Monday, December 10, 2007

Winter cold got you down?.... Nahhhhhh

So anyone with half an ounce of common sense that's ever ventured out for a bike ride when there's a foot of snow on the ground ....wait some of you already think that's an oxymoron -- common sense, bike ride, foot of snow.... Well, let me continue, again hypothetically let's say you have. If you think hard enough you can already realize what bone shattering chill that might send through certain extremities if one is not adequately prepared. Frozen flippin' toes being the most likely to succeed in the can-I-get-gangrene-in-under-an-hour contest. If you've tried it's almost always going to be the limiting factor in how long one can ride in the fall, winter and spring. Hands, body, junk, all that can be covered pretty adequately, it's always the toes that take the beatin'.
Seeing as I still can't CC ski to save my life and I'm not about to sit around for 3 or 4 months -- and using a roller or trainer has it's limits before thoughts of suicide kick in. Getting quality training is something I've really struggled with in years past. Well, try as I may through everything from plastic bags to different boot cover ideas. At long last I can attest to finding a wholly and entirely worthwhile solution. Listen to me carefully -- if you want to ride in the winter (or are forced to because of lack of snow for skiing), you gotta give these type of bike shoe/boots below a try -- you will not be disappointed, you'll be kicking yourself you never got them sooner.

Add in these attachments if you really need them and you'll be just fine.
I got the Lake brand of boots at FreeWheel in the twin cities. They go for $200-$300 but are well worth it, I can't even dare call it "Feeding the Fat" reference of the dear Charlie Farrow. It's more a a necessity for survival out there. I believe he's gotta have something like that to pull off his Arrowhead 135 escapade in February.
Check 'em out sometime or drop me a line if you ever have questions.
I've been meaning too, like probably so many others, get on the blog and do some updating but a day turns into a week, a week turns to another then.. a month is gone before you know it. If you're reading hang in there folks I think I can still pull off a 3 or 4 posting per month average.
Having ended the season on a pretty high note from the Iceman Cometh I was anxious to keep the momentum going so I've really not taken any major time off the bike. That's not to say I'm stacking hours and hours of base training in yet but I've gotten in between 7-10hrs most weeks since Mid November. The recent snap of cold however is putting a crimp even on the best pair of biking boots, gloves and face wear so I've resorted to flailling around on some CC ski's, but some good mentoring from FSx Midwest - Fischer / Swix Racing man, Paul Haltvik, and there's appears to be some hope for me. It lets be get out for an hour and stay warm enough so I can follow up with another 1hr ride on the bikes to get at least 2hrs of aerobic work done.
Game plan this year is get 6 months of base and buildup training done so I'm good and ready to race come May & June, then there's a sizable break in MTB racing in July so I'm going to take a rest period during that month and then hopefully I should be refreshed enough to able to race out the remainder of MTB & CX season from Aug thru Nov next year without crashing & burning out by Cheq 40 like in years past. I've also integrated a pretty good lifting and core exercise program into my weekly routine as well with any luck will help with injury prevention and add some durability.
As it's said anything worthwhile usually isn't dropped in your lap, so sometimes when opportunity doesn't knock, you just have to build a door. So whatever your choice -- hit the roads or hit the snow, just get out there and make things happen.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

When you're not used to....

.....seeing your name somewhere small in an article in a national cycling publication, you can't help but think it's kind of cool to have happened -- cyclingnews has a write up on this past years Iceman and actually included all the results. So hidden somewhere near the relative top I find myself listed...... along with the 2,000 participants. 18th overall in the 35-39 Expert Category -- to save time looking.
Nice to see a write up & press time on Midwest MTB'ing. WI's has the largest participant series in the country -- just how much bigger? Give Google or a whirl and see what other parts of the country get for participant rates in their MTB/Off-Road Series. I think a person used to seeing WORS sized events could feel pretty proud of what's in our backyard after seeing turnouts in other parts of the country. Also you toss in these Triple Crown Races, the Ore to Shore, Chequamegon 40 and Iceman with their monster sized participation (2000+ racers) and you see the Midwest has alot of reasons to get it's share of notoriety. My coach & pro racer, Josh P, has said plenty of times if you're racing in the Midwest you've got plenty of competition to know where you would stand on a National level.
Passed on the MN CX championship race last weekend. My lingering cough failed to improve sufficiently to allow me to endulge in yet one more race this year. That said I've however gotten on the bike for some nice long easy training miles -- now fellow blogger/racer Charlie Farrow, makes some reference of "feeding the rat" in what I can only assume would be his training. But, hmmm... think about this "feeding the rat"? Do you suppose Charlie has a pet rat? Maybe one he feeds after comes back from a long bike ride? What's it's name? I somehow think should Charlie read this I suspect (& expect) a17th century history dissertation delivered with a Paul Harvey rest of the story panache from the One that produces a scholarly synthesis to pupils on a daily basis. So what I'm saying is Charlie appears to be able to rattle off a mean piece of history at will. The man must read books like cows eat grass. It's all good.
Now that Turkey day is soon upon us -- get out for a big ride and then gobble up. I may just try and join the 'ole Turkey day ride in the Twin Cities when Kate & I go down there to visit her family for the holidays.
Travel safe, ride hard & keep the wheels down,

