Saturday, December 24, 2011

Best of 2011…

In reflection of the year gone by, how could I pass on the opportunity to toast or roast my friends and fellow riders/racers and make mention of the events that made the year memorable. 

Most impressive ride: Ray “I took a shot of rum” Nelson – hanging on for dear life in top 30 for  2/3rds of Cheq 40, only to kicked ass up FireTower climb & ride away from his group for a top 20 finish.

Guys to have best upped their game this year:  Aaron Sturgis, Nate Lillie, Josh Tesch

Best funny guys to race with any day of the week:  Chad Sova, Nate Lillie

Best post race story:  Matt “I let my coolness get in the way” O’Meara

Best Comeback Rider of Year:  Hand’s down, no contest – Todd McFadden, nothing could take this guy down- lymes, injury, cold, flu.  Note to self: rumor has it, he may be part cyborg.

Best pre, post & during race friend:  Tom “I’ve been known to crush freehub body’s on torque alone” Carpenter. 

Best blog:  …ah, I read ‘em all!

Best beat down of me in Chequamegon 100:  Larry “his forearms are bigger than my thighs” Sauber.  Went on to drop me like a chain in a bad & dirty drivetrain.

Most missed on the racing scene: Kelly McKnight, Matt Hudson

Enduro-guy I miss most on the XC circuit: Charlie Farrow

Guy most willing to help: Tristan Schouten

Best Twitter feeds: @Ironchefmpls

Best inspirations: from close friends, family and racers of all abilities


Best new MTB race: Deerfly Chase, Hickory Ridge Trails, Bloomer WI Oct 1st- Noah M.

Race that still comes back to conquer me – Chequamegon 40 (top 30 spot drop to finish post 100th)

Race who’s number I have dialed in – Ore to Shore Hard Rock (punctures both pre ride and during race and still manage stop a 24th place overall & 1st place 35-39)

Race I shoulda been tested for Performance Enhancers – BayCross Day 1 (best legs of season)

Best overall place for anything MTB' or ‘cross racing – anything U.P.

Worst time:… the Eastern time zone -- thank you Keweenaw Chain Drive for your 10am EDT start…agh! Oh well Matter & co. needed the 30minute headstart over me anyways.


…More to come…

Monday, December 12, 2011

Badger Cross Results 2011 ….

….Results or here Day 2

....Results Day 1

Badger Cross–Midwest Championships Day 2…

…just rolling in home past midnight Sunday after 330miles coming back from Madison & the Badger Cross Midwest Cyclocross Championships. 

Day 2, the Championship Day, lot’s better than Day 1, amazing how a person can stay in the race without a big snafu.. not to say it didn’t almost start that way.  A front row start almost got blown with a bad pedal clip in that had me slamming into the nose of my saddle with my backside -- driving it down an uncomfortable 15 degrees south of level.  Oh well, wasn’t stopping to fix it and decided would just have to work around it. 

Still it left me off the front on the pavement rollout, so that when we hit the grass I peaked ahead & counted being back 10 places and 15-20 seconds off the lead.  At first thought, “ugh!  Not again”, but took a more aggressive approach once we hit the gradual incline straightaway that lead to a winding steep stand up section.  I took some good lines & fortunately the waters parted as I was able to shoot up through the other guys and moved from 10th to 3rd in about 20 seconds.  I was probably as surprised as they were. 

When I next looked up there was the first & 2nd place guys, Joe Curtes & Jeff Melcher, podium placers from the previous days race about 10-15 seconds up, so I knew I was in good company & proceeded to work my way towards them.  Joe was riding a steady effort and pulling away from Jeff, as I concentrated on getting to Jeff first. 

Of the 6 lap race I could tell by the 2nd lap I was finally making headway into catch Jeff & distancing the rest of the field of 20+ racers.  What a change of pace from yesterday when I was chasing through the entire field.   By the third lap on the same steep winding climb I pushed on in the first lap, I went for a dig to put a final close on a 5 second gap Jeff had been holding.  Feeling good power on the climb I was able to pull up to Jeff wheel and on the ensuing sweeping left turn that lead to the top side of the course I opted to do something I normally hold back on.  Instead of being content to sit in his draft I decided to find out if he had anything in his tank or was bluffing so I jumped really hard and fly past him.  It was gonna cost me a match or two but I had a downhill shortly after to recover.  If Jeff wasn’t ready he was gonna be toast in short order.  It took him a bit to react and it wasn’t til the downhill section that to my surprise he caught back on.  Damn, he wasn’t buying my bluff either!  That downhill lead to a great railroad tie stepped hill run up (see here for pics).  Something about that hill treated me well as I was able to run it really strong both days and again raced past Jeff. 

On the ensuing pavement he caught back on and I later was content to let him lead the next downhill section, but instead of sticking close to his wheel my efforts from catching & passing had me just enough over the edge that I wasn’t able to recover & keep up the pace.  Jeff would edge ahead & I’d reel him back ever slow slightly and he’d pull away again.

By the fourth lap I was starting to look forward to the end as my tank had the feeling it was running low and the 5th lap confirmed it as Jeff & Joe continued to pull away & it didn’t help when I doofed a corner just before the sand pit.  At the same time on some switch backs it appeared the 4th & 5th place guys Chris Smith & Dave Peters were making up some time… Just Great!!  Not what you want to see after driving so hard in the initial laps of the race.  But like they say “Go Big or Go Home…”

So on the 6th lap I made up for it mentally with what I didn’t have physically.  Sometimes you gotta do that.  You can force your body thru short periods of time doing things it doesn’t normally have a means to channel into – there’s price to it no doubt – it’s pain & a lot of it, but one thing I know from working with power is that pain is sometimes all the same whether you are going 10-20 watts faster or slower.   Tap into those extra watts & it can make a difference.    I laid down the focus of  just getting thru the two major climbing sections at the 1/4 & 3/4 marks of the lap.  If I could get them thru without completely falling apart I might catch a fading Jeff or Joe and easily hold off Chris & Dave. 

Fortunately, things played out just fine, though I didn’t catch either Joe or Jeff.  I had plenty of breathing room on the fast pavement finish to secure 3rd.  Not quite the overall “W” I was gunning for but I can’t knock Joe Curtes for two strong days of riding, as well as Jeff Melcher.   It still brought in a little prize money and a picture on the podium & that can’t be all bad.

Here’s run down of Sunday’s race…



ps- I’m not no stinkin’ 40 yrs old either!  They take your year end 2011 age & add 1 year.  So Dec 28th anyone interested can wish me a happy birthday… Anyways, that’s how you get a 38 yr old to have a racing age of 40.  Make sense?  I didn’t think so..

Long way to travel for some ‘cross races but good to see old faces & meet some new ones.  Caught up with the U.P. cross crew of Colby Lash & Kyle Sarasin, unfortunately they were without USGP Cat 2 cross  killing Tyler Jenema as he was out sick.  Kyle had a nice race Sat finishing 1st in Category 3 race & a mishap had him finishing 3rd Sunday.

As strange as this may sound, I also met my cycling coach for the first time…in person that is.  Gordy Paulson!  Nice to finally shake the hand of the guy who’s had a big part in the gains I’ve made this year.  Super guy.

Cross fans can be an interesting bunch but perhaps the funniest or most unexpected comment I heard racing all day long came from a guy who had perhaps heard my name over the P.A. and that I was from Ashland.  Little did I know that 330 miles from home and 20 years removed from my high school graduation would I be singled out and yelled at with the name of my H.S. moniker “Go OreDocker!!” Yeah… gotta love it!

So I wrapped up the weekend & tried to make a speedy trip home, fortunately Eau Claire is about the half way point (yes, half way home.. for the geographically challenged people of Wisconsin, there’s still another half state above that Eau Claire/Wausau/Hwy 29 – E.C. is not North WI… central, maybe..)  Anyways, a perfect break for some badly needed food & company of the Mexican variety… the food, not the company that is.  As I tracked down a friend and had a great time catching up.  Always fun, never enough time…

So goes bike racing for 2011, but the Cyclo-cross season rolls into 2012 with the National Championships Jan 4th thru 7th.  Another four weeks of careful prep cooked up by Gordy and well see how things turn out when all the marbles are up for grabs, can’t wait to see what the weather dishes out as well.

With any luck I’ll be able to follow thru with my plans on posting some highlights, lowlights & observations of the ‘11 season.   Stay tuned, even the names of the innocent will not be spared…

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Midwest Cyclocross Championships–Badger Cross day 1…

…Because ‘cross tends to play into more of the strengths I seem to have racing a bike, it’s been easy to keep focused on riding and racing. Plus all the workouts are shorter and easier to tolerate outside now that winter seems to be here.

Headed down to Madison/Verona for the Badger Cross weekend of racing. Didn’t know exactly what to expect except it’d be cold & windy… but that'd make it still downright balmy when compared to what I’ve been riding in up in Ashland this past week. With temps in the single digits and windchill below zero. Not to mention the 3-4” of snow.

Arriving at the race Saturday was a fiasco and as a rule I don’t normally lay down a negative about any race event unless they really have it coming. BadgerCross – put directions on your website as to exactly where you’re holding the race. Every out-of-towner I spoke with this weekend was clueless as to where exactly to find the event. The directions lead you to one side of the Badger Praire Park with absolutely no clue where exactly to find where the course was. If you’re the “Midwest Championships” up your level of communication. Sorry for the bitchin’ – but the stress and anxiety & lost warmup time of not finding the course doesn’t bode well for one’s liking of a race.

