Reflections of the 2012 Racing Season, part 1

So I’m not much of blogger, apparently– but I’m not giving up this domain anytime soon, so this is as a good a place as any to share some end of the season thoughts.

The year 2012 was full of fun races and favorable results:
Spa City 6hr Marathon in Hot Spring, Arkansas, March 10, 12th overall, 7th non-Pro, 3rd Age Group.  Twisty fast course, some rock, great way to cure the cabin fever and shake off the first race butterflies.  First race with the Top Fuel 9.9, and this was clearly the stiffest, best cornering, fastest bike I’ve ever had the pleasure to ride.

March 31 & April 1- fun local weekend in Bellevue with Jewell TT, Fat Tire Crit, Swanson XC.  After volunteering and hosting the races with Rox all weekend, I was able to jump into the Sunday XC race at last minute.  I somehow managed a 7th place finish out of a great field of 25 in Cat 1.  Happy!

April 14, Bonebender 6hr Marathon, Clinton Lake, Lawrence Kansas. Rained all night on a rocky course, thankfully its kinda flat.  But super rough.  I had a blast racing my 150mm travel Trek Remedy, set 1×10 gearing, carbon wheels, just 24.5lbs– BOOM!  DRCV suspension and ABP for braking traction are the hit.  After 5:30 hours of racing, I passed the leader with half a lap to go and gassed it.  Fighting through a bad bout of knee pain, I powered hard to win.  Stoked.

Knee pain flared up during any hard efforts over the next couple weeks, so I had to sit out from L&C and Tranquility racing April 20.

May 5, Platte River Battle Royal XC, local.  Good start for 30-40mins then fell apart, cramping and difficulties.  I guess the top end fitness goes away a bit when you take a few weeks off intensity.  I stayed in the race and finished 14th of 20.

May 14, NUE Syllamo’s Revenge 50mi in Mountain View, AR.  12th overall in a tough field of a few hundred peeps, super stoked.  Course is very rocky, technical and slow going for the first 15-20mi. I’m in love.  Thought I was off course at one point and turned around for a short bit.  I conserved too much energy when it wasn’t needed.  With 1mi to go i saw a guy up ahead on a hilltop, chased him up then down, and caught him 50 yards before the finish.  Awesome.  Next year I’ll be back to capitalize on course knowledge and do even better.

May 25-28 we headed up to Black Hills Fat Tire Festival, more for fun than competition  It rained most of the weekend, but we finally got to ride the XC race Sunday morning.  Kinda muddy but not bad, somewhat technical course– I finished in the upper half of the Cat 1 field, and i’ll take it since I had been drinking beers and whining about rain all day previous.

June 2: Maskenthine XC in Norfolk, NE, 4th place Cat 1.  Off the podium by about 1:20 from Brad Auen.  Too bad that won’t happen again anytime soon.  Brad works hard and apparently chose the right parents– watch out for him in 2013.
June 3: State Championship Crit in Norfolk, and my ONLY skinny tire event of 2012.  I sprinted for 2nd in a confusing Cat 3 race.  Bummed I didn’t pull off the win.  Later decided to sell those Zipp 404 wheels.  I guy that races road bikes once a year doesn’t deserve Zipp 404′s.   What was I thinking?!?!

June 12: Ida Grove XC in Iowa.  Small race but super flowy fun trails, about 90 minutes from Omaha.  I had a good race, earned an age group podium and close to overall podium.  Best part?  I hung on with Mark Savery and Cam Kirkpatrick for a full lap and then some.  I’ll call that personal progress.  Mod’s got nice words and pics of the race here.  Be sure to read about his phenomenal Cross campaign while you’re visiting.

No racing for a couple weekends… but I did some long hot rides in sweltering heat.  Couple days saw me doing 140mi on the road bike–longest road ride ever, I think.  most weekends I was at 160mi-200mi/weekend.  And coach gave me the unique challenge of making the last half of these rides harder than the first. Um, yeah.  I think it worked.

July 14: Somehow friends talked me into the Breckenridge 100.  Hmmm.  I climbed Wheeler pass respectably, descended a bit recklessly, and fell apart somewhere around mile 45.  I could hear my heartrate in my head everytime I tried to apply pedal force.  My head was pounding.  I stayed in until about mile 65 then bailed, already had almost 8000ft of (bad) climbing in the books.  Those first 100 yards of riding off course, quitting, SUCK.  Like a huge punch in the gut.  My friends had some very successful races though, and that was incredible to see.  Rafal absolutely crushed it. And Eyberg tamed the beasts that had haunted him in years prior to finish.  Lechnowsky killed it, too.  Larry, Bratetic, Monte Bonin, and Wixon all turned in good races in the 68.  Rox pulled off a 2nd place in the 32, and has stellar write up about the trip we did following.  Colorado doesn’t suck– but it will put you in your place.

So that covers the first half of the season.  Consider this part 1.  Part 2 coming soon!

 

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First race of 2012: Spa City 6 Hour, Hot Springs, AR

So, long time, no blog.  For those of you that saw me attempt a few cyclocross races last fall, you’ll know that I did a pretty good job of taking the fall season not too seriously.  After racing the Dakota Five-O last September I tend to generally take a lot of time off and relax and just ride my mountain bike for fun and not really concern myself with fitness or eating right or intervals and doing those sorts of things.  However, I did get a chance to race the Berryman Epic in late October and fell in love with that race and will definitely be going back this fall– Rox has a good write up of the experience.

Over the winter I don’t like to blog too much either.  I started a program, training, doing my time and it seems that everyone seems to have their own opinions about what works in the off season.  There’s fewer opportunities to ride with other people and oftentimes my ride is fairly specific and I want to be in control of the pace and the effort and it’s just kind of antisocial by nature.  So, a lot of training over the winter done on my own, on my own parameters and in my own control.

