an immediate end over end on my other bikes - no problem. The bike slowly, but surely helped me change my overall thinking and skill set. Now that says something about how far the bike technology has come in the past 20 years.

Lynda Wallenfels of LWCoaching.com includes most Saturdays as part of the structured training plan I use as a day to work on technical skills. That's been hard for me to do in the Winter months unless I consider putzing around the neighborhood in the snow and ice. I felt like yesterday I got caught up from all that I had missed the past 11 weeks in terms of technical skills building on Saturdays. Baptism by fire so to speak on these trails.

The practice loop proved I was golden in terms of my skills to take on Gooseberry. So I headed off to the North Rim trail. Stunning, stunning views of the big country.

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A lot of the trail in terms of rocks and ledges reminded me of what one encounters in the Black Hills on the more chunky singletrack. The slickrock walls coming at you left and right going up and down were a new challenge, but not as long as Moab's. This bike's platform adjusts automatically to one whether they are standing or sitting as you power up and down the walls. Incredible! All the technology poured into this bike has been worth it. I'm not saying one doesn't need a little skill as well as the psychology to take on the technical terrain, but the bike sure helped the mental side of the game. It reminds me a bit of my Niner RIP 9, but I've never had that bike set up outside of a XC build. I'm sure the newer RIP 9's are on equal footing, but I'm only speaking about the IBIS right now which is the BOMB!

After an hour of riding, I stopped and had my first snack before riding out to The Point where I encountered my first trailside cow. She did not spook and allowed me to pass. The view is best summed up by a little video I shot while standing on The Point enjoying what I was seeing...



Although I had a hint of trepidation from the warning the two guys gave me in the parking lot, I felt my skills and the bike combined were doing just fine. Even though my upper body was starting to fatigue from all of the manuals, walls, climbs, and muscling through the super fun trail - I didn't come all this way to "not ride" the entirety of the South Rim. So I dove into the double black diamond section not sure of what I would find. Boy, was it fun. Especially riding right along the edge of the cliff with a stiff wind blowing making you hang on for all you were worth. Technically, I did not find it much different from the rest of what I had been riding - just more of it. One has to be careful when riding this kind of trail as fatigue sets in you might make poor decisions or develop the mindset of not caring any more because it all comes at you again and again with very little time to mentally or physically relax.

That happened to me climbing one rather steep wall that had a sharp right turn in the middle of the climb. I misjudged my body lean and the angle just enough that I was going to go down hard on the rock. I had a choice of saving myself or saving the bike. I chose the former and had to lay the bike over on the slickrock right on the rear derailleur as I tucked and rolled down the rock. A little torn skin on the right shin and left elbow, but nothing I couldn't shake off and laugh about. The bike was fine too, but I did scuff the derailleur a bit on the rock.

I took a break to soak in the view and recover from the spill...

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Then I proceeded with caution a bit for a few minutes at a slower pace to get it all together again. I eventually got back to the parking lot where I immediately struck up a conversation with 4 folks from Alberta, Canada who were all enjoying a nice frosty beer. They had been out hiking some of the trails. We started talking about the YURTS which one can see, places I should visit while I was here, places to eat and had a nice visit. I decided to round out the day with two more loops on the Practice Loop as I wanted to shoot some video of it. The workout was not as aerobic or fatiguing on the legs as it was on the rest of the body and mind. Either way, I felt spent when I loaded up the bike and headed back to St. George.

After a quick hot shower, I located a restaurant just driving around that I had not heard of before. It looked good enough from the street to stop in and give it a try. I'm glad I did! It's called the Anasazi Steakhouse and I really enjoyed my filet, rosemary mashed potatoes, salad, grilled veggies, and wine...

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Named after the local ancestors of the Pueblo Indians. There is a trail system called Anasazi in the Santa Clara River Preserve.

Satiated from the evening's dinner, I headed back to my Airbnb. That was it for one of the better mountain biking days I have experienced in my life. Great bike meets great technical terrain and both now rank high on my list of what it is all about when it comes to mountain biking.


3/8/16

Hurricane Cliffs...

I had a smooth pair of flights from Des Moines to Denver, and Denver to St. George, Utah yesterday. I had a 2 hour layover in Denver, so even though I'm not a big fan of airport food - I saw a place that looked promising. Promising it was! I tip my hat to the staff and crew at Elway's in the Denver Airport (John Elway's restaurant) for the best rack of lamb I have ever eaten. They source them from northeastern Colorado and the preparation, size, and taste were world class. A side order of sautéed broccoli rounded out my airport dinner before I boarded the plane headed for St. George.