That set aside, once I did get there – I had less than a 1/2hr to pickup registration info, suit up and get in a ride around the course. Though not ideal, I took it to be unavoidable and got to focusing on the race. The terrain could best be described as fast, but bumpy. The ground was frozen and I was shocked at how fast it felt compared to this week of practice I had riding in the snow.

I opted for the Master 35+ 1/2/3 category race. It started just behind the Pro/1/2 women race… in staggering order. Odd that it was done that way because I don’t think it took but 3 or 4 minutes for the men to overtake most of the women racing. Reversing the starting order would have made more sense and not been a detriment to the women’s race.

The men’s race had 25 racers, so there was 3 rows 8 wide of riders based on registration. I’d registered a month ago and still was in 3rd row so if someone was doing this race they had decided long ago to do so.

The start was a fast pavement roll out that worked it’s way into the flatter grass & cornering sections before it headed up the rolling hills sections. Though I would have loved to go to the front to start, I had traffic to negotiate around and was probably between 6th & 10th when things started to open up somewhat & the leaders were 50+ yards ahead.

Now, one thing I don’t do well -- is having cold feet. It pretty much doesn’t matter what I do. I opted to try wearing boot covers & my electric insole heaters during the race. I’ve trained with them regularly and saw no problem with them… that was until half way thru the first lap at the first set of double barriers. I’m holding my position and working my way up but when I crossed the second double barrier. I heard and felt this clanging around my feet to look down and see tangled about were the miniature heaters & their cords outside of my boots. Crap!! So I had to stop and figure out what the heck I was going to do. 1)Try and reconnect everything and hope it didn’t happen again or 2)rip the stuff off and freeze the rest of the race. Option 2 was the choice but it required me unzipping the boots, unbuckling the shoes and removing the cords & heaters. In the meantime, every single one of the racers both men & women passed me by leaving me in the infamous D.F.L. position. (for the uninitiated, the first initial stands for Dead, the final initial Last… I think you can fill in the middle initial.)

Thought to myself, “oh,well, can’t do much about it now”. So just gotta see what kinda ride I can still make out of it and boy wouldn’t it be cool if I could still catch the front of the race… optimism working overtime. So I put my head down and proceed to crank out a steady pace of running down one racer after another. I was surprised at how fast I was going thru them too begin with.

Finally coming thru the pits a few more laps in, there’s Chris Smith, “Smithers” – darn strong ‘cross racer from MN. Finishing 4th overall at their State championship race & winning the 35+ category. So if I’d caught that far back up I must be doing better than I thought. Well, he was the only one staying with me & on a climb he went for a pass, only it was all jacked up. With a rider up front of us he squeezed between the two of us instead of going around on the right. Must have been his best line & after all it's cyclocross where politeness ain't the same as in MTB'ing. Weird though, I gotta admit I wasn’t exactly pleased. So it gave me the impetus to put in a strong move as I figured I could use the motivation to keep pushing the pace. I chased him down for the next 1/3 of lap til he unfortunately smoked a corner and totally upended his bike. He was going good up to that point. Crashes are never cool but they score on style points & C.S. definitely got style points for that one. I felt bad for him & gave an shout of encouragement to get back on, but sometimes it doesn't work that fast and I ended up putting distance between us again that stayed.

It was sorta lonely the remaining two laps but with just over 1 1/2 to go after there had been no one in sight I came across two more guys about 20-30 seconds ahead and I was quickly reeling them in. In short order it was down to 10 seconds and then down to a few bike lengths. Unfortunately, I failed to complete the job soon enough and ran out of passing areas as they got to the pavement finish before I did.

Frozen & cold I went to check the results figuring a mid pack finish. So I was pleasantly surprised to see an 8th overall given the first lap fiasco and how close I was to 6th. Anyways, Saturday was just the pre race to Sundays championship and only goes to set starting position for today. With an 8th place finish that should give me the final front row call up for Sunday.

Still felt fresh afterwards but somehow dropped dead once I got to my hotel room and managed 12 hours of sleep (that hasn’t happened in any recent decade). Feeling good this morning, heading over to the race course shortly, maybe the legs will be there for today and without mishap could be an even better result.

Cross racing results are always all over the board it seems, some day I should post on how unpredictable they can regularly be when you go a lot of equally talented and fit riders. Well, just gotta give it a go today and see where it all goes…

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Any check out the forecast for Midwest ‘Cross Championships….?

We all know weather can change in a heartbeat, but ever since Fri I’ve been checking the 10 day forecast for Madison, WI.  to see how to gauge what to expect for Badger Cross, Midwest ‘Cross Championship


Yeah!!  Don’t see this kinda stuff in Belgium, Germany & the Netherlands for ‘cross racing now do ya!

And they wanna host Nationals in January, a month later… thank you USA Cycling!  Guess the needs of 6 to 8 “pros”who race the world championship at the end of January in Europe outweigh the reasonableness of 600-800 “joes” racing. 

Honestly, though I say that,  it doesn’t bother me that they moved ‘Cross Nationals back a month.  (I’ve held my fitness thanks to good planning from Coach Gordy & I’d rather be doing short interval training when it’s that cold than starting long base miles).  But I think for a lot of people it was really a stretch to move from early December. 

Guess today is good day to practice adverse conditions & a different set of tires..

Cross bike snow Dec 11 -blog pic

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Eau Claire Princeton Valley ‘Cross Race

Real nice event, just a bad day for the good guys….

Everything leading up to the race this week should have foretold a better race than what transpired.  I’d ridden my best ever highest power output 10 & 15min intervals on Tuesday and rested with easy riding a good share of the rest of the week.

Did “A” fast guy race.  Finished a disappointing 7th a couple minutes off winner Jesse Reints, & Trevor Koss who I went toe to toe with at Carson Park race.  Trevor finished 2nd staying with Jesse most of the race. 

Sliding out on one of the first corners I road blocked the back half of the race and immediately was gapped by the Matt Peterson, Jake Begley & the other lead guys.  I recovered and passed a few guys (Matt O’Meara & co.) to get back with Brian Koenomen, only to slide out again on a corner and lose contact.

Another lap or two in another guy, who name I never found out, was riding with me was working  on catching back up to Brian K.  only to tangle both us up in course tape.  Weird, somehow he tangled up in the course tape and pulled it out far enough that it got tangled in my front brake/shifters too.  So instead of passing him I was caught up and losing more time, that was the third mishap by then. 

Brian K. had begun to fade so we caught up with him eventually.  I just didn’t concentrate and stay focused well enough to hang with them and to top it off I was just feeling off.

The remainder of the race was playing yo-yo with those guys, closing the gap to under 10 seconds and then falling back.  I’d get a good lap in only to not have it for the next one.

There was a total of 11 laps in the race.  On lap 8 or 9, we passed up Nate Lillie who was riding his 2nd race of the day (workhorse of the day award goes out to him – the first race was on single speed).   

Though by this point I thought I had the cornering on this very tight course down, it wasn’t to be.  On the penultimate lap, I slide out & went down for the 5th time of the day and it allowed my rear tire to “burp” out a good share of it’s air.  The bontrager ‘cross tires were a  good choice but could have benefit from more careful handling or bigger side knobs, my Michelin Mud2’s might have been an incrementally better choice though the course was plenty dry for the most part, it was just the corner was often and very tight.

That last incident was significant enough that I wasn’t able to recover enough to make a run at catching Brian K. & the guy he was riding with in the final 2 laps.  I wanted to make sure my tire didn’t roll off completely and with how the day had gone though I didn’t give up I was ready for it to be over. 

Maybe it was too much Turkey dinner, pies and desserts at Thanksgiving, or the personal stuff of the week, but this race had my number and I didn’t have it’s.  Not exactly the tune up I was looking forward to going into Badger Cross Midwest Championships and Nationals in Madison.

Gotta just talk to coach Gordy and get back to the drawing board.  He’s real good about the stuff so if my racing legs are meant to be found he’ll come up with a way.

Was great to have a cheering section at the race with my family & one of my good friends – who all quite frankly had to freeze their butts off in the 32 degree temps and wind chill that brought it into the mid to low 20’s.  It’s a pretty darn good consolation that people you care about are there when having one of those days where the race isn’t really going your way & vastly missing expectations.  Puts things in good perspective afterwards and helps you move past the bad days.  thanks guys!

All in all, still good to be out racing.  Always great to see the  other guys like Nate Lilly & Matt O’Meara & catch up with them at a time of year well past MTB season’s end.

We’ll see how the next couple weeks go and Badger Cross.  It’s actually been nice to race this late in the season and despite some recent results I feel pretty fresh at least mentally & a lot of my training show my fitness hasn’t dropped off (that is until this race, ugh).  But I would say it sure seems to help make the winter months go by faster when you race into January and can take down time in Jan & Feb instead of trying to get in base training hours under what most people would say are the least ideal cycling conditions of the year.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Snowbound & sad…

…Well, ambitious as I was to take the UP Cross Championship mo-jo over to Crystal MN last Saturday for the MN State Cross Championship.  Life and circumstances didn’t have the same plans.

Snow came in good abundance up North & near the lake (Superior) making travel plans less desirable.  Not to mention tensed up driving in a car for 3 1/2hrs  by yourself & then trying to have a big race doesn’t always make for the best formula for success.

Lastly, a really neat person, one of my two grandma’s passed away that weekend. It’s been along time since I last lost a grandparent, probably 20yrs, you forget how losing that part of your family feels.  I call it being heartbroken tired.  Try as you may, you just don’t have the gusto to give it your all. 

