Monday, July 18, 2011


Life as a rule I try to keep as mellow as possible.  Not that it doesn’t have it’s fair share of busy & stressful times.  This weekend was one of those whole bunch of things packed into a short period of time.  All real good stuff though.

Friday it was further course preparation for the Mudrutters MTB race on Saturday.  It’s easy to underestimate the amount of time & manpower hours it takes put on an event together.   As a race participant what you see flash by you in a few moments or minutes is so often a collection of hours of work done in relative slow motion to how fast it goes by in a race.

The evening started with a double header of softball in some really close games that had us ending on the upper end of things.  Got done with that just in time to head out for some class reunion activities that let’s just say went well past my normal bedtime.  Had an absolutely great time seeing & catching up with friends.  Then on 3 1/2 hrs of sleep, figured that doing this weekends MTB race would be a good idea…?  Well, once you snap out of the fact of how friggin’ tired you are and hop on the bike it’s not too bad.  Was hoping for a more mellow race, but Adam Swank of Duluth showing up ensured that racing wouldn’t be a walk in the park.

Due to a hard right corner within 100 yards into the start of the race I inquired with race director, Paul Belknap, that we run a controlled roll out.   Then I figured race 'on after that point… as I figured someone would attack get things going.  Only, I sat on the front at a mellow pace and everyone else was content lining up behind me and no one came around to pass me.  That continued for probably at least 1 to 1  1/2 miles.  I wasn’t complaining though because I was still pretty tired and wanted to save things in case things got ramped up. 

The first entry into more significant off road riding had a downhill entry that had mud puddle/creek at the bottom of it.  My amazing handling skills promptly had me attempt to shoot right through the center of it  -- crashing as the first entrant into the hole, followed by Matt Dale performing an over the handlebars crash into the water himself.  If only there’d been a camera for that one…

Anyways I mounted back on and the trailing 5 other riders, Matt Dale, Adam Swank, Matt Hudson, Curt Cline and one other – followed the my lead.  The crash breaking things up a little bit.  The next mile or so of trail is a gradual climb on a sometimes soggy old snowmobile trail.  I picked the pace up slightly to keep everyone honest and only Adam stayed with me.  Again I road a modest pace because going all out & dragging Adam the rest of the way to the finish line wasn’t necessarily going to be feel like the most rewarding effort of my day. 

We continue to dodge our way through the bigger water & mud holes on the course due to the wet summer we’ve been having.  Once we got back on Summit road I let enough to have Adam take the lead and likewise he took to it about the same pace & effort I’d been doing.  Pretty Mellow in relation to what a normal race pace can feel like.  It was still enough to have established a couple hundred yard lead on Matt Hudson & Matt Dale.  

I went to the front again at about the half way point in the race just past the Ashland water tower and where things would finally be leading into rough cut double track and eventually the single track on Farm trails.    It’s there -- the rest of the race course breaks down into 2 distinctly different sets of terrain.  The first 2 1/2 miles plays very well into the hands of a full suspension bike, the later 2  1/2 miles is much more favorable to a hard tail.

I looked over at Adam riding a Gary Fisher SuperFly 29er…. and then down at the SuperFly 100 29er I was on.   And figured it’s now or never.  I right away started to hammer things as fast as I reasonably could keep control of the bike and with one quick peak over my shoulder & I could see Adam was falling off.   Without a gap here contending at the finish line, when things weighed out in his favor given our two different bikes, it would be tougher than I’d prefer. 

Only then… after maybe 200 yards or so into the rough trail I start hearing a sound that resembles that of a stick hitting the bike.  I look down at my front wheel and with every revolution there’s a nearly a 2” Hawthorn needle stuck in my front tire.  Crap!!  So I start to pray it either stays in or the hole it leaves upon ejecting isn’t too big for the CaffeLatex sealant to fill.  