Thursday, November 15, 2007

What? Two posts in one week!

Crazy....what am I doing having spare time to write some blogging comments. Now if I could only have the creative insight of Charlie Farrow..... ok, think Charlie, be Charlie... Charlie, Charlie... Hmm... nope, I no luck in passing the medium of Charlie today. I'll have to slide by on my own. We all read these blogs about bikes and cycling and the all that sort, but what does one do outside of the endless miles of training and races..... probably think about more biking and races.

Well, at least for me, if I can get my breaks in during a season I swear I'm ready to get going again and it's only been a month. Guess that Iceman just jazzed a guy up again. You know if it wasn't for all you skiers we could probably have some hard core biking year round -- ok, just kidding someday I'll understand the bliss of skiing.... but I haven't heard any invitations come my way as of yet.

If it wasn't for that Charlie F. tantalizing me on Monday with thoughts of doing the MN State CX race this weekend, I'd probably happily be doing my base miles and knowing none the better. Now it's an everyday wrestling match in my brain -- stay home and try to get rid of this 4th cold bug I've gotten since August or ignore my failing immune system just to see if I can have another bust out race like at the Iceman. It's 60/40 but I can't say which way at this time.

Outside of that all is good and life is never dull. If you have 4 dogs, 2 cats, 2 kids, one wife (thank god none of those number are in reverse order), and run your own business life is pretty full. Wouldn't want it any other way though.

Been busy trying to wrap up very late season yard and trail projects. If I wasn't in the investment ballgame I swear I'd be a landscape architect. I love doing projects like that, it's a like an artist in three dimensions with the world as your canvas.

But there's something good about winter setting in -- in door house projects finally get taken care of, there's hockey and ice skating with the kids to do, and the indoor volleyball leagues get started up again. Speaking of volleyball is probably not too normal of a cross training interest among endurance athletes but our (6x6) team started off the season Sunday night posting a 3-1 record against last years #2 team. We've got a pretty formidable team again this year having won the league championship 3 of the past 4 seasons and though we seem to lose one or two different players each year the replacements are as good or better. What I wasn't prepared for was how sore my shoulder and abs would be the next day, trying cranking away with hard spikes, alot of blocking and diving for balls and you might feel like SKJ after her Iceman mishap. Speaking of which she still made a pretty strong comeback. Check it out on You Tube if you like, someone posted a number of videos from this years Iceman.

Well, a second call from Kate about getting home for this awesome pizza she made for dinner, means I'd better get going.


Sunday, November 11, 2007

Iceman Cometh!!!

Ok, ok, you may have heard, there's this "little" MTB race in mid Nov each year over in Traverse City MI. Takes anyone from WI/MN between 7-10hrs to get there and it feels like the regular MTB season been done for a month or two. Sound like an exciting setup??
I had had the above referenced feelings going into the weekend and it was heightened even more when Scotty Chapin (who got me in the race back in August -- a long story) emails me on Weds saying now he's NOT going. I'm thinking fringin' great, long ass drive and not too many folks I'm going to know, this is going to be whole bunch of fun. That's probably the last negative thought I had cuz holy smokin' gears!!! This thing is awesome!! 2000 some racers and a heck of a great event setup.
Made the drive over with Katie & the kids (Marshall & Hope), stopped half way there in the middle of the U.P. to jump out on the bike for 30min ride to break up the drive and get my legs worked up for tomorrow. (Never underestimate the value of riding and diggin' in for an hard interval or two the day before the race). Got to Traverse City in time to packet pickup before the 11pm (EST) close, jumped in the pool for a quick dip and got a halfways decent nights sleep.
Race start: 9:35 Expert wave. Got there 40minutes prior (thankfully a state patrol person was kind not to hold me up longer, just enough to give me a dirty look and pull over the guy in front of me. Cruisin' 70 in a 55 will get you that). Enough time to unrack bikes, knock the frost off the seats and get a feel for how to dress in the 32 degree morning crispness in the air. Full length legs bibs, two longsleeve jerseys, full boot covers (with duct tape -- to keep out some wind chill, I had a feeling this was going to be a fast open one), turned out to be the right mix of gear even by the time we hit the finish at close to 11am with temp nearing 50. I warmed up alittle on the Trek Fuel, bike of choice for the day -- for those 29er lovers all I can say is good for you, but my '9er was staying on the car rack today. There's some fire in these 26"wheels that need to be let out.