Like I said she was a neat old lady.  Endlessly superstitious and full of old wives tales.  An undereducated women of her day, I think she made it thru the 8th grade.  But when you were born in 1919, that was probably pretty good. 

In her later years she was constantly harassing me for riding and racing my bike and how I was always going to get hurt.  Just two & half months ago when I told her about crashing and breaking my ribs, I thought she was going to stroke out just reading me the riot act over that.  But that was her way of showing she cared and loved you.  The lady made incredible homemade pies, raspberry was my favorite.  I think she talked about dying for the past 20-25yrs yet no matter what her health problem she kept going.  It was something like -- you think God maybe forgot about her? 

Her illness & nursing home stay this past year really impacted me & affected how I looked at & approached life.  It was a reminder everytime I visited her how important it is to grab the moments of life and really live them.  Find the important things & people – enjoy and embrace them.  Those paths may not come your way again.

Gonna miss ya Grandma – thanks for everything, you really grew on us over the years, you earned your rest.  May you now be in peace….

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Recent races–UP Championship & MN Series Mill City Cross..

…lot’s of stuff to “tangentize” about.  It’s sounds like one of those words like “positivity” except according to my spell checker only one of the two is made up.. I’ll let you guess which one.

If I stick to race talking I probably have a mix of two or three races behind in recapping. 

The U.P. State Championship was a short 10 days ago held back on Nov 12th.  The coin flip that morning landed the right way pointing me East 3hrs over to Marquette MI.  So packed up, remember the time zone change and got there a solid 45minutes before the race despite the doubters and disbelievers. 

I came over pretty pumped to do the race, the lighter side of me was looking forward to seeing all the racers & friends I’ve made in the UP racing over the years.  The competitive side was looking for a good duel to thrown down some hard core ‘cross racing and work on taking home what slipped by me in last years finale there. 

The drive over was worrying me as I saw loads of snow piled up across the U.P. from earlier in the week, but I kept telling myself that once you drop into Marquette it’s usually gone and sure enough that was the case.  Prepping and registering I was looking around to see what to expect of the course and the competition.  Awesome designed course – it had a “spiral” section that should be the envy of any cross race.  It rounded racers counterclockwise into the center of a circle and then spit them out in a clockwise direction without intersecting… It was a mind twister at first.  It looked like it should dead end in the center but the well engineered design had an exiting circles that existed between the entering circles.   I liked it so much I think should be a mandatory ‘cross race course design.  The rest of the course had a nice blend of on/off road, cornering, hills & barriers. 

Knowing the UPCross series from last year and taking a peak at this year looked like it should be competitive regardless.  Despite rumors to the contrary I fully expected a very capable T. Gauth, who jumped me early in last years race for the win, to show up.  How would he pass up a race in his back yard.  As time passed it appeared he would be a no show.  I’d been feeling real strong & was looking forward to the rematch.  (Note to TG, next time I drive my butt 3hrs over there, have the decency to drive 3 miles, show up & give it a go….. J/K.)  It would’ve taken a darn good day on my part as he’s come a long way and made some good strides in his bike racing.

The rest of the guys aren’t slouches and everything before the starter says “Go!” is talk & hot air that quickly needs to be backed up by lungs, legs & some crazy mad skillz.  Ultimately I determined I could get by racing my wide tired Superfly MTB with the rear powertap wheel and use the brand new day old Trek Cronus ‘cross bike in emergency or backup.

I started 2nd row & alittle back at the start & the only guy on a MTB but comfortably worked into 4th place for a good share of the first lap.  Somewhere towards the end of that lap Ryan Tervo & myself separated ourselves from the other guys.  I told him to hang on as I went to the front,  he may have rolled his eyes or given me that “Oh brother!  here we go!” look.  As it was, Ryan stayed within a few bike lengths initially.  There was a first lap prime/prize which I happily took in from Jesse Bell as I crossed ahead of Ryan in the start finish area. 

From that point and laps that ensued I worked on building breathing room to the chasers.  Initially it was Colby Lash & Ryan Tervo – those stubborn guys didn’t give me a break in letting up for several laps.  I’d gotten a 10-15 second lead, backed off just alittle but they’d be holding it, so I’d have to push harder & finally after 4 laps or so the gap started to grow again into the 20+ seconds range & grew from there.  That’s the unknown about ‘cross racing.  You don’t know who’d going be having a good day and safe distances aren’t always as safe as they seem. 

With 3 laps to go, my most excellent last minute pit crew of Tom Carpenter & co.  told me it was about time I used a ‘cross bike, in a ‘cross race.  I’d also had enough laps with the powertap recording output so I gave up the Superfly & got on the barely fitted & dialed in Trek Cronus Pro I’d picked up in Duluth at The Ski Hut the night before.  It went surprisingly well, in fact Tom C. commented on how much more time I put into the chasers as a result in the final laps.  Not sure if they were getting tired, or riding the ‘cross bike was faster.  I just knew it was working. 

The dynamics behind me were changing a bit however as Andy Steven (who had a heck of good Ore to Shore MTB race this year) pulled up to Ryan T. who’d been chasing me solo after dropping Colby L. 

I road in the final lap steady but safe to win.  It was pretty nice to get this years U.P. State Championship, after winning the UP Series last year.  The guys behind had a exciting finish with Andy finishing 2nd, Steve Kuhl pulling up to get 3rd, followed by Colby who had an “altercation” with Ryan (5th) in the final turn.  Probably not fun in the moment but I think they reasonably kissed and made up after.  Who says bike racing ain’t a contact sport?

A good post race party & afterwards onto the Series Title sponsor BlackRocks Brewery.  That itself could have been the high lite of the day/night alone.  The U.P. has such a great atmosphere & culture for cycling and endurance sports, regardless of how a race goes it’s great to partake in the festivities afterwards and the evening at Blackrocks was no exception.  Thanks out to Tom C. & Marie for acting as hosts for me & not letting a good time escape me… probably a few too many brews to pull off a good double header of racing the next day in the Minnesota series but…. ah, if one has to make sacrifices make it for a race and not good times with friends!!!  Thanks guys!!!

Headed out of Marquette about 9 and was back home just past midnight.  Hoping I could get just enough good sleep to make a solid effort at the Mill City Cyclocross races in Bayport/Stillwater, MN the next morning. 

Woke up with less than 6hrs of sleep but no hangover so what’s there to complain about?  By 10am I was on the road another 3hr venture West this time.   Had never been to this race previously and quickly upon arrival knew it was one of those higher speed ‘cross race venues.  Skinny tires & a cross bike was in order.  Except still not having riding time on the Trek Cronus I opted to skinny up the tires on the Superfly & give that a go instead. 

But to make a long ‘cross story short… it wouldn’t have mattered either way.  Warm up went well, but the cumulative 12 hours of driving in the previous 36hrs put my back in bad shape and I was displaying a 2010 version of Todd McFadden riding.  Despite a decent start & getting into 4th position, my back locked up on me a few laps in and had to put it in cruise control.  Wasn’t too fun when you can’t be in there competing and doing your best.  I wound up in 8th on the day well out of contention.  Even so it was good to see what that MN course had to offer in terms of competition and the style of racing that went on.

I thought it would come in handy for the  following weekend MN State Championship races.  Did I make that planned race?  Well, that’s another story for another day… in case I don’t post for awhile… Happy Thanksgiving!!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Catching up…Eau Claire ’Cross racing & more

…this time of year I train less than any other but time seems to fly even faster.

Started the ‘cross season late with the broken ribs, but the R&R was the perfect prescription. The two days of Ashland BayCross couldn’t have gone much better, so the following weekend (Halloween) I decided to opt for the Eau Claire Carson Park Cyclo-cross race, it was the closest thing going on that weekend, had heard good things about it from Paul Belknap & Nick Robertson who attended the previous year. I’m always up for something new so wanted to give it a whirl.

Hadn’t picked up a ‘cross bike yet, the weather was looking to be wet if not also cold (ended up being both), so I packed up the old reliable Gary Fisher Superfly 29er with 1.75” Bontrager Dry X tires and decided to give it a go. If the course was anything but super fast I should be able to hold my own reasonably.

Had a good drive done, somehow convinced a friend to show up to see what this cyclo-cross racing thing was all about. The race had a pretty small field in the A race, likely due to the weather, the newness of the event (it’s 2nd year), etc. Didn’t mean it wasn’t going to still make for a good battle though!

At the start the organizers convinced us to reduce it to a 50min race (can’t blame ‘em, for the turnout and having to freeze their tails off – at least we’d be riding and staying warm). When it was time to start, I road in 2nd or 3rd place initially until I got a crack at winding things up. I had left my powertap wheel on the bike, which if I was going to win or lose in this event because of it, I could live with it. Getting the data was more important to me.

When I turned on the proverbial jets in the first lap, only Trevor Koss grabbed on, though I wasn’t going to make it easy on him. Trevor was riding a Trek XO ‘cross bike and I figured it was best to find out in the first lap if he had the power to stick around.

The course winds nicely thru Carson Park, had a muddy climb and some slick corners. It was really interesting to observe as the race went on what sections favored the different bikes. Strangely enough, in the first lap on the long pavement section I gapped Trevor, fully expecting him to reel me back in. The dude’s on skinny tires, my are marginally fat at 1.75”, right? Well, wasn’t happening. I kept looking back to see if I had to ease up if he got in my draft but it didn’t. Most likely case study of size & overall power. As Trevor told me after the race he kinda thought he might be in trouble after the first lap when he couldn’t close the gap after on pavement given our bike choices. I probably have 20+lbs on Trevor if my guess is right and with similar frontal surface profiles equally fighting the wind. The tires & bike difference were minimalized.

