Monday, July 14, 2014

Upcoming races…

Life’s been on a roller coaster since my last post.  Probably the reason for not getting in any posts since.  I keep thinking to myself… someday, someday….

In a nutshell, training is coming along, there were some low’s but last race at the Chippewa Valley Firecracks (www.wors.org) confirmed maybe, just maybe this change of routine is working.  More on that later….

On a personal note - Our 3yr old son, little Aaron, he’s made some amazing progress from his near drowning accident in May I last wrote about.  Situations like that should never let you look at any day of your life the same, no matter how back to normal things can get.  Both the accident and the recovery can be considered blessings as strange as that may sound for what they bring to your life.

It’s really profoundly changed some belief’s I’ve held. 

Now on the lighter side I’ve got all kinds of amusing little race stories and other cycling tales to share.  Hopefully all in good time and shortly.

And lastly if I can put in a shameless plug for a local races in the communities here……should any of you find yourself in the northern reaches of Wisconsin July 19th or July 26th.  Consider taking in Ashland’s own Mudrutters MTB race.  https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10152211981662876&set=a.481575512875.259134.321400402875&type=1&theater

and Washburn own Brownstone Days MTB Race

http://washburnchamber.com/?110770

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Biking aside….family news…

Been a pretty rough week  -- and I would do anything to say it’s because of training.  Unfortunately it’s not the case. 

My family experienced a terrible incident last Sat the 3rd.  One of the worst a parent or anyone for that matter ever wants to experience.  Prior to preparing for a family bike ride, our youngest (3 yr old Aaron Cooper)  fell into a pond when playing.  He was down for an undetermined period of time.  I jumped in & pulled him from the pond, he was unresponsive as I rushed him to the hospital 1 1/2 miles away. 

The ER team worked incredibly hard performing life saving measures and brought his heart beat back after about 35minutes and he was life flighted to Duluth, MN St. Mary’s Pediatric ICU. 

Its now a week later.  It’s been both the fastest & slowest 8 days of my life.  There has been so many ranges of emotions, from gripping fear to elation, even writing now the mind floods with trying to get my head around it. 

Besides the initial shock, there have been advances and setbacks that have been equally challenging.  It’s so surreal most days.

I shared something earlier in the week with friends & family to try & comprehend things for our little guy…..

 People may wonder what it is like?..... so I've pondered ways to share.  From the scientific to the spiritual.  But maybe a story is best...

Well, like any little boy might be, little Aaron is undoubtedly scared and he's still very deep in the woods.  But I like to think he's got a backpack on his journey, one that's full of love, hope, determination & prayers. The way home is found with a compass guided from the thoughts, energy of so many.  I'd like you all to know we believe every last one of you & your families help with that.

And the voices of prayer are those whispers he can hear in the wind blowing thru the trees for courage & strength & even a light hearted moment from time to time. (As he picks up a stick along the way to play imaginary games with... & believe me, we've seen him in the real woods, this is what he does :) )  He has some really big hills yet & logs across his path to climb over.

Whatever part of your day you have a moment to think, feel or express your love & support.  Do so.  Do it in how you care for others as well, love is an energy that radiates, that benefits everyone around & makes for a stronger draw for that little boy in the woods to keep moving forward...

In the days that have since passed, he traveled thru standard protocol of keeping the body temperature down for 48hrs, warming him up slowly but keeping him sedated while the major physical challenges relating to his cardiovascular system, lungs, heart & blood pressures where worked on. 

Those struggles have minimized and his breathing tube removed.  While it initially feels like a milestone, it’s only part of that journey.  The most nerve wracking is to see his status coming out of sedation.  What level of consciousness he regains.  It feels every bit as difficult & emotional as bringing him into that ER last Saturday. 

There’s has been an almost overwhelming support from so many people, well wishes, support & prayers.  We are nothing short of blessed for all that people have shown.  How to put it all into words is very difficult.

My wife, Kate has made it thru a birthday & a mother’s day this week and is somehow still standing thru it all.  I’d love to believe her strength will work to forward the steps Aaron makes. 

Those of you who have known of this and sent your prayers & thoughts, I can’t begin to tell you how supportive & connective it feels.   Our most heartfelt sincere thanks  go out to you.

Maybe the last thing I’d like to share is this -- & it’s what Kate & I wish onto all of you.  Take your moments and enjoy them all, hold them precious.  The support we’ve seen shows profound amounts of caring and love people are capable of.  Please, please don’t extend that to just the tragedies and challenges in life, but look for moments to express it in your everyday life with your family & friends.

Updates on Aaron’s condition we post on www.caringbridge.com.  If you’d like to read or stay in touch, you can search Aaron Swanson, the PW is aaroncd

Thank you again all so very much,

2014-05-10 11.36.08

Monday, January 20, 2014

Getting around too…recaping ‘13

I used to have a standard to try & blog no less than once a month… I think that got blown to bits in 2013.  Different training, lot’s of different stuff going on in life and most of all lot’s of writers block.

Not to say I didn’t get out some fun musings on a few races.  But still so many other good stories to share that I missed telling. 

2013 started pretty rough actually, a miserable about of illnesses & colds that seemed to be a regular weekly occurrence.  I missed the ‘cross nationals in January, but leading into them there was something missing in my fitness & when I got the full blown influenza a week or two before hand.  It wasn’t gonna happen.

I’m both a veraciously competitive person yet also laid back at times.  I did a lot of thinking in the spring about where I’d been, and come from in terms fitness, skills & racing a bike.  It was a long slow steady climb.  I had the great fortune of working with some great coaches over the years.  Initially I worked with CTS and had a really fun experience with Josh Powers who later started his own coaching at PowersEndurance.  The guy has a wonderful sense of humor and very smart at what he does. 