But got to kick off the racing season with a bang this last weekend at the Spa City six-hour extreme endurance race in Hot Springs, Arkansas; a beautiful venue, and on a beautful new bike.  This year I’m proud to be riding a Trek Top Fuel 9.9… and boy does this thing have the works.  XTR, front & rear remote lockout, carbon everywhere…. it is light & fast!

Trek Top Fuel 9.9 in it's natural habitat

I had 2 rides on the Top Fuel, for a total of 3 hours heading into this race… Travis Brown once told me “you never learn as much about a bike as you do when you race it”  and I was sure eager to get to know this Top Fuel– and what better way than at a 6hr race.  I’ll have to dedicate another post to all my reflections and learnings aboard the new whip…

Took off on Thursday after work and I got to tell you, the forecast was looking pretty dire leading into this race.  Forecast was calling for an 80 percent chance of rain on Saturday and it’s a course with a fair amount of rock and I really thought that it could get ugly in a hurry.  It was really looking like we were going to be starting the race in the rain and racing in rain and mud throughout the day and I was going into it with, well, the tires that I had.

the tires I had... like this Conti X-King Protection with missing knobs...

In any case, Mother Nature smiled on us and the forecast changed significantly for the better.  We arrived Friday afternoon; got a pre‑ride in.  There were some muddy and slick spots but nothing that was going to slow down the course too much.  The vast majority of it was fast and very flowy.  It’s a 10‑mile lap, a very, very fun course and within the first few meters I was all smiles.  Had a great pre‑ride with the group, got to recon the course, got some food Friday night, woke up Saturday morning and myself, Roxanne, Mike Miles, Jeremy Cook, Todd Wixon and Todd Eyberg, we all took off for the race course.  We got there bright and early, got a good spot, set up our pit.  At 9:00 a.m. the race kicked off with a Le Mans start, about maybe a 200 yard run.  I got to my bike fairly well, probably in the top 25 or so; not quite where I wanted to be.  Maybe I didn’t have my bike quite placed exactly where I would have wanted it, and just the confusion of grabbing a bike.  Maybe you can find me in this video, 1:22-1:32.

I jumped on the bike, quick gravel climb but I knew that there was going to be some downhill coming pretty quick and I wanted to have a good shot going into the single track because I know it’s easy to get caught up in traffic.  Punched it, probably entered the single track in the top 20 or so, feeling pretty good but putting forth a lot of bursty efforts.  It’s a course that’s kind of like Swanson in that regard but with quite a bit of rock and some switchback climbs, but it’s one that has some short, bursty, high-power demands; frankly well suited to my strengths.

one of the bursty uphill moves early in the lap

I had a fantastic fast first lap, felt really good and was honestly a little paranoid that I was going out too hard.  The second lap didn’t feel a whole heck of a lot slower and by the time the third lap came in I was really starting to try and control my efforts and keep things under control and make sure that I was drinking all my fluids and not cramp.  Really didn’t know where I was sitting.  Thought I was sitting in, you know, top 25, top 20 or so, but kind of difficult to tell.  Very few people had passed me but I wasn’t necessarily passing a bunch of people either.  So, kind of difficult to determine.

wire lined (for traction) bridge over a creek

In the middle of the fourth lap and beginning of the fifth lap I was doing the math and trying to determine whether or not I was going to have to do seven or six laps.  You see the rule is no laps count after 6:30 on the clock.  And it’s intended to be approximately a six‑hour race and I thought my lap times had been around 55 minutes so I knew if I came in with six laps at about 5:30 or so or 5:35 or less, I would be very tempted to go out for that seventh lap.  So during the fifth lap I was kind of calming things down in some places and trying to retain some energy although I probably shouldn’t have.  I might have been able to go a little bit harder.  I did end up catching four guys.

working to leave another guy behind

Gotta share a bit of an embarrassing moment… sometimes you have to take a risk and push the envelope in a mountain bike race to get ahead.  I caught four guys on a climb during Lap 5.  As we crested the climb and started the fun downhill I really punched it because I could tell these guys weren’t going to take advantage of the downhill quite the way that I wanted to.  Went to the front of the group and pretty quickly got a solid 50‑yard gap leaving the double track and into some downhill switchbacks.  Started the downhill switchbacks really well but trying to stay aggressive and just really lose these guys – I didn’t want them to see me anymore once we started climbing again.  Sure enough, on the second switchback and probably the sketchiest of the day, I ditched it.  Went down, knocked my knee pretty good and scraped myself up.  Quickly jumped up, moved my bike off the trail, let the train of four guys behind me go right by and apologized to them.  They were very understanding– I hadn’t slowed them up at all, just looked the fool.  Got back on the bike, gathered myself, a little bit of easy pedaling there just to make sure and, you know, kind of get my breathing in check, stretch out the calves, check for some potential cramping, stretch things, drink some water, but then slowly ramped up my pace again and maybe five, ten minutes later I caught that same train of four guys, got around them on kind of a false flat where they were lollygagging a little bit, put the hammer down for a bit and never saw them again.

so it was wet in a few places, but always working hard

Got into the sixth lap still riding pretty conservatively, trying to save some punches in case somebody caught me.  Wish I wouldn’t have been saving so many punches.  Towards the end of the sixth lap, caught a guy, dropped him pretty good and maybe with just a mile left, I saw one other guy and worked pretty hard to try and catch him but he saw me coming.  Ended up having about a nine‑second gap to him at the finish line and, gosh, if I would have had maybe, maybe another half-mile of course, I think I would have caught him because I think he was fading and it was certainly fun to make him nervous at the end of the race.  In any case, 11th overall, 3rd in the 30‑39 age group, about 10 minutes off of Aaron Elwell who won my age group.

11th Overall, 3rd Place in 30-39

Ten minutes off of Elwell over 5 hours and 42 minutes of racing – I’ll take that.  I’ve got quite a bit of work to do and really looking forward to a fun season, but knowing that in this first race I probably left a little bit more on the table than I needed to and I’m really looking forward to racing more aggressively in the future.  In any case, enjoy the pictures.  I’ll look forward to seeing folks at the God’s Country mountain bike race coming up at the end of March and then of course the Psycowpath opening weekend March 31 and April 1 at Jewell and Swanson Parks in Bellevue.  See you then!