It stays in there a surprisingly long time as I ride on building a gap on Adam but when it let loose sealant was spraying everywhere and not doing much of a job in stopping the leak.   Another 200 yards later I’m off the bike and running it, just as we start to enter the trails at my place on Farm Rd.  At that point I figured crap that’s it, you win some, you lose some. 

Well, I surprised at the distance I was able to run before Adam caught up to me.  I asked him a favor if when he saw my wife & kids as the trail went through my back yard to ask her to grab my pump. Being the great guy Adam Swank is, sure enough he did and when I got there Kate was racing back from the garage with the pump. 

When I got there, my tire had gone off the wheel’s bead and I had to pump furiously to re-seat it.  I heard the “pop’s” of it re-seating, gave it a good thumb test and assumed it was ready to go.  About that time Hudson & Dale finally come cruising through pass me by.  I was able to get a quick pass from Matt Dale and try to chase down Hudson who I caught about 400 yards later down the trail….. only problem?  The front tire was going soft on me again and cornering was really unstable.  I still managed to get a good gap on Matt Hudson once we got out of the single track and back on Farm Rd.  And surprisingly Adam Swank still in sight just over a 1/4 mile up the road.    I buried my head down realizing the straight aways were the only places I could make time and ride hard.  I didn’t look back too often so I was never entirely sure how far back Matt Hudson was but at a few points I’d get 150 yards and at other times on with more corners and turns he’d be within 50 yards it seemed.  I never did see Adam again…but that’s for an entirely different reason than him being in front (he missed the signage for a right hand turn) and ended up being off course and didn’t get back on until several other riders behind us had already gotten by.   He managed to work himself back into 4th place by the finish.

I assumed he was out front and I was hoping my front tire would hold out long enough so I didn’t ride on the rim or roll the tire off completely and hang on for 2nd place.  Only the final corners into the finish were my undoing.  I had to slow down to a crawl to get around the final 5 corners in the last 100 yards while Matt Hudson was able to crawl back into contention, he passed me with 3 corners & about 50 yards to the finish line.  I rolled in for 2nd.

Certainly one of the most different Mudrutters races I’ve done in the 10yrs or so now.  Normally it’s an all out sprint being a 10 1/2 mile race but this year with the cat & mouse riding with Adam and later the flat it proved to be equally entertaining. 

Despite the hot day & muddy trail conditions in a number of sections we got a lot of compliments once again on the race & the course.  Certainly appreciate everyone who was able to make it and make for a great day of racing.

We lingered around catching up with lot’s of other riders to see how things went, but eventually the lack of sleep had me ready to call it a day.  Got home and took a couple hour nap.  Only to get ready for the second night of class reunion festivities.  Maybe even a better time than Fri and and certainly an even later night out Saturday.  So there was no Sunday Sprint Triathlon going to happen, let alone get up to Duluth for their Dirt Spanker MTB race.  Good thing I’ve got some breaks in racing for a couple weeks…. I’m going to need some sleep… and alot of it.

Monday, July 11, 2011


Myself, and I’m willing to bet a bunch of other folks at times can find it easy to observe a sport or contest and never comprehend the skill, ability or power that goes into it. 

Be it the Olympics, pro football game, NBA game or MLB game and though there can be spectacular plays -- how many of us put in perspective the immense talent that an athlete is capable of?  Especially when the particular talent on display is hard to quantify, such as on TV.

I came across an article on this year TdF in cyclingnews – that was pretty astonishing to me.  It was an article on a sometimes heard about, moderately popular rider, named Juan Antonio Flecha.  He’s not necessarily the biggest and baddest cat in the cycling world but he mostly gets his respect when it’s due.  Well, if a person hadn’t heard -- he was on a breakaway in Stage 9 of this years TdF, doing an impressive ride until he & another rider got hit by a French TV car ending his opportunity.

Well cyclingnews put out an article on his recorded Power output numbers on that day.  (I believe they use the SRM crank setup as their power meters.)  Therein lay the astonishing reality check for how amazing a top end athlete can be.  Juan Antonio Flecha is about my size, he’s just about 6’ tall & 160lbs.  Now, anyone reading this who’s into power gets this – for those that don’t just put in perspective of how hard an effort you’ve ever done in staying with me (or passing me by) on a bike while we’ve been racing  really, really hard, …..not after I’ve bonked out. 