Eventually for a few reasons I wanted to try to something different, I’d heard great things about local Wisconsin coach Gordy Paulson (Peaks Training), he brought an ever so different philosophy to his way of training and with his coaching of Tristan Schouten .  Gordy is one of the most excellent, not only coaches but human beings I’ve ever had the pleasure of getting to know & work with.  In working with him 2011 & 2012, I saw my greatest short term power/wattage gains. 

While those numbers made great for bragging rights, they still left something missing when it came to racing the bike.  The biggest struggle I still had was being able to hold my wattage on a bike for the duration of most races.  In training jargon it was the challenge to translate my solid “threshold” power into long efforts. 

I figured after some 8 years of doing similar things --- lower mileage, high intensity just wasn’t creating the adaptation in my body to race the distances I was doing.   Now that’s not true of everyone, some people can substitute intensity for duration and have great results.  Tristan from my understanding is one of those guys.  Hats off to him.   But we are all biologically just that much different in how we metabolize our energy stores and how our “energy systems” work. 

I decided I had to consider a different alternative.  Which is hard to do when you are indoctrinated into a belief or philosophy – harder/faster is better.  So I took a step back, said “hey, it’s not entirely accomplishing what I’m trying to do, I’ve got nothing to lose to try something different”.

So in April I began a different program, unconventional for the typical racer, but one that focused on long rides, and very specific targets and wattage zones to ride in at specific times.  At first glance I’d look at the absolute wattage targets & always think, “Oh, boy, this is gonna be an easy day!”  But what I failed to consider was the duration that was required…. and even a moderate output can be extremely difficult if the training ride is long enough. 

Skeptical that it would work?  Yup.  But soon after I found myself feeling like I had stamina that I didn’t have previously.  The first race of the season, the Strada Fango spring classic, was my first hint it might be working.  A 4+hr race that early in the season would have normally had me unglued 2hrs in.  This year, except for late race misdirection on my half, had Nate Lillie & myself leading it up to the finish.

The second race of the season, the Cable Off Road Classic was the first time I’d gone into that race with only a handful of rides going at or above race pace.  Now due to the prolonged winter weather conditions, the race was revised & was a distinctly shorter race.  Even so, the longer training didn’t hurt as I was able to come thru for a much celebrated win in a race that holds a special place & lot’s of memories.

I'll do on average 12-15 races a year.  It seems to be the right amount for the time, effort & energy required living where I do & my life situation.  So as the early part of summer arrived I was doing workouts that would have previously shocked me.  I wasn’t racing as well as I would have liked or getting the progress I wanted, but at the same time I wasn’t having any endurance issues.

Had a s0-so Mt Borah Epic, the 30 miles of single track race.  Efficiency on a bike matters quite a bit.  And without any time on singletrack to get in a groove, I’d waste a huge amount of energy where more natural & fluid racers could conserve.

To some degree the same could have been said of the Keweenaw ChainDrive, but in that case.  I learned that expending a great deal of energy going for a prime, will cost you later.  There’s no getting around it.  Just like in a car or truck if you constantly punch the accelerator at it’s max, it’s gonna have less in the tank than if you keep it steady.

The late June/early July Chippewa Valley Firecracker has always been both fun but a huge nemesis to me.  I love riding the trails they have there, but at the same time.  That race & the results I get there never show me much love.  My endurance work paid dividends as I’d survived the race better than in years past, & though short of my top 20 goal I’d gotten pretty close.

That lead into the July races….

The Duluth Great Hawk Chase, if there was 2 other races I wish I would have blogged about it, that would have been one of them.  I’d started to reduce some of the volume of my training but came there without any expectations & having drilled a hard workout the day before.   Starting in the back row & getting clogged behind riders in the long climb up the hills that start the race.  I slowly worked my way thru more & more people. Within a lap or two I’d moved from 40th to 5th.  Riding nearby was Todd McFadden & Mason Basco  along with some other bozo.  Now, I don’t normally say that, but seriously?  This dude was.  Mtb racers tend to be in my experience some of the best people to race with, even if it’s intense they are polite and cordial.   He broke that mold.  Riding a single speed, he felt it was everyone else’s job to make his life better.  He bitched at lap traffic and other riders.  When I slide out on a corner on a bad water handoff on the start of the third lap (of 4)  his profanity laced tirade sent me over the edge.  I’d gone down, had to run/walk the bike into a position to get back on.  In the meantime, I’d lost Todd, Mason & this guy.  They were up the trail & out of sight.  Ugh!! I was so mad.  I managed to get thru the single track that then lead up a long climb & I just found energy where I never had it before.  I brought back 100+ yards.  I road past Todd, (with Mason & the bozo) further up front, cursing under my own breath some along the lines of killing that S.. …well, let’s keep this blog polite.  And say my fierce competitor switch had kicked in.   Todd later said, he’d never seen me so mad. Oops, oh well, just human.

I soon was on “the bozo’s” tail as he was getting gassed and I flew by him with a direct mention to him of working on being more polite to his fellow racers.  (Maybe I didn’t say that kindly, but that was my intent).    I worked to try to catch up with Mason, but to no avail and then in the final lap that hard effort was costing me just alittle & Todd caught back on & used his familiarity with the single track there to pull away.  But a 7th place finish was by far the best race result I’d had in either a MN or WI MTB series race and was pretty happy.

Later that month I had a really interesting experience – something that told me duration/endurance focused training maybe didn’t necessarily take away top end fitness.  There’s this small local MTB race in Washburn, WI – called the Brownstone days race.  It’s only 10 or 11 miles but still cool & challenging.  I raced it in ‘12 with a PowerTap power meter & in ‘13 with the same Powertap meter.  Since it’s a short race with a long climb, it’s gonna have a higher power output profile and theoretically the advantage should go to someone who has specifically been training for those high wattage efforts with intervals.   And in ‘12 that was the case with me, I had all kinds of intensity.  For numbers sake, here’s how they stacked up….

Peak power 2012 2013
20min avg watts 338 336
30min avg watts 309 321
40min avg watts 298 306

 

To me one validation that I’d not lost my top end even though endurance had been my focus.