At the start here's a great thing about the Iceman vs. Cheq40 & Ore to Shore -- waved starts. Yes, there's pros & cons to both methods but for this course it was nothing short of perfect. They use age groups & race categories, putting around 100 people per wave. I found it interesting as the Expert wave (35-39....which I was in despite a late Dec birthday) had more racers in that 5 yr increment than all of the 19-34yr olds.
Like most races you go to for the first time you don't always tend to be the most heads up and aggressive in getting the ideal starting location -- hence I got the to staging area later and had to settle in the back for about 100th place out of 120+ racers. Not ideal, hopefully not horrible. My CTS coach, Josh Powers(AZ) told me the past couple weeks just take whatever this race gives leave off the normal pressure you put on yourself for a good outcome. Reason for that -- I "crispy crittered" myself training this year. Always racing good, but never really great ones, and especially having built up a bad dose of cumulative fatigue by late August that lasted for weeks and never went away. Hence I struggled through Sept and took off most of Oct only riding easy with no high end efforts. Though I had some indications earlier in the week from riding that for the first time in months I was feeling better, once I crossed that starting line of the Iceman it was like an ephiphany hit me "Ya hoo!!!! I'm back!" My legs and body were surging with energy and I got to thinking -- holy cats this is going to be fun race, let 'er rip! Though the beginning of the course ain't the most conducive to passing, it's very fast, semi-winding stuff and if hit right it can be done.
I don't know how long it took to peel my way through the Expert wave (which sounds so weird to me, racing Comp all season long it was cool to finally do an Expert level race), 5 riders here, 10 there. Eventually going through many of the first wave (19-34 yr olds) racers. A mass start would have been impossible to do any passing so this panned out well. After 4 miles in, I was still in disbelief at the pace I was pushing. I was starting to feel like my little bro, Dougie Swanson, a god among racing mortals,.... ah, ok I'm just kidding,..... he's actually not my little brother :).
At that point, even though it's not my style to go all out without some tactics of rest & recovery during a race, I mentally said "screw it" I'm going to see drop it down hard and see if I can catch up to the lead racers. Now understand what I'm saying --- these are some damn fast expert racers but one by one I kept reeling them in. Thinking "Holy shit, this is way too cool, can this really be happening?" Ask questions later, just keep racing. At one point, I pass Ray Nelson, who races WORS expert category and tell him to get on, to which he told me after the race he just couldn't, he said "Man, you were just going too fast to hang on to".
Eventually I caught up to Matt Muyres, noticing his Silver City cycling jersey thinking "at last, someone else from WI/MN, I'm not the only one over here". He was the only one who grabbed on and in turn took turns pulling. We get somewhere past the halfway point where there's announcer and a decent sized crowd cheering everyone on and they're reading off names as racers pull through, it's here that I recognize the name of the guy 50 yards out front, Michael Naughton, I WORS raced against. I pulled away from Muyres and tagged on with Mike to which I asked him how many guys still out front. Anticipating 15 or more, when he responded with "four" I almost flipped out!! In 16 or 17 miles I'd pulled through over a 100 racers and now it was down to four to go. I almost thought this can't be happening -- the cycling gods are looking happily down on me today. I ask Mike how he's feeling, to which he admitted he didn't know if he could keep it up, so I told him to draft behind me and we'd get 'em. Feeling this surge of anticipation I continued to lay down the hammer and shortly we passed racer #4, and had only 3 to go. I couldn't believe how fast the course felt. Smooth hardpacked trails, but you had to stay on your toes for some slippery frost covered sections of oak leaves. The downhills you could fly on and the uphills I seemed to be able to float over. Now my thinking turns to what would have happened if I'd been at the front during the start?
Well, Mike & I now begin to take turns pulling through and hit mile 20, still searching for the lead three racers. It's at this point, I know I've got to refuel or risk bonking before the finish. Anyone that's ever had the hurt put on them in a race, felt as though they got tired, bonked, or whatever -- it's almost 100% of the time due to not keeping up the energy stores. ie. endurance drink or water/gel. Do this while racing and you can keep going strong, miss it and it's only a matter of time before the 'ole engine block seizes up. General formula for most people -- 1 endurance drink/hour or 1 water & 1 gel pack per hour of racing, maybe more.
Well, that's where this story may lose some luster, passing the 7 mile to go mark, I get my gel flask and manage to take a small hit and then reach for my 2nd bottle get a small drink before heading along a downhill section I quickly try to restow the bottle when I lost my grip in the winter gloves I was wearing and it tumbles along side the trail. The split second decision needs to be made -- stop to pick up or keep going -- what you decide can be all the difference in a race. Unfortunately for me, I chose wrong, instead of jamming the breaks and clammering 10 yards back up the hill to retrieve the bottle I kept going. I knew I hadn't taken enough up to that point so I was really risking trying to make the last 7miles without any drink/fuel. Tried it anyways and within 2 miles bonking started to kick in and I had to drop off the pace I'd set. So with that I limped it in the last 5 miles giving up 15 spots by the end which was much better than I had actually anticipated would happen and wound up 18th. Congrats out to Michael Naughton & Matt Muyres who came back and still finished strong with a 7th & 6th place finishes respectfully. Alot of mental coulda, shoulda goes on afterwards but I shut it down quickly and came to appreciate what I was able to accomplish in the race. One of my weaker points is to ever be satisfied with my racing performance and though the tale of tape at the Iceman Cometh 2007 doesn't encapsalize the effort I put forth, I'm extremely happy with how things went. Thanks goes out this season to all those in the cycling community, from the guys (& crazy fast SKJ) who push me out on the course weekend after weekend the past 6 months, to the local riders who help to give MTBing a home in Ashland, to my awesome coach Josh Powers -- who never fails to amazing me in that he always, always ends up being right about my training and lastly to my lovely wife Katherine and wonderful kids, Marshall & Hope who's support is unwavering and smiling faces are absolutely the best thing to see at the end of race and always helps me keep things in perspective. Thanks again to you all.
Racing may be over for a few months, but riding continues as I'll hit up base miles in not so long and do lots of cross training, volleyball and basketball. Hopefully blogging alot for you fellow fanatics so you have something to help pass the time over the cold winter months til we can get racing again.