Here’s the power he produce on his bike during Stage 9 of the 2011 TdF, compared to my best efforts.




Threshold effort – 20minutes
--(riding your fastest 20minute Time Trial)

446 watts

345 watts


Another example: he can do for 20minutes, what I can do maxing my brains out riding as hard as I can for 3 minutes.  So Juan, if you are kind enough to go at your decent 20minute pace, I can stick with you for 3 minutes before I feel like passing out and dying. 

Think of that the next time you are riding hard or racing to get an even better appreciation of not just the endurance but the power some athletes have.  The human body is an amazing thing.

The above is his short term power.  Long term he can kept up for 5 hrs & 43 minutes….. what I can do for 40minutes.

Lastly, from what one can ascertain in articles and interviews he’s a pretty darn good, head-on-his-shoulders-the-right-way, kind of guy.  To get paid for riding a bike and have this perspective, it’s pretty great.

Details on the power he threw down in Stage 9 before getting bump by the car are here if you want to see them.

So with that perspective…for my clients to know it’s safe for me to say my day job isn’t even remotely close to being in jeopardy.  But for those of you planning on the O2S & Cheq 40 this year… I’m not planning any more than 20 of you to toss down better power than I’m shooting for on either of those days.  And for that matter, as nice as he is I sure hope J.A.F doesn’t show up…….

Chippewa Valley Firecracker

There were fireworks at Sunday’s race alright – right in my legs.  Because about an hour into the race they went POP.  Then for good measure when the legs weren’t working I tried the Superman approach to flying down the trail….

Surprisingly enough I had the gumption to think this day would be different.  Though I didn’t feel all that splendid on the ride down after 8 hours Saturday working on cutting trail for next weekends Mudrutters race.  Once I got on the bike in Eau Claire the legs felt loose…. could have been the almost 90 degree heat by that time however.

Anyways a quick warmup, got to say hi to the Adventure 212 ladies, Di, Michele & Sarah.  Then got my son Marshall over to the kids race.  He did pretty good and had a fun time.  Racing in the 6-7 yr old race, he got 4th with a sweaty smile on his face.   Can’t help but love it. 

At the start line, it appeared to be a smaller field of racer than I ever remember for a Firecracker race, 50 or so.  Couldn’t have gotten to off to a much worse start.  The guy in front of me, who shall remain nameless, falls over before even crossing the start line.  I’m stuck directly behind him as guys go by on the left and right.  So needless to say I’m DFL as racers head into the first corner by 30 yards.  It’s a long race so I don’t panic and just jump as far up as I can over the next mile without burning through too much energy.  Probably land in low 30’s position by the time we enter the single track.

Now regardless my race was bound to go up in flames but the first lap of the 4 lap race was driving me nuts.  A couple guys in front of me were challenged in riding single track with any kind of speed and it didn’t take much time for them to lose contact with the group in front.  Coming from a guy like myself who once the corners start getting tight has his own challenges that’s saying something.  

So needed to bid my time and hope once things opened up I could do some more passing and save it for the remainder of the race.  I did end up passing another 10 guys or so that lap without spending too much energy.  On the start of the 2nd lap it was me, another guy and Jon Lirette.  I thought to myself, “Good, now we should get somewhere with this.”  Well probably half way through that 2nd lap I started to feel taxed in my legs on the harder efforts.  Gee, that’s weird, I haven’t been cooking them in this race so far.   I looked down at my power tap, we were just under an hour in. 

Never a good sign when about 1/3 through a race you start going into the red zone.  On a punchy climb I tried to follow another racers momentum up the hill and my legs blew up altogether.  I honestly thought I was going to have to quit the race right there.   I had absolutely nothing left, it all happened in less than 10minutes. 