August ‘13:

That lead to an up & down month of racing.  Ore to Shore wasn’t the race I was hoping it to be, after getting in the front group(s), I lost my mojo towards the end & with it the chance of a top 20 finish.  It was my 1st or 2nd highest priority race of the year & a long time goal.  With little more than 2 miles to go I was gassed and couldn’t hold onto my position.  Did however come away with a sweet bike in the raffle…

2013-08-11 17.53.51

and a great time riding Marquette’s single track with Hope, Grace & Marshall..

Grace cornering the rails..

2013-08-11 13.49.27

August & September both wind up  & wind down MTB season.  Ore to Shore’s race should have been a clue.  Once July rolled around I’d cut back on my endurance riding, in lieu of more intensity and for the next 3 races I’d “pop” at just about the same time, just under 90minutes into the race.    The Duluth Dirt Spanker, still a good race, finishing 6th overall, but dropping two spots on 4th & final lap of 2hr race.  Next the Seeley Pre-Fat, another race like the Cable Off Road Classic I like to gear up for.  I’d done everything as perfect as I maybe could.  Pre-road the course a ton of times, confidence was very high.  Only in my pre-ride I severely crashed my wheel & need to perform trail side Flintstone mechanics.. “Bam, Bam”, whacking the wheel against the ground in an attempt to bring some trueness to the wheel or at least so it could go thru my fork without hitting the sides.  Even so I road the best race I could, but clearly my endurance “Bug” had come back. 

Lot’s of rest and some great 3x20min intervals & I thought I’d be set for Chequamegon 40.  The other race I really wanted to share the story about.  It may have been my best & easiest 28 mile race ever… the only problem?  Oh yeah, it’s 40miles.  I road both strong & smart early on,  felt confident.  Was riding in the top 15!!  And not feeling taxed.  It’s pretty huge in race like the Chequamegon 40.  Only it wasn’t too last with 12 miles to go, the proverbial wheels came off, another endurance failure. 

With only one MTB race to go, the Deerfly Chase, it was decided with me & my new coach, that endurance had in fact been lacking & my body went back to it’s old ways of doing business (more on that later).  So I hit up a very long ride between the two races, managed to ride a smart race &  hold my endurance to the finish, narrowly edging out Nate Lillie at the end for the win.

Oct:….

With MTB season over & no compelling motivation to pursue cyclo-cross, I entertained running the Whistlestop 1/2 marathon.  Wisely, I opted not to.  Just not enough time to swap over my biking legs for running legs even if my cardio system could handle it.

I did pursue a few ‘cross race.  The local BayCross race, even had my dad there cheering me on.  That was really cool because it’s been years since he’s been to an event.  Was able to win again there.

My next race wouldn’t be til Nov 23rd. A last minute decision to race the UPCross championship – most horrible race of my season.  And exactly zero explanation for it.  I nearly passed out mid way thru the race.  I’d just done a hill run up, I started seeing stars & my vision was starting to tunnel & get black on the sides.  I wasn’t otherwise feeling overly taxed in the race.  Maybe is was the stupid cold 15 degree temps??!  Anyways, it was unfortunate, but Colby Lash who won it was having a great day & he earned it.  In hindsight, it would have been a good idea to have a ‘cross race effort in my legs leading up to it.  Sometimes the best training for ‘cross racing?  Is ‘cross racing. 

Because the following weekend, I showed up in Eau Claire for the Princeton Valley Cross race and had a great race to finish the season.  Holding my own but still coming in 3rd overall behind two pro level racers in Issac Neff & Corey Stelljes.

Since then?  Winter?  Can anyone say a lot of it!?!?  Holy cats!  My plan was to get off the bike, and rest, rest and rest some more.  Maybe not get fat.  It was nice to put cycling on the back burner, pull out the weights, do some running and go back to being very amateur in my fitness. 

It was hard to do mentally, as I never like to “let go” of top end fitness, but my coach was pretty adament that I shouldn’t worry about it.  He asks that I get in some running, snowshoeing(good Lord there is enough here!!), fat biking, srength training. 

For 2014, instead of battling winter & not enjoying training, we’re gonna target marginal fitness and start seriously later.  Maybe not even til March or April when I’m fully rejuvenated & motivated.  It’ll be a year of some big miles that hopefully finally crack the code to my racing endurance.  Hope to share more next time on some specifics and get around to that conversation about “Watts it Take”…

Till then keep those big ole’ fattie snow tires rolling……

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Deerfly Chase 2013…

Almost forgot how to blog this season… more miles in the legs, more demands in life, work & family, & so funny that’s what seems to happens.

Despite the lack of updates, the season has been a good one & with plenty of stories.  Most recently the Deerfly Chase.

With the Chequamegon 40 & Fat Tire festival in the rearview mirror, the MTB race season for many takes a different tone.  Ok, maybe not for everyone, but certainly for myself.  You work hard all season long trying to eek out that extra watt of fitness for big races, then for a few weeks afterward, with just an occasional hard effort, you get to reap the benefit of riding fast but feeling well rested too.  Plus mentally it’s just nice to be riding & racing solely for the fun of it.

A race that just seems to get just right & offer some post Chequamegon Fat Tire MTB racing opportunity, is the annual Deerfly Chase MTB race.  Held the last weekend of each Sept at Hickory ridge trails, 30miles northeast of Eau Claire.  In it’s 3rd year, growing by leaps & bounds, race director Noah Michaelsen & crew have put together an event that encompasses a great trail system, an inviting atmosphere, a diverse race course & a great post race event afterwards. 