Life's a joy ride, get out on the bike, ride hard and keep the wheels down!

Where Have I been?

Unless your a dedicated blogger like Charlie Farrow, there's bound to be gaps in the entries. Funny how when I started a blog I figured I could easily update a couple times a week only to find out.... it's much easier to find time a couple days a week to read everyone elses blog over writing your own. So I assign some big knobby tires to all those you can managed the regular updates. Thanks all for still checking in.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

More Racin'?

Playing catch up yet again on what's been happening. For the most part this great fall weather has really lent itself to some really nice days of racing. Sept 23rd WORS had event #11 of the year the Iola Tator Bake Race -- they were a late minute race replacement when the WI Rapids course was closed after a purchase by developers -- however this race course just 30minutes east of Steven Point was rather sweet. It's held at a Ski jump area so though there are some hills not as much as one would find at ski hill course, but the single track was made for speed. Don't get me wrong it was challenging but you were constantly swooping it back and forth through the woods. Some would probalby liken it to the Cable trails. The Expert/Comp Level races went off at 1pm, in it's age waves and divisions. Not feeling too great when we arrived and I had a slow warm up so I wasn't sure what to make of how the day would go. I got the exceptionally poor starting position that I've been cursed to by not getting to early year WORS races and gathering the points in the series to be in the call ups to the front. But hey where's the challenge then?
The start went pretty fast and when we started going up the first climb in the course I could really tell I wasn't feeling well. Fortunately I was climbing past racers here and there and picking my way back to the front. After being back 30 deep in the start by the mid point of the first lap (of four) I'd found some real good speed, caught back up and was chasing with Mike Budd after the 2 or 3 guys that got out front early in the race. The two of us road off a group of 7 or 8 guys in a hurry and were happily thinking we'd wouldn't be seeing them again and had our sights set on reaching the front guys. Well, somewhere in all the fun of pinning it through the single track Mike somehow dropped off in lap 2 and at the same time a group of 2(Ric Damm & Michael Naughten) had caught back up to me. Not exactly what I was planning on seeing and if I'd been feeling better on the climbs I might have tried to pull away again. For as good as the first couple laps ended up being I was getting killed on the hill climbs with these guys -- Ric would put 30 yards or more on me on the climb and I'd just have to rail it on the downhills, flats and single track to catch up. A sign that season long fatigue creeping in is lack of power on the hills and tendency to turn the big gear -- well, I opt for fast cadence and didn't resort to the big gear but the normal hill-skills weren't there and that gets to be frustrating. When you've trained all year long and your form is coming around the last thing you want to have is that cumulative fatigue hamper your racing. But when you're there, there's not a lot you can do -- at least when you're in the middle of race. Overall, I felt we were riding the course fast and picking off racers in other waves and in the final lap the guys I was riding with were able to pull away on the hills and there wasn't enough real estate left to catch them afterwards. And an effort by Mike Budd in the last lap was probably the most amazing thing I've seen all season. We'd dropped him good half way through the race but it's like he had reserved his turbo until the final lap, he went by me like I was standing still and moved up from probably 20th place to 5th overall. Really something. Out of the 87 racers I continued my "dominance" of places 10th thru 12th -- it seems like every time this year at WORS races where I haven't had illness or mechanical I get one of those places. I was really aiming for overall win in WORS Comp like I had in MNSCS Comp this year but it just hasn't come together. T.I.R - That Is Racing. But with late season fatigue and how bad the Cheq 40 went the previous week, pulling out a 12th place overall result like that was nice to see. Didn't think I'd be saying this but I'm looking forward to a break from racing -- physically I need it more than mentally. I'm wiped out for two days after a hard effort vs. ready to go the next day and a solid nights sleep keep evading me. But a week or two of easy riding and I should be feeling good again. Just in time for some nice long fall rides and the occassional Cross Race. What a crazy sport -- why get off your bike when you can go over or around barriers? Can someone answer me that?