However once we got back in the park and swooped around a few corners and barriers he was back on. We’d do the barrier about the same but he could ride the sand pit smoother and get gaps. I’d close it down on the straights.

I eased off on the second lap, for as hard as I’d thrown down on the first. It was determined we had 8 more laps to go of a lot of the same thing happening lap after lap. He’d take the mud hill climb we could almost climb (he did once) just in front of me and put up a huge gap in a short period by 20 or 30 yards on me and I’d close it down in the cornering sections that followed. I’d try to get an advantage on riding a stair climb but an awkward dismount would occur almost every time before hitting the top. I’d slip on the steps and really lose momentum only to ramp it back up on the black top and close it down.

It was fun but killing me too, as something was off on my day. I couldn’t really put a finger on it. Just didn’t feel like my A game was there. Later my powertap file would be revealing of that fact. I also made the rookie mistake I almost never do of eating too close to the race start. As a Subway philly steak and cheese started arguing with me about 5 laps in as my guts started to cramp up.

That takes nothing away from some great riding by Trevor though. He stayed steady and road hard where he needed too. At the start of the 3 laps to go is where my cramps and riding forced me to back off and not close a gap that occurred. I had to hold back to what I could managed, but I was hoping the whole time it’d turn around quickly so I could get back and chase Trevor down before the end. He soon had 10 seconds, then 14 seconds & growing. This wasn’t going to be easy. Just sucks when your body betrays you and you can’t do anything about it.

I managed to bring back some distance in the final lap but I still wound up 21 seconds back for 2nd place on the day. Helmets off to Trevor for some great riding. I think some folks there were perhaps surprised by my riding the semi fat tired 29er & powertap hub and holding my own in there, but again different courses and conditions don’t always give the ‘cross specific bike the advantage 100% of the time.

The powertap story was interesting to review later.

Lap 1: 300 watt avg; pedaling watts was 353 watts;

Lap 2: 241 watt avg; pedaling watts was 275 watts:

Lap 3: 239 watt avg: pedaling watts was 280 watts;

Lap 4: 251 watt avg; pedaling watts was 297 watts;

to skip more of the details the middle laps were like that and the final ones despite what I thought was back off a lot ended up being
246 watt avg with pedaling watts of 284 watts;

Again for good bad or otherwise I only had a 251 watt average for the day, and a pedaling watt average of 291, that was a full 10% off in both regards to my Day 2 effort at BayCross. So though it wasn’t fun to see those numbers lower it was at least nice confirmation that it wasn’t in my mind only and that I was having an off day (the next week I had a head cold so must have been taking hold already before I raced).

The nice thing about quantifiable numbers is you can get an idea of what a possible difference the day could have made – using some previous data it safe to say an “off” day in reduced power cost at least 5-6 seconds per laps given the course distance and more likely close to 12-15 seconds if it was a true 30 watts difference.

That’s maybe shows a view into why other ‘cross racers can have some great days and other days they aren’t even competitive in larger fields. Those 5-10 seconds per lap add up to as much as a 1 to 2 minutes off the lead.

Not saying Trevor couldn’t have matched me in later laps but I’ll be looking forward to a rematch the next time….

Thanks to the Chippewa Valley Cycling club for putting the race together, stick to it guys. You’ll have a winner! Trevor & the other guys for throwing down a good one and keeping it fun. My friend for sticking around & freezing… but being there!

Looking forward to a second helping of Eau Claire Cross racing -- post Thanksgiving on Sun Nov 29th – at Princeton Valley Cyclo-cross race, details at Hope to see you there!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

UP State ‘Cross Champ….

…Good day in Marquette Saturday, tossed a coin in the morning and opted to pay respects to UPCross and head over to Marquette  versus driving the opposite direction to Bayport, MN for the first day of a weekend double header at the MN ‘cross series.

Great group of guys there.  If you ever get a taste for the endurance/cycling scene or culture of it over that direction it’s hard to not want to move there.

More on the race & festivities later as I’m rushing around cleaning and repacking for a trip to Bayport for a 2nd day of racing.  Fortunately things went off without too much of a hitch at the UP State Championships, had some guys gunning pretty hard, Ryan Tervo, Colby Lash & Andy Stevens to name a few -- not allowing me to let up much.  Gotta give thanks out to my last minute addition of a pit crew in Tom Carpenter, who filled in quite nicely for Kate.  He got the bike swaps right on target….though may have missed on the beer handups but made up for that at the post race party at Blackrocks Brewery quite nicely. Thanks Tom!  (Must have been that $50 he won on the race wagers). 

Anyways, after an initial break away in the first lap, it held the same for awhile til later in the race I was able to put some gaps were going to stick and let me cruise in for the “W” in UP State Cross Championship.

More thanks out to new co-sponsor The Ski Hut who hooked me up with a new racing steed, tires & wheelset.  Plus got to flash their nice new apparel.

I’m outta here… there’s a race calling…

Thursday, November 10, 2011

BayCross Day 2…. riding on the ‘tap… the Powertap

…Not an entirely new idea, as I’ve  road my Saris Cycleops Powertap in MTB  races.  I’ve trained with one for 7 years now going back to 2004.  Most people are familiar with what they are these days.  For those that might not be -- it’s a rear wheel hub that’s able to measure the force being applied (in watts) as you pedal the bike.  Some would say (myself included) it’s enormously helpful in training at specific levels depending on what part of your endurance energy system you are trying to improve.  It keeps you on target from going too hard or too easy for a given workout a bit more specific than heart rate alone.

Why not use it all the time, even when racing?  Well, add all those complicated internal workings to a rear bike hub and to a degree it’s gonna be a heavier wheel.  Is a heavier wheel a bad thing?  Well, think of it in exaggerated terms.  Try rolling a 20lb rock, then try rolling a 20olb boulder – or we’ve all made snow man, right?  Pretty easy to roll the snowman’s head, but the snowman’s body can be another story once it gets to the proper mass.  In either case, it ties in with the law of inertia (as best as I can articulate it) – body at rest stays at rest,  body in motion stays in motion.  Once you get either the rock/boulder or snowman body part rolling & up to speed it’s about the same effort.  It’s the getting started or acceleration part that makes the difference. 

Fortunately with bike wheels it’s only fractionally different – moving something that weights 1.5lbs vs. something just under 2lbs.  It matters on some level – but what that amounts to on a cumulative basis over a 60minute ‘cross race in terms of added effort, lost acceleration or seconds per lap is subject to debate.  And I don’t have that answer but I do have some other interesting data below.

Nonetheless, after having such a good race the day before, I didn’t feel riding the powertap wheel on was going too detrimental to the outcome not to use it.  As it turned out, it provide some really insightful numbers and stats to see how real time racing and targets for training intervals collide.

Day 2 of Baycross was alittle more low key, but a closer race than Day 1 – despite Nikoli not showing up (story was he did something we all dread going to an out of town race – forget a race necessary piece of equipment, apparently he forgot his cycling shoes & didn’t realize it til he was half way there – and not enough time to run back and forth).  Mason balked on coming for Day 2 as well, whether he was busy, or still a bit upset about the misunderstanding of no “mechanical lap” I’m not sure.  He’s a good kid though and getting to be a tough rider so it would have been nice to be there.  Even so single speeding Dave Schuneman showed and local MTB strong guys Kelly McKnight and Matt Hudson passed on the bird hunting and whiskey and came for a round of ‘cross. 

Not exactly desiring another 75 minute ‘cross race day repeat of Saturday, I opted to take it mellow on the first lap so the laps might be fewer.  Dave S. & Scott Nesvold led things out.  With Dave setting the first lap pace.  I moved up to ride next to Dave in lap 2, trading pulls.  He was working pretty hard & looking determined so I offered to help him build up a gap to a chasing Kelly McKnight, followed further back by Scott Nesvold.

By the end of three lap, Kelly was finally warmed up & closing in.  Dave was looking winded but kept grinding away shortly behind me.  I was about ready to push it to see what kind of numbers I could get on the powertap for the remaining laps of the race.  Kelly missed getting Dave’s wheel shortly before I took off and their gap remained throughout the race until Scott Nesvold pulled past Kelly later in the race to settle in for 3rd, Dave rode strong the remainder of the race and took 2nd.  I pushed it at the front and came in with just under a 3minute & 1/2 lap lead at the finish.

The interesting part for me was the power tap numbers, heartrate(HR), & lap times of the 11 lap race.  The initial 2 laps were at a comfortable cruising speed, my HR was 165-166 beats per minute (BPM) and the average watts were 253 watts and the laps were 5:22.  Lap three I picked it up at the end, HR stayed at 166, power was 263 watts & lap time dropped to 5:12.

When I started to drill it on the final 8 laps things changed quite a bit – Lap 4: dropped to 4:48, 309 watts & my HR went towards it’s ceiling 174bpm; Lap 5: 4:54, 298 watts & HR stayed in the mid 170’s the remainder of the race. 

After pushing it so hard for those two laps (10 minutes) I was hurting and my power  dropped some & lap times went up alittle for the final 6 laps.  Hovering around 280 watts and 5min to 5:05 lap times. 

Here again is the interesting thing – looking at the power numbers & lap times, you can get a sense of what the different levels of power mean for how much faster or slower a lap will be. 

