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.