I soft pedaled until I could get some kind of comfortable pace going, by that time Nikoli Anikin & John Gatto & 3 others guys came up on me.  I was able to stay with them for awhile and try to draft a bit but on a second trail incline I had to drop back & lost them for good.

So I just cruised around the remainder of the race trying to enjoy it for what it was and get some good single track practice in.  The course at Lowe’s creek is fun and pretty fast.  I have to admit I preferred it a few years back with less single track, not because it wasn’t fun but because it kept the race more open and with more opportunities to pass. 

On the 4th & final lap somewhere along the way air burped out of my front tire, I could tell it was mushy (at the finish I discovered it had only 12 psi vs. the 25psi I started with).  I figured I could work with this.  However on a faster downhill single track section, the tire must have rolled on me because I literal do not know what happened because the next thing I remember is flying through the air like being shot out of cannon.  Over the handlebars downhill with my arms extended.  I gotta admit it caused a degree of anxiety because of the steep hillside I was on and how quickly I was approaching a 14” diameter tree.  After flying why felt like almost 20 feet I skidded on my arms & legs and came to a crumpled up stop against the tree.  I did a quick check to make sure every body part was still attached & working and scrabbled back up the trail to get my bike.  If only a video camera would have caught it, it’d of made good youtube footage.

So I took it down one more notch and finished out the race on the safer side of caution.  Finish 38th out of 52, not exactly the day I would have liked.  Hot day, the powertap recorded temps between 90 & 100 throughout the race.  Some guys pulled out some great races though.  Todd McFadden scored a top 10 with alot of the usual suspects rounding out the top 5.

Next week unfortunately may need to skip the always fun Duluth DirtSpanker due to festivities & reunions in Ashland.  I bummed as I really like that race.  Good luck to all that day.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Racin’ on a MTB PowerTap… why not?

Giddy.  New disc brake Powertaps wheels came in.  The setup was super smooth.  It’ll be great for tracking power output when training off road… but then I got to thinking.  Why not race on it?

All that technology packed into a bigger hub.  It’s bound to be a significant weight penalty….  well…..


Bontrager XXX lite carbon rear wheel with disc brake tubeless with Caffelatex sealant  – 1590grams.

PowerTap setup:

Stans Crest rim, Sapim CX-Ray Spokes, WB Alloy nipples, Saris PowerTap disc hub tubess with Caffelatex sealant – 1770 grams.

If my mathematical translation from grams to lbs is correct that’s just between 1/3 & 2/5 lb heavier… ridiculously awesome!

So I’ll eat one less bagel before racing that day or carrier 16oz water bottles instead 20 oz water bottles.  Rotating weight is rim & tire, the centering mass doesn’t have the same effect.

Time to put ‘em to use – I might be passing on Miner Revenge this year, but the Chippewa FireCracker might be as good as any to test it at this weekend.  Not to mention Mudrutters or Brownstone later this month.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

ProXCT – WORS Subaru Cup

Just as the race season feels like it’s getting started before you know it’s half way through… or at least it feels that way.  The tail end of June brought a National level MTB race to the Midwest for a second consecutive year. 

How do you pass on that opportunity?  Well, usually you don’t.  I gotta be honest, it’s always one of those races that tugs on me back & forth about going.  It’s hyped up for what it is, but at a distance I’m less than enamored about driving too.  I traveled so much years ago it probably burnt me out for the next 20years.  Some say it’s a lifestyle and you just roll with it.  I get stuck thinking of all the other stuff I’d prefer to be doing than sitting 8hrs in a car.   So I can’t say it’s ever been my favorite place to travel too, but once there it’s a nice festival atmosphere, lot’s of familiar faces to see and friends to catch up with. 

The race course in my now 3 previous experiences has gotten better each time around as the trails have worn in and improvements made.  The trail itself has a soil content that makes it very smooth in most places interrupted with the normal rocks & tree roots.  Subtract that out & alot of it is pavement smooth versus trails that are more bumpy.  I’ve found some trails are more fun to ride than race and vice versa.  This one has an enjoyable flow, smoothness but also challenging.  I’d give the edge to riding it over racing it but it’s pretty close.