One element that sets this race apart is the pre-race “conversations” that start a month ahead of time.  Generally someone will start some congenial group email that will evolve into some of the most creative, pre race good natured smack talk to behold.  It takes a season of MTB stories & personalities to weave a tale so good.  Find someone with the thread on it & you’ll find yourself quite amused  -- if MTB’ing doesn’t work out for some of these guys a stand up comedy routine would.  You know who you are…

So Saturday (28th) rolls around.  Rumors about who’s gonna show…will some of MN top MTB series racers cross the river & join the show, will it be first year Deerfly Chase champion Chad Sova be coming back to try to regain the title he relinquished.  Will the secret late season training done by 2012 one year wonder Matt O’Meara come thru… Will the 2012 Deerfly chase 2nd place finisher, the man possessed, Kevin Roytek trade in running Nikes 26 miles… for turning the pedals a 26 mile bike race.

Does Nate Lillie’s mid season form come back around where he levitates uphills on a single gear, leaving others looking like they are dragging along their lucky piano’s…

As it turns out, a cast of characters both old & new were there at Hickory Ridge trails  start line ready to get rolling.  Among them the aforementioned, Kevin Roytek, former stellar MTB racer Jesrin Gaier, Nate Lillie, Matt Zak, Spring Street Sports Big crushing Mike Johnson, and not to forget last seasons midwest standout & my cross racing nemesis… Trevor Cross, I mean Koss to name just a few.

Having duked it out with Roytek last year & edging him on the final ski trail hills to the finish for the win, I was getting my own ribbing about how the race was gonna go in my favor.  However, having struggled with premature engine failure in the Seeley Pre Fat & Cheq 40 -- any race lasting over 90minutes held a slight bit of concern that I’d fizzle before the any sizzle.

The start was a rollout of a mile or so, before we were turned loose on a gravel road.  Mike Johnson & Nate Lillie were quick to the front, until the first hill when Trevor Cross Koss came marching up the right hand side of us thru the soft sand on the edge of the road, (does nothing stop that dude?)   By the way, Dan Hansen had the helmet cam on -- can check out the early goings here or the CORBA facebook website

Trevor lead for awhile, until we were back on the downhill descent & Mike took over again.   Eventually the lead group would have this bunch..

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Pulling to the front before a hard left turn off the gravel & onto forest roads, I started to turn things up alittle, it wouldn’t drop anyone, but strung things out.  Fun fast slightly downhill where you could rip some speed & watch the random sticks on the flying this way & that.  Mindful to not launch one into the drivetrain but if it’s stuck a competitors wheels… hey, just one less guy to have to outlast.

With Nate close by followed by Trevor, Dan Hansen & Mike Johnson the group stretched out, it took a short single track section to further thin things down further before getting back on a gravel road section.

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(Tongue out & to the right? Code for “Oh yeah, it’s go time..” Mike apparently didn’t get the memo & Trevor is like “Dude’s -- whatever.”)

Once back on the gravel road, I looked back only to see Nate nearby, Trevor had fallen 30 yards back or so & the front of the race appeared to be set. 

Just the Coyote & the Roadrunner – at least that’s what I mentioned to Lillie as he pulled up next to me spinning like a madman on his single speed.  (Come on you know what I’m talking about – Roadrunners legs in the cartoon? 

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First thought after seeing Nate pull up alongside).

I thought it was pretty appropriate, the two of us, Nate & I began our season together this way on a two man breakaway at the Strada Fango in April that it would close that way as well.  Life comes full circle.

Needless to say I was almost premature in that thought as Mike Johnson poured it on time trial style on the gravel & came from way back in the single track to pass Dan & motor on -- eventually catching up to Trevor & dragging him up to our shirt-tails on the final section of gravel road before hitting the first serious section of single track.

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Nate would hit the singletrack first, riding it smoothly causing collateral damage, applying torque so dominantly to each pedal stroke of his single speed that had he struck any rocks with his pedals the sparks may have ignited Hickory Ridge into a forest fire.

I needed to keep the concentration up as even the slightest lapse on my part & he’d have 4 or 5 seconds on me.   Taking advantage on the decents he’s pull ever so slightly away weaving thru the trees.

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On the inclines I’d put in a harder effort to close things back up again.  Eventually I would trade places with him to avoid eating the rocks & splintering tree roots he was kicking out at me.

A few points in the race we’d catch site of Trevor on some switchback section, never too far behind & keeping us pushing the pace.

Much of the race went back & forth between Nate & I trading out leading different single track sections.  Around the half way point some rougher trail had Nate’s hardtail rattling his dentures loose & his next to zero gram spiderman webslinging saddle even with all it’s flex still wasn’t enough love for the guy.  All the while I’m seated pedaling behind thinking whoa… that my man, does not look like too much fun.

Despite the tight single track & reduced riding speeds -- drafting was still part of the race when we’d hit open lakeside sections of trail where the 15-20mph gusts of wind would be blowing thru the forest understory.

On some of the newer machine built trails they build this year, Nate continued to impress with his handling skills taking on the hucking jumps, while I’m doing the dreaded reverse back tire wheelies, testing the full squish of my front fork & tire.

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(Some of the new machine built trail at Hickory ridge, great flow & speed to it).

At times I think both of us were finding our limits.  I was working on moderating my efforts as to not blow before getting to the finish.  Unlike hanging on for dear life last year against Roytek & swearing under my breath, I was alittle more comfortable with the pace this time around.

The final section of single track present a interesting challenge, that the very recently fallen leaves created.  At the speed we were going, I was at the front & kept talking back to Nate… “hey where’s the trail?!  You might not want to follow me…”  Just the perfect conditions to disguise it, actually made it really fun, as you’d have to make some very snap decisions to just stay on track.

Finally into the final 20minutes of racing, we’re back on gravel roads & a mix of forest roads & ski trails. 

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Tell me me it’s not the camera, but Nate’s got some glowing super powers emitting from his legs.  Ah, weren’t onto your secret now Lillie!!

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I’m at the front & Nate is glued to my rear tire sniffing the Caffe Latex in my tires, looking for an explosion to happen.  In my legs, his or both…

I really wanted Nate to have a good race too & should some mechanical still pop up for one of us I wanted all the hard work we put in to still pay off.  So we rolled the ensuing gravel roads taking turns at the front & working together holding a steady pace.