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Good times at the Dakota Five-O

Long time, no post, eh?  Well, most know that the last 8 weeks or so have been building up to a long weekend of good times in Spearfish, SD.  And the Dakota Five-O delivered!

Anyone that knows me, knows that I love to analyze stuff.  Heck, I over analyze stuff.  What might be stressful, tedious analysis for one person might actually be thrilling for me.  I think I’m pretty good about not letting analysis clutter the fact that I’m having a damn good time on the bike.  Fortunately, being surrounded by the right people makes the pain of racing even more enjoyable, and that was the highlight of my Labor Day weekend racing experience.

So aside from this little tidbit, I’m saving the “analysis” for a later post: In 2010, I had a great day and finished a best ever 4:25, 28th place overall.  In 2011, I had a day that didn’t “feel” as great and finished in 4:29, 32nd place in a bigger overall field.  A good day.  Four minutes difference, negligible, perhaps.  Fought cramps a bit more this year.  Interestingly, I hit Aid #2 in exactly 2:12, both years.  In 2010, I urinated once; in 2011, twice.  Maybe there’s my extra time?  Who knows.  As in every year, I’m all smiles at the finish.

Rox & I love taking people to new trails, new races, new experiences, and Dakota Five-O was the perfect place for it.  Omaha, and Nebraska in general had a host of folks targeting this event as their longest mtb race ever, or even their first mtb experience outside of the Psycowpath Series.  I do enjoy trying to be a source of honest (admittedly biased) advice and encouragement for people who are getting stoked on cross country mountain biking!  Watching others weekends, and races, unfold was just as rewarding as any result I was going to capture, so indulge me as I share my contemplative perspective on their efforts.

First, the kids.  What can I say?  Youthful exuberance sometimes rips into some gnar with little regard for consequences.  Sometimes contagious enthusiasm trumps skill.  Alas, that’s how we learn and get better.  Cole Skiba and Buddy Houts both crashed out, the latter with a seriously taco’ed front wheel.  Good news, I think they’re both hooked on technical singletrack.  Hot damn!  Cole’s anticipation, questions, and energy had me pretty stoked for him to do well, and he probably would have without the crash.  While some would crash and decide to hate mountain biking, I think Cole is already looking for more challenging/rocky singletrack action. And Buddy is on the lookout for a sweet new wheel, or maybe a whole new bike, with disc brakes!  Sweetness.

Rob Skiba seemed to be balancing all week on the knife edge of cautious optimism and utter terror.  I don’t think either he nor Cole had ever experienced rocky singletrack before.  I think Rob’s accomplished more than most by just lining up at an event like that.  Rob’s not exactly built like an endurance racer (though he’s becoming more so every week), and he knew that this was a stretch.  It takes some courage and confidence to put yourself out there for this, to make the lifestyle/habit changes he’s made and jump in with both feet.  I mean, you don’t see me lining up next week to play linebacker, do you?  He made it to aid 2, and after a ribs-bruising crash, road gravel back to the start finish.  Even cutting the course to get home safely, Rob admitted this was the best & hardest effort of his mtb career– nice.  It only gets better, my friend.

Larry Kintner has done this race many times, and aside from a few flats, put in another stellar performance.  I think what makes his consistent performance year in, year out, is that he makes sacrifices to train that would turn the rest of us into mere weekend riders.  He gets up at 4am and trains nearly every weekday.  Before work, before father and husband duties kick in.  His son Scott was great to hang out with around our campsite, and I hope Scott isn’t too scarred by my sense of humor.

At the backwards Swanson race Aug 13, Carly Thomsen showed up and did her first bike race, ever.  Why?  Because she had signed up for the Dakota Five O!  Why did she ever sign up for that?  She was inspired watching Race Across the Sky at Filmstreams last fall, and decided to try a mountain bike race, and thought that 50mi seemed a better option than Leadville’s 100.  Um, yeah.  Then she raced Maskenthine, 2nd bike race ever, 2 laps, about 10mi.  Nice.  If she was ever nervous about Dakota, you couldn’t tell amongst her constant running of the mouth.  She finally stopped talking at the race start, and managed to finish within her time goal.  “I can’t believe I just did that!” You just did.  Believe it. Rock!

Similar story: Todd Eyberg’s been doing endurance mtb rides for a couple years now, and his wife April is often resigned to handing up water bottles or holding down the folding chairs while Todd’s out enjoying himself.  No more!  She signed up months ago, and went on some awfully long rides in early August to prepare.  She’ll probably admit she’s more of a runner, but dang, she pulled it off.  Now, Todd destroyed his previous time and finished the course in 4:39 (damn near Cat 1 time?).  Yet his accomplishment was a fraction of the anticipation and hope he displayed waiting for April to come in.  Would she finish, or hitch a ride in the back of truck? Would she be ok?  Would she come back to hate mountain biking, and rocky singletrack, and her husband?  Was she going to hate Rox & I for selling her Rox’s old sweet race bike?  No way! She rolled in, tired but smiling, huge sense of accomplishment.  I think she might do it again!

In 2010, I was stoked to help Brandon Mullins and Glen Houts keep the Ponca race alive.  In 2010, I met Glen houts, a cycling enthusiast but perhaps reluctant participant.  But this pudgy little dude was certainly excited to do whatever it takes to keep XC racing alive and well at Ponca.  And when I next saw Glen, in the spring of this year, I didn’t recognize him at first.  He wasn’t just bringing his son to race.  He was signed up to race.  For a long time– marathon, in fact.  He was a shell of his former self.  Slender, focused, always positive.  This is a guy that made a lifestyle turnaround and was clearly loving every minute.  And what was his big goal?  None other than our beloved Five-O.  Ladies and gentleman, in the summer of 2010 I wouldn’t have trusted Glen to make it to Aid 1 without a coronary.  In 2011, though, this guy knocked out 50mi of techy singletrack and climbing in just five hours and 10 minutes, 40th out of 134 riders in his age group.  I have no doubt he’ll be back next year, and I better be on my A-game if I want to stay ahead of him.