Monday, September 24, 2007

Late season Racing.... Recaps & more - WORS Marathon, Cheq 40

Time comes in enough quantity -- it's just the order of it's availability is what challenges this racer to timely updates. But if you're visiting once and awhile, and you catch something new from me it'll probably be a long write up. On blogs there are any number of reason why when you're surfing the 'net you stop in to see what's shakin'. Sometimes it's finding out what a friend is up to or to hear what crazy misadventures happened or to find out what the competition is looking like for the following weekend. I personally love it just to hear what's happening out there when your cycling community is small or remote it's a great way to stay in touch. If you didn't check out my previous post, take a look at who else is out there through the links if you don't already do so.

I'll probably write up a season re-cap before too much longer but more recently this late summer/early fall had alot of racing -- probably the most concentrated dose of the year. It started late August with a weekend of doubling up, first at the WORS Cup (mud fest), then the MNSCS Duluth Powder Monkey, the following weekend it was the Seeley PreFat & WORS Rhinelander Marathon Smokin' Spoke. That kind or amount racing depending on the individual & depth of training can put a guy on the edge -- of getting better or getting pushed over. For those I've not share this with I work with a CTS (Carmichel Training Systems) coach in my training, just a super guy out of AZ, Josh Powers is his name a few local's that do the NORBA's on occasion probably know him. I can't say enough about working with a coach, provided it's a good match. I went through 2 previous ones in the 4yrs I've worked with CTS but Josh really has his shit together and we connect real well. The man just seems to always know the answers. I think my most used comment to him is "you're always right", humbling but true. Why a coach? I love the sport, it's what I really want to do for a long time. I was talking to Sara KJ at the Iola Tater Bake yesterday & commented to her how I was so happy to hear her mention that she plans to be racing for a long time that at least I know somebody else that'll be racing with me in their 60's (& later). Now back to the coaching thing, depending on how you place when in a race with me, I'm not the most naturally talented & cardiovascular gifted human specimen, so having someone guide you along and fine tune things and plan your schedule takes alot of concentration off that side so you can just focus in on riding. (If you want to read about one of those supremely talented & cardovascular phenoms go here - the first part is about midwest rider J. Devine but the second guy is what you've got to read about).