I knew at some point we’d turn onto a bunch of rolling pitched ski trails for the final finishing section.  The part I didn’t recall was just how long it that section would be….

A mile & half or two out, I’m thinking it’s less than a mile, and I’m anxious to get this thing finished.  Looking at the race time on my cycling computer it gave me an idea we had to be pretty close.  I pushed the pace just alittle bit harder believing I had to hold it together just a few minutes longer, telling Nate to hold on.  With most of my training is on open & gravel roads, I seem to have another gear I can tap into on that type of terrain.

After a few rollers Nate was struggling to hold my wheel, I yelled back again for him to stay on, but he wasn’t able to respond & catch me on the next decent.

I decide to try & finish the race strong at that point, again thinking the end was closer than it was, so when I was just about out of gas we go by some dudes in lawn chairs saying “ Hey way to go, good luck, 1 mile to go!”  Ugh,  I was hoping for a 1/4 mile.  As I conjure up in my mind just how long a mile is after 1:45hr of racing.  Looking back Nate’s 10-15 seconds back so I try to steady out my efforts again & hold the gap.

Nate to his credit kept inching back but I crested the final climb & coasted in with a 9 second gap for a repeat victory for the second year.

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The rest of the race had Mike Johnson catching back up with Trevor on the gravel section but with nothing left in the tank to hold on the rest of the way.  So Trevor got 3rd, Mike 4th, the rest of the results are probably on the website, posted some below as well.

With the cloudy weather & pending rain overhead most everyone made it in before the rain dropped down in the afternoon.  One of the best parts of  the event is the post race party afterwards.  Cookout, eats, beverages, awards & give aways.  Most of all getting to to meet new people & visit with old friends, hear the stories of the race and season.

Can’t think of too much of a better way to spend a fantastic fall day wrapping up an otherwise great MTB season.  A big thanks Noah Michaelsen & every last person involved in the process to bring this event together. You know who you are, my gratitude & appreciation goes out to you.  Not easy, a lot of work, but you have many, many happy participants in this years Deer Fly Chase that thank you for it.   And to my friends, acquaintances & fellow Deerfly Chase racers, thanks for coming out adding your spirit & enthusiasm, as well as challenges, stories & struggles.  It’s all part of a really good shared experience, it makes me proud to be racing with each & everyone of you…

Til next year, wait & listen for the whispers of smack going down yet again & the good time that ensues in Deerfly Chase 2014…

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Other pics & comments….

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Gee Professor Mike, didn’t know they made bifocal Oakleys?

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Adam, don’t let the single track lull you to sleep… there’s a lot of race still left…

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Ain’t quite like it was last year, eh Kev?

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Scared!  I think I’m not feeling so good…

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Get out of my way rodent.  I’m gonna run you down…

Really?  Anyone ever see Gaier with such a serious look on his face & his mouth not open & talking while riding?

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Mild mannered Jesrin……I’m gonna take that camera & break it over your head!

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Yep, Kevin, definitely not the same as last year… still great to see you out there though.

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Dude, What’d she say?  What’d she say?  -- You’re not gonna believe this, she’s gonna run the entire race with her front fork locked out.  Man,…. blondes.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Cable Area Off Road Classic…..

Big thanks to the people who put on the event & the ALL the fellow racers that came out & made it exciting this year.

It sorta had that old school MTB feel this year -- back to when there wasn’t zillions of miles of single track available.  It was challenging it’s own right and required some good skills & efforts.

I’ve tried 13 editions over the years….A lot changes in that time when you reflect back.  My first time?  Way over my head, finishing 241st overall, the bottom 10% or something worse than that.  I recall not bringing enough to drink.  I was dying.  So much so, at the finish, in a matter of 30minutes I’d downed three 32oz bottles of Gatorade, doesn’t seem humanly possible when I think about it now, but it happened.  At the time I was trying to “show off” to the new girlfriend that I was some kind of good MTB racer! HA!!  That sorta backfired on me.  She shouldn’t gotta clue right there.  Somehow though she stuck around though??  12 editions of the race later, instead of being that 28yr old & in a so called “prime” of life -- now 40 yrs old, married, with four kids.  This race Sat had results on the other end of the spectrum, the completely other end.

Heavy rain pounded the area late Friday nite & into early Saturday morning.  On the drive to Lakewoods, there were small lakes in yards & the ditches looked like raging waterfalls in parts with rain continuing to come down.   However by the time I got to the race at 9am things had let up, wasn’t any warmer but at least it wasn’t raining.  I’d pre road the course the prior week and was trying to figure just how nasty some parts might be & how to navigate them. 

I soon ran into some friendly faces from Ashland in Jamie Sajdak & Brian Hammond, who’d just registered & so we were bantering abit about what to wear in this wet semi cold raining weather. 

Though I’d brought both the Trek Superfly hardtail & Trek Cronus cross bike, I was going try my luck on the off road cyclo-cross bike.  There would be parts that I’d be at a disadvantage with but if I could make it thru that stuff, I was hoping other parts would make up for it.  However having pre-ridden the course with both bikes I would have been comfortable racing either.

Trying to turn over a new leaf, in getting to races earlier, got in a respectable warmup & soon it was time to line up.  I didn’t feel too out of place with my cross bike as I noticed several guys were on them as well as my longtime BayCross battling buddy Nikolai Anikin.

The race started with the usual pace it does up Rock Lake Road, initially I stayed toward the front but drifted around in the initial miles as different guys took their time at the front.   As I recall Nate Klump took some time at the front, as did a guy on a cross bike.  Scottie KJ did some as well, ultimately it was Nate Lillie who after a few miles who really set the pace for a good share of the race.  Important to note… the guy is doing this on a Single Speed!  One gear, all conditions – flat terrain, uphill or downhill, gravel road!  Impressive, just impressive, I have no other words to put to it.   If some hills would come along I’d work to increase the pace alittle & try to use momentum to make the hills alittle easier.  Sometimes it would drop a few rider other times it wouldn’t.  Each time I turned around though it never seemed like the lead group got that much smaller. 