Mike Farrell and Martin Bixby… now these guys have been around for awhile.  They know mountain biking, they know volunteering, they know the scene.  But they don’t exactly train all the time (well, by my dumb standards), and they don’t exactly ride mountain bikes for hours on end all the time.  But they do have some appetite for adventure and big hairy audacious goals.  They knew this would be different than their usual 5-15mi XC race.  For Martin, this would be his longest ride of the year, and I think the same probably applies for Mike.  Both  came in with flying colors, Martin met his expectations of a sub 6 hour finish, and continues to rave about the course, the finish line party, the camping accomodations, and the overall vibe.  He’ll be back.

Todd and I were waiting for April at the last paved corner for a bit, when we saw Mike approaching.  About 70 yards ahead of him, some dude looked like he was hurting on the bike.  As the lead guy (hurting) rode by, I quietly said “just chill dude, you’re almost there, good job.”  He looked relieved, and gently rode around the last corner to face the 400m (?) false flat to the finish.  A few seconds later, when Mike rode by, I screamed “go! go!  that dude is slowing down!”  I was totally entertaining myself.  Sure enough, I saw Mike’s chain go to the big ring and he jumped out of the saddle!  Mike pegged it all the way to the line and right past that other guy (who was probably in a different age group, but hey?).
John Downey took HOURS off his time from his last attempt in 2008.  Progress feels great, you’ve earned it.  Brandon Mullins, another top notch Ponca steward, had a good time too.

Many people ride bikes.  Some people race.  A select few don’t just race, they’re ambassadors.  They bring friends to races.  They motivate others.  They lead group rides, and genuinely build excitement around them about great rides and great events.  I think we’re fortunate to have quite of few of these folks in our regional scene, but few are so new and energetic as Liz.  For Elizabeth Reinkordt, the Dakota Five-O was to be her longest singletrack race ever (pretty sure, anyway).  And with something new: rocks!  She tells her story quite well here.  Needless to say, it’s pleasure to see her perform so well and find so much joy throughout such a “painfully beautiful” race.

Some mtb veterans had good days too…
Matt Gersib… had a great start just like last year.  It’s good to be with friends on a tough climb, and we were right together.  Right behind me on the steeps, it sounded like he was breathing too hard– I almost worried for him.  In 2010, he had a good start then crumbled a bit.  This year, as I settled in to a pace I felt was sustainable, Gersib kept it moving.  He went around and I watched him ride away… I was nervous I’d see him later in the race, trailside losing his lunch or something. Nope, he stuck it, 4:22 and 22nd place.  I told him later “now THAT’s the Matt Gersib I’ve come to know!”  Way to race, buddy.

Jay Chesterman, who I’d bested at the last local XC race, bridged to the leaders on the gravel road climb, probably into a top 10 spot.  I thought “he’ll blow up and I’ll see him after aid 2.”  Nope.  Jay crushed it.  Every mile of it, 4:02.  Hope to be with you next year buddy, and I think I can.  :-)

Rafal, Eyberg, Will Wolf, Jeremy Cook, Todd Wixon… all had good races and improved over last years times, even with JC taking a detour.  You guys are on my heels, I feel pushed.  Motivated.  Stoked.

I know there’s even more friends and stories that I’m missing here.  So many good experiences!  I’m already making plans for a better race next year, and I hope that once again I’ll be able to share the race with some great people!

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Lady luck lost & returned…

Well the Firecracker 50 didn’t exactly go as planned.  I finished lap 1 of 2 at 2:20, 27mi in total– thats 2mi longer than the 2010 course, and 7 minutes faster for those keeping track.  And from reviewing the splits, that put me right in the middle of a field of Cat 1′s that all live above 5k feet– nice.  Then way up the mountain, well into my second lap– I gave 1 of my 2 spare tubes to a desperate guy in need.  Fifteen minutes later, I was the desperate guy in need.  Descending flume trail after the infamous Little French climb, I cut a sidewall, and stan’s wasn’t going to seal it.  And the spare tube I had with me…. well, it was a dud.  Plain & simple.  I had to cut the course to get to an aid station, fix my flat, and ride back home– for a total of 48 miles of riding.  I still had fun, and I’m excited to go back next year.  Lesson: check your spares and make sure they’re good.

climbing... which is pretty much all you do when you ride mtb in Breck

how can this not be fun?

To make myself feel better, Tuesday morning July 5 we awoke early to journey to Winter Park just after the lifts opened– yes, I did it.  Despite my claims to earn your descents, I had a BLAST.  Wow.  Rox & I, with April & Todd Eyberg, got over 9k feet of descending in and nearly 40 miles of riding– without climbing.

someday with a bigger bike....

Drops (small-ish ones), jumps (yep smaller ones), and bermed corners…. I was loving it.  I took a few opportunities to keep pace down a few easy black runs with guys on DH bikes and body armor…. and that was all the pushing I needed to do.  Super fun.  I will be back.  Hopefully this year.

We came back to Omaha Wednesday to a whirlwind of race promotion and preparation. We pulled into our house at about 5:40pm, and by 6:15pm I was hiking Lewis & Clark with lopers to clear the trail.  Sent out some publicity, helped those with questions, then Rox & I, along with Dale & Danna, spent a few hours Friday night shuffling waivers and bib numbers getting ready to handle riders at 3 events over the weekend.

To the chase: I lined up at L&C TT unsure of my form, worried mostly about Jesse Bergman and Noah Marcus.  I took few risks on the downhills, and tried to crush every uphill until my lungs burned.  I had more leftover at the end this year then I did last year.  I beat Jesse by 18 seconds and everyone else by over a minute, with a time of just under 21 minutes.  I’ll take it.