So back to the races.... despite what you might have heard from others or read in blogs, the new course in Rhinelander, in my humble opinion was great. Yes, you really appreciated racing a full suspension bike, J & M Lalonde -- don't know how you did it, but I in no way am envious of how it must have felt. The course could be ridden really hard & fast and it had the most single track of all three WORS marathon events, also I really like that all age groups go at the same time. Got a decent start unlike past WORS events. Though a few guys got away early and out of sight I was able to stay in the top 10 early on, I dabbed once in lap one and 5 or 6 guys passed including Mike Flanagen-Hagg but I got back past them and hung tight with Michael Naughton & Jerry Daanen also Matt Muraski as he would launch off the front and periodically we'd catch up. For me coming off the previous day's Seeley race that really did me in -- I was just hoping to hang in and survive. But sometimes I have a better second day of racing and this was definitely the case. It took alot of water (thanks to Katie, Marshall & Hope who were in perfect position for each of the 4 handoffs) and alot of power gels but my energy stores stayed level and my mental game was really strong, I refused to get dropped. Couple laps in we caught a slowing Sara KJ but with alittle encouragement she got on the train and responded great, hung in there and eventually pushed us after she got feeling better. Hats off to her for diggin' deep and turning a rough spot in the race around. Not ever, ever any easy thing to do. Had some bad cramping in my legs in the race which almost never happens to me but I was able to work around it and when it all finished out, 3hrs 6min later, they counted me as the 10th guy out of a field of 90 to cross the line. Pumped? Ya, happy for sure, considering the previous days effort in Seeley. The high expectation side of me always wants more & better but I got alot out of the game I brought that day. One note was my legs afterwards ached like I can't remember for 30minutes after -- a good sign you left all out there :)!

Cheq 40? That's another story..... called understand your body. Got a cold virus on Thurs before the big 4-0, not good any way you slice it. Some people can race through illness or do short durations but at some point no matter how superhuman you might be there's a good chance it's going to finally catch up to ya. My race was this -- good position in preferred start, amazed how I was spinning out in biggest gear on Hwy 77, avoid & escape big crash on 77 with Marko Lalonde, at Rosie's field say goodbye to Marko, haul out for next 15-16 miles with crew including SS'ing Mike Johnson, hitting OO in the 70th-80th place, mile 24ish catching Sara KJ & Doug S, mile 27ish like a power tool slowly losing it's charge things start to unscrew. Now onto survival mode, what a frustrating thing to be in. You can't quite or drop out on a lap, you just gotta get to the finish line to call it a day. Climbing Fire Tower, I hear this voice call out "Swanson!".... yeah, Kelly McKnight, catching and passing me like biscuits at Thanksgiving dinner. 2nd big race this year, 2nd time he's pulled out the Best of the Bay title (little thing I put out there to the guys in & around the Chequamegon Bay area). Hat's off the boy, he rode like he's capable of and that was great to see. He just goated his way up and out of sight on that hill. Not that rest of the race is a blur, I just wanted it over. Matt Hudson blew by me on my Salsa 29er I lent him -- kinda shocked him when I yelled in a stern voice "Nice Bike! Hudson!", also saw those McFaddens on their Burley tandem get by me towards the end. I was able to stave off a few racers at the end and stay in the top 200 but going into the day being a few psi short -- that's what you're lucky to get away with.

Had my little girl, Hope's 1st Birthday party afterwards (almost missed last year's Cheq 40 because of the timing of that life event). Ending up checking out of that party early and hitting the sack while company was still visiting. I was dead. Skipped the criterium Sunday, and it was the beginning of my first 4 day off the bike rest since Feb/March this year. The rest helped some because at this past weekend's race in Iola, well, that story is going to have to wait til my next update....

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Catchin' back up - blogs, racers and Cheq 40