The miles were just ticking off quickly at first soon clipping along the rolling terrain at 20+mph.  Around the 5 to 7 mile mark the group was starting to get noticeably smaller, eventually whittling down to 7 guys – myself, Nate Lillie, Scottie KJ, Mike Bushey, Todd McFadden, Ryan Fitzgerald, Matt O’Meara & every so often we see Nikolai Anikin drifting back & forth. 

It’d pretty much remain this way til mile 10 or so when Matt & Nik dropped off & it was down to 6 racers with Nate driving it like a man possessed (but isn’t that what all single speeders look like when racing?  Shoulder rocking, & legs just a spinning) at the front & myself coming thru for an occasional driving of the pace. 

I don’t know about how the other 4 guys were feeling but I’d go back & forth from feeling taxed, to not feeling too bad. Some bi-polar racing I guess. 

I had my power meter on & heart rate monitor on & would check it.  Didn’t seem like I was going that hard but my heart rate would be quite a bit higher than expected & I’d try to keep it in check.  The average power would be settle into the 280’s(watts).  Later after the race, I talked to Todd McFadden & he was cruising along having no issues & a really low heart rate.  So as the race unfolded, it later that would become more apparent.

Just over 13 miles into the race there’s terrain would get rougher, less predictable, larger rocks in the road, bigger mud holes.  It seemed Mike Bushey & Nate pushed it harder through those sections or it was my cross bikes limitations that had me drifting alittle further back.  Once the race turned uphill, a few things just started to happen in what seemed like slow motion.  Nate pushed just a slightly harder pace with Todd right on his wheel that opened up a gap to Scottie KJ, Mike Bushey & myself.  I waited alittle bit for Scott to speed up & close it but when that wasn’t happening, I jump (&bounced on rocks) hard around Mike & Scottie to catch Todd’s wheel & before I knew it we had 6 or 7 bike lengths that grew more as the climb went up.

So it was looking like it was down to the three of us with over 5 miles to go.  Just some rocky downhills, mud holes & ruts to squirm through before getting on some pavement & the railroad corridor & finish.

I was going to be somewhat at the mercy of the MTB’s for the next two miles, Nate & Todd would get several bike lengths on me & where I could I’d push hard to back to get on Todd’s wheel. 

There was this major mud hole at one point where the “race leading vehicle” this truck -- I swear when I saw it looked like it went axle deep or worse going in the hole  Thinking to myself… oh boy, going thru that could end very badly…

Nate & Todd went far left (seeing how deep the truck sunk on the right) & squirmed through mostly ok, I sorta remember a line from my pre ride (but not covered in water at the time) that was closer to the middle.  I took that one & shot thru without any problem.  I saw Nate turn around on the ensuing climb with this “ah crap, sorta look on his face” when he saw I made it thru without problems.

I did almost take a digger at another mud hole when I had too much weight on the front of my bike giving a loud grunt that had McFadden turning around.

Knowing the rest of the course it – there would be just one other majorly rutted out muddy area and it was that way even before the rain.  There was simply no going right or left or finding a smooth line once you got to it.  It was like 50 feet wide, choose your adventure for the next 100 yards.  (This was the pre-ride picture… before all the rain!)

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Nate went in first, sorta scooting from one rut to another, Todd had his go as well.  I could both see them squirm out alittle & start losing speed.   I went slightly to the right of them, actually stayed in a deeper rut & then wheelied into another one when that one ended.  I managed to keep up my speed and motor past both Nate & Todd and decided to put the hammer down.  It was still probably 3 miles to go but I figured why not see what they’ve got left.  I had downhill, smoother road & pavement coming up – how wrong could it go?

Well, I initially had a reasonable gap on Todd, but I keep sinking in the soft sand on the road & I think he was floating on it better so he steadily reeled me in.  Nate was trying but not having the same amount of luck & we must have had over 50 yds on him pretty quickly.

Finally we got going vertical, like downhill vertical.  Checking my Joule cycling computer later it was almost 35 mph downhill on gravel.  I was just drilling at the front, figured Todd might hang on, but I was pretty convinced Nate, 25-30lbs lighter than both Todd & I – & on his Single speed would be spit out & gone, nothing more than a spec in the horizon behind us  --- spinning like a sowing machine & going nowhere fast. A devilish grin probably came across my face at that moment as well….

A mile later, I turn around… W.T.F!?  There he is!!  Right with us!  Oh, my God, how did do that?!  He’s freakishly fast going downhill, on a single speed bike.    It’s crazy.  Legendary.  I’ve seen him do this twice now.   A few weeks back at Strada Fango as well.

So anyways, so much for telling Todd earlier when Nate originally dropped that “We might just have one in the bank for The Ski Hut” (the shop we ride for).

Fortunately there’s now 2 miles or so left in the race, we hit the pavement of Randysek road.  Nate goes to the front for a brief moment before I decide to drop the hammer again.  I’m thinking… “it’s only 2 miles, it’s only 2miles.”  Well, that soon puts Nate soon several bike lengths back & Todd’s behind him.  I’ve got a gap again…. but Todd shoots around Nate & works back to my wheel.  We turn off Randysek Road & head west & south again before we transition onto the old railroad grade. 

Todd & I work together to keep Nate just fair enough behind, leaving that single speeding menace out to cook himself.   Todd kept saying just keep it steady, yet Nate would yo-yo closing & further from us – agonizingly so. 

If we could ride smoothly through the last short off road wet section to the railroad grade it would be mostly a time trial effort the last mile.  I gave Todd the lead to ride that section smoothly & I mostly kept up.  As we hit the railroad grade I caught back on & went to the front, Nate turned on the grade not more than 8 or 10 bike lengths back.

