Sunday, June 26, 2011

Finding time first… (subaru cup later..)

….That’d be something awesome.  “Time” just sitting on the side of the road, waiting to be picked up.  Use it when you’re late for a race or even to speed things up like getting a race done faster.  But like just about ever human being I’m in that same boat – more ideas and things to do than time permits.  

Last Saturday’s Chain Drive was a perfect example… I could have really benefited from finding 30minutes of time along side the road on my way to Houghton, MI for the Keweenaw ChainDrive MTB race.  Got up bright & early -- with a less than ideal nights sleep battling restless 2,4,& 6 year olds who think in the middle of the night when they wake up they should come talk to Dad – of the bunch the 4 month old was best?!   What advice could I possible dispense in the wee hours of the night that would profoundly impact their futures?  “Go back to bed” is about all I could come up with.  Real great Dad eh? 

Anyways, the ride over is just under 150miles, race time is 10am.  I jump out the door at 6:40am, feeling there’s plenty of time.  I’ll be there with 45min. to spare, register & warmup.  So why the comment earlier about needing another 30minutes of time?  Well, the problem really didn’t kick in until I’m about 15minutes out of Houghton.  My car clock says 9:08am, my cellphone says…. 10:08am.  That’s when there’s violent warping of sound, light and time in one’s brain – that reverberates out of one’s mouth in a very loud expletive.  You friggin’ Yoopers and that dam Eastern Time zone!!  (Ok, I’m just kidding about the Yoopers thing– it’s the time zone thing I was P.O.’d about).  Suggestion – for those us who believe the Midwest should be in one time zone – drop a quick reminder on registration forms about 10 Eastern, 9 central.  Those 8 extra drops of ink can’t cost that much and would be immensely appreciated by those of us to the West who fail to recall those little details.

So back to the 30minutes?  Well, that’s because the car wasn’t parked, bike unloaded and me off to the race until 10:30am EASTERN.  Giving Brian Matter and all my other friendly racing c0horts that kinda of lead time in a 2hr race – ain’t a good idea.  So I missed out on mixing it up with the top 10 guys, and got to Time Trial – playing catch up from behind.  Wound up crossing the line around 50th place somewhere behind Big Mike W. who’d spied me on the river water crossing so I couldn’t sneak up on him.  All in all, it wasn’t really that bad.  Yes, I crashed twice… really hard.  Even got pinned (me, not the bike) between two trees and couldn’t extract myself for a good 30 seconds.  But the damage could have been much worse for what it was. 

One of the best parts of the day, after racing/riding a really fun course was getting to hang out with everyone afterwards and get to hear their stories of the race and what they’ve been up to.  The McFaddens – congrats to Di on the “W” in the women’s race.  Always enjoy Todd’s insight not to mention a little thanks for the mechanical tip on a front derailleur that had me stumped.  Got to catch up with & meet more of the Adventure 212 crew.  Including Darrin Braun, Sarah, Michelle P.  Brian Matter was his always helpful & friendly self as well – there’s a guy who’s so easy to cheer for (even if he’s beating the hell out of you on the race course) – genuinely nice person and it was great to catch up with him.  Tom Carpenter & crew was around – I swear he seriously had to relish in my “story” as much as anyone.  He’s acutely aware of how close to the wire I pull race time arrival – ask him about the time at Miner Revenge when I’m finishing my warmup only to head full on into the entire field starting up the road…  that’s just one of them.  Mind you though that race started 90 seconds too soon.  I can’t help it, I try to squeeze too much into life.

Without the family along for the trip, I had time to hang out & have some post race party time with Paul Belknap & Curt Cline as my guides.  Stopped in at Caleb Wendel’s  The Bike Shop, (nice place he’s got there) before finally heading to a party.  Wish I could recall or have last names for everyone I met but suffice to say this – alot of people showed up at Tony’s place for food, drinking & shooting guns.  I LOVE THE U.P! 

Though I don’t recommend mixing up race times and blowing off a race alot can be said for a event that carries with it as much fun afterwards as it does during the race.  Thanks again to the dedicated folks that make racing in the U.P. so much fun – just get a congressional act to straighten out the time zone thing though would you, eh?

Monday, June 13, 2011

Cuyuna festival & race…, NBA Finals…, good weekend

Great weekend at the latest creation in Midwest MTB’ing. Cuyuna Lakes Recreational Area in the Crosby/Ironton, MN area.

A bunch of old excavated mining pits. No, it’s not the pits themselves where you ride – as the past decades have filled up with water, but rather the rock & dirt that was pulled out of them, (less the iron ore). All piled up into hills & mini-mountains surrounding the water filled pits. At 200 feet in some spots it wasn’t exactly small hills.

Given some good money to bring in IMBA and a professional crew with trail building & stone smashing machines – you got a very unique trail system. I add some commentary on it later – the pros & cons….

Going into this weekend had a full plate of MTB race choices..