I flatted in literally the first half mile of the short track– an event I was also hoping to win.  Next time.

Time for XC Sunday…. lots more faces on the line… Clarke Dolton, John Rokke, Nate Woodman, Jesse Bergman…. guys that had been beating me handily earlier in the year.  This was going to be hard.  I was too busy making sure the event went off without a hitch to think much strategy, other than it would be hot, and that I should drink a full 20oz bottle per lap.  At the start I went out hard– not ridiculous, but I thought it was almost on par with what Kent & Cam usually subject us to.  No one jumped on my wheel.  I worked every climb to try and get out of sight.  I came through my first 9mi lap in about 37 minutes, with about a 40 second gap.  And adrenalin drove me right past my cooler of cold liquid.  One mile into lap 2 is a bad time to realize that when its 110 heat index.

Time to settle in do some damage control– its a long race, and I’m less then half way, and there’s a lot of fast guys not too far back.  They slowly reeled me in, and we came in to finish 2nd lap as a group of 4: Dolton and Rokke right behind me, Bergman flew by and into first place.  Up the first climb, he seemed to fade, and I punched it a bit to get around him.  I wanted him to ride MY pace through the flat twisty stuff, not his pace.  Maybe it worked.  We took advantage of the open fast stuff to lose Clarke, and on the final climbs I pushed hard to get a gap on Jesse.  I came through to finish my third lap with over a minute lead.  Heck yes.  Did I just win a local Cat 1 race?  I think I did.

Although a few local horses were missing, it was very rewarding to race against guys that were pushing me to the end.  I had to be smart, and not think about slowing down, really, ever.  Very fun, and very rewarding to have good friends and great riders pushing me to my limit.

For 1:56 ride time, I averaged 170bpm, with a temp of 98deg and a heat index of over 110.  I drank constantly until 7pm, when I finally urinated for the first time since 10am.  I know you were curious.

stoked to race and win against these fast guys-- they pushed me to the end!

I have no idea whats up with my shorts– they were stuck to me.  As of Tuesday 5pm, my shoes are still wet from sweat.  Awesome.

Rox and I went out Sunday night for margaritas– since she had the opportunity to jump on the podium’s top step amongst a full female podium– a rare occurence at a Psycowpath event– keep it coming ladies!

Next up… starting a new block of training with the Omaha weekend’s road racing, maybe a weekend off, then Laramie Enduro, then more XC races… all leading to Dakota five-O!

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DIY & Ponca Dirt

The week of June 13 was a big one.

My car’s CEL was almost as familiar and comfortable as a warm winter hearth– but the car’s performance, not so much.  Tuesday night, late after a particularly taxing set of intervals, the guys at Autozone gave me the reading from my computer codes, I troubleshooted (shot?) the plugs, wires, coil packs (none the culprit), and finally replaced the EGR valve (expensive option).  Now the car runs like a top, no more CEL.  Knock wood.

Of course, getting to the EGR required removing the air intake, which crumbled in my hands like a loaf of bread.

Not good. But nothing that a little duct tape couldn’t fix.

that should do just fine

Now with the car running well, on to the important stuff: making the mountain bike run even better.  Time to experiment with Fox mountain bike forks (after a grueling Wed night worlds, no less– yes I’ve been staying up late to tinker).  I had one leaking, so it was time to experiment.

the two forks apart. Notice one has a newer chassis and longer steerer tube-- the only one I could fit on my bike. Interesting, the stanchions are the same length for the stock 100 and 120 fork.

I took a terralogic damper from an older 100mm fork (with a steerer too short for me) and put it my newer 120mm fork chassis. Tried it at 120mm but I got a distinct “thump” when the damper (which admittedly came off a 100mm fork) topped out. Adjusted the air spring down to 100mm of travel, in hopes that would fix it.  I should note, I did measure the possible movement of the terralogic damper– it moves exactly 120mm– hence why Itried it at 120.

comparing the dampers and air springs-- 100mm terralogic left, 120RL right

However, with air spring set up for 120, the uppers slide out to about 123-125mm of extension, hence the “thunk” when topping out. That was my hypothesis anyway. Hammering out and moving a pin from my 120mm air spring, I moved the fork down to 100mm, and it works great in the stand. Fortunately it proved to work great at Ponca as well.

Same as in 2010, I lined up for the Ponca Marathon category.  I needed a steady 3 hour workout to test nutrition and pacing in preparation for the Firecracker 50 coming July 4.  Looking around, there were some fast guys– Dale Pinkelman out of Lincoln wins these frequently, Rafal’s no slouch, and Mike Bartels also has some Cat 1 speed, and a few Iowa guys that were unknowns.  My strategy was to get out ahead early on the opening climbs, get out of site, and settle in– and that’s exactly what I did.  Even after 3 laps, some guys at the road crossing were saying my gap was 30-60 seconds– not comfortable– so I kept pushing, but also keeping gas in the tank in case I got caught.  Well, I think those friends were looking at lapped riders, because in the end my gap was 9 minutes.  I’ll take it.  The pressure kept me going.

keeping the effort strong but steady. thanks Kerri Peterson for the photos!

I came in at 2:53 with 8 laps complete– and time for one more.  I knew I was beating my 2010 win of 8 laps, but the time comparison would be key.  Was I consistent?  Steady?  Able to knock out a strong 9th lap without cramping?  Thankfully yes.  Again going into a race with less then fresh legs– knowing this is a means to an end– and riding steady, paying attention to leg force, RPE, heart rate…. it worked out for the win.

After my first 2 laps to establish my lead, all my lap times are within 30 seconds of each other– through no deliberate timing or pacing other than RPE.  And my average lap time in 2011 was 51 seconds faster than average lap time in 2010– an improvement of 4%.  I’ll take that for sure.