It stayed that way with Todd & I taking pulls at the front & Nate dangling, then about 75 yard before the single track transition back to Kavanah Road & 1/4 miles finish into downtown Cable.  I asked Todd to go to the front.  The last thing he needed was me to get slide out on the single track, taking us both out & let Nate catch up. 

Todd smoothly road thru but for some reason he opted not to accelerated hard at that point.  I took my time, playing it safe, but I could hear Nate’s squealing brakes just a length or two behind me as I was finally on the single track.  

Once on the pavement I worked up to the side of Todd as I wasn’t gonna draft my own teammate.  So we went steady for about 10 seconds before I just started accelerating alittle harder & pulling away.  I think I had more concern Nate would be joining the party if I didn’t.

I continued to pull away as the finish line was coming into sight, a bike length or more.. thinking I had a big enough gap I eased up alittle only to see Todd right on me I had to put in a second effort as we crossed the line in almost the same time, just coming across before Todd.

It’s a really crazy thought that goes thru your mind when you consider yourself an avid but “ok” bike racer and you win a race that never seemed within your reach after a dozen years.  Wow.  That you could do well at it but never win.  It was really cool & sorta surreal. 

I gotta hand it to both Todd & Nate though, as well as the other guys for making it such a great race.  Todd’s a pretty amazing guy if you don’t know him.  I remember one of my first races back in ‘01, the Fat Back Boogie, Todd won that race handily.  I thought one day, wow, if I could only be as good as that guy!  He’s got more top three podium finishes at the Cable Off Road Classic than anyone else in it’s 18yr history.  In his years racing, he’s won the Arrowhead 135 and placed second at a Chequamegon 40.  But as good as he races, he’s a heck of a genuine person & great guy.  Always great to talk about biking with and I know he keeps my excitement up for racing as much as anyone.  Gotta just says thanks for the great day.  And Nate?  Gosh, there aren’t words for how crazy well he’s riding.  He certainly was the most aggressive racer & instigator in the race.  Whatever he’s doing, he should keep it up and he’ll have a great season.  He’s definitely a top pick for winning any single speed category races this year.

After the race, great to hear how everything went in other parts of the race.  Ron William piloted his Carver Fat bike to 13th overall & 1st place in the Fat bike spot.  Good ‘ole Tom Gaier nailed 3rd in the Fat bike category riding some absolute monster fat bike with a big ole front shock.  Guys I’m guessing that’ll have later season fitness Matt O’meara, Nik Anikin had decent days too.

On the ladies side, Todd’s lovely wife Diana McFadden took home the win on the ladies side with Sara KJ in 2nd.   It was a good day for anyone in the 5th decade of life & riding for the Ski Hut, having placed 5 rider on the 6 podiums spots.  Hey,if Jens Voight is still winning & doing races well as a professional at 40+… why not keep trying.  This years Cable Off Road Classic, was it hard work & effort over time?  Or just too old to know any different…. 

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Monday, May 6, 2013

Will there be the Cable Area Off Road Classic 2013 edition….

For a lot of the MTB’ers in the northern midwest, one knows the race season has started with the Cable Area Off Road Classic

This untimely late winter weather has probably got a lot of people wonder… “hey, it’s less than  2weeks away & there’s like 2 feet of snow in the woods still.  Are they gonna do the race!?”

Here’s my take on it…

One, a lot can happen.  Snow melts fast in May with more direct sunlight, higher temps & any amount of wind.  What Mother Nature bringeth, Mother Nature can taketh away.

Two, if conditions are less than ideal for a lot of single track.  I still don’t see them necessarily cancelling or rescheduling the race.  Look for more of a gravel sections & climbing in the race.

Announcements on it will probably come later in the week after a week of sunshine and warmer weather starts working it’s magic… to which I can only say “Halleluiah!”….

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Strada Fango Spring Classic continued….

So how did things play out for the first race of the season? 

Between the 2013 spring snow storms, none us are going to forget anytime soon , mother nature blessed us with a nearly perfect day for a good hard bike race April 28th.

Arrived at the Murphy Flowage Co. Park in Rusk County – east of Rice  Lake a solid 30minutes before the race.  Those that know me can enjoy the humor of that & may find me ruining my reputation for timeliness in 2013… ok, let’s get real…don’t worry, I don’t expect the trend of arriving early for races to continue.

The parking lot was full of friendly familiar faces.  Todd McFadden, last years champ, sporting a shiny new ‘cross bike.  Soon after I was greeted by Tim Andrews, then race director, Noah Michaelsen, Nate Lillie, Nikolai Anikin, and a bunch of guys from the Eau Claire area. 

Going into the day -- I’ve been battling being sick several times over all winter long, and that day I was on the last days of a cough/cold I’d gotten earlier in the week.  Left home feeling pretty draggy & only modestly better when I got to the race.  I road around once getting there trying to get that sluggish feeling to go away but to no avail.  I was really hoping the start would be easy. 

Soon it was 10am & we rolled out.  About 200 yards into the rollout  there was the sound of “starters” gun… in reality?  It had the unmistakable sound of a tire blowing.  Probably not a good omen for that person racing this season.

Things started reasonably easy.  Being the first race of the season, everyone is sorta juggling around who should be out front leading.  The default sorta seemed to land on Todd McFadden who blew everyone away at last years Strada Fango, but more impressive & recently winner of the 2013 Arrowhead 135 & 3rd in the Fat bike Birkie.  If he could translate on to skinny tires what he did on the Fattest ones he’d be the guy to stick with. 

Todd did a good share of work at the front in the initial miles of the race but as things continued others came to the front for a while  rotating thru (even a Fat Bike racer – I just can’t come up with his name for the life of me right now).  Nate Lillie stayed like glue on Todd’s wheel.  Mind you Nate was the only one of us in what would later form a lead group on a MTB, but not just a regular MTB,  a single speed (37x??) gearing. 