Funny how with the best of intentions you might start a regular online blog/journal only to see so much time elapse between postings. Some of the first blogs I'd go when I got into cycling were of the Twin Cities "Swanson's" -- Doug S. & Dan S. -- they always had interesting stories to share, great race recaps and generally just some well written stuff. (There are certainly good blogs and bad ones and these guys always had posts that were worth reading. Not only talented bike racers but eloquent and enjoyable in their writings. Whether they gave it a lot of thought or not they were/are great ambassadors to the sport without a doubt.) Doug been short on the number of posts more recently which to his admirers, friends and fellow racers is a bummer but a guy's got alot of other things to do in life than post on a blog.... but Doug we miss you man! Dan really gravited to the road biking scene from what I recall him doing in the past but still makes a good share of timely posts.
More recently the likes of Charlie Farrow, Sara KJ, Eric Oftedahl and Tristan Schouten offer some real regular updates and great reading year round but you'll also get good WORS race recaps from Brian Matter and the cool but alittle out of the ordinary Lalonde Bros. Jesse & Marko. Speaking of which, I heard things about how fast these guys could run track & CC back years ago from guys I used to go to high school with (Lalonde's went to a school in the same conference) and now to see them years later and getting to see first hand how good they are is pretty cool.
I only listed a few of the blogs I might surf through at some point in the week. There are other ones I'll be sure add as links fairly soon. The great thing about the blogs is the community it makes among the people with common interests. In the bike racing scene I think it keeps up everyone motivation throughout the season more than it might otherwise be -- just check out the blogs right now and how buzzed everyone is for this little bike race coming up... the Cheq-a-something 40? Just kidding, it for any number of reasons it garners alot of attention of the hard core racers to the one-time-a-year bike riders. For an ultra-enthusiast like myself it's great to see so much attention that it gets. I can only hope it always builds. I love the fact that so many different top level racers that don't always match up during the regular season will be pitted against in this one. Jeff Hall vs. the Lalondes (huge naturally talent and gifted athletes), Brendan Moore & his Rochester crew, along with the Oftedahls racing against Matter, Schouten, Mike Phillips(gifted but very hardworking racers). I think only TJ Woodruff (maybe the least natural talent of those mentioned but probably the one of the hardest training racers) has raced head to head agains everyone in the Midwest region this year. And lastly with Doug Swanson, Tilford and some MI guys it will be great to see how it all goes down.
Tonight we had our regular Weds evening MTB ride on the Farm Road trails at the house with a good crew show up - Kelly, Paul, Matt, Sara and Scott N. and afterwards a big spaghetti dinner. Very nice hanging out and visiting with everyone. Kelly kept trying to pin me on who I thought would win the Cheq 40 -- he thinks it'll be Swanson, which how could I go wrong when Kelly got such a strong belief in me and my ability as a bike racer! Thanks Kelly! But I'm guessing he probably meant D. Swanson and not A. Swanson. Oh well if between 50 and 70 other lead guys somehow have mechanicals and flat tires there stands to be an outside chance. :)
Obviously I'm going to be rooting for Doug and some of the other guys, but if anyone is going to give him a full run (and it's not a bigger pack finish like in '05) it should be Si-mon-ater from MI or Si-monster as he's known. The boy can pound nails from what I've seen -- so there you have it Kelly the 1,2 finish. It'll be interesting how Jesse & Marko Lalonde do with such an open course I can't handicap any predictions on what SingleSpeeds will do for their outcome. But who knows? I think their natural physcial talent ranks up their with Jeff Hall & Doug.
My wishes for the big race is that my friends and racing buds all have stellar days for what they are capable of and trained for. I've got a few goals myself which I'll be aiming for -- the training and prep put forth this season and in the past should deliver me to the door with any luck. There's more than a few names I've marked for years to finally put further down the results list so I'll looking forward to see what good fortune and preparation can cook up. Hmmm....Greg LeMond is supposed to show up so wondering if beating a former Tour de France champ (granted 17yrs+ removed) holds any possibility? Makes for a good story for the grandkids in 40 yrs...
Best wishes to all!!!

Monday, August 27, 2007

Ah, what all the training is for....