Next weekend, the final “topping off of the tank” before tapering. After some business travel Thursday & Friday, I’ll tackle the state TT championship on Saturday June 25, then head south to Perry Lake for a 38mi mountain bike race at the Crocodile Rock Kansas State Mountain Bike Championships.  After an hour TT, it’ll be interesting.  And I hate TT’s– always a weakness, but hopefully improved.  I’m counting on the mtb race Sunday to put the smile back on my face.

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Ida Grove greasiness: the weekend of June 11 & 12

June 11 & 12– intervals are getting shorter but harder.  I went out on a rode ride Saturday June 11 with a medium-fast crowd, and put the screws down a couple times.  Solo’ed off the front for a few hills, then vowed to chill.  All in all, got 2.5 hours of decent work.  Which meant that on Sunday June 12 at Ida Grove, I was only 3 minutes into my warm up when I knew I had less than perfect legs.  A super fast start by Jesse Bergman had me into the red zone but excited by the fact we were leaving the rest of the field behind.  Sure enough, about 15 minutes in I came to regret letting some air out of the tires.  With greasy conditions, I warmed up at 20/22 psi front/rear, and then went down from there.  It felt great, until I braked really hard then slammed the bike sideways through a sharp corner at the bottom of a hill, and my rear burped quite a bit of air.  It re-seated but now felt like it had about 10 psi.  I soft-pedaled until I got to my car* to add air with a real pump, as other riders went by.  First Jay Chesterman, looking strong & fresh, then Mike Miles.

With fresh air in my tire and anger in my heart, I jumped back on the bike.  I was off the podium, but not by much.  For better or worse, I let out all my anger in a hurry and went by Mike pretty quick.  In retrospect, all that adrenaline was probably not necessary on lap 2 of 5.  Once I got by Mike I didn’t see him again until after the race, to learn he had crashed out.  But with some matches spent, less than stellar legs, and no carrots to chase, I settled into a sustainable rhythm and finished 3rd.  Come to find out at the finish I was just 20 seconds off 2nd place Jesse Bergman…. another day.

*Racers note, most of our local races are USAC sanctioned, and you can’t use floor pumps or other equipment that’s left at your car.  That said, this wasn’t a USAC race.  And I calculated (perhaps poorly) that soft pedaling to the car then refilling with a proper (fast) pump would be overall quicker than dealing with a mini pump trail side.

June 11 & 12 counted towards my strategy of doubling up: 2 hard days in a row, once on the weekend, once during the week.  Although it was frustrating to race with less than fresh legs, I’m not disappointed in my result, and I know this race was just a means to greater ends later in the season.

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2 x 2 = Fun: Norfolk Road Racing Weekend Recap

This was a weekend that almost wasn’t.

I could have gone mountain bike racing in Southern Missouri.  But that would’ve been a long drive, and without the greater fitness benefits of road racing.  Not too mention all the teamwork, camaraderie, and fun.

Saturday’s road race went… okay.  Lots of second guessing going on the interwebs, some taking more blame then they should… hindsight is always 20/20, folks.  We had two guys in a break that was eventually absorbed for a field sprint.  I think teammates may have been counting on my for the Cat 3 win.  I worked hard at the 55ish mile mark to reel in another Cat 3 that tried a solo flier… a match I didn’t want to burn.  As the finish approached, I was trying to stay out of the wind and save the legs for one last jump… Mark Merritt jumped waaaay too early and I was in a bad spot.  I know better– I should’ve been closer to the front.  I still sprinted and made up a few spots, fifth across the line in the combined 1/2/3 field, but…. 2nd in the 3′s.  Lee Bumgarner had a good sprint.

couldn't find the right wheel after the sprint started (way early) on the bridge

Better positioning on my part, maybe I could’ve made things turn out differently.  Maybe.  Last year I cramped pretty bad in the sprint but managed a 3rd place (amongst 3′s).  This year I worked harder during the event, and felt more fresh for the sprint.  Feels like progress.  Nice to see Mark Savery have a great sprint– missed overall win by a hair, but got the Nebraska State Championship (as the guy in yellow is from Colorado).

leaving it all out there, but not quite enough

Saturday night of recovery tights, salmon, sweet potatoes, and some mini golf left me excited and nervous for Sunday’s criterium.  Last year I fell off the pace after a ridiculously hard start and too many hard pulls.  Stretching, recovery, and eating right, I hoped to make a difference.  We had a fresh teammate coming into Sunday, Lucas Marshall.  But Kaos had a couple fresh guys too.

welp, this is probably gonna hurt

Things went about perfectly– teammates Lucas (Cat 3) & Paul Webb (Cat 2) launched an early attack.  I worked with teammates to block and chase down a few folks.  Mark’s “old school blocking tactics” were the most effective I’ve ever seen at the front of a group– and Lucas & Paul are a perfect pair to pull off a break– and it worked.  When the bell rang for one lap, I saw Savery start to pin it.  I hesitated for a moment– he’s a teammate, not my job to reel him in or help others stay with him– but as soon as I heard guys coming around me hard I jumped.  I sat about 4th or 5th wheel through a blazing fast lap and went hard into the last corner.  It was a long sprint– Mark stayed ahead, a think at least one Cat 2 used me for a good lead out, and I managed to be the first Cat 3 across the line from the bunch, and 2nd Cat 3 to teammate Lucas Marshall– a place I can definitely be proud of.  I did some work for teammates, disrupted a few chase attempts, and still managed a decent sprint at the end.

happy to report that neither got by me

I think I want to do more crit races.  Oh, and power numbers from the crit indicate that fitness is on the way up.  That means intervals just got harder.  Woohoo!

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Routine? Sort of. Not quite. but good times had.