Eventually with a sizeable hill or two the lead group of 6 riders was established.  Myself, Nate, Todd, Tim Andrew, Shawn Miller, Josh – “who I can’t recall his last name.”  It’d stay this way over the subsequent miles that is until we hit “Noah’s surprise”….

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Innocent enough looking picture,…. but this would be the corner where things got crazy.  Up til this point the course at worst was some soft gravel, at best pavement.  I can’t speak for the other guys  but my eye’s kinda got big as there was crazy shit ahead…

Nate happened to be out front, myself in 2nd, followed by Todd.  The course turned off onto a what is best described as a half melted winter snowmobile trail with two 6” wide ruts of running water. Next time your out try to ride a balance beam 6” wide with snow packed 3-5” high on both sides of your tire.  Concentration & skill is less of luxury & more of a necessity.    Of course the other option was bunny hopping on to the crystalized snow & squirming back & forth to stay upright.

Nate had joked earlier in the ride how he wouldn’t be sticking with us very long due to his single speed MTB & the rest of us on ‘cross bikes.  He couldn’t have been more wrong that day.

His wider tires better floated over the snow & “ice cobbles” than anyone.  I was able to use the ‘ole cyclocross racing technique & hold with him initially.  As this road/trail keep going things begin stretching further & further apart though.  Nate would put distance on me going downhill & after a few hills & particularly more snow laden sections without ruts -- he’d gotten in the grove of riding it & was soon out of sight.  I turned around to see Todd initially 50 yards behind & later closer to a minute back as we struggled, twisted & turned our bikes to stay upright through the most difficult section. 

Noah said later that section of trail was only 3 miles but it felt a lot longer.  I enjoyed the challenge & really started to feel better pushing my limits going thru it.  Sometimes when your riding your bike on certain terrain something just snaps in your head & you go on instinct to ride a hill faster or single track smoother.   In my case it was a flashback to cyclocross and I was having the most fun I’d had in a long time.

Once I’d exited the snowmobile trail & was back on gravel it was a hunt for that dastardly Nate Lillie fella who so eloquently dispatched the many of us.  So it was around one corner, then another & another… still no Nate.  Then a long down hill… still no Nate in sight.  Finally with a long uphill a mile later I saw him, later discovering he was over 90 seconds ahead.  Behind Todd was probably just over a minute back & no one else in sight.

The terrain now really favored the ‘cross bikes once again & I was able to bear down & time trial my way closer & closer to Nate.  I’d do time checks -- over the gravel & later pavement sections I was able to slice into his lead, down to minute, then 40 seconds, then 20 seconds, until 5 miles after initially spotting him I finally caught. 

It was at this time, it was back to hilly roads & a lot of gravel.  Initially I thought I had the advantage and lead out for much of it, but catching up to Nate had taxed me more than I thought & it was now Nate, once again pulling away over the soft gravel climbs, at one point over 40 seconds in front of me again.  Eventually I caught up again and by the half way point of the 68 mile race we were stuck together for most of the rest of the way. 

Both conscious of Todd being behind & very capable of catching up over long distances like this we pushed it, but still tried to conserve so as not to bonk before the end of the race. 

Races like that get feeling pretty long when you’re the only two out front.  You assume it’s a head wind in any of three directions you turn (honestly that day, I think it was true – it never felt like we had a tail wind, ever!)

At a midway point Nate had to stop for a water refill, as I kept going, sure enough he caught back on.  Another time I bobbled my water bottle & had to stop go back for it & catch back on. 

With one significant out & back hill to climb & turn around on I figured it give us a good gauge of how far back anyone would be.  Though Nate easily out climbed me to the top we came down together with no McFadden in sight giving us probably more than a 5minute gap with 13 miles to go. 

I know I was getting pretty gassed at this point & probably Nate as well as I turned to him & said “For two guys that like to talk as much as we do this ride sure has gotten quiet.”  He thought that was pretty funny & so true.  I think the other part was neither one of us could handle another gel/gu.  We’d ate and drank to our capacity. 

This story is all good & we getting ready for a great finish, with just one or two turns to make before hitting the home stretch.  Only….. well, let’s just say one of the directional markers was misinterpreted by yours truly.  This being a mostly unmarked, unofficial race there was always a strong possibility of a wrong turn being made.  Nate was considering going left but followed me going right.

At one pt we ran into riders going the opposite direction, I’d thought they’d cut things short & were doing a cool down or something, but when we still weren’t at the finish 2 1/2 miles later the next rider we came across told us we were going the wrong way. 

At this point I gotta say I became very impressed with the reserves Nate had in store to power back to the course & drive things home to the finish.  Again on a single speed & fast rolling MTB tires -- I think he brought the right gun to the knife fight.  He’s riding really strong, if he keeps it up I see a really good season happening for him.  The 2 1/2 miles to get back on course & 6 miles to the finish Nate led a good share of the way.

Spotting McFadden those 5 miles was more than enough for him & Shawn Miller to finish ahead of us.  I think Todd had to laugh just because the same type of thing essentially happened to him last year.

We finished up doing 73 miles in 4:35hr.  I’ll be honest these long ones aren’t my favorite but it was a fun day & a great training ride.  After chatting with everyone I made a bee line for the freezing cold river nearby to put my overcooked legs into – that felt awesome.

Thanks again to Noah & everyone who played a roll in putting things together.  Had a great time catching up with you all.   (Thanks too to Tim Andrew’s wife Laura for her sense of humor & in particular for the great brats she had to share too).

Up next… I’m going to try to some some blogging  installments throughout this year on “Watts it take”.  I did a number of races last year & plan to do all of them this year with a power meter.  I hope to offer some insight on what kind of training or racing output it requires to finish races in a given place.  Have any comments or questions feel free to shoot ‘em my way… til then ride hard & keep the wheels down.