Racing it is just plain tough at times.  Built on the tree laden slopes of a midwest ski hill it makes you work on the climbs and carve the single track on the way down. 

My goals were simple – put in a top 10 finish in the 116 rider line up.  Do-able?  Yes.  Problem. Yes – it’s called 116 racer lineup at he start.  It’s a single track heavy course and even with an attempt to thin things out a 3minute(if that) hill climb to start doesn’t cut it. 

Getting to the start 20minutes early, (if one can believe me – it’s true!)  The closest I got to the front was the 4th/5th row that was lined 10-12 racers wide.  With no further selection, it was simply based on who got there first or could weasel ahead. 

I’d be curious what was the greatest advance made by any racer from starting position to finishing position.  I’m wagering not beyond 15 to 20 places.  So unfortunately, I don’t believe all the best racers really had results indicative of their abilities solely based on the amount of racers that were allowed to start & the course design.  Read a few other blogs, including Tristan S. and you’ll get the same picture of that.

What happened?  I got a reasonable start but 40 racers deep made moving up tough because with the snow fence corraling of the course there simply wasn’t room to pass.  In fact as I stayed to the right side near the edge & close to the barriers -- one guy tried passing hard on my right we had some physical contact, he bumped me a little too hard the first time and that was his mistake because on the next set of contact I put him down & piled up into the snowfence.   Honestly, --- it kinda felt good.   Sorry dude.  At least on a bike course my 6’ 168lb self makes me one of the bigger guys out there.

The 2-3minute climb may have slightly narrowed things down but not really.  There was at least 15 people off the bike waiting to enter the single track when I got there.  I assume the first 15-20 got in without too much problem.  Only even when you got into the single track people were off the bike walking the first 50 yards due to the technical terrain & someone faltering.  The lead obtained by the front guys became pretty much insurmountable at that point.

Didn’t stop me or probably anyone from stilling giving there best effort but didn’t feel like the fairest playing field.  I went to work in the first lap (of four) steadily picking off one & two racers at a time,  perhaps as many as 7 or 8 in that lap.  Lap two was much the same, but I failed to get a water bottle hand off & ran low on water so lap three progress on moving up stalled.  I’d caught up to Jon Lirette at the start of lap 3 but the engine started cough & sputter at that point.  Matt Muraski was racing good and came up on me and passed and later Jon went by me again.  I probably lost another couple positions in that 3rd lap, but was able to re-compose myself for the 4th lap unfortunately, I got held up by alittle by Michael Hemme when he passed me on the climb but couldn’t navigate the single track as well.  I put in a hard charge in the final 300 yards of climbing & descending to distance him but it was too little to late to catch the others I was closing in on.  Good enough for 31st overall in the Category 1 race.  A far cry from the top 10 finish but given the circumstances it wasn’t to be that day.   Certainly better than my 55th place finish in 2010.  Another key to the Suburu Cup course was getting in a pre-ride.  It requires knowing the lines to take through the technical stuff as to not get unnecessarily hung up on it in the race.

Great to see & catch up with friends there, from the SKJ’s, Tyler J. who parked right next to us.  Adventure 212 guys – thanks Darrin, Chris and crew for cheering – I did was to rip your legs off and borrow them for the climbing in the final two laps…

Had fun cheering and yelling for the guys (& girls) in the Pro level races that followed.  Tristan, Brian, Mike, Nate among the other local guys had respectable days and it was fun to see them mix it up. 

Short track race was sold out (at least they were smart to cap that race) so it was back home Saturday night rather than staying for the weekend.  And given the drive it was nice to be home Sunday for some nice R&R. 

Up next a pretty mellow month of July.  Probably the WORS Eau Claire FireCracker and some local races but mostly trying to fine tune the training for the big 6 weeks that start with Ore to Shore in August & end with Chequamegon 40 in Sept.