With a wet, and often stormy spring here in the midwest, sometimes you need to make training decisions and plan adjustments that are less than ideal:

After racing a 60min crit last Saturday and a 2 hour mountain bike race last Sunday, I took Monday off the bike– it was a bit forced, as I traveled to Houston to visit a client, a nice short trip as I flew in early and flew back home that night.  Tuesday the legs were feeling pretty fresh at the stairs at Gallup, and Wednesday’s forecast isn’t promising.  Tuesday intervals it is!  After 2 of 8 intervals, I was feeling it.  Moreso than I should.  Maybe I need more than 36 hours to recover from two days of racing.  Oh well.  I got em’ done anyway and managed to stay within 5% of goal on each one, but it required more than typical mental coaxing.  Good thing I got them in, since Wednesday’s ride was out of the picture due to thunderstorms.

Thursday after work Rox & I packed up the car, climbed aboard with Jesse & Katie Bergman in Sioux City, and took off towards Rapid City.  After a quick night in Mitchell, we joined up with the Black Hills Fat Tire Festival.  Nearly all of our riding was going to be slower, rocky techy singletrack– good times.  We spent about 2.5 hours Friday afternoon riding Buzzards Roost after its official grand opening with the Forest Service and local news outlets.  Friday night’s opening food social and live music was entertaining.  It got interesting when a guy in the band called out gb Jason regarding the Super D the next morning.  Jason, Jesse, and I all stepped up– looks like super D racing is on tap for Saturday morning.  It’s always interesting doing something like this downhill time trial without hardly any course knowledge.  Ends up Jesse got 4th, I got 7th, and Jason was a bit farther back in a group of 78 total riders!  With the local and regional crowd that was there, I’m happy with my result.  Also, its surprising how 10 minutes of focused downhill racing (with a few uphill sprints) can exhaust you (maybe just me).  It was a nice treat to be interviewed by the the Rapid City Journal at the finish line.

So what to do after racing?  We tackled the Victoria Lake trails along with some new stuff to connect a 4 hour plus big ride.  Lots of rocks, lots of climbs, some deep streams, and some tight trees.  As Rox would say, it was all yummy.  Saturday night we were pretty destroyed and ate enough to show it.

Sunday 2am the rain rolled in and never rolled out.  Thankful for great friends, we spent the day shopping and bumming around Rapid City, packed up our stuff, and stayed with Jason for our last night.  The closing BBQ and awards were fun– the people make it great.  Monday the rain didn’t stop until we reached Chamberlain, SD, en route home.

So was this a great training weekend?  Is that even the right question?  I had a great time with my wife and close friends, and we all spent a bunch of time on our mountain bikes.  I used every bit of 100mm of rear suspension and fully enjoyed a fox 120mm on the front (more on that later).  Did I eat smart, go to bed early, stretch, and push my FTP up through focused riding?  Probably not.  Will I pay for it?  Maybe.  Will I regret it?  Not a bit.

 

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Recap, Routine, & Renewed Focus

Time to sum up:
Sunday May 1: 5th Place in Cat 1 at the Rabbit Valley Rally in Fruita, part of the Mountain States Cup race series.   To quote Larry, “that’s pretty epic for an XC course.” Yeah, 1 big lap, 32 mile course of rocky, sandy, double & singletrack on the CO/UT border.  I advanced a few places in the rocky sections on top of westwater mesa, and held it to the finish.  My time was almost exactly the same as last year– which I’ll accept, given I had 8 days (23 hours) of CO/UT mountain biking in the legs.  The next day I flew to Delaware for a few days.  Not back in routine yet.  No more riding until…

Saturday May 7: Platte River Battle Royal– great race hosted by our friends at Cycleworks in Lincoln.  Record turnout made it a blast!  I started well, faded a bit and let a few guys by me.  Caught ‘em in laps 2 & 3, and saw Savery up ahead on lap 4.  Now, with his handling skills he can fly through twisty singletrack effortlessly.  So my only chance to catch him was on the climbs.  I dug pretty deep up the Platte opening climb to try to get him in sight, and pushed hard on the climbs up to the middle pasture, but no dice.  Turns out he was over-geared anyhow.  I was happy with my finish but definitely felt I wasn’t in the form I had seen in late March/early April.  No more riding until…

Sunday May 15: That’s right, I took a week to really focus on finishing off the deck.  Bulk of it was built last fall, but I needed to add a pergola roof, lattice on the sides, and some landscaping.  I’ve been eager to get this done so we can enjoy it and I can get back into a training routine.  Big thanks to Todd who helped with the roof on Saturday.  It’s all done now, and looking pretty sweet.  Rox is happy.  Sunday May 15 Mike Miles & Jeremy Cook took Rox & I out on my first road bike ride since, well, Twin Bing.  Yes, that was on April 10.  So more than a month off the road bike?  Awesome.  Not so much.  Maybe.  Time to get back into a structured training routine….

Tuesday May 17, intervals.  Wednesday May 18: perhaps my least impressive Wednesday Night Worlds performance in over a year.  Partial bad luck, partial bad timing/tactics, partial drop in fitness.  So I was pretty nervous going into the Capitol City Criterium, but I was excited to work with a large number of teammates for the first time.

May 21: Capitol City Criterium: I’m not a break away kind of guy, but I was excited to try and create or protect a break for a teammate.  We worked pretty hard to launch Lucas early, and he did get away for awhile, but totally alone.  Probably tough to solo off the front for 45 minutes– he came back.  Eventually Brady Murphy made a great break of four.  Matt, Redemske, Lucas, EOB, and myself did what we could to control the peloton’s tempo and help the break stick.  I think we each chased down a potential chaser or two (or seven).  It was probably the most aggressive I’ve ever seen Redemske race– it’s exciting to see him back on form after a rough couple years, with more progress still to come.  With about 20 minutes left, I realized I had been in my drops the whole time.  Bryan told me to go for the field sprint.  So I tried to relax a bit, and be smooth.  I’ll admit, that’s not as fun as diving into every corner.  I’m still amazed at what a road bike can do with a tire contact patch the size of a dime, even on that course’s rough pavement.  With two laps to go, I’m strategically biding my time in mid-pack, and Bryan comes by and says “get up there!”  One hard fast corner and I’m sitting fourth wheel, just as the pace really heats up.  Lucas, Matt, and a guy from Rasmussen are pushing hard at the front, and I’m staying with ‘em no problem.  Now I’m fired up.  Full-on adrenalin.  Around the last corner, over the bump on a tight line, and its speeding up, I’m about 3rd wheel, keeping an open line in front of me… but it doesn’t seem like we’re in a full on sprint yet….