The St. George airport is beautiful, but small. I jumped in line to pick up my rental car, and as I was signing all of the paperwork, the bags came through on the conveyer system and I spotted mine. I couldn't run over and get it as there was a line that had formed behind me. By the time I finished with the paperwork and was handed the key, the conveyor belt had stopped - and my bag was gone!

WTF!!!!

Hmmmm......I couldn't find anyone in the airport to help me. Finally, after stressing about it, I walked down to the ticketing area and found one man who was sort of a one man operation for the late nights at this airport. He told me he had locked my bag up in the lost baggage claim closet and went to retrieve it. Whew! Crisis averted. So, I was good to go and drive over to my reserved Airbnb room. The room is perfect for me - both in function and price (about 1/2 the cost of a motel). It is a separate servant's quarters little hacienda next to the owner's house . Fred is the home owner and runs this Airbnb which got great reviews and is pretty much booked up for the year. I got lucky when I saw this week it was available. Fred was great and we had a nice 30 minute visit getting to know each other.

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King size bed, my own bath and shower, a Keurig for coffee/tee, microwave, mini-fridge, television with satellite and Netflix. Everything one needs to relax on vacation.

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That being said, I crashed and fell fast asleep. I woke up at 4 am (5 am CST) and forced myself to fall back asleep which lasted until about 8:30. Finally! I got a full night's sleep. I really needed that - and Tara can attest to me waking up between 2 - 5 am far too often during the past 5 weeks. No dogs to take outside or feed allowed me to fall back asleep - at least for today.

I got up, showered, and headed to iHop. I didn't realize it was National Pancake Day which quickly explained why the parking lot was full, and there was a huge waiting list as well as the place being totally filled with kids. It must be Spring Break here in the public school system based on all the young ones I saw at 10 am in the restaurant. I finally got a table and was told due to it being National Pancake Day, the hotcakes were free. Sweet. Free pancakes which I adorned with two eggs and bacon to fuel up for my bike ride.

I drove over to Hurricane (which Fred taught me how to pronounce correctly so I wouldn't be mistaken as a northerner). I found the Over the Edge Sports LBS where I had reserved an Ibis Ripley for my week of riding. After a quick fitting and a recommendation of where to ride today due to the weekend rains, I was off to the trailhead parking area.

Day one of my Utah riding week was to be at Hurricane Cliffs. I know Tara will appreciate the word cliffs, but not to worry - I was careful. The Hurricane Cliffs area is a collection of trails (Gould's Rim, JEM, Hurricane Rim, Cryptobionic, Goosebumps, Dead Ringer, More Cowbell, and a few more) giving one plenty of options to ride for one hour, two hours, three hours, or four + hours. I targeted 2 1/2 hours as being about right due to how I felt and adjusting to the 4-5K foot altitude. So I got the bike ready for the opening climb...

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This will be by coldest day here this week at 66 degrees. It will be close to 80 later in the week, but today's blue skies and fresh desert air felt good. There was a slight breeze, so I kept the arm warmers on for the ride.

At the top of the Dead Ringer climb, the entrance to the More Cowbell trail is there. And you guessed it, there is a cowbell hanging from the post you can ring to your heart's content.

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I did the More Cowbell loop which is right along the lower mesa. It's beginner friendly, but the spectacular views were worth it.

I next climbed to the top of the Hurricane Cliffs where there is also a trail head...

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Nice flowing singletrack that was in tacky condition from the weekend's rain...

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I do have a video or two that I took today, but I will edit that and upload some later in the week. In the meantime, there is an excellent video regarding mountain biking in the St. George/Hurricane area that was compiled by jmpreston from MTBR.com that you can watch here. I have watched it and will be riding several of the trails he features in that video (including the trails I rode today).

That's it for today. Time to shower, and get some dinner to refuel for tomorrow's ride...

3/6/16

Iowa Spring Classic - Gran Fondo Gravel Race...

What to do for a ride on Sunday?

Summerset State Park singletrack - or more widely known as Banner Pits - was sort of high on my possible Sunday morning ride choice-  as was the Iowa Spring Classic Gran Fondo Gravel Race. I had never done a Gran Fondo Race outside of the Renegade Gents Race which is a 5 person team event, so didn't really know what it was all about. In search of picking the best of either choice, I pulled into the parking lot at Summerset State Park and heard reports directly from CITA Trail Steward Ron Cooney that it needs more time to dry out. Enough said, and I was off to Cumming for the Gran Fondo.