Races! Sure, sure, I know some people ride for the sure joy and exhilaration. But alas, isn't there something missing unless once and awhile you get out there mix it up and just flat out racing as hard as you can. If you don't, try it sometime, if you don't do it enough, do it more.
Why the props on racing? Well, just coming off a weekend of doubling up -- something I suggest a person do with great trepidation..... unless of course your name is Charlie Farrow, that guy can do anything he sets his mind too. Even if he can't his smile is so infectious you could call the CDC in Atlanta because the man just makes you believe it might just happen. If you've never gotten to meet Charlie do yourself a favor, track him down at a race sometime -- it's a must do experience. In the meantime "get to know him" at -- you'll love his stories.
This month of August was supposed to be a big month of racing, that was almost cut short. A pretty severe hamstring injury occurred in a late season game of league softball that had me in crutches for a few days. I've heard stories of injuries where muscles, ligaments or tendons where people report hearing a "pop". Let me just confirm for you it does .... and it ain't pretty. Doc said I wouldn't be racing for 6 weeks, but when it started to turn around (with TLC, rest, eating right, massage, etc) I was able to race again in 2 weeks. If you saw me the first few days you'd definitely not have imagined the turn around could happened as quick as it did. But that's the amazing healing power of the body, give it optimal conditions and the power of positive thinking & Viola'. Rule #1 in the Swanson handbook of beliefs -- never make impossibility, a possibility. You might be right, you might be wrong, but from what standpoint does one stand the greatest chance of success? (I guess after saying that it wouldn't surprise anyone that my daughters name is "Hope" would it?)
So onto Racing.... I had to pass on the Ore to Shore, but got back to business the next weekend with a rough and tumble weekend of battling mud at WORS Suburu Cup and the very technical challenging terrain of the Duluth Power Monkey ( To bad I started this blog after the fact because there's a good story in the WORS Cup race, (maybe something Michelle Flanagan-Haag can relate too. :) ) But nonetheless another weekend came with more racing to be had. This time it was wonderfully close by in little the hamlet of Seeley the Lion's sponsored Pre-Fat Race. Wasn't feeling like a million bucks going into the day but then again I try never to judge on how a race is going to unfold because of it. It was an optimal day for racing however, weather was great, lots of very good racers on hand, it was going to be interesting to see how things played out. Jeff Hall, Jesrin Gaier, Scott Chapin, the SKJ's(Scotty & Sara), McFadden(s), Sam Offedahl, the above mentioned Charlie, more ski hut guys -- Mike Bushey, even coming out of retirement Dr. Bob "I knew he couldn't stay in retirement" McVean. Not to mention my other Bay Area representer Paul Belknap (more on him later). You can't begin to name 'em all. The Citizen and Sport races kicked off first it was good to see & know of alot of familiar faces of riders that gave those races a go. At 10:15 or the 27 mile Expert Race kicked off. I won't go into alot of the play out of the race but it could be said once things hit the woods and anything resembling a hill, the leadout would hit the gas... hard. For me, the realization of the difficult day I might be in for occurred less than 20 minutes in. Up until then holding with the lead group of 15 or 20 hadn't been too bad but that was all about to change. Whatever happened at that point gave me the impression that someone from behind hitched onto me their lucky piano and what was a promising start gave way to another 100 minutes of struggle. In light of the recent purchase of a hardtail Salsa 29er and my experience with it's "bomb-proof" handling in single track -- that was the weapon of war on the day but even that couldn't save my sorry butt. I kept on losing a painfully slow game of attrition, as 1 & 2 riders at time would bridge to me then leave me behind. Dropping me from 15th to near 30th. The sweet part of the story is the last few miles when Paul "the sun rises & sets in a 29" wheel" Belknap or is it Paul "the sun rises & sets in a single speed 29" wheel" Belknap catches up to me. It wasn't a surprise to me, but perhaps to him as he pulled up behind me and laid out a comically "29er" comment. It was good to see a friendly face but nothing short of Life Flight helicopter was going to get me to the finish line quick enough to be done with this race for how bad I was feeling. I tried to slightly pick things up and not slow Paul but eventually after the peak of a steep sandy section I gave way to Paul and just tried to stay relatively close. Thinking if I did.... this bad dream will all be over soon. We may have exchanged leads once or twice but with just over a mile to go I wasn't able to pass him on the steep downhill due to a sharp corner at the bottom so I rallied behind him to until the last punch of a climb. Only thing was -- my left quad cramped up severely near the crest ..... just as Paul nearly wiped out a spruce tree. He fortunately made it through and crested it quicker than I, and with a quick gap of 20 or more yards on some fast downhills and I was just about certain he'd slip away to the finish. I tried so hard to catch without wiping out that almost didn't make the last corner that pops out on the straight away rail road grade finish. My wife, Kate (and the kids --the aforementioned 11 month old Hope, and her 3yr brother Marshall) was near the pop out point and cheered us both on after the initially shocked look on her face at seeing two of Ashland's riders so close. Fortunately, that's when I looked ahead to Paul's bike & some simple math came to my mind..... 27 gear possibilities vs. 1 (hence I'll never probably fully understand single speeders for that reason alone). Spinning faster than a pinwheel in gale force winds wasn't quite enough for Paul to keep the gap as I was able to bridge up to him and pull past into the finish. Though he really deserves a big kudos for the race he did -- that boy can always seem to show up for a good ride. We finished 30th & 31st on the day that included 90+ racers. Not the top 15 I was hoping for but there's always a race ..... the next day! I'll wrap that one up in the next posting.
After the Seeley race it was great to just hang out and visit with alot of the racers even the ones I'd never gotten to talk with much previously like Sam Offedahl and Jeff Hall. You find out there not just top notch racers but also for all their talent they're great humble guys.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

One pedal stoke at a time....

The same can be said of starting a blog. You read everyone else's for years, contemplate time and again doing one yourself, then someday when you really could stand to be out training you finally figure out how to start it.
Hope to offer some amusing insight, anecdotes and stories. There are some great blogs out there that you always look forward to checking in on to hear the latest tale or are almost bummed about when you don't see an update for awhile. I'll do my best to keep it interesting, no promises. But if what I've got to say amuses you and keeps up your motivation & excitment for biking and racing come back, visit and drop me a line if the mood strikes you

...til the next pedal drops