If there’s one thing I hate, its getting boxed in during a sprint behind someone slower (no offense).  When that happens, it just feels like 60 minutes (or whatever race duration) is just… wasted.  With the finish in sight, I had a line, and it didn’t feel like anyone else was in full on sprint mode yet… so I gunned it.  I’d much rather go to early and flame out then wait too long and get boxed in.  I think the Zipp 404′s are working… I quickly had a bike length on everyone and kept going, and stuck it to the finish line to win the field sprint for fifth.

Shortly thereafter I learned Brady had emerged to win from the break– a great day for Midwest Cycling Community!  I’m stoked to report that MWCC made it a full on successful weekend with Lucas Marshall and Matt Tillinghast taking first & second in Sunday’s Pioneers Park Grand Prix!  Those guys worked hard all weekend and deserved it.  Why wasn’t I there to help?

Sunday May 22: Dirt is calling.  Noah and Rox had found a race outside Manhattan, KS– the Dirty Little Secret (on FB too!) at Fancy Creek State Park.  Eyberg was in as well– a full car for cheap gas expenses!  Rox wanted to race, and I love to find a new trail.  It was rocky– big rocks that caused you to pick lines and thread the needle.  Tight twisty moves and big steps up were required.  I got boxed in at the start, and was a few places back from where I wanted to be upon entering the singletrack climb.  One guy got out of the way pretty quick.  Another wasn’t quite handling the rocks the way I wanted to, he let me around about 6 minutes in, and I got on the lead train, sitting in fourth behind a few guys that I know have massive power– Garret Steinmetz, Aaron Elwell, Travis Donn.  The rocks were a nice equalizer, I stayed with ‘em for awhile.  Elwell bobbled a big tricky rock step up, and I rode by.  Adrenalin charged, and I tried to remain calm.  We just entered wide open grassy singletrack, and I needed to stay consistent and moderate to save energy for the long race and the techy sections.  Travis set a good pace, and I was gauging my legs.  I had already spent a lot of time above threshold, and we were about halfway through lap 1 of 3.  Sure enough, diesel engine pro Elwell came by and powered it.  I fell off the leader pace but settled into my own rhythm with 5th right behind me.  During lap 2, I shook off fifth place in the rocky climbs and stayed on my own pace to finish 4th overall and 3rd in my age group 30-39.  I lost my balance once during lap 2 and crashed, and had a few close calls.  With a crit the day before, I needed to ride within my limits and be consistent.  It worked for fourth.  Another couple months of structure, and I’d like to think I could hang with the leaders on a rocky course like that.  Photos are on FB here, and should be on general interwebs soon, I’ll add the link.  Rox finished 1st in Cat 1 Women, and Noah & Todd got 1st & 2nd in Cat 2, respectively– nice to go home with a car full of hardware!

Post race fashion show!

Onward!  I’m one week into a six week block of training leading up to July 4 Firecracker 50.  Racing is on tap nearly ever weekend for the next 6 weeks.  This is going to be fun.

A promise to you, dear reader…. minimum two blog posts a week.  Public goals create accountability.  Thats right.  Routine, structure, goals…. back in action.  On the road bike, and on the blog.

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2 Races & 9 Days of MTB in CO & UT, part 1

The last 9 days have featured a whole lot of awesomeness.  Our annual spring trip to Moab & Fruita went as planned, with some new faces and new races thrown in.  Due to a larger than usual appetite for racing, it was a bit extended.

First up, Voodoo Fire in Pueblo, CO, part of the Rocky Mountain Endurance Series.

I figured it’d be a pretty chill “half marathon” race of about 35 miles on fast singletrack– I was guessing less than 3 hours, but no real reference point.  Competition was hotter than expected, guess thats what happens when you race down the road from the Olympic Training Center.  Uphill road mass start, I got away with a group of about 10 guys, many of whom I later discovered were pros– I discovered that on loose singletrack corners.  15 minutes in, I knew I was working harder than the other guys coming out of the corners.  I needed to ride within my limits, race smart, and maybe corner a little better: stay loose, trust my tires, look ahead, and lean– and go fast.  About 30 minutes in I was sliding sideways through a loose corner and then hooked up fast and highsided it– went over the bars and sent the bike flying– thankfully I was mostly on my own at this point, but it would have been an awesome picture.  Got up, caught my breathe, bike’s ok, I’m bloody but functional– press on.  I rode much more conservatively– this was the first day of a week vacation of mountain biking world class singletrack.  Sure enough, I quickly cut a tire sidewall.  Threw in a tube, rode 50 yards when the tube blew the tire off the bead and I managed to roll the bare wheel on rocks and damage the rim tape.  I had no more tubes, barely any CO2 left, and I was about as far from the car as I could get.  I bushwacked back to an aid station, got a tube and a pump, and rode my bloody knees back to car.  Bummer– after some good luck in Arkansas & Clinton Lake, today was not my day.

The following 7 days of riding in Moab, Fruita, and Grand Junction were not without some crashes, sprains, and twists.  Knee pads on the downhill runs definitely saved me (further injury) in a few spots.

Fortunately, I’d get my good race luck back for the Mountain States Cup Rabbit Valley Rally in Fruita on May 1.  But more on that in part 2…

I sure hope I remember how to put on a suit & tie tomorrow morning… since I flew straight from Grand Junction to Wilmington, DE to work with a client Tues & Wednesday.  Here goes…

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