Essentially for a guy my weight/size – a 50+ watt/lap difference is going to create a 35 second difference (when laps are approximately 5minutes long – course length was 1.3miles – however the faster the speed the less difference the power makes due to increased wind resistance)

- a 3owatt difference is 12-17 seconds

- a 15 watt difference is 5-6 seconds

That’s all good assuming smooth riding, no spills, mishaps.  As a guy with lower power but a smoother riding could make up those differences - application of power is as important as the raw power itself.  Even so, the ability to push out a lot of power is key to racing well.  There’s always the contention that it’s actually a Power produced to Weight of a rider that matters most – which is true to a point.  It’s most apparent in climbing hills -- but on flats or downhills absolute power matters much more and is only detracted by frontal surface area of a rider – smaller, thinner is better but it’s nominal at ‘cross & MTB racing speeds compared to a road races.

Those two above factors (skill/application of power & weight) play a bigger roll in MTB than in ‘cross.  Perhaps that’s why I like the pure simplicity of ‘cross racing.  Don’t so much have to worry about dropping weight, it’s only slightly technical (for a MTB’er) and you can just crank on those pedals as hard as you’d like for 60minutes.

The numbers above are interesting but can also paint only part of a picture.  What a person is capable of can be very different than what shows up in a race – if a person is overtrained, or sick, or raced the day before vs. being well rested can cause significant differences in power output.  My power output Day 1 at Baycross was probably notable better having gapped the same riders (Dave & Scott) by double the time as Day 2, even though I felt I was trying equally hard each day.  My body just wasn’t capable of producing the same power. 

The following week I raced at Eau Claire in the Carson Park ‘cross race & the same held true there -- only going there I was slightly under the weather and put in more training than rest that week.  My power #’s were off even further, an average of 15-20 watts lower than Baycross Day 2.  So I guess with high intensity racing never disregard the effect it may have on you.  A drop of 3% to 10% of your power output can cost you 5-10 seconds per lap or more.  That’s can be a 60-90seconds in a ‘cross race.  

Oh well, sorry to bore in case the quantifying side of cycling isn’t up your alley.  I just think it’s cool to understand in numbers why the fast guys go so fast and why, well, the many others of us don’t go as fast.  I’ll try to do a power to weight posting at some point – as I think that’s even more interesting.  You take a small guy with lower absolute power and he’ll still beat larger bigger guys with higher absolute power.  I’d love to get somebody like Big Mike Weispfenning on a power tap to see how crazy huge his numbers would have to be – he’d make the numbers put out by pro cyclists Alberto Contedor or the Schleck brothers put out look pretty puny I’d bet…. too bad they only weigh the amount of one of Big Mike’s legs... damn power to weight ratios!

Up next, Carson Park ‘Cross recap and sorry UPCross I might not make it over for the Championship Sat as I’m probably doing a double header in MN this weekend and to see how Faulkner, Reints, Fisher, Lemiux, among others turn up the pain.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

BayCross recap, power #’s….

..Finally getting around to down to outlaying a better rundown of how things went down for the Ashland Baycross race weekend.

Day 1:

I really didn’t know what to expect for race fitness going into the race.

-I’d hadn’t race in 3 weeks (only one time since the Chequamegon 40). 

-Outside of a week & half of ‘cross specific training drills I hadn’t even put much training in on my bike and I’d really had a big drop in any kind of training since the end of August due to the broken ribs.

Well, I can’t say the human body never ceases to amaze me in it’s complexity and functioning.  This time around, the extended drop in all the training volume & intensity did wonders.

Felt decent that Saturday morning going into the race, good, not great.  Wasn’t sure what the competition was going to look like this year as you never know who might show up be it from Duluth, the U.P. or elsewhere.  But I figured it was a safe bet more than a few solid racers would be there to put on a challenge. Cruising the parking lot as I got there revealed guys like Shawn Gort, Nik0li Anikin, Matt Zak, Mason Basco, Dave Schuneman among the local guys.  Guessing from my MTB racing experiences this summer Nikoli would definitely give me a solid run and Mason who pushed me at the Duluth MTB race this summer and handed it to me at the Chequamegon Fat Tire Crit Cross

Didn’t get in that long of a warm-up as I was on baby patrol with Aaron Cooper til Sara Hudson leaded a hand (thanks Sara!!) as Kate was doing the women’s race.  Guess I was still pre-riding alittle too close to the start, as the blow horn announcer started say “Alright, Aaron Swanson… would you please already get to the start line!”  Thank goodness ‘cross race course are small enough to hear stuff like that within a couple hundred yards. 

I was wrapping up that second pre-ride lap in on the new course layout designed by Mike Weispfenning – didn’t think changes needed to be made from the previous years but Mike had some great new ideas and the changes were very positive.   And when I got to the line I don’t think I barely took off my jacket by the time the 10,9,8, 7…. go countdown began. 

Was thinking before hand to change my strategy this year, follow someone else’s lead for the first few laps if possible before trying to push the effort. Surprisingly enough, Jeremy Ames of the Twin Cities happened to be up visiting family, and without question I could gather he was used to Twin Cities ‘cross racing and went for the lead right off the bat.  Followed by Nikoli and within a short distance I went into 3rd place.  We followed Jeremy thru the first sandpit and into the looping chicanes before gradually heading up & out of the Prentice park area.  It was at that point, something unconscious triggered in me (I swear!) and I made a short jump to the front and began to push it hard.  In moments I had a gap over Nikoli, Jeremy & Mason and another 5 guys.  I put my head down for the next couple hundred yards to see what more distance I could get before looking back.   Fortunately, it was a good sized break and probably close to 50-75 yards when I looked again. 

Ok, so much for sticking with the plan, now it would be a solo time trial for the next 60+ minutes against guys who may be working together.  Just brilliant Swanson… WTH was I thinking?

Fortunately, though my heart rate was redlining at an unheard of 188 bpm (at least for me – how does a 38yr old guy even get a HR that high?  At least while racing a bike?)  Anyways I held that for the first lap and though it hurt bad, it also hurt good!  If this race didn’t go too long I felt like I was going to have a good day. 

So lap after lap I pushed it, on lap 2 (of 10) – I no longer saw Nikoli, Mason or anyone else where the course loop back on themselves (a good 1minute + lead.  Each lap was just about 7 minutes.

Outside of amateur hour I displayed by wiping out on a asphalt & grass corner, ripping up my elbow and twisting my handlebars.  Can’t say there was a lot of exciting details past that for awhile, except for the occassional skidding in the mud and bombing the “Pit of Despair”.  I saw Mason on the sidelines at one point with a flat tire which was a real bummer, wish he would have been able to stay in the race.  He also assume a ‘free lap” mechanical at this race, which has never been the case – I know they happen in road racing ‘crits but I’d never heard of them in ‘cross, too bad there was a misunderstanding.

At one point or another I wanted to let up because we’d be racing again the next day, but outside of doing that briefly when I came upon Big Mike W. I kept the throttle fully twisted most of the day. 

Approaching 3 laps to go though, my internal go-go juice was running out and I was starting to lose power & struggle.  I kept asking Dennis Liphart, how much of a gap I had – Damn guy kept bullshitting me!!  Lap after lap, “oh, hey Aaron – you got 90 seconds, keep pushing it!” 

Nearing the finishing area, I’d just pulled up short of lapping everyone outside of Shawn, Nikoli – (why should I rob them the opportunity of another lap – the evil dude that I am!  Why should I take away their self inflicted pain -- remember in ‘cross if you’re lapped you finish on the same lap as the leader.  Anyways Nikoli and Shawn didn’t cross the line for another 4 minutes & 5 minutes respectfully.  (there’s a hell of big difference between 90 seconds and 4 minutes! – would have loved to jump off the bike and fixed the twisted handle bars, rather than riding them crooked for 75% of the race.

Just one of those days when everything came together.  Would have loved to have the Cycleops Power Tap, to see what kind of numbers I was registering as it’s pretty damn tough to beat Nikoli by that kind of margin in any length race.  With the comfort of having the Day 1 – 1st place points I would feel comfortable using the PowerTap on the second day of BayCross. 

More on that later… along with the Eau Claire ‘cross race at Carson Park and what’s up lately…

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

‘Crossing comments….Ashland BayCross …

This past weekend concluded the 7th annual Annual BayCross cyclo-cross races. Now I probably don’t have the longest tenure of cycling as others but I do now have close to a decade under my belt and am a pretty astute observer of history.

Baycross was started in 2005 as an initiative by Paul Belknap, who was always trying something new & different. Be it 29er MTB’s when they first came out or single gear/single speed MTB racing. Something caught this guys attention about this type of racing they call “Cyclo-cross” which happened well into the Fall months when a lot of folks had normally thought much of road & mtb racing was done. Perhaps his world travels or what not gave him the gall to think “Hey, we should do this!” Paul? are you out there…What’s the real story?

Anyways, Cyclo-cross as a sport has origins anyone can wikipedia to find out, in a nutshell it’s been around close to 100yrs or so, began in Europe as a post Road racing season training for Tour de France guys. It didn’t get more formally recognized until the 1950’s and events in the US didn’t pop up until the 1970’s and it wasn’t until the 1990’s & especially the 2000’s that it caught on as much as it has. According to some it’s the fastest growing adult participation sport in America.

Another aspect that makes cyclo-cross so different from it’s cycling brethren of road cycling & Mt biking – is that it’s truly only a competitive event, not a recreational activity. You & your buddies aren’t ever going to say.. “Hey, let’s go out and go for a cyclo-cross ride!” Like they would for a road ride or MTB ride. You just don’t go riding through a park, baseball field or golf course hopping off your bike to jump over barriers – like picnic tables, park benches & fallen trees or ride through sand traps, am I right? Perhaps for reasons like that there are geographic pockets where it really has grabbed hold and other areas where it hasn’t… yet (as I’d like to think).