-Wooly Race – St Croix Falls, WI

-Big Ring Classic – Wausau, WI WORS

-Cuyuna Lakes MTB Festival – Crosby, MN

With the hype of Cuyuna trails & the chance for activity for the whole family, the choice was clear. Headed in Friday, got in a late ride at 9pm. Road with the entire family Saturday morning. These trails “purpose built” & wide – no one should be intimidated by the single & 1/2 track as I’d call it. (Yet it’s flow, design & purpose built terrain features can still make it a riot to ride for even a picky expert mtb’er.)

Saturday afternoon after naps at the Ruttgers Bay Lake lodge we headed into the Festival – nice time, good turnout. TT races, Red Bull entertainment, world class stunt bike cyclists, and kids races. Perhaps the kids races where the best of any I’ve been around. The crowd really got into them. Fully viewable races - My oldest Marshall, now 6, raced faster than I ever thought he could & won the 6,7,&8 yr old race. My youngest girl Grace 2 1/2 smoked the 2&3 yr old division on her strider bike – the little boys on trikes & training wheels never had a chance. Strider’s really good way to go with little kids like that.

Crazy part is they even coaxed the Mom’s & Dad’s to race… on their kids bikes – awesome. Marshall’s 20” Scott Scale treated me well nailing down 2nd place, but Kate riding Gracie’s Strider was a different story. Trying to sprint for 2 minutes on little bike like that was damn tough, I’d challenge anyone to try. All in all made for great fun & the crowd really had a good time.

Sunday was the Kryptonite Crusher Cross Country race. I was initially skeptical & probably even scared for the first time ever. Not of the competition but of the trails. Take superfast trails, a loose over hardpack tread surface that makes for alot of tire drift…. built on alot very steep hillside ledges. Toyko drift it too much and it’s a 60 ft drop off that’s going to leave more than a mark.

I thought the turnout was decent for the race with some better top end racers showing up. Dan & Doug Swanson of the Twin Cities, who usually don’t need any introduction on their past decade of regional cycling feats – also it was their family construction business who was contracted to build the trails in Cuyuna, Tom Miller who’s a regular MN MTB series top finisher, Pete O’donnel who races for GT bikes, and Mike Bushey to name a few.

The course wasn’t affording alot of passing even though the “s-track” is wide. The start rolled out about 100 yards & part way up a hill to the first entry of single track. And wouldn’t you know the least known of the Swanson’s racing that day hammered ahead of Doug & co. to get the holeshot. My early game & speed in races certainly has been treating me well but now riding in front of Doug is an experience – some pressure? Nah – just know you better be going like a bat out of hell! I was feeling pretty good & doing my best to rip it up and keep up a hard effort -- the hills & straightaways were feeling great but on the cornering I keep wondering if Doug was going to start laughing at some point as I was sliding this way & that. Probably held the pole position for a mile or more when a birch tree jumped out of corner & met me in an unfriendly way. It allowed Doug & Tom & eventually Pete to get by and me & Mike Bushey to chase.

Highlight of the race? yes & no. You see the race disintegrated half way through – no, not the positions of the racers but the quality of the course markings & directions. Breakdown of course marshalling & markings sent Doug & Pete in different direction, Tom & Mike came to the finish line sooner than the race called for. Doug ran up my backside crashing us on a circular section of the course bitching like crazy about race directions. He was pretty steamed like I’ve never seen him, but at same time can’t blame other racers following what they interpreted the course to be – it was happening for over half the race participants.

I don’t know how the results will finally post but the top 6 should have rolled out as Doug, Pete, Tom, Mike, myself then Dan Swanson. On the womens side it was sorta the same Jenna edging Diana McFadden at the finish but having taken wrong turns in the race.

But on the positive side, the trails as a race course where a delight. They turned my mediocre & questionable trail riding experience the previous day into some extremely fun & challenging racing. You had to stay on your toes (or rather the back of your saddle) & keep the reflex time fast due to the speed; as well as have the skill to know how to hit the corners efficiently.

If the race directors learn from this experience and mend some of the problems future editions of the race will not have the same problems.

Lot's of great friends and acquaintances at the Festival. Kyia Anderson who brings a smile to anyones face with her good conversation and encouragement. The aforementioned Mike Bushey. Doug, Dan & their better halves. Dave "I always forget your last name" from Solon. Di McFadden, Curt & Jenn Cline, Ryan Horkey and many others . Lastly, thanks to the organizers for a first time event you seemed to do your best, it no small amount of work, time and effort. Much appreciation goes out to you.

Other note – can’t help but think that Steve Tilford is a NBA all-star (& now Finals Champion) look alike of non other than Dirk Nowitski. Regardless it’s great to see the Dallas Mavericks win. That the fundamental of teamwork wins the Championship over the greatness of any one, two or three players. I gotta have just one basketball bitch however, the b.s. over LeBron James not scoring enough in the 4th qtr – for crying out loud it’s a team game. If he’s not scoring, it’s not like their team doesn’t get a position. The media can be a bunch of idiots lacking common sense. Besides his career shooting percentage is lower than both of his other two high profile teammates Wade & Bosh. Give me the highest percentage of success & I’ll take it over the hype of someone every single day.