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 http://www.cyclingnews.com/mtb.php?id=mtb/2007/nov07/iceman07 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 Ask.com 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.