However it is by FAR the most spectator friendly cycling event between the three disciplines (road, mtb, ‘cross). The course is short, there are multiple laps and fans… well, they get to be part of the action be it with loud roudy cheering, ringing cow bells, handing up dollar bills or malted beverages as distractions (or entertainment) to the racers.

Fortunately, it brings aspects that merge the summer cycling activities of MTB’ing & Road riding, so it’s the time of year where cycling competitors, good in their own respective disciplines, can compete in the middle against each other. Plenty of times there are good MTB’ers who can’t hang in hard road race and it goes with out question great road cyclist can get there butts handed to them in a MTB race. But in ‘cross it’s all even, with aspects of both disciplines and you gotta love that!

So I feel Ashland’s Baycross is unique and ahead of it’s time in having brought forth the cyclo-cross racing opportunity for riders. Especially given it’s demographic/geographic setting, as much larger centrally located population centers haven’t brought forth this kind of racing yet. In this part of the Midwest there are really only three other places riders can get in the opportunity.

In the U.P. of Michigan there’s UPCross – an awesome series & organization they’ve put together there. With excellent participation given the relatively size of the population. To give some idea they get equally participation at races to other cities that have 100 times the population to draw from. It’s nuts when you think about it.

Then there’s the Wisconsin Cyclocross series which is really completely in the deep south & south east corners of the state, I must selfish say is unfortunate being on the other end of the state. And fortunately MN runs a pretty good series based around the Twin Cities.

So how did BayCross turn out this year? When an overabundance of time hits my schedule like we all wish for. I’ll be sure to give a solid & hopefully remotely entertaining & interesting recap.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

BayCross Day 1….

First cyclocross race I’ve been able to get into this year went pretty well.  Day one of Ashland’s annual BayCross weekend.  More on specific details on the race later, but felt surprisingly good & was able to pull away early on from Nikoli Anikin, Mason Basco, Shawn Gort & a few others. 

The numbers in training lately have really taken a unexpected jump despite quite a bit of downtime since the end of August.  Alittle recovery time after 9 months of training will do that I supposes. Also guess it translated well over to the race.  Took an unfortunate spill about half way thru and tore up my elbow & fore arm & twisted my handlebars but was able to stay focused and finish things out.  The race again went on the long side as I screwed with the timer/lap counters throwing down a super fast 1st lap and backing off on successive laps – hence an overestimate of how many laps to do 60minutes of racing.  My powertap computer showed 1hr 17min finish time… no wonder I was on the verge of bonking in those last two (of 10) laps.  I was having flashbacks to 2009 when Jesse Bell came from way back on me that 1hr 20min BayCross Day 1 race marathon.

This year another great bunch of guys (&gals) showed up, the atmosphere of the race and size of it is great.  So nice to have it so close by. 

Looking forward to day 2… better rest up, the battle for the weekend prize money concludes tomorrow.  Should be another good one…

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Ah, I made it… & DeerFly Chase Recap & more…

Good news, that crazy mission impossible previously mentioned 2 weeks ago is over.  I’ve come out relatively unscathed… maybe not the kids so much, and Kate is probably adjusting to the aftermath (an inherent problem in coming back from vacation after leaving me in charge for 9 days).

By the time that Friday (Oct 7th) she was back rolled around I was getting the hang of things pretty well or maybe it was just the peace of mind I’d be getting help and a break soon.  

Seems like it’s been much longer than 10 days since.  Probably because of so much change that’s gone on.  I fought thru a cold, many days of some decent laryngitis, and the last few weeks of my ribs healing up.  Hadn’t seen much of my bike let alone have some close intimate personal time riding it.

Quite to my surprise when I finally got riding again a week ago, I found all the R&R time interspersed with a race wasn’t to my detriment, in fact perhaps to my advantage.  A couple rides and interval workouts proved to show some surprisingly strong results, more on that later.

Missing the UPCross series and the early part of the MN series for cyclocross due to the broken ribs wasn’t ideal for my cyclo-cross race season but life had enough other fun stuff happening that, though I missed racing, I was surprisingly ok with it.  Rest assured however I haven’t lost my deep ongoing desire for racin’… not sure I ever will.

However, at last here comes the update on what had to be one of the best weekends of racing this year – from the pure simple enjoyment of racing MTB’s.  Oct 1st, with the support of CORC,  Noah Michaelsen, Brian Kelley & a whole host of volunteers put together the DeerFly Chase MTB race.  Kinda cool in that, it was a race I actually didn’t know about til the week of the race.  It sorta flew under the radar, til I got an email from Nathan Lillie and later Noah about the race looking to round up some fast guys for some post Chequamegon 40 racing.  They couldn’t have hit me up at a better time.  I was on a break healing the ribs but had super good legs despite a headcold.  Long story of how it worked out that I could make it but the main thing is it did.

Arriving about 20 minutes prior to race start after dropping the 4 kids off with my sister, just got to see a few guys I recognized.  The always likeable Chad Sova, how can you not like that guy?  Great sense of humor, loves to have fun racing the bike, and is super supportive.  A top end racer and someone I’m just happy hanging with as long as I can in any race.  Saw too Nate Lillie who’s equally a great competitor, funny guy and offers great encouragement to be racing with.  Lastly, Mike Johnson, who I know since college, but reconnected only in the last 10 yrs due to cycling.  Super guy & can be so strong on the bike when the conditions are right.

The start was a controlled roll-out for the first mile due to the open road, hills & corners until we could hit the first off road section.  When we did it went fairly high speed from the word go as the 4 wheeler sped away.  First myself, later Chad, and Mike Johnson pushing a hard pace.  I really was anticipating only going for an easy ride and not really racing – having just come down with a headcold – but you get in that racing situation and it’s like a switch goes off in your head/legs and you can’t help but push it with whatever you have.  Fortunately, my immune system didn’t compromise my legs & lungs that day.  After trading pulls with Chad and giving a few hard efforts on hills we broke away from everyone else and on a particularly longer section we got into the always desired position of “out of sight, out of mind” even before hitting the single track.  I was pushing a little harder than I thought I should and it could come back to bit me later in the race but for the moment it was a better proposition to stay with Chad than race by myself.  

We worked the single track in a pretty steady pace, as the DeerFly Chase trails are a good mix of flowing stuff with some tight corners and technical sections.  You definitely needed skills to race it well, not to mention slightly better tires for the conditions than what I was running.  Chad was kind enough to take it easy on me and let us work together for the better part of the first half of the race.  We’d built up a pretty good lead when I finally started yo-yoing off his wheel in some sections.  That yo-yoing came to a permanent end however once I notice my rear wheel getting a bit squishy on corners.  Sure enough it got bad enough I jump off and felt the rear tire… damn!  it was going flat.  Not able to quickly diagnose the leak I pumped it up and kept waiting to see when the first pursuer would be coming by.  Well, it took a good 90 seconds and I felt I had enough air back in the tire to go again when the 3rd place guy come flying by.  If my problem had been solved there the rest of the day would have gone well.  Unfortunately it was the first of 3 stops I need to do to get the tire fully sealed again.  I’d just filled up with new Stans No tubes sealant 2 weeks prior at the Chequamegon 40, so I was sorta bummed it didn’t do a better job of sealing a very small hole in my Bontrager XR1 tires.  I’d given up close to 15minutes and 15 or more positions during the three stops it took.

Still I took it as an opportunity to race the second half hard and finish strong, perhaps I’d still be able to catch some other racers.  Slowly I was able to, especially when the later miles of the race after being predominately singletrack when to two track, cx ski trail and gravel roads.   Moving up to 10th place by the finish I had given everything I had, making for a great workout and fun no pressure race. 

Met some new racers & re-acquaintanced myself with others in the post race activities afterwards.  Aaron Sturgis “Sturgy” who race not only the DeerFly really well, but rocked a top 80 Cheq 40 race.  Got to finally meet Matt O’Meara… what a guy!  Best story and comment of the race goes to him.. something along these lines – it’s somewhere early on in the singletrack he has slight mechanical, drops back only to catch up.  In a confident, borderline funny, cocky way he jockeys at the last second in front of Nate Lillie getting into a succeeding section of singletrack , laugh to a degree about having done it….. only to hear Nate Lillie express that he just as quickly went crashing down the trail bouncing off everything in sight, land in a heap.  Upon discovering he was ok, they continued on.  I heard a quote later from someone else that Matt was overhead saying “I guess my coolness got in the way.”  If you know Matt, you can really appreciate where that comment is coming from. 

The weather couldn’t have been more beautiful with a 49 degree race start later warming up into the low 60’s.  The organizers had a excellent post race party with food, awards and swag.  I unfortunately had to leave a bit earlier than I would have liked to get back to & pick up the kids and get onto the rest of the weekends activities but it was an awesome race and amazingly well put together for a first time event.

Thanks again to Noah, his volunteers and CORC for making the DeerFly Chase possible.  It nice to have some post Chequamegon 40, other than WORS MTB race options.   Haven’t found another since the 2001 Fat Back Boogie held at Telemark/Cable.  So thanks again guys!  Really appreciate and looking forward to future editions of it.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Uncommon Valor or Suicide Mission??

Alright, if a share of you know me – I’m normally a pretty sane, reasonably intelligent guy who seems to like to race his bike alot in his spare time.   Well, also having a family & young kids that situation can be challenging sometimes.  Fortunately, my wife Kate and I, have work pretty well in supporting each others goals and trading off responsibilities. 