In terms of my structured training, on tap for today was a scheduled 2 1/2 hour Zone 2/3/2 ride, so rather than grind that out on the mountain bike along the Summerset Trail, opting to head over to Cumming for the first race of the Iowa Spring Classic series would fill that bill quite nicely and jump start the legs for my trip to Utah on Monday. It's sort of a last minute, spur of the moment week long trip I threw together at 2 am the other night on a sleepless night so I could enjoy Spring Break mountain biking.

Back to the Spring Classic. This one was an all gravel ride which was to be 6 laps on a clockwise course to total up for a 34 mile ride involving hills, Texas Hills (wind), and Warren County gravel goodness.

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I got registered, warmed up a bit, ate some granola bars, filled the water bottle and headed to the pre-race meet up. Brett Griggs told us to watch out for Ford F-250's flying over hills by riding to the right side of the road (good advice). We did a 3+ mile roll out to the starting line where I got some nice Zone 2 warm up.

The wind was howling out of the south with up to 40 mph gusts from the south, the gravel was in good shape, and I saw that I could have easily ridden my Specialized Roubaix. Oh well, the mountain bike with the fat 2.3 tires would have to suffice. Rain was threatening, but it never really came to fruition outside of a couple sprinkles before we began the race.

The smaller group known as the "A" group started, then the larger group known as the "B" group which I was racing took off. We were riding with the tailwind first, and the opening climb had my heart rate jump up to race numbers with a HR of 171. I was quite chilly and kept my jacket on which hardly anyone could understand why I wanted to be so warm. Except me. It felt good, so I kept it on for the entire race.

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Photo Courtesy of Natalie Dickerson Rekemeyer

I passed a few on the opening climb and heard one guy mutter to me "Hey, we have to do this climb another 5 times!" which I was torn between replying "So?" or "You're right, I should pace myself a bit with all the laps we have to do." Instead, I kept silent and just motored on ahead. The legs felt good so I pushed it and hooked on with two fellow BikeIowa team members. Eventually, Dave Mable joined us and we worked together for lap 2. Jared Morford dropped off the group, and we stuck together off and on when we could for the first 4 laps. I didn't latch on against the wind a couple of times, but tucked down and rode straight into the wind watching my HR jump back up to 170-174 while heading south and climbing against the wind.

We had 8 corners, and the cross wind made me glad I was on the mountain bike at times as the wind could easily knock you off your line with a big gust. Here was one of the corners of the course...

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Photo Courtesy of Natalie Dickerson Rekemeyer

Lap 4 had me pull away from Dave Mable and my fellow Bike Iowa Team member when I went to the front to take my turn at the pull and I guess overcooked it enough to drop them without knowing it at the time. No worries, I had to stop and pick up some more water from a bottle I had placed at the side of the road near the start area and they rolled by me asking if I was okay. Another team member, Kyle Sedore, came motoring by as he was a lap ahead of me in the A race. I caught back up to Dave and Tim, but saw their pace was slowing, so I passed both and decided to push it a bit harder for lap 5 and 6 since my legs were feeling good.

Going solo into the wind burned some matches for everyone, but I only felt one little twinge in the right leg of potential cramping in lap 5 and it was very slight. I was happy my training up to this point had left me in fairly decent shape for the day's effort. My HR was responding well in the 160 - 174 range on the hills and into the wind, but it would drop down into the 148-158 range going with the wind. I hammered all the hills on lap 6 to the 174-175 HR figuring it was a good work out - even though it was more effort than what my structured training called for to ride in Zone 2 and 3 today. It certainly was cooking me in a good way to prepare for some nice efforts later in the week in southern Utah.

I rolled across the line in something around 2:14 by my computer. A little chit chat was had before I decided I was ready to go home and eat lunch. I told Scott Sumpter it was a nice warm up for the upcoming Renegade Gents Race. I rode with Sterling Heise for a few minutes on the paved trail back to Cumming. He said he was cooked and about to bonk while fighting through the pain cave for sure. I got home and took a nice hot shower, chowed down on lunch. Chowed down on dinner. Caught my Sunday evening shows and was surprised I didn't have to nap.

Now it is time to pack my suitcase for my Spring Break mountain biking trip to St. George Utah. Helmet, shoes, gloves, glasses, jacket, frame pack, water bottle, CamelBak, riding kit, arm and leg warmers, and a couple of shirts to wear in the evening. I hope to do some hiking in Zion National Park, so hiking boots as well. The temperatures look good for the week down there:

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I'll be riding on these trails aboard a nice Ibis Ripley LS in size XL...

St.George trails

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More from the trails in Utah as the week goes along...