Well, for the support she’s offered me in my racing & taking care of the kids over the past 7+ years -- this fall, it only seemed right that I give her a something more than a just the normal break….. not sure if I was entirely thinking clearly at the moment I put it out there, perhaps I was in a state of heighten euphoria or delirium from some racing or training effort…. Note to self – try and think more clearly next time before putting things out there…

The break?  9 day trip to Hawaii.  With yours truly taking on full & sole responsibility for the 4 kids at home – ages 7, 5, 3 yrs, along with a 8 month old.  Ok, most of you would have probably right there said “Yep, Swanson’s lost it.  Check him into the mental ward, right now.”  Perhaps in the past now 6 days since she’s left I’ve had that thought cross my mind, so you’re not alone.

But you know everyone needs a break sometimes.  I’m very content having some down time of a few hours in an afternoon or a day to do my own thing on a weekend.  If I have that regularly I’ve never needed some big getaway.  Kate on the other hand, being such a “mom” to truly escape and have a break really needs to break loose.  So for the 9 years or so of putting up with me, believe me that’s not easy, a 9 day trip didn’t seem too far fetched….. wait did I mention the age of the kids? 

Yeah, so it’s been quite a ride of it’s own lately.  The interesting parts are the amazing compliments you get from other "moms”  & women who hear about it.  I’m sorta shocked when they like genuinely share how cool they think that is or the state of disbelief they display – like “you did what?!”  You’re coolness factor in that department goes through the roof apparently.  ANd on the other side  from the male/father/husband perspective who either think, I’m nuts, stupid and if nothing else certainly setting a bad precedence.  You get damned in that department.   Oh well. 

Also in a general survey most people give it less than a 25% chance she’s even coming back.  (hey, I can’t blame ‘em I’m not entirely sure I would).  So if you never see another blog posting after this one it’s true she probably didn’t come back.. as I don’t know how I’m squeezing this one in.

Somehow I’ve survived though and the kids too… so far.  Far less sleep than I’m accustom to, far more running around and the constat little day in, day out tasks to tackle.

In it all however I got some super help from my sister and from a wonderful friend or two – that I was able to pull off doing something I love as well -- a MTB race in the middle of this whole thing too!  How cool is that!?  It was this past weekend’s DeerFly Chase MTB race, I’m going to recap how it went alittle later, but an awesome end of the season race!  Great guys there and well put together for a newer trail system and first time race.  Way to go to CORC, Noah Michaelsen & his crew of volunteers.

The tough part also was I got a bad head cold the day Kate left and have lost my voice on & off over this past week.   I probably look & sound every bit as beat up as the task I’ve endeavored to be on.  Not to mention the broken ribs still aren’t close to 100% so there’s certain required tasks taking care of kids that makes that part challenging too.

In all, a couple things to take from it – a healthy dose of respect & understand comes from putting yourself completely in someone else’s shoes, no matter what the work load is.  Try and do that for someone sometime, don’t take for granted what your spouse, mom or anyone has done for you.   You gain a valuable insight for not just that person but many others as well.  More than ever now I hugely admire anyone who’s had to be the primary care taker of young child.  

Stepping out of your comfort zone is not easy, but you learn some great things about yourself and find out things you didn’t think you had in you….some good and some not so but but still valuable.

Only a couple days left, as Kate comes back late Friday night.  In case anyone is looking for me… I think I’ll be sleeping all weekend…

Monday, September 19, 2011

Chequamegon 40….


ACD Surprise Cheq 40

Holy crap Dad!  You sure are going fast – just don’t blow up this time!!

Little did I do to heed the little man’s warning, -- or maybe it was his exclamation at Dallas Fowler cutting through on my water bottle hand off at OO, forcing me to come to a complete stop, wait for Kate to run the bottle back to me, then try to chase down going all out, the 15 rider strong “race train” I had been in the next 5 minutes.  Dallas, come on WTH was that about??

Anyways, results…

-- Start to OO checkpoint – 35th fastest time

--OO to Finish – 222nd fastest time

That spells out what happens when a big ‘ole bonk with 12 miles left to go in the race happens. 

Finishing position 130th… ouch.  I’d love to blame the broken ribs and those problems leading up the to race but to be honest they were a non factor. 

I had a great pre-ride Friday – the first decent ride all week.  The full suspension Gary Fisher SuperFly 100 29er worked out really well cushioning the ribs from bumping & vibrations of the course.  Weighing in at a svelte 23.72lbs for the Saturday morning fight – It completely changed my viewpoint that riding a hardtail bike was the only way to go in that race.

Alittle more race details in the days to come… in the meantime looking to finish healing up the ribs and jump on a ‘cross bike for the remainder of the year.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Alittle bit of information…

Can be dangerous.  Reading the internet or researching your health or injury problems online quite frankly can suck.  It never fails to lead to faint symptoms of hypochondria.  

You read how a blunt trauma (just sounds bad doesn’t it?) to the trunk of your body can have other adverse problems than just some broken or bruised ribs.  Like, oh yea, these ribs are there for a reason – protecting vital internal organs.  You know like, lungs, spleen, liver, pancrease… the list can go on.

So when you relive the experience in reading the stuff – diagnosing where you were struck, what symptoms you had and currently have you, that little voice in the back of your head starts to say “oh, shit – it better not be that.”

Of course being stubborn, compounded with conventional wisdom that says nothing can be done for broken ribs and having stupidly high health care costs & insurance deductibles – only to confirm in the medical appointment nothing can be done for your injury.  It becomes ever increasingly easy to pass on the obligatory visit to the doctor. 

But from the getting stuck in the lower left part of my rib cage, feeling nauseous at times, having some shoulder pain and feeling the need to sleep alot.  My spleen probably took a good pounding, if it ruptured… well, this would be moot as I’d of been dead by now, without having seen a doctor.  Just real bruised and some bleeding most likely. 

This prompted me to look at my cycling computer “PowerTap” file of the ride – just how fast was I going when I crashed?   It shows the last reading was 33.6mph before going to zero mph.  Ow… no wonder why….. I got a problem.

Coincidentally enough, I read an article in the Economist the other day that was talking about bike friendly cities & how it’s different in the US vs. europe, etc.  They had some statistics I found interesting.  If you get struck by a vehicle traveling at 20mph or less there’s a 5% chance of dying… not good, but not bad either given the the choice of getting hit.  If the vehicle were going 30mph there’s a 45% of death.  And if the vehicle were going 40mph, pack your bags for purgatory because there’s an 85% chance you are road kill.

Now, I’m not sure what the different is between getting hit by a car at 30mph or hitting the ground at 30mph – they both seem like pretty immovable objects.  I can tell you I’ve had enough from hitting the ground at that speed that I don’t want the opportunity to test out the theory on a vehicle.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Seeley Pre-Fat pics….

You’ll notice in the blog, I tend to be text heavy & graphically starved.  But Tom Gaier sent over some pictures from the Pre-Fat I figured to post up.

Seeley Lions Club Pre-fat 2011 Aaron

I smile way to much when racing my bike… or maybe that’s a grimace.


Seeley Lions Club Pre-fat 2011 Todd McFadden & me

This picture captures what the entire 2010 year was like…. always one place behind Todd McFadden.  For as good as he’s racing in 2011, I’d be delighted to finish one spot behind him this year.  Here’s Todd on his way to almost a first place finish and me….eventually onto a flat tire.   Ah, bike racing….

‘Cross on hold, all chips in for Cheq 40…

Still a week & a half on from my crash and the ribs are not substantially better.  Each day when I wake up in the morning I feel like Bill Murray in “GroundHog’s Day”.  It’s been the same agonizing process just to get out of bed.

I can function pretty normally throughout the rest of the day, just certain movement become rather paralyzing and you learn quickly to avoid them or work around them.  Fortunately riding the bike isn’t one of them.  This is unless…. I’m seated & riding a relatively bumpy off road on a hardtail bike.  Then each bump absolutely jars my insides to pieces.  So I’ll have to stick to road & smooth gravel rides for the time being.

Another thing I found out?  I figured with cyclo-cross season around the corner I’d better work my dismounts & remounts.  Dismounting still a piece of cake… the flying remount – oh dear lord, let’s just say that process jars the ribs just about as bad as anything.  So might have to put ‘cross ambitions on hold just until the extreme level of pain abates.

Speaking of ‘cross… should be soon making my final decision on bikes for the season.  Let’s just say it things came together surprisingly nice… I’ll be racing something that starts with an S, and has disc brakes.  More on that later.

So with ‘cross on hold for the early season and plans for to race Nationals in January, I’ll be passing that UP Cross Series title to a new holder in 2011, may it go back to a Yooper where it belongs in the first place.  Can’t say I won’t try and make a cameo appearance at some point.  The guys over there run a great series and I bet the ratio of ‘cross racing participants to overall population is among the best anywhere in the country.  Keep up the great work!  I’ll miss being there week in & week out.

A call up or front row position on the starting line at ‘Cross Nationals is really important in having any chance in that race so I’m resigned to the fact I have to do races that award UCI points, but looking forward to it.

Which brings me to my last topic… The Chequamegon 40, with the ribs delaying ‘cross.  I’m putting in all my chips the “big dance” next Saturday!  I get goose bumps just thinking about it.  It’s like the Vegas of life -- just one of those races MTB’ers either love, loath, hate or fear.  I think I’ve had all those emotions except fear about the Cheq 40.  The race itself serves as a great microcosm of life.  It’s full of surprises, unexpected twists and turns.  It comes at time of the season where your fitness is either spot-on or you are an over cooked crispy critter.  Sometimes a great day, other times not so great.  For myself, ribs aside, it comes in a season where I’ve set new power records in my training,  increased my training hours 20% over years past and perhaps found the biggest factor in preventing my infamous bonk-outs in long races.

With some luck, great inspiration and support I’m looking forward to having a pretty sweet finish at the 40.   Most of all in the race itself - it’ll be great to ride with and see the many friends, familiar faces and racing companions I’ve come to know over the years.  See you at the starting line!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Copper Harbor Fat Tire Festival…

A MTB season almost isn’t complete (some would say it’s definitely not complete) without a trip to Copper Harbor for their Fat Tire Festival.  I heard about it for the first time probably in 2008(?) after some local guys had repeated mentioned it.  I thought what the heck – it’s about the same distance as going to any WORS race and it’s someplace I’d never been before.  I was racing my Trek full suspension Top Fuel 69er, at the time & thought it was the perfect bike for the course, in many ways it still is.  I was just turning the corner in reaching the Expert/Elite field of racing (now called Category 1, or Cat 1 for short) that year.  Was having a great race, stuck with one of the best all around endurance athletes I’ve known in Scott Chapin.  Chris Peariso had flatted out and Darrin Braun was leading.  Had third place sown up when the never fun tire failure materialized.  Hence has been my constant love/hate relationship with that race.  Scott Cole took third followed by Matt Zak.  In ‘09 –  I was cooked from already long the racing season or just having an off day, maybe started too fast but faded & ended up in 10th.  2010 – things went close to perfect that day.  Chris Peariso took off in the lead, but Tom Carpenter & myself grabbed a decent lead early on and worked well together.  I nearly witnessed his untimely demise in the form of a damn forest goat crossing his path down the Whoop De Woo trail – a couple seconds or feet different & Tom would have been taking the express way down the mountain… gravity style.  Tom eventually broke free as I missed a water bottle handoff & was bonking with 5 miles to go.  Just enough for Todd McFadden & Chris Schotz to catch me on the final Red Trail downhill.  Todd got a good gap but Chris had to stay behind me.  I managed to pass Chris again about  1/2 mile before the finish but ran 50 yards short of catching Todd which would be reminiscent of all my races with Todd that year… finishing one place behind him, ugh.

2011 they changed up the course, for good or bad.  I think all the riding is pretty descent so nothing to be critical about, just happened to like the previous years better as it favored my strengths just alittle more. 

The race started out biking through the middle of town, where there’s is a controlled rollout, Scott Cole & myself wound up on the front of that following the pace truck out of town.  At the first climb (which I mentioned in previous posts) I wasn’t sure who was going to get the party started.   No one initially really went hard.  So I ended up being at the front, & focused on keeping my heart rate in check.  It’s a race you can’t win in the first climb but I find you can put yourself in big hole the rest of the race if you go too hard.  Eventually 3 or 4 guys went by and still later the guys who would lead most of the race caught up.   As a group the first 6 of us entered the single track  together, Chris Peariso, Brian Matter, Tyler Gauthier, Todd McFadden, myself & Pete Karinen.  Though I was able to climb the hill at a good clip without a problem, once I got into the single track my game was off.  Again I don’t know if it was the tires or me playing defensively due to my ribs.  All I know is I was descending slow & like shit holding up Pete.  Eventually Tom Carpenter & Mike Burnet caught up and I gave them all a pass.  They left me in the dust, so I figured I’d quite taking chances and just concentrate catching up on the uphills.  Easier said than done.  By the time I got to the bottom they had 30 seconds on me.  I’d hate to say the rest of the race was a bit frustrating but it was sorta.  I noticed racers behind me that I figured I’d be able to drop & get some distance on the climb, but it really wasn’t happening.  Once getting to the second descent, they caught me by the time I was at the bottom and so I figured I’d again climb away… not to be.  They hung like glue, Justin Weber & Jan Roubal.   That was my first clue this wasn’t going to be one of my stronger days on the trails.  I eventually let them pass and followed them to Red Trail, only to pass Mike Burnet.  My descending sucked again and apologies to Mike for having to sit behind it – which he did with such grace & poise (as he was the downhill race champ the day before).  He claimed not having his regular glasses and that I drop him on the climbs  - whatever…  Well, actually riding and chatting with Mike was probably the highlight of my race.  We did almost the entire next lap together.  He’d patiently wait behind me on the downhills & do his best to cling on when climbing.  On the 2nd to last descent of the day I told him he had to go out front as a couple of racers were now catching us Scott Cole & Matthew Colligan.  If he was going to hold his place he’d have to put those downhill skills to work now.  Mike quickly disappeared and I was able to hold off the other two until close to the top of the final climbing portion of the race. 

It’s was at that point my rear tire started to feel more squishy than it should have.  Sure enough, tire was going flat.  I got out my pump but the tire would seem to hold air yet I could see where it was leaking.  Finally it was clear that the valve stem was losing the air.  So I screwed that in as best as possible.  Fortunately Kate & the kids for some reason were at the top of this hill.  She got me another pump and I was able to partially inflate so it held air better.   That 10 minute fiasco, dropped me from 10th place to 25th which out of 150 racers isn’t too bad for that long of a delay. 

I managed to ease the partially inflated tired down the final descent called Red Trail and took it easy on the way into the finish.  Would have loved to have a better day, but would have required different tires and healthy ribs. I felt nauseous after the race and my kidneys hurt, something that doesn’t normally happen.  So I’m guessing whatever was going on with my injury was really stressing my body in some manner. 

But once done it’s time to party, visit & catch up with friends and hear their race stories and what’s going with them.  I hung out for while & had little Aaron with me but eventually I had to put things on hold & rest up at the hotel in hopes I’d feel better.  

The ribs got worse as the night went on, even so I headed back after the awards & enjoyed a few cold beverages and began to catch up with the many people I’ve gotten to know over the past several years racing in the U.P. as well as WI & MN racers that drive over.    Makes you wish more races were like this and that the season went on a whole lot longer…

Monday, September 5, 2011

Good weekend, fast riding, oh.. & the ribs…..

On the way back home right now, after spending the past 2 days in Copper Harbor for their Fat Tire festival.  Just a quick stop in Calumet before heading home for some lunch & relaxed off road riding with the kids.  Could sure use it.  I was able to brush off how bad my ribs felt over the week, but riding at the Harbor didn’t feel like it exactly did me any favors.  Would like to be optimistic it’ll be better in 2 weeks for the Chequamegon 40…

Not sure if I was riding protectively or my ribs are hurting me worse than I think, but I ended up fighting the trail more than flowing with it and no matter how hard I tried pushing it my normal power just wasn’t there during the race.   Plans for a top 5 finish were scrapped and I had to work to stay in the top 10.. which didn’t exactly pan out either because with 5 miles to go my rear wheel valve stem progressively leaked air & took 15 minute to fix so I wound up 23rd on the day.   That’s kinda amazing in it’s own right that more racers didn’t pass and illustrates how hard the race really is. 

Still going to Copper Harbor is always a great getaway to relax & unwind.  More on the weekend when I get home.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Ribs & Copper Harbor….

If it were a picnic I was referencing -- it’d probably be a pretty good time.   Copper Harbor is a beautiful place and if the weather is right you can’t go wrong. 

However it’s the pre-ride of the Copper Harbor Fat Tire festival race this afternoon that I was referencing & it ain’t exactly what you’d call a picnic.  The course has got climbing & descending like you don’t find anywhere else in the midwest that I’m aware of  and the ribs I injured earlier in the week weren’t exactly happy to cooperate with the style of riding that course requires.  Mind you it can be super fun to ride, but racing it …while still fun carries a higher degree of consequence for any mistakes you make on the vertically challenging and rocky course.  I don’t mean this in a bad way but I’m always amazed more people don’t get hurt at this event.

Had the power tap & cycling computer on the pre-ride – showed approximately 1900 feet of climbing throughout the first 16 miles lap of the 28 mile course.   I gotta be honest I actually like the start – it should separate the racers quickly.  Something I’ve always like MTB'ing  & why I chosen to pursue it, over, say road cycling.  It’s mostly individual effort to see the strongest racers over drafting or other tactics which can mask or distort one’s true abilities. 

The initial climb has somewhere over 400+ feet of climbing in 15 minutes, many parts having 17 degree pitches.  For reference, take the steepest highway road near you – it’s probably pitched at 7 or 8 degrees at the most, I don’t think the Dept of Transportation or whatever regulating body allows for anything much steeper than that on highways.  Now picture it twice as steep…. get an idea of how steep the pitch of the initial climb in the race is?

Managed to get through most of the course unscathed… only one minor tire incident, surprised?….but again the way I look at it that’s just getting the bad luck out of the way (didn’t I say that about Ore to Shore too.. and still got a second puncture during the race?  At least that one worked out ok.)  It was later on in the pre-ride as I thought I was taking it easy as my ribs were starting to act up and met an unfriendly, angry rock.  There’s alot of those kind out on the course, so I’m hoping to make better friends with them tomorrow at the race.

When I got done it was just about sundown with a beautiful sunset over the lake.   Tracked down the family, got visit with Todd McFadden along with a few other friends today like Tom Carpenter (and again Tom – the answer is still remains NO -- you’d can’t latch a tow rope on my bike tomorrow at the start for the climb).  Should however be a good fast group of racers on Sunday. 

Finally headed 40minutes back to Calumet where we’re staying Sat night.  With a good nights rest we’ll see how things pan out tomorrow – I don’t think there’s any other course where this blog title is more appropriate.   Now to see if I can abide by it; I know one thing for certain my ribs are counting on it.  Try to get in a race recap sometime Monday.